WHO says it has no evidence to support ‘speculative’ Covid-19 lab theory pushed by US
The World Health Organisation says the United States hasn’t given any evidence to support its “speculative” claim that Covid-19 originated in a Wuhan lab, as China dismissed the Trump administration claim as “insane”.
Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed to have proof the virus, which scientists believe jumped from animals to humans possibly at a Chinese wet market in Wuhan last year, actually originated in a laboratory in the same city.
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo said on Sunday the US had “enormous evidence” to back the theory, however they have not produced it publicly or provided it to the WHO, the organisation’s emergencies director, Dr Michael Ryan has said.
“So from our perspective, this remains speculative,” Ryan said.
“Like any evidence-based organisation, we would be very willing to receive any information that purports to the origin of the virus,” Ryan said, stressing that this was “a very important piece of public health information for future control”.
“If that data and evidence is available, then it will be for the United States government to decide whether and when it can be shared, but it is difficult for the WHO to operate in an information vacuum in that regard,” he added.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says he twice tested negative for the coronavirus but many, including a federal judge, are demanding he share the actual results. Still, the leader has refused, AP reports.
The surreal standoff is the latest flashpoint in a broader battle between a president who has repeatedly tested the limits of his power and democratic institutions. There are concerns that as Bolsonaro pushes back, it could spark a constitutional crisis.
Supporters of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro shout slogans during a protest against his former Minister of Justice Sergio Moro and the Supreme Court, in front of the Planalto presidential palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, 3 May 2020. Photograph: Eraldo Peres/AP
Bolsonaro has consistently downplayed the coronavirus pandemic and has fiercely criticized efforts by governors and mayors to impose measures to control the virus’ spread, instead advocating for most people to get back to work.
But the courts have repeatedly curtailed him on this issue and others: they ruled that governors and mayors have the power to determine shutdown measures. They overturned the presidents decree allowing religious gatherings and are trying to force the release of his Covid-19 test results to put to rest speculation he may have lied.
They struck down his pick for federal police director and on Saturday suspended his decision to expel 30 Venezuelan diplomats from the country.
Bolsonaro’s supporters have denounced the decisions as part of a plot to derail his presidency, and the president himself says he is a victim of meddling by obstructionist judges.
At least 300 people held in two centers set up by the Salvadoran government to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus protested on Monday, demanding to be released and given the results of their tests, Reuters reports.
People detained at a curfew centre for not complying with stay at home orders protest after being held for more time than what was ordered by the Ministry of Health, in San Salvador, El Salvador, 4 May 2020. Photograph: Camilo Freedman/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock
El Salvador holds people accused of violating the mandatory home quarantine decreed by President Nayib Bukele in March even though the Supreme Court has since ordered him to not detain such people.
People in a sports center in the capital, San Salvador, said they had been in quarantine for more than 40 days; they also said they had been tested but did not get the results.
The Salvadoran government did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
El Salvador, which has reported 13 deaths and 555 confirmed cases, has 91 containment centers; 3,964 people are quarantined there, according to an official data.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 685 to 163,860, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday.
The reported death toll rose by 139 to 6,831, the tally showed.
But Germany’s cases might be more than ten times higher those confirmed, researchers say. The Guardian’s Europe correspondent, John Henley, had this report earlier today:
The UN Security Council on Monday backed Lebanon’s efforts to end the country’s economic crisis and tackle other challenges including the impact of Covid-19, calling on the international community to help, AP reports.
A protester waves a Lebanese flag as demonstrators from across Lebanon gather against dwindling economic conditions in the country, at al-Nour Square in the centre of the northern port city of Tripoli on 3 May 2020. Photograph: Ibrahim Chalhoub/AFP via Getty Images
The UN’s most powerful body took note in a statement after a closed meeting of the urgent need for the Lebanese authorities to respond to the aspirations of the Lebanese people by implementing meaningful economic reforms and addressing security, humanitarian and Covid-19 challenges.
Lebanon, one of the most indebted nations in the world, defaulted for the first time in March on its sovereign debt. Anti-government protests that erupted in October subsided during a nationwide lock-down since mid-March to blunt the spread of the coronavirus. Those restrictions are starting to ease.
