With the spread of coronavirus came a surge in anti-Asian racism online, new research says
From CNN's Leah Asmelash
A new study backs up what has already been documented anecdotally in the past few months: The coronavirus pandemic has coincided with a surge in Sinophobic, or anti-Chinese, sentiments -- especially online.
Researchers at the Network Contagion Research Institute, an organization that tracks misinformation and hate speech, released a report Wednesday that looked at the spread of hate online toward Asians.
"As a conjoined threat, outbreaks of hate and disinformation on social media comprise unparalleled dangers to society in the face of actual viral pandemics, such as Covid-19," said the study.
"NCRI's research indicates that hateful communities may serve as sources of spread for disinformation and propaganda during politically volatile events for purposes of hate."
The group of researchers looked at a variety of social media platforms and online bulletin boards like 4chan, where there was a rise in derogatory terms for Chinese people around February of this year.
Other terms and slurs toward minority groups decreased or flatlined in relation to topics surrounding the virus, research found.
For example, researchers found an instance where one user said he and his friends would shoot Asian people in Chinatown because "that's the only way we can destroy the epidemic."
UNICEF hopes this story book can help children to cope with the pandemic
From CNN's Radina Gigova in Atlanta
A new story book that aims to help children understand and cope with Covid-19 has been released by the United Nations Children’s Fund, in collaboration with more than 50 humanitarian organizations.
“All over the world, children’s lives have been completely upended — the majority of them living in countries with some form of restricted movement or lockdown," UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement Thursday.
The book would help children "understand and navigate this new landscape and learn how they can take small actions to become the heroes in their own stories,” she said.
The book, titled “My Hero is You, How kids can fight COVID-19!”, features the fantasy creature Ario, who helps children understand how they can protect themselves, their families and friends from coronavirus, and how to manage difficult emotions when confronted with a new reality.
The book is aimed at children aged 6-11: It's a collaboration between UN agencies, national and international nongovernmental organizations and international agencies providing mental health and psychosocial support in emergency settings.
Widely translated: Six language versions have already been released and translations to 30 more languages are in the works. The book is being released as a printable version available online for download, and as an audiobook.
Sweden challenges Trump -- and scientific mainstream -- by refusing to lock down
From CNN's Tim Lister and Sebastian Shukla
Much of Europe is still on lockdown with severe movement restrictions -- but not Sweden.
Restaurants and bars are open in the Nordic country, playgrounds and schools too, and the government is relying on voluntary action to stem the spread of Covid-19.
It's a controversial approach, and one that's drawn President Donald Trump's attention. "Sweden did that, the herd, they call it the herd. Sweden's suffering very, very badly," Trump said on Tuesday.
The next day, Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde said Trump was "factually wrong" to suggest that Sweden was following the "herd immunity" theory.
Here's their strategy: The idea, Linde said, was "No lockdown and we rely very much on people taking responsibility themselves."
The approach is about encouraging and recommending, not compulsion. Two days after Spain imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 14, Swedish authorities were encouraging people to wash hands and stay at home if sick. On March 24, new rules were introduced to avoid crowding at restaurants. But they very much stayed open.
Is it working? "I think Sweden is doing okay," Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told CNN affiliate Expressen.
"It's producing quality results the same way it's always done. So far Swedish health care is handling this pandemic in a fantastic way."
Sweden has reported 9,141 cases of the coronavirus and 793 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Cases are starting to plateau in the UK, but it's too early to talk about lifting restrictions
From CNN's Lauren Kent in London
The UK is beginning to see coronavirus cases plateau, indicating a potential slowdown in the rate of new daily cases -- but it is still too early to lift restrictions, said National Health Service England Medical Director Stephen Powis.
Speaking to Sky News today, Powis said, "We're hopeful we're beginning to see a plateau. But we need to keep complying with instructions. That's the way the plateau will turn into a drop."
When asked about the possibility of lifting any restrictions, Powis said, "I'm not going to confirm anything because I think those discussions are still ongoing. I think it is too early to be clear about which of those options we should pursue."
"One of the things we do know is that it's very likely ... that there are people who are asymptomatic, and that's one of the unknowns that we will need to find out. Once the virus has more established, as in all countries, you need to evolve your strategy," Powis said.
"This is not something that any country will be able to work out in a matter of weeks," he added. "This is something we'll have to work out over a few months."
