Coronavirus cruise ships including one that was at sea for two WEEKS finally dock in Florida after four die on board – The Sun

TWO cruise ships full of coronavirus cases were allowed to unload passengers in Florida on Thursday after four people died on one of the vessels.

The MS Zaandam of the Holland America Line had been at sea for two weeks and barred from South American ports before being allowed to dock in the US.


Sister ship the Rotterdam, sent to help the Zaandam, was also given permission to settle at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.

County officials and the cruise line announced a deal had been made shortly before the ships arrived in port.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was originally opposed to the ships’ arrival, but had a change of heart after realizing many passengers were US citizens and about 50 were Floridians.

The state has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus with 9,000 cases.

“I think the accommodations have been made, and I think that things are going to be done very thoughtfully,” he said.

“It’s going to be a very controlled exit from these ships.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of President Trump's chief advisers on the pandemic, had urged the governor to change his mind.

"You have to take care of the people who are ill," Fauci told CBS News before the deal was struck.



"You just have an obligation to do that. And as quickly as possible.

"You've got to get the people who are not sick, who are not infected, off the ship."

Four elderly passengers died on the Zaandam, at least two from COVID-19.

An official said nine people had tested positive for the coronavirus, and 250 people reported flu-like symptoms, including 17 aboard the Rotterdam.

The cruise line gained access at two local hospitals for 13 passengers and a crew member who needed medical care.

Most of the remaining passengers were expected to begin disembarking on Friday and would then be allowed to fly home.

"Out of an abundance of caution, these guests will be transported in coaches that will be sanitized, with limited person-to-person contact and while wearing masks," the cruise line said.

There were 442 guests and 603 crew on the Zaandam, and 808 guests and 583 crew on the Rotterdam.

The Rotterdam was sent to take some of the Zaandam passengers and provide assistance since the Zaandam was denied permission to dock at multiple ports.

Guests have not left the Zaandam since March 14 and have self-isolated in their staterooms since March 22.

“People greeted us, came out to their balconies, blew air horns and shouted, ‘Welcome home!’” said Virginia resident and  Emily Spindler Brazell.

“It was surprising. We went to many countries that said, ‘We are not going to talk to you.’”

 

The Zaandam had set sail from Buenos Aires on March 7.

It was stranded off the coast of Panama after it was not allowed to dock in Chile and other ports.

More than a million people have contracted the coronavirus around the world, and experts fear 200,000 may die in the US.

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The Decision Not to Air Trump’s Coronavirus Briefing Is Commendable, And Overdue — Opinion

After days of internal newsroom pressure and external criticisms, CNN and MSNBC cut away from President Donald Trump’s coronavirus briefing on Wednesday when he used it as an opportunity to begin discussing his southern border wall.

The networks’ move came after several days of meandering presidential presentations that sounded more like Trump rallies than important medical briefings. As Deadline noted, CNN and MSNBC have faced inside turmoil from their own anchors, such as John King and Chuck Todd, who criticized them while on air.

The decision to not air Trump’s coronavirus briefings is laudable. In an unprecedented time of global uncertainty about the world’s health, welfare, and the ability to walk outside our homes without contracting a deadly virus that may hang in the air, the president often has used his nationally broadcast time on the dais to spread lies and misleading information.

Trump’s comments about the coronavirus have ranged from inconsistent to racist, as well as detached from reality. Among other things, he downplayed the threat and referred to it as the “Chinese virus.” In one case, Trump’s uninformed coronavirus commentary potentially had a fatal cost: After Trump promoted chloroquine in a recent press conference as a treatment for COVID-19, the Arizona Republic reported that a man died after ingesting a form of chloroquine used to treat aquariums.

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Still, while the networks’ decision is commendable, it’s also fantastically late. Misinformation is nothing new for him, which is why cable news outlets have drawn considerable criticism for dedicating significant air time to Trump. However, like Trump’s 2016 campaign rallies — which network heads have admitted were ratings hits — the president’s coronavirus briefings have attracted large viewership numbers.

