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  • Johnson’s War With Coronavirus Is No Joke Anymore
    on 28/03/2020 at 9:24 pm

    (Bloomberg) -- For Boris Johnson, as for others, it started with a cough and a fever.The British prime minister did what he was told by the most senior medic in the land and took a test. Johnson was in his Downing Street apartment at midnight on Thursday when the result came through: he’d tested positive for coronavirus. It was the moment the pandemic literally hit home. Johnson, 55, is the first world leader to reveal he has Covid-19. His illness graphically illustrates the indiscriminate nature of a disease that has now infected almost 650,000 people around the world and killed 30,000. But as Johnson isolates himself, picking up meals and official papers left outside his door, the infection raises more questions about his attitude to a crisis many medical experts felt he failed to take seriously for too long.For one thing, Johnson is not the only member of the British government to be hit. Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Friday that he too had tested positive for the virus. Three hours later, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty revealed he was isolating with symptoms. While all three insist they’re still working, one question now dominates the debate in the U.K.: if the officials leading the fight against the virus can’t even keep themselves safe, how can they protect the rest of the country and its beloved National Health Service?“Patients will die unnecessarily, NHS staff will die unnecessarily,” said Richard Horton, editor of medical journal The Lancet. “The gravity of that scandal has yet to be understood.”In the U.K., 1,019 people have lost their lives. The rate of infection is racing ahead, with the number of new cases doubling every few days. In Italy and Spain, the rapid spread has sent their death tolls way beyond China’s—the virus’s original epicenter—and overwhelmed hospitals.Horton has been an outspoken critic of Johnson’s approach, warning for weeks that the government has been too slow to act.There has been a litany of criticisms from many quarters, though, including among his fellow Conservatives: The government shouldn’t have all but stopped testing in the community or begin a misguided policy of seeking “herd immunity” rather than fighting the contagion. It also delayed the imposition of tough restrictions, and kept schools open. While other countries were ordering curfews and deploying the military, Johnson instead sought to use behavioral psychologists in the government’s so-called “nudge unit” to persuade the public to do the right thing.For Johnson, the gamble on a different approach was offset by the fact that his own advisers lent it their support. But the stakes now are high. “One of the functions of a prime minister is to take the blame,” his biographer Andrew Gimson said. “He will take the blame if it all goes wrong—he will have to go, actually.”At key moments in the outbreak, Johnson has seemed in denial about the size of the threat—and to his critics, it showed. At the start of the month, the premier quipped that while everyone must wash their hands for the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday,” that did not stop him shaking hands with people he meets.“I can tell you I am shaking hands continuously,” Johnson told reporters in a clip that has since gone viral on Twitter. “I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were actually a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody.”As the man who led his country out of the European Union, Johnson has often evoked his idea of British-ness, the unflappable belief that the country is different and all will be well. Indeed, it helped him to an emphatic election victory in December. But making light of a crisis has now landed Johnson in trouble.On March 16, after weeks of downplaying the issue, he suddenly urged all U.K. citizens to stay at home and avoid unnecessary contact with other people. It would be the prelude to more action that would shut the nation down. Yet later that evening, Johnson made light of the situation on a call with the manufacturers he was trying to persuade to produce thousands of urgently needed ventilators for hospitals. He joked that their task should be code-named “Operation Last Gasp.”Not everyone saw the funny side. “I was shocked,” said one witness, who asked to remain anonymous. “I don’t know how many people were on that call but some of the comments were not appropriate to the seriousness of the situation.”As the crisis deepened in the days that followed, the government’s response accelerated further. The country’s finance chief, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, unveiled a 350 billion-pound ($435 billion) “wartime” rescue package for businesses. The next day, Johnson finally agreed to close schools across the country.Yet after three days of drama and amid growing alarm, an upbeat Johnson decided on March 19 it was time to rally his troops for the push toward victory. He bounded into the wood-paneled state dining room in No. 10 Downing Street, smiling and joking with reporters in front of him.“I am absolutely confident that we can send coronavirus packing,” he defiantly declared. A new test could be a “game changer” in the fight against the disease, he said, adding that the U.K. could “turn the tide” of the outbreak in 12 weeks.By March 23, Johnson was addressing the nation in their living rooms, telling them they would be locked down for an initial three weeks. The first week hadn’t even passed before the prime minister himself fell ill.Throughout, the government has insisted all his decisions were taken on the basis of “the best” scientific evidence. The public would get bored of being told to limit their movements for too long, so timing the restrictions perfectly was vital, officials said. The only verdict that counts will come when the death toll is finally known.But another explanation for Johnson’s approach may lie in his temperament. “He loves being the center of attention,” said Gimson.Most of all, Johnson has defined himself as a liberal conservative. He has long railed against the “nanny state” for telling people how to live their lives. Explaining his own reluctance to order stricter measures, he said on March 18: “We live in a land of liberty.”Even when he did try to stop people socializing in bars and restaurants, Johnson could not quite bring himself to treat the issue seriously. In his words, he was asking people to accept an almost impossible demand and give up the “inalienable right” of every “freeborn” Briton to go to the pub. It was a light-hearted message that threatened to undermine the gravity of his request.On the Sunday before he ordered a full national lockdown, Johnson implored the public to value the freedoms they stood to lose. “Other countries have been forced to bring in restrictions on people’s movements, altogether,” he said. “I don’t want to do that. It’s so important that that pleasure and that ability is preserved—but it can only really be preserved if everybody acts responsibly.”The tussle between freedom and responsibility may become the conflict that defines Johnson’s career. He rode to power on a campaign to release the U.K. from the EU’s legal shackles. His overriding promise was to “unleash” Britain’s potential.Now Johnson, like thousands of his fellow citizens, is living in isolation in his apartment and dealing with the disease for the next week alone. The irony is that he has put the entire population—himself included—on the tightest leash of all.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.

