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US marks subdued Fourth of July as coronavirus cases surge

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The United States marked a subdued Fourth of July holiday with social distancing and restrictions on crowds preventing the typical gatherings and firework displays amid a surge in coronavirus infections in southern and western states. 

Racial justice protests were also planned in the US capital on Saturday, where President Donald Trump is set to deliver a speech on the National Mall.

Trump promised a “special evening” that could bring tens of thousands of spectators, despite warnings of the dangers of spreading the virus from Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, who is powerless over the event on federal land. 

Saturday’s commemoration of the declaration of US independence from Britain began on a grim note, with both Florida and Texas recording their highest daily new infections, 11,458 and 8,258 in a 24-hour period, respectively, since the coronavirus outbreak began in the United States.

To date, nearly 130,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the country, amid 2.8 million infections – the highest number of both deaths and infections in the world.

On Friday, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alaska, Missouri, Idaho and Alabama all registered daily highs for new cases, while Texas hit a new peak for hospitalisations related to the virus.

Beaches, normally packed over the holiday weekend, were widely shut on both coasts with Florida’s most populous county Miami-Dade shuttering the sand and imposing a curfew for residents.

Meanwhile in California, beach closures went from Los Angeles County northward through Ventura and Santa Barbara. To the south in Orange County, hugely popular beaches such as Huntington and Newport were closed.

Fireworks, events cancelled

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioned that mass gatherings, such as the one scheduled by the president, present a high risk for spread of the virus.

On Friday during Trump’s speech at Mount Rushmore, Republican Governor Kristi Noem, an ally of the president, insisted social distancing was not necessary and masks were optional. 

On Saturday, officials said they would hand out 300,000 face coverings to spectators who gather on the National Mall. While Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt said visitors would be encouraged to wear masks and keep two metre (6 foot) distance from one another, there was no indication that would be mandatory.

In a patchwork of restrictions across the country, parades were cancelled, boisterous backyard barbecues scaled down, and family reunions put off amid worries about air travel and concerns about spreading the virus.

joey chestnut

Nathan’s Famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest in New York City was moved inside amid coronavirus restrictions [John Minchillo/AP]

In New York City, the famous annual Nathan’s hotdog eating contest, normally held on the crowded Coney Island boardwalk, took place inside with no spectators and special precautions for officials and workers.

Meanwhile, Fireworks displays, a mainstay of the holiday that typically attracts crowds of thousands to locations across the country, have been put on hold this year, with an estimated 80 percent of those events cancelled. 

Other locales urged people to watch the displays from their cars.

Racial unrest

Saturday also comes amid a backdrop of heightened racial unrest in the country following the killing of George Floyd after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minnesota on May 25. 

Demonstrations have since become a regular feature in many American cities, with several planned in the US capital.

black lives matter protest

Protests have continued across the US following the death of George Floyd on May 25 [File: Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press]

The largest protests on Saturday are expected to include a George Floyd memorial March beginning at the Lincoln Memorial, a Black Out March at the US Capitol, and a Black Lives Matter protest at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Public health officials have been bracing for a new spike in coronavirus cases after this weekend’s celebrations and protests.

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Uzbekistan launches national strategy for dev’t of electronic commerce

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By Trend

The Export Promotion Agency under the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade held the first meeting of the Working Group on the development of the National Strategy for the Development of Electronic Commerce in the Republic of Uzbekistan within the framework of the Ready4trade grant project. The event was organized in cooperation with the UNCTAD / WTO Center for International Trade and relevant ministries and departments of the country, Trend reports citing Uzdaily.uz.

During the opening ceremony, the head of the Working Group – Deputy Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade B. Rakhimov and Advisor to the Department of Research and Export Strategies of the UNCTAD / WTO Center for International Trade O. Khomula made speeches.

During the event, the members of the Working Group identified priority areas for joint work and drew up a plan of practical actions for the near future. In particular, an in-depth analysis of the country’s e-commerce ecosystem will be carried out at the initial stage.

Also, during their stay in Uzbekistan, the delegation of the Center held a number of meetings with the leadership of the relevant ministries and departments of the country, during which priorities for the development of e-commerce at the national level were identified and the importance of an inclusive dialogue between the state and the private sector in this direction was noted.

The Ready4Trade project is aimed at developing intraregional and international trade in five Central Asian countries by increasing the transparency of cross-border requirements, as well as improving cross-border e-commerce procedures. The project is being implemented by the UNCTAD / WTO Center for International Trade in close cooperation with national partners and funded by the European Union.

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Azerbaijan approves new silk farming standard

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By Trend

Azerbaijan Institute for Standardization public entity approved a new standard to form the criteria for assessing quality in accordance with international requirements for cocoon and silkworm breeding in Azerbaijan, the State Service for Antimonopoly Policy and Consumer Market Control under the Ministry of Economy told Trend.

The standard is called the AZS 897-2021 ‘Raw (live) silkworm cocoons’. The new state standard will help improve the quality and competitiveness of products.

According to the service, the new standard was developed to ensure the implementation of the State Program for the Development of Cocoon and Silkworm Breeding in Azerbaijan for 2018-2025, approved by the presidential order.

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Yashat allocates $13.2m to improve living conditions of martyrs families, war veterans

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By Ayya Lmahamad

Azerbaijan's Yashat Foundation has allocated AZN 22.6 million ($13.2M) to improve living conditions of martyrs' families and wounded servicemen after receiving 5,667 appeals from them, Azertag reported on August 3.

Yashat was set up to help families of soldiers killed and injured during the Second Karabakh War.

Moreover, AZN 5.6 million ($3.2M) were allocated to pay for the medical and educational expenses of 2,357 such citizens.

The Foundation also repaid AZN 3.8 million ($2.2M) in loans following appeals by 1,152 martyrs' family members and disabled war veterans.

Furthermore, a total of 120 seriously wounded servicemen were sent to Turkey for treatment with Yashat’s help. Sixty-four of them have fully recovered and fifty-six are currently receiving treatment.

Likewise, within the framework of a project "They have been entrusted to us", 100 martyrs' children born after the Patriotic War received financial assistance in the amount of AZN 1,000 ($588.2) and deposits in the amount of AZN 5,000 ($2,941) have been opened in their names.

Additionally, Foundation has also organized a summer camp for children of martyrs who lost their lives during the Karabakh war of last year. It is planned to organize six camps with the participation of 300 children.

Set up in 2020, the foundation’s work covers the families of servicemen killed or disabled during the war and also the families of employees of state bodies (institutions) who became disabled or lost their lives while serving in the liberated lands or while removing the consequences of military operations in the liberated lands.

Yashat receives donations made through voluntary financial assistance provided by Azerbaijani citizens, Azerbaijanis living abroad, other individuals and legal entities, as well as other sources not prohibited by law.

As of August 3, the foundation has collected over AZN 61.6 million ($36.2M).

A single database created in accordance with a decree signed by President Ilham Aliyev in November 2020 contains detailed information on the assessment and elimination of damage caused to civilians and state property, including infrastructure facilities and businesses during the Patriotic War.

Ayya Lmahamad is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @AyyaLmahamad

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