In land of big data, China sets individual privacy rights

China’s parliament is set to approve a new law enshrining individuals’ right to privacy and protection of personal data.

China is poised to enshrine individuals’ rights to privacy and personal data for the first time, a symbolic first step as more of the country of 1.4 billion people becomes digitised – and more vulnerable to leaks and hacks.

The legislation is part of China’s first civil code, a sweeping package of laws that is being deliberated during the annual meeting of parliament, which began on Friday after a delay of more than two months due to the coronavirus.

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According to a recent draft, an individual has the right to privacy and to have their personal information protected.

Data collectors have a duty to protect an individual’s personal information and cannot obtain, disclose or conduct transactions of such data without consent, according to the draft.

The push to shore up data privacy in China is widely seen as an effort to protect and legitimise the country’s fast-growing internet sector and place safeguards on the movement of valuable Chinese data overseas.

The legislation will need to be followed by detailed regulation spelling out how those rights would be protected, and gives no protection from increasingly pervasive surveillance by a government that wields total control over the country’s digital sphere.

Nevertheless, lawyers and legal experts say the recognition of digital privacy rights is an important first step to allowing individuals who suffer from leaks to seek redress.

“When the law hasn’t set a definition for personal information, then a lot of disputes are very hard to resolve because there’s no way to sue,” said Xu Ke, a professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

The legislation places China among a minority of countries building legal frameworks governing individual data privacy, although individual protections currently in place are not as strong as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulations, said Chen Lei, a law professor at the City University of Hong Kong.

Legal experts say existing Chinese laws do not provide adequate protection for individuals because they do not impose significant punishment for companies responsible for breaches.

Chinese courts have been inconsistent on privacy cases, which some blamed on inadequate regulations and guidance for a rigid court system that limits a judge’s scope to make new interpretations in law.

In one high-profile case, a group of 42 people sued Amazon in 2017 for breach of their personal data by scammers.

Yanming, one of those who sued the US e-commerce giant, said he fell victim when a person called him with the exact order number for products he purchased. The person said there was a problem and offered a refund, luring Yanming to a phishing website planted within Amazon’s website that siphoned 247,000 yuan ($34,627) from Yanming’s account.

Chinese courts have ruled twice against Yanming – who requested his last name be withheld for privacy – and the other plaintiffs, however, stating that a criminal case must take place first before a civil case can start.

“The court’s decision is such that companies won’t value personal information protection, or digital safety practices,” said Wang Congwei, the victims’ lawyer.

Parliament plans to roll out separate legislation specifically on the protection of personal information later this year, and lawyers say Beijing needs to set stronger penalties for breaches or leaks in order to provide effective protection.

“(The civil code) will help, whether from the perspective of civil suits, or from the perspective of safeguarding rights for the victim, it’s more clear, and for the courts, this is a clearer standard,” said Wang.

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Twitter will not remove Trump’s ‘horrifying lies’

Twitter has refused to delete tweets by US President Donald Trump after a widower publicly implored the company to remove “horrifying lies” about his wife’s death, amplified by Mr Trump.

Twitter did not comment on Timothy Klausutis’ emotional letter, but said it was “deeply sorry” about the pain caused by the president’s statements.

Mr Trump has baselessly suggested Lori Klausutis was murdered in 2001 by her boss, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough.

But her death was ruled accidental.

What else did Twitter say?

“We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family,” a Twitter spokesperson said.

The statement added: “We’ve been working to expand existing product features and policies so we can more effectively address things like this going forward, and we hope to have those changes in place shortly.”

The social media giant has a series of rules regulating content on the platform, including policies barring the promotion of violence and “targeted harassment”.

The outlined “enforcement options” include requiring the removal of tweets and the permanent suspension of offending accounts.

Last week, Mr Scarborough’s wife and co-anchor Mika Brzezinksi furiously rebuked Mr Trump for his tweets on the matter, calling the president “sick”. She also asked Twitter to remove the incendiary tweets.

