Brazil’s Bolsonaro tests positive, weddings mooted as Israel factor; UK acts on jobs

CORONAVIRUS ALERT 07/08/2020

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In top stories today:

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a coronavirus skeptic, tested positive for the virus, while researchers said new outbreaks in Israel may be down to a flurry of June weddings. The United Kingdom’s finance minister set out a series of measures aimed at averting a jobs crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has downplayed the danger posed by coronavirus time and again and faced criticism for his handling of the outbreak, told reporters he has tested positive for the virus after experiencing muscle pain, fatigue, and a fever, The New York Times reported. Bolsonaro, 65, said he was feeling well, crediting that to taking the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine that’s unproven as a treatment, the Times added. Brazil has 1.6 million cases, second to the United States, it reported.
  • The United States recorded about 60,000 new cases of coronavirus, a one-day record, led by states including Florida and Texas, The Wall Street Journal reported. Texas became the fourth state to post more than 10,000 daily cases, almost double the tally from the previous day, the Financial Times said. Florida’s healthcare system is under strain, with forty hospitals across the state having run out of intensive-care beds or are close to doing so, CNBC reported.
  • READ MORE: The White House’s lead coronavirus-response coordinator criticized Chinese officials for a “delay in information” on the outbreak of the virus in January, which she argued hampered the ability of other countries to respond effectively to the pandemic. Ambassador Deborah Birx spoke at a July 7 event featuring diplomats from Europe, North America, and the Asia-Pacific as part of the launch of a new Atlantic Council report on strategies for shaping the post-COVID-19 world.
  • Japan is contending with a spike in coronavirus cases but lacks the political will to restart another round of lockdown measures, The Washington Post reported. Cases in the capital, Tokyo, are spreading in nightlife areas, the Financial Times reported. Meanwhile, one health official said Hong Kong faces a “third wave” of infections, with fourteen new cases on July 7 in a city where the death toll from the virus remains in the single digits, The New York Times reported.
  • READ MORE: “Japan is often a misleading example for those who downplay the problems of debt,” writes the Atlantic Council’s Hung Tran. “Tokyo has run budget deficits throughout the past three decades, creating one of the world’s highest public debt to GDP ratios, without any adverse effect on inflation and interest rates.”

BELGRADE CLASHES

  • Thousands of protestors clashed with police in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, over plans to restart a coronavirus curfew following a spike in cases in the city, Bloomberg reported. Riot police used tear gas to repel rock-throwing demonstrators, with seven protestors and thirteen police injured, the newswire reported.
  • Three thousand people living in public-housing tower blocks in the Melbourne, Australia suburbs of Flemington and North Melbourne are subject to a police guard and cannot leave their homes for any reason for between five and fourteen days to contain a cluster of cases in the buildings, the BBC reported. It’s the toughest lockdown in Australia so far, the BBC added.

GREEN FOCUS

  • Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, has put environmental policy at the top of the lender’s agenda including its 2.8 trillion-euro asset-buying program, saying that letting the coronavirus pandemic dilute the importance of green issues would be a missed opportunity, the Financial Times reported, citing an interview with her.
  • QUOTE: “Those who would be tempted by that option would live to regret it,” Lagarde said when asked if coronavirus could dilute the importance of the green agenda, the Financial Times reported.  
  • The UK government will try to avoid a jobs crisis by paying companies bonuses to reinstate workers after a furlough program expires at the end of October, finance minister Rishi Sunak told legislators on July 8, Reuters reported. Sunak set out other measures, including a £2 billion youth employment fund, £3 billion on energy efficiency, and a raised property-tax threshold to bolster the housing market, the newswire said.
  • QUOTE: “Ending the furlough scheme in October is like building a bridge that goes three-quarters of the way across a river,” said Mike Bell, global markets strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, CNBC reported.
  • Airbus workers in France began a brief strike in protest against the up to 15,000 job cuts because of coronavirus, Reuters reported. As many as 8,000 workers were expected to take part in the ninety-minute stoppage on July 8, labor unions said, the newswire added.
  • “Superstar” cities such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Houston are still good workplaces for highly paid careers such as banking, but not as positive especially for Black male college graduates and workers in middle-paying jobs, Bloomberg said, citing a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study. The coronavirus pandemic could only make matters worse as it wipes out low-paid jobs, the newswire said.

WHO EXIT, AIRBORNE

  • The United States sent formal notice that it plans to leave the World Health Organization (WHO) following US President Donald J. Trump’s announcement in May, news service Stat reported. The exit is effective July 6, 2021, and Trump’s opponent in the November presidential race, Joe Biden, said on Twitter that he would rejoin if he wins, Stat added.
  • China defended the WHO and criticized the US decision to exit the United Nations public-health body, The Associated Press reported, citing foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian.
  • There’s emerging evidence that tiny particles suspended in the air could spread coronavirus, the WHO has acknowledged, the BBC reported. Airborne transmission couldn’t be ruled out in crowded, closed, or badly ventilated spaces, said Benedetta Allegranzi, the WHO’s technical lead for infection prevention and control, the broadcaster reported.
  • Government researchers have traced most new infections in Israel to public gatherings especially weddings, The Washington Post reported, citing an unidentified official with knowledge of the pandemic response. A large spike in weddings took place last month, with 2,092 between June 15 and June 25, the Post added. Israel’s top health official Siegal Sadetzki quit on July 7, saying that a lack of action and delays by the government was leading the country to “a dangerous place,” the Financial Times reported.
  • University College London specialists published findings that add to concerns about the impact of coronavirus on the brain, with effects on patients ranging from delirium and agitation to one case of a psychotic episode, the Financial Times reported, citing a July 8 paper in the Brain medical journal. 
  • QUOTE: “My first COVID-19 symptoms appeared on March 14: a low-grade fever, profound leg pain, malaise, and loss of appetite. More than 100 days later, COVID-19 is still with me,” Yochai Re’em, a physician and third-year psychiatry resident at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medicine, wrote on news service Stat. “Some days I wonder if it will ever leave.”

CRUISE SHIPS, CORRUPTION

  • From hurricanes to humidity and expired permits, the world’s empty cruise ships face a range of costly threats, Bloomberg said. Only a handful of the world’s four hundred or so cruise ships have been able to accept passengers, all on hyperlocal journeys, since mid-March because of coronavirus, the newswire added.
  • Police investigations have gathered pace while looking into whether dozens of high-profile officials and politicians in Latin America misused funds meant to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, the Financial Times reported. The probes focus on countries including Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Mexico, the newspaper said.
  • Africa now has more than half a million coronavirus cases, as South Africa recorded another day of more than 100,000 infections, The Associated Press reported, citing the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The true extent of cases is unknown because of a lack of testing in the continent’s 54 countries, home to 1.3 billion people, the news service said.

RESOURCES: