Papua New Guinea’s prime minister has been tested for Covid-19 after he was exposed to the virus by a customs agent.
Dickson Sorariba reports from Port Moresby:
James Marape is among a number of officials leading the country’s response to coronavirus who was tested. Their samples have been flown to the Australian city of Brisbane, with results expected by Friday afternoon.
The National Operations Centre, which is the country’s nerve centre for the fight against the spread of the virus, is under lockdown and surrounded by security. Staff have been instructed to self isolate at home. The functions of NOC have been moved to an alternative location.
On Friday the state of emergency controller, David Manning, issued new emergency directives to contain the virus. They include: an 8pm-6am curfew, a ban on all public gatherings and public transport, and an outright liquor ban.
The new orders cover the nation’s capital, Port Morseby and two neighbouring provinces, Central and Western. Western province, which shares the border with Indonesia, has recorded three cases among the traditional border crossers.
Singapore’s cramped migrant worker dorms hide Covid-19 surge risk
Singapore, praised for its gold standard approach to tracing coronavirus cases, is facing a surge in transmission linked to its cramped migrant workers’ dormitories, where thousands more infections are expected to emerge.
The health ministry reported 728 new cases on Thursday, the biggest rise in a single day, as medical teams raced to test and isolate workers living in vast dormitory blocks.
While Singapore has been lauded for its rapid and comprehensive approach to contract tracing, officials have been accused of overlooking the dormitories, where thousands of workers live in close quarters and between 12 and 20 men might share a single room.
In March the campaign group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) urged officials to make plans to protect workers, warning: “The risk of a new cluster among this group remains undeniable.” Authorities are resorting to moving men to multi-storey car parks, military camps and floating hotels in an attempt to reduce crowding.
Deaths pass 145,000
According to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, more than 145,000 people have now lost their lives in the coronavirus pandemic.
The sombre milestone comes as Wuhan’s prevention and control taskforce revised the death toll in Wuhan upwards by 50%, from 2,579 to 3,869.
The global case count passed 2.1 million on Friday, with 2,158,033 confirmed infections.
The ten countries with the highest number of confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins, are as follows:
- US: 667,225 (33,286 deaths)
- Spain: 184,948 (19,315 deaths)
- Italy: 168,941 (22,170 deaths)
- France: 147,091 (17,941 deaths)
- Germany: 137,698 (4,052 deaths)
- United Kingdom: 104,145 (13,759 deaths)
- China: 83,403 (4,636 deaths)
- Iran: 77,995 (4,869 deaths)
- Turkey: 74,193 (1,643 deaths)
- Belgium: 34,809 (4,857 deaths)
China economy shrinks for first time as Wuhan Covid-19 death toll is increased by 1,300
China’s economy shrank 6.8% in the three months of 2020, the country’s first such contraction on record and a stark sign of the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The news came as Chinese authorities revised the death toll in Wuhan, the hardest hit city and where the virus first emerged, up by 50%, to 3,869 from 2,579.
Citing the number of patients who had died at home before reaching hospital, as well as late and inaccurate reporting, the city’s task force on virus prevention and control said: “Every loss of life during the epidemic is not just a source of sorrow for their family, but for the city as well. We would like to send our sincere sympathies to the family members.”
The economic contraction, reported by China’s National Bureau of Statistics on Friday, comes after months of paralysis as the country went into lockdown to contain the virus, which emerged in central Hubei province in December. It has now infected more than 2 million people globally and killed more than 140,000.
Myanmar to release 25,000 prisoners amid virus fears
More than a quarter of Myanmar’s prison population is to be released, the president’s office announced Friday, as calls grow to ease pressure on overcrowded jails with coronavirus fears gripping the country.
The Southeast Asian nation grants an annual amnesty to thousands of prisoners to mark its April New Year holiday, but this is the largest ever recorded.
So far Myanmar has officially confirmed 85 cases of Covid-19, including four deaths, but experts fear the real number is many times more due to the low numbers tested.
The country is under a nationwide lockdown and there has been growing pressure to release inmates from what Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls “horribly overcrowded and unsanitary” jails.
The release would start immediately, a senior officer of the prison department in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw told AFP without giving further details.
