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World Monthly Headline News April 2020 Page 1

Exclusive: "We believe that if used, significant patient harm, including death, is likely," British doctors said in a letter.
By Alexander Smith

LONDON — Senior British doctors have warned that 250 ventilators the United Kingdom bought from China risk causing "significant patient harm, including death," if they are used in hospitals, according to a letter seen by NBC News. The doctors said the machines had a problematic oxygen supply, could not be cleaned properly, had an unfamiliar design and a confusing instruction manual, and were built for use in ambulances, not hospitals. The British case is not an isolated one, and it comes as a stark example of a procurement problem that has plagued many countries as the coronavirus has spread throughout the world. Since March, many governments have been scrambling to buy more medical equipment — much of it from China — to make up for large gaps in their supplies. While much of this equipment has been vital in combating the pandemic, some has been faulty or unsuitable. As in the United States, the government in Britain has been heavily criticized for its coronavirus response. With more than 26,000 people dead, critics say the government has failed to provide protective equipment for health care workers and widespread testing.

The crisis continues to be a massive challenge for the Russian dictator.
By Alex Ward

Russia’s much-feared coronavirus crisis is here — and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. Russia was always going to struggle if a large outbreak occurred in the country, and experts predicted one almost certainly would due to the country’s proximity to China and tightly packed cities, including the capital, Moscow. Hospitals in urban areas lack reliable medical equipment and staff to operate them, to say nothing of the state of medical facilities in rural areas. But few expected it to be this bad. As of April 28, Russia reported nearly 100,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 1,000 deaths. Those numbers make Russia the eighth-hardest-hit country in the world. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday admitted that the country had a shortage of critical personal protective equipment for health care workers, and warned that the worst the pandemic is yet to come. “Ahead of us is a new stage, perhaps the most intense stage of the fight against the epidemic,” he said in a national address, in which he also announced an extension of his nation’s lockdown until May 11. “The risks of getting infected are at the highest level, and the threat, the mortal danger of the virus persists.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has admitted that there is a shortage of protective kit for medics as the country battles the coronavirus. This was despite a big increase in production and imports, he said. Mr Putin warned that the peak of the coronavirus infection rate had not yet been reached in the country, and the population must remain vigilant. Russia's lockdown aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19 was extended until 11 May.It has more than 93,000 coronavirus cases, with 867 recorded deaths.

What did Putin say?
The president said there was still not enough protective equipment for health workers on the frontline of the crisis. "Compared to before, [we're producing] a lot. But compared what we need, it's still not enough," he said during a televised briefing. "Despite increased production, imports - there's a deficit of all sorts of things," he added. Medics have complained about working without proper protective clothing, especially in Russia's regions. Russia is now producing 100,000 protective suits for medics per day, up from 3,000 a day in March, he said. Production of masks has also increased more than 10 times, to 8.5 million per day in April. Mr Putin said that while the government had managed to "slow the spread" of the epidemic, Russians would have to self-isolate for longer. He said the lockdown would continue for two more weeks, though he instructed the government to draw up recommendations by 5 May for a gradual easing of restrictions. "The deadly danger of the virus remains," he said.

Exclusive: Scientists examine whether this route enables infections at longer distances
By Damian Carrington

Coronavirus has been detected on particles of air pollution by scientists investigating whether this could enable it to be carried over longer distances and increase the number of people infected. The work is preliminary and it is not yet known if the virus remains viable on pollution particles and in sufficient quantity to cause disease. The Italian scientists used standard techniques to collect outdoor air pollution samples at one urban and one industrial site in Bergamo province and identified a gene highly specific to Covid-19 in multiple samples. The detection was confirmed by blind testing at an independent laboratory. Leonardo Setti at the University of Bologna in Italy, who led the work, said it was important to investigate if the virus could be carried more widely by air pollution. “I am a scientist and I am worried when I don’t know,” he said. “If we know, we can find a solution. But if we don’t know, we can only suffer the consequences.” Two other research groups have suggested air pollution particles could help coronavirus travel further in the air. A statistical analysis by Setti’s team suggests higher levels of particle pollution could explain higher rates of infection in parts of northern Italy before a lockdown was imposed, an idea supported by another preliminary analysis. The region is one of the most polluted in Europe. Neither of the studies by Setti’s team have been peer-reviewed and therefore have not been endorsed by independent scientists. But experts agree their proposal is plausible and requires investigation. Previous studies have shown that air pollution particles do harbour microbes and that pollution is likely to have carried the viruses causing bird flu, measles and foot-and-mouth disease over considerable distances. The potential role of air pollution particles is linked to the broader question of how the coronavirus is transmitted. Large virus-laden droplets from infected people’s coughs and sneezes fall to the ground within a metre or two. But much smaller droplets, less than 5 microns in diameter, can remain in the air for minutes to hours and travel further.

At least three killed in attack near Damascus, state media said, adding the military shot down most missiles.

Israeli warplanes flying over Lebanon have fired missiles towards Damascus, the Syrian military said, claiming the country's air defences shot most of them down. At least three civilians were killed and four others injured after the missiles hit residential areas in al-Hujaira and al-Adliya towns near the Syrian capital, the state-run SANA news agency said on Monday. Describing the attack as an "Israeli aggression" carried out from Lebanese airspace, SANA said the military "shot down a number of missiles before they reached their targets". Israel rarely confirms attacks, and it did not comment on the latest missiles attack, which came a week after the ancient city of Palmyra was targeted. Israel has said, however, that it was behind a series of air raids mainly targeting Iranian forces and fighters from Lebanese armed group Hezbollah in Syria fighting alongside Syrian government forces. Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of attacks in the country. It has also in the past used Lebanon's airspace to launch attacks on Syria. On April 20, SANA said Syrian air defences had downed Israeli missiles near the ancient city of Palmyra.

Now the country that planned D-Day can't handle delivering medical supplies — and it's not just about Trump
By Heather Digby Parton

Since the day after Donald J. Trump as elected in 2016, I've been fretting about the effect of his obvious unfitness and incompetence for the "world order" as we have known it. I've made clear that I don't believe there's any reason why the U.S. should be the perpetual guarantor of security for half the world, nor is it forever obligated to provide some kind of Pax Americana. That was a consequence of America's unique position after World War II, having had the good fortune to escape the destruction of our homeland, which left us in the position of the last country standing. To our credit (and for our own profit) we did handle the aftermath of that war more competently than the world handled the aftermath of World War I. But it has been clear to me from the moment Donald Trump came down that elevator that if he won, the world order as we knew it, which was already unstable, was going to be turned upside down with no coherent plan to replace it. His one simple understanding of the world was that he, and the United States, have been treated unfairly. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. America and Donald Trump had it all. Throughout the Cold War and the red-baiting and the military adventurism and the overweening self-regard that we assumed was our right as the Leader of the Free World, we managed to do a lot of things wrong and the price for that has been high. This is true even though, as Salon's Andrew O'Hehir wrote in this searing account of America's precipitous decline as revealed by the coronavirus, the American people hardly noticed: We have an ingrained national tendency to behave as if the rest of the world simply doesn't exist — or, on a slightly more sophisticated level, as if it were just a colorful backdrop for our vastly more important national dramas. O'Hehir rightly observes that empires inevitably collapse, but America's almost childlike inability to admit it even is an empire, even as it crumbles, may be unique in human history. Still, for all its myopic arrogance, the one thing America clearly did right — and was justifiably proud of — was to create a technologically advanced society that was the envy of the world. For all our faults, Americans knew how to do things. We could get the job done. Now the country that sent men to the moon and brought them home again, all the way back in the 1960s, is a fumbling mess, unable to manage the simple logistics of getting supplies from one place to another or coordinating a national set of guidelines in a public health crisis. The vaunted CDC, long thought of as the greatest scientific disease research facility in the world, fumbled in making a test that had already been produced in other countries. Donald Trump is a completely incompetent leader — we know this. Literally any other president would have done a better job. He couldn't accept that the crisis was real and that his "plan" to spend the year holding fun rallies and smearing his Democratic rival was going to be interrupted by his duties as president. So he lived in denial until the situation was completely out of hand. Other leaders would have listened to experts and pulled together a team that knew how to organize a national response. And no other president would be so witless as to waste precious time and resources with magical thinking about quick miracle cures. But it's not just him, is it? The U.S. government seems to have lost its capacity to act, and the private sector is so invested in short-term profit-making that it's lost its innovative edge. The result is that the United States of America, formerly the world's leader in science and technology, now only leads the world in gruesome statistics and body counts.

Claims risk damaging Brazilian president already reeling from resignation of justice minister
By Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro

The political storm engulfing Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has intensified with reports that federal police investigators have identified his son as one of the alleged key members of a “criminal fake news racket” engaged in threatening and defaming Brazilian authorities. One of Brazil’s top newspapers, the Folha de São Paulo, claimed an investigation by Brazil’s equivalent to the FBI had homed in on Carlos Bolsonaro, the president’s social-media-savvy son. Carlos Bolsonaro, 37, rejected the claims as “garbage” and “a joke” on Twitter, where he has 1.7 million followers. But the allegations will deepen the crisis consuming Bolsonaro’s 16-month-old government and further distract from the country’s efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 4,000 Brazilians. Bolsonaro’s administration was already floundering before the recent resignation of his powerful justice minister, Sergio Moro, with another of the president’s sons, Flávio Bolsonaro, facing police scrutiny for suspected corruption and ties to Rio de Janeiro’s mafia. Bolsonaro’s dismissive reaction to the coronavirus crisis has sparked outrage across the political spectrum and pot-banging protests. The latest political melodrama exploded on Friday when Moro resigned and publicly accused the president of attempting to improperly meddle in the operations of the federal police by sacking the federal police director, Maurício Valeixo, that morning.

