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Former world officials urge US to ease sanctions on Iran to help fight COVID-19 and other news

Map of confirmed cases in Iran April 2020. Image: LMMNews screen grab from John Hopkins University.

World officials urge President Trump to ease sanctions on Iran for the coronavirus crisis

A group of former diplomats and ministers around the world have called on President Trump to ease sanctions on Iran as it is compromising the country to respond effectively to the coronavirus crisis.

The group says that easing US rules, which prevents the country to trade medical and humanitarian goods, could save hundreds of thousands of lives across the Middle East. 

They have said ‘reaching across orders to save lives is imperative for our own security and must override political differences among governments.’

Signatories backing the call include former EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, former director general of the World Health Organization Gro Harlem Brundtland, and several former US officials.

Sanctions on Iran were reinstated in May 2018 after President Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal.

Although the US claims that the sanctions does not block medical trade, the group says they have found that there are barriers which make medical trade almost impossible.

The group of former leaders recommend to widen the humanitarian exemptions in the sanctions to include equipment necessary to combat the coronavirus and to provide more resources to the US treasury processing sanctions-waiver requests.

Iran currently has over 60,500 confirmed cases with nearly 4,000 deaths.

Tiger in New York City zoo tests positive for coronavirus

Entrance of Bronx Zoo. Image: Wikimedia

A Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo has tested positive for the coronavirus, in what is considered to be the first known case of an animal infected in the US.

The tiger, Nadia, is believed to have been infected by a zoo employee who was not showing any symptoms.

Six other tigers and lions have also been infected and they began developing symptoms of a dry cough and a lack of appetite at the end of March.

This case raises new questions about the transmission of the virus from humans to animals.

There have been some reports of pets testing positive outside the US, but experts have said there is no evidence that animals can pass the virus to humans.

The World Organization for Animal Health have said it is studying how susceptible different animals are to the virus and has recommended people who are sick to limit their contact with pets.

Conservation experts have also expressed concerns of the virus spreading to other animals such as apes, gorillas, chimps, and orangutans.

Health experts urge smokers to quit to reduce coronavirus risks

Health specialists are urging smokers to quit and for the tobacco industry to stop producing in order to reduce the risks from the coronavirus.

Evidence has shown that smokers become more severely ill if infected and suffer more serious complications.

Gan Quan, director at the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, said governments have a ‘moral imperative’ to advise smokers to quit.

The Union, a group of international health officials and respiratory and lung specialists, said it is very concerned about the 1.3 billion smokers, given that health systems internationally are already overwhelmed especially in developing countries.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine in February found that more than 25% of over 1,000 COVID-19 patients who were in critical condition or who died, were smokers.

Radiation levels spike in Chernobyl nuclear zone after forest fire

Entrance to Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Image: Wikimedia

Ukrainian authorities have reported a spike in radiation levels in the restricted zone around Chernobyl after two forest fires.

The radiation levels in the areas of the fires was exceptionally higher than normal levels, but authorities have said there is no threat to human life.

The two fires began on Saturday, suspectedly by a 27-year-old man who said he set the dry grass on fire for fun but failed to put it out when the wind caused it to spread quickly.

Firefighters have managed to extinguish the smaller fire, but are continuing to put out the larger fire covering about 50 acres.

Chernobyl is the site of one of the world’s worst nuclear accident, after an explosion in April 1986 that polluted a large part of Europe.

The Chernobyl exclusion zone consists of 1,000 square miles of land that was established after the disaster which covered the area with nuclear radiation.

The exclusion zone is mainly unpopulated and people are not allowed to live within 18 miles of the power station.

Police have said that fires have been a common incident and they will increase surveillance around the Chernobyl zone to prevent new fires.

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