  • Coronavirus: India defiant as millions struggle under lockdown
    on 28/03/2020 at 7:41 pm

    The government defends strict lockdown measures that have left millions stranded and without food.

  • Sanders is still running, and he may not stop anytime soon
    on 28/03/2020 at 6:10 pm

    The Vermont independent faces long odds of winning the Democratic nomination, but in the pandemic, allies see a moment for his message.

  • Ex-Venezuela general charged with drug trafficking surrenders to US
    on 28/03/2020 at 6:06 pm

    A retired Venezuelan general has turned himself over to Colombian authorities after the United States charged him with drug-trafficking and offered a reward for his capture, local media said on Saturday. Cliver Alcala turned himself in on Friday to the Colombians, who in turn handed him over to US authorities, the El Tiempo de Bogota newspaper said. Washington on Thursday indicted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and several current and former top government officials for "narco-terrorism" and offered a $15 million reward for information leading to Maduro's capture.

  • President Trump Considers Enforced Quarantine on New York, Parts of New Jersey and Connecticut
    on 28/03/2020 at 5:34 pm

    President Donald Trump said on Saturday that he may implement a short-term enforced quarantine on “hotspots” of the novel coronavirus, including New York state, New Jersey, and some parts of Connecticut—though it’s not clear he has the power to do so.New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo quickly hit back Saturday, saying “I don’t know what that means,” and asserting that the president had not discussed the matter with him when they spoke on Saturday morning.“I don’t know how that could be legally enforceable and, from a medical point of view, I don’t know what you would be accomplishing,” Cuomo added. “I don’t even like the sound of it, not even understanding what it is.”Trump told reporters on the White House lawn on Saturday that he had spoken to Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had complained about New Yorkers traveling south—and bringing coronavirus with them.“A lot of the states that are infected but don’t have a big problem, they’ve asked me if I’ll look at it so we’re going to look at it,” Trump said.“We’re thinking about certain things. Some people would like to see New York quarantined because it’s a hotspot. We might not have to do it, but there’s a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine, short-term, two weeks on New York. Probably New Jersey, certain parts of Connecticut. I’d rather not do it, but maybe we need it.”The president doubled down on his suggestion in a tweet on Saturday afternoon and in remarks at a Virginia naval base, where he was seeing off the naval hospital ship, Comfort, that is heading to New York. “This does not apply to people such as truckers from outside the New York area who are making deliveries or are simply transiting through,” Trump said. “It won’t affect trade in any way.” He added that “a decision will be made, one way or another, shortly.” The question of whether the federal government has the power to impose restrictions on states has been a source of speculation since the virus has spread throughout the country.Federal laws give the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the authority to prevent the spread of communicable diseases between states by limiting the movement of people who are “reasonably believed to be infected with a quarantinable communicable disease.” However there is no law that grants the president authority to prevent an entire nation’s movements, NBC News reported. Any attempt to do so would likely be challenged in court.Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, has expressed his support for a potential 14-day national shutdown to slow the spread of the virus. “I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing,” Fauci said, stressing the importance of social distancing in the fight against the virus. The top infectious disease expert, however, has not provided any explanation for what such a plan could look like or how it could be carried out.Michael Ulrich, a public health law professor at Boston University, said the federal government would “have to be able to justify that some group is a credible threat to others, and that’s an easier thing to do on an individual level.” He added that it would be “a really hard thing to prove.”Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI), a former Republican who has been a fervent critic of Trump, questioned his power to implement such an order. “Under which authority?” Amash wrote on Twitter on Saturday. As of Saturday, New York reported at least 52,318 cases of the novel coronavirus, with over half in New York City and at least 7,328 in hospital. Coronavirus cases in the United States crossed the 100,000 mark on Friday, making it the new global epicenter of the pandemic. New Jersey reported at least 8,825 cases of the virus, and 108 deaths as of Saturday, while Connecticut confirmed at least 1,291 cases and 27 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine tracker. Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

  • Ex-Venezuelan spy chief Carvajal discussing surrender with U.S. authorities: sources
    on 28/03/2020 at 5:28 pm

    CARACAS/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The former head of Venezuela's military intelligence unit, Hugo Carvajal, is discussing his possible surrender with U.S. authorities, three people familiar with the matter said on Saturday, after prosecutors charged him this week with drug trafficking alongside Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Carvajal, a former general and ally of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, has been in hiding since a Spanish court in November approved his extradition to the United States.

  • Asia virus latest: People return to China epicentre, security talks off
    on 28/03/2020 at 3:31 pm

    Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the coronavirus first emerged last year, partly reopened on Saturday after more than two months of near total isolation for its population of 11 million. A top Asian security conference that gathers defence ministers -- including from the US and China -- and senior military officials was cancelled due to the pandemic. Thousands of migrant workers in India, left jobless and penniless by the full shutdown of the country, are walking long distances back to their home villages after all transport was stopped except for essential services.

  • Former Republican senator Tom Coburn dies aged 72
    on 28/03/2020 at 2:57 pm

    * Oklahoman served in House of Representatives and Senate * Rightwing Republican advocated range of conservative causes * Resigned senate in 2014 after cancer diagnosisThe former Republican senator Tom Coburn has died at 72, according to a newspaper in his native Oklahoma.The Oklahoman published a statement from the senator’s family and said he died after “a long fight with prostate cancer”. Coburn, the paper said, "served in the Senate from 2005 to 2015 and in the US House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001. After leaving the Senate, he pushed for a constitutional convention and advocated for a range of conservative fiscal causes.”Mike Pence, the vice-president, wrote on Twitter: “Tom Coburn was a great conservative voice in the United States Congress and American physician whose legacy will live on. Karen and I send our deepest sympathies and prayers to his family during this tough time.”Coburn was a doctor who resigned his Senate seat following his cancer diagnosis.“This decision isn’t about my health, my prognosis or even my hopes and desires,” he said then. “As a citizen, I am now convinced that I can best serve my own children and grandchildren by shifting my focus elsewhere.”One such effort was in support of rightwing efforts to call a Constitutional Convention, in an attempt to dramatically restrict the powers of the US federal government.“We’re in a battle for the future of our country,” Coburn told the annual convention of the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) in New Orleans in August 2018. “We’re either going to become a socialist, Marxist country like western Europe, or we’re going to be free. As far as me and my family and my guns, I’m going to be free.”