Video meeting seen as global endorsement of WHO and sign of Trump’s isolation on world stage
By Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

Global leaders have pledged to accelerate cooperation on a coronavirus vaccine and to share research, treatment and medicines across the globe. But the United States did not take part in the World Health Organization initiative, in a sign of Donald Trump’s increasing isolation on the global stage. The cooperation pledge, made at a virtual meeting, was designed to show that wealthy countries will not keep the results of research from developing countries. The meeting also represented a symbolic endorsement of the United Nations body in the face of Trump’s decision to suspend US payments and condemn its leaders as subordinates of the Chinese Communist party. China and the US have accused each other of bullying and disinformation over the coronavirus outbreak, damaging efforts to secure cooperation at the G20, the natural international institution to handle global health outside the UN. Instead an ad hoc grouping of 20 world leaders and global health figures were on the call, including the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and the American philanthropist Bill Gates. Britain will co-chair a joint coronavirus global response summit on 4 May aimed at raising funds for vaccine research, treatments and tests. Macron told the meeting: “We will continue now to mobilise all G7 and G20 countries so they get behind this initiative. And I hope we will be able to reconcile around this joint initiative both China and the US, because this is about saying the fight against Covid-19 is a common human good and there should be no division in order to win this battle.” The WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “We are facing a common threat that we can only defeat with a common approach. Experience has told us that even when tools are available they have not been equally available to all. We cannot allow that to happen.” More than 100 potential vaccines are being developed, including six already in clinical trials, according to Seth Berkley, the chief executive of the Gavi vaccine alliance, a public-private partnership that leads immunisation campaigns in poor countries. Berkley said it was critical that there was not a repeat of the experience in 2009, when the H1N1 vaccine did not reach developing countries until very late.

By Brendan Cole

The state-controlled media in North Korea focused on the founding of its armed forces on Saturday as its supreme leader Kim Jong Un remained absent amid reports that a Chinese medical team was assessing his health status. South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that television coverage in the secretive northern state spent the day trumpeting the 88th anniversary of the birth of the Korean People's Revolutionary Army (KPRA), which falls on April 25, without the nation's chief heralding the event. Hong Kong Satellite Television reported that the supreme leader was dead but this has not been confirmed by U.S. sources with a senior Pentagon official not authorized to speak on the record, telling Newsweek: "North Korean military readiness remains within historical norms and there is no further evidence to suggest a significant change in defensive posturing or national level leadership changes." China had sent a delegation, which included medical experts, to North Korea to determine the health of the leader whose last confirmed public appearance was on April 11, according to a Reuters report. Officials from Russia, China as well the U.S. President Donald Trump discounted reports that Kim was in ill health following a rumored heart surgery on April 12. There remains speculation about his health after he was absent from the Day of the Sun celebrations on April 15, commemorating his grandfather, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung. Weeks later, Kim received a floral basket from the Russian embassy marking the first anniversary of his historic visit to Russia, according to KCNA.

By Patrick Henry

Catching Covid-19 once may not protect you from getting it again, according to the World Health Organization, a finding that could jeopardize efforts to allow people to return to work after recovering from the virus. “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” the United Nations agency said in an April 24 statement. The WHO guidance came after some governments suggested that people who have antibodies to the coronavirus could be issued an “immunity passport” or “risk-free certificate” that would allow them to travel or return to work, based on the assumption that they were safe from re-infection, according to the statement. People issued such a certificate could ignore public-health guidance, increasing the risk of the disease spreading further.


While the mainstream media has been quick to situate the deadly recent events that unfolded in Nova Scotia within the context of Canadian mass murders, no one seems to be drawing attention to the most prominent link connecting Canadian mass killings: all of the accused perpetrators have been men, and most of them have been white. White men were responsible for or currently face charges for the mass murders at the École Polytechnique in 1989, Mayerthorpe in 2005, Moncton in 2014, Calgary in 2014, Québec City in 2017, Toronto in 2018 (a van attack) and Fredericton in 2019. Those in Vernon, B.C., in 1996, Edmonton in 2014, and Toronto in 2018 (the shooting in the city’s Greektown neighbourhood) were perpetrated by racialized men. Given this explicitly gendered pattern of perpetration, why don’t we talk about these mass murders as male terrorism? When speaking about the mass murder during his regular COVID-19 update on April 19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau referred to the violence in Nova Scotia as “senseless” and proclaimed that “violence of any kind has no place in Canada.”  As a survivor of multiple forms of violence with more than 20 years of researching and responding to gender-based violence in my academic and professional career, I beg to differ. Male-perpetrated violence underpins Canadian society and is by no means “senseless” — instead, it serves to reinforce patriarchy and male social domination. As long as we are unwilling to name, acknowledge and address male violence, the lives and well-being of people in Canada, especially women and children, are at risk.

The normalization of male violence
Regardless of specific motive, the fact that Canadian mass murders have been exclusively committed by men makes this violence explicitly gendered. This is male violence and, as such, must be linked to other forms of male violence and understood as gender-based violence. While the term gender-based violence primarily implies violence on the basis of gender identity, gender presentation or perceived gender, it also encompasses patriarchy and violence perpetrated by men. In other words, regardless of specific motive, we need to consider these mass murders in relation to patriarchy and male social domination in Canada.

By Stephanie Baker and Caleb Melby

The Trump Organization is seeking U.K. and Irish bailout money to help cover wages for bartenders, bagpipers and other employees furloughed from its European golf properties because of the coronavirus lockdown. Overseas businesses owned by U.S. President Donald Trump can tap government funds meant to help retain workers. In the U.S., by contrast, they’re specifically written out of the enormous U.S. economic relief package. The result is a potentially stark gap between how workers in different countries may weather the crisis, even within the same global operation. In the U.K. and Ireland, where Trump owns three money-losing golf resorts, companies can tap enough government cash to pay most of their workers’ salaries. It’s unclear whether the Trump Organization is paying the balance of the salaries for furloughed workers. In the U.S., roughly 2,000 employees dismissed from Trump golf courses and hotels will have to line up with millions of others to apply for unemployment payments. There’s nothing improper about Trump companies seeking the U.K. and Irish funds, which are offered universally to help workers weather the crisis. Even so, social-media blowback has been swift against deep-pocketed owners who could arguably weather the crisis without seeking state handouts. These include Victoria Beckham, the former Spice Girl who reportedly furloughed as many as 30 employees at her money-losing luxury fashion label.

By Greg Myre

President Trump says the U.S. Navy should fire on Iranian boats if they continue to harass U.S. warships in the Gulf, a move that raises the prospect of open hostilities between the two rivals. The president's Wednesday morning tweet came shortly after Iran announced it had successfully launched a military satellite into orbit for the first time. With the U.S. and Iran both battling to control a coronavirus outbreak at home, the ongoing friction between the two countries had receded from the headlines. But Wednesday's developments point to an escalation of tensions that have been building in recent days. Last week, U.S. military ships were in the northern Persian Gulf for exercises. The U.S. warships were in international waters, though relatively close to Iran.

I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2020

Iran sent small boats, known as "fast boats," toward the American warships, with one coming as close as 10 yards, according to the Navy, which released a video. The Pentagon accused Iran of sending 11 fast boats to make "dangerous and harassing approaches" to six American warships. These kinds of standoffs in the Gulf have been taking place for many years. The U.S. and Iran usually observe unwritten rules and the confrontations rarely escalate into actual hostilities, with occasional exceptions. However, Trump's instruction for the Navy to shoot Iranian boats raises the ante.

By Tom O'Connor

Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard announced enhanced capabilities for its naval fleet, including extended anti-ship missile range and faster vessels capable of outpacing its top rival, the United States. Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy commander Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri said Monday that his forces now "have a variety of surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 700 km [more than 430 miles] produced domestically." He also touted the production of new warships, such as the 55-meter catamaran-style helicopter carrier inaugurated in 2016, along with other vessels that are said to be capable of reading speeds of up to 90 knots, or "three times faster than American vessels." "Wherever the Americans have been present, insecurity has arisen, and we do not know where the presence of the United States has led to security," Tangsiri said. He referenced the recent encounter in which up to 11 armed Revolutionary Guard fast-attack craft appeared to approach and circle ships of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf, arguing that "contrary to international regulations, the Americans blocked the way for our vessels and refused to respond to the radio, which was met with a powerful confrontation by our forces." The Fifth Fleet has alleged that it was Iran's Revolutionary Guard that initiated what the Navy group described as an "unsafe and unprofessional interaction," ignoring repeated warnings for more than an hour and a half. The Persian Gulf has for decades been a flashpoint for U.S.-Iran tensions, which have escalated during the past year.

