Trump halts US immigration as global cases pass 2.5m

 

US President Donald Trump has vowed to temporarily ban immigration to the United States to combat the "invisible enemy" of the coronavirus, as the pandemic threatens to push the global economy into free fall.

Mr Trump was scant on details but suggested a hardening of his anti-immigration crusade, a move likely to delight the US President's supporters ahead of November elections.

The threat came as COVID-19 cases passed 2.5m and the death toll from the virus surpassed 170,000 worldwide, sending economies into a tailspin as governments anxiously try to chart a path out of the crisis.

Freezes on whole sectors of commerce are playing out dramatically on oil markets, where shrinking energy demand and a supply glut have crashed prices.

In hard-hit Europe, some countries are cautiously creeping out from confinement to soften the economic costs, though large gatherings appear to be out of the question for the foreseeable future.

 

 

While Germany is allowing smaller shops to reopen, authorities cancelled Oktoberfest, a beloved beer-swilling festival in southern Bavaria, for the first time since World War II.

Spain also announced it was scrapping its annual bull-running festival in Pamplona, a centuries-old tradition that normally draws hundreds of thousands.

The US is now home to the world's deadliest outbreak, with more than 42,000 people dead and 784,000 infected nationwide.

As the downturn starts to bite, Mr Trump has stoked conflict with Democratic state governors by lending support to a spate of anti-lockdown protests.

He also drew criticism with his vague announcement to temporarily halt immigration to the country, claiming it would save American jobs - some 22 million of which have vanished in the wake of the virus.

"In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!" he tweeted.

The White House did not provide any further details about the measure or how long it would last.

Debates are raging worldwide over when and how to relax clampdowns on business and ordinary life.

Many governments fear triggering another wave of infections but are also worried about the mounting economic costs and signs of social tension.

In Europe, several countries including Germany, Austria, Norway and Denmark have begun to relax restrictions while still calling for the public to practice social distancing.

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has also promised to soon unveil a plan to start reopening the hard-hit country.

In a sign of what lies ahead, the gradual awakening of Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus first emerged, remains tinged with fear about fresh outbreaks of the disease.

The industrial city was released from quarantine two weeks ago, but many restaurants, for instance, have not reopened or are still only able to offer outdoor seating and takeout.

"We have very, very few customers," said Han, the 27-year-old owner of a soy drink stall.

"Everyone is worried about asymptomatic infected people," she said. "Business is just not as good as before." Singapore, meanwhile, has become a sober example of how infections may ebb and flow, with the financial hub extending lockdown measures Tuesday as it battles a second wave of contagion.

"Many will be disappointed by the extension," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, acknowledging that businesses and workers were "hurting greatly".

Meanwhile, activists warned that press freedom was becoming another victim of the virus, with countries like China and Iran accused of censoring reporting on the crisis.

Some regimes are taking "advantage of the fact people are stunned … to impose measures that would be impossible to adopt in normal times", Christophe Deloire, the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said.

Similarly "in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, strongmen are consolidating their grip on news

and information," the watchdog warned.

 

 

NNo cars on the streets of New York means a boon for bike riders. Picture: Getty Images
NNo cars on the streets of New York means a boon for bike riders. Picture: Getty Images

 

UK VACCINE TO BEGIN TRIALS THIS WEEK

Meanwhile, the first doses of Britain's coronavirus vaccine will be given to human volunteers on Thursday, the British Government has revealed.

According to The Sun, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that a potential jab which has been developed by Oxford University will start being tested in just two days.

Speaking at Downing Street on Tuesday night (local time), he said: "I can announce that the vaccine from the Oxford project will be trialled in people from this Thursday," Mr Hancock said.

"In normal times, reaching this stage would take years and I'm very proud of the work taken so far.

 

 

"At the same time, we will invest in manufacturing capability so that if either of these vaccines safely work, we can make it available for the British people as soon as humanely possible."

He added: "I am certain that we will throw everything we've got at developing a vaccine.

"The UK is at the forefront of the global effort - we've put in more money than any other into the global search for a vaccine."

