China sees zero local cases for second day; Olympic flame arrives in Japan. California issues ‘stay at home’ order; G7 to meet via video conference
China, Brazil’s top trading partner, has demanded an official apology after the son of President Jair Bolsonaro blamed the “Chinese dictatorship” for the coronavirus global pandemic.
Eduardo Bolsonaro accused China of misleading the world about the scale of the virus outbreak, comparing its management of the crisis with the soviet regime’s handling of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
“It’s China’s fault and freedom is the solution,” Eduardo, a federal lawmaker and strong advocate of his father’s policy of full political alignment with the US, said in a Twitter post.
China’s embassy in Brasilia responded that, during a recent trip to Miami, Eduardo Bolsonaro caught a “mental virus that is infecting the friendship between our people” and that he is imitating his “dear friends.” It was an allusion to Bolsonaro’s recent trip to the US, where he met his counterpart Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago. At least 16 members of the Brazilian delegation have since tested positive for coronavirus.
The spat threatens efforts by President Bolsonaro to warm up ties with China, a country he had repeatedly criticised during the campaign trail. China overtook the US as Brazil’s top trading partner a decade ago due to its vast appetite for raw materials such as iron and soybeans. Chinese companies also invest heavily in the Latin American nation, which is seeking international bidders for its plans to sell hundreds of billions of dollars of state assets.
On his personal Twitter account, China’s Ambassador to Brazil Yang Wanming demanded an apology and said Eduardo Bolsonaro lacks both common sense and a vision on global affairs. The Chinese embassy also shared a tweet, later deleted, calling the Bolsonaro family “poison” for Brazil, which prompted an angry reaction from Brazil Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo. In a statement, Araujo also demanded an apology from China, which didn’t happen.
Eduardo later said he had no intention of offending the Chinese people. Congress President David Alcolumbre, himself diagnosed with coronavirus, apologised to China in the name of the Brazilian parliament and said China’s management of the crisis sets an example to the world. Brazil’s agriculture caucus, comprised of over 300 lawmakers, said the country seeks to maintain the highest level of bilateral relations with China and that “isolated reactions don’t represent the nation’s sentiment.”
Earlier, Brazil decided to restrict entry of foreign visitors at land borders with Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Suriname and French Guiana due to the outbreak, the presidential chief of staff office said. The restriction will last for 15 days and will not apply to foreigners with permanent residence in Brazil, diplomats and international agency officials, as well as trucks transporting goods.
China sees zero local cases for second day
Mainland China has recorded no new coronavirus domestic infections for the second day in a row, and the lowest number of new deaths from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, in two months.
The National Health Commission said all 39 new infections, as of Thursday, had been imported from abroad. Three new fatalities were reported – the lowest since January 21, two days before China announced unprecedented measures to lock down Wuhan, where the outbreak was first reported.
Mainland China has reported 80,967 infections in total. In a grim milestone showing how the crisis has moved from Asia to Europe, China’s death toll, now at 3,248, was overtaken on Thursday by Italy, where more than 3,400 people have now died.
Olympic flame arrives in Japan
The flame for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics arrived on Friday at an air base in northeastern Japan in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Amid growing worries among athletes around the world that the quadrennial Summer Games might be at risk of postponement or cancellation, the Japanese leg of the torch relay, with the concept of “Hope Lights Our Way,” will begin next week and take the flame received from Greece all over the country.
But Olympic organisers had to downsize a ceremony to welcome the flame at the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force’s Matsushima base in Miyagi prefecture.
Global recession ‘a near certainty’: UN chief
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Thursday that a global recession “is a near certainty” and current national responses to the coronavirus pandemic “will not address the global scale and complexity of the crisis”.
“This is a moment that demands coordinated, decisive, and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies,” Guterres told reporters via video conference. “We are in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply.”
“A global recession – perhaps of record dimensions – is a near certainty,” he said.
The world’s wealthiest nations poured unprecedented aid into the traumatised global economy on Thursday as coronavirus cases ballooned in Europe even as they waned at the pandemic’s point of origin, China. So far there have been more than 200,000 infections and more than 9,000 deaths.
“Our world faces a common enemy. We are at war with a virus,” Guterres said. “I call on world leaders to come together and offer an urgent and coordinated response to this global crisis.”
California issues statewide ‘stay at home’ order
California’s governor on Thursday issued a statewide “stay at home order” directing residents to leave their homes only when necessary during the coronavirus pandemic.
Governor Gavin Newsom said that modelling has shown that 56 per cent of California residents were expected to contract Covid-19 over the next eight weeks, requiring nearly 20,000 more hospital beds than the state could currently provide.
Newsom earlier on Thursday asked President Donald Trump to send a US Navy hospital ship to the port of Los Angeles “immediately” as the state braces for the expected surge in the number of coronavirus cases. He said Los Angeles, as the nation’s second-largest city, would likely be “disproportionately impacted” by the pandemic in the coming weeks.
Trump turns attention to drugs and treatment
US President Donald Trump on Thursday focused attention on possible treatments for the new coronavirus on Thursday, citing potential use of a drug long used to treat malaria and some other approaches still in testing.
He announced moves to scale back pharmaceutical regulatory burdens to expedite the development of therapeutics and a vaccine for the disease.
Steven Hahn, head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), echoed the president’s commitment to provide regulatory flexibility, but emphasised that the repurposing of other drugs would still require a “large, pragmatic clinical trial”.
Trump and Hahn cited the malaria drug chloroquine, along with remdesivir, an experimental antiviral from Gilead Sciences, and possibly using plasma from survivors of Covid-19, the disease the new virus causes.
