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Kim Jong Un News: Top theories on what’s going on with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un | World News

SEOUL: The Day of the Sun — the April 15 holiday celebrating Kim Jong Un‘s late grandfather, Kim Il Sung — has long been the most important date on North Korea’s political calendar. This year, the supreme leader failed to show.
Kim Jong Un’s absence from an event he has often used to signal strength at home and abroad sparked a global search for explanations. Two weeks later, the whereabouts of the 36-year-old leader has become one of the world’s great mysteries, fed by internet rumors, satellite photos and anonymously sourced reports.

Here’s some possible scenarios being discussed:
1. Recovering From Surgery
The first credible report that something was wrong with Kim was also among the least alarming. The Daily NK, a Seoul-based news outlet that gathers information from people inside North Korea, reported April 20 that Kim underwent a “cardiovascular surgical procedure” the previous week and was now mostly recovered.
The report, attributed to a single unidentified person, did offer several specific details, including that Kim was treated at the Hyangsan Medical Center on the outskirts of Pyongyang. While no governments have verified the report, South Korean officials later said that Kim was believed to be conducting “normal activities” in a rural part of the country assisted by close aides, actions that could be consistent with the recovery explanation.
“Kim Jong Un is alive and well,” Moon Chung-in, a special adviser to South Korea’s president, told Fox News on Sunday. Moon, however, added that Kim had been staying in the coastal resort area of Wonsan since April 13, something that would clash with the Daily NK account.
2. In ‘Grave Danger’
Hours after the Daily NK article, CNN provided a more worrying assessment of Kim’s health, reporting that the US was monitoring intelligence that suggested he was in “grave danger” after surgery. Bloomberg News separately reported that US officials were told that Kim was in critical condition, but were unsure of his current status.
While US President Donald Trump said Thursday that he believed the CNN report was “incorrect” and based on “old documents,” rumors about Kim’s deteriorating condition only accelerated on social media. On Saturday, Reuters reported that the Chinese Communist Party’s International Department dispatched a team including medical experts to North Korea on Thursday to advise on Kim. The news service, which cited three people familiar with the situation, said it was unclear what the delegation signaled about Kim’s health.
China’s foreign ministry, which is separate from the International Department, said only that it had sent reagents for coronavirus testing to North Korea. “That is not the same as a medical team,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters Monday in Beijing.
On Monday, Trump said at a White House news conference that he knew Kim’s condition, but “can’t talk about it right now.” The president added that “nobody knows” were Kim is.
3. Just Social Distancing
The Chinese medical team could also point to what’s now a more common health concern: Covid-19. Although North Korea has disclosed no infections, the country has quarantined thousands of people and the US’s top general in South Korea has said he was “fairly certain” the country has cases. China has been sending experts around the world to help combat the pandemic that began on its soil.
The Seoul-based JoongAng Daily newspaper reported Monday that the North Korean leader was in self-quarantine. The paper, citing an unidentified person in China, said that Kim was monitoring his health after one of his bodyguards was confirmed with the coronavirus infection. That’s why China sent some 50 medical staff to North Korea, the newspaper said.
Days before Kim failed to show up for holiday events, his Workers’ Party of Korea issued social-distancing orders on April 11 requiring members to refrain from gatherings of more than three people, the Hankook Ilbo newspaper reported Tuesday. The report, which was attributed to an unidentified person familiar with the matter, said Kim may have missed the events to avoid the disease.
4. Hurt in Military Drills
The search for Kim has repeatedly led back to eastern tourist enclave of Wonsan, the site of a palatial family compound and frequent missile tests. Satellite photos analyzed by the website 38 North showed that a train resembling the armored one used by North Korea’s leaders was parked at the local railway station last week.
The eastern coastal area saw a burst of military activity, including cruise missile tests and fighter jet maneuvers, on April 14 — the day before Kim failed to show up for Day of the Sun events about 230 kilometers (140 miles) to the west in Pyongyang. Ri Jong Ho, a high-profile North Korean defector who now lives in the US, told the Seoul-based DongA Daily newspaper that Kim may have been injured in the exercises.
Still, it would be unusual for North Korean military officials to allow their top leader to get close enough to the action to get hurt. Also, the satellite photos don’t confirm the train’s presence in the area until April 21. Images from April 15 show no train.
5. Seeking Attention
Some such as Yoon Sang-hyun, a South Korean lawmaker who heads a committee on inter-Korean relations, have wondered whether Kim devised the disappearance as a way to draw attention to the regime. Yoon speculated that the North Korean leader would have to show up in public in the next couple of weeks to avoid a destabilizing debate about his grip on power and potential successors.
“If he doesn’t, it’s a real big issue,” Yoon told reporters Monday, according to the DongA Daily. “Kim is apparently not running the country as he would normally do now.”
There’s also a good chance the world may never get a satisfying explanation. Kim similarly vanished from state media for six weeks in 2014, prompting speculation that he had been sidelined by gout, an ankle injury or was even overthrown in a coup. He subsequently showed up walking with a cane. No reason for his absence has ever been given.