By Jim Sciutto, Joshua Berlinger, Yoonjung Seo, Kylie Atwood and Zachary Cohen, CNN

(CNN) The US is monitoring intelligence that suggests North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, is in grave danger after undergoing a previous surgery, according to a US official with direct knowledge. A second source familiar with the intelligence told CNN that the US has been closely monitoring reports on Kim's health.
Kim recently missed the celebration of his grandfather's birthday on April 15, which raised speculation about his well-being. He had been seen four days before that at a government meeting. Another US official told CNN Monday that the concerns about Kim's health are credible but the severity is hard to assess. National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said the US is "keeping a close eye" on reports about Kim's health. "We're monitoring these reports very closely," O'Brien said during an interview with Fox News Tuesday. "As you know, North Korea is a very closed society," he said. Later on Tuesday, a US defense official said that the US military assessment is that while they are examining reports regarding Kim's poor health, the evidence at this point does not suggest he is incapacitated. Daily NK, an online newspaper based in South Korea that focuses on North Korea, reports that Kim reportedly received a cardiovascular system procedure on April 12. Kim received the cardiovascular system procedure because of "excessive smoking, obesity, and overwork," according to the news site, and is now receiving treatment in a villa in Hyangsan County following his procedure. After assessing that Kim's condition had improved, most of the medical team treating him returned to Pyongyang on April 19 and only part of them remained to oversee his recovery situation, according to the news site. CNN is unable to independently confirm the report.

A police official said Monday that police expect to find more victims once they are able to comb through all the crime scenes.
By The Associated Press

TORONTO — Canadian police said Tuesday they believe there are 22 victims after a gunman went on a rampage in rural communities across Nova Scotia over the weekend. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said they have recovered remains from some of the locations of the fires. Earlier, authorities had said at least 18 people were killed in the 12-hour attack. The gunman also died. Police said in an earlier news release that they believed there were 23 victims but Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesman Daniel Brien later clarified the death toll included 22 victims and the gunman. As fears mounted that more victims would be found in burned out homes, a young man said that his grandparents were missing and believed dead after their log cabin was set ablaze during the attack. Justin Zahl said he finally heard from police after frantic calls for information and seeing images of his grandparent’s home in the rural town of Portapique burned to the ground, with their cars in the driveway. It was not immediately clear, however, if the remains police said had been found Tuesday included those of his grandparents.

By Nicole Gaouette, Marshall Cohen and Michael Conte, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin appear to have had more sustained contact with each other in the past two weeks than at any time since 2016, as the Kremlin tries to use the coronavirus pandemic and close personal ties between the two leaders to normalize long-strained relations with Washington. The two leaders spoke on the phone at least four times over a two-week period, beginning March 30 and ending on Sunday, a record pace for publicly known phone calls between the leaders, according to a CNN tally. Official readouts of their conversations indicate the leaders discussed the coronavirus pandemic and a price war that destabilized the oil markets. The flurry of phone calls follow a Kremlin campaign urging US-Russia cooperation against the coronavirus that used news outlets Trump follows, said Andrew Weiss, a vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The calls have taken place as both Trump and Putin face domestic political challenges and offer the embattled leaders a way to claim wins. But analysts such as Weiss warn that Putin's outreach involves risks to the US.

'An end run'
"Reaching out to the United States ... is part of part of Putin's long-term plan to basically undermine the credibility of the United States as an important stalwart player in the global system, to undermine our alliances, and then to create as many lasting sources of tension between Donald Trump and his own national security team," Weiss told CNN. "The more that Russia succeeds in doing that, the less pressure Russia itself is likely to face from a unified western camp." Putin's appeal to Trump is meant to be an "end run around the US national security bureaucracy, the State Department, the Pentagon, the intelligence community," which are far more distrustful of Moscow than the President is, Weiss said. US-Russia relations have been complex since Trump became president. Though his relationship with Putin has been warm, Washington has slapped Moscow with tough sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine, interference in the 2016 election, other malicious cyber activities, human rights abuses, use of a chemical weapon, weapons proliferation, illicit trade with North Korea, and its support for Syria and Venezuela.

Yes, Africans are being evicted in China amid fear of second COVID-19 wave. Some Africans living in China are being evicted from their homes amid fears of a second wave of the coronavirus in the country where it originated. Social media posts about about the matter caught our attention, including this video shared on Facebook: "Africans living in China now being forced to sleep outside in the cold," reads the caption at the top. A narrator in the video states that "Africans have become subject of racial profiling" as "Chinese nationals blame them for the rising number of ner coronavirus cases in the country." The video, which carries a logo from The Savoy Show on it and appears to be a news story, was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) However, in this case, it is accurate. Africans in at least one Chinese city are facing widespread evictions and discrimination related to COVID-19 fears. Numerous legitimate news reports describe such targeted evictions, stemming from fears of another COVID-19 outbreak, in the southern China city of Guangzhou. Home to many Africans, Guangzhou has long been one of China’s main commercial and trading centers. One report cited a case in which a police officer accompanied a landlord on an eviction of an African. Black residents in a part of Guangzhou known as "Little Africa" are being forced to remain inside their apartments — even if they have not traveled anywhere that would warrant a quarantine — and submit to coronavirus tests, the Washington Post reported. Chinese officials say they are trying to prevent a second wave of the coronavirus, focusing on foreigners, according to Al Jazeera. President Xi Jinping urged authorities to carefully watch for imported cases from ​other countries, state news agency Xinhua reported. But China has denied racism in the effort. But the actions are widespread enough, according to the Associated Press, that African officials are confronting China over racist treatment of Africans, including Africans being ejected from hotels in the middle of the night.

BBC News

US State Department cables show that embassy officials were worried about biosecurity at a virus lab in Wuhan, China. The lab is in the same city where the coronavirus outbreak first came to the world's attention. And President Donald Trump has said the US government is looking into unverified reports that the virus escaped from a laboratory.

By Hannah Osborne

The coronavirus outbreak could have started as early as mid-September, and the Chinese city of Wuhan may not be where it began, a scientist looking at the origins of the disease has said. Geneticist Peter Forster, from the U.K.'s University of Cambridge, is leading a research project to understand the historical processes that led to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, they hope to identify the first person who got the virus and served as the source for the initial outbreak. By analyzing networks, they have so far been able to chart the spread of the virus, including the genetic mutations, as it moved from China to Australia, Europe and the rest of the world. They have created a network analysis using over 1,000 coronavirus genomes. This includes patient infection date and the "type" of virus the person was infected with. There are three types—A, B and C. A is closest to the coronavirus found in bats and is thought to be the original human virus genome. This type was found in Chinese and American individuals, with mutated versions in patients from Australia and the U.S. However, A was not the virus type found in most cases in Wuhan, the city in China where COVID-19 was first identified. Instead, most people there had type B. Researchers suggest there was a "founder event" for type B in Wuhan. Type C, the "daughter" of type B, is what was identified in early cases in Europe, as well as South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong—but appears absent from mainland China. Based on the data Forster and his colleagues have collected, the coronavirus outbreak appears to have started between September 13 and December 7. "This assumes a constant mutation rate, which is admittedly unlikely to be the case, and the time estimate could therefore be wrong," he told Newsweek. "But it is the best assumption we can make at the moment, pending analysis of further patient samples stored in hospitals during 2019." He said it is possible the outbreak did not originate in Wuhan, as until January 17, almost all the isolates were type B. In Guangdong, a province about 500 miles from Wuhan, seven of the 11 isolates were type A. "These case numbers are small because few genomes are available for the early stage of the outbreak, before the Chinese New Year travel pre-January 25 would have started mixing patterns up geographically," Forster said. He and colleagues published research into their network in PNAS on April 8.

On April 14, the Chinese state-owned Global Times published an article headlined: “’No discrimination’ against Africans amid pandemic.”

“The controversy over suspected maltreatment and discrimination against Africans in Guangzhou has made headlines on Chinese social media platforms and caused many Chinese authorities, including the Guangzhou government, China's Foreign Ministry and Chinese embassies in African countries, to respond, reiterating China's firm stance to equally treat foreigners and domestic residents,” the article begins. The article quotes a “social worker who helps foreign residents in Guangzhou's Yuexiu district” denying discrimination against Africans in the city. “There's no such discrimination against the African community,” the anonymous social worker is quoted as saying. The portrayal of “no discrimination” is false. Guangzhou is one of China’s largest cities, with nearly 13 million residents. It is certainly possible that the unnamed social worker did not personally see evidence of discrimination against Africans in the district. However, African workers and students have given interviews, made videos, and taken photographs documenting numerous instances of behaviors that they believe amount to racial discrimination or harassment. African immigrants and expats began moving into Guangzhou in the 1990’s, as China began to experience an economic boom. In 2000, the government launched an outreach campaign to African nations. The city attracted many African entrepreneurs, and by 2012 its African expatriate community was estimated at 100,000, the largest of its kind in China. However, CNN reported in 2016 that thousands of Africans were starting to leave the city. While the reasons cited were primarily economic, racism from locals was also mentioned. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, African expats and students have reported being evicted from their apartments by landlords, banned from restaurants and forced to undergo COVID-19 testing regardless of their travel history. U.S. news outlets like CNN and the Voice of America, as well as African media outlets, have reported on these incidents.