- Global coronavirus cases pass 2.1 million. The total number of coronavirus cases across the world has reached at least 2,158,250, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of cases of coronavirus registered globally passed 1.5 million on 9 April. Deaths have passed 144,000.
- Wuhan death toll revised up 50%. Wuhan’s prevention and control taskforce have revised the death toll in Wuhan upwards by 50%, from 2,579 to 3,869. The updated figure comes after weeks of scepticism about the reported death toll, as other countries have seen fatalities reach more than 10,000.
- China’s GDP shrinks 6.8% in March quarter. China has reported its first ever quarterly contraction at 6.8%, its slowest pace on record. China’s economy has not recorded a contraction since 1992 when the country began publishing quarterly GDP data. In 2019, China already posted its slowest growth in almost 30 years.
- Human Rights Watch warns of “tremendous danger” of virus resurgence in China, due to Beijing’s censorship and suppression during the coronavirus outbreak.
- US president Donald Trump has issued guidelines for reopening the country, with three phases each dependent on states meeting certain criteria. Trump says states who meet Phase 1 criteria can reopen tomorrow (on Friday), and that 29 states will reopen “relatively soon”.
- IMF predicts zero growth in Latin America and the Caribbean for decade to 2025. The International Monetary Fund on Thursday said the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, combined with other problems in recent years, meant Latin America and the Caribbean would likely see “no growth” in the decade from 2015 to 2025.
- UN warns pandemic turning into a ‘child-rights crisis’. The social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic is potentially catastrophic for millions of children, according to a UN report launched Thursday. It said Covid-19 is turning into a broader child-rights crisis.
- The UK government announces lockdown extension for three weeks. The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Boris Johnson as he recovers from Covid-19, confirmed the extension following advice from the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies.
- India brings culpable homicide charges against Muslim seminary chief, for holding a gathering last month that authorities blame for a big jump in coronavirus infections, police said on Thursday.
- 5 million more Americans sign on as unemployed. The US labour department announced that another 5.24 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, making a total of 22.2 million since 14 March.
- New Zealand has recorded its lowest new coronavirus cases, with 8 people found to be infected after 4241 tests were conducted in a single day, including at a random testing station set up outside a supermarket in the resort town of Queenstown.
- Japan declares nationwide state of emergency. Japan has expanded its state of emergency to cover the entire country. A third Japanese cabinet official has also tested positive for the virus.
Quartz writes of the revised Wuhan figures:
Many people, including Wuhan residents, have long been skeptical of the city’s low official death toll. Evidence of government cover-ups is rife, from the silencing of initial whistleblowers to the revelation that state leaders hushed up the crisis for at least six crucial days, so distrust of official tallies runs deep. Extrapolating from their experiences of long lines at city hospitals and being turned away when seeking medical care, Wuhan residents have spoken openly about their belief that the real case count and the death toll must be higher than currently reported.
Here is some of our earlier reporting on Wuhan:
Wuhan death toll rises 50%
Wuhan’s prevention and control taskforce have revised the death toll in Wuhan upwards by 50%, from 2,579 to 3,869. The updated figure comes after weeks of scepticism about the reported death toll, as other countries have seen fatalities reach more than 10,000.
The agency said reasons for the change included adding the number of patients unable to reach hospitals, late, mistaken or double reporting, as well as difficulty linking information reported from private hospitals, temporary hospitals and other medical institutions that handled patients.
“Life and the people are paramount. Every loss of life during the epidemic is not just a source of sorrow for their family, but the city as well. We would like to send our sincere sympathies to the family members of those who died during the epidemic, as well as our comrades and medical staff who sacrificed their lives,” it said.
India has banned the use of video-conferencing app Zoom for government remote meetings, the government said Thursday, in the latest warning about the platform’s security,
The app has become the global go-to service for everything from education to exercise classes as millions stay home.
“This advisory states that the platform is not for use by government officers/officials for official purposes,” the Home Affairs Ministry said in a statement Thursday, referring to the guidelines it had issued Sunday. “Zoom is not a safe platform,” the statement said.
Last week Taiwan advised government agencies against using videoconferencing apps with security concerns, such as Zoom.
And Singapore on Tuesday allowed teachers to resume using Zoom after suspending it last week, when gatecrashers interrupted a class and made lewd comments.