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China’s day of reckoning is coming: Global experts


HONG KONG: Chairman Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are now facing a time of reckoning. Many had already been warning for years that China represented a dire threat to the world order, but Xi’s mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis and subsequent evasion of responsibility are looking like the straw that broke the international community’s back, say Western observers of China.
China may still sound confident, but this is a brash cover-up for serious domestic concerns.
China was forced to delay the so-called “two sessions”, the annual National People’s Congress (NPC) that was due to take place in early March, as well as the meeting of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). This highly choreographed event rubber stamps government decisions and its budget.
No alternative date has yet been announced, but since the CCP makes all decisions in any case, suspension of the NPC and CPPCC meetings makes little difference to governance. Furthermore, the government typically spends its money first and only confirming the budget afterwards. Perhaps, this could be considered the advantage of a centralised authoritarian government!
Nonetheless, symbolism is important to the CCP. Indeed, 2021 will mark the party’s centenary and it was even written into the Chinese Constitution in 2012. Next year requires the attainment of two milestones in Xi’s “Chinese Dream of National Rejuvenation” – the “elimination of poverty” (raising incomes to an annual minimum of RMB2,300) and doubling the national GDP in comparison to 2011.
Yet these goals are in danger. Last year, China recorded its slowest rate of economic growth in 27 years. The pandemic will exacerbate the situation, especially with the threat of many countries pulling their global supply chains back home. This explains why Xi is warning that China is encountering “a race against time to reach the Chinese dream”.
Indeed, China is being hit hard where it hurts. It has attracted widespread criticism for imprisoning more than a million Uighur Muslims in harsh concentration camps. Pro-democracy protests exploded in Hong Kong last year and this will be an intractable thorn in Beijing’s side. Then, Taiwan emphatically rejected Chinese overtures by returning President Tsai Ing-wen to power in January. China is also facing stiffer resistance in the South China Sea, with the US military and others stepping up activities and rhetoric about China’s outrageous territorial claims. Furthermore, Xi’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative has lost its shine amidst accusations of debt-trap diplomacy.
Instead of leading the world, China is finding itself at the sharp point of criticism, enquiry and global scrutiny. Countries like Australia are calling for investigations into China’s bungling of the COVID-19 crisis, for instance, something that will be vigorously rejected by Beijing. Yet for a country and self-absorbed party obsessed with face, this is humiliating.
Writing a book soon to be published, Bates Gill, professor of Asia-Pacific Security Studies at Macquarie University in Australia, identified six drivers of Xi’s foreign policy. “Most have been long-standing aspects of China’s foreign policy. However, all have become much more prominent and vigorously pursued elements of foreign policy under Xi. But taken together they offer a coherent framework for understanding – and responding to – China’s approach to the outside world.”
Of the six drivers, he listed legitimacy as the core. He described it as “maintaining and strengthening the CCP as the sole governing party in China. This key objective is realised through a foreign policy which keeps two target audiences in mind, those at home and those abroad. Abroad, the CCP looks to strengthen its legitimacy and survival by gaining the acceptance, appreciation and even approbation of foreign governments and societies for China’s system of governance, domestic policies and pursuit of overseas interests.”
Gill’s other five drivers that build on this are leadership (roles for Beijing on the international stage politically and in multilateral bodies), influence (projecting a positive image abroad and shaping others’ thinking about Chinese interests), power (coercive instruments of hard power), wealth (continued economic prosperity) and sovereignty (expanding China’s freedom for international strategic maneuver, plus protecting the territory it claims).
Despite current setbacks, Gill warned, “Increasingly prosperous, powerful and authoritarian, China intends to become a more intense global competitor economically, technologically, diplomatically, militarily and in the realm of ideas. The COVID-19 crisis will not change this.”
However, upon examining Gill’s six drivers, it is easily seen that China’s image has been severely tarnished. Both domestically and globally, Xi’s governance and standoffishness during the height of the epidemic in Wuhan is being criticised. China’s leadership, influence, wealth and legitimacy have all declined.
To illustrate, China’s role in bodies like the World Health Organisation (WHO) is being looked into. China bought up global supplies of medical personal protective equipment, before later selling faulty and poor-quality equipment to others. Its initial attempt to cover up the Wuhan virus outbreak and later clumsy propaganda to deflect criticism also backfired. China’s economy is suffering – shrinking 6.8 per cent in the first quarter alone – the first contraction since 1976.
A very recent Pew research poll found that Americans’ views of China have worsened considerably. Indeed, 66 per cent of Americans now look at China unfavourably, compared to 47 per cent two years ago. In the meantime, those in favour of China dropped from 44 per cent to 26 per cent in the same period.
