What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Officials from the World Health Organization are urging “extreme vigilance” as countries begin to exit weeks-long lockdowns, warning of the risk of a second wave of infections with a vaccine still a long way off.

In particular, it pointed to early studies showing lower-than-expected antibody levels against the disease within the general population, meaning most people remain susceptible.

“It’s really important that we hold up examples of countries who are willing to open their eyes and willing to keep their eyes open,” Dr Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergencies programme, said, citing Germany and South Korea.

In contrast, he said other countries, which he did not name, were “trying to drive through this blindly”.

Furloughing on notice

The UK government is expected on Tuesday to prepare the ground for a winding down of its furloughing programme, currently paying the wages of more than 6 million workers at businesses affected by the coronavirus.

Britain’s finance minister, Rishi Sunak, will make a statement on the government’s economic package at 1130 GMT – hours after one of his ministerial colleagues told a morning radio show that the programme “can’t last for ever”.

At present, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme pays employers 80% of the wages of staff who are on temporary leave – local media speculate this could fall to 60%.

Tourist quarantines

It’s already clear the pandemic has the potential to change the tourism industry in far-reaching if still indefinable ways. One of Europe’s top holiday destinations Spain has now ordered a two-week quarantine for all those arriving from abroad.

Incoming travellers will have to remain locked in and will only be allowed to go out for grocery shopping, to visit health centres or in case of “situation of need”, an official order published on Tuesday said.

The quarantine will be enforced for all travellers coming to Spain between May 15 and May 24 at the very earliest.

Cannes canned

“It breaks my heart,” said Joseph Morpelli, leading member of the so-called ‘stepladder gang’ of ardent autograph hunters and amateur paparazzi, as he stood across the street from the venue of the cancelled Cannes Film Festival on Monday.

Usually a hive of activity, the location where Morpelli and his fellow diehard fans could get a glimpse of celebrities walking down the red carpet is now deserted, as the film festival due to start on Tuesday has been called off.

It was only the third time in its history that the festival has failed to take place. The two previous occasions were the outbreak of World War Two and 1968, when France was rocked by violent anti-establishment protests.

California cancels fall university classes as Fauci warns of reopening too soon

Dan Whitcomb, Sharon Bernstein

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California’s state university system, the largest in the United States, canceled classes on Tuesday for the fall semester because of the coronavirus, while Los Angeles County said its stay-at-home order was likely to be extended by three months.

The announcements on the West Coast came after the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told Congress that lifting the sweeping lockdowns could touch off new outbreaks of the illness, which has killed nearly 81,000 Americans and devastated the economy.

In one of the first indications the pandemic will continue to have a significant impact into autumn, the chancellor of California State University said classes at its 23 campuses would be canceled for the semester that begins in September, with instruction moved online.

“Our university, when open without restrictions and fully in person, as is the traditional norm of the past, is a place where over 500,000 people come together in close and vibrant proximity with each other on a daily basis,” the chancellor, Timothy White, said in a statement.

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Cuba’s economic situation and the pandemic is facing a dilemma.

Either it shuts itself in and ends up burying the change agenda that aroused so much enthusiasm at the beginning of the last decade, or it reconciles with a heterogeneous social fabric that allows it to unleash the potential of an enterprising and sacrificed people.

The COVID-19 health emergency has economic implications for all countries, but its impact isn’t symmetrical. Although it is a typical characteristic of developing countries, the Cuban economy is very sensitive to the availability of foreign exchange, on which imports depend. External purchases are key to sustaining consumption and production. A crisis of these proportions can only worsen the already precarious state of the island’s balance of payments.

The blow will be resounding. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts a 6.1% drop in GDP in developed economies. The World Trade Organization (WTO) anticipates a decline in trade of up to a third. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) forecasts a 5.6% drop in production in the region. These figures are much worse than in the 2009 recession. At the sectoral levels, tourism and aviation are among the most affected. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) advances a severe collapse in travel. For now, the European Union plans to keep the community borders closed until September. The economies most dependent on the sector will suffer a higher impact, including the Caribbean and, of course, Cuba.