SINGAPORE - A Chinese study has suggested that air-conditioning may help spread the coronavirus. The study, published on the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and approved by the Ethics Committee of the Guangzhou Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at 10 coronavirus cases from three families who ate at a restaurant at the same time in Guangzhou, China. It found that droplet transmission may have been propelled by the restaurant's air-conditioning across three tables, infecting other diners. The index patient arrived from Wuhan in late January and dined at the restaurant with three family members. There were two other families at adjacent tables less than a metre away. Later that day, the index patient developed a fever and cough, and went to the hospital where he tested positive. By early February, a total of nine others from the three families became ill with the virus. The only known source of exposure among the three families was the index patient at the restaurant. The study determined that the coronavirus was transmitted to one member of each of the other two families at the restaurant, and that further infections resulted from intra-family transmission. The windowless restaurant had an air-conditioning vent on one side of the room, and a vent on the other. The three families dined in the restaurant for around an hour in close proximity. Among the 83 customers that day, 10 became ill with Covid-19; the other 73 were identified as close contacts and quarantined for 14 days. During that time, both the air-conditioner and the quarantined customers tested negative for coronavirus. The study found that virus transmission in this outbreak could not be explained by droplet transmission alone. "Larger respiratory droplets remain in the air for only a short time and travel only short distances, generally. The distances between the index patient and persons at other tables were all less than 1m."

By Christina Maxouris, CNN Business

(CNN Business) President Donald Trump's decision to withhold funding to the World Health Organization pending a review of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic is "as dangerous as it sounds," Bill Gates said Wednesday. "Their work is slowing the spread of Covid-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever," the Microsoft founder and philanthropist said in a tweet. The WHO declared coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern in late January and a week later, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged up to $100 million to help contain the outbreak. Those funds, the foundation said, would be used to help find a vaccine for the virus, limit its spread and improve detection and treatment. About $20 million was directed toward groups including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and WHO. It's not the first time the couple has directed funds toward public health causes. In 2009, they worked to combat a tuberculosis outbreak in China and a year later committed as much as $10 billion to vaccine research. Bill Gates, who since March cautioned about the effects of delayed social distancing measures, urged the United States to implement a country-wide shutdown, saying a state-by-state strategy wouldn't work as effectively. He predicted the number of coronavirus cases will peak in late April.

Trump's decision to halt WHO funding
Trump said Tuesday a review of the WHO will cover its "role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus," he said. "Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China's lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death," Trump said. In response to criticism by the president last week, the head of the WHO outlined a timeline of the organization's actions in response to the pandemic, saying in a statement, "please don't politicize the virus."

By Jeff Mason, Paulina Duran

WASHINGTON/SYDNEY (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to halt funding to the World Health Organization over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic prompted condemnation on Wednesday from world leaders who appealed for cooperation and unity. Trump, who has reacted angrily to accusations his administration’s response to the worst epidemic in a century was haphazard and too slow, had become increasingly hostile towards the U.N. agency before announcing the halt on Tuesday. The WHO, which is based in Geneva, had promoted China’s “disinformation” about the virus that likely led to a wider outbreak than otherwise would have occurred, Trump said. WHO had failed to investigate credible reports from sources in China’s Wuhan province, where the virus was first identified in December, that conflicted with Beijing’s accounts about the spread and “parroted and publicly endorsed” the idea that human to human transmission was not happening, Trump said. “The WHO failed in this basic duty and must be held accountable,” Trump told a White House news conference on Tuesday.

AFP USA Facebook Twitter Email Published on Monday 13 April 2020 At 10:10

Facebook posts shared thousands of times claim a photo shows Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden kissing a child, criticizing him for doing so. This is false; the man pictured is Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. While some people commented that the photo does not show Biden, a former US vice president, others did not. A video tweeted by Lopez Obrador’s official account on March 14 makes clear that he is pictured in the image.

By Joshua Bote - USA TODAY

McDonald's has come under scrutiny after one branch in China posted a sign prohibiting black people from entering its premises. The sign, which was posted in a McDonald's in the city of Guangzhou and went viral on social media, was removed and the restaurant temporarily shut down, a representative from McDonald's told USA TODAY in a statement. "We've been informed that from now on black people are not allowed to enter the restaurant," the sign read. "Please understand the inconvenience caused." The message on the sign, the statement said, is "not representative of our inclusive values." McDonald's also said the branch’s employees and managers will undergo "values" training.

Analysis by Nathan Hodge, CNN

(CNN) World leaders have been working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, and Vladimir Putin is no exception: On Monday, the Russian President held a videoconference from his official residence outside Moscow with some of the officials leading the government's efforts to tackle the disease. It was an unusually somber meeting. Less than a month ago, Putin had radiated confidence about his government's response to a growing global crisis, reassuring his citizens that the situation was "under control" thanks to early intervention measures. A few weeks later, Putin played the role of international rescuer, dispatching a planeload of medical supplies to New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. How quickly things can change in the time of coronavirus. In his Monday videoconference, Putin took stock of a worsening situation. "We have a lot of problems," Putin said. "There is nothing to boast about, and we must not let our guard down, because in general, as you and your specialists say, we have not passed the peak of the epidemic yet." The trendline speaks for itself. While Russia has comparatively few cases compared with the United States or the hardest-hit European countries, the number of confirmed cases has surged in recent days. On Monday, Russia reported a record one-day rise in cases, with 2,558 confirmed over the previous 24 hours. On Tuesday, Russia hit a fresh record: 2,774 confirmed cases. And Putin is coming in for serious criticism over his handling of the crisis. In a recent essay, Tatiana Stanovaya of the Carnegie Moscow Center said the coronavirus pandemic had underscored Putin's isolation from ordinary Russians. "One of the main topics today is why Putin is almost imperceptible in the coronavirus situation," she wrote. "He only addressed the nation briefly twice and went to the [coronavirus] hospital in Kommunarka, but he neither gave his own assessments of the crisis nor proposed a plan of action, but limited himself to scattered measures and general words. No drama, empathy or attempts to mobilize." Putin, Stanovaya argued, does not wish to be associated with harsh or unpopular measures, leaving such chores to local subordinates. In the case of the coronavirus, the task of rolling out some of the most heavy-handed restrictions has fallen to Sergey Sobyanin, the mayor of Moscow. The Russian capital has been the hardest hit by the virus. Officially, Russia has 21,102 cases, according to the government's official tracking website, and the death toll has reached 170. Around half of the country's recorded cases -- 11,513 -- are in Moscow, and 82 Muscovites have died. Sobyanin has taken the lead in enforcing lockdown measures, including the introduction of a controversial digital tracking system designed to keep residents indoors.

Move is likely to be part of attempt to control the narrative surrounding the pandemic
By  Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Emma Graham-Harrison and Lily Kuo

China is cracking down on publication of academic research about the origins of the novel coronavirus, in what is likely to be part of a wider attempt to control the narrative surrounding the pandemic, documents published online by Chinese universities appear to show. Two websites for leading Chinese universities appear to have recently published and then removed pages that reference a new policy requiring academic papers dealing with Covid-19 to undergo extra vetting before they are submitted for publication. Research on the origins of the virus is particularly sensitive and subject to checks by government officials, the notices posted on the websites of Fudan University and the China University of Geosciences (Wuhan) said. Both the deleted pages were accessed from online caches. Prof Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, said the Chinese government had had a heavy focus on how the evolution and management of the virus is perceived since the early days of the outbreak. “In terms of priority, controlling the narrative is more important than the public health or the economic fallout,” he said. “It doesn’t mean the economy and public health aren’t important. But the narrative is paramount.” With the virus having infected more than a million people worldwide and caused heavy casualties particularly across Europe and the US, details about its origin and the first weeks of the pandemic – when there was a cover-up by local officials – may be considered particularly sensitive. “If these documents are authentic it would suggest the government really wants to control the narrative about the origins of Covid-19 very tightly,” said Tsang of the reports of new regulations. China University of Geosciences (Wuhan) appears to have published and then deleted new requirements that academic papers dealing with the origins of the virus be approved by China’s ministry of science and technology before publication. The university’s academic committee was expected to first go through the research “with an emphasis on checking the accuracy of the thesis, as well as whether it is suitable for publication,” the regulation said. “When the checks have been completed, the school should report to the Ministry of Science and Technology [MOST], and it should only be published after it has [also] been checked by MOST,” it said. Despite its name, the geosciences university announced elsewhere on its website that it was carrying out coronavirus research.

By Daniel Politi

The World Health Organization said it is investigating reports out of South Korea that some patients who had recovered from the coronavirus tested positive again after initially testing negative for COVID-19. On Friday, South Korea officials said 91 patients who were thought to have recovered from the coronavirus tested positive again. Health officials in South Korea are speculating that these may be cases in which the virus was reactivated rather than people having been infected again. “While we are putting more weight on reactivation as the possible cause, we are conducting a comprehensive study on this,” said Jeong Eun-kyeong, director-general of Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “There have been many cases when a patient during treatment will test negative one day and positive another.”  The WHO said it was aware of the reports and wanted more information to try to figure out what they mean. “We are aware of these reports of individuals who have tested negative for COVID-19 using PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing and then after some days testing positive again,” the WHO said in a statement. “We are closely liaising with our clinical experts and working hard to get more information on those individual cases. It is important to make sure that when samples are collected for testing on suspected patients, procedures are followed properly.” According to the WHO guidelines, a COVID-19 patient can be discharged from the hospital after testing negative for the coronavirus in two separate tests given at least 24 hours apart. Some experts say that the key may be whether the patients have symptoms. “If you don’t have symptoms but have a positive test, it may be that you have dead virus that’s still being picked up, but you can’t transmit,” ABC medical contributor and infectious diseases physician Todd Ellerin said.

