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‘Idiot’ New Zealand health minister breaks lockdown — yet keeps job

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New Zealand’s health minister described himself as “an idiot” Tuesday for breaking lockdown restrictions, but kept his job coordinating the South Pacific nation’s COVID-19 response.

Health Minister David Clark said he offered his resignation to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after revealing he took a 20-kilometre (12.5-mile) drive to the beach with his family.

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Clark admitted the trip was a clear breach of the country’s strict lockdown rules, under which families must stay close to home, and his position meant he should have been setting an example.

“At a time when we are asking New Zealanders to make historic sacrifices, I’ve let the team down,” he said in a statement.

“I’ve been an idiot and I understand why people will be angry with me.”

Clark also said he had been on short two-kilometer drives with his family, which he said were within the rules.

Ardern said under normal circumstances, she would have sacked Clark — but instead, she stripped him of the junior role of associated finance minister and demoted him in the cabinet rankings.

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“What he did was wrong, and there are no excuses,” she said.

“But right now, my priority is our collective fight against COVID-19. We cannot afford massive disruption in the health sector or to our response. For that reason, and that reason alone, Dr. Clark will maintain his role.”

Scotland’s chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood resigned Sunday for breaking the rules after twice visiting her second home, despite fronting an ad campaign calling for Scots to stay at home.

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Cancer patients twice as likely to die from COVID-19: study

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People with cancer are more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than those without it, a large study published Thursday found.

The data on more than 900 patients in the US, Canada and Spain which appeared in a paper in The Lancet, found that mortality increased the further the cancer had progressed.

Cancer patients with decreased ability to carry out daily life tasks were more at risk than those with higher functionality.

The paper's authors looked at how many people died within 30 days of being diagnosed of COVID-19 of all causes.

"The 30-day all-cause mortality was 13 percent, more than twice the mortality reported as the global average by Johns Hopkins," Toni Choueiri, an oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who co-authored the paper told AFP.

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COVID-19

Ethics complaint filed to force Trump’s COVID-19 Vaccine Czar — a former pharma exec — to submit to ethics rules

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A pair of consumer watchdog groups on Thursday filed a formal federal ethics complaint stating that President Donald Trump's so-called "Vaccine Czar"—a former pharmaceutical executive with deep personal investments in the industry—should be forced to submit to the same conflict of interest and financial disclosure rules as other government officials charged with overseeing large sums of taxpayer money, especially as he stands to personally profit from his duties.

"Slaoui's blatant ties to Big Pharma, including the very drug corporations he's funneling money to, should make even the Trump administration blush."—Margarida Jorge, Lower Drug Prices Now

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COVID-19

Latin America’s slums facing losing battle against virus spread

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As the coronavirus pandemic swept across the globe, Latin America's slum dwellers waited defenseless in its path. Now, with the region becoming the new epicenter of the crisis, the virus is unleashing destruction on its most vulnerable populations.

With limited sanitation and little space, millions of people living cheek by jowl in slums cannot take even the most basic hand-washing and social distancing precautions recommended by health authorities.

"We are increasingly concerned about the poor and other vulnerable groups more at risk from disease and death from the virus," Pan American Health Organization chief Carissa Etienne said this week.

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