Trump kicked off his 2016 presidential campaign by denigrating Mexicans as drug dealers. Now, rather than racist rhetoric or demonization of non-Republican political groups, his presentation of the coronavirus epidemic presents a real-time threat to public health.

News organizations have taken some steps over the last few years to filter Trump’s statements  — mostly through rigorous fact checking or after-the-fact analysis — but it’s a half-measure when so many of the president’s lies are presented on-air.

The Daily Beast recently reported that CNN chief Jeff Zucker, who greenlit “The Apprentice” in 2004, defended the network’s decision to carry the press briefings because, Trump’s lies aside, it was important for viewers to hear important health information from experts such as Anthony Fauci, the country’s top coronavirus expert and a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force. Fair enough, but there’s no reason that the networks couldn’t air critical information from Fauci and other experts after their journalists. compiled the relevant segments.

News organizations should not ignore Trump’s myriad briefings and events — watchdog journalism is as essential as ever — but, as Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan noted, if the press values journalistic integrity over profits, it must recognize the importance of not letting the president spread lies on their platforms. That’s true for the industry’s coronavirus coverage — but there’s no reason it should be limited to the current pandemic.

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YNW Melly Tests Positive for Coronavirus While in Jail Awaiting Trial for Double Murder

Rapper YNW Melly has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) while in jail awaiting trial for the double murder of his two friends. Kelly has pleaded not guilty to the double murder charges.

“Melly has tested positive for COVID-19 while awaiting his trial in Broward County Jail,” a statement posted to Melly’s Twitter account read.

Due to his condition, Melly, 20, will “be filing a motion for restricted release in hopes of better care due to any jails not being prepared to treat this new virus.”

“He hopes for your support and to recover soon #prayformelly,” the statement concluded.

Melly’s attorney told PEOPLE in a statement, “Yes he has tested positive for COVID-19. The jails and prisons in this country are creating an extremely dangerous situation by not providing hand sanitizer and proper hygiene care. I have prepared and will be filing an emergency motion in the morning for his conditional release.”

Melly potentially faces the death penalty if convicted of the double murder.

Last April, the State of Florida announced its decision to seek capital punishment against Melly because prosecutors believe they can prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Melly murdered aspiring rappers Anthony Williams, 21, and Christopher Thomas Jr., 19, for “financial gain,” according to court documents obtained by XXL magazine.

“The murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, and he committed homicide in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner,” the court documents allege.

Florida is one of the 30 states where capital punishment is legal.

Melly, whose real name is Jamell Demons, was arrested in February after allegedly shooting Williams and Thomas Jr. on Oct. 26.

After the shooting, which took place in Fort Lauderdale, Melly — allegedly with the help of another rapper identified as Cortlen Henry aka YNW Bortlen — covered up the murder by making it look as if it was a drive-by shooting, Miramar Police claimed in a statement shared on Twitter.

The victims were then allegedly driven to Memorial Hospital Miramar by Henry, 26, in a Jeep Compass at around 4:35 a.m., Sun-Sentinel reported.

Williams and Thomas were both pronounced dead at the hospital.

Williams was also known as YNW Sakchaser and Thomas was known as YNW Juvy. Both rappers were featured in a documentary about Melly posted on Melly’s YouTube page.

According to documents obtained by Complex and TMZ, Melly’s booking report out of Miramar, Florida, says that Henry drove to an emergency room in the early morning hours asking for help for two friends in his car, claiming they had been shot in a drive-by.

Police say Henry told them he and the two victims had just wrapped a late-night studio session when a car pulled up on his driver’s side and opened fire as he was pulling off the freeway, TMZ reported. Cops confirmed there were eight bullet holes along the right side of the vehicle where Williams and Thomas Jr. sat, and Henry escaped injury.

Cops said they found a shell casing inside Henry’s vehicle, along with eight matching shell casings in a different location, where they think Melly and Henry shot the car to make it look like a drive-by, according to TMZ, who also reports that cops believe that the initial shot was fired from inside the car on the left rear passenger side. After reviewing surveillance footage, cops concluded that Melly had been sitting on the left rear passenger side of the car.


