Swedish P.M. Tells Country to Prepare for ‘Thousands’ of Deaths as Pressure Builds to Abandon Lax Coronavirus Response

Swedish P.M. Tells Country to Prepare for ‘Thousands’ of Deaths as Pressure Builds to Abandon Lax Coronavirus ResponseSweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven warned in an interview published over the weekend that the country could face “thousands” of coronavirus deaths, after the country’s minimal lockdown efforts have left grade schools, bars, restaurants, and parks open amid the pandemic.On Sunday, Sweden reported a total of 401 deaths so far from Covid-19, up 8 percent from Saturday and greater than the totals recorded in its three Nordic neighbors combined — all of which have stricter lockdowns in place. Sweden’s death toll per million inhabitants is 37, compared with 28 in Denmark, 12 in Norway, and 4.5 in Finland.New legislation is expected this week to introduce new emergency steps, such as shutting airports or train and bus stations, closing shops and restaurants, further limiting public gatherings from the current protocol of no gatherings over 50 people, or appropriating medical equipment, according to state broadcaster SVT.Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, has argued that Sweden is angling for “a slow spread of infection and that the health services are not overwhelmed,” in order to gradually allow the population to acquire immunity.Amid growing cases among the elderly — despite bans on visits to retirement homes — Tegnell denied that, as the head of the campaign against the virus, he bore any personal responsibility.“No, many people work on these issues. We all have a collective responsibility in society to protect the elderly,” he told newspaper Aftonbladet, adding that the situation was “very serious.”Lofven has so far sought to play down the role of government in shaping Sweden’s response.“We will never be able to legislate everything, we will never be able to ban all harmful actions,” the prime minister said last week. “We all as individuals must take our responsibility.”

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Asia virus latest: Japan proposes state of emergency, Singapore quarantines dorms

Asia virus latest: Japan proposes state of emergency, Singapore quarantines dormsJapan’s prime minister proposed a state of emergency for several major regions seeing a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, as well as a stimulus package worth $ 1 trillion to cushion the impact on the world’s third-biggest economy. The official declaration of the state of emergency would likely come as soon as Tuesday, Shinzo Abe told reporters, as the country grapples with a recent spike in coronavirus cases, especially in the capital Tokyo.

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U.S. Deaths Top 10,000; Possible Plateau in N.Y.: Virus Update