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Ultimate Fighting Championship postpones UFC 249 and all other events
From CNN's Jill Martin
UFC 249, the highly anticipated fight event organized by the Ultimate Fighting Championship, will not happen on April 18 as previously scheduled.
"Today, we got a call from the highest level you can go at Disney, and the highest level of ESPN ... and the powers that be there asked me to stand down and not do this event next Saturday," said UFC president Dana White on camera to ESPN.
Additionally, all other UFC events have been postponed indefinitely.
"While the organization was fully prepared to proceed with UFC 249, ESPN has requested the postponement of the event and subsequent bouts until further notice in light of the Covid-19 pandemic," a UFC spokesperson said in a statement to CNN on Thursday. "UFC looks forward to resuming the full live events schedule as soon as possible."
UFC 249 had been moved to Tachi Palace Casino Resort near Fresno, California. On Thursday, US Senator Dianne Feinstein said in a statement that the event should be postponed.
"I'm concerned by reports that Ultimate Fighting Championship plans to hold a pay-per-view event in California, in defiance of the state’s shelter-in-place order,” Feinstein said. "This event would involve dozens of individuals flying to California and driving to a casino for a purpose no one can honestly claim is essential."
Boris Johnson's father is "tremendously grateful" he is out of intensive care
From CNN's Vasco Cotovio and Lauren Kent in London
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's father is relieved and "tremendously grateful" that his son has been moved out of intensive care to another hospital unit, he said today in an interview with the BBC.
Stanley Johnson also said his son's battle with coronavirus helped the UK realize the pandemic is serious.
"It has actually, I think, served an amazing purpose in the sense that it's gotten the whole country to realize that this is a serious event," Stanley Johnson said. "He almost took one for the team.”
"I feel tremendously grateful on behalf of the family, Boris' family, my family, family members all over the place, and of course thankful for the tremendous amount of support ... and thankful for the extraordinary work of the National Health Service."
On Thursday evening, Downing Street said the Prime Minister was moved from intensive care back to the ward at St. Thomas' Hospital in London, where he will be closely monitored. But the danger hasn't fully passed yet, said Stanley Johnson.
“I don't think you can say this is out of the woods now. He has to take time. I'm not onto the details, but I cannot believe you can walk away from this and get straight back to Downing Street and pick up the reigns without a period of adjustment," he said.
Australia closes beaches amid coronavirus lockdown
From CNN's Lilit Marcus
Most years, Easter weekend marks the last big hurrah of beautiful warm weather in Australia.
But 2020 isn't any ordinary year. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, people all over the world are being asked to practice social distancing and stay indoors as much as possible.
For Aussies who were hoping to spend a holiday weekend at the beach, though, this edict is proving a challenge.
Arguably the most famous beach in all of Australia, Sydney's Bondi closed to the public last month when locals had too difficult a time staying away.
Since then, Bondi's beachside pavilion has transformed from a place to get snacks and change into swimsuits into a pop-up coronavirus testing center.
The neighborhood had been identified as a hot spot for coronavirus cases, some of which are being linked to the many backpackers who come from around the world to stay in hostels near the water.
Now, the beaches along the Gold Coast in Queensland are also officially off-limits too.
"For us to win this fight against Covid-19, we're in it together, and if a minority of people are congregating and spreading it ... in this case, health is the number-one priority," Tom Tate, mayor of the Gold Coast, told media.
More than 70 nurses have been infected in Mumbai
From CNN's Esha Mitra in New Delhi
More than 70 nurses in the Indian city of Mumbai have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 250 nurses have been quarantined, according to a senior official from the United Nurses Association (UNA) of Maharashtra state.
At the Bhatia Hospital, 15 nurses who had been in contact with two coronavirus patients tested positive today.
Those two patients had previously been transferred from another hospital, the Wockhardt Hospital, where more than 50 nurses have tested positive, according to UNA General Secretary Akash Pillai.
At Wockhardt, most of the infections were reported after three nurses treated a symptomatic patient without protective equipment, then went back to their hostel, where they lived with 280 other nurses.
Another 10 nurses have also tested positive at a third Mumbai hospital, Pillai said.
"The nurses at Bhatia Hospital were not immediately quarantined and were forced to keep working without any equipment until their test results came back positive and may have infected any patients they had been in contact with," Pillai said.