“Evidence from the autopsy revealed that both victims’ wound paths to their heads were from a left to right direction. This directly contradicts the statements made by Henry and do not support the statements of a drive-by shooting that occurred on the right side of the vehicle,” Complex quotes the court documents as saying.

Additionally, the outlet reports that the police allege Melly and Henry drove around with the bodies of Williams and Thomas Jr. after they had been shot “for a period of time” before driving to the hospital. Henry later told police that Melly was, in fact, in the same car with them, but eventually got into another vehicle.

On Feb. 13, 2019, Melly, revealed on Instagram that he would be turning himself in to authorities.

Henry was arrested in January in Houston and was extradited to Broward.

Just after the murder, Melly’s attorney Bradford Cohen said, according to the Sun Sentinel, the rapper is “sad, he’s upset, obviously.”

“Those are his best friends,” Cohen said.

In March, Melly and Henry pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with the case, Billboard reported. Both men remain behind bars without bond.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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Sara Bareilles Reveals She Has 'Fully Recovered' from Coronavirus: I'm 'Really Grateful'



“I am just thinking about all of the people who are walking through this really tricky time and sending a lot of love and just being really grateful for every easy breath and every day that I get to be walking around,” she said. “Lots of love, you guys. Take care of yourselves.”

In March, Bareilles announced she and costar Gavin Creel would be ending the West End production of the Waitress musical one week earlier than anticipated due to new travel restrictions over the coronavirus pandemic.

After their return to the United States, Creel, 43, shared on Rosie O’Donnell‘s coronavirus relief fundraiser live stream that he was “pretty sure” he contracted the highly contagious illness while overseas.

“I haven’t been officially tested, but I was doing Waitress in London and a bunch of the cast has fallen sick from it. One of my castmates did test the same day I was starting to have symptoms, and she’s positive and we were together the whole time,” he said at the time, before telling viewers that it was not Bareilles who had tested positive for COVID-19.

Creel went on to describe his symptoms as “like a cruddy flu,” explaining that he’s been in self-isolation since returning home.

“I’ve been lucky enough to not have breathing difficulties and respiratory issues,” he shared. “I lost my sense of smell and taste. I haven’t gotten those back. I’m getting asparagus and it might as well be rubber. I don’t know, it’s the weirdest thing.”

The first cases of a mysterious respiratory illness — what is now known as COVID-19, a form of coronavirus — began in Wuhan, China in late December. Since then, the virus has spread worldwide, leading the World Health Organization to declare a public health emergency, the first since the zika epidemic in 2016.

As of Thursday evening, there have been at least 234,483 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, with 5,708 deaths from coronavirus-related illness.

Worldwide, there have been over a million confirmed cases of coronavirus and at least 52,983 deaths, according to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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The 10 Most Popular Series TVLine Readers Are Watching During Quarantine (and How to Binge Them)

The results are in, and you’ve done us proud: TVLine readers are watching a lot of television as the days of self-quarantine continue.

With most of us stuck indoors for the foreseeable future, we recently asked you to share the TV shows you’ve been watching at home — and there was quite a variety!

What TVLine Readers Are Watching During Self-Quarantine

Launch Gallery

From beloved pop culture staples (The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) to series that have only been around for a few weeks (Little Fires Everywhere, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist), it seems you’ve been indulging in a wide range of TV offerings, whether you’re catching up on a DVR backlog, trying a classic for the first time or rewatching some small-screen comfort food.

After tallying your responses, though, we counted 10 shows that got love from multiple readers, and we’ve collected them in the attached gallery. The list includes a few current series, such as HBO’s Succession and Amazon’s The Expanse, while others have been off the air for years. (We still miss you, Happy Endings!)

And just in case you’ve wanted to try these 10 series, too, we’ve included handy details on how to binge them… once you finish the other 500 shows on your list, that is.

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Oprah Winfrey Donates $10 Million to Coronavirus Relief Efforts and Fighting Food Insecurity

Oprah Winfrey is helping to fight the coronavirus in a big way.