The economic impact

The island’s productive activity had been slowing down markedly since 2016. Economic growth halved between 2016 and 2019, compared to the 2010-2015 period. Factors such as the economic crisis in Venezuela, the cancellation of contracts for medical services (Brazil), the end of the boom in international tourism, the effect of new sanctions from the United States and the contradictions of the domestic economic reform intervened. Pondering on one or the other factor continues to be a subject of wide debate in the country. For the average citizen, the clearest symptom of economic problems is the increasing shortage of products of all kinds, including essential items such as food, medicine and fuel. These effects were already felt since December 2018. The authorities had introduced energy saving measures as early as in the summer of 2016.

The economy and hope

Among Cuba’s main trading partners, only China has a prediction of positive growth for 2020, and it is 1.2%. Venezuela and Spain (first and fourth trading partners) are among the most affected. In the case of Venezuela, with the added effect of the collapse of oil prices. CEPAL itself estimates a contraction of 3.7% of the Cuban GDP, a figure that will surely be revised downwards in the middle of the year. The scenario is very complex, although a return to the infamous Special Period of the early 1990s is unlikely. The productive fabric is more diversified, the economy is more integrated with the rest of the world, and households are not as dependent on the State to meet their vital needs. In fact, a very significant part of their income comes from remittances, foreign visitors or international businesses. The island is more resilient, but its inhabitants are less tolerant of material constraints.

Stacey Abrams Formally Endorses Joe Biden

Abrams, who has been publicly advocating for herself as a possible vice presidential pick, also reiterated that she does not believe Tara Reade’s allegations against Biden.

Stacey Abrams speaks to supporters in Atlanta, Ga., November 7, 2018. (Lawrence Bryant/Reuters)
Failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on Tuesday formally endorsed Joe Biden for president, in the latest endorsement to come despite sexual assault allegations against Biden by former Senate staffer Tara Reade.

“Vice President Biden is the leader America needs – a leader who will restore dignity, competence and compassion to the Oval Office while restoring America’s moral leadership around the world,” Abrams said in a statement distributed by the Biden campaign. “I look forward to continuing my strong support for his candidacy and doing all I can to make sure he is elected this November.”

Abrams, who has been publicly advocating for herself as a possible vice presidential pick, also reiterated on Tuesday that she does not believe Tara Reade’s allegations against Biden.

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CIA Believes China Tried to Prevent WHO from Declaring Coronavirus ‘Global Health Emergency’: Report

The WHO declared a global health emergency on January 30, about one month after China confirmed the emergence of the as-yet unidentified pathogen in the city of Wuhan.

The CIA reportedly believes that China attempted to prevent the World Health Organization from declaring a global health emergency during the beginning stages of the coronavirus pandemic in January.

In a report titled “U.N.-China: WHO Mindful But Not Beholden to China,” the CIA detailed that China threatened to cease cooperating with the WHO’s coronavirus investigation if the agency declared a global health emergency, Newsweek reported on Tuesday. The threats came at the same time that China reportedly “intentionally concealed the severity” of the outbreak in order to hoard medical supplies.

U.S. officials told Newsweek that they could not say whether Chinese premier Xi Jinping was personally involved in the effort to pressure the WHO. A German intelligence report published by Der Spiegel last week concluded that Xi was indeed involved in the effort.

The WHO declared a global health emergency on January 30, about one month after China confirmed the emergence of the then-unidentified pathogen in the city of Wuhan.

“Let me be clear: This declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China. On the contrary, WHO continues to have confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak,” WHO Director-General Tedros Anhanom told reporters at the time. The coronavirus outbreak has since become a pandemic, causing over 4,000,000 confirmed infections and killing almost 300,000 worldwide as of Tuesday.

Accusing the WHO of mishandling the crisis and kowtowing to China, President Trump in April announced he would suspend U.S. funding for the organization.

“I’m instructing my administration to halt funding of the WHO while a review is conducted to assess the WHO’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” Trump said at a White House press conference. “The WHO failed in this basic duty and must be held accountable.”

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