In the midst of all these setbacks, the few drivers it can rely on are sovereignty and hard power. China insists the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been totally unaffected by COVID-19 infections, and it is business as usual as it moved an aircraft carrier task group through the First Island Chain, and a research ship began surveying the seabed of Malaysia’s EEZ with an entourage of China Coast Guard vessels.
As part of sovereignty measures, China on April 18 declared it had set up two new municipal districts to control the disputed Paracel and Spratly Islands. A day later, it published the Chinese names of 80 geographic and underwater features in the South China Sea. With the rest of the world preoccupied with the coronavirus, China has trampled on others’ sensibilities and etched out its territorial claims more graphically.
Malcolm Davis, senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), tweeted, “Did anyone seriously expect China’s territorial ambitions to stop at invading and annexing Taiwan, and controlling the entire South China Sea and the East China Sea? Or taking Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin off India? They have big plans for the 21st century.”
However, with China suffering, despite brave attempts to disguise it, a new opportunity is arising for countries to unite in their resistance of Chinese influence.
This is the opinion of Professor Anne-Marie Brady, a New Zealand politics researcher at the University of Canterbury: “China is using the COVID-19 situation to push hard on territorial disputes in the South China Sea, to curtail Hong Kong’s freedoms, to force states to accept Huawei in 5G networks and to try and reshape the narrative of the origins of COVID-19.”
She continued, “Yet China is politically weak right now, as many states are very critical of China’s mishandling of COVID-19 outbreak, which led to it becoming a global pandemic. Now is a good time for like-minded states to pull together and support each other economically and politically, and to rebalance their relationship with China.”
The narrative being peddled to the Chinese populace is simple. The coronavirus did not originate in China and, when it did spread, it was the failure of the local rather than the central government. In fact, the CCP responded extraordinarily well. Not only that, it has done better than other countries like the USA, and it can boast of its support of other countries. Highlighting the overall readiness of the PLA also stokes nationalist sentiment.
Yet China with its propaganda campaign and obfuscation has scored numerous own goals. Citizens and governments in Africa, Australia, France, Italy, UK and USA, for example, have reacted badly to Chinese insinuations. China’s “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy is hurting more than helping Sino-skepticism as well.
Unfortunately, the world is going to have to face rising (ultra)nationalism by China and its citizens. As the Chinese tabloid Global Times explained, “The days when China can be put in a submissive position are long gone. China’s rising status in the world requires it to safeguard its national interests in an unequivocal way.”
Yet the world still struggles to understand the CCP and its nature.
For example, Sinologist Professor Kerry Brown wrote a recent article discussing whether the CCP can be described as “evil”. Certainly, Mao’s policies and paranoia killed millions, while Xi and his predecessors have grossly abused human rights and locked up millions of what they call “dissidents”. Brown notes generally that, with 90 million members, the CCP is broadly representative of Chinese society in general, that it has changed dramatically since it was formed in the 1920s, and that it is not monolithic.
He commented, “The most prudent thing one can say about the relationship between the [people and the party] is that they are very complex. And if you want to start deploying language like ‘evil’ about the party, then you are going to have to start labelling a good number of Chinese people that way too. Party members are Chinese people, after all – not some separate species!”
Brown continued, “There are many things it can be labelled. Autocratic. Sometimes in its decision-making inhumane. Too vast in scale. Too laden with history. But the idea that its millions of cadres and actors are busying their lives just working on doing harm is risible.
“The idea that [the Chinese people] are silent, suppressed and without agency is profoundly condescending. Many of them may know their rulers are problematic and often incompetent. They are in good company there with people in Europe and the US. But they are also averse to radical and disruptive change. They have seen enough of that in their own history. Maybe it is just a case of the ‘devil you know being better than the devil you don’t’. But to frame them as somehow cowed masses waiting for knights in shining armour to come from overseas is a colossal misjudgment.”
However, a key difference to places like Europe and USA is that the Chinese people have no alternative to the CCP. They cannot vote it out of power. Essentially, the modern-day CCP promised the Chinese people that it would make them rich, but the quid pro quo was that they would not be free.
China has been on a collision course with the West for a considerable period of time, a path that accelerated under Xi as he deliberately ignored Deng Xiaoping‘s dictum of “hide your strength and bide your time”. COVID-19 is but a catalyst that has brought festering contentions to the surface.
Indeed, the West has been found complacent, seduced by the promise of wealth and arrogantly thinking it would influence China for the better. The USA and the West thought it was invulnerable and superior after having won the Cold War. That has proven a figment of imagination, as Beijing has foisted with growing zeal “socialism with Chinese characteristics” on a mostly unsuspecting world.
The world now sits at a critical juncture – how to be less reliant on authoritarian China but at the same time learning to live with it. Beijing thrives on the weakness of others, and for too long most countries have simply rolled over to Chinese demands. Perhaps COVID-19, as Brady suggested, is the perfect time to enact a rebalance.