A Daily Beast investigation reveals dozens of Russian accounts pushing disinformation on everything from Joe Biden to the origin of the novel coronavirus.
By Adam Rawnsley

Suspected Russian government trolls are trying to pin the COVID-19 pandemic on the Pentagon; hyping Rudy Giuliani’s conspiracy theories about collusion between Democrats and Ukraine; and trying to meddle in European elections, an investigation by The Daily Beast reveals. Working with researchers from the disinformation-tracking firm Graphika, The Daily Beast found at least 20 fake news articles pushed by over 40 suspected Kremlin-backed personas across dozens of social media networks like Facebook, Reddit, Medium, and smaller web forums. “This looks like a Russian disinformation operation we call ‘Secondary Infektion’ that's been running for years,” said Ben Nimmo, director of investigations at Graphika, who has been investigating the operation since Facebook exposed a first set of accounts in May 2019. “It uses blogging platforms as the soft underbelly of the internet, planting false stories based on forged documents or leaks that never happened. The fakes mostly appear designed to trigger tensions between European countries, or between Europe and the United States, but they were generally too clumsy to be believed.” Nimmo and other disinformation researchers first identified the Secondary Infektion campaign in 2019, which uses forgeries and fake articles to push Moscow-friendly propaganda through fictional personas. The troll personas and articles identified by The Daily Beast followed the same Secondary Infektion pattern identified by Graphika and others. Trolls would set up one-time-use accounts at a handful of outlets in specific places—from obscure forums like the DebatePolitics and DefendingTheTruth to larger platforms like Medium and Reddit—and post articles and forgeries in broken English just minutes after creating their accounts. The cluster of personas and articles identified by The Daily Beast date back through 2016. They add to a growing body of evidence that shows Russian information operations didn’t stop after Moscow’s interference in the last presidential campaign, but rather continued on, spreading to other countries. The trolls in this campaign forged letters and screenshots in an attempt to meddle in elections in Sweden and Latvia, touted Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine conspiracy theories, and tried to sow confusion about a former suspect in the leak of NSA hacking tools.

Pinning COVID-19 on the Pentagon
As COVID-19 ravaged China and began to spread around the globe, the State Department issued cryptic warnings in February and March that Russia was trying to pin the virus on the U.S. both through its overt and covert propaganda organs. In one February briefing, Assistant Secretary of State Philip Reeker called out the propaganda campaign in vague terms and claimed that Moscow was "once again choosing to threaten public safety by distracting from the global health response" with a COVID-19 disinformation campaign. American diplomats offered no specifics, but just a few days before Reeker’s briefing, a fake story bearing the hallmarks of Secondary Infektion trolls surfaced in Russian-language blogging platforms. The story, posted to Russian-language blogs and Reddit by multiple fake personas, tries to pin the blame on the COVID-19 outbreak on the U.S. and Kazakhstan by casting the virus as the byproduct of a U.S. nonproliferation program in the country. The trolls pointed to social media posts by a group of hackers calling themselves “Anonymous Kazakhstan.”

By Emma Reynolds and Luke McGee

(CNN) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's condition "continues to improve" after his third night in intensive care with the coronavirus, his official spokesman said Thursday. Johnson was continuing to receive "standard oxygen treatment" and thanked health staff for their brilliant care, the spokesman said.
"(Johnson) had a good night and continues to improve," the spokesman added. "He's in good spirits." Rishi Sunak, the UK's top finance minister, said at the daily Downing Street press briefing Wednesday that Johnson was "sitting up in bed and engaging positively with the clinical team." Sunak added: "The news about the Prime Minister reminds us how indiscriminate this virus is."

By Scott Neuman

Russian officials on Thursday reported 1,459 new cases of the novel coronavirus in a single day, a record for the country, which has now surpassed 10,000 cases. The national coronavirus crisis response center said the death toll for the day had risen by 13. In total, 76 people have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, according to official tallies in Russia. In a televised address, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Thursday that he was ordering an extension of a national "non-working week," a measure designed to increase social distancing, until the end of the month, according to The Moscow Times. He also signed legislation making it a crime to break coronavirus quarantine rules, with a punishment of up to seven years in prison and a sentence of up to five years in prison for spreading false information about the novel coronavirus, the newspaper said. Putin said he would delegate decision-making to regional authorities because of the differences in infection rates throughout the country. That announcement appears to be aimed at quelling resentment over a one-size-fits-all approach to the pandemic that has occurred until now. The capital, Moscow, has borne the brunt of the outbreak, and it accounts for the vast majority of confirmed cases in Russia. Charles Maynes, reporting from Moscow for NPR earlier this week, noted that far-flung territories with few cases so far were falling under the same tight restrictions as Moscow and other cities with higher infection rates.

Secretary of State Pompeo said the report is part of a "large and growing body of evidence" the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons against its own people.
By Dan De Luce and Abigail Williams

WASHINGTON — The international chemical weapons watchdog said Wednesday that Syria's air force carried out three chemical weapons attacks using sarin and chlorine in March 2017 on the town of Latamneh, including a strike on a hospital. The findings were issued by a new investigative team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, and were based on interviews with witnesses, samples from the sites, laboratory results, and analyses of munition remnants and other information, the report said. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the report, saying it represented "the latest in a large and growing body of evidence that the Assad regime uses chemical weapons attacks in Syria as part of a deliberate campaign of violence against the Syrian people." "The United States shares the OPCW's conclusions and assesses that the Syrian regime retains sufficient chemicals — specifically sarin and chlorine — and expertise from its traditional chemical weapons (CW) program to use sarin, to produce and deploy chlorine munitions, and to develop new CW," Pompeo said in a statement. The attacks carried out in March 2017 confirmed Syria's continued use of chemical weapons and showed an "utter disregard for human life," Pompeo said. The Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia and Iran in its civil war, has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons. But the detailed OPCW report said the authorities in Damascus refused to cooperate with the investigation despite repeated requests.

By Bill Chappell

Using the COVID-19 pandemic to score political points is dangerous and will only result in "many more body bags," World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday, less than a day after President Trump criticized the WHO and its relationship with China. Tedros also revealed he has received death threats in recent months. "Please don't politicize this virus," Tedros said in a briefing in Geneva, after he was asked about Trump's remarks. He later urged political leaders to "please quarantine politicizing COVID." "The focus of all political parties should be to save their people," Tedros said. He added that politicizing the virus only exploits differences at the national level. "If you want to be exploited and if you want to have many more body bags, then you [politicize the virus]," the WHO leader said. "If you don't want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it." The remarks came after Trump sharply criticized the WHO during a White House coronavirus task force briefing Tuesday night and suggested he might put a hold on U.S. funding — the largest single source of money for the health organization. Tedros did not refer to Trump by name as he stressed the importance of confronting COVID-19 as a common enemy. And he stated several times that he does not mind being targeted by personal attacks. Everyone's focus, he said, should remain on the coronavirus, not political or international rivalries.

By James Griffiths and Jackie Castillo, CNN

(CNN) Australian and New Zealand passengers will be evacuated from a stricken Antarctic cruise ship Thursday, after almost 60% of those on board tested positive for the coronavirus. The Greg Mortimer, a cruise liner operated by Australia's Aurora Expeditions, departed March 15 on a voyage to Antarctica and South Georgia. Since the beginning of April, however, the ship has been stuck off the coast of Uruguay, after authorities refused to allow passengers to disembark due to the risk of coronavirus. Of the 217 people on board, 128 passengers and crew have now tested positive for the virus. Six passengers requiring specialized care have been transferred to medical facilities in Montevideo -- a video posted online by the Uruguayan navy showed them being transferred from ship to ship wearing full protective gear. Passengers from Europe and America who have tested positive for coronavirus, however, will have to remain on board until they have a negative test result, after which they may be able to depart via Brazil, Aurora said. All passengers will be retested every two or three days, according to the company's website.  

A Saudi Arabian-led coalition fighting Houthi forces in Yemen has declared a ceasefire, according to officials. Sources told the BBC the ceasefire will come into effect on Thursday in support of UN efforts to end the five-year-old war. The coalition, backed by Western military powers, has been fighting against Houthi forces aligned to Iran since March 2015. It's unclear if the Houthi forces will also observe the ceasefire. Last month the UN Secretary General António Guterres called on those in Yemen to cease fighting and ramp up efforts to counter a potential outbreak of the coronavirus. He called on the parties in the country to work with his special envoy Martin Griffiths to achieve a nationwide de-escalation. On Wednesday, Mr Griffiths welcomes the ceasefire news in a statement. He said: "The parties must now utilise this opportunity and cease immediately all hostilities with the utmost urgency." Both sides are expected to take part in a video conference to discuss the ceasefire. The proposal calls for the halting of all air, ground and naval hostilities. A statement from the coalition forces said: "On the occasion of holding and succeeding the efforts of the UN envoy to Yemen and to alleviate the suffering of the brotherly Yemeni people and work to confront the corona pandemic and prevent it from spreading, the coalition announces a comprehensive ceasefire for a period of two weeks, starting on Thursday." The situation in Yemen has long been described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. The war has cost many civilian lives and left the country on the brink of collapse. The UN has brokered talks in the past, but this will be the first that the coalition has announced a countrywide ceasefire. Mohammed Abdulsalam, spokesman of the Houthi movement said his group had put forward a vision to the UN which includes an end to the war and to "the blockade" on Yemen.