The media mogul announced on Thursday that she is donating $10 million to COVID-19 relief efforts — $1 million of which will help those facing food insecurity during the pandemic.

In a new IGTV post, Winfrey spoke with chef José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen, and Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, to reveal her donation. The $1 million will benefit America’s Food Fund, a new initiative launched to help feed local communities during this time. (The remaining $9 million will be divided among charities close to Winfrey’s heart including Minnie’s Food Pantry in Plano, Texas and the Boys and Girls Club in Kosciusko, Mississippi.)

The full conversation with Winfrey, Andrés, and Babineaux-Fontenot is featured on the latest episode of Oprah Talks COVID-19, available now on Apple TV+ with or without a subscription.


“I know not everybody can donate a million dollars, but I feel like this is the central place to [donate to] if you really want to do something,” Winfrey says during their virtual interview. “I know I can trust my money in your hands.”

A stunned Andrés — who could barely believe he was speaking with Winfrey! — immediately expressed his gratitude. “We are so honored to be in your presence giving this fund this kind of visibility,” he says. “We are going to come out of this crisis stronger than ever, making sure we don’t leave anybody behind.”

José Andrés Serves Meals to Quarantined Princess Cruise Ships Guests Amid Coronavirus Concerns

These Organizations Are Feeding Healthcare Workers and First Responders Across the Country

America’s Food Fund was launched with $12 million on Thursday by Leonardo DiCaprio, Laurene Powell Jobs and Apple to aid World Central Kitchen and Feeding America.

According to a press release, “America’s Food Fund will address the issue of food access in the United States and will provide funding relief to both organizations in furthering their missions to feed the country’s most vulnerable populations impacted by COVID-19, including children who rely on school lunch programs, low-income families, the elderly, and individuals facing job disruptions.”

Andrés was one of the first to launch relief efforts amid the coronavirus outbreak, when he began serving food to thousands of passengers and crew members on board the quarantined Grand Princess cruise ship in early March. World Central Kitchen supported nearly 2,500 passengers and over 1,000 crew members who spent several days stuck on the ship.

To donate to America’s Food Fund, visit gofundme.com/americasfoodfund.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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David Letterman Fans Point Out He Looks Like The Sign Language Interpreter For Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp

No, David Letterman didn’t pick up a side job working for Governor Brian Kemp. Still, fans certainly thought that Georgia politician’s sign language interpreter was the late-night icon’s twin.

“Why is David Letterman doing sign language at this GA press conference?” asked the Twitter user @Hobo_Splendido, sharing a video of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s Apr. 1 press conference. As Gov. Kemp announced he was issuing a statewide shelter-in-place to aid the fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus, his ASL interpreter translated everything he said for the hearing impaired. However, some people had to check their vision, because with his long, white beard, the interpreter bore a striking resemblance to the 72-year-old former host of The Late Show. “I know I should be upset by this (I am), but at the moment, I’m just proud of how well David Letterman has transitioned into his second career.”

“Brian Kemp is a problem.  But David Letterman’s second act as a sign language interpreter is lifting my spirits.” “For a second there, I thought David Letterman was doing the sign language.” “Happy to see David Letterman still getting work.” “Why is retired David Letterman dressed like a priest and giving sign language?!?” “Looks like a bald David Letterman doing a Tik Tok in the back” Many were also relieved that “David Letterman” was trending for a positive reason, and not because he had come down with coronavirus.

While many had a chuckle over the David Doppelganger, not everyone was laughing at what Gov. Brian Kemp had to say. The Republican politician said he was issuing a shelter-in-place order because he had just learned that asymptomatic people could transmit COVID-19, information that seemingly the rest of the world knew for months. “Finding out that this virus is now transmitting before people see signs, so what we’ve been telling people from directives from the CDC for weeks now that if you start feeling bad, stay home,” he said, per Newsweek. “Those individuals could’ve been infecting people before they ever felt bad. But we didn’t know that until the last 24 hours. And as Dr. Toomey told me, this is a game-changer for us.”

