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Czech Republic reports 10,273 new COVID-19 cases, deaths climb by 164

PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech Republic reported 10,273 new COVID-19 cases on Monday as it faces one of Europe’s biggest surges in infections, according to health ministry data,.

The rise is the seventh highest daily tally for the country of 10.7 million people, where the number of cases has jumped past 10,000 since the middle of October. In the past week, the daily number of cases has averaged more than 12,000.

The country has shown Europe’s fastest infection rates over the past two weeks, according to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) data, with 1,324 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in that time.

The Health Ministry reported 164 new deaths on Tuesday, including 75 on Monday and revisions to previous days. The total death toll is 2,365 and has roughly doubled since Oct. 13

Facing growing strain on hospitals, the government is set to implement a 9 p.m. curfew and limit retail hours from Wednesday as it tightens measures curb the virus’s spread. It has already shut bars, restaurants, most retail outlets, theatres and sport and fitness venues. [nL1N2HH2H5]

In total, the Czech Republic has registered 268,370 cases of the novel coronavirus, with the tally more than doubling in the past two weeks.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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France should prepare for ‘difficult decisions’ on new COVID curbs: minister

PARIS (Reuters) – France should get ready for “difficult decisions” on new measures to tackle the resurgence of COVID-19 cases, interior minister Gerald Darmanin said on Tuesday ahead of a cabinet meeting to discuss the pandemic.

French authorities are looking at options for still tighter measures to fight COVID-19, which has kept spreading despite some of the strictest restrictions in Europe, according to three sources familiar with the government’s thinking.

“We must expect difficult decisions,” Darmanin told France Inter radio.

France has already set a curfew from 9 p.m.-6 a.m. time in major cities, including Paris. Two industry sources in contact with the government said officials are now looking at measures including starting the curfew earlier, confining people to their homes at weekends except for essential trips, and closing non-essential shops.

On Monday, France reported 26,771 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, while the death toll went up by 257, taking the cumulative total since the start of the epidemic to 35,018 deaths. The number of people in intensive care units rose by 186 to 2,770.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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Latest on the worldwide spread of coronavirus

(Reuters) – The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the United States is at a two-month high, straining health care systems in some states. In Europe, France led a string of countries reporting record increases in infections.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread of COVID-19, open https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/ in an external browser.

* Eikon users, see COVID-19: MacroVitals https://apac1.apps.cp.thomsonreuters.com/cms/?navid=1592404098 for a case tracker and summary of news.

EUROPE

* The Czech government ordered a 9 p.m. curfew and will limit retail sales on Sundays as part of tighter measures to curb the spread of the virus.

* Protests flared across Italy against a new round of government restrictions aimed at curbing a resurgent coronavirus, with violence reported in at least two major northern cities, Milan and Turin.

* France reported its highest number of COVID-19 patients going into hospital since April, registering 1,307 new coronavirus patients on Monday. The country is considering further tightening of restrictions, sources said.

* Slovakia may be able to avoid harsher anti-coronavirus measures as a result of its plans for nationwide testing scheduled to start this weekend.

* The Spanish government faced a backlash over its plans to put the country, one of Europe’s worst COVID-19 hotspots, under a state of emergency for six months.

* A lack of contact-tracing capacity in Europe, despite very high rates of positive tests, will drive the coronavirus further into the “darkness”, the World Health Organization’s top emergency expert told an online briefing on Monday.

AMERICAS

* U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the White House has refused to sign on to Democratic lawmakers’ plan for a coronavirus testing strategy, despite earlier public statements to the contrary by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

* The Trump administration will this week announce a plan to cover out-of-pocket costs of COVID-19 vaccines for millions of Americans who receive Medicare or Medicaid, Politico reported.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* Tumbling numbers of pregnancies and marriages in Japan during the coronavirus pandemic are likely to intensify a demographic crisis in the rapidly ageing nation.

* Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he would favour a government-to-government deal for the purchase of coronavirus vaccines to prevent the risk of corruption.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Iran extended COVID-19 curbs in Tehran and across the country as health authorities said they were recording a COVID-19 death every four minutes.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS

* Antibodies against the novel coronavirus declined rapidly in the British population during the summer, a study found on Tuesday, suggesting protection after infection may not be long lasting and raising the prospect of waning immunity in the community.

* A leading experimental COVID-19 vaccine produces an immune response in both young and old adults, said AstraZeneca Plc, which is helping to manufacture it.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* Asian stocks markets fell on Tuesday as soaring global coronavirus cases and slow progress on a U.S. stimulus deal hammered investor sentiment and took a toll on Wall Street.[MKTS/GLOB]

* South Korea’s economy returned to growth in the third quarter, climbing out of the slump brought about by the coronavirus as its major trading partners began lifting pandemic restrictions.

(Compiled by Vinay Dwivedi and Amy Caren Daniel; Editing by Maju Samuel and Sriraj Kalluvila)

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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Melbourne on eve of lockdown liberation

Australia’s epicentre of COVID-19 infections, its second-most populous state of Victoria, said on Tuesday it had gone 48 hours without detecting any new cases for the first time in more than seven months. From Wednesday, Victoria will allow restaurants and cafes to re-open in its capital of Melbourne after a stringent lockdown lasting more than three months.

Despite dwindling infections and businesses set to reopen, Victoria will only ease limits on social gatherings in the home, allowing two adults and dependents from one house to make one daily visit to one other household.

Melbourne’s release from lockdown has boosted hopes for attendance at its traditional Boxing Day cricket test from Dec. 26, and the Australian Open, where the world’s top tennis players are set to play 2021’s first Grand Slam in January.

British study finds evidence of waning antibody immunity

Antibodies against the coronavirus declined rapidly in the British population in summer, a study found on Tuesday, suggesting protection after infection may not be long-lasting and raising the prospect of waning immunity in the community.

Although virus immunity is a complex and murky topic and may be assisted by T cells, as well as B cells that can stimulate swift production of antibodies following virus re-exposure, the researchers said the experience of other coronaviruses suggested immunity might not be enduring.

Those confirmed by a gold standard PCR test to have COVID-19 had a less pronounced decline in antibodies, versus those who were asymptomatic and unaware of their original infection. The findings from scientists at Imperial College London, released as a pre-print paper, have not yet been peer-reviewed.

New business jet travellers help fuel order recovery

Affluent travellers avoiding commercial flights during the pandemic are helping fuel a recovery in pre-owned corporate aircraft deals this year and reviving some demand for new planes even as the business aviation industry braces for a slump in 2020 deliveries.

Jets built as corporate aircraft, which can carry from roughly a handful to 19 travellers, tout less risk of exposure to the virus because their passengers can avoid airports and generally select who comes on board.

Pre-owned jet deals are bouncing back to near 2019 levels, while lawyers and brokers are seeing orders for new planes trickle in after a pandemic-induced lull, generating cautious optimism for corporate planemakers as they begin reporting quarterly earnings this week.

Japan’s deepening demographic crisis

Tumbling numbers of pregnancies and marriages in Japan during the pandemic are likely to intensify a demographic crisis in the rapidly ageing nation. Japan has the most aged society in the world, with more than 35% of its population expected to be 65 and over by 2050, a trend that poses risks for economic growth and strains government finances.

Recent official data showed a fall of 11.4% in the number of notified pregnancies during the three months to July from a year earlier, while the number of marriages over the same period dropped 36.9%. The sharp decline in marriages matters because the majority Japan’s babies are born in wedlock.

Policymakers are scrambling to tackle the crisis, covering fertility treatment with health insurance and doubling to 600,000 yen ($5,726) the ceiling on a one-off government allowance for newlyweds.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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HSBC to accelerate restructuring plan as third-quarter profit tumbles 35%

By Sumeet Chatterjee and Lawrence White

HONG KONG/LONDON (Reuters) – HSBC Holdings PLC <HSBA.L> said on Tuesday it plans to accelerate its restructuring plan, slashing costs further than previously suggested, flipping its model from generating income mainly from interest rates to fee-based business, and shrinking in size.

