Daily update: April 8, 2020
Written and compiled by Darcy Miller. Avantika A and Makda Liyu Assefa contributed reporting.
As part of youth-focused news organisation Balance the Ballot, THEBIGGERPICTURE founder Darcy Miller has been working with several other writers to produce a daily coronavirus dispatch rounding up all the day’s events.
Due to the limitations of Instagram however, these updates have to be extremely concise. Here is our longer, more in-depth roundup of the day’s events, building on Balance the Ballot’s roundup, organised by region. Balance the Ballot’s roundup is here. See the latest statistics at the bottom of this.
Shinzo Abe called coronavirus “the biggest crisis [facing Japan’ since World War II”. Considering what Japan went through during that time, this is a very serious remark indeed.
Japan's state of emergency came into effect in seven virus-hit prefectures including Tokyo. The government also reversed its decision to exclude the adult entertainment industry from its virus economic relief package.
Australian and New Zealand passengers will be evacuated from a stricken Antarctic cruise ship on Thursday, after almost 60% of those onboard tested positive for the coronavirus.
A North Korean research institute has developed nano-antibiotic face masks, according to a report by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Wednesday.
Singapore bans public gatherings. The ban applies to both public and private gatherings in the Southeast Asian city state and is scheduled to run until May 4.
Activists and NGO workers in Japan have voiced concerns about a rise in domestic violence and child abuse as more stringent measures to tackle COVID-19 are put in place and victims are stuck in their homes with their abusers. This concern is concurrent with what other such people have been saying in other countries.
The first trains left Wuhan in 11 weeks, as residents were permitted to travel in and out of the city for the first time since the lockdown was originally imposed.
Schools and workplaces will be shut in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. It was additionally announced that all social distancing policies will now be legally binding. From Friday onwards, gatherings of more than five people will be banned, and public transportation services will slash passenger numbers by 50%, shortening their operational hours from 6am to 6pm. Private vehicles will still be allowed to enter the capital, but there will be a limit on the number of passengers in each vehicle (the details of which will be announced shortly). Additionally, religious events, defence-related activities and socio-cultural activities will be restricted. Schools had already been shut and some of the above restrictions were already put in place with a state of emergency, originally imposed at the end of March, but the new announcement turns those restrictions from voluntary to forced.
Ren Zhiqiang, a former Chinese property executive, criticised Xi Jinping last month about his leadership during the coronavirus outbreak and has since gone missing - on Tuesday, the Beijing municipal anti-corruption watchdog said that he is under investigation for “serious disciplinary violation”. Ren called Xi a “clown”, and wrote in an essay that Ren saw “not an emperor standing their exhibiting his ‘new clothes’, but a clown stripped naked who insisted on continuing being emperor” adding that “The reality shown by this epidemic is that the party defends its own interests, the government officials defend their own interests, and the monarch only defends the status and interests of the core”.
Singapore has announced that it will be implementing new schemes to attempt to boost food production in light of the threat COVID-19 poses to global supply chains; the country only produces 10% of its food needs. The schemes include turning car park rooftops into urban farms; a $21m grant will be poured into the project, to support the project of foodstuffs like eggs, leafy vegetables and fish, as well as working towards identifying alternative farming spaces. Singaporean authorities said that “The current COVID-19 situation underscores the importance of local food production, as part of Singapore’s strategies to ensure food security”, adding that “local food production mitigates our reliance on imports, and provides buffer in the event of food supply disruptions.
Indian officials said Mumbai will extend its lockdown measures until April the 30th at the very earliest; a three-week nationwide lockdown is set to end next Tuesday. Mumbai, which is home to more than 20 million people, has become the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak within India, and authorities were rushing to expand testing in order to slow down the spread of cases.
Mark Gaynor, an expat who has been living in Wuhan for seven years (including during the ongoing pandemic), told the Guardian that “life for residents of Wuhan is still more restricted than UK’s so-called lockdown”. He explained that “to leave the community residence, you need a green health code via an app on your phone… this is tied to your Chinese ID card and logs who you are and where you are… your temperature is also taken”. He said that to use the little public transport that is still operational, one is required to use the app, which foreigners cannot use as they do not have a Chinese ID card, so in effect foreigners cannot use public transport. He also said that workers need a special certificate showing the business has been provided official permission to restart and that “restaurants, cafes, stores, anywhere that people might gather are still closed”. Gaynor reported his personal experience, relating that “I can get to the supermarket five minutes walk from my apartment block, that’s all… one hour a day exercise? [referencing the UK’s measures] No way.” He stressed that “nobody should be mistaken that life in Wuhan is back to normal”.