Last week Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology who is leading the team, said a vaccine could be available for use by the general public by the autumn.

She said: "Personally, I have a high degree of confidence. And, I think, it has a very strong chance of working."

 

Street artist Chris Shea works on a mural in London. Picture: Getty Images
Street artist Chris Shea works on a mural in London. Picture: Getty Images

 

Asked when the first dose of the vaccine might be delivered to a trial volunteer, chief investigator Professor Andrew Pollard said it depended on when the last part of the testing from the manufacturing ended.

TRUMP, JOHNSON TALK FOR FIRST TIME SINCE PM'S ILLNESS

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson took the first steps towards returning to work on Tuesday after being hospitalised with coronavirus, speaking to MrTrump by telephone.

The two leaders discussed the importance of international action against the COVID-19 pandemic and plans for a post-Brexit trade deal, a Downing Street statement said.

Mr Johnson is also to speak with Queen Elizabeth II in their first weekly audience for three weeks.

However, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab continues to deputise for the Conservative leader and will step in for Johnson during prime minister's questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Mr Johnson "isn't formally doing government work", his spokesman said. The 55-year-old was admitted to hospital with coronavirus on April 5, and spent three nights in intensive care before he was discharged on April 12.

Mr Johnson has been recovering ever since at his official countryside retreat of Chequers, with his pregnant partner, Carrie Symonds.

During his phone call with Mr Trump, Mr Johnson thanked the president for his good wishes while he was ill, the Downing Street statement said.

"The leaders agreed on the importance of a co-ordinated international response to coronavirus, including through the G7, which the US currently chairs," it said.

"They also discussed continued UK-US co-operation in the fight against the pandemic.

"The leaders committed to continue working together to strengthen our bilateral relationship, including by signing a free-trade agreement as soon as possible."

AUSTRALIA'S DEATH TOLL GROWS

A third elderly resident of beleaguered Newmarch House aged care home has lost their battle with COVID-19.

The home's managers Anglicare said they were "saddened" the woman, 92, who struggled with multiple health issues, passed away on Tuesday morning. The cause of death is still to be formally determined. Two men aged 93 and 94 also died after recontracting the disease.

Anglicare Sydney's CEO Grant Millard said: "I have spoken personally to the immediate family of the resident to convey our deepest sympathies".

Staff at Newmarch House aged care facility near Penrtih, where 42 residents and staff have been infected, say they are working round the clock to halt the spread of the disease.

Anglicare drafted in infectious diseases experts from Napean Hospital at the weekend to manage the cluster.

Infections spread at the sprawling home after a care worker worked five shifts over six days while unknowingly infected. She exhibited mild symptoms, of fatigue and a sore throat but put it down to juggling two jobs and home commitments.

The permanent part time carer, a mother from Western Sydney, was said to be "deflated" at the news of a third death at the Anglicare home where 14 staff and 28 residents have been effected.

"She's not good, we're worried about her, she's really upset by what's happened," a source close to the woman said.

"She won't be going back to work until she has completed her 14 day isolation.

"She did everything possible as soon as she was told she had been in contact with someone outside the home with the virus.

"She went and got herself immediately checked. But she is still beating herself up."

Anglicare said residents at Newmarch House were in isolation and staff were now wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).

PM MEETS WITH GATES

Meanwhile, Scott Morrison has discussed the future of the World Health Organisation with one of its biggest donors.

The Prime Minister spoke with Bill Gates on Tuesday, just days after the Microsoft founder and philanthropist used a global broadcast organised by Lady Gaga to appeal for support for the embattled global health body.

Mr Morrison and Mr Gates are also understood to have discussed vaccines and the Indo-Pacific's health challenges.

The Gates Foundation is one of the WHO's biggest voluntary donors, providing $836 million over the past two years.

Melinda Gates and Bill Gates speak during One World: Together At Home. Picture: Getty Images
Melinda Gates and Bill Gates speak during One World: Together At Home. Picture: Getty Images

Mr Gates has been publicly critical of a decision by US President Donald Trump to suspend his country's funding for the WHO.