“In a bizarre turn of events, information the rest of the nation had in January didn’t reach Georgia Governor Brian Kemp until April,” tweeted Shannon Watts, the founder for Moms Demand Action. Another Twitter user summed it up: “A stunning admission of deadly ignorance from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who says he only just learned that asymptomatic people can transmit #Covid19. “[I]ndividuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad, but we didn’t know that until the last 24 hours.’” Gov. Kemp will need more than a Letterman Lookalike to quell the outrage over this seemingly irresponsible response.

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UK coronavirus death toll rises by 569 to 2,961 – including 44 people with NO underlying health conditions – The Sun

THE UK coronavirus death toll shot up by 569 today to 2,961 people – including 44 with no underlying health conditions.

Positive cases for the deadly disease in the UK have also risen to 33,718 – up 4,244 from yesterday.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

A week ago, the total number of positive cases for the whole of the UK was 11,658.

NHS England today confirmed a further 561 people have died – bringing the total number of hospital deaths in the country to 2,698.

The latest victims were aged between 22 and 100 – including 44 with no underlying health conditions.

That is the largest number of deaths in healthy people so far and includes a 25-year-old victim.

In Wales, a further 19 people have died – bringing the total death toll to 117.

While in Scotland, 50 more people died in 24 hours – with their total deaths now at 126.

The Department of Health also confirmed today 163,194 people have been tested in total – with 10,657 tests carried out in England for the first time since the outbreak began.

Among the deaths announced today is comedy legend Eddie Large, 78, who died after contracting the disease in hospital.

It comes after the death rate increased by 50 per cent yesterday after 563 were killed on the UK's deadliest day so far.

But the true death toll is actually higher after it was revealed on Tuesday coronavirus had killed another 40 people outside hospital up to March 20.

Boris Johnson yesterday spoke of the UK's "sad, sad day" as the death toll took a sharp rise – as he promised to ramp up testing for the killer bug.

The PM released a video of himself self-isolating as he revealed 397 million extra pieces of protection kit had been shipped in for "amazing" NHS staff.

TESTING FURY

Mr Johnson said: "Let's be in no doubt this has been a sad, sad day, 563 more cases, a record in a single day.

"Our thoughts go out to the families of the victims and all their friends.

"But let's be in no doubt, that if we can follow the programme that we're currently set upon, if we can comply with the measures that we've embarked on together then I have absolutely no doubt that we will begin to start to push those numbers down, and we will turn the tide of the coronavirus in the next few weeks and months."

His comments came before it emerged more than 70 NHS workers at Great Ormond Street have been diagnosed with the bug with 318 off sick.

The government has faced criticism after it was revealed just 2,000 NHS staff – out of 550,000 – have been tested for coronavirus.

Thousands of doctors, GPs, nurses and paramedics are stuck in quarantine because they, or someone at at home, has symptoms.

Around 85 per cent could return to work if they knew they weren't carrying the virus.

And it came as a drive-thru testing centre for hero NHS workers at IKEA was hit by chaos with huge queues and staff turned away.

Long queues of cars built up at a testing centre set up at Ikea in Wembley, while another at Chessington World of Adventures was all but deserted.

It comes after a frontline medic became the forth doctor to die from the disease after selflessly continuing to treat patients instead of retiring.

Dr Alfa Saadu, who worked for the NHS for nearly 40 years in different hospitals across London, died on Tuesday after a two-week battle with the bug.

Three other doctors have died after contracting Covid-19 – ear, nose and throat consultant Amged El-Hawrani, 55, Adil El Tayar, 63, an organ transplant specialist and Southend GP Dr Habib Zaidi.

CORONAVIRUS CRISIS – STAY IN THE KNOW

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The Sun is now calling for Brits to once again 'Clap For Our Carers' at 8pm tonight to honour hero NHS staff fighting on the frontline to protect us.

Today's figures only include those who have died in hospital after testing positive for the disease, so the true death toll is actually higher.

From the start of the crisis until March 20, at least 40 more people died from coronavirus in England and Wales than previously thought after hidden deaths at home were revealed for the first time.