More than 17,000 Australians have joined a campaign to withhold rent and mortgage payments in light of the financial struggles many face due to COVID-19. The organisers said in a statement on Megaphone, a website which is hosting the campaign, reads: “As renters and mortgagors we need to pledge, en-masse, that we will collectively withhold all rental and mortgage payments while the COVID-19 pandemic requires vulnerable people to isolate without security of income and housing. Renters must demand a rent amnesty from our landlords or real estate agents. Mortgagors must demand a repayment amnesty from our banks and mortgage holders. This has already been done in Italy, and will make a rent amnesty possible. We must all ensure that no member of our community is evicted, fined, or put into debt because they can’t pay rent or mortgage repayments while the COVID-19 outbreak is considered a pandemic.”
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has requested residents of the city self-isolate until May 6, from midnight on Tuesday onwards. The governor does not have the legal right to punish non-compliers, but has the ability to solidify the request by publicly identifying those who don’t comply or issuing a “directive” to residents and businesses.
Carrie Lam of Hong Kong has announced a HK$137.5bn (US$18bn) spending package to see through businesses and residents during the coronavirus pandemic. Lam explained that HK$80bn will go towards a wage scheme, in which companies in COVID-hit industries will be provided capital to go towards individual payments of up to 50% of salaries (up to HK$9,000) a month. The recipients must pledge to not lay off workers. Lam also said her monthly salary will fall to HK$390,000 after rising to HK$434,000 last July - Lam and her 16 ministers agreed to a year-long 10% pay cut.
Boris Johnson has spent two nights in intensive care, as concerns are amassed about the operations of government in his absence. The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, is stepping in as deputy PM, but it came to light that he has no power to make major decisions without cabinet approval. Johnson needed oxygen as he had breathing issues, but Downing Street said he was not placed on a ventilator and did not have pneumonia. Raab said “he’s receiving standard oxygen treatment and breathing without any assistance, he’s not required any mechanical ventilation or non-invasive respiratory support. He remains in good spirits and in keeping with usual clinical practice his progress continues to be monitored closely in critical care.”
Rishi Sunak, UK chancellor, reported that Boris Johnson’s condition has improved - Johnsonn is now sitting up in bed and “engaging positively” with the clinical team, but Johnson is still in intensive care.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan says the United Kingdom is still some way off being able to ease the restrictions introduced to stop the spread of coronavirus. "We’re nowhere near lifting the lockdown," Khan told BBC Radio on Wednesday.
The coronavirus outbreak has severely affected France's economy, which contracted by 6% in the first quarter, according to the central bank. A study by a bank estimated the economy shrinks 1.5% for each fortnight of confinement.
Speaking to Sky News, Edward Argar said that the UK was trying to source 18,000 ventilator machines, almost double the number it currently has. Some will be coming from the US, he added, despite criticism from many US states that they don't have enough ventilators.
A study done by The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) predicts that the UK will have the worst death toll in Europe from COVID-19; 66,000 deaths by August, with a maximum of almost 3,000 a day. However, Prof Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, whose separate data is used by the UK government, says that the IHME’s assumptions of “healthcare demand” is twice as high as it should be. The IHME says the peak will be on the 17th April, and the country will need in excess of 102,000 beds - there are only 18,000 currently, so a shortfall of 85,000.
A new hospital in London, NHS Nightingale, opened on Tuesday with 4,000 beds. Some of the beds have already been used up by COVID-19 patients.
Prof Mauro Ferrari has resigned as the president of the European Research Council (ERC), reportedly due to the European response to COVID-19. The scientist, who in that position was Europe’s top, began a four-year-long job tenure in January, but said that “I arrived at the ERC a fervent supporter of the EU [but] the Covid-19 crisis completely changed my views, though the ideals of international collaboration I continue to support with enthusiasm”. He added he was “extremely disappointed by the European response to Covid-19”.
Regional WHO director Dr Hans Henri P Kluge reported the “progress” Europe has made in fighting the coronavirus so far is “extremely fragile”, adding that “to think we are coming close to an end point would be a dangerous thing to do”. While death tolls in Spain and Italy are beginning to ease a little, now is “not the time” to loosen measures, he said.
A report by six think tanks, including Ifo, DIW and RWI, reveals that the German economy is expected to crash by almost 10% in the second quarter, twice as big as the economic fallout of the 2008-09 financial crisis. The report said it would be the steepest fall since they began the report in 1970.
Italy has closed ports to migrant ships due to COVID-19; charity migrant boats can no longer dock as a result. Additionally, the Greek government says that new asylum requests will not be examined during the pandemic, so thousands will be stuck in camps. However, Germany says they will take in up to 500 unaccompanied minors from Greek migrant camps over the next few weeks starting next week, with foreign minister Heiko Maas explaining “we want to set an example here”. Minors “will at first be placed in quarantine for two weeks” before the government finds housing for them.
