Yemen faces spectre of coronavirus amid aid cuts
Ramadan is a quiet affair in Yemen this year. “People are very afraid,” said Ahmed, an aid worker in the Houthi rebel-controlled capital, Sana’a, who asked for his last name to be withheld. “There’s no money, there’s no healthcare and now you can’t even celebrate iftar with family because of the coronavirus.”
Yemen, where five years of war have already created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, is uniquely vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite a unilateral ceasefire announced by Saudi Arabia last month, there has been an uptick in fighting between the Houthis and the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition fighting on behalf of Yemen’s government, as well as renewed hostilities between the coalition and separatist forces in the country’s south.
The fresh violence, combined with humanitarian funding shortfalls and cuts, means Covid-19 could not have arrived at a worse time:
EU faces ‘existential threat’ if coronavirus recovery is uneven
The risk of an uneven economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis poses an “existential threat” to the European Union, one of its most senior economic policymakers has said.
Paolo Gentiloni, a former Italian prime minister and now the EU’s economy commissioner, said the bloc also had a “historic opportunity” as it charts a plan to rescue Europe’s economy.
In an interview a few days after the commission said Europe had entered “the deepest economic recession in its history”, Gentiloni said the EU needed a “sound recovery plan” to avoid the risks of economic division. Shuttered shops and factories, grounded planes and stay-at-home consumers as a result of lockdown restrictions mean the EU economy is expected to shrink by 7.5% in 2020, a deeper fall than the 2009 financial crisis.
Chinese authorities are preparing to test all 11 million residents of Wuhan, after a small outbreak in the city earlier this week. It’s been widely believed that this will be done within 10 days – an extraordinary undertaking for a city of 11 million people.
However, Chinese media reports have given some more clarity today, suggesting that while there is a citywide testing plan, the time limit is for each region on staggered start times.”
Each district shall make arrangements for nucleic acid screening plan for all members within 10 days,” said a Wuhan government notice.
Caixin Global reported some districts will start this week, and some next.The article cited Wuhan disease control officials saying the testing will be done by third party companies and some hospital and disease control employees.
However, it said the rate of testing couldn’t see more than 100,000 a day.
On Tuesday Yicai news said Wuchang district was to be screened between 13 May and 20 May, but with the intention of finishing by the 17 may to allow three days “to find out and fill in the gaps”.
A resident of Jianghan, once the worst-hit district of Wuhan, told media he’d received a registration form on Tuesday for himself and his family to either report having been tested or register for testing. Peng Zhiyong, director of the intensive care unit at the Wuhan University’s Zhongnan Hospital, told the Global Times that he hadn’t received any details of the testing plan as of Tuesday.
The lifting of coronavirus lockdowns in China has given the stuttering auto industry a jumpstart, with sales rising for the first time in two years as buyers return as the health crisis eases, AFP reports.
This photo taken on 10 May 2020 shows people looking at Volkswagen cars on display at a showroom in Beijing. Photograph: Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images
Sales in the world’s biggest car market began to slide in 2018 and plunged further when the pandemic paralysed the economy, but they have rebounded as the country tames the virus and lifts restrictions on travel and businesses.
Sales rose 4.4% year-on-year in April, the latest figures from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show, driven by strong demand for commercial vehicles, which soared more than 30%.
The recent uptick came as China emerged from months of lockdown and restrictions on movement imposed around the country earlier this year to curb the spread of the virus.
Passenger car sales suffered at the time, plunging close to 80% from a year ago in February, according to China Passenger Car Association data.
Asian markets fell again Wednesday after Donald Trump’s top virus adviser warned that easing lockdown measures too early could spark another dangerous wave of infections and batter the economic recovery, AFP reports.
A woman wearing a face mask walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan’s Nikkei 225 and other Asian countries’ index at a securities firm in Tokyo Monday, 11 May 2020. Photograph: Eugene Hoshiko/AP
Brewing tensions between the US and China added another layer of concern for traders after lawmakers in Washington proposed giving the president powers to impose fresh sanctions if Beijing does not give a “full accounting” for the coronavirus outbreak.
Tokyo ended the morning down 0.8%, while Hong Kong dropped 0.2% and Shanghai slipped 0.3%.
Sydney shed 0.9%, while there were also losses in Seoul, Singapore, Manila, Jakarta and Wellington.
The second day of selling followed losses on Wall Street and eats into recent gains driven by slowing infection and death rates, and the lifting of economy-strangling measures that kept billions at home.
