Australian health officials yesterday said they were cautiously optimistic about the slowing spread of the coronavirus in the country, but warned social distancing restrictions are to stay in place for months. Confirmed cases rose by 139 during the 24-hour period to yesterday afternoon, bringing the national total to 5,687, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said. The death toll from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, rose to 34. This suggests the daily rate of infections was below 5 percent, about one-fifth of what Australia saw in the middle of last month. “We are increasingly confident that if people continue to adhere to what we’ve been asking them to do we can prevent a situation like we’ve seen in many other countries in the world,” Murphy said in a televised briefing. Australia has barred people from leaving homes for anything but the most necessary activities and limited public gatherings to just two people. State borders, cafes, clubs, parks and gyms have been closed. Several states have also given police the power to enforce the rules via hefty on-the-spot fines and potential jail terms. On Saturday, Victoria’s police issued 142 fines for breaking social distancing rules, officials said. However, Australian Minister of Health Greg Hunt on Saturday said that despite the good signs, Australians would still have to keep their distance from others for a “difficult” six-month period. “Some other countries or some other individuals may talk about the fact that we could magically stop everything for two weeks and it will all go away: That’s not an honest assessment in our view,” Hunt said on Sky News Australia. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday said while there has been some “wonderful success” in slowing coronavirus spread, Australians “have a long way to go.” Nearly one-third of Australia’s deaths have been attributed to Carnival Corp’s Ruby Princess cruise ship,
French police have arrested a third suspect, another Sudanese national, in an expanding terror probe after a knife attack in the country’s southeast left two people dead, investigators said yesterday. The attack in broad daylight on Saturday in the riverside town of Romans-sur-Isere, took place with the country on lockdown to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. Prosecutors have launched an investigation into “murder linked to a terrorist enterprise” and “association with terrorist wrongdoers” after the rampage through a string of shops in the town. The alleged assailant, identified as Abdallah Ahmed-Osman — a Sudanese refugee in his 30s who lives in the town — was arrested without a fight. Police later arrested a second Sudanese man at Ahmed-Osman’s home — “an acquaintance” of the alleged attacker — and on Saturday night “a young Sudanese man from the same household” as the main suspect, the anti-terror prosecutor’s office said yesterday. Ahmed-Osman was found by police “on his knees on the pavement praying in Arabic” after the attack, the national anti-terror prosecutor’s office said. “Anyone who had the misfortune to find themselves in his way were attacked,” Romans-sur-Isere Mayor Marie-Helene Thoraval said. The suspect first went into a tobacco shop where he attacked the owner and his wife, Thoraval said. He then went into a butcher’s shop where he seized another knife before heading to the town center and attacking people in the street outside a bakery. “He took a knife, jumped over the counter, and stabbed a customer, then ran away,” said Ludovic Breyton, the owner of the butcher’s shop. “My wife tried to help the victim, but in vain.” Five people were injured in the spree. Two were in intensive care, but stable, one was recovering, and two have been discharged from hospital, a source close to the investigation said yesterday.