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New York cautious as more US states ease virus lockdowns

NEW YORK: More US states began lifting coronavirus lockdown orders on Monday but New York — America’s economic engine and coronavirus epicenter — is in no hurry, with hospitalization rates still high.
As Colorado, Minnesota, Mississippi and Tennessee were among the latest states to loosen restrictions, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was preparing to lengthen confinement measures for badly-hit areas.
“May 15 is when the pause regulations expire statewide. I will extend them in many parts of the state,” he told reporters.
New York is America’s worst-hit state, with more than 17,300 Covid-19 deaths out of almost 292,000 confirmed infections.
Cuomo plans to allow manufacturing and construction to restart in some of the state’s least-affected areas after May 15 as part of a phased reopening.
But for now that seems about it for New York, which has been shut down since mid-March.
“We have to be smart because if you are not smart, you will see that infection rate go right back to where it was. (We) will be right back to where we were 58 days ago and nobody wants that,” he said.
Cuomo said cases were not falling as quickly as he would like, with more than 1,000 new hospitalizations and 337 deaths from the disease in the past 24 hours.
The most affected part of the state, New York City, is likely to be one of the last areas of the country to reopen. A poll out Monday showed residents overwhelmingly backed the shutdown.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that at least 40 miles of streets would close to traffic to give the city’s 8.6 million residents more space to exercise outdoors, in a further sign that the end is far from in sight.
Also Monday, New York’s elections board canceled the Democratic Party primary on June 23, citing the risk of spreading coronavirus, a move heavily criticized by leftist Bernie Sanders.
As New Jersey, the second-worst affected state with 6,000 deaths, California and the Washington DC region stay committed to continuing confinement measures for now, more than half a dozen states have started a partial reopening of their economies.
Restaurants in Georgia opened open their doors Monday after beaches reopened over the weekend, despite criticism from health experts who say social distancing is still needed to stop the spread.
“We need human touch, human contact,” 64-year-old Kim Kaseta told AFP, delighted to be at her local breakfast spot in Atlanta, where waiters and cooks wore masks.
Tennessee also permitted restaurants to reopen Monday and Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that all retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, malls, museums and libraries would be allowed to reopen on Friday with 25 percent capacity.
Alaska, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Mississippi, Colorado and South Carolina have started to allow certain activities as well.
The moves come despite Harvard researchers and the health news site Stat warning that the majority of US states don’t yet have sufficient testing capacity to consider relaxing the stay-at-home orders after May 1.
Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia are well behind, they said, with New York needing to perform between 130,000 to 155,000 tests every day, compared to the average of 20,000 per day around mid April.
Cuomo also said an antibody test of 7,500 people found that a quarter of New York City residents may have already survived the virus, although that doesn’t mean they are immune.

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North Korea’s Kim Jong Un may be trying to avoid coronavirus, says South Korea

Kim Jong Un may have missed a key holiday on April 15 because of concerns over the coronavirus, not because he is ill, South Korea’s minister for North Korean affairs said on Tuesday.

North Korean leader Kim’s absence from public ceremonies on the birth anniversary of his grandfather and founder of the country, Kim Il Sung, was unprecedented, and he has not been seen in public since. That has led to days of speculation over his health.

South Korean officials emphasise they have detected no unusual movements in North Korea and have cautioned against reports that Kim may be ill.

North Korea has said it has no confirmed cases of the coronavirus, but given the fact that the country has taken stringent steps to head off an outbreak, Kim’s absence from the ceremonies is not particularly unusual, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, who oversees North Korea engagement, told lawmakers.

“It is true that he had never missed the anniversary for Kim Il Sung’s birthday since he took power, but many anniversary events including celebrations and a banquet had been cancelled because of coronavirus concerns,” Kim Yeon-chul said at a parliamentary hearing.

He said there were at least two instances since mid-January where Kim Jong Un was out of sight for nearly 20 days. “I don’t think that’s particularly unusual given the current (coronavirus) situation.”

US President Donald Trump said on Monday he has a good idea how Kim Jong Un is doing and hopes he is fine, but would not elaborate.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he was aware of reports on Kim’s health and he was was paying close attention to developments.

North Korea had cancelled some large events, and imposed a border lockdown and quarantine measures in an effort to prevent an outbreak of the coronavirus.

But if Kim Jong Un is hiding out due to fears surrounding Covid-19, it would “puncture a hole in the state media narrative of how this crisis has been perfectly managed,” said Chad O’Carroll, CEO of Korea Risk Group, which monitors North Korea.

“If he is merely trying to avoid infection, it should theoretically be very easy to release photos or videos of a healthy-looking Kim,” he said.

SIGNS OF LIFE

An authoritative source familiar with US intelligence reporting said on Monday it was entirely possible Kim had disappeared from public view to avoid exposure to COVID-19 and the sighting of his presidential train in the coastal resort area of Wonsan did suggest he may be there or have been there recently.

But the source said that since there was no authoritative backing for such a conclusion, US agencies were also still considering the possibility Kim might be ill, even seriously.

38 North, a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, said on Saturday that satellite images from last week showed a special train that was probably Kim’s at Wonsan, lending weight to reports he had been spending time in the resort area.

While North Korean state media have not reported on Kim Jong Un’s whereabouts since he presided over a meeting on April 11, they have carried near-daily reports of him sending letters and diplomatic messages suggests he is still carrying out his duties as leader.

