18 MARCH 2020
U.S. AND CHINA EXCHANGE BARBS OVER COVID-19
A spat between the U.S. and China over COVID-19 escalated on Tuesday as
President Donald Trump angered Beijing by referring to the pathogen as the
The two countries have sparred over the origin of the virus for days, with a
Chinese official promoting conspiracy theories claiming it was brought to
China by the U.S. Army and American officials using terms seen as
stigmatising a nation.
"The U.S. will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and
others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus," Mr. Trump
tweeted on Monday night.
He doubled down on the comment on Tuesday while Tweeting about how U.S.
States were being affected, saying: "Some are being hit hard by the Chinese
Virus, some are being hit practically not at all."
Mr. Trump's allies had previously referred to the pandemic as "Chinese
coronavirus", but Beijing said on Tuesday it was "strongly indignant" over
the phrase, which it called "a kind of stigmatisation".
The U.S. should "immediately stop its unjustified accusations against
China," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
A commentary by the official Xinhua news agency said using "racist and
xenophobic names to cast blame on other countries can only reveal
politicians' irresponsibility and incompetence ".
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio slammed Mr. Trump, saying his comments could
incite a backlash against the Asian-American community.
CORONAVIRUS | FRANCE LOCKS DOWN OVER PANDEMIC FEARS
France moved into a near-total lockdown on Tuesday over fears of COVID-19
spread, the latest country to impose draconian restrictions affecting the
lives of millions of people.
European leaders also plan to ban all non-essential travel into the
continent on Tuesday in a bid to stem a pandemic that has killed thousands,
upended society and battered economies.
With French President Emmanuel Macron describing the battle against COVID-19
as a "war", governments around the world are scrambling to keep the public
safe with measures rarely seen in peacetime, slamming borders shut and
forcing citizens to stay home.
The crisis is infecting every sector of the economy, and global stocks have
been on a rollercoaster ride, with Wall Street on Monday sinking more than
12% in the worst session since the crash of 1987.
CORONAVIRUS | JUST ONE FRESH CASE IN WUHAN, SAYS CHINA
China on Tuesday reported 21 new cases of the virus, 20 of them imported.
Just one new case was confirmed in Wuhan, the Hubei provincial capital,
where the illness was first detected in late December.
The update raised China's totals to 80,881 cases and 3,226 deaths.
China this week relaxed travel restrictions in Hubei, sending thousands of
workers back to long-shuttered factories.
Most of the world's 78,000 recovered patients are in China. The virus causes
only mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but severe illness is more
likely in the elderly and people with existing health problems.
CORONAVIRUS HITS ALL 50 US STATES AS DEATH TOLL RISES
The deadly coronavirus has now hit all 50 states in the US as West Virginia
reported its first case of the infection on Tuesday.
Announcing its first Covid-19 patient, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice
said: "We knew this was coming."
New York City said it is considering a lockdown similar to one in the San
Francisco Bay area.
There have so far been 108 deaths in the US from coronavirus and more than
6,300 confirmed cases nationwide.
Globally there are about 200,000 cases and nearly 8,000 people have died.
CORONAVIRUS: EUROPEAN UNION SEALS BORDERS TO MOST OUTSIDERS
The European Union will ban travellers from outside the bloc for 30 days in
an unprecedented move to seal its borders amid the coronavirus crisis.
The measure is expected to apply to 26 EU states as well as Iceland,
Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. UK citizens will be unaffected.
The ban came as deaths continued to soar in Italy and Spain, and France
began a strict lockdown.
Europe has been badly hit by the virus, which has killed 7,500 globally.
Meanwhile, the Euro 2020 football competition has been postponed by a year.
IRAN TEMPORARILY FREES 85,000 PRISONERS, INCLUDING POLITICAL ONES, AMID CORONAVIRUS
Iran has temporarily freed about 85,000 prisoners, including political
prisoners, in response to the coronavirus epidemic, a judiciary spokesman
said on Tuesday.
The death toll in Iran from coronavirus has risen to 988 and a total of
16,169 people have been confirmed infected across the country, one of the
worst national outbreaks outside China, where the pandemic originated.
"So far, some 85,000 prisoners have been released . Also in the jails we
have taken precautionary measures to confront the outbreak," judiciary
spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said.
"Yes, about 50% of them were security-related prisoners," he said when asked
at a briefing aired by state TV whether political prisoners were among those
freed. He did not elaborate on when those released would have to return to
Iran announced the release of 70,000 prisoners on March 9 in response to the
virus, but none were political detainees. The UN Special Rapporteur on human
rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, said then that he had asked Tehran to free
all political prisoners temporarily from its overcrowded and disease-ridden
jails to help contain the spread of coronavirus.
Rehman said only those serving sentences of less than five years had been
freed, while prisoners charged with heavier sentences and those linked to
their participation in anti-government protests remained in jail.
