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Courtesy Arnie Fagan(NEW YORK) -- The State Department has been undertaking an unprecedented global operation to bring home Americans left stranded by governments shutting their borders and canceling international flights to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

But even after weeks of repatriation flights, there are still some 25,000 U.S. citizens in need of help, according to the head of the repatriation task force at the department, which has been criticized by many stranded Americans who have complained it was unresponsive or slow to act.

For many Americans, the sudden border closures and canceled flights have also torn their families apart, unable to travel abroad to meet loved ones stuck overseas and not allowed to travel to the U.S.

Early last month, Arnie Fagan had to travel to his hometown of Columbia, Missouri, for business, leaving his girlfriend Vilayvanh Soulinthong and their 13-month old daughter Jasmine Fagan behind in Udon Thani, the provincial capital in northeast Thailand where Fagan has lived for the last three and a half years.

"Thailand was my version of paradise. Unfortunately, right now, it's turned into my version of hell," Fagan said in an interview on Tuesday.

Two weeks after he left, the Thai government sealed off the country's borders, prohibiting outsiders like Fagan from traveling in without confirmation that they have tested negative for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Like many Americans, Fagan has been unable to secure a test -- and instead hoped to get Soulinthong and Jasmine to the U.S.

Soulinthong, however, is not an American citizen and needs a visa, but visa services at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world have been suspended except for "life or death emergency" applications.

His voice choking with emotion, Fagan told ABC News that the family has even considered plans to try to hand off Jasmine at Bangkok's airport to try to keep her safe.

"We'd already decided that if I needed to take the baby, that she was going to leave the baby with me and go back to Laos. But that's not even a possibility, that's not even a possibility. What horrible decisions you have to make at a time like this, a global crisis -- decisions you wouldn't ever think in your wildest imagination that you'd have to make," he said.

Fagan's family was able to secure an emergency visa appointment, but not until June -- with the risk of COVID-19's spread worsening in Thailand, a country with a substandard health system. By then, what few international flights are still departing Thailand could be grounded, and the U.S. embassy said in its latest guidance Tuesday that it is not considering chartering flights to repatriate U.S. citizens at this time.

With the clock ticking, Fagan finally heard back from embassy officials late Monday, saying they helpfully provided him detailed instructions on what other information Soulinthong's visa application needs. He said he hopes they may be able to expedite her appointment and secure a visa soon, but he fears they may deny her a visa on the suspicion that the family is trying to move to Missouri full-time.

"We had a wonderful life. We want to go back to that," he said, denying that was the case.

The State Department is unable to comment on individual cases because of privacy laws, but Ian Brownlee, the head of the repatriation task force, urged any Americans to "get off the fence" and make plans to return to the U.S. or be prepared to "remain where (they are) for an indefinite period of time."

"We are committed to helping U.S. citizens return home," Brownlee, who serves as principal deputy assistant secretary for consular affairs, added Tuesday.

To date, Brownlee's task force has helped U.S. missions in over 75 countries bring nearly 46,000 Americans back to the U.S. over 449 flights. But he told reporters Monday that there are between 24,000 and 25,000 still registered with the local U.S. embassy seeking help.

One of the greatest concentrations is in India, which closed its borders much later than many other countries, but where some 7,000 Americans have registered with the U.S. embassy. But given the quickly-shifting situation, the U.S. mission is having difficulty reaching people; out of 800 Americans called over the weekend and offered a seat on a flight out, only 10 said yes, according to Brownlee.

Still, there are at least 80 more flights from around the world to come, including five from India and at least one from Russia, which closed its borders over the weekend. Brownlee said the U.S. still doesn't have a clear answer on why an Aerolot flight Friday from Moscow to New York was halted, but in an "inexplicable, last-minute reversal," the airliner was able to reschedule it for Tuesday, leaving that evening "filled with U.S. citizens," according to U.S. embassy spokesperson Rebecca Ross.

A U.S.-chartered flight will also depart Thursday to fly back to the U.S. through London, Ross said.
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juuce/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Deforestation, habitat loss and wildlife poaching aren't just environmental issues. They're among the driving forces behind the rise in global infectious disease outbreaks -- and likely contributed to the current pandemic.

That's according to scientists who've been sounding the alarm for decades, warning that as we encroach on wildlife to establish new farmland, build mining operations or just make room for growing cities and towns, the more likely it is we'll come into contact with wild animals harboring deadly pathogens.

"COVID-19 is not surprising because we know how these things happen," said Aleksandar Rankovic, a senior research fellow working on biodiversity governance at the Paris-based Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations. "We know the risk factors for new disease transmission, and we know that they have been increasing rather than decreasing. I'm surprised people are so surprised."

A study published Tuesday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B finds a direct link between hunting, trade, habitat degradation and urban sprawl and the increase of what scientists call "spillover" events, in which viruses circulating in animals like bats and monkeys jump to humans.

"We found that the species specifically that declined because of exploitation through trade and hunting and those species that declined specifically due to habitat loss had higher spillover risk," said lead author Christine Kreuder Johnson, project director of USAID PREDICT and director of the EpiCenter for Disease Dynamics at the One Health Institute, a program of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

According to Johnson and a growing community of concerned scientists, the more we endanger wild species, the more we endanger ourselves.