U.S. Deaths Top 10,000; Possible Plateau in N.Y.: Virus Update(Bloomberg) — More signs emerged that the crisis may be easing in some areas, sending stocks soaring. Italy, France, Germany and Spain reported lower numbers of new cases. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said deaths were showing indications of hitting a plateau. U.K. deaths slowed for a second day, even as they passed the grim milestone of 5,000. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was hospitalized Sunday after 10 days in isolation, was moved to an intensive-care unit.JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said he expects a major economic downturn and stress similar to the crisis that almost brought down the U.S. financial system in 2008.Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he’ll propose a state of emergency in some prefectures.Key Developments:Global cases top 1.3 million; deaths exceed 73,000: Johns HopkinsU.S. deaths surpass 10,000: Johns HopkinsTrump, Biden spoke by phone about the outbreakMilken Conference postponed a second time to OctoberDenmark, Austria began to relax measuresNew York state lockdown extended to April 29Denmark Joins Austria in Easing Curbs (4:38 p.m. NY)Denmark joined Austria in announcing a gradual relaxation of measures imposed to slow the coronavirus’s spread. The country will press ahead with a “cautious reopening” starting with kindergartens and primary schools on April 15 if the virus numbers remain stable, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said. The government will also start talks with business leaders on gradually moving employees back into offices.Austria said earlier that it would take its first steps toward restarting its economy. The two countries were among the first in Europe to shut down public life in response to the outbreak. Wisconsin Governor Delays Tuesday Primary (3:15 p.m. NY)Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers suspended in-person voting just hours before the state’s primary was scheduled to begin, though the order could be subject to a court challenge.Although 15 states and Puerto Rico have already postponed their primaries amid the coronavirus pandemic, Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature has rejected requests by Evers, a Democrat, to delay the state’s in-person voting on Tuesday.Evers’s executive order delays in-person voting until June 9 unless the legislature acts to change it.French Cases Leveling Off (1:50 p.m. NY)France reported a continued leveling-off of cases, signaling that confinement measures are starting to contain the crisis.The country had 3,912 new confirmed cases on Monday, fewer than it reported in five out of the past seven days, according to figures presented by Health Minister Olivier Veran. Deaths from the virus rose by 833 to 8,911, Veran said.“The pressure is still very great on hospitals, enormous — the confinement has to continue,” Veran said. Still, he said there was some reason for optimism. “We can see that the confinement has a palpable effect in France, we’re starting to feel it.”Read more hereWHO May Announce Move This Week to Accelerate Vaccine (1:30 p.m. NY)A new program to accelerate vaccine development and production may be announced this week, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing in Geneva.“The difficulty for governments right now is that lockdowns are proving effective in dampening the flames of the epidemic in those countries, but those lockdowns are also causing great economic hardship,” said Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s health emergencies program. Still, he said it would probably be “very inadvisable” to lift a lockdown completely all at once.“Once you raise the lockdown, you have to have an alternative method to suppress the virus — active case finding, testing, isolation, tracking of contacts and strong community education,” Ryan said.N.Y. Deaths May Signal Possible Plateau (1:10 p.m. NY)New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said deaths from the coronavirus pandemic were showing signs of hitting a plateau in the state that has become the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak.The challenge, he cautioned Monday, is to maintain the social distancing that has finally pointed New York toward a possible peak in fatalities. For a second day in a row, the percentage increase in the death toll was less than 10%, a turnabout from numbers about twice as large barely a week ago.The peak of the outbreak could fall on the earlier side of the state’s models showing that it could take anywhere from a week to 30 days for the situation to hit its worse.“I get that people are cooped up,” Cuomo said in his daily press briefing. “But, we get reckless, we change and we’re not compliant on social distancing, you’ll see those numbers go up again.”He doubled the fine for social-distancing violations to $ 1,000.Italy’s New Virus Infections Lowest in Almost Three Weeks (12:20 p.m. NY)Italy reported the lowest number of new coronavirus infections in nearly three weeks, prompting debate over how and when the country should start emerging from a nationwide lockdown.Civil protection authorities reported 3,599 new cases of the disease on Monday, compared with 4,316 a day earlier. Italy registered 636 new deaths linked to the virus, compared with 525 the day before. That brings the total number of fatalities to 16,523.Italy, once the epicenter for Europe, now has fewer cases than Spain and the U.S.California to Send Ventilators to National Stockpile (12:16 p.m. NY)California, which has yet to see its hospitals overrun by patients, plans to loan 500 state-owned ventilators to the national stockpile.“We’re aggressively preparing for a surge — but we can’t turn our backs on Americans whose lives depend on having a ventilator now,” Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement.With the New York area experiencing a supply shortage, other states are stepping in to assist. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said this weekend that Oregon offered to send 140 ventilators to his state.Merkel Says Too Soon to Ease Lockdown (11:43 a.m. NY)It’s too early for Germany to set a date for easing its lockdown, Chancellor Angela Merkel said, holding her first press conference since returning from 12 days of self-confinement after being exposed to Covid-19.She reiterated her support for the use of the European Stability Mechanism and the European Commission’s proposal for job protection, and said the continent will need a plan for reconstruction after the pandemic subsides.At least three tests showed she was free of the virus.Philippines Likely to Extend Lockdown (11:43 a.m. NY)Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he’s inclined to extend a lockdown of more than half the country’s population on its main island until April 30 to further stem the coronavirus outbreak.Duterte, in an address late Monday, also said he’s considering tweaking this year’s 4.1 trillion-peso ($ 80.8 billion) budget to allocate more funds to virus response, as some 200 billion pesos set aside for cash grants to poor families won’t be enough.Israel Cuts Rates for First Time Since 2015 (9:33 a.m. NY)The Bank of Israel shifted course by cutting interest rates and adding new market-based tools. After playing down the potential for cheaper borrowing costs, the monetary committee on Monday reduced the key rate back down to the all-time low of 0.1% from 0.25%.Hong Kong Extends Ban on Nonresident Entry (9:22 a.m. NY)The city’s airport will also continue to halt all transit services until further notice, according to a government statement. The original rules were set to expire by April 7.Germany Plans ‘Limitless’ Aid Program for Small Companies (8:44 a.m. NY)German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government announced a new “limitless” aid program for small- and medium-sized companies. The program for loan guarantees is the latest measure introduced by the government, which says Europe’s largest economy might contract even more this year than the 5% drop caused by the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.Inovio Begins Phase 1 Human Trial of Vaccine (8:41 a.m. NY)Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. began a phase 1 human trial of its Covid-19 vaccine, INO-4800. Animal studies show promising immune responses, the company said.Glaxo to Develop Covid-19 Drugs in $ 250 Million Partnership (8:14 a.m.)U.K. pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline Plc is joining dozens of companies in the hunt for therapies to treat the illness caused by the coronavirus, signing a partnership with Vir Biotechnology Inc. and agreeing to invest $ 250 million in the U.S. company.South Africa’s Economy May Shrink as Much as 4%, Central Bank Says (8:09 a.m. NY)South Africa’s economy could contract by 2% to 4% this year due to the coronavirus pandemic and measures to curb its spread, according to the Reserve Bank. The monetary policy committee projected in March that the economy will contract by 0.2%.U.K. PM Johnson Had ‘Comfortable Night’ and Is in ‘Good Spirits’ (8:07 a.m. NY)Prime Minister Johnson is in “good spirits” after spending a “comfortable” night in St. Thomas’s hospital in central London, his spokesman, James Slack, said on Monday. Johnson went to the hospital on Sunday as a “precaution,” he said.Mass Layoffs Push Canada’s Consumer Confidence to All-Time Low (8:00 a.m. NY)The Bloomberg Nanos Canadian Confidence Index, a composite gauge based on a telephone survey of households, declined sharply for a third week as extensive lock downs triggered mass layoffs. The aggregate index dropped to 42.7 last week, the lowest reading since polling began in 2008.Romania to Extend State of Emergency Until Mid-May (7:53 a.m. NY)Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said that he plans to extend the state of emergency over the crisis by another month because “we haven’t reached the peak of the epidemic, so it’s not time to relax.”Netherlands Has Slowest Death Growth in Week (7:40 a.m. NY)The Netherlands reported 101 new fatalities, the smallest increase since March 30. Total reported cases rose 5% to 18,803. An additional 260 patients were admitted to hospitals, according to the RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.China to Strengthen Transport Control Measures Along Borders (7:15 a.m. NY)China will tighten quarantines in border areas, following a meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases found in people who arrived through a land border has surpassed those that came by air.Dimon Sees ‘Bad Recession’ and Echoes of 2008 Crisis Ahead (7:11 a.m. NY)“At a minimum, we assume that it will include a bad recession combined with some kind of financial stress similar to the global financial crisis of 2008,” the CEO said Monday in his annual letter to shareholders. “Our bank cannot be immune to the effects of this kind of stress.”Nigeria to Borrow $ 6.9 Billion to Offset Virus Impact on Economy (7:03 a.m. NY)The government plans to raise as much as $ 6.9 billion from multilateral lenders to offset the impact of the pandemic. The state will seek $ 3.4 billion from the International Monetary Fund, $ 2.5 billion from the World Bank and a further $ 1 billion from the African Development Bank, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed told reporters Monday.French Firms Have Requested Guarantees for EU20 Billion of Loans (6:58 p.m. NY)French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said 100,000 companies requested government loan guarantees for a total of 20 billion euros ($ 21.6 billion). In addition, more than 500,000 small companies have requested aid from France’s solidarity fund.Redhill Announces First Covid-19 Patient Treated With Opaganib (6:19 a.m. NY)RedHill Biopharma said the first patient with a confirmed coronavirus diagnosis was dosed with opaganib in Israel, and additional patients are expected to be treated in the coming days. Pre-clinical data demonstrated anti-viral effects in other viruses, anti-inflammatory activities and the potential to reduce lung inflammation, the company said.Hungary Announces Virus Stimulus Plan of Up to 20% of GDP (6:17 a.m. NY)Hungary’s government will pay some-private sector wages, offer loan guarantees and boost spending on infrastructure and pensions as part of a major fiscal stimulus plan aimed at averting a recession and mass unemployment as the coronavirus pummels the economy. The package, valued at 18% to 20% of gross domestic product including planned stimulus from the central bank, will also see the 2020 budget deficit rise to 2.7% of GDP from 1%, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Monday.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.