US President Donald Trump suggested that he fired the inspector general for the intelligence community in retaliation for impeachment, saying the official was wrong to provide an anonymous whistle-blower complaint to Congress as the law requires. Trump called Michael Atkinson a “disgrace” after informing Congress late on Friday night that he intended to fire him. In letters to the US House of Representatives and Senate intelligence committees, Trump wrote that he had lost confidence in Atkinson, but gave little detail. On Saturday, Trump was blunter, telling reporters at the White House: “I thought he did a terrible job, absolutely terrible.” “He took a fake report and he took it to Congress with an emergency, OK? Not a big Trump fan, that I can tell you,” Trump added. The whistle-blower report was not fake, but a detailed complaint written by an anonymous intelligence official who described Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate former US vice president Joe Biden and his son. Atkinson determined the complaint was urgent and credible and therefore was required by law to disclose it to Congress, but he was overruled for weeks by the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire. After a firestorm sparked by media reports of the complaint, it was turned over and made public. A congressional inquiry led to Trump’s impeachment by the House in December last year. The Republican-led Senate acquitted Trump in February. On Saturday, Trump questioned why Atkinson did not speak to him about the complaint, though Atkinson’s role is to provide independent oversight. “Never came in to see me, never requested to see me,” Trump said. “That man is a disgrace to IGs.” Atkinson’s removal is part of a larger shakeup of the intelligence community under Trump, who has always viewed intelligence professionals with skepticism. His ouster came under immediate fire from Democrats
The high-speed train whooshing past historic World War I battle sites and through the chateau-speckled Loire Valley carried a delicate cargo: 20 critically ill COVID-19 patients and the breathing machines helping keep them alive. The TGV-turned-mobile-intensive-care-unit is just one piece of France’s nationwide mobilization of trains, helicopters, jets and even a warship, deployed to relieve congested hospitals and shuffle hundreds of patients and medical personnel in and out of coronavirus hotspots. “We are at war,” French President Emmanuel Macron tells his compatriots, again and again. However, as the 42-year-old leader casts himself as a warrior and harnesses the might of the armed forces, critics charge that he waited far too long to act against this foe. France, one of the world’s wealthiest countries with one of the best healthcare systems, they say, should never have found itself so deep in crisis. Macron had just emerged from weeks of damaging retirement strikes and a year of violent “yellow vest” protests over economic injustice when the pandemic hit. Now he is struggling to keep the house running in one of the world’s hardest-hit countries. The Rungis food market south of Paris, Europe’s biggest, is transforming into a morgue as France’s death count races past 7,500. Nearly 7,000 patients are in intensive care, pushing French hospitals to their limit and beyond. Doctors are rationing painkillers and re-using masks. France’s centralized state and powerful presidency make it easier to coordinate the exceptional patient-moving efforts, which have crisscrossed the country and even extended to overseas territories, but the pandemic has exposed weaknesses in the world-renowned state hospital system after decades of cost cuts. When Macron visited a Paris hospital on the front lines of the virus battle, an angry neurologist challenged him to reinvest massively. “When it was about saving Notre Dame, many were moved,” Francois Salachas said, a reference
FINDING LINKS: An American expert says that Thomas Watson was the Bard’s forgotten collaborator, based on a 1592 tragedy that Shakespeare reportedly helped write
He was one of the most celebrated English playwrights of the 16th century, yet none of his plays survived, and today the name of Thomas Watson is virtually unknown. Now the writer, poet and pioneer of the English madrigal — who also saved the life of the playwright Christopher Marlowe in a street brawl — is being seen in a new light. Watson has been identified as the most likely primary author of Arden of Faversham, the first domestic tragedy in English, which was published anonymously in 1592. Many academics believe that five of the play’s scenes were coauthored with William Shakespeare. Based on a notorious murder of 1551, Arden is about a woman from Faversham, Kent, who conspires with her lover to kill her husband and struggles to “wash away this blood,” just like Lady Macbeth. Over five years of research, Gary Taylor, a leading Shakespeare scholar, has found stylistic, biographical and historical links to Watson in almost every scene. He concluded that there is “strong and consistent evidence” for his authorship. Watson was a polymath whose talents extended from writing poetry in Latin to creating the first published set of English madrigals. In 1595, Shakespeare was described as “Watson’s heire” by William Clerke, in a work titled Polimanteia, but only recently have scholars even realized that Watson was a playwright. “Almost everything Watson did was original,” said Taylor, the Pryor Professor in Shakespearean Literature at Florida State University and general editor of The New Oxford Shakespeare. “Even specialists only know one tiny aspect of his work, instead of putting it all together.” Taylor’s new research is to be published in The Review of English Studies later this year. “We’re looking for a writer who is capable of writing a great play. Watson was greatly admired at the time, celebrated for tragic plays before Marlowe