‘Shouldn’t we be doing this study in Africa where there are no masks, no treatment, no intensive care, a little bit like we did in certain AIDS studies or with prostitutes?’ Dr. Jean-Paul Mira said.
By Wilson Wong

A French doctor apologized after suggesting that Africa should become a testing ground for a COVID-19 vaccine, remarks that sparked public outcry on social media. Jean-Paul Mira, head of the intensive care unit at the Cochin Hospital in Paris, made the comments in an interview that aired last week on the French television channel LCI with Camille Locht, the research director at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, Inserm. “If I could be provocative, shouldn’t we do this study in Africa where there are no masks, treatment, or intensive care, a little bit like we did in certain AIDS studies or with prostitutes?” Mira asked. “We tried things on prostitutes because they are highly exposed and do not protect themselves.” Locht responded in agreement: “You are right. We are thinking of a parallel study in Africa to use this same kind of approach with the BCG placebos,” referring to the tuberculosis vaccination that Inserm said appeared to protect children against infections, particularly respiratory diseases like COVID-19. Their comments triggered a deluge of outrage on social media, including from several leading soccer players in Africa. “Welcome to the West, where white people believe themselves to be so superior that racism and debility become commonplace,” Senegal striker Demba Ba said on Twitter.

by Dawn Kopecki, Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

President Donald Trump blamed the World Health Organization for getting “every aspect” of the coronavirus pandemic wrong and threatened to withhold funding from the international organization. “They did give us some pretty bad play calling ... with regard to us, they’re taking a lot of heat because they didn’t want the borders closed, they called it wrong. They really called, I would say, every aspect of it wrong,” Trump said at a White House press conference Tuesday. The WHO, the United Nations’ health agency, started sounding the alarm on the outbreak of a new coronavirus in Wuhan, China in mid-January, designating the COVID-19 pandemic as a global health emergency on Jan. 30 when there were just 8,200 cases in 18 countries across the world. The coronavirus has since wreaked havoc across the globe, spreading to more than 1.4 million people and killing more than 81,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. WHO officials declared the outbreak a pandemic on March 11, when there were just 121,000 global cases. In the U.S. alone, there are now more than 380,000 cases, according to Hopkins. “Take a look, go through step by step. They said there’s no big deal, there’s no big problem. There’s no nothing, and then ultimately when I closed it down, they said I made a mistake in closing it down and it turned out to be right,” Trump said, referring to travel restrictions he put in place on people flying to the U.S. from China on Jan. 31 when he declared it was a public health emergency in the U.S. While WHO officials have praised the U.S. response to the coronavirus, they’ve also been critical of some of Trump’s policies and practices surrounding it. They’ve urged people against calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” as Trump has done, saying that it could unintentionally lead to racial profiling.

By Amanda Woods

China has ended its more than 10-week-long lockdown of Wuhan — the city where the coronavirus is believed to have originated, and spread to 184 countries across the globe. As of Wednesday local time, the city’s 11 million residents are permitted to leave if they present a government-sanctioned phone app confirming they are healthy and have not recently been in contact with any infected individuals. The city celebrated the occasion with a light show on either side of the Yangtze river, with skyscrapers and bridges displaying animated images of health workers treating patients. One displayed the words “heroic city,” the title bestowed on Wuhan by Chinese president Xi Jinping. Residents waved flags along embankments and bridges, sang China’s national anthem and chanted “Wuhan, let’s go!” “I haven’t been outside for more than 70 days,” emotional resident Tong Zhengkun, who watched the display from a bridge told the AP. “Being indoors for so long drove me crazy.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved to intensive care in hospital after his coronavirus symptoms "worsened", Downing Street has said. A spokesman said he was moved on the advice of his medical team and was receiving "excellent care". Mr Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to deputise "where necessary", the spokesman added. The prime minister, 55, was admitted to hospital in London with "persistent symptoms" on Sunday evening. The Queen has been kept informed about Mr Johnson's health by No 10, according to Buckingham Palace. BBC political correspondent Chris Mason said the prime minister was given oxygen late on Monday afternoon, before being taken to intensive care. However, he has not been put on a ventilator. A No 10 statement read: "The prime minister has been under the care of doctors at St Thomas' Hospital, in London, after being admitted with persistent symptoms of coronavirus. "Over the course of [Monday] afternoon, the condition of the prime minister has worsened and, on the advice of his medical team, he has been moved to the intensive care unit at the hospital." It continued: "The PM is receiving excellent care, and thanks all NHS staff for their hard work and dedication."

By Rob Picheta, CNN

(CNN) A man has been arrested in Russia on suspicion of shooting and killing five people after asking them not to be so loud during the country's coronavirus lockdown. The man was arrested over the weekend after having an argument with neighbors while standing on the balcony of his apartment, the Russian Investigative Committee told state news agency TASS. The alleged incident took place in the village of Yelatma, in the Ryazan region of western Russia. As with most Russian regions, the area has imposed a stay-at-home order for residents as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic. "Police officers arrived at the scene promptly. A resident of that building born in 1988 was detained by police officers near that building where five bodies were found," the Interior Ministry's regional department told TASS on Sunday. "According to preliminary data, those were four men and one woman."

UN chief calls on governments to step up prosecution of abusers and set up emergency-warning systems in pharmacies.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of a "horrifying global surge" in domestic violence during the coronavirus crisis and urged governments to step up efforts to prevent violence against women. "We know lockdowns and quarantines are essential to suppressing COVID-19. But they can trap women with abusive partners," Guterres said in a video message posted on Twitter on Sunday. "For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest - in their own homes." In some countries, the number of women calling support services has doubled, healthcare providers and police are overwhelmed and understaffed, and local support groups are "paralysed" or short of funds, the UN chief said.

By Holly Ellyatt

There are tentative hopes in Europe that the coronavirus outbreak could be slowing, as the number of new infections and fatalities starts to slow down, according to data over the weekend. The figures are prompting European leaders to look for an exit strategy to national lockdowns, while urging the public to maintain discipline while the apparent recovery from the outbreak is in its infancy. Italy, the epicenter of Europe’s pandemic, reported its lowest daily COVID-19 death toll for more than two weeks on Sunday. The Civil Protection Agency said there had been a rise of 525 deaths from a day earlier — the smallest daily increase since March 19, Reuters noted. On Saturday, there had been a rise of 681 deaths, and the day before that, a rise of 766 deaths, so the numbers are going in the right direction. Italy has recorded 128,948 cases of the coronavirus to date, and 15,887 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, meaning it has the highest death toll in Europe. Rome has implemented some of the most draconian restrictions in the world, imposing a national lockdown on March 12, but there were hints Sunday that it could start to look for a way to ease the measures the near future. “The curve has started its descent and the number of deaths has started to drop,” Italy’s ISS national health institute Director Silvio Brusaferro told reporters. “If these data are confirmed (in the coming days), we will have to start thinking about Phase 2,” he said. However, he noted that there needed to be consistency in the slowdown in numbers. “It is a result that we have to achieve day after day,” he said.

By Emma Newburger

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to a hospital for tests Sunday, 10 days after contracting the coronavirus. A Downing Street spokesperson said it’s a “precautionary step” since the prime minister continues to have persistent symptoms of the virus. “The Prime Minister thanks NHS staff for all of their incredible hard work and urges the public to continue to follow the Government’s advice to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives,” the spokesperson said. Johnson, 55, is the first major governmental leader known to have contracted the disease. He had been self-isolating at in his flat next door to 10 Downing Street and was running a high temperature. He remains in charge of the government and is in contact with ministerial colleagues and officials. News of Johnson’s hospitalization followed a rare television address to the nation by Queen Elizabeth II, who urged citizens to confront the pandemic with resolve and unity.

The US has been accused of redirecting 200,000 Germany-bound masks for its own use, in a move condemned as "modern piracy".

The local government in Berlin said the shipment of US-made masks was "confiscated" in Bangkok. The FFP2 masks, which were ordered by Berlin's police force, did not reach their destination, it said. Andreas Geisel, Berlin's interior minister, said the masks were presumably diverted to the US. The US company that makes the masks, 3M, has been prohibited from exporting its medical products to other countries under a Korean-War-era law invoked by President Donald Trump. On Friday, Mr Trump said he was using the Defence Production Act to demand that US firms provide more medical supplies to meet domestic demand. "We need these items immediately for domestic use. We have to have them," Mr Trump said at the daily Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the White House. He said US authorities had taken custody of nearly 200,000 N95 respirators, 130,000 surgical masks and 600,000 gloves. He did not say where they were taken into US hands. Mr Geisel said the diversion of masks from Berlin amounted to an "act of modern piracy", urging the Trump administration to adhere to international trading rules. "This is not how you deal with transatlantic partners," the minister said. "Even in times of global crisis, there should be no wild-west methods."

A 'treasure hunt' for masks
Mr Geisel's comments echo the sentiments of other European officials, who have complained about the buying and diversion practices of the US. In France, for example, regional leaders say they are struggling to secure medical supplies as American buyers outbid them. The president of the Île-de-France region, Valérie Pécresse, compared the scramble for masks to a "treasure hunt".