Insufficient equipment and protection: The UNA wrote a letter to the Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai last week, urging the government to provide the necessary equipment to frontline workers.
"The Municipal Corporation says that they don't have enough equipment, but the number of beds available is also diminishing, if health-care workers continue to be exposed the situation will turn worse," Pillai said.
Tokyo announces restrictions on businesses as new cases continue to grow
Tokyo announced new restrictions today, and will ask several broad business categories to close down starting Saturday.
The order will affect all businesses under these categories:
Entertainment venues such as bars and internet cafes
Universities and education centers
Sports facilities and amusement arcades
Theaters, assembly halls and exhibition centers
Commercial facilities such as shopping malls
Restaurants will be allowed to operate between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m., but must stop serving alcohol after 7 p.m.
To soften the blow of the closures, the city government said it would provide additional financial aid on top of the federal government's stimulus package.
Under these measures, businesses with one store will receive 500,000 yen ($4,600), while businesses with more than two stores will receive 1 million yen ($9,200). There is not yet a time frame for when the payments will be issued.
The new restrictions come as Japan continues to see an increase in the number of new cases each day. Friday saw the biggest daily jump so far, with 579 new cases.
Yemen confirms its first case of coronavirus
From CNN's Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi and Sugam Pokharel in Atlanta
Yemen has confirmed its first case of coronavirus, according to a tweet from the country's Supreme National Emergency Committee today.
The case was reported in the southeastern province of Hadhramaut, according to the tweet.
The patient is in a stable condition and is receiving medical care, the committee said.
A ceasefire during the pandemic: On Wednesday, the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen declared a two-week unilateral ceasefire, to go into effect from Thursday, in a bid to stem the spread of coronavirus in the war-torn country, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
SPA said the move was prompted by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' call for a pause of hostilities in the country in order to counter the spread of Covid-19.
Chinese government reveals draft list of animals which can be farmed for meat
From CNN's Ben Westcott
The Chinese government has issued a new draft list of livestock that can be farmed for meat in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic, which is suspected to have originated from wild animals in a Wuhan wet market.
Beijing temporarily banned all trade in wild animals for food following the Covid-19 outbreak, but the new law has yet to be finalized.
China's Ministry of Agriculture issued a draft list of animals considered fit to be used as livestock on Wednesday night, including dietary staples such as pigs, cows, chickens and sheep, as well as "special livestock" such as a number of species of deer, alpaca and ostriches.
Two species of fox, raccoons and minks can be kept as livestock but not for their meat.
There is no mention of the species of animal which are suspected by scientists to have spread the coronavirus to humans, such as pangolins, bats and civet cats.
Dogs are also absent from the list of livestock, which, if formally enforced, would lead to China's first countrywide ban on their consumption in a victory for animal rights activists.
The draft has still yet to be finalized and the public has until May 8 to provide feedback.
China is on a knife edge between recovery and another wave of coronavirus cases
Analysis from CNN's James Griffiths
In the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where cases of the novel coronavirus were first detected late last year, the mood was one of triumph this week, as residents finally emerged from months of lockdown.
This was reflected in state media, as the city which once characterized China's failures to contain the coronavirus now symbolized the country's recovery, in stark contrast to the chaos that is rapidly unfolding in much of the rest of the world.
But under that confident facade, there were signs of a concern felt across Asia: that any recovery from the virus may be fleeting, and a new wave of infections -- and the lockdowns, death and misery that follow in their wake -- may be just over the horizon.
This week, President Xi Jinping urged "unremitting efforts in guarding against imported cases from abroad and preventing a resurgence of the outbreak at home."
And the northern city of Suifenhe, on the border with Russia, has been ordered to lock down after a spike in cases, believed to be imported from the neighboring country.
Lack of coronavirus testing may blunt Trump's planned economic revival
Analysis from Stephen Collinson
The inadequacy of testing for the virus has been a constant deficiency of the government's handling of the pandemic from the start. Fixing this deficiency, as well as creating antibody testing for possible post-recovery immunity, may be the key to effectively reopening the economy while preventing a second wave of infections.
But the continued lack of a robust testing program, despite weeks of claims by Trump that the problem is fixed, is raising stark new questions about the White House's management of the situation.
The President, whose leadership during these somber days is crucial to his reelection hopes, habitually shrugs off such questions. On Thursday, he celebrated the two-millionth coronavirus test on US soil, after White House officials administered coronavirus tests to reporters who attended his briefing.