RUSSIA Killings over ‘noisy talk’ A man in the Ryazan region shot and killed five people for talking noisily at night under his windows, investigators said yesterday. A 32-year-old man from the small town of Yelatma opened fire on a group of four young men and a woman who “were talking loudly in the street under his windows” at about 10pm on Saturday, investigators said. The man went to his balcony to complain to the group and a dispute erupted before he reached for his hunting rifle, the Investigative Committee said. The shootings took place during stay-at-home orders aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. JAPAN Virus cases jump in Tokyo More than 130 people were newly infected with the novel coronavirus in Tokyo, public broadcaster NHK reported yesterday, citing metropolitan government officials. It was the highest daily jump in confirmed cases so far, bringing the number of positive cases in the capital to more than 1,000, NHK said. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike appeared on a morning news program yesterday and repeated her call to residents to avoid unnecessary outings, saying that “lives were at stake.” GREECE Second camp quarantined A second refugee facility has been quarantined after a 53-year-old man tested positive for the new coronavirus, the Ministry of Migration and Asylum said yesterday. The Afghan man lives with his family at the Malakasa camp, but he has been transferred to a hospital in Athens. The camp would be put into quarantine for two weeks, the ministry said yesterday, adding police guarding the site would be reinforced to ensure the restrictions are implemented. SOLOMON ISLANDS Five ferry bodies found Police yesterday said that five bodies have been recovered in the search for 27 people swept off an inter-island ferry on Friday. The MV Taimareho, with more than 738 people on board, left Honiara on Thursday night for West Are’are,
‘GOOD NEWS’: The nation’s top health official said that the number of emergency phone calls had decreased, although it was too soon to say that it indicated a trend
France on Friday reported 588 deaths from COVID-19 in hospital, its biggest 24-hour toll since the pandemic began. The new deaths brought to 5,091 the total number of people who have died in hospital of COVID-19 in France, top health official Jerome Salomon told reporters. There is no daily toll for those who have died of COVID-19 in retirement homes in France. Salomon said that a total of 1,416 people had died in such establishments from COVID-19 during the epidemic, which would raise the total French toll to at least 6,507. France has been in lockdown since March 17 in a bid to slow the spread of the epidemic, with only essential trips allowed outside that have to be justified with a signed piece of paper. Salomon said that 1,186 more people had been hospitalized with the novel coronavirus on Friday, with 263 more entering intensive care, the lowest such increases for more than a week. There were a total of 64,338 confirmed cases in France, an increase of 5,233 on the day earlier, he said, but added that this does not include all cases, as testing is not universal. There was a reduction in emergency phone calls and while it was too soon to say this was a trend, it was “good news,” Salomon said. “We cannot analyze the situation based on one number and one day, but we have noticed this decrease,” he said. Despite the decrease in growth of intensive care patients, “we have still not reached the peak of this wave and even less its diminution,” he said. On what in usual times would be a weekend when French families would decamp en masse for the Easter holidays, Salomon repeated official warnings that vacationing was out of the question. “This evening above all. Stay at home if you want to save lives,” he said. Asked about apparent mixed
‘EVOLUTION’: Officials said advice that masks were not needed was given before research showed that people with no symptoms could spread the disease
The administration of US President Donald Trump on Friday urged Americans to cover their faces in public and limited exports of medical supplies, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo vowed to seize unused ventilators from private hospitals and companies. Trump announced new guidelines that call for everyone to wear makeshift face coverings such as T-shirts or bandannas when leaving the house, especially in areas hit hard by the pandemic, such as New York. The advice from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was “a recommendation, they recommend it,” Trump told reporters, but added: “I just don’t want to wear one myself.” The change came amid concerns from health officials that people without symptoms can spread the virus. Officials said that medical-grade masks should be reserved for health workers and others on the front lines of the pandemic, with critical equipment in short supply. In one of the most aggressive steps yet in the US to relieve shortages of equipment, Cuomo said he would sign an executive order to take ventilators that are not being used. “If they want to sue me for borrowing their excess ventilators to save lives, let them sue me,” Cuomo said. He promised to eventually return the equipment or compensate the owners. The governor was praised by a hospital association for moving to seize extra ventilators, but officials outside New York City objected. “Taking our ventilators by force leaves our people without protection and our hospitals unable to save lives today or respond to a coming surge,” 12 of them said in a statement. Cuomo said that New York, the nation’s worst hot spot, could run out of ventilators next week. Shortages of such things as masks, gowns and ventilators have led to fierce competition among buyers from Europe, the US and elsewhere. Trump said he was preventing the export of N95 respirator masks and
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels operating nearby, the Vietnam Fisheries Society said in a statement posted to its Web site. “The Chinese vessel committed an act that violated Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa archipelago and threatened the lives and damaged the property and legitimate interests of Vietnamese fishermen,” the ministry said in its statement, referring to the Paracels by their Vietnamese name. Vietnam and China have for years been embroiled in a dispute over the potentially energy-rich stretch of water, called the East Sea by Vietnam. Taiwan also claims the Paracels. The Vietnamese boat illegally entered the area to fish and refused to leave, the Chinese coast guard said on Friday. After making some dangerous maneuvers, the boat collided with a Chinese patrol vessel and sank, the coast guard said in a statement on its social media account. The coast guard also said it had made solemn representations with the Vietnamese side. The incident marks the second time in less than a year that a Vietnamese fishing vessel has been reportedly sunk by a Chinese vessel near the Paracels. A Chinese oil survey vessel conducted operations in Vietnamese-controlled waters for more than three months last year.
Pizza and beer are being delivered by plane to remote ranches in the Australian outback in an attempt to bring a slice of cheer to those in extreme isolation amid a COVID-19 lockdown. The Dunmarra Wayside Inn, a usually bustling roadside diner in Australia’s Northern Territory, used a small fixed-wing aircraft for a trial run of what it hopes will become a weekly flying takeaway service to far-flung cattle stations. “The station that we did send them to absolutely loved them, so much that they ate them for breakfast the next morning,” Ben Anderson, the inn’s manager and pizza cook, told reporters on Friday. The business had tried to keep the service under wraps until it was certain the plane deliveries would work. “We’ve put in a massive pizza oven, which we kept extremely secret,” Anderson said. However, news of the tasty drop-off proved too hot to handle and on Friday he was fielding calls from reporters — with one radio station asking if he could deliver to their studio in Perth, more than 3,000km away. “That’s probably a bit out of our range,” Anderson said. At the moment, Anderson and his team are only planning to fly to properties within 100km. The idea was cooked up as travel restrictions bit into the outback’s peak tourist season, stopping the usual stream of caravans and months of booked-out rooms. Regional travel in the Northern Territory remains strictly controlled, with large swathes in lockdown over fears for remote indigenous communities who experts warn could be particularly susceptible to an outbreak due to higher rates of chronic illness. The idea to fly pizzas and other supplies to remote properties was more about supporting those in the area than simply a business venture, the inn’s owner, Gary Frost, told national broadcaster ABC. “We’re just doing it as a friendly gesture to try and help people
The chief judge of the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Friday ordered the FBI to provide him with details about some of its investigations, including into the campaign team of Donald Trump prior to his 2016 presidential election win, after the US Department of Justice (DOJ) identified problems with more than two dozen wiretap applications. The order from James Boasberg signals growing concern from the court that authorizes FBI surveillance about whether the bureau provided inaccurate information when it applied for wiretaps, including applications targeting former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in the early months of the investigation into alleged ties between the campaign and Russia. The inspector-general last year found that the FBI made serious errors and omissions in its applications. Those problems were highlighted in an earlier inspector-general report about the FBI’s Russian probe, then amplified by a new audit this week that suggested far more pervasive problems in the bureau’s use of its surveillance powers. The scrutiny from the court, which relies on truthful information from the Justice Department in issuing warrants, could prompt additional changes in how the FBI conducts surveillance and also fuel concerns from lawmakers, who last month permitted certain tools to at least temporarily expire. The latest review found problems in 29 surveillance applications, from October 2014 to September 2019, that Justice Department Inspector-General Michael Horowitz’s office reviewed. Those problems included factual statements in applications that were not corroborated by any supporting documentation. In a four-page order on Friday, Boasberg directed the FBI to provide him with the names of the targets for each of the 29 applications. He also asked the FBI to evaluate whether the applications contained “material misstatements or omissions” and whether those misstatements make any of the applications that were granted by the court invalid. “The [Office of the Inspector-General] memorandum provides further reason for systemic