Last Thursday, the prime minister said he will seek a rescue program from the International Monetary Fund, but protesters rallied again Friday, criticising the governments handling of the unprecedented crisis that saw the local currency crash, people’s savings devastated, and prices and inflation soar.
From right to left in front row, Iran’s Ambassador to Lebanon Mohammed Jalal Feiruznia, Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan, Lebanese Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti, and Minister of Public Works and Transportation Michel Najjar, stand next to coronavirus aid supplies delivered by the Iranian government at the Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, 4 May 2020. Photograph: Bilal Hussein/AP
at 3.23am BST
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that over the period mid-March to mid-April:
One million Australians lost their jobs
Nearly a third of Australians (31%) reported that their household finances had worsened due to Covid-19;
One in four Australians aged 18 years and over (28%) reported receiving the first one-off $750 economic support payment from the Commonwealth Government; and
Compared to the 2017-18 National Health Survey almost twice as many adults reported experiencing feelings associated with anxiety, such as nervousness or restlessness, at least some of the time.
The Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia estimates also showed that between 14 March and 18 April (the five weeks after Australia recorded its 100th confirmed Covid-19 case) total employee jobs decreased by 7.5%, while total wages paid by employers decreased by 8.2%.
Head of Labour Statistics at the ABS, Bjorn Jarvis, said: “The industries which lost the most jobs continued to be Accommodation and food services (-33.4%) and Arts and recreation services (-27.0%).
“Job losses in Accommodation and food services were greatest in South Australia (-39.7%) and Victoria (-35.6%).
“The new data shows that jobs in Accommodation and food services worked by people aged 20-29 and people over 70 decreased the most (-40.8% and -43.7%).”
Podcast: The NHS official privately selling protective kit
Guardian reporters Harry Davies and Simon Goodley tell Rachel Humphreys how they tracked down and confronted a senior NHS procurement official who had set up a company offering PPE for private sale:
Stranded at sea for months due to Covid-19 and refused port three times, sailor docks in Fiji
A Singaporean man has been rescued after being stranded at sea for three months and being turned away from three countries as ports around the world closed due to coronavirus.
The man, who has been identified by Fijian media as Wong Tetchoong, 59, set off from Singapore on a sailing adventure on 2 February that was meant to last for three years.
As news about the Covid-19 outbreak began to spread around the world, Wong tried to dock in various countries, but was turned away international borders and ports were closed.
“I sailed to Papua New Guinea from Indonesia because the weather was okay, but when I reached the borders, they were closed so I continued again to the Solomon Islands. It was also closed, then I went to Tuvalu and they didn’t let me in, but the Tuvalu people provided me with food,” Wong told the Fiji Sun.
After six days and six nights of sailing from Tuvalu, Wong made it to Fijian waters on 28 April. By this point his yacht was damaged and strong winds prevented him from sailing into the harbour, so he was rescued by a Fiji Navy patrol boat, which brought his yacht safely to shore.
Fauci says there is no scientific evidence virus came from Chinese laboratory
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the foremost US expert on infections diseases and a key member of Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, has said that there is no scientific basis for the theory that coronavirus was man-made in a Chinese laboratory, or escaped from a laboratory after being brought in from the wild.
Dr. Fauci told National Geographic, in an interview just published:
If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated … Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species
“Based on the scientific evidence, he also doesn’t entertain an alternate theory—that someone found the coronavirus in the wild, brought it to a lab, and then it accidentally escaped,” National Geographic reports.
The theory that the virus emerged from a laboratory in Wuhan, China was cited by both Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week. Fauci joins the World Health Organization and intelligence sources in rejecting the theory in response to Trump and Pompeo’s claims.
The Guardian’s Charlotte Graham-McLay reports:
More from New Zealand now: the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has talked up the relationship between Australia and her country after joining Australia’s national cabinet meeting by secure call this morning.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photograph: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
It is understood that the prospect of a “trans-Tasman bubble” – which has been anticipated by both countries’ leaders – was discussed at the meeting. Ardern said she would not reveal much detail from the gathering before an expected joint news release later this afternoon – including refusing to speculate on the timeline of when such a “bubble” between the countries might be up and running.