That suggests that he is still carrying out his duties, Unification minister Kim said, although some experts say they are not necessarily conclusive.

“I agree with the South Korean government’s assessment that there is no reason to think Kim Jong Un is not performing his duties,” said Rachel Minyoung Lee, a former North Korea open source intelligence analyst for the US government.

“That said, I would not read too much into letters signed by Kim Jong Un. I would guess that most of them are not written by him anyway.”

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Karnataka Red Zone Areas: In a month, Karnataka goes from 1 district in red zone to 6 | Bengaluru News

BENGALURU: On March 25, when the country went into lockdown mode, only one district in Karnataka — Bengaluru Urban — was reporting more than 15 active Covid-19 cases (patients under treatment). Halfway through April, Mysuru and Belagavi had joined the capital city in the red zone. By Monday, three more districts joined the perilous ranks: Vijayapura, Bagalkot and Kalaburagi.
The latest entrants in red, though, were all in the orange zone (with 6-14 active cases) in mid-April. On the other hand, districts like Kodagu, Davanagere and Udupi that were in yellow zone (1-5 cases) at the beginning of the lockdown are now in green with not a single active case. They have joined 10 other districts which have not reported a single positive case throughout.

In all these districts, the health department has now begun checking for patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Infection and Influenzalike Illnesses.
B’luru doing better than other metropolitan dists
Instances of both conditions are rising in districts that are reporting cases. Senior health officials credited efforts by the administration in districts like Chamarajanagar and Kodagu for zero active cases. “Chamarajanagar shares border with Tamil Nadu and Kerala is about 90km away. The surveillance measures taken there have made sure no cases are being reported. Ditto with Kodagu, where one case was reported earlier, but with the Covid-19 patient returning from Dubai behaving very responsibly, there were no other cases there,” said a doctor.
The number of districts in the red has increased from just one at the beginning of the lockdown to six as on April 27. On April 12, there were three districts in red zones: Bengaluru Urban (34 active cases); Mysuru (46) and Belagavi (18). “Though Bengaluru has continued to be in the red zone, compared to other metropolitan districts, the number of cases reported and deaths are much lower here,” said health commissioner Pankaj Kumar Pandey.
“The cluster case of Nanjanagud in Mysuru and the visit of one person from Vijayapura to Maharashtra for a funeral are contributing factors for the red zone expanding. There were cases linked to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation which added to the cases in Karnataka.”
Helpline for labourers
The government on Monday launched a helpline (080-22636800) for labourers from Karnataka stranded in other states due to the lockdown. Kannadigas stuck in other states and facing problems with food, shelter etc., can contact the helpline which in turn will address their concerns in coordination with officials of the respective states.
Gowda demands spl package for farmers
Former prime minister HD Deve Gowda on Monday wrote to chief minister BS Yediyurappa demanding that the Karnataka government announce a special package for farmers, who are on the verge of quitting agriculture following losses due to Covid-19.

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How New Zealand ‘eliminated’ Covid-19 after weeks of lockdown

But the country isn’t celebrating yet.

“That does give us confidence that we’ve achieved our goal of elimination, which never meant zero but it does mean we know where our cases are coming from,” Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s Director General of Health, said on Monday, adding that there was only one case since April 1 where authorities were still investigating the source of infection.

On Tuesday, the country eased into a less restrictive lockdown, with 400,000 more New Zealanders heading back to work and 75% of the country’s economy operating, according to Ardern. The new level three restrictions also mean that New Zealanders will be able to hold small funerals and buy takeaways.

New Zealand has reported 19 deaths and 1,472 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. Of those, 1,214 — of 82% of confirmed and probably cases — have recovered, the Ministry of Health said Tuesday.

But while New Zealand’s success in eliminating the virus might seem like cause for celebration, Ardern is still urging vigilance.

“We are not out of the woods,” she said at a press conference Tuesday. “(Level three) is a recovery room of sorts to assess if the incredible work that New Zealanders have done … has worked.”

When it comes to what worked, New Zealand had some advantages in tackling the virus. It had the benefit of time — New Zealand confirmed its first case of coronavirus on February 28, well over a month after the United States confirmed its first case.

It’s a relatively remote island nation, and relatively few flights transit through New Zealand. It’s also centrally governed, meaning it doesn’t have states like the US or its neighbor Australia.

But the real key to New Zealand’s success appears to be an approach that could be applied anywhere — moving swiftly, testing widely, and relying heavily on good science.

Moving swiftly

Like many countries, New Zealand had models that showed that a potential coronavirus outbreak could be devastating if no action was taken. Unlike some other countries, New Zealand responded relatively fast.

When Ardern announced on March 14 that anyone entering the country would need to self isolate for two weeks, it was among the toughest border restrictions in the world. At the time, the country had six cases.

When, on March 19, Ardern banned foreigners from entering the country, there were 28 confirmed cases.

And on March 23, when Ardern announced that the country was going into lockdown, there were 102 confirmed cases — and no deaths.

