New Zealand’s foreign minister on Tuesday said the country has to stand up for itself after China warned its backing of Taiwan’s participation at the World Health Organization (WHO) could damage bilateral ties, Reuters reports.
Taiwan, with the strong support of the United States, has stepped up its lobbying to be allowed to take part as an observer at next week’s World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO’s decision-making body – a move which has angered China.
Taiwan is excluded from the WHO due to the objections of China, which views the island as one of its provinces.
Senior ministers in New Zealand last week said Taiwan should be allowed to join the WHO as an observer given its success in limiting the spread of the novel coronavirus, drawing China’s ire which asked the Pacific country to “stop making wrong statements”.
“We have got to stand up for ourselves,” Winston Peters, New Zealand’s foreign minister, said at a news conference when asked about China’s response to New Zealand’s position on Taiwan.
“And true friendship is based on equality. It’s based on the ability in this friendship to nevertheless disagree.”
Peters said he did not think the issue would harm diplomatic ties with China, which is New Zealand’s biggest trading partner.
Mexico’s health ministry confirmed 1,305 new cases of coronavirus infections on Monday, along with 108 additional deaths.
The new infections brought confirmed coronavirus cases to 36,327 and 3,573 deaths in total, according to the official tally.
The daily death toll has been falling since Thursday, when Mexico reported its highest one-day total since the start of the crisis, with 257 fatalities.
New York Times healthcare reporter Sheryl Stolberg:
Fauci to tell US senate reopening early risks “needless suffering and death”.
The New York Times reports that Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading US expert on infectious diseases and a key member of the White House coronavirus taskforce, will on Tuesday tell the US senate that reopening the economy early risks “needless suffering and death”.
The New York Times writes:
Dr. Fauci, who has emerged as the perhaps nation’s most respected voice during the coronavirus crisis, is one of four top government doctors scheduled to testify remotely at a high-profile hearing on Tuesday before the Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
It will be his first appearance before Congress since President Trump declared a national emergency in March, and a chance for him to address lawmakers and the public without President Trump by his side. In an email message to a reporter late Monday night, he laid out what he intends to tell senators.
The global pandemic has left millions of Indonesians struggling to make ends meet. Now the authorities are rolling out “rice ATMs” in a bid to ensure greater access for those in need to the essential Asian staple, Reuters reports.
Ten rice dispensaries in and around Jakarta are part of a government initiative to assist those worst affected by the coronavirus outbreak, which has caused millions to lose their jobs in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.
Stacked with kilos of good-quality rice and operated by magnetic cards, the tall automated teller machines look much like normal cashpoints, only that they pump out grain instead of banknotes.
Residents eligible for the rice ration include daily wage earners, the unemployed, those who do not own a house and people who live below the poverty line.
More than 14,000 Indonesians have contracted the coronavirus since early March, with 991 killed by the disease, the highest death toll in East Asia outside China.
Japanese Health Ministry to approve antigen coronavirus testing kits
The Japanese Health Ministry is set to approve antigen coronavirus testing kits on Wednesday, a ministry official said on Tuesday, in a move to boost the number of diagnostic tests available to battle the pandemic.
Fujirebio, a subsidiary of Japanese diagnostics and laboratory testing service provider Miraca Holdings, last month applied for government approval for Japan’s first antigen coronavirus testing kits.
New York City’s death toll may be 5,000 higher than official toll
New York City’s death toll from the coronavirus may be thousands of fatalities worse than the tally kept by the city and state, according to an analysis released Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Between 11 March and 2 May, about 24,000 more people died in the city than researchers would ordinarily expect during that time period, the report said.
Thats about 5,300 more deaths than were blamed on the coronavirus in official tallies during those weeks.
Some of those excess fatalities could be Covid-19 deaths that went uncounted because a person died at home, or without medical providers realising they were infected, the researchers at New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said.
It might also represent a ripple effect of the health crisis, they wrote. Public fear over contracting the virus and the enormous strain on hospitals might have led to delays in people seeking or receiving lifesaving care for unrelated conditions like heart disease or diabetes.
Get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan.
Here’s the video of that Obamagate exchange:
In other US news: Obamagate.
What started ‘Obamagate’?
