China’s levels of some air pollutants have risen back to above last year’s levels after dropping when the government imposed strict lockdown measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study published on Monday.
The rebound was likely due to industrial activity, the researchers said, adding there were concerns that after months of unusually low pollution levels, a drive to kickstart economic activity was causing emissions to spike.
“There are early warning signs that China’s recovery from the Covid-19 crisis is reversing air quality gains,” the Helsinki-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), which produced the study, said.
Average levels of some air pollutants in China dropped in February to significantly below levels for the same period in 2019, as lockdown measures shuttered factories, curbed electricity demand and slashed transport use as swathes of the population stayed home.
But average levels of some pollutants have since rebounded, and were higher in the 30 days ended 8 May compared with the same period in 2019, CREA said in its analysis of data from 1,500 air quality monitoring stations in China.
This was true of nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and fine particulate matter, suggesting a rebound in industrial activity drove the trend, CREA said.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 2 to 174,355, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Monday.
The tally showed no further deaths due to the virus.
The reported death toll remained at 7,914.
Meanwhile football team Bayern Munich returned to action Sunday with a 2-0 win at Union Berlin as the restart of German soccer continued in empty stadiums.
Players shouts echoed off the rows of concrete terracing around Unions stadium, AP reports.
A Canadian aerobatics jet has crashed into a British Columbia neighbourhood during a flyover intended to boost morale during the Covid-19 pandemic, killing one crew member, seriously injuring another and setting a house on fire, AP reports.
Video appeared to show the crew of the Snowbirds’ plane ejecting during the crash on Sunday.
Debris was scattered across Kamloops, the neighbourhood near the airport 260 miles (418km) north-east of Vancouver. The Snowbirds are Canada’s equivalent of the US Air Force Thunderbirds or the UK’s Red Arrows.
In Australia, more than 150 Australian newsrooms have shut since January 2019 as Covid-19 deepens a media crisis.
The closure of BuzzFeed News in Australia may have grabbed the headlines last week but the digital startup is just one victim on a growing list of media casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Five editorial staff at BuzzFeed have lost their jobs, but across the country hundreds more have been stood down in an already fractured media landscape. It’s unclear how many will ever return to their posts.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s partner, everybody:
More from New Zealand now, with the full report on the country passing the population milestone of 5 million people:
It was a much-anticipated milestone likely hastened by Covid-19: New Zealand has reached a population of 5 million people, after citizens and residents rushed home when borders began to close due to the coronavirus pandemic.
New Zealand grew from four to five million in 17 years, the quickest rate of growth in the country’s modern history, according to the government agency Statistics New Zealand. Migration has been the chief driver for the population of the isolated island nation, which increased by half a million people in the past six years alone.
On 18 March, the government urged the 80,000 New Zealanders overseas to return home, adding that the window to travel was closing rapidly. People who are not citizens or residents of the country – or their immediate family – are not currently permitted to enter New Zealand under Covid-19 border controls.
Eleanor Ainge Roy
New Zealand braces for spike in child abuse reports as Covid-19 lockdown eases
As hundreds of thousands of children return to classrooms around New Zealand, welfare services are bracing themselves for a spike in reports of abuse and neglect after weeks of “invisible” lockdown.
The country entered lockdown on 25 March and emerged late last week. During lockdown reports of family violence to police dropped, and reports of concern to Oranga Tamariki, the country’s welfare agency for children, fell by around 40%.
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of child abuse and neglect in the OECD, and on average one infant is murdered every five weeks.
Oranga Tamariki’s chief executive, Gráinne Moss, told the Guardian that reports of harm always drop over the school holidays, because the “eyes and ears” that usually identify harm – education, social and health workers – aren’t around.
But the prolonged nature of lockdown and the added stress of job losses among already strained families was creating “a perfect storm”, Moss said, and rises in family violence overseas are likely to hold true in New Zealand too, though no local research has been conducted yet.
“Lockdown is a lot longer than the school holidays so we are right to be concerned that there is hidden, invisible harm occurring to children,” Moss said.
In the US, the Republican senator Ben Sasse’s attempt at humor during a speech for high school students has drawn strong criticism, the AP reports.
“Nobody knows exactly how we’re going to beat this thing, but you know what, we’re Americans, we’re Nebraskans, we’ve got grit and we’re going to beat this thing,” he said. “We will bring the economy back. We are going to beat the virus … We’re going to have to have a serious reckoning with the thugs in China who let this mess spiral out of control by lying about it,” he said.
Sasse also joked about psychologists: “Ninety-five per cent of all gainfully employed psychologists – and I’m serious, there are dozens of them that are gainfully employed – their job is really just to help people forget high school … If you’re headed to college, do not do not major in psychology. That part’s not a joke.”
Mexico on Sunday reported 49,219 cases of the coronavirus, 2,075 more than the previous day, as the country prepares to resume economic activities deemed essential.
Deaths from Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, increased by 132, to a total of 5,177. Mexico announced last week a plan to gradually resume economic activity that has been halted by the coronavirus, starting on 1 June.