I left Hong Kong for a break. Instead I got stuck with my parents for weeks

“Decisive action, going hard and going early, helped to stamp out the worst of virus,” Ardern in a statement Tuesday.

There’s a few reasons New Zealand took strong action. As Ardern said in a press conference on March 14, New Zealand is a key departure route to Pacific Islands — and the country has a responsibility to protect its Pacific neighbors. But the swift actions were also for the benefit of New Zealanders.

“Here in New Zealand, we don’t have a lot of intensive care beds compared to some other countries. That’s why (Ardern) acted really fast,” Auckland University microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles said earlier this month.

While New Zealand took prompt action, it is being slow to roll back prevention measures. Even as the country’s cases appeared to trend downward, Ardern opted to extend the most restrictive, level four lockdown measures by five days.

Despite that, many New Zealanders support the restrictions. In a Colmar Brunton survey last week, 87% said they approved of the way the government is responding to the pandemic.

Testing widely

New Zealand has ramped up its testing, to the point that it can now carry out up to 8,000 tests per day, Ardern said Tuesday.

To date, New Zealand has carried out 126,066 tests. For comparison, the United Kingdom — a country with around 13 times more people than New Zealand — has completed 719,910 tests.

But the real sign that New Zealand’s testing is working is its test positivity rate — the proportion of tests coming back positive.

Dr. Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programs, said recently that a good benchmark is to have at least 10 negative cases for every one positive case confirmed. That means if a state or country carries out testing and comes back with positive cases of around 9% or under, then it’s likely that it is testing well.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stands at dawn on the driveway of Premier House with her father Ross Ardern, left, and partner Clarke Gayford to commemorate Anzac Day in Wellington, New Zealand, on April 25, 2020.

New Zealand’s test positivity rate is around 1%, suggesting that there isn’t widespread community transmission that’s slipping under the radar.

On Monday, Ardern noted that in other countries around the world, each person infected with coronavirus infects around 2.5 people. Under New Zealand’s lockdown, that has dropped to 0.4 — less than half a person infected.

Relying on good science

The real lesson from New Zealand has been the combination of good science and leadership, Professor Michael Baker, from Otago University’s Public Health Department, said earlier this month.

Throughout the lockdown period, Ardern has appeared alongside Bloomfield at regular press conferences, with Ardern often passing questions from the media to him.

Jacinda Ardern and New Zealand cabinet take pay cut because of coronavirus
Although Bloomfield is a public servant, he is qualified in medicine and has a specialism in public health medicine. According to a statement on the Ministry of Health website, his particular area of professional interest is non-communicable disease prevention and control.

“In New Zealand, it has been a wonderful link between good science, and brilliant leadership, and the two together are I think are really highly effective,” said Baker. “I’ve been really disappointed that countries who have far more, absolutely the top science resources in the world, that is the US and UK, many countries in Europe, have not fared better than countries like New Zealand which has limited resources.”

The future

Although New Zealand is currently being seen as a success story of the coronavirus crisis, it also shows that gains in the fight against Covid-19 doesn’t mean a return to life as normal.

Despite New Zealand’s early success, the country is still effectively in lockdown, with most people still being told to stay home and stick to their “bubbles” — the name for the people they are isolating with.

“(Level three) is not and cannot be returned to pre-Covid-19 life,” Ardern said Monday. “That day will come, but it is not here yet.”

A house fence chalked up with messages relating to the Covid-19 lockdown on April 3, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Ardern pointed out that the battle against Covid-19 would continue until there is a vaccine. And — like other countries — New Zealand still has an economic fight to contend with.

Tourism — New Zealand’s biggest export industry — has taken a hit. Foreign nationals are still banned from entering the country, and any New Zealanders who arrive in the country will need to spend at least 14 days in government quarantine facilities. There is discussion about New Zealand and Australia opening their borders to one another, but for now, nothing official has been announced.
Under a best case scenario, New Zealand’s Treasury estimated that the country could see a 13% unemployment rate.

“We will do all we can to ensure we fight the economic impacts of the virus in the same way we did the health threat,” Ardern said on Tuesday. “With unity, with fast support, by looking after each other.”

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Mumbai lockdown news: Today’s updates from your city | Mumbai News