On Friday, former US president Barack Obama expressed disquiet at the justice department dropping charges against Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired in early 2017 for lying about conversations with the Russian ambassador. On a recording obtained by Yahoo News, Obama warned that the “rule of law is at risk”. He also described Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as “an absolute chaotic disaster”:
So Trump took the moral high ground and kept a dignified silence?
Not quite. He spent Mother’s Day diving into the rightwing fever swamps and unleashing a barrage of tweets and retweets assailing his predecessor. One said simply “OBAMAGATE!” (the suffix “gate” is a frequently used play on the Watergate scandal that toppled President Richard Nixon).
Another linked to a post that declared, “Barack Hussain Obama is the first Ex-President to ever speak against his successor, which was long tradition of decorum and decency.” Trump added: “He got caught, OBAMAGATE!”
The reporter who confronted US President Donald Trump for directing comments about China at her has Tweeted about the incident, thanking the other reporters who made room for her to ask her question.
As my colleague Lauren Gambino reported, asked by CBS White House Correspondent Weijia Jiang why he is fixated on comparing the US’s testing capability with other countries as opposed to focusing on the lag that still exists in the US, Trump replied: “Maybe that’s a question you should ask China. Don’t ask me, ask China that question, OK?”
He then called on CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, who ceded the mic to Jiang so she could ask her follow-up. Jiang, who is Asian-American, replied to Trump: “Sir, why are you saying that to me, specifically, that I should ask China.”
“I’m telling you, I’m not saying it specifically to anybody. I’m saying it to anybody that would ask a nasty question like that,” he said.
Collins then tried to ask her question but Trump skipped her. He then refused to take any more questions and left the podium.
Trump was accused of racism over his press conference comments.
CNN’s influential chief media correspondent, Brian Stelter, said Trump’s actions had “racist overtones”, adding: “It’s racist to look at an Asian-American correspondent and say ‘ask China’; it’s part of a pattern from the president.”
In case you missed it, here is the full story from David Smith:
The death toll from the novel coronavirus among medical personnel in Mexico has reached 111, and the virus has infected between 8,500 and 15,000 hospital staffers, officials said Monday.
Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell said the dead included 66 doctors, 16 nurses and 29 other hospital staff, including support personnel, dentists and lab techs.
There are 8,544 confirmed COVID-19 cases among health professionals in Mexico, and another 6,747 suspected cases, many of which are awaiting test results.
The country’s total coronavirus case load has increased to 36,327 cases, with 3,573 deaths, though officials have acknowledged the true number is probably much higher. Some cities in Mexico have seen a lot of cases but are tapering off, AP reports.
Others like Mexico City appear to be at their peak. And still other cities have not seen many cases at all.
López-Gatell said the plan for a partial re-opening of Mexico expected later this week would be different in each region, noting it no longer makes sense to have a safe-distancing policy on a national level.
Mainland China confirmed just one new symptomatic case of coronavirus on 11 May, according to the National Health Commission, and no deaths.
The confirmed case was imported, and there was also a suspected case. There were no deaths.
There were 15 new asymptomatic cases.
China has a total of 84,010 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University figures, which are based on China’s official data, and 4,637 deaths.
China is no longer among the ten worst-affected countries worldwide in terms of infections.
The Mexican border city of Nogales, Sonora, has set up ‘sanitizing tunnels’ to disinfect people leaving the US through Nogales, Arizona. On the Mexican side of two major border crossings, drivers coming from Arizona must exit their vehicles and step into an inflatable tunnel that sprays them with a cleansing solution. The border city’s mayor has told Mexican news outlets that a majority of the people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in Nogales, Sonora, had recently returned from the US:
All mosques in Iran to reopen temporarily on Tuesday
All mosques in Iran will reopen temporarily on Tuesday, a further step in the government’s plans to ease restrictions that aimed to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, the official IRIB news agency reported.
The decision to reopen the mosques was made in consultation with the ministry of health, IRIB quoted Mohammad Qomi, the director of the Islamic Development Organization, as saying.
Qomi said later on Monday that mosques would only be open for three days commemorating specific nights for the holy month of Ramadan and it was unclear whether they would stay open, according to the Fars news agency.
Last Friday, prayer gatherings resumed in up to 180 Iranian cities and towns seen as being at low risk of coronavirus contagion after a two-month suspension, state media reported.