Work is scheduled to restart at some of the German car factories owned by Daimler in less than 2 weeks, with its staff working shorter hours till the 30th of April.
Trump has said that the WHO is “China-centric”, claiming that he may withdraw funding from the multilateral organisation. However, at a press conference on Monday evening, he doubled back and instead said he was “looking into it”.
John Prine, the 73-year-old US folk and country singer, died from COVID-19 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Justin Trudeau said that US officials allowed the export of 500,000 masks to Ontario, which should arrive on Wednesday, adding that “we have had constructive and productive conversations that have assured that this particular shipment comes through but we recognize there is still more work to do”. Previously, Washington blocked the shipping of masks from the US, after implementing the Defense Production Act which allows the government to more forcefully direct the business activities of industrial producers to fit government objectives.
The city of Guayaquil, Ecuador is struggling with the rate of Covid-19 deaths. The government is having to distribute cardboard coffins to meet demands. Ecuador confirmed 220 deaths from the virus. But President Lenin Moreno said this week that the real figure was higher as authorities were collecting more than 100 bodies a day, many from relatives' homes as a strict quarantine prevented them from being buried. The government has installed giant refrigerated containers near hospitals to provide for the piling death count.
Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, South Africa’s communications and digital technologies minister, has been put on special leave after it emerged she violated her own government’s lockdown policies by visiting a friend’s house for lunch. An Instagram post showed Ndabeni-Abrahams with five other people at the home of a former deputy minister on Sunday. South Africa had recently imposed a three-week national lockdown.
Ethiopia has declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19; there are currently 52 confirmed cases in the country.
The European Union has promised 20bn euros to Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and eastern Europe, with the bloc’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrel, reporting “Unless the virus is defeated everywhere, it will not be defeated anywhere”.
Jack Dorsey, chief exec of Square and Twitter, has pledged $1bn towards fighting the coronavirus (around 28% of his total wealth), saying that if there is any leftover capital after the pandemic, it will go towards UBI and girl’s health and education. The money will be moved into an LLC he is calling StartSmall LLC. However, critics of the LLC model say that it is opaque and evades public disclosure about the type of gifts they make. LLCs give the donors flexibility and total control over how the money can be used. He says that he will reveal all donations on a public spreadsheet, but all disclosures will be voluntary. Additionally, some key financial information that would be in the public domain if it were a foundation will not be disclosed; it is also not required to donate 5% of its assets each year as a foundation would be.
The International Labour Organisation has projected that the equivalent of 195m jobs will be lost in working hours due to COVID-19; it says the global downturn will be a lot more damaging than the 2009 financial crash.
Pope Francis hailed the “saints who live next door”, referring to frontline workers during the pandemic, including doctors and shop workers. His full quotes, in an interview with Catholic weekly the Tablet, read “I’m thinking at this time of the saints who live next door. They are heroes – doctors, volunteers, religious sisters, priests, shop workers – all performing their duty so that society can continue functioning. How many doctors and nurses have died! How many religious sisters have died! All serving … If we become aware of this miracle of the next-door saints, if we can follow their tracks, the miracle will end well, for the good of all.”
The WTO projected that there will be a fall in global trade of up to a third.
Latest data (correct as of 21:10GMT on Tuesday, 8th April 2020)
TOTAL CONFIRMED: 1,525,312 (1,118,140 ACTIVE)
UNITED STATES: 446,205 (409,495 currently infected)
SPAIN: 146,824 (84,118 currently infected)
ITALY: 139,422 (95,262 currently infected)
FRANCE: 112,950 (41,290 currently infected)
GERMANY: 112,113 (73,824 currently infected)
CHINA: 81,802 (1,190 currently infected)
IRAN: 64,586 (30,781 currently infected)
UK: 60,733 (53,501 currently infected)
TURKEY: 38,226 (35,568 currently infected)
BELGIUM: 23,403 (16,482 currently infected)
SWITZERLAND: 23,280 (12,585 currently infected)
JAPAN: 4,257 (3,542swo currently infected)
SOUTH KOREA: 10,384 (3,408 currently infected)
SINGAPORE: 1,623 (1,211 currently infected)
AUSTRALIA: 6,013 (3,150 currently infected)
INDONESIA: 1,790 (1,508 currently infected)
INDIA: 5,916 (5,232 currently infected)
ISRAEL: 9,404 (8,530 currently infected)
TOTAL DEATHS: 87,894
SOUTH KOREA: 200
TOTAL RECOVERED: 319,278
SOUTH KOREA: 6,776
UNITED KINGDOM: 135
SOUTH KOREA: 6,776
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