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

(CNN) Perhaps half the world's population is living under some form of restriction to help curb the spread of coronavirus. Many are starting to wonder when and how these tough limits on everyday activities will end. Most experts agree that the only way out of a lockdown is testing. Reliable tests would allow people to know whether they have had the virus, and therefore enjoy at least a degree of immunity. They would give officials the ability to isolate new outbreaks when they emerge. But just how would people prove their status -- and just what rights would that status confer? These are big questions that countries around the world are grappling with. In the UK, Health Secretary Matt Hancock -- who has himself just emerged from self-isolation after testing positive for Covid-19 -- suggested that Britons who've had the virus might be issued with a certificate, which has already been dubbed an immunity passport. "We are looking at an immunity certificate, how people who've had the disease, have got the antibodies and therefore have immunity, can show that and get back as much as possible to normal life," he said. On the BBC later, he said it could take the form of a wristband. For many who have already lost their jobs or are desperate to return to work and keep businesses alive, the idea sounds like a godsend. But little is yet known about how feasible or reliable such a scheme would be -- not least because the evidence surrounding Covid-19 immunity is not clear. "It's too early in the science of the immunity that comes from having had the disease" to take any firm decisions now, Hancock said. Potential challenges include finding a reliable test to determine who has antibodies for the coronavirus, establishing the level of immunity conferred by previous infection and how long it lasts, and the capacity of overstretched health systems to carry out reliable, widespread antibody tests in the general population. Difficult social questions could also be thrown up. Could immunity passports create a kind of two-tier society, where those who have them can return to a more normal life while others remain locked down? The UK government has already been widely criticized this week over its limited coronavirus testing capacity for frontline health care workers and others, prompting skepticism about whether it could deliver a more ambitious program.

By Anthony Faiola and Ana Vanessa Herrero

The body was wrapped in a plastic tarp, swollen, already attracting flies. He had been a neighbor, a man Rosangelys Valdiviezo passed while walking home from work, though they’d never exchanged words. Now he lay in front of his home, one of an untold number of bodies cast out in the streets of Guayaquil, Ecuador, a sweltering South American city being ravaged by the novel coronavirus. Valdiviezo, a 30-year-old seafood worker, said the body had been out in the tropical heat for six days. “I am very afraid,” Valdiviezo, a Venezuelan migrant who moved to Guayaquil, said by telephone. “I’m terrified of dying so far from home.” Ecuador’s largest city, a commercial center of nearly 3 million, is emerging as the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak in Latin America. In local news accounts, videos shared on social media and telephone interviews, officials, aid workers and others in the poverty-stricken metropolis are reporting fly-covered bodies on sidewalks and corpses left inside homes for days. Ecuador confirmed its first case of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, on Feb. 29: A 71-year-old Ecuadoran woman who returned to Guayaquil from Spain on Valentine’s Day. Since then, the crisis in Guayaquil has ballooned, jumping to more than 2,200 cases, or roughly 70 percent of Ecuador’s total, far surpassing the numbers in Quito, the capital. The outbreak has struck faster than Guayaquil can cope. Hospitals were quickly overwhelmed. Mortuary workers couldn’t, or wouldn’t, collect the bodies — some dead from the virus, some apparently from other causes — from homes. With daytime temperatures topping 90 degrees in a city where many live with no air conditioning, some grieving families saw little option but to carry days-old corpses outside.

An international team, including Arizona State University researcher Gary Schwartz, have unearthed the earliest known skull of Homo erectus, the first of our ancestors to be nearly human-like in their anatomy and aspects of their behavior. Years of painstaking excavation at the fossil-rich site of Drimolen, nestled within the Cradle of Humankind (a UNESCO World Heritage site located just 40 kilometers or around 25 miles northwest of Johannesburg in South Africa), has resulted in the recovery of several new and important fossils. The skull, attributed to Homo erectus, is securely dated to be two million years old. Published this week in Science, the international team of nearly 30 scientists from five countries shared details of this skull — the most ancient fossil Homo erectus known — and other fossils from this site and discuss how these new finds are forcing us to rewrite a part of our species’ evolutionary history. The high-resolution dating of Drimolen’s fossil deposits demonstrates the age of the new skull to pre-date Homo erectus specimens from other sites within and outside of Africa by at least 100,000 to 200,000 years and thus confirms an African origin for the species. The skull, reconstructed from more than 150 separate fragments, is of an individual likely aged between three and six years old, giving scientists a rare glimpse into childhood growth and development in these early human ancestors. Additional fossils recovered from Drimolen belong to a different species — in fact, a different genus of ancient human altogether — the more heavily built, robust human ancestor Paranthropus robustus, known to also occur at several nearby cave sites preserving fossils of the same geological age. A third, distinctive species, Australopithecus sediba, is known from two-million-year old deposits of an ancient cave site virtually down the road from Drimolen.

By Sam Meredith

Oil producer group OPEC and its partners will reportedly hold an emergency virtual meeting on Monday, with all members of the energy alliance expected to take part in an effort to stabilize markets. It comes less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump told CNBC that he expected OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC leader Russia to take up to 15 million barrels of crude off the market. International benchmark Brent crude traded at $32.78 a barrel Friday morning, up over 9%, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) stood at $26.59, more than 5% higher. Brent settled up more than 21% on Thursday, registering its best day since contract inception in 1989, while WTI closed up over 24%, also marking its best-ever daily rally. It leaves both benchmarks on pace for their best week since January 2009, although, year-to-date, Brent and WTI are still down more than 54%. On Friday, Azerbaijan’s energy ministry said a virtual meeting between OPEC producers and non-OPEC partners, an alliance sometimes referred to as OPEC+, had been scheduled for April 6, according to the RIA news agency. OPEC was not immediately available to comment when contacted by CNBC Friday morning. ‘Nonsense’ Trump said via Twitter on Thursday that he expected OPEC+ to cut approximately 10 million barrels of oil, “which, if it happens, will be GREAT for the oil & gas industry!” Around 30 minutes after his first tweet, Trump then suggested the deal “could be as high” as 15 million barrels. This would be “great news for everyone!” he added. “Donald Trump’s tweet … It’s nonsense, really,” Patrick Armstrong, chief investment officer at Plurimi Investment Managers, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Friday. “There is no way that Russia and Saudi Arabia are going to cut production by 50%, which is the midpoint of the 10 to 15 million barrels per day he was talking about,” he added. The U.S. president claimed via Twitter on Thursday that he had spoken with “his friend,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who in turn had spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and he hoped they would both orchestrate an output cut. Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, told Interfax news agency on Thursday that the Russian leader did not speak with his Saudi counterpart, as Trump had claimed.

The health secretary, who just emerged from isolation after contracting the coronavirus, vowed that Britain would conduct 100,000 tests a day by the end of April, a tenfold increase.
By Mark Landler and Stephen Castle

LONDON — When Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to the British people from isolation on Wednesday, still suffering his own bout of the coronavirus, he said the key to overcoming the pandemic was more testing. “This is how we will unlock the coronavirus puzzle,” he said in a shaky, hand-held video. In fact, the British government came very late to the recognition that testing for the virus is a key part of fighting it, by helping to slow transmission. That failure has set off an outcry in the country. The government’s tardiness has left Britain with an undersupplied and poorly coordinated testing program that has reached only a fraction of the people tested in countries like Germany or South Korea. The shortfall has frustrated doctors and nurses, who often have not had access themselves to tests despite potential exposure to the virus and who cannot quickly determine if patients have it. It has angered public-health experts, who say Britain is squandering valuable time during the lockdown that it could be using to get a better fix on the spread of the virus in the population. Front-line doctors and nurses in the United States, where testing is now being ramped up, complained for weeks of similar deficiencies. In Britain, the testing gap has generated a flood of outraged headlines, even in newspapers normally cozy with Mr. Johnson’s Conservative government. “Virus testing plans in chaos,” said The Times of London. “Questions without answers,” declared The Daily Telegraph. “500,000 NHS Staff,” said The Daily Mail. “Only 2,000 Tested.”

By Rodrigo Orihuela, Rudy Ruitenberg and John Follain

The number of coronavirus deaths in Italy, Spain, France and Germany surpassed 31,000, with all four countries on almost complete lockdown as leaders struggle to bring the outbreak under control. Deaths mounted across the four European nations, which between them have almost 60% of total fatalities and more than a third of the global tally of 1 million confirmed cases. The grim figures give governments little leeway to ease restrictions in a human and economic crisis that is straining continental unity. While new infections slowed in Italy and intensive-care admissions declined in France, officials said it’s still too early to relax restrictions that have brought wide swathes of Europe to a halt. France’s death toll rose sharply on Thursday after data from some nursing homes were included for the first time. In a tentative sign of hope, Spain -- the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe alongside Italy -- reported the first decline in coronavirus deaths in four days on Friday. The number of new cases was also less than the previous day.