The recent optimism that has flowed through markets, helped by trillions of dollars in worldwide stimulus and central bank backstopping, has been given a jolt by data showing fresh outbreaks in South Korea, China and Germany.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 798 to 171,306, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday.
The reported death toll rose by 101 to 7,634, the tally showed.
A visitor checks out a statue group titled “Amor and Psyche” at the Altes Museum in Berlin on 12 May 2020, after the museum re-opened its doors. Photograph: John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images
Launched amid the mounting scare over the coronavirus, a Japanese video chat website designed for hosting virtual drinking parties has soared in popularity while bars and pubs remain shut, Reuters reports.
Nomikai, or drinking gatherings, are seen by many Japanese as central to building strong relationships among friends and workmates to bond. Tapping into that culture, Tacnom – which means drinks at home in Japanese – has attracted 2.4 million users in its first two months.
A nomikai participant reacts. Photograph: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters
“I really didn’t expect this impact and I’m extremely happy,” Takashi Kiyose, chief executive of Tacnom’s operator 1010 Inc, told Reuters.
Tacnom does not require downloads or registrations unlike other online video platforms, but its users can create a URL link and share with their friends to join virtual gatherings of up to 12 people.
“I hope our service can help users meet people they cannot see now. I would be very happy if their time at home due to self-restraints from going out will be enriched,” Kiyose said.
Japan remains under a state of emergency until end of May. The move allows local municipalities to urge people to stay inside, but without punitive measures or legal force. The country has reported about 15,000 coronavirus cases, and 633 deaths from the virus.
China reported seven new coronavirus infections on the mainland on 12 May, versus one a day earlier, the national health authority said on Wednesday.
Of the seven new cases reported by mainland China today, six are people who were infected by local transmission in Jilin province, which borders Russia and North Korea. Authorities have now ordered stricter lockdown measures in response.
Staff disinfect the reception point of Changchun University Of Chinese Medicine as it reopens on 7 May 2020 in Changchun, Jilin Province of China. Photograph: China News Service/China News Service via Getty Images
According to Beijing News, residents of Jilin city must get tested for the virus at their own expense and obtain a negative result before being allowed to travel to other cities. They must also complete strict self quarantine.
There are new requirements for entering and leaving residences, gatherings like dinner parties have been banned and public transportation has been suspended.
It comes after the province’s Shulan city was reclassified as high risk and ordered to partially shut down this week after confirming 12 cases.
Mexico’s government gave the green light on Tuesday for the key automotive industry to restart production after weeks of disruption by the coronavirus pandemic, a decision that should pave the way to reopen North American supply chains, Reuters reports.
Empty work stations can be seen on 15 April 2020 at a Japanese factory that manufactures automotive parts at the Logistik Industrial Park in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Photograph: Mauricio Palos/The Guardian
The government’s health committee, which issues binding sanitation rules, said it agreed to add makers of transport equipment, a category that includes automotive and aerospace industries, to the list of activities considered essential.
Mexican auto output fell nearly 99% in April, and the government is under pressure from the United States to synchronize its restart with American companies that rely on supply chains from south of the border.
The virus outbreak in Mexico is several weeks behind the US epidemic however, and health authorities have been cautious to avoid moving too fast and putting more lives at risk.
Mexico’s Social Security Institute said 555,247 people registered with it lost their jobs in April, while Mexico’s daily death toll on Tuesday was its highest yet from the outbreak.
Podcast: What does the biggest economic slump in 300 years mean for Britain
As the chancellor announces plans to extend the unprecedented scheme to pay the wages of millions of workers, whole sectors of the economy remain shut because of Covid-19, causing a recession unseen in Britain for centuries. Larry Elliott explains what it will mean for the country:
Foreign Policy has obtained a leaked data set from a Chinese military university which it says could give extraordinary insight into the accuracy of China’s published statistics – but is not being shared with other countries or the World Health Organisation.
“Beijing claims that since the coronavirus pandemic began at the end of last year, there have been only 82,919 confirmed cases and 4,633 deaths in mainland China,” the report says.
“Those numbers could be roughly accurate, and in that case a detailed account would be an important tool in judging the spread of the virus. But it’s also possible that the numbers presented to the rest of the world are vastly understated compared to Beijing’s private figures.”
James “Stay In. Make Masks. Test People” Palmer
Each of those updates contains the information about a particular location – from hospitals to hotels – at a particular moment, each involving normally a number of cases. But there are multiple time sequences for each one, and some cases probably cross over between locations.
May 13, 2020
According to Foreign Policy, the dataset has incredibly detailed breakdowns of the country’s epidemic, with more than 640,000 information updates from 230 cities.