"When you destroy habitats, you increase vastly the amount of contact that human populations will have with different species, and some of these species will host a range of viruses," Rankovic added.

Experts agree that as the planet's hot zones -- typically tropical climates along the equator -- are suddenly disrupted by development, workers come into too-close contact with wild species and pass along viruses to nearby villages and towns, from there to larger cities.

Recent history is rife with spillover events. HIV, SARS and Ebola all can be traced back to animal hosts living in ecosystems scientists refer to as highly "biodiverse."

And experts now believe SARS-COV-2, the virus responsible for the deaths of more than one million people worldwide from COVID-19, originated in bats in Southwest China and eventually made its way to a wet market in Wuhan, likely through an intermediate host.

"In the case of COVID-19, bat caves are abundant in Southwest China," explained Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance. "People are developing a lot of new towns in that region, with a lot of high-speed train lines. We are going to see more pandemics like this as long as such rampant development continues."

Experts have said that the more we push into rich, biodiverse habitats, the more frequent spillover events will occur. Humans have a significant impact on about 75% of the Earth's land, 50% of the planet's freshwater ecosystems and 40% of all ocean environments, according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services 2019 Global Assessment.

And the more interconnected we become as a global economy, with tens of thousands of international flights per day, the less likely it is spillover events will be contained to the regions in which they emerged.

Those studying the linkages between pandemics and biodiversity loss say there are three major factors driving the increase in spillover events: massive deforestation, industrial-scale animal farms too close to wild habitats and the hunting of wild animals, either for profit or food.

There are 1.7 million unknown viruses that have the potential to infect people, according to Daszak.

"To say, 'Don't worry, we'll design a vaccine to fix the problem,' is not a solution," Daszak added. "You can only design vaccines against pathogens you know. If we have 1.7 million that we don't know, that sort of thinking doesn't help."

While it's too late to stop the 2019 novel coronavirus from spreading beyond China, experts have said political leaders across the globe still could come together to put in place policies to help prevent the next outbreak. Although global pandemics and the current biodiversity crisis are considered different problems with different potential solutions, experts have said they should be considered together.

"Let's treat pandemics like a global public health threat," Daszak said. "Biological diversity and healthy ecosystems is the insurance plan that we must prioritize, as it protects us against a variety of risks -- including pandemics."
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Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have confirmed the name of their new nonprofit venture, which is tied to their nearly 1-year-old son Archie.

The Sussexes, who have settled in Los Angeles, plan to name their new venture Archewell.

"Before SussexRoyal, came the idea of 'Arche' -- the Greek word meaning ‘source of action,'" Harry and Meghan said in a statement to ABC News in response to a story in the U.K.'s The Telegraph, which was the first outlet to report the name. "We connected to this concept for the charitable organisation we hoped to build one day, and it became the inspiration for our son’s name."

"To do something of meaning, to do something that matters," they said. "Archewell is a name that combines an ancient word for strength and action, and another that evokes the deep resources we each must draw upon."

Harry and Meghan, who began their new roles as non-working royals on April 1, confirmed the nonprofit's name after The Telegraph found paperwork including the nonprofit's name filed in the U.S.

"Like you, our focus is on supporting efforts to tackle the global Covid-19 pandemic but faced with this information coming to light, we felt compelled to share the story of how this came to be ... We look forward to launching Archewell when the time is right," the couple said in their statement.

The Sussexes had to decide on a new name for their new venture after having to drop the word "royal" once they stepped back from their roles as senior members of the royal family. As royals, Harry and Meghan had launched the Sussex Royal Foundation and used Sussex Royal for their website and Instagram, which they are now no longer using.

"While The Duke and Duchess are focused on plans to establish a new non-profit organisation, given the specific UK government rules surrounding use of the word 'Royal,' it has been therefore agreed that their non-profit organization, when it is announced this Spring, will not be named Sussex Royal Foundation," a spokesperson for Harry and Meghan told ABC News in February, adding that trademark applications Harry and Meghan previously filed for Sussex Royal have "been removed."

In addition to their new nonprofit, Harry and Meghan are also continuing with their royal patronages in the U.K. and continuing to support causes important to them, like the Invictus Games for wounded warriors that Harry founded in 2014, and Travalyst, a sustainable travel initiative Harry launched in September.

The Sussexes attended their last official royal engagement in the U.K. in early March. They have since quietly moved from Vancouver Island in Canada to Los Angeles, Meghan's hometown.

Meghan, a former actress, is the voice behind a new Disney nature film, Elephant on the streaming service Disney .

The duchess recorded the voiceover in London last fall and had been made aware of the film through mutual friends of the filmmakers, a source close to Meghan told ABC News.

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FILE photo - fototrav/iStock(HONG KONG) -- Two pandas in Hong Kong mated for the first time in 10 years after the zoo shut its doors to the public over the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Ying Ying and Le Le, both 14 years old, had attempted to mate since 2010 but never managed to successfully do so, according to a press release from Ocean Park.

Yet in late March, Ying Ying, the female, began to show signs that her hormonal levels were changing and Le Le, the male, left scent-markings around his habitat while searching for Ying Ying's scent. The zoo noted this is common behavior during breeding season, which occurs between March and May.

On Monday at 9 a.m. local time, the two pandas successfully mated, the zoo said.

The park had been closed since January due to the coronavirus spread, which has infected more than 1.3 million people globally.