Flights deporting Guatemalan migrants from the United States will again be temporarily suspended, Guatemala’s foreign ministry said on Thursday, after a mass infection of the new coronavirus was reported on a recent flight.
The Associated Press reported 44 of 76 Guatemalan migrants who arrived in the country on a US deportation flight on Monday subsequently tested positive for the highly contagious coronavirus that causes a respiratory illness.
When contacted by Reuters, the government did not immediately confirm the report, which cited an unnamed Guatemalan official.
A spokesman for the foreign ministry confirmed deportation flights have been temporarily suspended but gave no further details.
Later on Thursday, a spokesman for the presidency said Guatemala would test deportees again regardless of whether they had been tested before.
Deportation flights had only started again on Monday after a five-day suspension. The health ministry says that in total, five deportees have tested positive for the virus since March.
The IMF on Thursday approved nearly $1.4bn in emergency aid to Pakistan to help it weather the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Pakistan has recorded just over 100 deaths and 6,919 cases, but experts have voiced fear that the country of 215 million people could see a rapid and devastating increase due to its shortage of medical infrastructure and crowded cities.
Worried about hurting an already weak economy, Prime Minister Imran Khan has resisted a sweeping, nationwide lockdown but provinces have shuttered schools and companies.
The IMF said it was providing the $1.386 billion under a so-called rapid financing instrument, which addresses emergencies and does not subject a country to a full-fledged reform program that undergoes review.
Pakistan is a longtime recipient of help from the IMF and is already under a three-year, $6bn program that was approved last year.
Okamoto said Pakistan needed to recommit to its goals under the package once the crisis abates, including restoring its public finances and governance.
Podcast: The story of one care home hit by coronavirus
Julie Roche is a manager of a Buckinghamshire care home that usually has 45 residents. In the past few weeks she has lost 13 patients to Covid-19. She discusses the devastating impact this has had on families, staff and her remaining residents.
UN warns pandemic turning into a ‘child-rights crisis’
The social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic is potentially catastrophic for millions of children, according to a UN report launched Thursday.
It said Covid-19 is turning into a broader child-rights crisis, AP reports.
In a video statement, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pointed to almost all students out of school, family stress levels rising as communities face lock-downs, and reduced household income expected to force poor families to cut back on essential health and food expenditures, particularly affecting children.
Guterres said the global recession that is gathering pace as a result of the pandemic and the measures being taken to mitigate it could lead to hundreds of thousands additional child deaths in 2020. According to the report, this would effectively reverse the last two to three years of progress in reducing infant mortality within a single year.
The estimate of hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths came from a 2011 paper by three economists Sarah Baird, Jed Friedman, and Norbert Schady who investigated the impact of income shocks, like a recession, on infant mortality.
Trump’s ‘science based’ reopening strategy is still full of unanswered questions
On Thursday Donald Trump unveiled federal staggered guidelines for getting America back to business after the shutdown forced by the coronavirus pandemic. He had previously billed it as the most important decision of his presidency, but what he called “a science-based reopening” was messier and more ill-defined.
First, the good news. The 18-page document explicitly used the word “guidelines” – a far cry from the “total authority” he claimed earlier this week. It delegates authority to state governors and city mayors to weigh the risk-to-reward ratio of opening businesses, churches and schools, which is the way it should be. It also recognises the need to move gradually with baby steps, and the fact that America is vast – roughly the same size as Europe – with different needs in different places.
But there are plenty of ambiguities. The guidelines do not give a firm target date. Trump said some states could reopen “tomorrow” but declined to name them. The guidelines emphasise the need for testing but do not make clear how many tests will be enough, nor set out a national testing strategy. Yet testing and contact tracing have been key to the relative success of countries such as Germany and South Korea.
You can’t leave that lion there: big cats nap on road in South Africa amid lockdown
Lions and other wild animals have been taking advantage of the peace and quiet in South Africa’s vast Kruger national park as the country’s strict lockdown continues.
On Thursday, park ranger Richard Sowry took photographs of a pride of at least eight lions, including a few young cubs, snoozing on the tarmac just outside one of the park’s rest lodges.
Kruger media officer Isaac Phaala told the BBC the lions would normally be in the bushes but that they were “very smart and now they are enjoying the freedom of the park without us”.