  • Stay In the Lines With These Neat Science Coloring Pages
    on 28/03/2020 at 1:00 pm
  • A Wuhan seafood vendor believed to be one of the first coronavirus patients says 'a lot fewer people would have died' if the Chinese government acted sooner
    on 28/03/2020 at 11:45 am

    Wei Guixian, a 57-year-old seafood vendor in Wuhan, China, was among the first 27 people to be diagnosed with the coronavirus.

  • Germany has a remarkably low coronavirus death rate — thanks largely to mass testing, but also culture, luck, and an impressive healthcare system
    on 28/03/2020 at 11:24 am

    Germany's death rate is around 0.74%, after around 53,000 confirmed infections. In Spain and Italy the rate is more than 10 times higher. Here's why.

  • Virus prevention measures turn violent in parts of Africa
    on 28/03/2020 at 11:08 am

    Police fired tear gas at a crowd of Kenyan ferry commuters as the country’s first day of a coronavirus curfew slid into chaos. Virus prevention measures have taken a violent turn in parts of Africa as countries impose lockdowns and curfews or seal off major cities. Cases across Africa were set to climb above 4,000 late Saturday.

  • Hubei, the center of China's coronavirus outbreak, has emerged from a months-long coronavirus lockdown. Photos show the province slowly coming back to life.
    on 28/03/2020 at 10:48 am

    Experts, and people who live in Hubei, are still fearful that the loosening of restrictions will help the coronavirus reappear.

  • Why the Strategic National Stockpile isn't meant to solve a crisis like coronavirus
    on 28/03/2020 at 10:11 am

    The country's largest repository of drugs and medical equipment is designed to be used as a stopgap — not a solution — during emergencies.

  • China sends medical aid to Pakistan to combat virus outbreak
    on 28/03/2020 at 9:51 am

    China sent a plane loaded with medical personnel and supplies Saturday to help Pakistan fight the spread of the coronavirus in one of the world's most populous nations. In Iran, which is battling the worst outbreak in the region, state TV said Saturday another 139 people had died from the virus. China has sought to portray itself as a global leader in the fight against the outbreak, which began a few months ago in its Wuhan province.

  • Indian authorities send buses to take unemployed to villages
    on 28/03/2020 at 9:16 am

    Authorities sent a fleet of buses to the outskirts of India's capital on Saturday to meet an exodus of migrant workers desperately trying to reach their home villages during the world's largest coronavirus lockdown. Thousands of people, mostly young male day laborers but also families, fled their New Delhi homes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day lockdown that began on Wednesday and effectively put millions of Indians who live off daily earnings out of work. Modi said the extreme measure was needed to halt the spread of the coronavirus in India, which has confirmed 775 cases and 19 deaths, and where millions live in cramped conditions without regular access to clean water.

  • Dozens Clash on Hubei Border After China Lifts Virus Quarantine
    on 28/03/2020 at 7:36 am
  • A Connecticut doctor has been charged after authorities said he deliberately coughed on his coworkers
    on 28/03/2020 at 3:59 am

    People across the United States have been arrested and charged in recent days after allegedly violating social distancing measures.

  • Dour Moscow mayor сomes to fore as 'PM for coronavirus'
    on 28/03/2020 at 1:36 am

    At a televised meeting with Vladimir Putin, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin flatly told the President that official figures on COVID-19 cases were far from the reality. After that reality check, the official narrative changed swiftly: Putin, who had called the situation "under control", on Wednesday gave a grim-faced address to the nation. "Putin signed up to Sobyanin's position," opposition politician Vladimir Ryzhkov said on the popular Echo of Moscow radio station.

  • Coronavirus: The woman behind India's first testing kit
    on 28/03/2020 at 1:05 am

    With the first made-in-India kits, the country could hugely scale up testing for the coronavirus.

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