New figures revealed 210 people died in England and Wales from the killer bug during that time period – 23 per cent more than official NHS numbers have shown.

NHS England and Public Health Wales had recorded 170 people died in hospital up to that date.

Once the Office of National Statistics work out the numbers since March 20, the most recent numbers will raise again.

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Coronavirus overwhelming Ecuador as bodies are left rotting on streets and with morgues bursting with corpses – The Sun

CORONAVIRUS is overwhelming Ecuador as bodies are left to rot in the street while the morgues are totally full with corpses.

Government officials claim 400 bodies have been recovered over the last few days in the port city of Guayaquil.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

The country is facing a crisis as no one knows how many people are infected, with reports of very limited testing for Covid-19.

Ecuador officially has 2,700 cases of coronavirus and 93 deaths – 60 of them in Guayaquil.

It is believed the number is vastly higher as chilling pictures reveal bodies left in the streets, and coffins dumped outside waiting to be collected.

Reportedly other bodies lay unclaimed in hospitals, and clinics have been overwhelmed by the number of infections.

Photos show queues of people, some appearing to be gasping for breath, swamping hospitals in Guayaquil.

Doctors have said up to 1,000 patients are day are arriving at the city’s largest hospital Los Ceibos.

Medics have said while many are false alarms, the sheer numbers are pushing their resources to breaking point.

Ecuador’s national nurses association said up to 370 of their staff have been infected with coronavirus, and five have died.

And amid all of this, city officials have been forced to deny they are planning to dig a mass grave to cope with the dead.


Mayor Cynthia Viteri called on the national government to step up and help collect the piling-up corpses in Guayaquil.

She said: “They’re leaving them in the villages, they fall in front of hospitals.

“No one wants to recover them.”

The mayor herself has tested positive for coronavirus as the killer disease sweeps the globe, nearing one million cases worldwide.

Ecuador has been one of the hardest hit countries in South America.

Troops have been placed on patrol in the streets of Guayaquil to enforce a strict lockdown.

Hundreds of people have also been arrested for breaching the quarantine – which includes a night time curfew between 4pm and 8am.

Pictures show coffins sitting on the floor waiting to be collected from outside of hospitals.

Shops shelves have also been stripped bare amid the pandemic.

Other photos show crowds of the elderly flocking to banks last Friday to withdraw their pensions before the curfew.

The horrific scenes in the Guayaquil come after a city bakery worker was arrested for a sick prank in which he touched his nose before wiping his fingers on fresh dough.

He filmed himself wearing a surgical mask, and could be seen running his hands over buns moving past on a conveyor belt.



Guayaquil resident Hector Galarza speculated many of the dead piling up in the streets are likely to be the city’s poor.

He said the bodies are generating a “panic” as they are ravaged by Covid-19.

Reporters from Reuters news agency saw a man’s body lying on a pavement beneath a blue plastic sheet.

Police said the man collapsed while waiting to enter a store, but his cause of death was not confirmed.

After several hours of laying unclaimed in the street – he was finally removed by the authorities.

Mayor Viteri promised that unclaimed bodies will now be placed in three refrigerated cargo containers.

STATE OF EMERGENCY

City officials are also looking at plans for a new cemetery – but denied rumours it will be a mass grave.

The local government insisted all the dead would receive a “Christian burial”.

And despite being sick with the virus, Mayor Viteri insisted she will continue to work to “protect Guayaquilenos in a moment as difficult as this one”.

She said: “I will be where I am and how I am.

"Don’t leave your houses, protect the elderly and the weakest, and take care of each other.”

Ecuador reported its first known coronavirus case on February 29, a 70-year-old woman who had arrived from Italy – she died two weeks later.

President Lenin Moreno attempted to place restrictions on travel, and the country’s borders were sealed on March 16.

Guayaquil however was reportedly slow to follow the advice, dependent on its bustling open markets and trade.

Two weeks ago, city vehicles were used to block the landing of a KLM flight which had been dispatched by governments in Europe.

