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Coronavirus evening digest: Great Wall of China reopens, London Irish announce pay cuts - the stories you might have missed


Great Wall of China. Photo: Airbnb

Great Wall of China. Photo: Airbnb

Great Wall of China. Photo: Airbnb

Independent.ie reporters are bringing you the latest coronavirus stories you may have missed today.

Great Wall of China reopens section to tourists - with temperature checks and social distancing

Drew Jones reports

One of the most popular sections of the Great Wall of China reopened to visitors Tuesday, a hopeful sign after months of lockdowns across the country.

The Badaling section of the wall, about 50 miles northwest of Beijing, will be open from 9am to 4pm each day.

The rest of the Badaling Great Wall will remain closed, along with the Shuiguan Great Wall, the Ancient Great Wall, and the Great Wall Museum of China, according to a statement.

To keep the visitor numbers around 30pc of peak traffic for safety reasons, tourists will have to book appointments and buy tickets to the wall before their arrival.

Along with ID cards, visitors to the Badaling Great Wall will have to present a "health code" ensuring they're healthy and will have to have their temperature taken before being allowed to enter.

Visitors to the Great Wall have also been asked to practice social distancing, staying at least one meter (or a little over three feet) away from other travellers and wearing masks to cover their faces while on tours.

During normal peak season - April 1 to Oct. 31 - the Great Wall sees upward of 10 million visitors a year, making it one of the world's most visited attractions for tourists. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has been shut down since Jan. 25 amid escalating cases of the coronavirus that caused the World Health Organisation to declare the disease a global pandemic.

Across the world, closings of this type have been the norm as countries wrestle with the spread of coronavirus in the public sphere. The most high-profile international gathering to be postponed is the 2020 Summer Olympics, which were set to be held in Tokyo but have been pushed back until 2021.

In a rare move, Disney closed all of its theme parks, including Disneylands in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Paris.

The closing of public attractions in response to the outbreak has been so prevalent that many museums, national parks and theatres began offering virtual tours of well-known destinations in an attempt to ease of the anxiety of those in self-imposed isolation.

(c) The Washington Post, 2020

London Irish announce pay cuts of 25 per cent amid coronavirus crisis

Cian Tracey reports

London Irish have become the latest Premiership club to implement a 25pc salary reduction for its staff, players and coaches.

The news comes as clubs and unions across the board attempt to lessen the impact caused by the continued spread of Covid-19.

London Irish, who are owned by Cavan native Mick Crossan, have a strong Irish presence at the club with head coach Declan Kidney assisted by Les Kiss, while internationals Sean O'Brien and Paddy Jackson, as well as former Leinster duo Conor Gilsenan and Brendan Macken are also on the books.

As the IRFU have done with their cost cutting measures, London Irish have put a threshold in place in order to ensure that employees earning a certain amount are unaffected.

O'Brien joined Irish from Leinster last summer for a handsome salary, while Jackson is also understood to be one of the club's higher earners.

O'Brien only recently recovered from a serious hip injury to make his debut for his new side before the coronavirus put a halt to the start of his new chapter.

Jackson is also in his first season with the club since joining from Perpignan last year.

"No-one knows for certain when we will return to normality and having taken all factors into account, the club has taken the difficult decision to reduce salaries of staff, players and coaches by 25pc," London Irish CEO Brian Facer wrote in a statement.

"These salary reductions will come into effect from 1 April 2020, although a threshold has been placed to ensure employees earning below a certain amount are unaffected.

"We have deliberated long and hard about this and our first thoughts was always on the well-being and mental and physical health of all our staff.

"I would like to commend them for their understanding in putting the club before themselves, they are all a credit to our organisation."

London Irish are currently in eighth place of the Premiership table and will hope to mount a late end-of-season push for a play-off spot, should the league get back underway in the coming weeks.

Action needed to protect most vulnerable pupils from impact of school shutdown - INTO

Katherine Donnelly reports

The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) is worried about the impact of the extended school shutdown on the country’s most vulnerable pupils.

After a two-week enforced closure and at least three weeks before schools re-open, there is concern about pupils missing not only necessary tuition, but also food and care they receive within the education system.

Homeless children, pupils from families suffering severe economic disadvantage or living in direct provision and children with complex needs are the focus of an appeal from the INTO to Education Minister Joe McHugh.

In a letter to Mr McHugh today, the INTO said some of these children “live in circumstances where, for reasons of accommodation or language challenges, it is very difficult to have any continuity of learning. Many principals and teachers, including home school community liaison teachers and special education teachers have been reaching out to these children in the last ten days.”

Many of the services offered to vulnerable pupils come from Government departments or agencies, other than the Department of Education. For instance, the schools meals programme is funded by the Department of Social Protection and other services come under the umbrella of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

INTO general secretary John Boyle told the minister that teachers and principals were calling for “a coordinated cross-departmental response is to ensure that these children receive necessary tuition, food and care in the weeks ahead.”

The union has sought a meeting with officials of the Department of Education and other relevant departments to explore how vital supports might be delivered for our most necessitous pupils.

“We ask that you nominate a senior official of your department with whom we can progress these issues with a view to meeting the needs of these children.,” he stated.

The Department of Education is engaged in ongoing collaboration with a number of other departments on a range of issues up support vulnerable pupils.