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Brazil minister offends China with 'racist' virus tweet

Brazil minister offends China with 'racist' virus tweetChina demanded an explanation from Brazil Monday after the far-right government’s education minister linked the coronavirus pandemic to the Asian country’s “plan for world domination,” in a tweet imitating a Chinese accent. In the latest incident to strain ties between Brasilia and Beijing, Education Minister Abraham Weintraub insinuated China was behind the global health crisis. “Geopolitically, who will come out stronger from this global crisis?” he wrote on Twitter Saturday.



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During a Pandemic, an Unanticipated Problem: Out-of-Work Health Workers

During a Pandemic, an Unanticipated Problem: Out-of-Work Health WorkersAs hospitals across the country brace for an onslaught of coronavirus patients, doctors, nurses and other health care workers — even in emerging hot spots — are being furloughed, reassigned or told they must take pay cuts.The job cuts, which stretch from Massachusetts to Nevada, are a new and possibly urgent problem for a business-oriented health care system whose hospitals must earn revenue even in a national crisis. Hospitals large and small have canceled many elective services — often under state government orders — as they prepare for the virus, sending revenues plummeting.That has left trained health care workers sidelined, even in areas around Detroit and Washington, where infection rates are climbing, and even as hard-hit hospitals are pleading for help."I'm 46. I've never been on unemployment in my life," said Casey Cox, who three weeks ago worked two jobs, one conducting sleep research at the University of Michigan and another as a technician at the St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea Hospital near Ann Arbor, Michigan. Within a week, he had lost both.Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York has begged doctors and other medical workers from around the country to come to the city to help in areas where the coronavirus is overwhelming hospitals."Unless there is a national effort to enlist doctors, nurses, hospital workers of all kinds and get them where they are needed most in the country in time, I don't see, honestly, how we're going to have the professionals we need to get through this crisis," de Blasio said Friday morning on MSNBC.And the Department of Veterans Affairs is scrambling to hire health care workers for its government-run hospitals, especially in hard-hit New Orleans and Detroit, where many staff members have fallen ill. The department moved to get a federal waiver to hire retired medical workers to beef up staff levels.But even as some hospitals are straining to handle the influx of coronavirus patients, empty hospital beds elsewhere carry their own burden."We're in trouble," said Gene Morreale, the chief executive of Oneida Health Hospital in upstate New York, which has not yet seen a surge in coronavirus patients.Governors in dozens of states have delivered executive orders or guidelines directing hospitals to stop nonurgent procedures and surgeries to various degrees. Last month, the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Jerome M. Adams, also implored hospitals to halt elective procedures.That has left many health systems struggling to survive.Next week, Morreale said, Oneida will announce that it is putting 25% to 30% of its employees on involuntary furlough. They will have access to their health insurance through June. Physicians and senior staff at the hospital have taken a 20% pay cut."We've been here 121 years, and I'm hoping we're still there on the other side of this," Morreale said.Appalachian Regional Healthcare, a 13-hospital system in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia, has seen a 30% decrease in its overall business because of a decline in patient volume and services related to the pandemic. Last week, the hospital system announced it would furlough about 8% of its workforce — around 500 employees.Hospital executives across the country are cutting pay while also trying to repurpose employees for other jobs.At Intermountain Healthcare, which operates 215 clinics and 24 hospitals in Utah, Idaho and Nevada, about 600 of the 2,600 physicians, physicians assistants and registered nurses who are compensated based on volume will see their pay dip by about 15%, said Daron Cowley, a company spokesman.Those reductions are tied to the drop in procedures, which has fallen significantly for some specialties, he said. The organization is working to preserve employment as much as possible, in part by trying to deploy 3,000 staff members into new roles."You have an endoscopy tech right now that may be deployed to be at hospital entrances" where they would take the temperatures of people coming in, Cowley explained.In Boston, a spokesman for Partners HealthCare, with 12 hospitals, including Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women's, said staff members whose work has decreased are being deployed to other areas or will be paid for up to eight weeks if no work is available.But redeployment is not always an option. Janet Conway, a spokeswoman for Cape Fear Valley Health System in Fayetteville, North Carolina, said many of the company's operating room nurses trained in specialized procedures have been furloughed because their training did not translate to other roles."Those OR nurses, many have never worked as a floor nurse," she said.Conway said nearly 300 furloughed staff members have the option to use their paid time off, but beyond that, the furlough would be unpaid. Most employees are afforded 25 days per year.Some furloughed hospital workers are likely to be asked to return as the number of coronavirus cases rise in their communities. But the unpredictable virus has offered little clarity and left hospitals, like much of the economy, in a free fall.Many health systems are making direct cuts to their payrolls, eliminating or shrinking performance bonuses and prorating paychecks to mirror reduced workload until operations stabilize.Scott Weavil, a lawyer in California who counsels physicians and other health care workers on employment contracts, said he was hearing from doctors across the country who were being asked to take pay cuts of 20% to 70%.The requests are coming from hospital administrators or private physician groups hired by the hospitals, he said, and are essentially new contracts that doctors are being asked to sign.Many of the contracts do not say when the cuts might end, and are mostly affecting doctors who are not treating coronavirus patients on the front lines, such as urologists, rheumatologists, bariatric surgeons, obstetricians and gynecologists.Such doctors are still being asked to work — often in a decreased capacity — yet may be risking their health going into hospitals and clinics."It's just not sitting well," Weavil said, noting that he tells doctors they unfortunately have few options if they want to work for their institution long term."If you fight this pay cut, administration could write your name down and remember that forever," he said he tells them.In other cases, physicians are continuing to find opportunities to practice in a more limited capacity, like telemedicine appointments. But that has not eliminated steep pay cuts."Physicians are only paid in our clinic based on their productivity in the work they do," said Dr. Pam Cutler, the president of Western Montana Clinic in Missoula. "So they're automatically taking a very significant — usually greater than 50% or 25% — pay cut just because they don't have any work."In some areas, layoffs have left behind health care workers who worry that they will not be able to find new roles or redeploy their skills.Cox in Michigan said he was briefly reassigned at his hospital, helping screen and process patients coming in with coronavirus symptoms, but eventually the people seeking reassignments outgrew the number of roles.He also expressed concern that inevitable changes in the health care industry after the pandemic — paired with the possibility of a lengthy period of unemployment — could make it difficult to get his job back."I'm just concerned that the job I got laid off from may not be there when this is over," Cox said. "The longer you're away, the more you worry, 'Am I going to be able to come back?' So there's a lot of anxiety about it."Even as many of the largest hospital networks grapple with sudden financial uncertainty, much smaller practices and clinics face a more immediate threat.According to a statistical model produced by HealthLandscape and the American Academy of Family Physicians, by the end of April, nearly 20,000 family physicians could be fully out of work, underemployed or reassigned elsewhere, particularly as cities like New York consider large-scale, emergency reassignments of physicians."Many of these smaller practices were living on a financial edge to start with, so they're not entering into this in a good position at all," said Dr. Gary Price, the president of the Physicians Foundation. "Their margins are narrower, their patients don't want to come in, and many of them shouldn't anyway, so their cash flow has been severely impacted and their overhead really hasn't."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company



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Iran will never ask U.S. for coronavirus help: official

Iran will never ask U.S. for coronavirus help: officialIran will never ask the United States for help in the fight against the new coronavirus, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has rejected offers from Washington of humanitarian assistance for Iran, the Middle Eastern country so far worst-affected by the coronavirus, with 3,739 deaths and 60,500 people infected according to the latest figures on Monday.