"The successful natural mating process today is extremely exciting for all of us, as the chance of pregnancy via natural mating is higher than by artificial insemination,” Michael Boos, executive director in zoological operations and Conservation at Ocean Park, said in a statement.

It is still too early to tell whether Ying Ying is pregnant. The gestation period for giant pandas ranges between 72 and 324 days. The earliest a pregnancy can be detected is 14 to 17 days before birth.

"We hope to bear wonderful pregnancy news to Hong Kongers this year and make further contributions to the conservation of this vulnerable species," Boos said.

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Ray Tang/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images(LONDON) -- U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's condition "has been stable overnight" after he was admitted to intensive care for coronavirus, Downing Street said.

"The Prime Minister has been stable overnight and remains in good spirits," the prime minister's spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News. "He is receiving standard oxygen treatment and breathing without any other assistance. He has not required mechanical ventilation or non-invasive respiratory support."

Johnson was admitted to a hospital Sunday to undergo tests on the advice of his doctor 10 days after he announced he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The prime minister's condition "worsened" on Monday and he was admitted to the intensive care unit at St. Thomas' Hospital in London, where he remains for the time being.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been asked to deputize for the prime minister while he battles the illness.

"The PM is receiving excellent care, and thanks all NHS staff for their hard work and dedication," the spokesman added.

A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace said Queen Elizabeth has been informed about Johnson's situation and is monitoring developments.

Before being admitted to intensive care Johnson gave the public an update on his condition, saying that he was in "good spirits" as he continued to experience symptoms.

President Donald Trump joined a chorus of voices wishing the prime minister a quick recovery from the illness.

"But before I begin, I want to express our nation's well wishes to Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he wages his own personal fight with the virus," Trump said Sunday evening at the start of the daily White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing. "All Americans are praying for him. He's a friend of mine. He's a great gentleman and a great leader, and he's as you know, he was brought to the hospital today, but I'm -- I'm hopeful and sure that he's going to be fine."

The prime minister was last seen in public at the door of Number 10 Downing Street on Thursday night, as he turned out to clap for National Health Service workers along with much of the country.

Johnson's partner, Carrie Symonds, who is pregnant with their child, also announced that she had been bed-ridden over the past week with coronavirus symptoms over the weekend.

"I've spent the past week in bed with the main symptoms of Coronavirus," she posted on Twitter. "I haven't needed to be tested and, after seven days of rest, I feel stronger and I'm on the mend."

"Being pregnant with Covid-19 is obviously wrong," she added, as she encouraged other pregnant women to follow the latest health guidance on coronavirus in pregnant women.

As of Monday morning, 51,608 people in the U.K. had tested positive for coronavirus, with 5,373 deaths, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

The news of the prime minister's hospitalization came as the queen addressed the nation in a highly poignant televised address. Praising the response of the country's health and care workers, she said: "We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again."

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MarkRubens/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Ukrainian authorities have sought to calm fears around a forest fire burning in the contaminated zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power station that briefly caused local radiation levels to rise.

Firefighters on Monday said they were still trying to extinguish two fires that had begun on Saturday and which had spread to part of the 30-mile "exclusion zone" around the power station, the scene of the world's worst nuclear disaster in 1986.

Around 100 firefighters, backed by planes and helicopters, were deployed, a day after they succeeded in putting out part of the fire at another nearby site.

The fires have sparked fears about radiation in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, which is about 60 miles south of Chernobyl, but authorities said that testing by experts sent by the government on Monday had found that there had been no rise in radiation levels in Kyiv or its surrounding suburbs.

"You needn't be afraid to open your windows or to air out your apartment during quarantine," Yegor Firsov, the head of Ukraine's state ecological inspection service, wrote on his Facebook page on Monday.

Ukraine's state emergency service said that by Monday evening around 20 hectares (50 acres) were still on fire inside the exclusion zone. Video posted by the service Monday showed a helicopter flying over the fire and firefighters on the ground spraying water. A day earlier, the service said part of the fire had been extinguished near the villages of Volodymyrivka and Zhovtneve, close to the zone's edge.

Police said they had tracked down a 27-year-old man they suspected had started the fire by igniting long grass in the area. The man had told them that he had set fire to some garbage and grass "for fun" but that it had been fanned by the wind, quickly got out of control and he had been unable to extinguish it, police said in a statement.

The fires attracted international attention after Firsov, the head of the ecological inspection service, published a post on Sunday warning that radiation levels at the heart of the fire had risen 16 times above the norm.

“There is bad news—radiation is above norm at the center of the fire,” he wrote on Sunday. He included a video showing a Geiger counter beeping with a reading of 2.3 micro sieverts per hour. He wrote that it was it difficult for firefighters to put out the blaze.

Firsov blamed the fire on what he called the "barbaric" practice of burning grass and urged lawmakers to introduce legislation that would significantly increase fines for causing forest fires.

The state emergency service issued an air pollution warning for Kyiv on Monday, but said it was related to weather conditions and not the fires, stressing that radiation levels were normal. It noted that gamma radiation levels around the fires had not risen.

Forest fires near Chernobyl are common and have occurred for the past three years in a row. The exclusion zone has existed around the power station since April 1986 when its fourth reactor exploded, spreading radioactive pollution across Europe. The station's other three reactors continued to provide electricity until 2000, when they were shut down.