LAS VEGAS STRIP TO SHUT DOWN
All non-essential businesses are affected by the shutdown. Restaurants are
only allowed to provide takeout or delivery.
Even slot machines in convenience stores will no longer be permitted.
"America's playground", as Las Vegas is known, is usually open 24-hours a
day. The last time the casinos had to lock their doors was on the day of
John F. Kennedy's funeral in 1963.
Nevada's month-long freeze on gambling will hit Las Vegas hard. The city
depends on the glitz of the Vegas strip for its tourism and
The closure - which goes into effect Wednesday at noon - will be part of
federal guidelines recommending social distancing.
TRAVEL CONFUSION IN THE PHILIPPINES
In the Philippines the government has reversed its decision to impose a
travel ban on international flights scheduled to begin on Friday.
Now all foreign nationals may fly out of the country at any time according
to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases. Inbound
international passengers are also allowed entry, subject to strict
immigration and quarantine protocols.
The now overturned ban on international flights had left many foreign
tourists, dispersed across the country's more than 7,000 islands, puzzled as
to how they could leave the country.
With domestic flights in and out of the Philippine capital suspended while
the main Luzon region is under lockdown, the British embassy in Manila is
reporting a "small number" of Britons affected by the travel restrictions.
The government says their "enhanced community quarantine" will stay in place
until 12 April.
The government says the country currently has a total of 187 confirmed
Covid-19 cases with 14 deaths, but experts are warning that with limited
pre-emptive testing the number is likely to be higher.
AUSTRALIA TO KEEP SCHOOLS RUNNING
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's press conference this morning was
his most frank statement yet about how Australia was in this for the
long-haul - of at least six months or more.
He said all decisions they announced needed to be sustainable for that
One of the key announcements was the ban on gatherings of more than 100
people - that includes places of worship but not schools and universities or
"essential" locations which range from hospitals and airports to shopping
centres and workplaces.
"They are essential places of where there are essential gatherings.
Non-essential is everything else," said Mr Morrison.
The school policy has been controversial - as calls grow for them to be
closed and several independent schools shut of their own accord.
However, Mr Morrison said the health advice remained the same - and cited
Singapore where schools have remained open and "they have been effective in
managing and limiting the transmission of this virus".
He has warned closing schools could cost tens of thousands of jobs and could
take 30% of health workers out of the health system.
PLEA AGAINST PAK SCRIBE'S ARREST
Three Pakistani opposition parties have jointly filed a petition in the
Islamabad High Court against the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, the
editor-in-chief of the Jang Geo Media Group.
The parties have alleged that the arrest on March 12 for illegal possession
of a piece of land, was in violation of constitutional rights. They alleged
that Rehman faced action as he had been critical of the government.
CANADA'S JUSTIN TRUDEAU WARNS VIRUS RESTRICTIONS COULD LAST WEEKS, MONTHS
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has urged Canadians to hunker down for
possibly weeks or months of business closures and home-stay to prevent the
spread of new coronavirus.
He said his government was preparing to roll out a new package of financial
supports -- worth Can $ 25 billion (US $18 billion), according to public
broadcaster CBC -- to ease the burden on Canadians and their businesses.
His government is also considering using the Emergency Measures Act, an
extremely rare measure.
"We don't know exactly how long this is going to take," Trudeau said of the
health crisis on Tuesday.
"It could be weeks. It could be months," he told a news conference outside
his residence where he and his family are self-isolating after his wife
Sophie tested positive for the COVID-19 illness.
"But we will be there, standing together to support Canadians in order to
get through this extremely difficult time."
According to public health officials, the number of cases in Canada has
risen to nearly 600, including eight deaths. The latest fatalities, one in
Ontario province and three in British Columbia, were recorded on Tuesday.
LITTLE-KNOWN EX-GOVERNOR ZURFI NAMED NEW IRAQI PM
Iraq's President designated Adnan al-Zurfi, a former regional Governor with
little national political profile, as Prime Minister, tasked with forming a
government within 30 days in a bid to overcome months of unrest and
Mr. Zurfi, who served as Governor of the predominantly Shi'ite Najaf
province during the U.S. occupation after the fall of Saddam Hussein, is
head of the small Nasr parliamentary group of former Prime Minister Haider
al-Abadi, a U.S. ally.
Lawmakers told Reuters that President Barham Salih had named Mr. Zurfi only
after larger rival Shi'ite political parties failed to decide on a successor
to Adel Abdul Mahdi, who resigned in November during mass unrest, in which
hundreds of people died.
Mr. Zurfi, who lived in the U.S. as a refugee in the 1990s after fleeing
Saddam, is seen as a comparatively secular figure in a country long
dominated by sectarian parties.
He now has to win the confidence of Parliament for his new Cabinet, a
difficult task as major Iranian-backed groups objected to his nomination.
If Mr. Zurfi can secure parliamentary approval for his Cabinet, he would run
the country until early elections can be held.