Amid prevalent chaos and uncertainty over access to the essential services and commodities during the lockdown, we bring you the latest updates from your city.
* Update at 12.06pm: In 47 districts, no case has been reported in last 14 days, while 39 districts have not reported a case since last 21 days. 17 districts have not reported a case for last 28 days, says Union health minister Harsh Vardhan
*Mumbai high on medical waste, some of it goes to landfill
*Fear of coronavirus infection and travel woes pose hurdles for private hospital staff in Mumbai
*Red zones in Maharashtra closed till mid-May
* Update at 9.24am: Death toll due to Covid-19 rises to 934 in country; cases climb to 29,435, reports PTI quoting Union health ministry
* Update at 8.23am: Mumbai Police officials have asked cops above 55 years of age and with existing ailments to go on leave in a bid to protect them from Covid-19
*Essential services shops in Ulhasnagar have been ordered by the civic body to remain shut till Thursday after a local tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday.
*50% of Mumbai’s containment zone population now just in Dharavi
Almost 15% of the nearly nine lakh residents of the city’s biggest slum, Dharavi, are now in Covid-19 containment zones, accounting for half the city’s containment zone population.
*A nine-month-pregnant woman experiencing cramps was denied admission by three hospitals in Bandra, including a civic-run facility, on Monday because she did not have a Covid-19 test.
*75% private nursing homes open, BMC warns the rest of action
In an inspection carried out to see if all private nursing homes and dispensaries in the city were working, the civic health department found 1,068 (75%) of the 1,416 nursing homes and 89 of the 99 dialysis centres were operational.
*Maharashtra energy minister Nitin Raut on Monday demanded a special economic package for the power sector due to the lockdown and enlistment of electricity as an essential commodity by the Centre.

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Italy, UK Explore Possible Covid-19 Link to Child Inflammatory Disease

Representative Image
(Photo: REUTERS)

Representative Image
(Photo: REUTERS)

Doctors in Italy have reported extraordinarily large numbers of children under age 9 with severe cases of what appears to be Kawasaki disease, more common in parts of Asia.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: April 28, 2020, 12:14 PM IST

Milan/London: Italian and British medical experts are investigating a possible link between the coronavirus pandemic and clusters of severe inflammatory disease among infants who are arriving in hospital with high fevers and swollen arteries.

Doctors in northern Italy, one of the world’s hardest-hit areas during the pandemic, have reported extraordinarily large numbers of children under age 9 with severe cases of what appears to be Kawasaki disease, more common in parts of Asia.

In Britain, doctors have made similar observations, prompting Health Secretary Matt Hancock to tell a coronavirus news briefing on Monday that he was “very worried” and that medical authorities were looking at the issue closely.

In the United States, a leading paediatric society says it has yet to see something similar.

Kawasaki disease, whose cause is unknown, often afflicts children aged under 5 and is associated with fever, skin rashes, swelling of glands, and in severe cases, inflammation of arteries of the heart. There is some evidence that individuals can inherit a predisposition to the disease, but the pattern is not clear.

England’s national medical director, Stephen Powis, told the British briefing he had become aware of reports of severely ill children with Kawasaki-like symptoms in the past few days but stressed it was too early to determine a link with the coronavirus.

“I’ve asked the national clinical director for children and young people to look into this as a matter of urgency. … We’re not sure at the moment,” Powis said.

In Italy, paediatricians are also alarmed.

A hospital in the northern town of Bergamo has seen more than 20 cases of severe vascular inflammation in the past month, six times as many as it would expect to see in a year, said paediatric heart specialist Matteo Ciuffreda.

Ciuffreda, of the Giovanni XXIII hospital, said only a few of the infants with vascular inflammation had tested positive for the new coronavirus, but paediatric cardiologists in Madrid and Lisbon had told him they had seen similar cases.

He has called on his colleagues to document every such case to determine if there is a correlation between Kawasaki disease and Covid-19. He aims to publish the results of the Italian research in a scientific journal.

‘MULTI-ORGAN INFLAMMATION’

Ciuffreda said his first case of apparent Kawasaki disease was a 9-year-old boy who came to the hospital on March 21, at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, with high fever and low blood oxygen levels. He tested negative for the coronavirus.

A scan showed the child had an enlarged coronary artery, a hallmark of severe cases of Kawasaki disease, he said.

“The little boy worried me a lot, with a violent multi-organ inflammation affecting both heart and the lungs,” Ciuffreda said. “I feared he wouldn’t survive, but surprisingly, in the course of a few days, he took a positive turn and he got better.”

Kawasaki disease was anecdotally linked 16 years ago to another known coronavirus, though it was never proven. The research was carried out after another, related coronavirus known as NL63 was found in a baby showing symptoms of Kawasaki disease in 2004.

Ian Jones, professor of virology at the University of Reading in Britain, said the NL63 virus uses the same receptor as the new coronavirus to infect humans, but he also stressed it was too early to draw conclusions.

“We just have to wait and see if this becomes a common observation,” he said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has yet to see something similar in the United States, which has the greatest number of coronavirus infections and deaths.”We are not aware of any reports of this phenomenon in the United States,” Dr Yvonne Maldonado, who chairs the academy’s committee on infectious disease, said in an email, referring to a potential link between Covid-19 and Kawasaki-type symptoms.

Dr Sean O’Leary, a paediatric infectious diseases expert at Children’s Hospital Colorado who is part of that AAP committee, said his hospital has seen several cases of Kawasaki this year, but none in the more than 30 children admitted for COVID-19.

“Even if it is related, is a very rare complication,” he said. “If it were more common, we’d already have a pretty good idea about it in the United States.”