In 2016, a giant stadium-sized dome was moved over the destroyed fourth reactor to replace a concrete shield known as the "sarcophagus" that had been erected following the accident and that was decaying.

Although some hotspots remain, radiation levels in most of the exclusion zone are not above normal and it has effectively become a nature reserve. Organized tourism at the site has boomed since last year's HBO mini-series Chernobyl.

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Sean Gallup/Getty Images(DUBLIN) -- Ireland’s prime minister Leo Varadkar will be returning to medical practice to work as a doctor for one session a week to help out during the coronavirus epidemic, his office has said.

Varadkar, a former doctor, has re-joined Ireland’s medical registry and offered his services to Ireland’s Health Service Executive, a spokesman for the office of the prime minister, called the Taoiseach, confirmed to ABC News on Monday.

Varadkar studied medicine and worked as a junior doctor in Dublin hospitals for several years, before qualifying as a general practitioner in 2010. He left medicine to become a full-time politician and had his name removed from the medical registry in 2013.

His office did not provide further details on what medical work he would be doing but The Irish Times reported it understood that Varadkar would be helping assess suspected COVID-19 patients over the phone. People who believe they may have been exposed to COVID-19 are advised to call their doctors to receive an initial assessment rather than going in person in order to prevent the risk of infecting others.

“Dr Varadkar rejoined the Medical Register last month. He has offered his services to the HSE for one session a week in areas that are within his scope of practice. Many of his family and friends are working in the health service. He wanted to help out even in a small way,” the Taoiseach’s office said in a statement.

Ireland’s health service last month appealed for former healthcare professionals to register to be available during the epidemic, which is expected to put a huge strain on the country’s hospitals. In three days, 50,000 people responded to the call, according to the national broadcaster

Varadkar is the son of a doctor and a nurse, and his partner, Matthew Barrett, as well as his two sisters and their husbands, also work in the health services.

Ireland’s current count of recorded COVID-19 cases stands at 4,443, according to statistics from its department of health. Of those, 1,203 have been hospitalized.

The government last week reached an agreement to effectively take over parts of 19 private hospitals for three months during the epidemic, making beds and other facilities there only for public use.

Varadkar currently leads a caretaker government following a seismic general election in February that saw his party Fine Gael and the other traditional party of power, Fianna Fáil, beaten by the nationalist party Sinn Féin, the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army.

Varadkar resigned following the election after Ireland’s parliament failed to elect a Taoiseach but he has stayed on because the parties have so far been unable to agree on a coalition government and the pandemic has disrupted those negotiations. Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has demanded that her party has a right to form a “change government” with other left-wing parties. This week she accused Fine Gael and Fianna Fail of trying to keep Sinn Féin out of power while co-opting its policies.

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f11photo/iStock(RIO DE JANEIRO) -- Many of the 1.5 million people living in the slums of Rio de Janeiro have been forced into making heartbreaking decisions as the novel coronavirus threatens their very survival.

According to the Data Favela research institute, 70% of families living in Brazil’s slums, known as favelas, have already experienced a drop in income due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The institute's research was based on interviews with more than 1,000 residents in 262 communities across Brazil.

"This is so strange, this virus has been brought by the riches[t] from holiday," Vinicius Magalhaes, a 67-year-old who makes his living selling sunglasses in the streets of Leblon, one of the richest neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro, told ABC News. "What can I do except working? If I stay home I will die of starvation.”

With the closing of stores, typically low-paid workers such as doormen, waiters, dishwashers and street-sellers have been fired or laid off with unpaid vacations until further notice.

There have been four confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil situated on the hills overlooking Rio’s Sao Conrado district, according to the health secretary.

Edith C, 39, who moved to Rocinha 25 years ago, is now divorced with three children. She performs pedicures and manicures in a salon in a commercial gallery which closed three weeks ago after all non-essential stores were ordered to shutter their doors.

"When I don't work, I don't earn money. If I don't leave my house I don't give food to my children," she told ABC News. "My life was always fighting but I never thought I would sacrifice eating at night."

According to DataFavela, as many as 47% of favela residents are self-employed and are particularly vulnerable to the economic hardships wrought by coronavirus.

But the luxury of staying home as recommended by the governor of Rio is clearly not possible for all classes of the Brazilian population.

Despite the pandemic, Edith continues to work. She leaves her house to attend to a few regular customers at their homes in the south zone of Rio. Last week, Edith only made 120 reais (around $20), just enough to buy rice for her family and to buy her transportation tickets.

Renato Meirelles, the founder of DataFavela, told ABC News that it is very different to be confined in a house with a full range of amenities versus the cramped conditions in a favela.

The types of behavior displayed by Edith, he added, poses a further risk as she could bring back the virus to her community.

Meirelles said the government should subsidize incomes during the pandemic in order to avoid social chaos.

"If people are hungry and do not receive support it could turn very bad. People could just start robbing to eat. We are convinced of it,” he said.

President Jair Bolsonaro, meanwhile, has minimized the impact of the coronavirus. He has repeatedly called for Brazilians to resume economic activity, describing the virus as a "small cold."

For many Brazilians the choice is stark -- either sickness or poverty. And with 11,450 confirmed and 491 deaths in the country, Brazil is only at the beginning of the pandemic.

