21 March 2020
OLYMPIC FLAME ARRIVES IN JAPAN AS CORONAVIRUS THROWS TOKYO GAMES INTO
A plane carrying the Olympic torch from Greece arrived on Friday on Japan's
northwestern coast ravaged by a 2011 tsunami, but the welcome ceremony will
have no spectators, amid worries the Games could be cancelled over the
The flame arrived at Japan Air Self-Defense Force's Matsushima base and will
tour the Tohoku region hit by the tsunami and earthquake, in what the
organizers call a "recovery flame" tour until the official kick-off ceremony
in Fukushima on March 26.
Organizers have repeatedly said the Games, set to run from July 24 to Aug.
9, will go ahead, but as the rapid spread of the virus brings the sports
world to a virtual standstill, fears are growing that the Olympics may be
postponed or cancelled.
TRUMP TOUTS DRUG THAT FDA SAYS ISN'T YET APPROVED FOR VIRUS
In a much-anticipated press conference Thursday, President Donald Trump said
the U.S. has stepped up near-term efforts to advance and make available
therapeutics to help patients with COVID-19 illnesses. But despite the
urgency and the progress, FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn said it's important
to learn more about all potential treatments.
Amid the pandemic, one drug that's gained attention in various countries is
chloroquine, a decades-old malaria med that's available for cheap. President
Trump said the U.S. is going to make the drug available by prescription
Chloroquine is already approved to treat malaria, and Hahn said
investigators are planning a "large, pragmatic clinical trial" to learn
more. But, the commissioner cautioned, it's always important to get the
"right drug" to the "right patient" at the "right dosage" at the "right
time." The wrong dose could actually hurt a patient's condition, he added.
While chloroquine isn't approved for patients with novel coronavirus
infections, Trump may have been referencing an off-label use for the
medicine. It wasn't immediately clear how the drug would become available
Aside from chloroquine, the president and FDA commissioner Hahn talked about
efforts to test Gilead's remdesivir, originally developed for Ebola. Trump
said that drug is "very close to approved," but Hahn declined to specify
potential approval timelines.
Other efforts are underway for plasma-based therapies and repurposing
existing medicines, Hahn said at the press conference.
WUHAN RECOVERY GIVES REST OF WORLD HOPE: WHO
GENEVA, Switzerland - The World Health Organization said Friday that the
original epicenter in China of the coronavirus outbreak at last reporting no
new cases gave hope to the rest of the world battling the pandemic.
The city of Wuhan registered no new cases of COVID-19 in 24 hours-for the
first time since reporting its first case in December in an outbreak that
has gone on to infect more than 250,000 people around the world and kill
more than 11,000 people.
"Yesterday, Wuhan reported no new cases for the first time since the
outbreak started," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual news
conference in Geneva.
"Wuhan provides hope for the rest of the world that even the most severe
situation can be turned around.
"Of course, we must exercise caution; the situation can reverse. But the
experience of cities and countries that have pushed back this coronavirus
gives hope and courage to the rest of the world."
"Unlike any pandemic in history, we have the power to change the way this
goes," he said.
NORTH KOREA FIRES SUSPECTED SHORT-RANGE MISSILES, S.KOREA SAYS, AMID
North Korea fired two projectiles that appeared to be short-range ballistic
missiles into the sea off the east coast of the Korean peninsula, South
Korea's military said on Saturday, after what analysts said was a show of
confidence during the coronavirus epidemic by announcing an April
The launch follows two earlier this month, when North Korea launched
short-range missiles and multiple projectiles, according to South Korea's
military, drawing U.S. and Chinese appeals for Pyongyang to return to talks
on ending its nuclear and missile programmes.
The suspected missiles were fired from North Pyongan province, South Korea's
Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The province is above Pyongyang on the northwest
corner of the Korean peninsula, bordering China.
Japan's coast guard said on Saturday that North Korea appeared to have fired
a missile, which landed outside Japan's exclusive economic zone waters.
Earlier, North Korea announced it will hold in April a session of the
Supreme People's Assembly, its rubber-stamp legislature, in Pyongyang, which
analysts had said would involve gathering almost 700 of the country's
leaders in one spot as the coronavirus spreads worldwide.
"If it goes ahead, it would be the ultimate show of [North Korea's]
confidence in managing the coronavirus situation," Rachel Minyoung Lee, of
the North Korea monitoring website NK News, said on Twitter this week.
U.S. SENATORS URGE TWITTER TO BAN CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY FROM PLATFORM
Two influential Republican lawmakers on Friday urged Twitter to ban the
Chinese Communist Party from using its platform for spreading "propaganda
and whitewash" the entire history of its alleged coronavirus cover-up.
"While the coronavirus pandemic is afflicting families, governments, and
markets around the world, the Chinese Communist Party is waging a massive
propaganda campaign to rewrite the history of COVID-19 and whitewash the
Party's lies to the Chinese people and the world," wrote Senators Ben Sasse
and Congressman Mike Gallagher in a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorse.
The widespread use of Twitter by communist officials of the People's
Republic of China (PRC) during this crisis emphasises the contradiction in
officials from governments that deny their citizens access to social media
platforms like Twitter having access to those same platforms, oftentimes to
spread disinformation, they alleged.
"By banning Twitter in China, the Chinese Communist Party is keeping its
citizens in the dark," the two lawmakers said.
"By putting propaganda on Twitter, the Chinese Communist Party is lying to
the rest of the world," the Senators wrote.
"We believe that the propaganda campaign Chinese government officials are
currently waging on Twitter -- especially during the current global crisis
-- merits the removal of these individual accounts from the platform," the
PAKISTAN REPORTS THIRD DEATH
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday asked people to self-quarantine
for at least another 45 days as the country reported its third coronavirus
(COVID-19) death and the total number of cases rose to 464. The third death
was reported from Sindh province where the number of cases rose to 238,
according to provincial spokesman Murtaza Wahab.
Already two patients died in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa where the number of positive
cases has increased to 23, provincial health minister Taimur Jhagra said.
At least 16 more cases were reported in Punjab where the tally touched 96,
according to a notification issued by the provincial health department
spokesperson Qaiser Asif.
More cases surfaced in Balochistan where the number of infected persons is
81. Another 23 were in Gilgit-Baltistan, two in Islamabad and one in
Meanwhile, The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have committed to
providing $588 million to Pakistan for its emergency response to fight the
coronavirus and to address the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic, a media
report said on Friday.
According to an official statement, the World Bank would provide $238
million and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) $350 million to Pakistan in
support for the COVID-19 emergency response and to tackle the socio-economic
disruption associated with it.
The announcement was made by the Planning Commission after a meeting with
representatives of the two lending agencies on Pakistan's preparedness and
response to fight COVID-19, the Dawn newspaper reported.
FINLAND IS AGAIN WORLD'S HAPPIEST COUNTRY: UN
Helsinki: Good cheer may feel in short supply as the world reels under a
global pandemic, but experts at the UN declared Finland to be the world's
happiest nation for the third year running. Researchers for the World
Happiness Report asked people in 156 countries to evaluate their own levels
of happiness, and took into account measures such as GDP, social support,
personal freedom and levels of corruption to give each nation a happiness
ONLY 5 PERSONS CAN ATTEND WEDDINGS: CHURCH OF ENGLAND
London: The Church of England has said that the number of people attending
church weddings will be limited to five persons - priest, bride, groom and
two witnesses - due to the Covid, it was reported. In an updated guidance on
their website, the Church said, "Where family relatives or friends are
unable to attend given the restrictions on numbering, churches will be happy
to explore ways to allow others to join the service, through platforms like
Skype or recording the service."