How has the White House responded?

At a Rose Garden news conference on healthcare on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Trump was asked if he had seen the widower’s letter.

“Yeah, I have,” he said. “I’m sure that ultimately they want to get to the bottom of it and it’s a very serious situation.”

He added: “It’s a very suspicious thing and I hope somebody gets to the bottom of it. It would be a very good thing.

“As you know there’s no statute of limitations.”

White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany said earlier on Tuesday when asked about Mr Klausutis’ appeal: “I don’t know if [Mr Trump] has seen the letter, but I do know that our hearts are with Lori’s family at this time.”

What did the widower say?

Mr Klausutis wrote in a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey late last week: “Conspiracy theorists, including most recently the President of the United States, continue to spread their bile and misinformation on your platform disparaging the memory of my wife and our marriage.

“My request is simple: Please delete these tweets.”

He added: “In certain past cases, Twitter has removed content and accounts that are inconsistent with your terms of service.

“I’m asking you to intervene in this instance because the President of the United States has taken something that does not belong to him – the memory of my dead wife – and perverted it for perceived political gain.

“My wife deserves better.”

How did Lori Klausutis die?

In July 2001, Klausutis was found dead in the Florida office of Mr Scarborough, then a Republican congressman.

Authorities determined the 28-year-old died after losing consciousness from an abnormal heart rhythm, before collapsing and striking her head.

Police found no evidence of foul play. A medical examiner established she had suffered an acute subdural hematoma, or blood clot, and ruled her death an accident.

Mr Scarborough was in Washington, DC at the time of her death.

The MSNBC presenter, his network and Ms Brzezinksi have been highly critical of the president’s handling of the US coronavirus outbreak.

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Hungary gov't says PM's power to rule by decree to end on June 20

A coronavirus defence bill adopted in March let right-wing nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban rule by decree.

Hungary aims to lift a state of emergency spurred by the coronavirus crisis on June 20, its justice minister has said, as the government prepared a bill ending the power to rule by a decree which drew international condemnation.

An anti-coronavirus defence bill adopted on March 30 by the Hungarian parliament enabled right-wing nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban to rule by decree until his cabinet declared an end to its “state of danger” declared on March 11 owing to the COVID-19 crisis.

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Orban had argued that ruling by decree allowed him to respond quickly and effectively during the emergency.

Orban said on Tuesday that Parliament could at any time cancel the special powers to manage the country without parliament’s consent, which he said were necessary to curb the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout.

Asked to clarify whether that meant the special powers would also end on June 20 in addition to the standard state of emergency invoked to tackle a crisis, government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said the two “by definition go hand in hand”.

Justice Minister Judit Varga, announcing the June 20 target for lifting the emergency in a Facebook post, described the international criticism as “unfounded attacks”. She added: “We expect [our critics] to apologise for waging a smear campaign instead of cooperating on defence [against the coronavirus].”

Parliament, dominated by Orban’s Fidesz party, was expected to vote to rescind his emergency powers in the coming weeks.

Hungary reported a total of 3,771 coronavirus cases and 499 deaths as of Tuesday, fairly low numbers compared with other European Union countries due to an early and strict lockdown, which the government has been gradually easing since early May.

Orban’s power to rule by decree continued with parliament in session. His latest decree stipulated government approval for major foreign stakes in domestic firms until the end of 2020.

Orban, who has extended his influence over many walks of life in the central European country during his 10 years in power, faces his toughest challenge as the economy is expected to slide into a coronavirus-induced recession this year.

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Soldiers describe deplorable conditions in Canadian nursing homes

Soldiers aiding coronavirus efforts report residents left in soiled diapers, cockroaches and ants in patient rooms.

Canadian soldiers helping manage the coronavirus outbreak in nursing homes saw staff leaving people in soiled diapers, ignoring calls for help and reusing unsterilised equipment, an official report said on Tuesday.