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iStock(LONDON) -- In a rare televised speech from Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth II urged citizens of the U.K. to "remain united and resolute" in the face of the challenges resulting from the coronavirus crisis.

Speaking to a nation under lockdown, the queen addressed the nation for just the fifth time outside her usual annual Christmas Day speech. The four other times she has made an extraordinary address have been to mark the Gulf War, the death of Princess Diana of Wales, the death of her mother, and her Diamond Jubilee.

The queen shared a personal memory of her first broadcast in 1940, saying: "We, as children, spoke from here at Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety. Today, once again, many will feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones. But now, as then, we know, deep down, that it is the right thing to do."

The Queen also paid tribute to Britain’s National Health Service, at the forefront in the fight against the virus.

She added, "I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. And those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any. That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humored resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterize this country. The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future."

The broadcast Sunday was recorded in a room that met requirements of being large enough to allow sufficient distance between the queen and the only other person in the room at the time -- a cameraman in personal protected equipment.

All other technical staff were in another room connected by speakers.

The speech came at the end of a weekend that saw many people across the country violating government requests to stay at home, despite the sunny weather.

Parks and squares across London and other major cities saw hundreds of people gathering to take advantage of the weather.

The British government has predicted the peak of the coronavirus crisis to hit around Easter Sunday, and this week repeatedly urged citizens to stay indoors.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip have remained in Windsor Castle in recent weeks after her son Prince Charles was confirmed positive for COVID-19, and self-isolated at his home at Birkhall in Scotland.

His wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, tested negative.

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???? ?????/iStock(PARIS) -- A knife attack which resulted in two dead and five wounded Saturday morning in the town of Romans-sur-Isere, an hour drive South of Lyon, is being treated as a terrorist attack by French authorities. Two of the victims are in critical condition.

The 33-year-old assailant stabbed seven people in shops and streets in downtown Romans-sur-Isere shortly before being arrested, police told ABC News.

The assailant, of Sudanese nationality, was arrested "while he was kneeling on a sidewalk praying in the Arabic language."

On site, Minister of Interior Christophe Castaner spoke of a "terrorist journey" before telling the press that the national anti-terrorist prosecutor's office was currently assessing the situation and would decide whether or not to qualify the act as a terrorist act.

The judiciary police of Lyon originally opened an investigation which was later in the evening taken over by the Counterterrorism Prosecutor's Office.

In a press release, the Counterterrorism Prosecutor's office revealed that "handwritten documents with religious overtones in which the author of the lines complained in particular of living in a country of disbelievers" were found duringa search carried out at the suspect's home.

The alleged perpetrator was taken into custody on charges of assassination and attempted assassination in connection with a terrorist enterprise and criminal terrorist association. An acquaintance of the suspect's was also placed in police custody.

The Interior Minister saluted the mobilization of a hundred police officers during an ongoing nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19, which already claimed the lives of more than 6,000 in France.

"The security forces intervened and were able to quickly neutralize him," Castaner stated. "As I speak to you, it seems like all the risks have been neutralized."

France’s President Emmanuel Macron expressed his support for the victims in a tweet, saying "My thoughts are with the victims of the Romans-sur-Isère attack," and calling the attack an "odious act which comes to plunge into mourning our country already hard hit in recent weeks."

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- South Korea has received requests from 121 countries to export or donate coronavirus testing supplies, according to one government official.

To meet the sudden surge of demands from foreign countries, Seoul has set up a task force with online updates and contact information of 29 Korean manufacturers and exporters specializing in COVID-19 diagnostic devices.

"Forty-five different countries are asking to get our product. They are asking us, sometimes from an embassy or some government or some president. They are sending [requests] directly by email [to me]," Dr. Jong-Yoon Chun, CEO of Seegene, told ABC News.

Seegene’s COVID-19 test kit, Allplex 2019-nCoV Assay, has accounted for 80% of South Korea’s coronavirus testings and the company's Seegene Medical Foundation has processed 220,000 tests.

South Korea’s massive testing campaign since the country's first outbreak on Jan. 20, together with intensive contact tracing, has helped to slow the spread of COVID-19. A total of 443,273 people have been tested, according to medical officials, and 174 patients have died.

While Europe and the United States struggle to find ways to contain the deadly virus, Seegene Medical Foundation’s doctors and scientists say other countries could perhaps replicate what they have done in the past nine weeks. In an exclusive tour of its diagnosis laboratory in Seoul to ABC News, Seegene revealed for the first time a stage-by-stage system that could test up to 15,000 samples in a day.

"It’s just a simple matter of collecting the instruments, putting them all together in one place, and getting the system running as soon as you can. Speed is very important," Chun, Seegene's CEO, told ABC News. "It is crucial to have a control tower giving clear guidelines and get the government sectors, health care workers and private sectors to work together. In our case, within only one month, everything was under control."

The foundation turned an entire floor of its building into three operative rooms to process all the incoming COVID-19 samples.

Nationwide samples are collected in the basement parking lot and then each tube is immediately coded for identification. The entire diagnosis process is made up of three stages: extraction, amplification and analysis. In its first stage, sample tubes are carefully opened by lab specialists in a negative pressure room then moved into one of 17 sets of nucleic acid extraction instruments. This process is to extract and separate out the RNA, holding the virus’ genome, from everything else in the sample.