But she told reporters that both countries stood to benefit from the move, which it’s understood would see the 14-day quarantine period for arriving in each country waived, so people could travel freely between the two. Australia, she said, was the largest group of tourists to travel to New Zealand, after China.
“The case for increasing economic relations when safe is clear,” she said, adding praise for the “world-leading results on both sides of the Tasman” to get the virus under control.
More to come on this story later today.
at 2.35am BST
The coronavirus pandemic has hit Japan’s economy hard and many factories, including those of carmakers, are scaling back production.
Foreign workers are particularly vulnerable, with a weaker support network and language barriers that prevent them from seeking government help, Reuters reports.
Union groups, labour lawyers and nonprofit organisations say foreign workers are the first to lose jobs in “corona cuts”, which they fear may expand to the kind of mass layoffs seen in the 2008 financial crisis.
Rennan Yamashita, a Brazilian worker who was recently laid off from his job in Tsu, Mie Prefecture, Japan 23 April 2020. Photograph: Sakura Murakami/Reuters
Last month, the Japan Center for Economic Research estimated that if Japan’s GDP contracted by 25% this year, the unemployment rate would reach 5% and about 2 million people could lose their jobs.
In March and April, a labour organisation based in Mie, a manufacturing centre about 300km west of Tokyo, received 400 consultations from labourers who were affected by the coronavirus. About 330 were foreign workers.
Last year, 34.5% of foreign employees in Mie were temporary workers, compared with the national average of 2.5%.
New Zealand records no new cases for second day in a row
The Guardian’s Charlotte Graham-McLay reports:
New Zealand has had a second straight day of no new cases of Covid-19 cases recorded, as the government considers whether to further relax the country’s lockdown restrictions.
Yesterday was the first time since before New Zealand’s national shutdown began on 25 March that there were no new cases of the virus diagnosed.
There are four people in hospital with the illness, down from seven yesterday. There have been no additional deaths reported. 20 people have died of the coronavirus in New Zealand.
88% of the 1,486 people with confirmed or probable Covid-19 have now recovered, according the Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s director-general of health, who is currently giving a news conference in Wellington.
“Of course we must stick to the plan,” Bloomfield told reporters. “The worst thing we could do is celebrate success early before the full time whistle blows.”
at 2.35am BST
Anger at UK lockdown easing plans ‘that could put workers at risk’
The Guardian’s Rowena Mason and Heather Stewart report:
Workers may refuse to turn up or stage walk-outs unless the government helps guarantee their safety, trade unions have warned amid anger over guidance designed to ease the lockdown.
As ministers prepare to urge the country back to return to work, Labour joined a string of trade unions in criticising draft guidelines for being vague, inadequate and putting staff at risk because employers can choose how closely to follow them.
They warned that vulnerable people such as pregnant women, those with underlying conditions such as cancer, asthma and diabetes, and over-70s could be forced to work without enough protections.
Australia’s emergency coronavirus cabinet is due to meet later Tuesday with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also attending. New Zealand has reported 1,137 coronavirus cases and 20 fatalities.
The trans-Tasman neighbours are considering reopening their borders to allow air travel between the two countries, in a bid stimulate economic activity.
Australia has so far unveiled support measures worth about A$320 billion ($205.6 billion) or about 16% of GDP, as restrictions on public movement push the country toward its first recession in nearly 30 years.
The decline in cases and a Covid-19 mortality rate of just 1%, however, have led Australia to relax some curbs on non-essential movements.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, left, stands with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison during the signing of the Indigenous Collaboration Arrangement at Admiralty House in Sydney, Friday, 28 February 2020. Photograph: Bianca De Marchi/AP
Australia will take a 10% hit to gross domestic product and the unemployment rate will likely double in the June quarter due to measures to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will say in a speech on Tuesday.
The world’s 12th-biggest economy will lose about AU$4bn (US$2.6bn) every week due to restrictions on movement and economic activity.
A swimmer walks into the water at Mentone Beach in Melbourne, Australia, 5 May 2020. Photograph: Michael Dodge/EPA
But the impact would have been a lot worse if Australia – with more than 6,800 coronavirus infections and 96 deaths – had followed Europe’s example and imposed stricter controls on all non-essential services, he is expected to say.