Nursing homes account for about 80 percent of all deaths attributed to the new coronavirus in Canada. The situation is dire in Ontario and Quebec, the two most populous provinces, where approximately 1,400 soldiers are working.

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A report by the armed forces on five of the worst-affected Ontario homes revealed residents left in soiled diapers as well as “significant fecal contamination”, cockroaches and ants in patient rooms.

At one point, “patients [were] observed crying for help with staff not responding for 30 mins to over two hours”, the report said.

“It was the most heart-wrenching report I have read in my entire life,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford, at one point on the verge of tears.

Ford – who promised a full-scale probe – said the system of long-term care was “broken” and had suffered from neglect for decades before the coronavirus pandemic tipped it over the edge.

“I’m going to fix this system, no matter what it takes,” he said, calling on the federal government for funding. Canada’s 10 provinces have jurisdiction over healthcare.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was shocked and angry about the scenes, reiterating that Canada needed to do a much better job of taking care of its elderly population.

Both Quebec and Ontario have asked that the soldiers stay on longer than initially planned, and the federal government is likely to agree, Trudeau said.

Earlier this month Trudeau referred to “heartbreaking tragedies” in long-term care facilities, mentioning overworked employees and understaffed homes.

Official public health data showed the total coronavirus Canadian death toll had edged up by just below 2 percent to 6,566 from Monday.

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In morgues and shipping containers, Ecuadorians search for lost dead

GUAYAQUIL/QUITO, Ecuador (Reuters) – Dolores Centeno has scoured the morgues and cemeteries of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, for two months searching for her father’s body.

Now, in a desperate last attempt to find him, she hopes to catch a glimpse of a scar on his chest that would set him apart from the dozens of other decomposing corpses in a newly-filled shipping container.

Like other families looking for their loved ones in the coastal city ravaged by the coronavirus, Centeno is praying the body of her 63-year-old father is among the more than 130 bodies that authorities say they are holding in such containers, awaiting identification.

Guayaquil in March and April faced a brutal outbreak of the virus that left bodies piling up in overwhelmed hospitals and corpses sitting for days in houses before authorities came to retrieve them, as morgues overflowed.

The government established a task force to collect cadavers and deployed the containers to store the mounting bodies.

But the chaos gave way to disorganization. Bodies were lost or misidentified, resulting in families looking for loved ones in morgues, hospitals and now, shipping containers, across the city.

Experts have so far identified 64 corpses through fingerprint recognition. They are also relying on family identification and more time-intensive genetic testing, according to Mario Corrales, the head of Ecuador’s Forensic Sciences Criminalistics Laboratory.

Centeno’s father passed away in late March, hours after being admitted to one of the city’s public hospitals with respiratory problems. There was no paper trail to identify what happened to him after he was admitted, said Centeno.

Forensic experts asked Centeno if her father had any identifying scars, Centeno said. “He had two, the largest from an open heart operation and the other from hernia surgery.”

Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo told reporters on Monday that the government was working with a team of forensic doctors and scientists to identify the bodies “and to be able to give an answer to every last family that went through this unfortunate situation.”

“Every day progress is made on this issue, little by little,” she said.

Ecuador has officially reported over 37,000 coronavirus cases and more than 3,000 deaths, but authorities acknowledge both figures are likely significant underestimates due to a lack of testing.

Jorge Wated, the head of the task force responsible for collecting the deceased, said on Twitter on May 2 there were over 8,200 more deaths than would normally be projected in the province of Guayas, where Guayaquil is located, during April alone.

Wated did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno dissolved the task force in early May as the death toll stabilized.

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The country’s attorney general has since launched an investigation into three public hospitals in Guayaquil over allegations that they did not follow protocol for identifying bodies, while the government has set up a website where people can search for deceased family members.

If a patient was registered by authorities, the location of their remains is recorded on the site. But many Ecuadorians still have no answers.