Next is what Seegene calls the "mixing" stage, or "pre-PCR setup." Extracted materials placed on small palm-sized plates are each mixed with multiple reagents provided in test kits. It is a sensitive and lengthy process if done by hand as each sample must be added with four to six reagents in concise amounts. But Seegene’s lab uses nine sets of its own modified version of STARlet Hamilton automated liquid handling workstations that automatically mixes the elements, which then reduces human error or contamination during the process.

The number and type of reagents added vary depending on different test kit brands that offer their own choice of genes to target. Currently, most labs around the world use brands that target one or two from three types of genes -- rdrp, N and E -- as recommended by the World Health Organization.

"There are an alarming number of cases that turn out to be false negatives. Then you may have a silent carrier out and about spreading the virus to others. So it’s safe to have at least two types checked out," Dr. Lee Wang-Jun, chairman of Myungji Hospital in Goyang, told ABC News. In other words, the entire process would have to be repeated twice. Seegene’s Allplex 2019-nCoV Assay offers unique technology designed to target all three genes in one single tube saving time.

"Right now, Seegene’s test kit has the highest share in test kits used for diagnosis in South Korea due to the convenience of detecting three genes with one tube," Professor Lee Hyuk Min of Yonsei Severance Hospital’s department of laboratory medicine, told ABC News.

"We put these three gene target detection in one tube and it can help us to facilitate our [diagnosis] process very fast," Lee Dae Hoon, executive director at Seegene, told ABC News. "It can reduce the cost because we can run only one tube, not three tubes."

A 90-minute process developed by Seegene amplifies tiny DNAs, converted from RNA, to make thousands of copies so that large enough amounts are available for a measurable result. Each machine can carry 96 samples.

The system then determines whether the virus is positive, negative or inconclusive. The total running time from extraction stage to analysis takes just five to six hours to process a total of 15,000 samples, according to doctors and researchers at Seegene Medical Foundation.

Another Korean company, Kogenebiotech, has two genes-RdRp and E-in separate tubes.

SolGent's test kit targets the N gene and ORF1a gene and exports more than 95% of its product to 34 countries worldwide.

"Last week we made 300,000 kits. Starting this month, we are shipping out 400,000 kits a week," Jay Yoo, CEO of SolGent, told ABC News

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inga/iStock(CESENA, Italy) -- Famed Italian shoe designer Sergio Rossi, 84, has died.

"Today everyone at Sergio Rossi joins me in remembering our dear Sergio, the inspiring founder of our dream," CEO Sergio Rossi Group Riccardo Sciutto said in an Instagram post.

"Sergio Rossi was a master, and it is my great honor to have met him and gotten to present him the archive earlier this year," he continued. "His vision and approach will remain our guide in the growth of the brand and the business."

Rossi was hospitalized a few days prior in Cesena, Italy, according to WWD.

"He loved women and was able to capture a woman's femininity in a unique way, creating the perfect extension of a woman's leg through his shoes," Sciutto said in a statement. "Our long and glorious history started from his incredible vision and we'll remember his creativity forever."

After initially learning how to manufacture shoes from his father, Rossi officially launched his own company in 1968.

Rossi's popular shoes have been worn by celebrities such as Ariana Grande, Rihanna, Laura Dern, and many more.

Prior to Rossi's death, his brand was committed to giving back for coronavirus relief. From March 14 to March 20, the brand donated 100% of proceeds from online sales to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, the company pledged to donate € 100,000 to the hospital ASST Fatebenefratelli – Sacco in Milan.

Introducing this initiative, the brand wrote in an Instagram post, "In a time of unprecedented hardship, where we are confronted with our vulnerability, it is crucial to rediscover the humanity that distinguishes us, our sense of brotherhood and the courage and strength to support each other."

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ElFlacodelNorte/iStock(NEW YORK) -- As the United States increasingly becomes the epicenter of the novel coronavirus pandemic, its neighbors in Mexico and Central America are urging new steps to prevent the virus' spread to their populations, including a halt to deportations and increased security along the southern U.S. border -- an ironic turn under President Donald Trump, who has made a border wall his political calling card.

But instead of heeding those calls, the Trump administration continues to deport migrants -- including an increasing number of unaccompanied minors -- and return asylum seekers across the border to Mexico to wait for their day in U.S. immigration court -- even after at least one man deported back to Guatemala tested positive for COVID-19, the name of the disease from the virus.

"Deportees arrive every day, risking further spread of COVID-19 infection in Central America and straining the limited resources of Central American governments that are preparing health systems to attend to an already vulnerable population," said Meg Galas, Northern Central America director for the International Rescue Committee, an aid organization that supports deported migrants, particularly in El Salvador.

The U.S. has over 245,000 COVID-19 cases, with the numbers growing exponentially. That dwarfs the outbreaks sprouting up to the south, with 1,378 in Mexico, 219 in Honduras, 47 in Guatemala and 41 in El Salvador as of Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Trump and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador spoke on March 21 after their administrations agreed to restrict border crossings to essential travel only, in particular for trade and public health services.

Five Mexican states share a border with the U.S., and during a teleconference with Mexico's foreign and interior ministers on Wednesday, several of their governors urged the federal government to implement more restrictions on travel from the U.S. and to warn Mexican citizens in the U.S. not to return or "risk" endangering "their families in their cities of origin," said Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco Javier Garcia Cabeza de Vaca.