The US is the largest donor to the WHO, providing more than $631 million in 2019 - about 15 per cent of its budget.

"Halting funding for the World Health Organisation during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds," Mr Gates tweeted recently.

"Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organisation can replace them." Mr Trump has argued the WHO failed to adequately "obtain, vet and share information" in a timely and transparent way, leaving a global trail of death and destruction.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has discussed the future of the World Health Organisation with Bill Gates. Picture: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has discussed the future of the World Health Organisation with Bill Gates. Picture: AAP

Mr Morrison recently expressed some sympathy for Mr Trump's criticisms, pointing to the way Australia pre-emptively declared a pandemic before the WHO. Australia has worked closely with the WHO for more than seven decades.

Former PM Kevin Rudd said earlier that the WHO's "powers" are restricted to "assembling technical information, pointing to the existence of a pandemic, providing international notifications of the same and helping to build capacity to deal with those as we saw with ebola in poor countries".

Mr Rudd suggested it may be time to attach sanctions to regimes that ignore future WHO directions.

 

WHO CONTINUES TO DEFEND CHINA

The World Health Organisation conceded its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic must be reviewed, as it continued to defend the way China handled the virus.

The regional director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the Pacific Dr Takeshi Kasai told a public briefing its expert committee had initially been divided on whether to declare the disease outbreak a public health emergency.

People wearing face masks in Beijing. Picture: AP
People wearing face masks in Beijing. Picture: AP

However, he said the organisation had been in constant contact with China after it revealed it had an outbreak of a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown cause.

 

"We as organisations, we try our best to, as quickly as possible and then as transparently as possible to respond to these diseases but we have to review later and we need to be evaluated later," he said.

The concession came as Prime Minister Scott Morrison has backed an independent international inquiry into the origins of coronavirus while claiming it would not be a criticism of China.

"Such an inquiry is important and we can respectively have a difference of view," Mr Morrison said in Canberra.

"So it's not pursued as an issue of criticism, it's pursued as an issue of importance for public health," he said.

 

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The WHO has come in for major criticism for being too slow to act and Mr Trump has withdrawn funding from the body claiming it was too China centric.

Mr Trump has also called for an investigation into whether the virus escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan in China.

China has also been criticised for initially suppressing information on the spread of the virus and reprimanding doctors who tried to warn authorities about the outbreak, allowing it to spread out of control.

Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne on the weekend called for an independent review into the genesis of the virus and China's response to it and said the WHO's role in the pandemic should also be reviewed.

Dr Takeshi defended China's response to the virus outbreak.

The Chinese Government had responded to the WHO's inquiries about the cluster of pneumonia cases that signalled the start of the outbreak and had since then had a daily information exchange with the WHO, he said.

"They announced to us this is a new virus and they also shared the sequence of the virus that allowed other parts of the world to set up testing," he said.

In the last two years Australia provided a total of $US67 million to WHO, well in excess of the $US22.3 million compulsory contribution it was required to provide.

The extra funding supported Australian initiatives to improve health security and development in the Pacific and South East Asia.

 

Asked whether Australia would join the US in withdrawing funding from the WHO a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said "the Australian Government supports an independent review of the global coronavirus outbreak"

This review should consider "the genesis of the epidemic in China, its development into a pandemic, and the World Health Organisation's response," the spokesman said.

"Transparency is essential to the success of this review - everything needs to be on the table. If mistakes were made we must learn from them."

United Kingdom.

A spokesman for Health Minster Greg Hunt said "the Australian Government recognises the important work the World Health Organisation plays in our region on a range of health issues.

Australia continues to provide funding to the WHO."

Australia had acted early in its response to the COVID-19 outbreak, based on its own expert medical advisers and the assessment which the National Security Committee of Cabinet made of the risks to Australians, the spokesman said.

"There was criticism by the WHO of our early border closure with China but our belief is stronger than ever that this decision was fundamental to protecting to Australians," he said.

 

Originally published as Trump halts US immigration as global cases pass 2.5m



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