“I looked for her in a container and I did not find her; I looked for her in the cemetery, I did not find her there either, she is not on any list,” said Victor Hugo Orellana, who is looking for the body of his 72-year-old mother, whose body he said he released to the government in March to be buried.

Her remains have since gone missing. 

The Health Ministry and hospitals under investigation did not respond to request for comment.

The Ombudsman’s Office asked a local judge to award reparations to the families of the deceased and to speed up the identification process. Those already identified will be transferred to city cemeteries for burial.

“If they told me that they already found him and cremated him, how am I going to know that it is really him?” said Luis Alvarado, who has been searching for his younger brother’s body since late March.

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WHO says the Americas are new epicenter of coronavirus pandemic

BRASILIA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) considers the Americas the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, and now is not the time for countries to ease restrictions, officials said in a Tuesday briefing.

Carissa Etienne, WHO director for the Americas and head of the Pan American Health Organization, said via videoconference that outbreaks were accelerating in countries such as Brazil, where the number of deaths reported in the last week was the highest in the world for a 7-day period since the coronavirus pandemic began.

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North Korea: Defector’s torture scars after attempts to flee Kim Jong-un regime exposed

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Much of what the world knows about North Korea and the Kim dynasty’s regime today originates from the brave testimonies of defectors. Those who have been able to flee the state often recall horrifying experiences from before their escape. Many attempt to cross the border into China before heading to freedom in South Korea. Of the successful few, several have shared their stories in an attempt to shed light on the highly secretive regime under Kim Jong-un and his father Kim Jong-il. The risk of telling these tales is great, with a number of them claiming to have been threatened and some believe they have been pursued by assassins. One defector made nine unsuccessful attempts to flee before she was able to cross the border and start a new life. She revealed heartbreaking details about the torture she suffered upon being caught and showed the scarring still present from those barbaric attacks.

Ms Lee served as nurse in the North Korean army for 11 years before she was able to escape the restrictive regime.

She recalled the brutal ways generals would hurt her for trying to flee the hermit state, during a 2014 interview with Australian TV show ‘Dateline’.

“These are my scars,” Ms Lee said, as she pulled part of her shirt down to reveal a faded wound mark, which was around the size of a tennis ball and directly below her right collarbone.

The defector explained: “When I was arrested, during my interrogation there was this hot plate with steel and they hit me with it here.”

She claimed this wasn’t the only scar she was left with, pointing to other parts of her body. 

Ms Lee explained that “you’re naked when they torture you” during her brave testimony. 

She said: “If you look at my back, I have dents from nails they hammered into me. 

“They also poured hot water down my back, so I have scars from the burns.”

Ms Lee featured as part of a TV segment about North Korean defectors now living in South Korea.

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They included Yeon-mi Park, a young performer who was quickly becoming a star in the state for speaking out about the Kim dynasty’s regime.

Despite a detective telling her she was “seriously in danger” because of her comments, she “refused to cower” to threats from her former leader’s officials.

Ms Park said: “I’m very proud of my name, that’s why if I die I’m ok… I [have] already experienced this freedom so I’m satisfied. 

“At least I can say that I did something for you, my people in North Korea.”

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UK weather: Met Office forecasts SIZZLING 28C highs in mini heatwave – latest charts

The UK is in the midst of a spell of warm, dry weather. Last week parts of the UK saw thundery showers and some strong winds, with a few Met Office weather warnings issued. However this week most of the UK will be basking in glorious heat and sunshine, according to the latest forecast.

Many Brits were greeted by sunny skies over the bank holiday weekend.

But in case you were wondering if the blissful conditions were just a blip, the Met Office predicts the warm weather is here to stay for at least the next week.

Met Office spokesperson Nicola Maxey told Express.co.uk the UK will continue to see “warm and sunny” weather, with temperatures potentially creeping up over the course of the week.

For today’s forecast, Ms Maxey said: “We’re going to see dry sunny spells, warm particularly in the south and the south-east.