It was attempting to fly in and rescue citizens left stranded by travel restrictions.

Eventually, the plane finally landed in Quito, the capital, where 170 foreign citizens boarded for a return flight to Amsterdam.

Last week, Ecuadors health and labor minister Catalina Andramuno resigned just hours after announcing a massive spike in cases.

Health workers had complained they lacked supplies to properly tend to those infected.

Ms Andramuno toured public hospitals to reassure staff just days before she quit.

The government has declared a state of emergency as the country faces a coronavirus crisis.

Almost 50,000 people have been killed by Covid-19 worldwide – with the United States having the highest infection numbers at more than 215,000 and more than 5,000 dead.

It comes as Chinese scientists may have found mutated coronavirus which reportedly infected a patient for 49 days.



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Balcony birdwatching to get a closer look at the Common Myna

It’s just the right time to observe the Common Myna, as they pair up and roost, often in cavities in our outside walls

In these distressing times of the coronavirus lockdown, what does a naturalist like me do to pass time? Do some backyard birdwatching! With no human presence on the road, the pleasant spring season has given birds the peace they had always hoped for. A pleasant melancholy of calls and songs of urban garden birds echoing everywhere is often complimented by my sacred early morning cup of coffee in my balcony. This season is perhaps the best time to observe resident birds in our backyard, as it is a time of joy in their lives as they pair up and raise their young ones. One such fascinating account from my diary entry dated 23rd April, 2017, was of a pair of Common Myna trying to raise two chicks in my noisy neighbourhood.

I had always read in books that the parents feed the juvenile who screams louder and the most, in comparison to its siblings. I had read this in several places, and while I couldn’t disregard it, I was also slightly skeptical. It is only when I started observing the Common Mynas (Acridotheres tristis) nesting site close to home that I realised it was all true. I also noticed that the parents alternated in feeding the young ones and they always made sure to keep the nest cavity in the tree clean by ridding it of excreta and other unwanted things.

Given the commonness of the bird, we generally tend to ignore its presence and little details. The overall plumage of the species is dark brown with a glossy yellow bill. A passing look suggests it has dark eyes, but only when you spend time observing it – and we all have a great deal of time of our hands today — you’d notice that the eye colour is reddish-brown with white specks.

The Common Myna likes a wide array of habitats like open country, cultivated land, and urban spaces, and thrives in almost every habitat, except for in dense forests. In cities, they breed almost exclusively in nooks and eaves of houses, under roofs, and in holes in walls, considering that they are cavity nesters.

Being quite gregarious in nature, the clan generally roosts in large numbers in a particular tree and keeps up a noisy chattering concert (sometimes musical and sometimes harsh) of praikh praikh (when perched) and twee twee (in flight) all morning and evening.

Soon after sunrise, the birds disperse to their foraging grounds, leaving a few behind on guard duty to look out for crows and other troublemakers, making them quite territorial in nature. They will even mob birds of other species.

They are generally omnivores feeding on almost anything, but their diet mostly consists of insects. In concrete jungles and townships, these birds often venture into verandahs to feed on any fragments of cooked or uncooked food that people usually put out for birds.

Near farmlands and grazing land though, they feed off the insects on cattle, and pick up grasshoppers and other insects that are disturbed by their feet.

In fact, the genus they belong to, Acridotheres, translates to ‘the locust hunter’, derived from the Greek word akris meaning locust and theras meaning hunter.

These birds were introduced to Mauritius from India, to contain the grasshopper population there and successfully adapted to the conditions there. For birdwatchers like me, behaviour is key. Nodding their heads at each step and hopping occasionally is a common trait among mynas. They have a strong, direct, and somewhat quick flight — you’ll see white in the underwings as they fly.

These birds were once commonly caged and domesticated, often following their masters around the house like dogs. They are good imitators and soon pick up words and sentences, much like parakeets.

The writer is the founder of NINOX – Owl About Nature, a nature-awareness initiative. He is the Delhi-NCR reviewer for Ebird, a Cornell University initiative, monitoring rare sightings of birds. He formerly led a programme of WWF India.

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