Speaking at the White House COVID-19 press briefing on Monday, March 30, U.S. President Donald Trump said many foreign countries were sending help for the coronavirus pandemic. He specifically mentioned China and Russia, without specifying whether assistance was purchased or a form of humanitarian aid. “Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things, medical equipment, which was very nice.” Trump’s announcement created a confusion, first because Russia had yet to send the plane when the U.S. president said it already had arrived. Secondly, Trump’s critics assumed the aid was a gift, providing President Vladimir Putin a propaganda victory. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov was the source of the misleading claim that the Russian supplies were of a “humanitarian nature.” Peskov said Putin offered to send humanitarian aid to the U.S. during a phone call with Trump on March 30, and that Trump “accepted the offer with gratitude.” While “some on the American side” did not support rapid implementation of the presidents’ agreement, the Kremlin expects the spirit of cooperation to be mutual, Peskov added. On Wednesday, April 1, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Twitter that Russia’s “largest cargo aircraft” was en route to the U.S. to “help save lives of American citizens.” The tweet used hashtag “RussiaHelps,” further suggesting a humanitarian gesture. But in a move that unsettled the narrative, the U.S. State Department issued a statement that the U.S. actually bought the supplies from Russia. “As a follow-up to the March 30 phone call between President Trump and President Putin, the United States has agreed to purchase needed medical supplies, including ventilators and personal protection equipment, from Russia, which were handed over to FEMA on April 1 in New York City,” the State Department said. The U.S. did not provide the details of the purchase, including the price and the content of supplies. (FEMA stands for the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, which responds to disasters like the pandemic.) On April 2, the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that the cargo was indeed not entirely humanitarian – and added a new wrinkle. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Garry Kasparov, the exiled Russian world chess champion and Putin critic, compared the Kremlin’s COVID-19 disinformation efforts to the Soviet regime’s cover-up of the Chernobyl disaster. “Putin’s coronavirus malpractice isn’t just the latest misery visited upon the Russian people; he also endangers the rest of the world. Remember the lessons of Chernobyl,” Kasparov wrote. Russia’s coronavirus aid to hard-hit Italy, dubbed “From Russia with Love,” came under criticism, after the Moscow Times and La Stampa newspapers reported that 80 percent of the supplies were “totally useless.”

BBC News

The UK government has set a target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day in England by the end of April.  Universities and private firms will be called in to help. The new target was announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.  It follows criticism that previous targets have not been reached.  One of Britain’s most eminent scientists, Sir Paul Nurse, has told the BBC that “the country wasn’t as well prepared as it should have been”.

By Chloe Taylor

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his administration are using the coronavirus crisis to spread conspiracy theories in a bid to “subvert the West” and create a new world order, a new report has alleged. In an article published Wednesday by The University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, it’s claimed Russia has been “churning out propaganda that blames the West for creating the virus.” The report’s author, Sergey Sukhankin, said the state was propagating disinformation and conspiracy theories via social media accounts, fake news outlets, state-controlled media, pseudo-scientists and Russians living in the West. The Kremlin has previously denied such claims. “Putin’s larger goal in spreading propaganda and conspiracy theories is to subvert the West,” Sukhankin said. “Russia seeks to seriously damage the solidarity among EU members and capitalize on any internal European weaknesses to promote broader conflicts. COVID-19 is seen as an ideal way for Russia to deal a powerful blow not only to the EU, but to inflict damage on the ties between Europe and its North American allies.”

By Doug Stanglin - USA TODAY

The world marked a grim milestone on Thursday, registering more than 1 million confirmed cases of the deadly coronavirus that has swept the globe in less than five months. But in reality that mark — 1,002,159 around 4 p.m. EDT — was crossed much earlier. That's because the number of official cases, compiled by Johns Hopkins' Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases website, are only those identified through testing. Cases not tested would include asymptomatic individuals; people who may have died of complications of the virus without anyone knowing it; and those whose symptoms were not serious enough to qualify for testing. "The million (cases) is clearly way under what the actual number will be because of all the issues of testing and all the people with mild symptoms that haven’t been tested," said Dr. Steven Corwin, president and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. He said the U.S. figures are especially underreported "because of the lag that we had getting testing underway and the ability to only test the sickest of patients to begin with." What is exponential growth? Coronavirus is spreading so quickly that our brains can't keep up. Experts explain why. That is an especially alarming reality because people with undetected cases unwittingly spread the virus, especially within families or if people mix in large, public gatherings. "Every infectious agent only goes as the hosts go," said Dr. Ogbonnaya Omenka, an assistant professor and public health specialist at Butler University's College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. "In essence, our social patterns are excellent indicators of how far and wide an outbreak would go, if they remain unchanged. This is why physical distancing has been put in place, to throw the virus off-balance, so to speak, by breaking its chain of transmission."

By Kevin Breuninger

The Chinese government has deliberately underreported the total number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the country, the U.S. intelligence community told the White House, a new report says. Bloomberg, citing three U.S. officials, reported Wednesday that the intelligence community said in a classified report that China’s public tally of COVID-19 infections and deaths is purposefully incomplete. The secret report concludes that China’s numbers are fake, two of the officials told Bloomberg. The White House received the report last week, according to the news outlet. China has reported 82,361 coronavirus cases, data from Johns Hopkins University shows. That number is about half of the total cases confirmed in the U.S., which has become the country with the highest number of reported infections in the world.

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan remains on the brink of a state of emergency as the rate of coronavirus infections continues to increase in the country, its top government spokesman said on Wednesday.

“The material presented by the public health authorities is weak, even embarrassing,” one professor who is critical of Sweden's strategy, said.
By Karolina Modig and Saphora Smith

STOCKHOLM — As the temperature passed 50 degrees in Stockholm last week, people congregated in parks unable to resist socializing during the first signs of spring in the Swedish capital. This country of 10 million has bucked the trend in Europe, where many countries have locked down their residents in an attempt to slow the coronavirus that has spread throughout the world at breakneck speed. The Swedish government has left it up to individuals to act responsibly and decide whether to stay home or not. Restrictions that are in place are far more liberal compared with those of the nation's neighbors. Public gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited but there are no restrictions on private meetings, meaning parties and corporate events can still go ahead. Libraries and swimming pools remain open. Standing at bars has been prohibited but restaurants are still able to offer table service. Students over 16 have been asked to study from home but kindergartens and elementary schools are still open. Rather than wide-ranging restrictions, the authorities have instead advised the public to practice social distancing and to work from home, where possible, and urged those over the age of 70 to self-isolate as a precaution. In other words, the country has staked its bets on people acting responsibly. “There are a few critical times in life when you must make sacrifices, not just for your own sake, but also for those around you, for your fellow human beings, and for our country. That time is now,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said earlier this month. The British government had pursued a similarly laissez-faire approach earlier in the crisis before drastically reversing course and ordering a countrywide lockdown March 23. Britain's about-turn has left Sweden increasingly isolated in its response to the coronavirus outbreak and has prompted some scientists to suggest the strategy is based on scant scientific evidence and is irresponsible in a pandemic that has already killed more than 35,000 people worldwide.

By Arshad Mohammed, Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held out the possibility on Tuesday that the United States may consider easing sanctions on Iran and other nations to help fight the coronavirus epidemic but gave no concrete sign it plans to do so. The comments reflected a shift in tone by the U.S. State Department, which has come under withering criticism for its hard line toward sanctions relief even in the face of a call by the U.N. secretary-general to ease U.S. economic penalties. Pompeo stressed that humanitarian supplies are exempt from sanctions Washington reimposed on Tehran after President Donald Trump abandoned Iran’s 2015 multilateral deal to limit its nuclear program. However, broader U.S. sanctions deter many firms from humanitarian trade with Iran, one of the nations hardest hit by the coronavirus epidemic. Asked if there might come a point at which Washington might reevaluate its stance on easing sanctions, Pompeo told reporters: “We evaluate all of our policies constantly, so the answer is - would we ever rethink? - Of course.” Asked about such relief on March 20, Pompeo simply said U.S. sanctions do not apply to medical and other humanitarian goods. Washington is pursuing a “maximum pressure” policy to try to force Tehran to curb its nuclear, missile and regional activities. Iran has accused the United States of “medical terror,” prompting Pompeo’s spokeswoman, Morgan Ortagus, on Monday to tweet: “Stop lying. ... It’s not the sanctions. It’s the regime.”

By Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran’s president said on Wednesday that, with the advent of the coronavirus, the United States had missed a historic opportunity to lift sanctions on his country, though the penalties had not hampered its fight against the infection. On Tuesday, U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the possibility that Washington might consider easing sanctions on Iran and other nations to help fight the epidemic, but gave no concrete sign it plans to do so. “The United States lost the best opportunity to lift sanctions,” Hassan Rouhani said in a televised cabinet meeting. “It was a great opportunity for Americans to apologize ... and to lift the unjust and unfair sanctions on Iran.” The coronavirus has killed more than 3,000 people in Iran with confirmed infections close to 48,000, making it the worst-hit country in the Middle East and prompting China and the United Nations to urge the United States to ease sanctions. “Americans could have used this opportunity and told the Iranian nation that they are not against them,” Rouhani said. “Their hostility (toward Iranians) is obvious.” Friction between Tehran and Washington has increased since 2018, when U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six nations and re-imposed sanctions, crippling Iran’s economy.

BBC News

The virus is thought to have originated in a seafood market in Wuhan that "conducted illegal transactions of wild animals". The city's 11 million residents have been shut off from the rest of the world since the middle of January, with roadblocks around the outskirts and drastic restrictions on daily life. But roads reopened to incoming traffic late on Friday, according to Reuters news agency.  And state media said the subway was open from Saturday and trains would be able to arrive at the city's 17 railway stations.

The plane will arrive today, after President Donald Trump accepted an offer by Russian President Vladimir Putin to send personal protective equipment and other gear.

Russia is sending a planeload of masks and other supplies to help the United States fight the coronavirus pandemic as the number of cases threatens to top 200,000 across the country. The plane will arrive today, after President Donald Trump accepted an offer on Monday by Russian President Vladimir Putin to send personal protective equipment and other gear, a senior administration official confirmed to POLITICO.

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