UNITED STATES Trump fires Atkinson President Donald Trump on Friday fired inspector general of the intelligence community Michael Atkinson. Atkinson handled the whistleblower complaint that triggered Trump’s impeachment last year. Trump said in the letter that it is “vital” that he has confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general, and “that is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general.” He added: “It is extremely important that we promote the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of federal programs and activities,” and that inspectors general are critical to those goals. UNITED STATES Singer Bill Withers dies Bill Withers, the performer who delivered hits such as Ain’t No Sunshine with silky yet funkified vocals and came to define 1970s soul, has died. He was 81 years old. The Grammy-winning artist behind the beloved Lean on Me succumbed to heart complications, according to his family, which said they were “devastated” over the loss. “A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other,” they said. “In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.” PANAMA Transgender people worry Members of the transgender community have reacted with “dread” to the implemention of gender-based social distancing regulations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Authorities said this week that men could only leave home to go shopping on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with women allowed to do so on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. No one is allowed out on Sundays. The measure has left transgender people worried they will be the targets of discrimination. Ali, a 25-year-old illustrator who identifies as a man has an identity card that has “female” in the sex field. “My biggest fear, obviously, is the police, who
‘SHOW RESTRAINT’: Kismayo elder Adan Jama said that dead bodies were strewn in the battle zone and civilians were fleeing as the fighting had affected several villages
At least 20 people have been killed in southern Somalia in clashes between militia from rival clans fighting over land, officials and witnesses said on Thursday. Tensions between fighters from the Owrmale and Majerten clans, which live about 30km outside the southern city of Kismayo, have been rising in recent weeks. “The fighting intensified today, and 20 people from the two sides were killed and dozen others including civilians wounded. This is a horrible situation that needs to be stopped,” local government official Abdikarin Mohamed said. “The dead bodies are strewn in the battle zone and civilians are fleeing as the fighting has affected several villages. We have been informed that 20 people died and more than that were wounded during the past three days,” Kismayo elder Adan Jama said. Somalian President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo called on both sides to show restraint and end the bloodshed. “I call on the brotherly people who are fighting in the western Kismayo to stop the bloodshed urgently and unconditionally,” the president said in a statement published by the Somali National News Agency. “It is unfortunate today that people are fighting among themselves instead of uniting to fight al-Shabaab terrorists and liberate their territories,” he added, referring to Islamist militants linked with al-Qaeda who carry out regular attacks in the country. Intra and inter-clan clashes are common in Somalia, many relating to land disputes and water resources.
As countries try to slash air pollution and step up action on climate change, many are looking at a key culprit: tailpipes. India in 2016 put into effect its first fuel-economy standards for passenger vehicles and by 2021 is expected to have lowered planet-warming carbon emissions from new vehicles by 30 percent. Mexico similarly launched pioneering regulations to cut emissions in 2014, focused on reducing pollution from its millions of vehicles. Supporting those efforts — and dozens of other cleaner air standards worldwide — is a quiet group of engineers few have heard of, but whose efforts could help decarbonize the global transport sector by the middle of the century. The Washington-based International Council on Clean Transportation — which on Thursday won a US$1.5 million prize from the Skoll Foundation — gathers and crunches data to give countries the ammunition they need to draw up effective policies, council executive director Drew Kodjak said. However, what the council might be best known for is discovering — as its engineers tried to make sense of unusually high diesel pollution levels in tests — that Volkswagen had installed an emissions “defeat device” on millions of its vehicles. The software, which let vehicles pass emissions tests and then produce vastly more nitrogen oxide pollution on the road, eventually led to a US$2.8 billion fine by a US judge in 2017, and an embarrassing admission of guilt by Volkswagen officials. “The ripple effects are still being felt,” Kodjak said, with Europe, for example, passing new regulations to rein in pollution from diesel vehicles. Besides providing data, the council also guides bureaucrats through the long and often politically arduous slog of introducing tougher policies, and links them with colleagues in other places to share expertise. Since 2013, the group has helped drive the creation of more than 20 major national rules, from China to Brazil,
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,” Reporters Without Borders said, adding that the government was “taking advantage of the coronavirus epidemic to settle scores with independent journalism.” The statement also called for the immediate release of journalists Belkacem Djir and Sofiane Merakchi. Merakchi, a correspondent for Lebanese TV channel al-Mayadeen, has been in jail since Sept. 26 last year and is accused of “concealing equipment,” and providing images of the protests to al-Jazeera and other foreign media. The reasons for Djir’s imprisonment are unknown. Last month, Algerian Minister of Justice Belkacem Zeghmati said that Djir and Merakchi were both being prosecuted for “common law acts,” without giving details. On Wednesday, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune pardoned 5,037 prisoners, but the amnesty was not extended to the dozens of supporters of the anti-government protest movement.