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Supreme Court rejects church challenge to ban on bus ads

Supreme Court rejects church challenge to ban on bus adsThe Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from a Catholic church in Washington, D.C., that sought to place religious-themed ads on public buses. The justices are leaving in place a federal appeals court ruling that found no fault with the Washington transit agency policy that banned all issue-oriented advertisements on the region’s rail and bus system. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington sought to place an ad on the outside of public buses in the fall of 2017.



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Her granddaughter was sick, so Dr. Birx stayed home: 'You can’t take that kind of risk' around the president

Her granddaughter was sick, so Dr. Birx stayed home: 'You can’t take that kind of risk' around the presidentDr. Deborah Birx, one of the two leading medical experts on the White House coronavirus task force, said Monday that out of deference to social-distancing rules she had stayed away from her daughter’s house — even though her 10-month-old granddaughter had registered a fever of 105 degrees over the



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Televangelist Kenneth Copeland 'blows wind of God' at coronavirus and claims pandemic is 'destroyed' in sermon

Televangelist Kenneth Copeland 'blows wind of God' at coronavirus and claims pandemic is 'destroyed' in sermonAmerican televangelist Kenneth Copeland, who recently claimed that the coronavirus pandemic will be "over much sooner you think" because "Christian people all over this country praying have overwhelmed it," has summoned the "wind of God" to destroy the novel coronavirus during a recent sermon.Before blowing at the camera, he said: "I blow the wind of God on you. You are destroyed forever, and you'll never be back. Thank you, God. Let it happen. Cause it to happen."



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Virus raises specter of gravest attacks in modern US times

Virus raises specter of gravest attacks in modern US timesAmerica’s surgeon general raised the specter of the gravest attacks against the nation in modern times to steel an anxious country Sunday for the impending and immeasurable sorrow he said would touch untold numbers of families in the age of the coronavirus. The blunt assessments show just how much has changed in the weeks since President Donald Trump’s predictions that the virus would soon pass, and his suggestions that much of the economy could be up and running by Easter, April 12. The nation’s top doctor, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, said Americans should brace for levels of tragedy reminiscent of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the bombing of Pearl Harbor.



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U.S. sounds alarm on coronavirus in Japan, Tokyo pushes for state of emergency

U.S. sounds alarm on coronavirus in Japan, Tokyo pushes for state of emergencyThe U.S. government on Friday sounded alarm about the surge in coronavirus cases in Japan, adding to a chorus of prominent domestic voices – including the governor of Tokyo – who have called for decisive action to avoid an explosive outbreak. Amid growing clamour for tighter curbs on people’s movements to stem a rising tide of infections, the government has so far been reluctant to pull the trigger, warning of the heavy damage that could ensue in the world’s third-biggest economy, already close to recession. Instead, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has urged school closures and called on citizens to avoid unnecessary and non-urgent gatherings and outings while preparing to roll out an economic stimulus plan next week – even as he acknowledged the country was barely avoiding a major jump in infections.



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As coronavirus ravages Spain, doctors get a grim order on 'futility of care' for the very old and very sick

As coronavirus ravages Spain, doctors get a grim order on 'futility of care' for the very old and very sickA document circulated by the health department of Catalonia recommends that emergency teams and health care workers stop using ventilators for patients older than 80, and further recommends that extremely ill victims of COVID-19 be allowed to die at home rather than being taken to the hospital.



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Schiff proposes postelection 9/11-style commission to study coronavirus response

Schiff proposes postelection 9/11-style commission to study coronavirus responseRep. Adam Schiff’s proposal for a 9/11-style commission to study the nation’s response to the coronavirus outbreak "is not an exercise in casting blame or scoring political points, but something that the American people should rightly expect from their government as an exercise in accountability," he said.



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Mayor taps ex-Dallas chief to head Chicago police force

Mayor taps ex-Dallas chief to head Chicago police forceChicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday named former Dallas police Chief David Brown to head the police force in the nation’s third largest city, touting his humility and calling him “a leader who commands respect.” Lightfoot introduced Brown as the next superintendent of the Chicago Police Department during a news conference, saying he’s the right man for the job.



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Politics aside, US relies on China supplies to fight virus

Politics aside, US relies on China supplies to fight virusUS politicians have voiced fury over Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus crisis but they face a harsh truth — the United States desperately needs China’s supplies. China before the crisis produced nearly half of the face masks imported into the United States — which in normal times cost less than a dollar but have disappeared from shelves amid growing calls for ordinary Americans wear them when outside. As China appears to have contained its own outbreak of SARS-CoV-1, which has infected more than one million people worldwide since first emerging late last year in Wuhan, it is now the first resort for protective gear sought across the world.