The Mexican consulate in Dallas did just that Wednesday, issuing an alert to "highly" recommend citizens in the U.S. "stay at home and avoid all types of international travel, including to Mexico."

But the Trump administration continues to force asylum seekers of all nationalities back across the border into Mexico to wait there for their cases to be adjudicated. The Supreme Court ruled on March 11 that the policy -- which the administration titled the "Migrant Protection Protocols," but is often called "Remain in Mexico" -- could continue ahead of a final ruling on its legality.

Since the policy's implementation in January 2019, some 60,000 asylum seekers have been sent back across the border, but with removals continuing apace, governors like Garcia Cabeza de Vaca are increasingly concerned newly displaced migrants could bring COVID-19 with them, spreading the virus like wildfire through their cramped, difficult living conditions.

"We have to find a way to give (migrants) dignified and humane treatment as well as adequate medical services because if they become contagious, especially in border cities, they can generate serious problems where they concentrate," Garcia Cabeza de Vaca said Wednesday, according to his office.

All hearings for Migrant Protection Protocols asylum seekers have been postponed through May 1, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

In addition to moving migrants back across the border into Mexico, the Trump administration announced on March 20 that it would remove, "without delay," any foreign nationals arriving on U.S. territory "without documentation," according to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, citing orders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect the U.S. public. Under U.S. law and international treaties, the U.S. has to hear any asylum seeker's case, but this order would allow asylum seekers to be immediately removed.

The U.S. has not yet released data that would show if that has increased the number of removals. But 95 minors, unaccompanied by a parent or guardian, were deported to Guatemala in March, for example, according to Guatemala's migration agency -- over four-times as many as in February and nearly six-times as in January, at 23 and 16, respectively. Deportation of these unaccompanied minors seems to violate a decades-old legal protection for migrant children.

Many of the migrants deported by the Trump administration are also not citizens of the country they're deported to, after the administration finalized agreements with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to deport any asylum seeker who passed through their territory back, regardless of their country of origin.

Critics say those deals violate U.S. obligations under international law, endangering asylum seekers by returning them to countries racked by violence and poverty and no ability to receive them -- particularly in a time of pandemic, when their already impoverished health systems are stretching thin and their governments have issued nationwide lockdowns.

As the number of COVID-19 cases rise across the U.S., these deportation flights run the risk of carrying infected migrants to one of these countries -- with that fear coming true for the first time this week. A Guatemalan man who was detained on March 5 and deported to his home country on March 26 had no fever or other symptoms at the time, according to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson, but he was later confirmed to have the deadly virus -- potentially putting other migrants on the deportation flight at risk.

Knowing how vulnerable their populations are amid burgeoning deadly outbreaks, the governments of all three countries have urged the U.S. to halt deportations. But they have little leverage to battle an American administration intent on reducing all forms of immigration to the U.S. and willing to use financial assistance, which all three countries depend on, as a weapon.

Guatemalan authorities pushed back over two weeks ago, demanding that deportation flights stop. But after consulting with U.S. authorities, they allowed them to continue, but only for Guatemalan citizens and after "adequate health protocols are established," the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry said in a statement on March 17.

The ICE spokesperson told ABC News the agency works with foreign governments and through the State Department to address the impact of "world events," like the coronavirus pandemic, but deportations are continuing.

"ICE's expectation is that each country will continue to meet its international obligation to accept its own nationals. Currently, repatriation flights to Central America are ongoing, however, the situation is fluid and changing every day," they said, adding that the agency conducts a "visual screening" of detainees and ensures they have a temperature below 100.4 degrees before deporting them.

With up to 25% of COVID-19 patients not showing symptoms, according to the CDC, it's unclear if that is enough.

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iStock/Panama7(BERLIN) -- In the Berlin neighborhood of Pankow, a 196-foot stretch of the Berlin wall has been torn down to make way for condominiums, sparking the ire of historians.

"The partial demolition of the continuous piece of the hinterland wall on Dolomitenstrasse is a clear loss of original wall remains," Manfred Wichmann, head of the Berlin Wall Foundation, told German paper Tagesspiegel.

Located in a quiet neighborhood, the demolished divider was part of the so-called hinterland wall complex that ran along the Berlin-Stettin railway line for several hundred meters and separated East and West Germany. Five panels remain on a piece of property owned by the German railway company Deutsche Bahn.

"This was a testimony to how deeply the border regime of the GDR intervened in the everyday life of the people in East Berlin," Wichmann added.

The 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was celebrated Nov. 9 throughout the city, including at pieces of the wall such as the one in Pankow.

While remains of the wall in central Berlin have become memorials to the city's long separation, others, such as demolished sections on the city's outskirts, are far from the public eye and receive less attention. Yet, historians have said these sections still hold historic value.

The Berlin Wall Foundation has argued that even less visible parts of the wall outside of the city center, such as in Pankow, should be preserved. With only about 6,500 feet remaining in Berlin, historians such as Wichmann have said it's more important than ever to preserve it.

This particular section of the wall, about 11 feet high, wasn't a protected historical site, known to few outside the neighborhood besides graffiti artists. City Building Councilor Vollrad Kuhn told Tagesspiegel that the demolition had taken place as scheduled and did not require any specific procedure, as it was not a listed building.