The move comes even though some parts of the country have seen a rise in infections. Tasnim news agency reported on Sunday that a county in southwestern Iran had been placed under lockdown. It also quoted the governor of Khuzestan province, where the county is located, as saying there had been a sharp rise in new cases across the province.
Schools will reopen next week, President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday, according to the official presidency website. Iran has already lifted a ban on inter-city trips and malls, with large shopping centres resuming activities.
Iran’s coronavirus deaths rose by 45 in the past 24 hours to 6,685, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said in a statement on state TV. It has 109,286 diagnosed cases.
‘Don’t ask me. Ask China’: Trump clashes with reporters then abruptly leaves press briefing
More now on that Trump presser earlier:
Trump has frequently been criticisied for adopting a particularly harsh or patronising tone at press conferences to women in general and women of colour in particular.
Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California tweeted: “Dear @realDonaldTrump: Asian Americans are Americans. Some of us served on active duty in the U.S. military. Some are on the frontlines fighting this pandemic as paramedics and health care workers. Some are reporters like @weijia. Stop dividing our nation.”
Earlier at the briefing, Trump claimed that the US’s testing capacity is “unmatched and unrivalled anywhere in the world, and it’s not even close”. More than 9m tests have now been performed, he said, and where three weeks ago roughly 150,000 per day were done, the total is now 300,000 per day and will go up.
Production of the world’s longest-running cartoon has been interrupted by the coronavirus, forcing the broadcast of re-runs for the first time in decades.
Sazae-san, a mainstay of the Japanese weekend that first aired in 1969, revolves around a typical Tokyo family consisting of Mrs Sazae, who lives with her parents, husband, son, brother and sister.
The 30-minute episodes broadcast on Sunday nights are very popular, and for many in Japan have come to denote the end of the weekend.
But the cartoon, recognised as the longest-running animated TV series by Guinness World Records, has been hampered by the outbreak of the virus, with animation dubbing halted to keep staff safe, broadcaster Fuji Television Network said.
“We will halt broadcast of new episodes of Sazae-san for the time being from May 17 and instead air re-runs,” it announced on Sunday.
The network said upcoming broadcasts would be episodes from two years ago, adding it would announce a date for the resumption of new episodes as soon as possible.
It is the first time the network has been forced to air re-runs since 1975, when the economic effects of an earlier oil crisis lingered.
Elon Musk announced on Twitter that Tesla would resume production at its northern California factory on Monday afternoon, in defiance of a local public health order designed to slow the spread of coronavirus.
“Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules,” the billionaire CEO tweeted. “I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”
Musk’s announcement followed a weekend of escalating threats by the entrepreneur against the county that is home to Tesla’s only car factory in the US, in the city of Fremont. On Saturday, Tesla sued Alameda county, alleging that the local public health order violated California’s constitution. Musk also threatened to move its headquarters and “future programs” to Texas or Nevada “immediately” and suggested that the company may not continue to “retain Fremont manufacturing at all”.
Easing restrictions to boost Australian economy by US$6bn a month
Once Australia removes most social distancing restrictions by July, its economy will be boosted by AU$9.4bn (US$6.15bn) each month, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will say on Tuesday in a speech updating lawmakers on his budget planning, Reuters reports.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last week social distancing restrictions imposed since March will be eased in a three-step process, as Canberra aims to remove most curbs by July and get nearly 1 million people back to work.
While the lockdown measures have successfully prevented local hospitals being swamped by coronavirus patients, they have taken a devastating toll on the economy.
Australia has recorded about 7,000 cases of coronavirus and 97 deaths from the virus. In a bid to stave-off a prolonged economic depression, Australia’s government and central bank pledged to inject A$320 billion into the country’s economy.
To fund the staggering fiscal package, Australia may have to borrow more than A$300 billion over the next 15 months - 15% of annual economic output, and Frydenberg will say a period of economic austerity will be needed in the future.
The bulk of the financial aid goes toward funding the government’s scheme to subsidise the wages of about 6 million locals that keeps them out of unemployment statistics.
But still about 10% of the country’s labour force is also expected to be without a job this year.
The government expects about 850,000 people will return to work once the third phase or relaxation on social distancing restrictions is implemented.