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“Quite a lot of sunshine around, some isolated showers in the far north, northwest, but really apart from that everybody is going to see a fairly warm dry sunny day.

“Today London could see temperatures of around 27C, Birmingham between 21 and 22C, and Edinburgh will maybe see 18C, Aberdeen 19C.”

The warm weather pattern looks likely to continue throughout the rest of the week and into the weekend.

Ms Maxey said: “It’s similar tomorrow (Wednesday), as we go through this week and into the weekend we’re going to see warm dry weather for most with temperatures improving slightly as we go through the week.

“By Friday we’re certainly looking at temperatures getting up into the mid-teens for Scotland and London seeing widely around 23 to 24C, but an isolated chance of seeing 27C.”

The warm weather will be spread across most of the UK over the coming days, with some parts of the UK forecast to see highs of 28C.

Ms Maxey said: “Quite widely across the country will see these high temperatures.

“Nottingham may see isolated highs of 27C, Norwich 26C, Birmingham quite widely 24C but an isolated chance of 28C.

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“The warmth is across the whole of the country really. We’re going to see this weather into the rest of the week and into the weekend.”

According to the Met Office, the recent warm spell of weather is due to a high-pressure system dominating UK weather patterns.

The arrival of a low-pressure system brought strong winds and thundery downpours for some regions of the country.

But the current high-pressure system is causing clear skies, allowing temperatures to build up and sunny spells to shine through.

Although confidence is lower for the weeks to come, the Met Office is predicting the good weather could also bleed into the start of next week.

The Met Office long-range forecast for Saturday, May 30 until Monday, June 8 reads: “Much of central and southeast England should see a good deal of dry and settled weather next weekend with plenty of sunshine, though a little breezy.

“Temperatures will generally be very warm, but there is the risk of some thunderstorms breaking out at times.

“Cloud and outbreaks of rain seem most likely for Scotland and some other northern and western areas, where it will probably feel cooler.”

Further on in the period, the Met Office forecast a “shift to a more unsettled regime at first”.

The Met Office added: “Cloud and spells of rain may spread to most parts of the UK, but will predominately remain in the northwest.

“Temperatures should return to around average and may go slightly below in places.”

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Hot weather could have affected initial coronavirus spread in Wuhan

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The report, published by researchers at Chengdu University on Information Technology in China, studied the monthly average temperature, humidity and downward short-wave ultraviolet radiation in the different provinces in China during the outbreak’s early stages. The research is the latest in a series of studies conducted in recent months that explain how weather conditions might change the contagion of the coronavirus.

The team of researchers said the function of the results they retrieved were incomplete, but they suggest that several meteorological factors may have contributed to forming the ideal breeding ground for the virus.

Analysing figures from the European Center for Long-Term Weather Forecast (ECMWF), the researchers compared the weather conditions with a number of confirmed infections from each region in China in January and February.

The results showed there are three key weather conditions in which the pathogen can thrive more.

Temperature is one of the conditions cited by the researchers who said the report “showed that COVID-19 cases were concentrated in the provinces with temperatures in [the] range of 0–10 degrees Celsius.”

Increased humidity and UV light from the sun are the other two key factors named by the researchers.

They also said that the strength of solar radiation may change how the virus spreads.

Places with a lower solar radiation saw a higher number of infections, according to the research.

Higher-elevation areas, which experience more powerful UV radiation due to their altitude, saw less contagion.

Regions with drier climates, and therefore fewer clods interfering with solar rays, also experienced less transmission.

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“The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has a high altitude (approximately 4,000 m) and is subjected to strong solar radiation, resulting in a higher amount of UV-B radiation reaching the surface,” the researchers wrote about a large region of 965,000 square miles in southwest China.

“The weather in the arid region of the Northwest is clear with fewer clouds, and the radiation received on the surface is higher than in other parts of China,” the researchers stated in the report.

