Prankster coughs on officer
A man has been charged over a “prank” in which he coughed on a police officer while pretending to be infected with COVID-19 as a friend filmed the incident, authorities said. On Tuesday, the 21-year-old entered a police station in Coffs Harbour and approached a 71-year-old female officer. “[He] deliberately coughed on the woman and claimed that he had COVID-19, while a friend filmed,” police said. The station was closed and isolation protocols enacted, but a check by authorities showed that the man was not infected.
Health system threatened
Officials yesterday warned that the number of COVID-19 infections could start overwhelming intensive care units. If the long lines outside offices of the main welfare agency, Centrelink, start forming at hospitals, there would be fatal consequences, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said. “If this gets away from us, our health system will be overrun and people won’t just be queuing for Centrelink payments, they’ll be queuing for heart, lung machines and ventilators and intensive care beds and we know what that means — you cannot queue for intensive care,” he said.
Cases vastly underreported
A study released on Monday by the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases said that as few as 2 percent of the nation’s infections have been reported. Other modelers are projecting that cases could rise to as many as 5 million in Jakarta by the end of next month. “We have lost control, it has already spread everywhere,” public health economist Ascobat Gani said. “Maybe we will follow Wuhan or Italy. I think we are in the range of that.”
Communist guerrillas yesterday said that they would observe a ceasefire in compliance with a UN call for a global halt to armed clashes during the COVID-19 pandemic. New People’s Army guerrillas have been ordered to stop assaults and shift to a defensive position from today to April 15, the Communist Party of the Philippines said in a statement. The rebels said the ceasefire could foster the possible holding of preliminary talks to resume long-stalled peace negotiations.
Quake strikes Kuril Islands
The Kuril Islands yesterday suffered a magnitude 7.5 earthquake, prompting residents to seek higher ground due to a tsunami threat, authorities said. The Ministry of Emergency Situations said the quake’s epicenter was 210km southeast of Severo-Kurilsk, a town of about 2,500 people on Paramushir island. Officials reported no casualties or damage.
Vicar sets himself on fire
A vicar got more than he expected from his first attempt at an online sermon when he leaned too close to a candle and his sweater caught fire. “It’s a great thing to pause in the presence of God and to ask the question: ‘Lord God, what are you saying to us?’” Stephen Beach of St Budeaux Parish Church in Plymouth said. “And then, of course, to wait for an answer. I’ve just been pausing between these...” he added, before realizing his left shoulder had moved too close to the flame. “Oh dear, I just caught on fire,” he said. Video sermons are part of the church’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Beach said. “My family love it, and the youngest grandchildren want to know when grandad is going to set himself on fire again,” he said.
China hiding info: Pompeo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday sharpened his criticism of China’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, accusing Beijing of still denying the world information it needs to prevent further cases. In an interview with the Washington Watch radio program, Pompeo repeated previous charges that China’s delay in sharing information about the virus had created risks to people worldwide and said this had “truly put thousands of lives at risk.” “My concern is that this cover-up, this disinformation that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in, is still denying the world the information it needs so that we can prevent further cases or something like this from recurring again,” he said. Russia, Iran and China have continued their disinformation campaign about the virus, he said. “They’re talking about it coming from the US Army and they’re saying maybe it began in Italy, all things to deflect responsibility,” he said.
Virus triggers gun sales
Gun sales have exploded in the past two weeks as the COVID-19 outbreak worsens, with people stocking up on weapons and ammunition out of fear the pandemic might lead to social unrest. “We have had about an 800 percent increase in sales,” said David Stone, owner of Dong’s Guns, Ammo and Reloading in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “I’m still not out of any caliber, but I’m getting close to running out.” Most of the customers rushing to stock up on firearms and ammunition are first-time buyers grabbing anything available, he said. Several other store owners across the nation said they have also seen a surge in sales as people fear social order would unravel if the health and economic crisis caused by the virus escalates.
Playwright McNally dies
Terrence McNally, the famed playwright, librettist and screenwriter whose long career earned him four Tony awards and an Emmy, died on Tuesday following coronavirus complications. He was 81 years old. McNally was a lung cancer survivor who lived with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, his publicist said in a statement that the artist. He died while hospitalized in Florida. An openly gay writer whose subject matter included love, homophobia and AIDS, McNally’s notable plays included Love! Valour! Compassion! and Master Class, along with the musicals Kiss of the Spider Woman and Ragtime. Tributes quickly poured in from Broadway, with Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame dubbing the prolific McNally “a giant in our world, who straddled plays and musicals deftly. Grateful for his staggering body of work and his unfailing kindness.”
President blasts quarantines
President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday lasted out at what he called “scorched-earth” quarantine policies to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, saying they risked wrecking the economy. Never one to shy from controversy, Bolsonaro condemned the containment measures taken by authorities in places such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, saying they risked killing people’s jobs in a misguided effort to save lives. “Some state and local authorities need to abandon the scorched-earth concept: blocking transport, closing businesses and confining people en masse,” he said in a national address. “We need to preserve jobs and families’ livelihoods.” Bolsonaro, 65, has repeatedly courted controversy with his statements on the new coronavirus, calling it a “little flu” that has provoked an “overblown” reaction.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,