The plans were unveiled as it posted a less-than-expected 35% drop in quarterly profit and flagged an easing in its provisions for bad loans, citing an expected improvement in the economic outlook in its main markets.

Reported pretax profit for Europe’s biggest bank by assets came in at $3.1 billion for the quarter ended Sept. 30, down from $4.8 billion in the same period a year earlier.

The profit was higher than the $2.07 billion average of analysts’ estimates compiled by the bank.

Asia-focused HSBC said it expected losses from bad loans to be at the lower end of the $8 billion to $ 13 billion range it set out earlier this year.

“This latest guidance, which continues to be subject to a high degree of uncertainty due to Covid-19 and geopolitical tensions, assumes that the likelihood of further significant deterioration in the current economic outlook is low,” it said.

Faced with fewer options to bolster revenue growth, HSBC has been looking to reduce costs globally and in June resumed plans to cut around 35,000 jobs it had put on ice after the coronavirus outbreak.

Other measures in the lender’s global restructuring drive, unveiled in February, include the disposal of its French business, which it may have to sell at a big loss, Reuters reported last month.

HSBC, which in common with other British lenders stopped paying dividends earlier this year at the request of regulators, said it would communicate a revised dividend policy in February 2021.

Analysts and investors fear the lender could cut payouts in the long run.

(Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee in Hong Kong and Lawrence White in London; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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Philippines’ Duterte wants government-to-government deal for COVID-19 vaccines

By Neil Jerome Morales

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday he would favour a government-to-government deal for the purchase of coronavirus vaccines to prevent the risk of corruption, adding that Manila would not beg other nations for access to vaccines.

The Philippines, with its more than 108 million people and among the highest number of COVID-19 infections in Asia, is considered as both a suitable location for clinical trials and a large market for global vaccine manufacturers.

“Let me tell everybody that we will not beg, we will pay,” Duterte said in a weekly televised address.

“To the Chinese government, you need not look for partners, we can make it government-to-government.”

The Philippine leader later said that while China and Russia appeared to be ahead in the vaccine race, any country that submitted the best offer could be chosen.

China’s Sinovac Biotech may start late-stage trials of its vaccine in the Philippines as early as next month, with the drugs agency evaluating its application.

Philippine authorities are also evaluating COVID-19 vaccines of Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen for late-stage trials and in talks with drugmaker Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc as potential suppliers.

Australia’s Vaxine Pty Ltd has also expressed interest in holding a clinical trial.

The Philippines has initially allotted $400 million to buy 40 million doses for 20 million Filipinos, as part of Duterte’s plan to inoculate the entire population.

With 371,630 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 7,039 deaths, the Philippines has the second-highest number of infections and fatalities in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia.

Duterte also extended partially relaxed coronavirus curbs in the capital, the country’s hotspot, by another month to the end of November. Schools remain closed while social distancing is imposed in public places and on mass transport.

(Additional Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Ed Davies)

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Shooting that left 9-year-old wounded wasn’t ‘intentional act of gun violence,’ cops say

A day after three juveniles — including a 9-year-old — were injured in a shooting at a Southwest Miami-Dade park, police said “the shooting was not an intentional act of gun violence.“

Instead, police say two of the minors here handling a gun at the time, it discharged and hit all three.

“Detectives are no longer looking for a subject in this case,” police said in a news release Monday night.

The three minors, ages 9, 12 and 17, were found shot at around 3 p.m. Sunday near Goulds Park in the area of Southwest 113th Avenue and 216th Street.

The 9-year-old was in critical condition and was airlifted to Kendall Regional Hospital. His condition was not known Monday.

The two other children were stable and airlifted to Jackson South Medical Center.