Meanwhile, Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has said the Covid-19 crisis has exposed the damaging extent of the digital divide in education in Ireland.

“Recent research tells us that 14pc of Irish homes with a nine-year-old child have no computer. Separate CSO figures show that almost a quarter of the most deprived households have no fixed broadband connection, which is by far the most common means of at-home internet access. Children in those homes are severely disadvantaged at all times. Right now they are effectively cut out of the education system."

He said children who were homeless or living in cramped and crowded family settings were also finding it harder to study at home, even if they had access to digital learning.

“These everyday realities for poor and disadvantaged children across the country – and for many better-off families living in rural Ireland – have been thrown into sharp relief by the coronavirus crisis."

He said the digital divide should also be factored into any decision on whether the Leaving Cert exams can continue.

“Middle class assumptions about doing oral exams via Skype have exposed the political system’s ignorance about the realities of disadvantage experienced by many children.

“The coronavirus has exposed the digital divide in Ireland and the depth of the inequality in our education system. We cannot return to business as usual once we recover from this crisis, which we will by working together."

Simon Harris slams 'pathetic' couple who coughed on him

Hugh O'Connell reports

HEALTH Minister Simon Harris has sharply criticised people who are deliberately coughing or spitting at others during the Covid-19 crisis, revealing that it happened to him this week.

Mr Harris said that a man and a woman approached him as he was walking from Government Buildings to the Department of Health on Baggot Street on Tuesday and “thought it was hilariously funny to come up and cough loudly and run off laughing”.

Mr Harris said there was "absolutely nothing funny about it, it was quite pathetic" as he issued a strong rebuke to those engaging in such practices at a press conference in Government Buildings on Wednesday and warned that the full rigours of the law will be used against those engage in such practices.

Independent.ie reported on Tuesday that a teenager was arrested for public order offences after he coughed at gardaí who responded to a call about a group of men playing football.

Gardaí are becoming increasingly concerned about the so-called 'TikTok coronavirus challenge', in which people deliberately cough or spit at others, telling them they are infected before posting a video on social media.

Mr Harris said: “Can we please as people just look at what's happening in Italy, in the European Union, where we're seeing several hundred people a day dying of a virus that can be deadly to certain people in our population.

“And when you do I think particularly for older people who are being targeted in relation to this, and it seems to be some sort of social media kind of game - but it's not a game, it's disgusting - going on that would target certain people in your community, generally older people and go up and cough in their face, video it, have a laugh and run off.

“Just think of it with your own granny, grandad, mother, father, and your own friends with an underlying health condition like cystic fibrosis. The Irish people have been absolutely amazing in relation to this national challenge that we're all going through, but anything that takes off in relation to that on social media will have to be dealt with the full rigours of all of the powers that the State has.”

He was speaking at the launch of a public information booklet on Covid-19 which will be sent by An Post to every household in the country in the coming days.

At the same event Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it now appeared that there will be fewer than the estimated 15,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases that were predicted by the end of March.

“The number of confirmed cases I don't think will be 15,000 and I hope that is some evidence of some of the measures that people are having some effect,” he said.

However, he said that it remained the case that “not far off 200 cases” are being confirmed every day.

Mr Varadkar said: “I don't think we can start to even contemplate the idea that we're containing this virus until we start to see the number of new cases every day fall and fall consistently and we're nowhere near that. It's only a few countries that have kind of gone to that space like China, South Korea, a few others, Japan maybe.”

Mr Harris said that he was concerned about the number of patients being submitted to ICU. ”This is an extraordinary situation and we don't yet know how this will play out,” he said.

At the same event, An Post CEO David McRedmond said postmen and women are now calling into older and vulnerable people to help them with any food, medicine or message requests.

They will also begin taking parcels and letters from elderly and vulnerable people and distributing them for free.

Mr McRedmond said An Post is working with the National Newspapers of Ireland on setting up a scheme to deliver newspapers to the elderly and vulnerable in the coming weeks.

Earlier, senior Government official Elizabeth Canavan said that the Department of Employment received 103,000 applications for Covid-19 income supports by last Friday and made almost 60,000 payments on Tuesday.

A weekly statistical report will now be published by the Department.

WATCH: Offaly hurlers call on public to 'stay safe, stay healthy and keeping killing' coronavirus

Gabija Gataveckaite reports

Teenage Offaly hurlers have urged the public to keep on fighting COVID-19 by engaging in social distancing and sanitising as they showed off their hurling skills in a new music video.

The video shows Offaly's minor hurlers fighting the disease by to a cover of Where is the Love? by local musician Dickie Donnelly.

The lads are seen sanitising their gear, hurleys and even sliotars in a bid to fight the virus as they practise their hurling skills in back gardens and do sit ups in their living rooms.

The idea was a brainchild of mothers Joan Mahon and Kealin Landy, who have sons who play on the team.

Coach Leonard Deane told Independent.ie that the video is a bid to encourage younger people to actively fight in stopping the virus.

"We thought that it might be a good way to put across the message of social distancing and washing your hands to young people," he said.

"The younger generations might relate to the younger generations better, instead of it coming from politicians."

He said that he was very proud of the players and that taking part in the video amid lockdown lifted their spirits.

"It's not easy for them to do it and they're a credit to their parents," he said.

"You can see taking part in something more lighthearted has brought a smile to their face," Mr Deane added.

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