Let’s take a minute to check in with Olive and Mabel, shall we:
Hello and welcome to today’s global live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Helen Sullivan, and I’ll be with you for the next few hours.
Please do get in touch with questions, comments or news from your part of the world on Twitter @helenrsullivan.
After a tense interaction with reporters, President Trump ended a press conference on Monday, refusing to take any more questions and leaving the podium.
Asked by CBS White House Correspondent Weijia Jiang why he is fixated on comparing the US’s testing capability with other countries, Trump replied: “Maybe that’s a question you should ask China. Don’t ask me, ask China that question, OK?”
Jiang, who is Asian-American, asked Trump why he had said directed that comment at her, specifically, Trump said, “I’m telling you, I’m not saying it specifically to anybody. I’m saying it to anybody that would ask a nasty question like that.” Trump then cut off the CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins as she asked a question and walked away from the podium
Here is what else has happened in the last few hours:
- Global confirmed death toll exceeds 285,000. The number of people known to have died since the pandemic began has reached at least 285,445, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. They say at least 4,168,427 people are known to have been infected. The figures are likely to significantly underestimate the true scale of the pandemic.
- Trump declared victory over the “invisible enemy” as deaths surpassed 80,000 in the US.“We have met the moment and we have prevailed,” Trump, flanked by ventilators and testing supplies, said during a briefing in the White House Rose Garden on Monday. He later said he was referring to testing.
- Trump accused of racism over press conference comments. The president was criticised for telling an Asian-American journalist to direct her questions on the US’s epidemic to China, instead of to him. Trump insisted he would have answered the question the same way regardless of who had asked it. Trump refused to take further questions and abruptly ended the press conference. CNN’s influential chief media correspondent, Brian Stelter, said Trump’s actions had “racist overtones”, adding: “It’s racist to look at an Asian-American correspondent and say ‘ask China’; it’s part of a pattern from the president.”
- White House staff ordered to wear masks. The White House has directed staff working in the West Wing, where the daily operations of Donald Trump’s administration are carried out, to wear masks. With Trump’s valet and vice-president Mike Pence’s press secretary both testing positive for the virus last week, pressure is growing for the White House to take further steps in protecting the health of country’s 73-year-old president.
- The World Health Organization says “extreme vigilance” is needed as countries begin to exit lockdowns imposed to curb the virus’ spread. The warning comes after Germany reported an acceleration in new infections after easing its lockdown, and South Korea, another country that succeeded in limiting infections, saw a new outbreak in nightclubs.
- Boris Johnson denies reports his senior scientific and medical advisers were not consulted on the new messaging attached to his plan to ease the country’s lockdown as he set out the details in parliament. Amid muddled guidance from ministers on what the new rules actually allow, Johnson insists the public understands his government’s message.
- “No guarantee” of vaccine, UK’s PM says. There is no guarantee of a Covid-19 vaccine, says the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, but he adds that the UK is heavily involved in the work to develop one.
- Germany has reported an acceleration in new infections after taking early steps to ease its lockdown. South Korea, another country that succeeded in limiting infections, has seen a new outbreak in nightclubs.
- Putin eases Russia lockdown despite infection surge. The Russian president announces an easing of the nationwide lockdown, even as the country sees a record number of new infections.
- Men’s blood has higher levels of an enzyme used by the Sars-CoV-2 virus to infect cells, the results of a study published in the European Heart Journal show. Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is found in the heart, kidneys and other organs. It is thought to play a role in how the infection progresses into the lungs.
- Saudi-backed authorities in Yemen declared Aden an “infested” city as the number of cases there rose. The Aden-based national coronavirus committee announced 17 new cases, 10 of them in the southern port city. That raises the total count in areas under the Saudi-backed government’s control to 51, with eight deaths.
- Half a million more people could die from Aids-related illnesses in sub-Saharan Africa if efforts are not made to overcome interruptions to health services as a result of the pandemic, the World Health Organization warned. According to modelling, the disruption to health services could take Aids-related deaths in the next year back to 2008 levels, when it claimed 950,000 lives.
- The UK and WHO are to lead a global information campaign around the coronavirus pandemic. The “Stop the Spread” campaign, intended to counteract “incorrect and false information” about the virus, will appear across BBC World television channels, websites and apps from this month and throughout June.