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Israel sends army to ultra-Orthodox city over coronavirus

Israel sends army to ultra-Orthodox city over coronavirusPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday gave the green light for soldiers to be deployed in a mostly ultra-Orthodox Jewish city considered the centre of Israel’s novel coronavirus outbreak. “In light of the special situation in Bnei Brak following the restrictions due to the coronavirus, the IDF (army) will immediately present the necessary civil assistance to Bnei Brak municipality in fulfilling its responsibilities,” Netanyahu’s office said after talks with security and health officials. Authorities have enforced restrictions on access to Bnei Brak, a majority ultra-Orthodox city near Tel Aviv that is home to around 200,000 people.



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The Trail Leading Back to the Wuhan Labs

The Trail Leading Back to the Wuhan LabsIt is understandable that many would be wary of the notion that the origin of the coronavirus could be discovered by some documentary filmmaker who used to live in China. Matthew Tye, who creates YouTube videos, contends he has identified the source of the coronavirus — and a great deal of the information that he presents, obtained from public records posted on the Internet, checks out.The Wuhan Institute of Virology in China indeed posted a job opening on November 18, 2019, “asking for scientists to come research the relationship between the coronavirus and bats.”The Google translation of the job posting is: “Taking bats as the research object, I will answer the molecular mechanism that can coexist with Ebola and SARS- associated coronavirus for a long time without disease, and its relationship with flight and longevity. Virology, immunology, cell biology, and multiple omics are used to compare the differences between humans and other mammals.” (“Omics” is a term for a subfield within biology, such as genomics or glycomics.)On December 24, 2019, the Wuhan Institute of Virology posted a second job posting. The translation of that posting includes the declaration, “long-term research on the pathogenic biology of bats carrying important viruses has confirmed the origin of bats of major new human and livestock infectious diseases such as SARS and SADS, and a large number of new bat and rodent new viruses have been discovered and identified.”Tye contends that that posting meant, “we’ve discovered a new and terrible virus, and would like to recruit people to come deal with it.” He also contends that “news didn't come out about coronavirus until ages after that.” Doctors in Wuhan knew that they were dealing with a cluster of pneumonia cases as December progressed, but it is accurate to say that a very limited number of people knew about this particular strain of coronavirus and its severity at the time of that job posting. By December 31, about three weeks after doctors first noticed the cases, the Chinese government notified the World Health Organization and the first media reports about a “mystery pneumonia” appeared outside China.Scientific American verifies much of the information Tye mentions about Shi Zhengli, the Chinese virologist nicknamed “Bat Woman” for her work with that species.> Shi — a virologist who is often called China’s “bat woman” by her colleagues because of her virus-hunting expeditions in bat caves over the past 16 years — walked out of the conference she was attending in Shanghai and hopped on the next train back to Wuhan. “I wondered if [the municipal health authority] got it wrong,” she says. “I had never expected this kind of thing to happen in Wuhan, in central China.” Her studies had shown that the southern, subtropical areas of Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan have the greatest risk of coronaviruses jumping to humans from animals — particularly bats, a known reservoir for many viruses. If coronaviruses were the culprit, she remembers thinking, “could they have come from our lab?”> > . . . By January 7 the Wuhan team determined that the new virus had indeed caused the disease those patients suffered — a conclusion based on results from polymerase chain reaction analysis, full genome sequencing, antibody tests of blood samples and the virus’s ability to infect human lung cells in a petri dish. The genomic sequence of the virus — now officially called SARS-CoV-2 because it is related to the SARS pathogen — was 96 percent identical to that of a coronavirus the researchers had identified in horseshoe bats in Yunnan, they reported in a paper published last month in Nature. “It’s crystal clear that bats, once again, are the natural reservoir,” says Daszak, who was not involved in the study. > Some scientists aren’t convinced that the virus jumped straight from bats to human beings, but there are a few problems with the theory that some other animal was an intermediate transmitter of COVID-19 from bats to humans:> Analyses of the SARS-CoV-2 genome indicate a single spillover event, meaning the virus jumped only once from an animal to a person, which makes it likely that the virus was circulating among people before December. Unless more information about the animals at the Wuhan market is released, the transmission chain may never be clear. There are, however, numerous possibilities. A bat hunter or a wildlife trafficker might have brought the virus to the market. Pangolins happen to carry a coronavirus, which they might have picked up from bats years ago, and which is, in one crucial part of its genome, virtually identical to SARS-CoV-2. But no one has yet found evidence that pangolins were at the Wuhan market, or even that venders there trafficked pangolins.On February 4 — one week before the World Health Organization decided to officially name this virus “COVID-19” — the journal Cell Research posted a notice written by scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology about the virus, concluding, “our findings reveal that remdesivir and chloroquine are highly effective in the control of 2019-nCoV infection in vitro. Since these compounds have been used in human patients with a safety track record and shown to be effective against various ailments, we suggest that they should be assessed in human patients suffering from the novel coronavirus disease.” One of the authors of that notice was the “bat woman,” Shi Zhengli.In his YouTube video, Tye focuses his attention on a researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology named Huang Yanling: “Most people believe her to