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World coronavirus dispatch: How a Wuhan lab got mired in global blame-game

In a curious development, French scientists claim to have identified a coronavirus case dating back to December, about a month before the first cases were officially confirmed in Europe

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Coronavirus | China | healthcare

Yuvraj Malik 

A woman dressed in traditional costume holds an umbrella walks next to another woman both wearing a protective face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Photo: PTI
A woman dressed in traditional costume holds an umbrella walks next to another woman both wearing a protective face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Photo: PTI

In a rather peculiar development, French scientists say they may have identified a possible case of the new dating back to December — about a month before the first cases were officially confirmed in Europe. The patient, who has since recovered, said he had no idea where he caught the virus, as he had not travelled abroad. France is not the only country where subsequent testing points to earlier cases. Two weeks ago, a post-mortem examination carried out in California revealed that the first coronavirus-related death in the US was almost a month earlier than previously thought. Read more here.

Let’s look at the global statistics

Total confirmed cases: 3,601,760

Change over previous day: 75,582

Total deaths: 251,910

Total recovered: 1,174,006

Nations hit with most cases: The US (1,180,634), Spain (218,011), Italy (211,938), the UK (191,832) and France (169,583).

Source: Johns Hopkins Research Center

US to fund relief largely through borrowing: US expects to borrow a record $3 trillion in the second quarter to pay for the coronavirus relief measures passed by the Congress. The borrowing estimate for the April-June quarter is larger than the country’s largest full-year borrowing yet – the most it has borrowed in a financial year is $1.8 trillion, in 2009 because of the global financial crisis. Looking ahead to the third quarter, the US Treasury Department said it expected to borrow $677 billion. Read more here.

California, home to Silicon Valley, to lift lockdown: California, the first US state to shut down its economy over the coronavirus pandemic, will start loosening its restrictions from Friday. Governor Gavin Newsom has said he hopes the outbreak has reached a tipping point. The first phase of eased measures will allow stores to sell books, clothes, flowers and other items through curb-side pick-up. Read more here.

Hong to re-open schools: Hong Kong will relax some social-distancing measures and reopen shuttered schools after the city reported no locally transmitted coronavirus infection for a 16th consecutive day. Most businesses, including fitness centres, beauty salons, movie theatres and other recreational venues, will be allowed to re-open on Friday. Read more here.

UK car sales abysmally low in April: The UK sold just 4,321 cars during April, the lowest since just after the World War-II. The 97 per cent slump followed similar declines in the Covid-19 hotspots of Italy and Spain, while France fared slightly better with an 89 per cent decline. Read more here.

Spain’s jobless claims hits 600,000: The number of Spaniards filing for jobless claims surged for a second month – by 282,891, the biggest April increase on record. Most of these people were in the services sector. Claims have now risen by almost 600,000 in the past two months, a stark reversal from the traditional pattern, as March and April typically mark the beginning of the summer tourist season and herald robust job creation. Read more here.

Billionaire wants US government to hire the jobless: Billionaire, TV star, and NBA team owner Mark Cuban tweeted that the federal government should be hiring millions of people right now to do various jobs related to the virus and the crisis, such as contact tracing, sanitation work, and caregiving. He also suggested expanding PeaceCorps hiring, with higher pay. See his tweet here.

102-year-old woman leaves Singapore hospital after beating coronavirus: A 102-year-old woman discharged from a Singapore hospital has joined the handful of centenarian survivors of the outbreak. The woman, who has five children, 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, was among 16 residents and staff of the Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home in the city-state who tested positive for the virus. Read more here.

Specials

Qatar has the lowest mortality rate among nations with major infections: Singapore is second on the list of lowest mortality rates. Qatar is first, with a 0.07 per cent fatality ratio – 12 deaths out of more than 16,000 cases. Singapore’s ratio is 0.093 per cent for more than 19,000 infections. These countries’ low case-fatality ratios are attributed to three things – testing, age of the population, and intensive care unit (ICU) capacity. They are also among some of the wealthiest countries in the world, meaning they can better afford the test kits and hospital beds they need. Read more here.

US re-opens: At least 100 million Americans are in states making assertive moves to reopen, or that had no stay-at-home orders to begin with. The lifting of restrictions have remained uneven and varied throughout the US, as governors watch case numbers and weigh caution against desires to ramp up business. Here’s a look at state-wise updates.

Cancer patients face anxious wait as hospitals manage coronavirus risk: As the UK begins to open up to non-Covid-19 patients again and the rise in hospital deaths starts to slow, the challenge of trying to kick-start other parts of the health service that had been scaled back to tackle the virus is becoming clearer. To mitigate the risk, the country’s health services announced creating 19 coronavirus-free cancer hubs, with no Covid-19 patients, and introducing testing, pre-surgery isolation for patients and temperature checks on arrival. Read more here.

How a Wuhan lab became embroiled in a global coronavirus blame game: US President Donald Trump insists he has seen evidence that coronavirus was leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The institute was set up in 1956 as a microbiology lab, one of the first of its kind in the country following the communist takeover of seven years earlier. As a level-4 biosafety facility, the highest level of security in China, it is allowed to handle the world’s deadliest viruses. Scientists at the facility are known to have created hybrid versions of a bat coronavirus that could infect human cells. Read more about the lab here.

Interactive

Recovery tracker: A real-time look at the post-Covid US economy: A US recession is all but officially under way. The speed at which the economy ground to a halt rendered much of the traditional economic data — typically released with a lag of about a month — outdated before it was even published. To fill the gap, Bloomberg created a weekly dashboard of high-frequency, alternative and market-based indicators. Several of the dashboard’s data points signal a deepening contraction, with further declines in consumer confidence and the number of active oil rigs. Others, like jobless claims, suggest the most extreme period of decline is now over, but remain extremely weak and support expectations for the economy to shrink this quarter. Experience it here.

First Published: Wed, May 06 2020. 06:22 IST
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