“As a result, it may be difficult for COVID-19 to spread in the plateau or the arid area in the northwest due to high UV-B radiation.”

AccuWeather Meteorologist Michael Steinberg said there are diverse factors that condition how much UV radiation reaches the Earth and seasonality is key to it.

Mr Steinberg said: ”UV radiation is emitted by the sun in a near-constant amount, but the amount that reaches the Earth varies.

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“It is partially blocked by the ozone layer and some kinds of clouds, especially thick ones, and influenced to a lesser degree by pressure, surface elevation, humidity, and several other factors.

“But the most important factors are the latitude, time of day, and time of year – these three determine the maximum possible level of UV – the actual amount is then determined by the other factors.”

The researchers’ findings, as well as earlier studies on the transmission of seasonal influenza, reveal that even just a month of favourable meteorological variation can greatly decrease infection.

“A further understanding of the environmental factors that are prevalent in the development of COVID-19 will help predict the potential risks of the global spread of this disease, and provide support for the prevention and surveillance of countries around the world,” they wrote.

When observing the summer in the United Stated, Mr Steinberg said humidity levels, temperature and radiation will be notably higher than in the winter, when the outbreak flared up.

“The amount of water vapour in the air (absolute humidity) and the specific humidity are typically much higher in the summer season, because the hotter air can hold more water vapour,” Mr Steinberg said.

“When the relative humidity (which is what weather reports usually present) is 100% in the winter at a temperature of 30 F, there is only about half as much actual water vapour in the air as in the summer when the relative humidity is 25% but the temperature is 84 F.”

As well as an increment in humidity, the strength of solar radiation also rises substantially in the US during summer season, Mr Steinber said.

“The seasonal variation is much greater at higher latitudes,” he said, “but on average across the United States, the daily high UV Index level might be 8-9 in the summer and 2-3 in the winter.”

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Egypt under fire over coronavirus deaths among healthcare workers

Citing lack of testing kits, protective gear and beds, medical union warns of health system’s ‘complete collapse’.

Egypt’s medical union blamed the government for the rise in coronavirus infections and deaths among healthcare professionals, warning of a “complete collapse” of the country’s health system.

Citing growing frustration about a lack of protective equipment, testing and hospital beds for front-line doctors, the union on Monday described the Egyptian health ministry’s negligence as “a crime of killing by irresponsibility”.

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The union reported 19 doctors have died and 350 contracted the virus, according to official figures, although testing of medical staff remains limited.

“The syndicate is warning that the health system could completely collapse, leading to a catastrophe affecting the entire country if the health ministry’s negligence and lack of action towards medical staff is not rectified,” the Egyptian Medical Syndicate (EMS) said in a statement.

“The EMS holds the health ministry entirely responsible for the mounting deaths and infections among doctors due to its negligence … that is tantamount to death through a dereliction of duty.”

Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, has officially recorded 17,967 infections and 783 fatalities due to COVID-19.

In an apparent response to the torrent of criticism, Health Minister Hala Zayed said the government was “following up to provide the best possible care” to medical staff.

Authorities have allocated 20-bed capacity floors at quarantine hospitals for staff who have fallen ill, she said, and provided “sufficient stocks” of protective gear.

The EMS statement came after 32-year-old doctor Walid Yehia died on Saturday after being unable to secure a bed in an isolation hospital.

Eid extended curfew

Over Eid al-Fitr, the festival that concludes the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, authorities extended the nightly curfew and halted public transportation until May 29.

The prime minister has said the country would gradually reopen after the holiday.

In speeches and statements, the government has repeatedly reassured Egyptians it has the virus under control. But it has also tightened its grip on information about the pandemic.

Those who challenge the state’s official virus count have been expelled or detained.

The Egyptian government has resisted the kind of total lockdown seen in other countries in the region, hoping to stave off the worst economic repercussions.

But calls have grown for stricter measures as infections show no signs of abating.

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