be patient zero, and most people believe she is dead.”There was enough discussion of rumors about Huang Yanling online in China to spur an official denial. On February 16, the Wuhan Institute of Virology denied that patient zero was one of their employees, and interestingly named her specifically: “Recently there has been fake information about Huang Yanling, a graduate from our institute, claiming that she was patient zero in the novel coronavirus.” Press accounts quote the institute as saying, “Huang was a graduate student at the institute until 2015, when she left the province and had not returned since. Huang was in good health and had not been diagnosed with disease, it added.” None of her publicly available research papers are dated after 2015.The web page for the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s Lab of Diagnostic Microbiology does indeed still have “Huang Yanling” listed as a 2012 graduate student, and her picture and biography appear to have been recently removed — as have those of two other graduate students from 2013, Wang Mengyue and Wei Cuihua.Her name still has a hyperlink, but the linked page is blank. The pages for Wang Mengyue and Wei Cuihua are blank as well.(For what it is worth, the South China Morning Post — a newspaper seen as being generally pro-Beijing — reported on March 13 that “according to the government data seen by the Post, a 55 year-old from Hubei province could have been the first person to have contracted Covid-19 on November 17.”)On February 17, Zhen Shuji, a Hong Kong correspondent from the French public-radio service Radio France Internationale, reported: “when a reporter from the Beijing News of the Mainland asked the institute for rumors about patient zero, the institute first denied that there was a researcher Huang Yanling, but after learning that the name of the person on the Internet did exist, acknowledged that the person had worked at the firm but has now left the office and is unaccounted for.”Tye says, “everyone on the Chinese internet is searching for [Huang Yanling] but most believe that her body was quickly cremated and the people working at the crematorium were perhaps infected as they were not given any information about the virus.” (The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that handling the body of someone who has died of coronavirus is safe — including embalming and cremation — as long as the standard safety protocols for handing a decedent are used. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether those safety protocols were sufficiently used in China before the outbreak’s scope was known.)As Tye observes, a public appearance by Huang Yanling would dispel a lot of the public rumors, and is the sort of thing the Chinese government would quickly arrange in normal circumstances — presuming that Huang Yanling was still alive. Several officials at the Wuhan Institute of Virology issued public statements that Huang was in good health and that no one at the institute has been infected with COVID-19. In any case, the mystery around Huang Yanling may be moot, but it does point to the lab covering up something about her.China Global Television Network, a state-owned television broadcaster, illuminated another rumor while attempting to dispel it in a February 23 report entitled “Rumors Stop With the Wise”:> On February 17, a Weibo user who claimed herself to be Chen Quanjiao, a researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, reported to the public that the Director of the Institute was responsible for leaking the novel coronavirus. The Weibo post threw a bomb in the cyberspace and the public was shocked. Soon Chen herself stepped out and declared that she had never released any report information and expressed great indignation at such identity fraud on Weibo. It has been confirmed that that particular Weibo account had been shut down several times due to the spread of misinformation about COVID-19.That Radio France Internationale report on February 17 also mentioned the next key part of the Tye’s YouTube video. “Xiaobo Tao, a scholar from South China University of Technology, recently published a report that researchers at Wuhan Virus Laboratory were splashed with bat blood and urine, and then quarantined for 14 days.” HK01, another Hong Kong-based news site, reported the same claim.This doctor’s name is spelled in English as both “Xiaobo Tao” and “Botao Xiao.” From 2011 to 2013, Botao Xiao was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, and his biography is still on the web site of the South China University of Technology.At some point in February, Botao Xiao posted a research paper onto ResearchGate.net, “The Possible Origins of 2019-nCoV coronavirus.” He is listed as one author, along with Lei Xiao from Tian You Hospital, which is affiliated with the Wuhan University of Science and Technology. The paper was removed a short time after it was posted, but archived images of its pages can be found here and here.The first conclusion of Botao Xiao’s paper is that the bats suspected of carrying the virus are extremely unlikely to be found naturally in the city, and despite the stories of “bat soup,” they conclude that bats were not sold at the market and were unlikely to be deliberately ingested.> The bats carrying CoV ZC45 were originally found in Yunnan or Zhejiang province, both of which were more than 900 kilometers away from the seafood market. Bats were normally found to live in caves and trees. But the seafood market is in a densely-populated district of Wuhan, a metropolitan [area] of ~15 million people. The probability was very low for the bats to fly to the market. According to municipal reports and the testimonies of 31 residents and 28 visitors, the bat was never a food source in the city, and no bat was traded in the market.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization could not confirm if bats were present at the market. Botao Xiao’s paper theorizes that the coronavirus originated from bats being used for research at either one of two research laboratories in Wuhan.> We screened the area around the seafood market and identified two laboratories conducting research on bat coronavirus. Within ~ 280 meters from the market, there was the Wuhan Center for Disease Control & Prevention. WHCDC hosted animals in laboratories for research purpose, one of which was specialized in pathogens collection and identification. In one of their studies, 155 bats including Rhinolophus affinis were captured in Hubei province, and other 450 bats were captured in Zhejiang province. The expert in Collection was noted in the Author Contributions (JHT). Moreover, he was broadcasted for collecting viruses on nation-wide newspapers and websites in 2017 and 2019. He described that he was once by attacked by bats and the blood of a bat shot on his skin. He knew the extreme danger of the infection so he quarantined himself for 14 days. In another accident, he quarantined himself again because bats peed on him.