Worldwide Headlines March 28, 2020
UK Prime Minister tests positive for coronavirus
(Reuters) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for coronavirus and is self isolating but will still lead the government’s response to the outbreak. “Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus,” Johnson said. “I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus.”
Unusual Belgian border problem
(Foreign Policy) In the Belgian town of Baarle-Hertog, which itself sits within the Dutch municipality of Baarle-Nassau, conflicting lockdown rules between the two countries has put residents in a tough situation. The town’s streets straddle the border between the countries to the extent that Dutch shops have remained open while Belgian shops have closed because Belgium has enacted strict rules that only allow citizens to visit grocery stores and pharmacies. “I live just 50 meters away, I walk by, but I cannot go into any of these shops because I am Belgian,” Frans De Bont, mayor of Baarle-Hertog, told Reuters.
Japan cases surge
(Foreign Policy) Japan has taken new measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus after cases tripled in Tokyo in the last four days. Japan has yet to call for a state of emergency, but has banned entry from 21 European countries and Iran, as well as setting up a crisis task force. Japan now has 1,399 confirmed coronavirus cases.
Singapore gets tough
(Reuters) Getting within a meter of another person at a restaurant or a shopping queue in Singapore can now land you in prison under some of the toughest punishments seen worldwide to implement social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Pope prays for ‘fragile’ humanity needing help in pandemic
(AP) Praying in a desolately empty St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis on Friday likened the coronavirus pandemic to a storm laying bare illusions that people can be self-sufficient and instead leaves “all of us fragile and disoriented” and needing each other’s help and comfort.
Francis stood under a canopy erected on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica while leading a special prayer service as rain soaked the usually crowded cobblestone square. “Open our hearts to hope,” he said in his opening prayer. He compared the viral outbreak plaguing Italy and much of the world to an “unexpected, turbulent storm.”
“We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us now called to row together, each of us in need of comforting each other,” the pope said.
Helping the world carry on during the pandemic are those who Francis called the “ordinary people, often forgotten, who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines” or in fashion shows.
But these ordinary people “without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law-and-order forces, volunteers” as well as priests, nuns and others, the pontiff said.
Surging Traffic Is Slowing Down Our Internet
(NYT) In late January, as China locked down some provinces to contain the spread of the coronavirus, average internet speeds in the country slowed as people who were stuck inside went online more and clogged the networks. In Hubei Province, the epicenter of infections, mobile broadband speeds fell by more than half. In mid-February, when the virus hit Italy, Germany and Spain, internet speeds in those countries also began to deteriorate. And last week, as a wave of stay-at-home orders rolled out across the United States, the average time it took to download videos, emails and documents increased as broadband speeds declined 4.9 percent from the previous week, according to Ookla, a broadband speed testing service. Median download speeds dropped 38 percent in San Jose, Calif., and 24 percent in New York, according to Broadband Now, a consumer broadband research site.
U.S. Now the Global Epicenter of Coronavirus Pandemic
(Foreign Policy) The United States can now claim the unwelcome title as the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic. It is the first country to overtake China in the total number of infections since the outbreak began. Just under 15,000 new infections were reported yesterday, the majority in the state of New York. Italy, which has suffered the highest death toll of the pandemic and recorded over 6,000 cases yesterday, is set to overtake China’s infection rate by the end of today. It was a day of grim records for the world’s largest economy, as the number of unemployment claims exploded to a record high of 3.3 million. The previous record was set in 1982, when 695,000 people filed unemployment claims. The number of Americans out of work may well be higher, as many U.S. states do not allow the self-employed and so-called gig workers to file claims.