Those treatments are among several being tested that might ease symptoms but do not stop the virus from spreading.
G7 meeting to be held via video conference
Trump will cancel an in-person meeting of Group of 7 leaders at Camp David in June because of the coronavirus and will hold a video conference instead, the White House said on Thursday.
Trump held a video conference with the leaders of the world’s major industrialised countries earlier this week and plans to repeat that in April, May and June, when the physical meeting at the presidential retreat in Maryland was expected to take place.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who also serves as Trump’s G7 “sherpa,” has informed his counterparts about the move.
Spain closes all hotels
Spain has ordered all hotels in its territory to close to help stem the spread of coronavirus, under a new measure announced in the state official bulletin on Thursday.
The measure orders “the suspension of opening to the public of all hotels and similar lodgings, tourist accommodation and other short-term accommodation … situated on national territory,” the official notice said.
Spain is the country that has been fourth-hardest hit by Covid-19, with 767 deaths and 17,147 infections.
Cannes Film Festival postponed
The Cannes Film Festival will not take place as planned in May because of the coronavirus, its board said Thursday, with its directors looking at postponing it until late June.
While a slew of other major entertainment events including the Eurovision Song Contest have fallen victim to Covid-19, the world’s biggest film festival has been bullish about its chances of survival. Director Thierry Fremaux said last week that you “cannot look at May through the lens of March”.
But the Cannes board conceded on Thursday that in the light of the severity of the pandemic they were now looking at rescheduling the 12-day festival, which was due to start on May 12, until “the end of June-beginning of July”.
Queen urges Britons to ‘work as one’
Queen Elizabeth on Thursday said that “we all have a vitally important part to play” in battling the coronavirus crisis, in her first official message on the outbreak.
“I am reminded that our nation’s history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one, concentrating our combined efforts with a focus on the common goal,” she said in a statement issued by Buckingham Palace.
“I am certain we are up to that challenge. You can be assured that my family and I stand ready to play our part,” added the monarch, who has been moved to Windsor Castle outside London due to the outbreak.
Israel’s Netanyahu orders week-long curfew
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday announced a wide-reaching week-long curfew on citizens' movements in an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The measure is to be signed off by the government and take effect overnight.
“It is a mandatory requirement,” said the 70-year-old. “If anyone thinks I am exaggerating, they should look at the pictures from Spain and Italy. There, they're no longer taking care of the sick, but instead transporting their bodies in military vehicles.”
The emergency ordinances that are to be approved by the government stipulate that people can no longer leave their homes except to buy groceries or receive medical treatment, among others, he said.
Israel's Health Ministry says that more than 570 people are confirmed to have the coronavirus. However, there have not yet been any deaths.
Cirque du Soleil lays off all performers
Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group laid off all its performers on Thursday as social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic forced the Montreal-based circus company to cancel shows.
Earlier this month, the company had temporarily suspended its shows in Las Vegas, one of its prominent areas.
Cities and countries where the group performs have unanimously legislated the closure of public gatherings of more than 250 people, following government guidance, the company said.
“This decision is our only option,” Chief Executive Officer Daniel Lamarre said in a statement.
The circus group said a core support team will continue to work on tour plans and ticket sales for shows later this year and in 2021 and prepare for rehiring when productions resume.
Americans told not to travel overseas
The United States on Thursday warned against any international travel due to the coronavirus pandemic and advised citizens to come home if possible.
“In countries where commercial departure options remain available, US citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period,” the State Department said as it upgraded its travel advisory to the highest level.
“US citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel,” it said.
Netflix lowers streaming quality in Europe
Netflix has announced it will reduce its video streaming quality across Europe for 30 days to take pressure of internet providers as the coronavirus crisis forces millions of employees to stay home.
The market leader in streaming was responding to an appeal by EU Commissioner Thierry Breton, concerned with the impact an increase in Netflix streaming might have on the ability of employees to continue working online from home.
According to the company’s estimates, Netflix will cause 25 per cent less data traffic as a result of the move.
Prince of Monaco tests positive
Prince Albert II of Monaco has tested positive for the new coronavirus, the principality said in a statement on Thursday, adding there were “no concerns for his health”.
The titular head of the Mediterranean enclave is continuing to work from his private apartments at the royal palace, the statement said.
The announcement came three days after Monaco’s prime minister, Serge Telle, announced that he too had caught Covid-19.
Monaco has said all public spaces will be closed to the public starting at midnight on Saturday, including its emblematic casinos catering to the global jet-set, as it joins the ranks of nations locking down in a bid to stem the outbreak.
It said Wednesday that nine cases of infection had been detected since the first was announced on February 28.
Albert is head of the House of Grimaldi that rules Monaco, the world’s second-smallest country and a haven for the rich and famous because of its low taxes.
India’s Modi orders curfew
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday ordered the country’s 1.3 billion population to follow a one-day curfew to combat the coronavirus pandemic, and to “only get out of home if essential” in coming weeks.
Modi said in an address to the nation that the curfew would be on Sunday from 7am to 9pm and would test the country’s ability to take tough measures against what he called a growing crisis.
The measure would be “in the interest of the country to follow and prepare us for future challenges,” Modi said, adding that the government was taking steps to ensure there were no shortage of essential commodities.
India has reported 173 positive virus cases and four deaths.
Authorities earlier announced that all incoming international flights to India would be banned for one week starting Sunday. All citizens above 65 and children under 10 were advised to “remain at home”.