> > Surgery was performed on the caged animals and the tissue samples were collected for DNA and RNA extraction and sequencing. The tissue samples and contaminated trashes were source of pathogens. They were only ~280 meters from the seafood market. The WHCDC was also adjacent to the Union Hospital (Figure 1, bottom) where the first group of doctors were infected during this epidemic. It is plausible that the virus leaked around and some of them contaminated the initial patients in this epidemic, though solid proofs are needed in future study.> > The second laboratory was ~12 kilometers from the seafood market and belonged to Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences . . .> > In summary, somebody was entangled with the evolution of 2019-nCoV coronavirus. In addition to origins of natural recombination and intermediate host, the killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan. Safety level may need to be reinforced in high risk biohazardous laboratories. Regulations may be taken to relocate these laboratories far away from city center and other densely populated places.However, Xiao has told the Wall Street Journal that he has withdrawn his paper. “The speculation about the possible origins in the post was based on published papers and media, and was not supported by direct proofs,” he said in a brief email on February 26.The bat researcher that Xiao’s report refers to is virologist Tian Junhua, who works at the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control. In 2004, the World Health Organization determined that an outbreak of the SARS virus had been caused by two separate leaks at the Chinese Institute of Virology in Beijing. The Chinese government said that the leaks were a result of “negligence” and the responsible officials had been punished.In 2017, the Chinese state-owned Shanghai Media Group made a seven-minute documentary about Tian Junhua, entitled “Youth in the Wild: Invisible Defender.” Videographers followed Tian Junhua as he traveled deep into caves to collect bats. “Among all known creatures, the bats are rich with various viruses inside,” he says in Chinese. “You can find most viruses responsible for human diseases, like rabies virus, SARS, and Ebola. Accordingly, the caves frequented by bats became our main battlefields.” He emphasizes, “bats usually live in caves humans can hardly reach. Only in these places can we find the most ideal virus vector samples.”One of his last statements on the video is: “In the past ten-plus years, we have visited every corner of Hubei Province. We explored dozens of undeveloped caves and studied more than 300 types of virus vectors. But I do hope these virus samples will only be preserved for scientific research and will never be used in real life. Because humans need not only the vaccines, but also the protection from the nature.”The description of Tian Junhua’s self-isolation came from a May 2017 report by Xinhua News Agency, repeated by the Chinese news site JQKNews.com:> The environment for collecting bat samples is extremely bad. There is a stench in the bat cave. Bats carry a large number of viruses in their bodies. If they are not careful, they are at risk of infection. But Tian Junhua is not afraid to go to the mountain with his wife to catch Batman.> > Tian Junhua summed up the experience that the most bats can be caught by using the sky cannon and pulling the net. But in the process of operation, Tian Junhua forgot to take protective measures. Bat urine dripped on him like raindrops from the top. If he was infected, he could not find any medicine. It was written in the report.> > The wings of bats carry sharp claws. When the big bats are caught by bat tools, they can easily spray blood. Several times bat blood was sprayed directly on Tians skin, but he didn’t flinch at all. After returning home, Tian Junhua took the initiative to isolate for half a month. As long as the incubation period of 14 days does not occur, he will be lucky to escape, the report said.Bat urine and blood can carry viruses. How likely is it that bat urine or blood got onto a researcher at either Wuhan Center for Disease Control & Prevention or the Wuhan Institute of Virology? Alternatively, what are the odds that some sort of medical waste or other material from the bats was not properly disposed of, and that was the initial transmission vector to a human being?Virologists have been vehemently skeptical of the theory that COVID-19 was engineered or deliberately constructed in a laboratory; the director of the National Institutes of Health has written that recent genomic research “debunks such claims by providing scientific evidence that this novel coronavirus arose naturally.” And none of the above is definitive proof that COVID-19 originated from a bat at either the Wuhan Center for Disease Control & Prevention or the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Definitive proof would require much broader access to information about what happened in those facilities in the time period before the epidemic in the city.But it is a remarkable coincidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was researching Ebola and SARS-associated coronaviruses in bats before the pandemic outbreak, and that in the month when Wuhan doctors were treating the first patients of COVID-19, the institute announced in a hiring notice that “a large number of new bat and rodent new viruses have been discovered and identified.” And the fact that the Chinese government spent six weeks insisting that COVID-19 could not be spread from person to person means that its denials about Wuhan laboratories cannot be accepted without independent verification.



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Exclusive: How elite U.S. college students brought COVID-19 home from campus

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Trump fires watchdog who handled Ukraine complaint

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Coronavirus latest news: Number of cases worldwide tops 1 million as UK death toll surges by another 569

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