“Each update includes the latitude, longitude, and ‘confirmed’ number of cases at the location, for dates ranging from early February to late April,” the report said.
“The dataset, though it contains inconsistencies—and though it may not be comprehensive enough to contradict Beijing’s official numbers—is the most extensive dataset proved to exist about coronavirus cases in China. But more importantly, it can serve as a valuable trove of information for epidemiologists and public health experts around the globe—a dataset that Beijing has almost certainly not shared with US officials or doctors.”
Lives have been lost in the coronavirus pandemic because of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) exclusion of Taiwan and refusal to allow it to share best practices and information, a top US government commission on China said in a new report.
The United States has repeatedly clashed with China over its refusal to allow non-WHO member Taiwan, claimed by China as one of its provinces, full access to the body, becoming another source of rising tensions between Washington and Beijing, Reuters reports.
Taiwan says China and the WHO have conspired for political purposes to lock it out of key meetings, that the WHO has not responded to its requests for coronavirus information and that the WHO has previously misreported Taiwan’s virus case numbers.
The WHO and China strongly dispute this, saying Taiwan has been given all the help it needs, but that only China has the right to represent the democratic island in the WHO.
In a report released on Tuesday, the US Congress’ US-China Economic and Security Review Commission said Taiwan’s exclusion contributed to “critical delays” in timely receipt and accurate guidance for WHO members in the early stages of the outbreak.
“Had the WHO allowed Taiwan’s health experts to share information and best practices in early January, governments around the world could have had more complete information on which to base their public health policies,” it said.
The Guardian’s Charlotte Graham-McLay reports:
“There is no playbook for the recovery we are about to embark on but nor do we need one,” Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, has said in a speech the day before her government unveils its annual Budget.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a press conference at Parliament on 12 May 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand. Photograph: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
“When it has come to Covid-19 we have carved a path based on our people, our health system, and our economy. And now that is exactly what we will do again, as we recover and rebuild.”
Her comments came as New Zealand recorded a second consecutive day of no new Covid-19 cases, and prepares to loosen lockdown restrictions further on Thursday.
Warning that her finance minister’s spending plan would be unveiled during “the most challenging economic conditions faced by any government since the Great Depression,” Ardern said the government would respond not with austerity but with investment.
“We will run the ruler over every line of expenditure, no question we need to ensure our expenditure provides value for money and supports our primary goal of jobs,” she said. “But the notion that at this time of need we would make cuts to the essential services so many New Zealanders need more than ever is not only immoral, it is economically wrong.”
Her government yesterday made a pre-Budget announcement of $4 billion NZD for New Zealand’s health system. Grant Robertson, the finance minister, has already allocated a stimulus of $22 billion NZD — half of it on wage subsidies — since Covid-19 reached New Zealand.
You can read our preview of Robertson’s Budget here:
at 2.49am BST
In other New Zealand news: the country’s ban on large funerals and tangi has been described as “inhumane” by the opposition leader, and “disappointing” and “cruel” by indigenous funeral directors.
New Zealand is set to exit the coronavirus lockdown and resume many parts of normal life on Thursday, but restrictions on funerals and tangi remain, with only ten mourners permitted. The same rules also apply to weddings.
Simon Bridges, the National party leader and a Māori man,said the limit of 10 mourners would cause added grief and pain for families wanting to say goodbye to a loved one.
“It’s not fair that you can have 30 people on a rugby field playing close contact sport but you can’t have more than ten people at a funeral so they can grieve together,” Bridges said in a statement:
The Guardian’s Charlotte Graham-McLay reports:
New Zealand has reported a second consecutive day of no new cases of Covid-19, the day before the government further loosens lockdown restrictions on the country.
94% of the 1,147 people in New Zealand confirmed to have Covid-19 have recovered, said Ashley Bloomfield, the director-general of health, at a news conference in Wellington.
20 people have died of the coronavirus in New Zealand. There were no additional deaths on Wednesday.
Swimmers stand on a pontoon at Oriental Bay on 13 May 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand. Photograph: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
New Zealand’s government has drawn praise for its strict and early lockdown of the country when just over 200 people had been diagnosed with Covid-19 and no one had died. A stringent month-long national shutdown followed.
While restrictions have been loosened slightly already, the country will open further tomorrow, with New Zealanders allowed to socialise outside of their homes for the first time in groups of no larger than 10. Many more businesses will re-open, including cafes, shops and restaurants. Next week, schools and bars will re-open; schools had been operating in a limited capacity in recent weeks.