>Notre Dame restoration stalled
One year after a fire endangered one of Catholicism's most cherished monuments, restoration of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral has been stymied by the coronavirus.
Ever since the French landmark was engulfed in flames that destroyed much of the structure's roof and felled its spire on April 15 last year, construction workers have toiled tirelessly to save the 13th-century relic by President Emmanuel Macron's promised five-year timeline.
But as the coronavirus began to ravage the city, repair work on Notre Dame was stopped.
Macron issued a nationwide stay-at-home order on March 16 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Despite the unprecedented challenges, Jean-Louis Georgelin, the army general in charge of rebuilding Notre Dame, believes the cathedral might host services again in 2024.
"If everyone rolls up their sleeves and the work is well planned, it is conceivable that returning the cathedral to a place of worship within five years will not be an impossible feat," he said.
>Distancing continues until 2022?
Physical distancing measures may need to be in place intermittently until 2022, scientists have warned in an analysis that suggests there could be resurgences of COVID-19 for years to come.
The paper, published in the journal Science, concludes that a one-time lockdown will not be sufficient to bring the pandemic under control and that secondary peaks could be larger than the current one without continued restrictions.
Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard and co-author of the study, said: "Infections spread when there are two things: Infected people and susceptible people. Unless there is some enormously larger amount of herd immunity than we’re aware of ... the majority of the population is still susceptible."
The overall numbers of cases in the next five years, and the level of distancing required, were found to depend crucially on the overall current levels of infection and whether all those who are infected gain immunity and, if so, for how long.
The authors cautioned that these are big unknowns and that a precise prediction of the long-term dynamics is not possible.
>China launches virus survey
China has launched a major epidemiological survey of the novel coronavirus in nine provincial-level regions to evaluate the scale of asymptomatic infections and immunity levels across the population, and thus assist in the facilitation of upcoming epidemic-control measures.
On Tuesday in Wuhan, Central China’s Hubei province, lines began forming at a sports stadium in Jiangxia district, where workers collected blood samples and throat swabs from residents who were randomly selected from local communities to take part in the survey.
Nucleic acid tests using throat swabs will reveal asymptomatic infections, and tests for antibodies in blood samples are expected to help researchers determine if a person has been infected or if an immune response has been generated.
Other regions that are involved in the survey are Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing municipalities, as well as Liaoning, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong and Sichuan provinces.
>10-day alcohol ban in Bangkok
People queued to buy wine, beer and spirits in Bangkok on Thursday after the Thai capital announced a 10-day ban on alcohol sales to try to limit social activities before the traditional new year and curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
At Thai New Year, or Songkran, there are usually big water fights and people travel to visit their parents. Celebrations, often involving alcohol, have been scaled back to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Thailand has confirmed 2,579 coronavirus cases, with 40 fatalities.
More than half of the cases have been in Bangkok, where a mobile testing system is being rolled out.
"The culture ministry has asked to stop all Songkran activities, traveling back to hometowns and pouring water for blessings with older family members," said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, spokesman for the government's Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration.
"Pay respect to elders from one to two meters ... remember older people have the highest risk of dying," he said.
The culture ministry also recommended people call home or use online methods to pay respects.
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