On Friday, Mexico’s government said the automotive industry could exit the coronavirus lockdown before 1 June if companies had in place approved safety measures.
Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell told a news conference on Sunday that cases had started to stabilize over the past week in Mexico City and its metropolitan area, which has the highest level of infection in the country.
Authorities have said that the true number of cases could be up to nine times greater than the reported total because many of those infected likely did not go to the doctor, did not develop symptoms or were not properly diagnosed.
Mexico has seen a slightly higher death rate from the coronavirus than the global average so far because of the widespread presence of pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity, experts say.
Donald Trump has hit back at Barack Obama’s criticism of his administration’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, accusing the former US president of being “grossly incompetent” during his time in office.
It is rare for a former president to rebuke a successor, but Obama did so during an online speech to graduating university and high school students yesterday, although he did not name Trump in his comments.
“More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing. A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge,” Obama said during an online commencement address to graduates of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) on Saturday.
On Sunday, Trump said he had not seen Obama’s comments, but added: “Look, he was an incompetent president, that’s all I can say. Grossly incompetent.”
In the US, a Roman Catholic priest in the Detroit area has taken aim at his parishioners in a bid to maintain social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, using a squirt gun to shoot holy water.
Photos posted on social media by the St Ambrose Church show the Reverend Timothy Pelc shooting water into a car window as it stopped by the steps of the church. He wore a mask, face shield and rubber gloves as further precautions against spreading the coronavirus.
The photos of the priest at the church in Grosse Pointe Park were taken at Easter but have recently gone viral and have inspired memes online. One shows the 70-year-old priest amid the fires of hell directing the squirt gun at devil-like figures.
Japan’s economic growth falls into recession in the first quarter
Japan dived into its first recession since 2015, according to official data Monday, with the world’s third-largest economy contracting by 0.9% in the first quarter as it wrestles with the fallout from the coronavirus.
The Cabinet Office reported Monday a drop of 3.4% annual pace in seasonally adjusted real gross domestic product, or GDP, the total value of a nation’s goods and services, for the January-March period, compared to the previous quarter.
The annual pace gives what the rate would be when continued for a year. For just the quarter, the drop was 0.9%, AP reports. Exports dived 21.8%. Private residential investments slipped nearly 17%, and household consumption edged down 3.1%.
Analysts say things are expected to get worse, as the world’s third-largest economy undergoes its biggest challenge since the second world war.
Japan is in a technical recession, defined as two quarters straight of contraction, as its economy contracted 1.9% in October-December. It remained flat July-September, and eked out 0.5% growth for April-June, according to the latest numbers.
Japan is extremely vulnerable to the economic damage from the ongoing outbreak. It is dependent on trade with both China and theUS, the country where the pandemic began and the country where it has hit hardest. The manufacturers that are pillars of Japan’s economy, such as Toyota Motor Corp, have reported dismal financial results results.
Travel, tourism and trade with those countries and others have faded.
New Zealand’s population has grown to 5 million people as a result of the lockdown, with citizens returning home from living overseas, AAP reports.
New Zealand grew from four to five million in 17 years, the quickest rate of growth in the country’s modern history.
On Monday, Stats NZ released its quarterly estimate resident population figures which showed New Zealand notching the major milestone. As of 31 March, the South Pacific nation has 5,002,100 residents. In all likelihood, New Zealand has reached the figure because of the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has caused some unusual and unprecedented travel patterns,” Stats NZ senior demographer Kim Dunstan told AAP.
“We’ve had people that have been in New Zealand prolong their stay which has given some boost to migration.
“We’ve also had more New Zealand citizens returning from living overseas in recent months.
“And we’ve also had fewer citizens departing New Zealand to live overseas.
“The combined impact has seen an upswing in migration which has helped New Zealand reach that five million milestone.”
China reported seven new coronavirus cases for 17 May, up from five a day earlier, the country’s health authority said on Monday.
Of the new cases, four were imported from the Inner Mongolia province.
The country also reported 18 new asymptomatic cases on 17 May, versus 12 the day before.
Apple Inc will this week reopen more than 25 of its branded stores in the United States, a company spokesman said on Sunday, continuing a gradual process that has unlocked doors at nearly a fifth of its worldwide retail outlets, Reuters reports.
The iPhone maker in March shut all its stores outside of Greater China in response to the spread of the coronavirus. It started shutting its China stores in January and reopened them by mid-March.
“Our commitment is to reopen our stores when we are confident the environment is safe,” Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s head of retail, wrote on Sunday in a note on the company’s website.
The stores will impose social-distancing rules, limit occupancy and some will offer only curbside or storefront service, she said.
Last week, Apple reopened its first five stores in the United States, requiring customers and employees to undergo temperature checks and wear masks before entering the premises.
Apple has 510 stores worldwide and 271 in the United States. The website 9to5Mac reported that the company would reopen 10 of its stores in Italy beginning on Tuesday.