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities
Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society, fueled by online posts stereotyping returning students as ungrateful and even dangerous — using the irresponsible behavior of a few individuals as proof. “Right now, public opinion in China is very unfriendly towards Chinese overseas students, and quarantine facilities there are mixed,” Yale University master’s student Hestia Zhang said. She has decided to stay in self-isolation on campus rather than go back, despite the US now accounting for almost a quarter of reported global infections. “There are also a lot of risks on the journey home, so I might as well stay here and wait it out,” she said. Meanwhile Cathy, who landed in China on Tuesday morning, is resigned to the fact that she might encounter prejudice. Using her English name to conceal her identity, she said she had “no choice but to bear it.” Nearly half of the country’s 800 imported virus cases are overseas students. Most returnees need to spend two weeks in isolation, and a widely shared video of a returned student who tried to escape her quarantine accommodation in the city of Qingdao has prompted outrage online. A similar angry reaction met clips showing another returnee angrily demanding bottled mineral water from quarantine facility workers in Shanghai. “They eat food from our bowl, yet
The members of the New Japan Philharmonic orchestra tune up for their latest recital, more than 60 musicians ranging from trombonists to violinists and percussionists — but this is no ordinary performance. In a musical twist on the telework trend forced on the world by the COVID-19 pandemic, they appear in tiny blocks on screen, recording their parts separately before technology brings them together in joyous harmony. The on-screen mosaic shows some musicians performing in their tiny apartments, others playing their instruments outside under a bright blue sky. In scenes familiar to millions working from home globally, one veteran violinist has two toddlers — apparently his grandchildren — larking about in the corner. A trombone player has a pet bird perched next to him as the orchestra belts out not Beethoven or Mozart but Paprika — probably Japan’s most popular children’s song. Tuba player Kazuhiko Sato said he was incredulous when the idea of the teleworking orchestra was first floated. “I didn’t think this would work. I felt as if I was being tricked into something,” Sato, 44, said. With all orchestra members stuck at home and concerts canceled or postponed, this was the only way to make their music heard. Sato confined himself in a soundproof room and filmed on a smartphone his tuba part — mostly a rhythmical low-pitched “da-da-da.” Second violinist Sohei Birmann, 35, was more bullish about the teleworking trial initially. “We have played together for years and years to create music, so I thought we could do it with no problem,” Birmann said with a smile. “The result of it was totally out of rhythm,” he said. “Usually when we play in the orchestra, we harmonize ourselves using the breath or eye movements of other members,” he said. They had to do several takes of their respective videos, he said, fine-tuning the rhythm and pitch. The mastermind of the
POVERTY CONCERN: As nations on the continent impose lockdowns, officials said they were concerned about the millions of low-income people who may lose work
Some African countries will have more than 10,000 COVID-19 cases by the end of this month, health officials said on Thursday, as the continent least equipped to treat serious infections has an “enormous gap” in the number of ventilators and other critical items. While cases across Africa rose above 6,000 at what has been called the dawn of the outbreak, the continent is “very, very close” to where Europe was after a 40-day period, Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director John Nkengasong told reporters. The virus “is an existential threat to our continent,” Nkengasong said. All but four of Africa’s 54 countries have cases after Malawi on Thursday reported its first and local transmission has begun in many places. Nkengasong said that authorities are “aggressively” looking into procuring equipment such as ventilators that most African countries desperately need, and local manufacturing and repurposing are being explored. “We’ve seen a lot of goodwill expressed to supporting Africa from bilateral and multilateral partners,” but “we still have to see that translate into concrete action,” he said. The WHO does not know how many ventilators are available across Africa