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Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal Endorses Biden for Prez

File Photo of Pramila Jayapal (Credit: Reuters)

File Photo of Pramila Jayapal (Credit: Reuters)

Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal has endorsed Joe Biden’s 2020 White House bid, saying the former vice president is a deeply dedicated public servant with the ability to unite the American people.

  • PTI Washington
  • Last Updated: April 28, 2020, 12:13 PM IST

Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal has endorsed Joe Biden’s 2020 White House bid, saying the former vice president is a deeply dedicated public servant with the ability to unite the American people.

Biden, 77, is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party. Jayapal, the first Indian-American woman to be elected to the US House of Representatives, has been a traditional supporter of senior party leader and Senator Bernie Sanders, who has now dropped out of the race in support of Biden.

“Today, I am announcing my endorsement of Vice President Joe Biden for President of the United States. Vice President Biden is a deeply dedicated public servant with the ability to unite the American people,” Jayapal said in a statement.

Jayapal, who is co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said that she believes wholeheartedly that government can and must be a force for good expanding access to healthcare and education, fighting the climate crisis, passing humane immigration reform, and looking out for working people instead of corporate interests.

“I started this campaign as an ardent and vocal surrogate for Bernie Sanders, and while I have not always agreed with Vice President Biden on matters of policy, I am ready to work with him to craft and then implement the most progressive agenda of any candidate in history,” she said.

Jayapal was elected to the House of Representatives in 2016 from 7th Congressional District of Washington State, which encompasses most of Seattle and surrounding areas. She served as National Health Policy Chair and Washington State Campaign Chair for Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign.

She has been a strong critic of President Donald Trump. “As President, Donald Trump has consistently sided with the wealthy and well-connected over working families and regular Americans, fostered racism and xenophobia and undermined democratic norms and the rule of law.

“He and his administration have demonstrated repeatedly – and most recently in their disastrous response to COVID-19 – an inability to govern, make tough decisions, speak the truth and unite the country in common purpose. Any progress toward a better future requires defeating him this November,” she said.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the US are more than 965,000 and 54,877 deaths have been reported so far. “We are ready for a President who will encourage us to be as big as we can be, with compassion and bold leadership. That President must be Joe Biden, and I will do everything I can to help him win back the White House, take back the Senate, and preserve our House Majority. Together, I am confident we can build a more perfect union,” Jayapal said.

Congressman Dr Ami Bera was the first Indian-American lawmaker to endorse Biden for president during his primary elections. Indian origin Senator Kamala Harris has also endorsed Biden early this month.​

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UK Sets up New Insurance Scheme for NHS Medics’ Families

Medical staff at an NHS drive through coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing facility in the car park of Chessington World of Adventures as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Chessington, Britain, March 28, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Medical staff at an NHS drive through coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing facility in the car park of Chessington World of Adventures as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Chessington, Britain, March 28, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

The UK has announced a 60,000-pound insurance scheme for the families of National Health Service workers who lose their lives on the frontlines of fighting the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 21,000 people in the country.

  • PTI London
  • Last Updated: April 28, 2020, 12:08 PM IST

The UK has announced a 60,000-pound insurance scheme for the families of National Health Service workers who lose their lives on the frontlines of fighting the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 21,000 people in the country.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who announced the Life Assurance Scheme at the daily Downing Street briefing on Monday, said that while no amount of money can replace the loss of a loved one, the government’s effort was to do “everything that we can” to support families dealing with bereavement.

“I feel a deep personal sense of duty that we must care for their loved ones,” the minister said. “As a government, we are looking closely at other professions that work on the frontline against the coronavirus, who also do not have access to such schemes, to see where this may be required,” he added.

The briefing on Monday marked the first time that a question from a member of the public, chosen independently through a polling agency, was read out ahead of the usual journalists’ questions directed at the minister and professor Chris Whitty, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser.

The question asked if being able to hug a close family member would be one of the first steps out of lockdown, and was answered by all three as something the government hopes to move towards as the risk of infection reduces.

“It is important that people who are vulnerable continue to be protected even after the next steps occur,” said Whitty.

He also indicated that the lower rate of daily death toll hike, which was up 360 from Sunday’s figure, could be an “artificial drop” due to lower notification rates from UK hospitals over the weekend.

As the number of hospitalisations continued a downward trend, the government said that some of the other NHS medical services, which had been paused due to the coronavirus outbreak, will be restored from Tuesday.

“As the number of hospitalisations from coronavirus begins to fall, I can announce that, starting tomorrow, we will begin the restoration of other NHS services – starting with the most urgent, like cancer care and mental health support,” said Hancock.

The latest update came as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson took charge at 10 Downing Street earlier on Monday after returning from his COVID-19 convalescence from Chequers, his countryside retreat in Buckinghamshire over the weekend.

He addressed the nation from the podium outside his office in London to warn the British public that the period of “maximum risk” had not been passed and urged for further patience with the strict social distancing measures.

The confirmed number of coronavirus cases in the UK has reached 158,348 and the number of deaths are 21,092, according to Johns Hopkins University tracker.

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