Police did not say Monday who was handling the gun or if any charges are pending.

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Australia’s COVID hotspot state records two days without new cases for first time in seven months

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The Australian state of Victoria, the epicentre of COVID-19 infections, said on Tuesday it had gone 48 hours without detecting any new cases for the first time in more than seven months.

Victoria, the second most populous state, will allow restaurants and cafes in Melbourne to reopen from Wednesday after more than three months under a stringent lockdown.

Despite case numbers dwindling and businesses poised to reopen, Victoria will only ease limits on social gatherings in the home, allowing two adults and dependents from one house to make one daily visit to one other household.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the highest risk of spreading the virus remained in the family home where social distancing protocols were often not applied.

“This is just about making sure that people can connect, but we can’t have a situation where people are having visitors in the morning, visitors at lunchtime, visitors in the evening,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.

“What we, all of us as Victorians, have built is a precious thing, but it is fragile.”

The pace that Victoria has reopened has frustrated many, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison who has argued Australia’s most populous state has eased restrictions despite small, single figure outbreaks, often bigger than in Victoria.

New South Wales state on Tuesday recorded two new locally acquired COVID-19 infections.

Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions have pushed its economy into its first recession in three decades, triggered after large swathes of the economy were shut to slow the spread of the virus.

The economy shrank 7% in the three months to the end of June, the biggest quarterly contraction since records began in 1959. Unemployment hit a 22-year high of 7.5% in July as businesses and borders closed.

Australia has recorded just over 27,500 novel coronavirus infections, far fewer than many other developed countries.

Victoria, which accounts for more than 90% of the 905 deaths nationally, did not record any new deaths from the virus in the past 24 hours.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Barrett confirmation means Roe is at risk, and prosecutors need to step up

Monday’s confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett has given the U.S. Supreme Court a conservative supermajority, making the longstanding anchor of Roe v. Wade — the landmark decision enshrining a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion without the excessive interference of government — anything but certain.

As we confront a reality where the rights of women across this country to make their own health care decisions is under attack, elected state and local prosecutors are an increasingly critical defender of these essential reproductive rights. And now, nearly 70 of them are standing together in pledging to not criminalize abortions.

This exercise of prosecutorial discretion could not be more timely.

An activist holds a sign as she counter-protests in front of the the U.S. Supreme Court.

In June, Tennessee passed a “heartbeat” law imposing extreme restrictions on performing abortions, including bans on the procedure as early as six weeks. The law carries draconian penalties, with providers who are convicted facing prison time of up to 15 years and fines up to $10,000. But Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk spoke out — refusing to enforce a “criminal law … used by the state to exercise control over a woman’s body.” 

Dozens of elected prosecutors across the country, including 11 attorneys general, are joining this chorus, making clear that even if abortions were no longer constitutionally protected, “it is imperative that we use our discretion to decline to prosecute personal health care choices criminalized under such laws.” 

If Roe is overturned, the country could become a patchwork of abortion access. Thirteen states and Washington, D.C., protect the right to an abortion by law or within their constitutions, while 21 states have laws heavily restricting abortion, many with harsh criminal penalties for performing, having or assisting someone in obtaining an abortion. These abortion bans — such as in Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee — are held at bay as long as Roe stands. But if Roe falls, they’ll swiftly become relevant, and suddenly local prosecutors will be on the front lines of reproductive justice.

Abortions won’t stop because they’re criminalized.

Instead, women with the means to do so will travel across state lines; those not able to do so might seek dangerous treatments that put their lives at risk, or purchase pills off the internet or through other networks to self-administer abortions.

We have already seen a preview of what criminalization looks like: In many states where legal abortion is highly restricted, women have been prosecuted for allegedly “self-administering abortions,” despite evidence that these occurrences are challenging to distinguish from miscarriages — discouraging women who miscarry from seeking necessary care. 