"No protected status was determined by the monument authorities; the foundation had obviously campaigned too late to preserve it," Kuhn told the paper.

As building projects continue in the German capital post-reunification, many segments of the former divider have been torn down, some higher profile than others. In 2013, a plan to demolish the East Side Gallery, a coveted section of the wall, to make way for luxury apartments on the city's river Spree was met with outrage and public protests. The popular tourist destination is an .8-mile stretch of wall that features street art from some of the city's leading artists, including pieces of historic significance from decades earlier.

That year, work crews removed portions of the wall for the construction of high-rise luxury apartments. Kani Alavi, head of the East Side Gallery's artists' group, told The Associated Press at the time: "All they see is their money. They have no understanding for the historic relevance and art of this place."

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jarun011/iStock(NEW YORK) -- While much of the United States and Europe has been staying home to avoid COVID-19 as it kills thousands, terrorist groups are blasting online propaganda messages toward followers and potential recruits which hail the calamity of the disease as divine retribution.

In propaganda communiques this week, ISIS and al-Qaeda have each claimed that the highly contagious and deadly coronavirus is God's wrath upon the West, and the disease itself is a "soldier of Allah," as one ISIS supporter recently said in an online chatroom, according to the private SITE Intelligence Group.

"Allah, the Creator, has revealed the brittleness and vulnerability of your material strength. It is now clear for all to see that it was but a deception that could not stand the test of the smallest soldier of God on the face of the earth," al-Qaeda said in a statement this week distributed by its propaganda arm As-Sahab.

COVID-19 has killed more than 47,000 people worldwide but there are relatively few cases in regions where Islamist extremist groups have their strongholds, such as in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Arabian Peninsula and the Sahel region of North Africa.

ISIS on Tuesday in its official online publication al-Naba said the pandemic's impact -- it has killed more Americans as of this week than the nearly 3,000 who died in al-Qaeda's 9/11 attacks -- shows that America isn't all-powerful and invincible.

"It is falsehood to worship America and to fear it instead of Allah the Almighty," ISIS said in its message.

Terrorism experts point out that we have heard all of this before. Jihadi groups have a propensity for calling any natural disaster the will of God exacting vengeance on western powers who have been waging war on them for more than two decades.

"This is apocalyptic fervor. It plays into their end-of-times rhetoric," Col. Chris Costa, a retired Army intelligence officer whose career focused on jihadist adversaries, told ABC News. "They are opportunistic and taking advantage of a pandemic by suggesting this is divine retribution. If they can't beat us on the battlefield they can beat us through God's vengeance, they believe."

In an op-ed for DefenseOne this week, Costa, a former Trump White House counterterrorism adviser who now is director of the International Spy Museum, argued that the U.S. cannot allow the coronavirus to cause the U.S. to take its foot off the accelerator in confronting enemies such as jihadi groups and right-wing extremists.

In its long communique, al-Qaeda drilled down on the economic impact of COVID-19, which brought America's booming economy to a dead stop and caused the filing of four million unemployment claims and forced Congress to adopt Trump's $2 trillion emergency stimulus plan.

Bleeding the U.S. economy dry has always been a goal of the terrorist group, and the financial cost of 9/11 was something its late leader Osama Bin Laden often spoke of as a great success.

"ISIS is taking a totalitarian vision, whereas al-Qaeda is trying for hearts and minds" by calling on westerners to use time at home to study Islam and consider joining with jihadis," said Aaron Zelin, an ISIS expert and author of the new book, Your Sons Are at Your Service: Tunisia's Missionaries of Jihad.

Both al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies promote ways to avoid the disease spreading around the world, offering social services to Muslims "like they're jihadis in business suits."

Will it succeed? Zelin and Costa expressed skepticism that either the "god's vengeance" or soft-power approaches will draw in a significant number of converts and recruits.

"They may draw some troubled personalities and in-betweeners, folks on the extreme edges of society," Costa said.

Both groups have called upon followers to be ready to strike in violent attacks, and federal law enforcement and the New York Police Department in bulletins have each urged officers to remain vigilant even as thousands of cops nationwide have been put on sick leave or tested positive for COVID-19.

"The last thing they hope for today, is that this difficult time will coincide with the preparations of the soldiers of the Caliphate for new strikes on them, similar to those of Paris, London, and Brussels and elsewhere," ISIS said on Tuesday in its al-Naba publication.

In a warning late last week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told police around the country that there are no known plots.

"Violent extremists probably are seeking to exploit public fears associated with the spread of COVID-19 to incite violence, intimidate targets and promote their ideologies, and we assess these efforts will intensify in the coming months," according to the intelligence bulletin, compiled by the agency's Counterterrorism Mission Center and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, and obtained by ABC News.

"I think there is a legitimate concern of some kind of action that takes advantage of our vulnerability right now," Costa said.

There is no telling where the coronavirus will strike in the coming months but spinning natural disasters in the homelands of their enemies is a default reaction by jihadi groups overseas, said another expert who monitors the group.

“Whether it’s a devastating tsunami, earthquake, wildfire, or the unprecedented situation we are facing now, groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda always bend the story into a ‘God’s will’ narrative, or call to carry out attacks amid destabilization,” said SITE Director Rita Katz.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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