The World Today for April 09, 2020

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COVID-19 Global Update

More than 180 nations worldwide have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The following have the highest number as of 4 a.m. ET*:

  1. US 432,438 (+8.13%)
  2. Spain 148,220 (+4.42%)
  3. Italy 139,422 (+2.83%)
  4. Germany 113,296 (+5.23%)
  5. France 112,950 (+2.62%)
  6. China 82,870 (+0.11%)
  7. Iran 64,586 (+3.19%)
  8. UK 61,474 (+9.88%)
  9. Turkey 38,226 (+12.07%)
  10. Belgium 23,403 (+5.45%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Percentage change over 24 hours



A Shaky Normal

Things are getting back to normal in China.

But normal is different now.

Workers in a Chinese e-commerce company in Beijing used to sit shoulder to shoulder at their desks. Now, after the coronavirus has been supposedly contained in the world’s most populous country, employees enter the office in staggered shifts to reduce potential exposure, reported Wired magazine. They must wear face masks. Staff members check their temperatures. They must complete a health questionnaire every day.

Even in Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic in China, folks are starting to emerge from their homes. They’re happy to be free. “I’ve been indoors for 70 days,” a woman told a local television reporter. “Today is the first time that I came outside. I feel as if I have been separated from the outside world for ages.”

On Tuesday, mainland China reported no coronavirus deaths for the first time since the pandemic began and a drop in new cases. Wuhan, where the virus emerged late in December, is set to lift its lockdown Wednesday and permit outbound travel, Reuters reported.

The combination of safety measures in workplaces and residents rebounding from the shutdowns of massive cities has taken its toll in China, wrote the Washington Post. Preventing the further spread of the virus and restarting the world’s second-largest economy will be no easy task.

People in quarantine must show green-colored phone scans to prove they have been certified as coronavirus-free, explained Devika Koppikar, an American teaching high school in China, in a CNN opinion piece. Many shops where people congregate, like Starbucks, are still shuttered.

The restrictions can be spotty. For example, in Shanghai, microbiologist Daniel Falush wrote in the Guardian that he has been able to go clubbing twice in recent weeks.

When the coronavirus was raging in China, many wrote about the lessons other nations could learn from the country’s response. Mother Jones magazine noted that Chinese officials quickly deployed thousands to trace the origins of the virus in Wuhan. They manufactured more than a million kits a day whose results were ready within 24 hours. They built new hospitals in days.

Regardless, if China did enough – as the debate now suggests, they have to remain very alert. Researchers around the world are now watching closely to see if the coronavirus resurfaces after a prolonged lockdown when new cases were near zero, Nature reported. If the virus spreads like wildfire again, the world might be facing months or more than a year of lockdowns unless a vaccine is found.

China reported 39 new coronavirus cases as of Sunday, up from 30 a day earlier. Meanwhile, the National Health Commission said that 78 new asymptomatic cases had been identified as of Sunday, compared with 47 the day before.

China, Hong Kong, Japan Singapore and Taiwan have barred or partially barred foreigners from entering their countries in recent days to keep newcomers from reintroducing the virus, and testing nationals returning home from abroad, the New York Times reported.

Still, in Wuhan, most are grateful that some things are getting back to normal. Despite the restrictive regime of safety measures, residents say they are thankful to go outside, get back to work, visit friends, enjoy their favorite “reganmian” hot dry noodles, and all those other little things once taken for granted.



A New Kind of Wall

The German government approved a bill on Wednesday that would make it easier for authorities to prevent foreign investors from taking over strategically important companies, the Associated Press reported.

The new rules – which need parliamentary approval – are in line with a year-old European Union directive on screening foreign investment.

Although it predates the coronavirus pandemic, the bill is part of the government’s plan to protect German enterprises that face potential acquisition during the crisis.

The new measures would lower the threshold for blocking potential takeovers, and allow authorities to examine whether a buyout would lead to a “foreseeable impairment” of public security, rather than an “actual threat.”

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said that certain industries hold “significant German security interests,” such as energy, telecommunications and the supply of vaccines.

Germany already strengthened the rules on foreign investment in 2018, due to concerns over increased Chinese investment in some sectors of the economy.

The current law allows officials to investigate whether an investor from outside the EU can proceed with an investment if the planned stake is 10 percent or higher.


Brace, Brace

East Timor’s Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak withdrew his resignation on Wednesday, saying that he would stay in power to steer the country during the novel coronavirus crisis, Reuters reported.

Following his announcement, his cabinet approved a $250-million fund to fight the spread of the disease, which would cover the purchase of medical equipment and the building of quarantine sites.

Although there is only one confirmed case of the virus, a state of emergency was declared in March. The government is currently monitoring more than 1,700 people for signs of the virus, while keeping another 1,072 in quarantine.

Ruak resigned in February after failing to pass a budget for 2020, but agreed to remain as the caretaker leader until a new government was formed.

Last month, a six-party coalition led by independence hero Xanana Gusmao told President Francisco Guterres that it was ready to form a government. Gusmao’s coalition hasn’t received any approval from the president.

Since its independence from Indonesia in 2002, the country has grappled with political instability that has hindered efforts to reduce poverty and develop its rich energy resources.


Ending a Career

An Ecuadorian court earlier this week sentenced former President Rafael Correa in absentia to eight years in prison for acts of corruption committed during his 10-years in office, Agence France-Presse reported.

Correa, who lives in exile in Belgium, was found guilty of accepting bribes from private businesses during his 2013 election campaign in return for state contracts.

He has vehemently denied the charges and claimed that he was a victim of political persecution.

Correa was one of 18 suspects convicted of bribery, which also included former vice president Jorge Glas.

Glas has been serving a six-year prison sentence since 2017 for accepting bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

The court also ruled that anyone convicted will be banned from political participation for 25 years.

Despite the ruling, Ecuador’s constitution prohibits individuals convicted of bribery, illicit enrichment and embezzlement from running for public office.

Aside from his bribery conviction, Correa is also wanted for the alleged kidnapping of an opposition lawmaker. This crime cannot be charged in absentia.


Sophisticated Neanderthals

Neanderthals have a reputation of being primitive beings that only hunted woolly mammoths with simplistic weapons in the frozen regions of Europe.

A recent archeological find, however, discovered that they, in fact, were very skilled fishermen and enjoyed a seafood diet, according to USA Today.

Lead author João Zilhão and his team found evidence of fish bones and crustacean shells left behind by Neanderthals in a coastal cave in Portugal

They reported in their study that this is the first time that archaeologists have found proof that Europe’s Neanderthals consumed seafood more than 80,000 years ago.

Until now, scientists believed that only modern humans – Homo sapiens – in Africa used marine resources for food.

The study also corresponds with previous evidence that Neanderthals were afflicted with “surfer’s ear” from spending too much time in the water.

But aside from shattering stereotypes, Zilhão noted that the marine diet played an important role in the development of the Neanderthals’ brains.

Food from the sea contains rich omega-3 fatty acids and others that help in developing brain tissue.

This subsequently boosted the ancient people’s ability for abstract thought, which might explain rock art paintings and seashell decorations in Spain about 65,000 years ago.

“The real Neanderthal is the Neanderthal who is in southern Europe,” quipped Zilhão.

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