This scenario will leave local prosecutors with a weighty decision: Carry out witch hunts in emergency rooms for alleged abortions (leading to possible wrongful convictions), or choose to exercise their discretion more wisely.

Prosecutorial discretion is the essence of a prosecutor’s job. No prosecutor has the resources to prosecute every offense in her jurisdiction. And a new generation of prosecutors, relying on data as well as a new vision of justice from their communities, have chosen to prioritize prosecuting serious harm over low-level offenses that don’t impact public safety. In the wake of pandemic austerity, prosecutors already face the challenging task of stretching taxpayer dollars further than ever.

Meanwhile, voters across the United States are calling for leaders to shift resources from criminalization to community-led prevention and public safety efforts. Prosecuting personal health care choices will further strain limited criminal justice resources, divide communities and damage what little trust remains in law enforcement.

With confidence in police at an all-time low, it’s imperative that prosecutors do whatever they can to fortify public trust in law enforcement.

Half of Americans say abortion should be legal under certain circumstance, while 29% say it should be legal under any circumstances. Prosecutors rely on community cooperation to investigate crimes and protect public safety. Deeply alienating half or more of the community for little public safety benefit stands to have serious public safety consequences.

Finally, prosecution of abortions will criminalize and re-traumatize many of the most vulnerable people prosecutors are sworn to protect, including victims of sexual assault denied access to abortions under some state bans. Limited prosecutorial resources are better spent on the perpetrators of sexual assault crimes, rather than victims or health care professionals who provide needed care.

If Roe falls, prosecutors will be the last line of defense — their discretion could spell the critical difference for women victimized by rape, incest and abuse, and forced to choose between an untenable situation and the threat of criminal prosecution.

With the future of Roe now less certain than ever, we urge more elected prosecutors to join their colleagues in taking a stand to protect everyone in our communities by disavowing efforts to criminalize personal health care choices.

Failing to do so endangers us all.

Miriam Aroni Krinsky is a former federal prosecutor and the executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, a national network of elected prosecutors working toward commonsense, compassionate criminal justice reforms.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Barrett confirmation means Roe is at risk, and prosecutors must step up

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Goldman Sachs attempted to cover up sexual misconduct, lawsuit claims

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Goldman Sachs Group Inc <GS.N> attempted to cover up allegations of workplace sexual misconduct by the bank’s global head of litigation, a lawsuit filed on Monday in New York State Supreme Court claimed.

The lawsuit was filed by Marla Crawford, a former associate general counsel at the bank, against Goldman Sachs, the bank’s General Counsel Karen Seymour and its Global Head of Litigation, Darrell Cafasso.

The lawsuit claimed Cafasso used his position of power to “romantically prey upon a much younger and vulnerable female colleague.”

Crawford, who was a confidant of the alleged victim, attempted to speak up about the alleged misconduct, the lawsuit said, and was subsequently fired after 10 years of “exemplary performance.”

Seymour and Goldman hired law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP to conduct an investigation with the intention to quickly “sweep it under the rug,” the lawsuit claimed. Cafasso returned to work after two weeks, while the alleged victim – who is unnamed in the lawsuit – left the bank, it said.

Seymour declined to comment. Cafasso was not available for comment.

Goldman Sachs rejected the claims in the lawsuit.

“We conducted a review of the allegations in this complaint and found that they were completely without merit,” a spokeswoman said.

“The General Counsel took all appropriate actions, including ensuring there were thorough investigations by our HR function, after the incidents that form the basis of the plaintiff’s complaint,” she added.  

As part of a broader legal division restructuring, Crawford was offered her same job in a different location, an opportunity she declined, the Goldman Sachs spokeswoman said.

In a statement issued by her lawyer, Crawford said: “As a lawyer and professional, I always try to stand up for what is right. Unfortunately for Goldman’s top lawyers, that made me a liability. I will hold Goldman and its senior lawyers accountable for the blatant retaliation perpetrated against me.”

(Reporting by Matt Scuffham; editing by Edward Tobin)