to help those in respiratory distress, regional WHO director Matshidiso Moeti told reporters. “We are trying to find out this information from country-based colleagues... What we can say without a doubt is there is an enormous gap,” Moeti said. Some countries have only a few ventilators. Central African Republic has just three. A small percentage of people who are infected will need ventilators and about 15 percent need intensive care, WHO official Zabulon Yoti said. The health officials pleaded for global solidarity at a time when even some of the world’s richest countries are scrambling for basic medical needs, including masks. “Countries like Cameroon just reached out yesterday, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, asking: ‘Look, we need tents because we’re running out of
SEEKING PERMANENCE: Experts said there might be a 5% drop this year, but warned that a rebound was likely unless substantial changes were implemented
Carbon dioxide emissions could fall by the largest amount since World War II this year as the COVID-19 pandemic brings economies to a virtual standstill, according to the chair of a network of scientists providing benchmark emissions data. Rob Jackson, who chairs the Global Carbon Project, which produces annual emissions estimates, said that carbon output could fall by more than 5 percent year-on-year — the first dip since a 1.4 percent reduction after the 2008 financial crisis. “I wouldn’t be shocked to see a 5 percent or more drop in carbon dioxide emissions this year, something not seen since the end of World War II,” said Jackson, who is a professor of Earth system science at Stanford University in California. “Neither the fall of the Soviet Union nor the various oil or savings and loan crises of the past 50 years are likely to have affected emissions the way this crisis is,” he said in an e-mail. The prediction — among a range of new forecasts being produced by climate researchers — represents a tiny sliver of good news in the middle of the pandemic: Climate scientists had warned world governments that global emissions must start dropping by this year to avoid the worst predictions of climate change. However, the improvements are for all the wrong reasons, tied to a global health emergency that has shuttered factories, grounded airlines and forced hundreds of millions of people to stay at home to slow the contagion. Experts warn that without structural change, the declines could be short-lived and have little effect on the concentrations of carbon dioxide that have accumulated in the atmosphere over decades. “This drop is not due to structural changes, so as soon as confinement ends, I expect the emissions will go back close to where they were,” said Corinne le Quere, a climate scientist at
Ice cream vans are normally a common sight on Britain’s residential streets and in parks when warmer days arrive in the spring and summer months, but with the country in lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are no customers to buy their cones, ice lollies and choc-ices. However, in Belfast at least one van is still operating — bringing essential supplies to elderly and vulnerable people forced to stay at home. “When we had seen that the current situation was starting to arise, we knew that there would be problems for some families and elderly who cannot get access to food,” Steven Pollock of the Greater Shankill Action for Community Transformation group said. The group asked an ice cream van owner to carry supplies to under-served areas with at-risk residents in self-isolation to avoid infection. “The community are totally over the moon with it,” Pollock told reporters. “They’re just concerned about shops and going out in general.” “It gives them a bit more peace of mind that it’s basically on their doorstep so they’re not leaving anything to chance,” he said. Parked in west Belfast on Wednesday, two workers in rubber gloves and masks sold toilet rolls, bread, milk and eggs through the hatch. For the duration of the pandemic, whipped ice creams are off the menu on the side of the van as its fridges are stocked with essential foodstuffs. Drivers still play the cheerful music, which in normal times is the sign for children to pester their parents for a sweet treat. This year it lets elderly and vulnerable people know that they will not go without potatoes, cornflakes and even hand sanitizer as they wait out the pandemic. The British government has advised elderly and vulnerable people to self-isolate. “The critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households,” said British Prime Minister Boris