Asked how the administration could contemplate reopening the economy without sufficient testing in place, Trump insisted the US system was "the best in the world."
Read more here about the White House's mixed messages on the coronavirus mitigation effort.
Philippines doctors group says 21 of 203 deaths are medical workers
From CNN's Anna Kam in Hong Kong
Medical workers accounted for 21 of the 203 recorded coronavirus deaths in the Philippines Friday, the Philippines Medical Association President, Dr. Jose P. Santiago Jr, told CNN.
Santiago blamed the high rate of fatalities on the lack of personal protection equipment.
On Wednesday, the Department of Health said 252 health care workers had contracted the virus so far.
Last month, health officials said they were distributing one million sets of personal protective equipment to health workers in Luzon, the largest and most populous island of the Philippines.
This post has been updated to accurately reflect the number of medical workers who died.
The US is already in a recession, dozens of economists say
From CNN's Kate Trafecante
The US is already in a recession and will stay that way for several more months, according to a survey of 45 economists.
The economists predict a sharp, short recession for the first half of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic "severely restricts economic activity," according to the survey from the National Association for Business Economics.
Economic growth likely fell at a rate of 2.4% in the first quarter and will decline a staggering 26.5% in the second quarter, the NABE predicted.
The US labor market will also take a major hit as the coronavirus outbreak shutters businesses. The NABE says the unemployment rate is expected to spike to 12% by midyear, while the US may lose 4.58 million jobs in the second quarter.
That job loss will drag on spending, a major driver of the US economy. Consumer spending accounts for roughly 70% of economic growth.
But economists are also optimistic the economy will bounce back: They predict it will be growing at a rate of nearly 6% by the end of the year.
“The median forecast suggests conditions will improve by the end of the year with support from aggressive fiscal and monetary stimulus," said NABE President Constance Hunter.
South Korea virus hotspot of Daegu sees no new cases
From CNN’s Jake Kwon in Seoul
The city of Daegu, which had been the epicenter of South Korea’s coronavirus outbreak, reported zero new cases for the first time in weeks Friday, as the national numbers of new cases continues to decline.
"For the first time in around 50 days, the number of new confirmed cases had reduced to around 20 (nationwide)," said the country’s Vice Minister of Heath Kim Ganglip.
"In Daegu, for the first time since the patient 31, there was no new case. This is a shared achievement that we all have reached through last three weeks of strengthened social distancing."
The first known case in Daegu, referred to as patient 31, was reported by the government on February 18.
Out of the total 10,450 cases in South Korea, Daegu accounts for 6,807 cases and surrounding North Gyeongsang province accounts for 1,327.
Third coronavirus related death reported in Mumbai slum, total number of cases now at 22
A 70-year-old woman who had tested positive for the coronavirus in Dharavi, a slum in Mumbai, died Thursday. The total number of positive cases of coronavirus in one of Asia's largest slums now stands at 22, according to a Mumbai municipality official.
While most of the new cases can be traced to coming in contact with someone who had previously contracted the virus, two of the new cases are of those who had returned from the Tablighi Jamat conference in New Delhi, according to Kiran Dighavkar, an official overseeing Dharavi.
"We are conducting door to door screening of all residents in highly affected areas and are contact tracing and quarantining anyone that has come in contact with those who have tested positive for the virus," Dighavkar said.
Four apartment complexes and slum areas within Dharavi have been declared containment zones by the Mumbai authorities. The supply of essential services in these areas is maintained but all movement in and out of these localities is restricted in order to contain the spread of the virus, Dighavkar added.
The US has more than 465,000 cases and 16,000 deaths
The US now has 465,750 cases of the coronavirus and 16,684 related deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The totals includes cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as all repatriated cases.
This case total doesn't reflect the number of active cases, but rather the total number of people infected since the start of the pandemic. Of those total cases, 25,960 patients have now recovered, according to JHU.
Wyoming is the only state that has not yet reported a coronavirus death.
Trump tries to push fast-forward on the pandemic
Analysis from CNN's Paul LeBlanc and Zachary B. Wolf
Health experts have said from the beginning that only the virus sets the timetable for when the mass pause is over.
US President Donald Trump wants to hit fast-forward. He has specifically expressed interest in a "big bang" reopening, where the entire country comes back online at once, perhaps as soon as May 1.
Trump's (lack of) authority: Just as it wasn't clear that Trump had the power to shut the country down, it's not clear he has the power to open it back up -- particularly not when it's local officials and individual businesses and institutions that would bear the risk of relaxing too soon.
Remember: The federal government's guidelines on closing businesses and restricting gatherings were only ever recommendations. Decisions on how and when to reopen the country will lie mostly with governors who enacted mandatory stay-at-home orders.
Public opinion matters: Regardless of any decisions from the White House, Americans will need to feel comfortable returning into public for the economy to actually "reopen."
A CNN/SSRS poll released Wednesday showed 60% of Americans say they would feel uncomfortable returning to their regular routines if social distancing guidelines were lifted after April 30, the current expiration date for Trump's recommendations.
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Chinese border city will build makeshift hospital after spike in cases coming from Russia
From CNN's Isaac Yee in Hong Kong
China is opening a new field hospital in the city of Suifenhe, home to about 70,000 people, which was placed under lockdown yesterday morning.
The city, in China's far northeast, lies right by the Russian border -- and it has seen a recent spike in imported coronavirus cases, state media reported.
According to state-run outlet China Daily, the makeshift hospital is being converted from an office building, and is expected to be finished tomorrow. It will provide more than 600 hospital beds, and will be staffed by around 400 medical workers.
This comes after the lockdown was announced yesterday. All residents are confined to their homes, and only one person per household will be allowed outside to buy groceries and supplies every three days.
As of Thursday, Suifenhe has 123 imported cases and 137 asymptomatic cases, according to state-run news outlet People's Daily.
10 million students in China are facing the toughest exam of their lives in the middle of a pandemic
From CNN's Ben Westcott and Nectar Gan
Every day, Xiong Yanfei sits at her desk in her parent's small apartment in Wuhan, studying for an exam that could change the course of her life.
She starts at 8 a.m. and finishes at 11 p.m. Normally, at school, she'd get little breaks between classes during the day, before coming home to revise. But for the past two months her city was on coronavirus lockdown, so she studied all day in front of her laptop until her eyes hurt.
A high score in the exam, which 10 million people have registered to take this year, is the only way to get into the country's top universities, helping to secure a good future and lucrative career.
Originally scheduled for June, the Chinese government has delayed the exam by at least a month.
Across China, students and teachers are speculating on whether the deferral will help or hinder their grades. But for some, the prospect of another month of study is already causing extreme anxiety.
"After the gaokao was postponed, I had more anxiety," Xiong wrote in a viral post on her Weibo account. "But this is a psychological battle and I have to win, and I must win."
Scientists express doubts to White House about coronavirus tests
From CNN Health’s Elizabeth Cohen
The current tests for coronavirus infection and post-recovery immunity are both imperfect, a top scientific advisory panel told the White House this week.
A committee of the National Academy of Sciences sent a letter to the White House on Wednesday, explaining that the coronavirus test sometimes misses positive cases. One study missed 16 cases out of 51 coronavirus patients.
Tests based on relatively new CRISPR technology might be more accurate, but those tests are not currently available to patients, said the letter.
There is also uncertainty about whether people develop immunity after recovering from the coronavirus.
In a separate letter this week, scientists said that even if someone does develop antibodies against the coronavirus, it’s unclear for how long they’ll be immune or if they’ll be immune at all.
And antibody tests -- which help determine whether someone has recovered and can go back to work -- are often of poor quality.
Results from antibody tests “should be viewed as suspect until rigorous controls are performed and performance characteristics described, as antibody detection methods can vary considerably, and most so far have not described well-standardized controls,” the scientists wrote.
Singapore government to move foreign workers into alternative living arrangements
From CNN's Anna Kam in Hong Kong
Singapore will move migrant workers to military camps and floating hotels as the number of cases in the city-state spikes, government officials said late Thursday.
More than 200 cases linked to foreign workers were confirmed that day, the Ministry of Health said.
On Monday, Singapore announced it would quarantine 19,800 migrant workers in dormitories, which have since seen cases spike as well.
The city is now moving to isolate uninfected migrant workers in essential services. These alternative venues include military camps for the Singapore Armed Forces, an exhibition center, floating hotels, and vacant government apartments, said Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the Multi-Ministry Taskforce.
"We are moving out workers who are not sick, especially for those who are in essential services, because they still need to continue to work," said Wong.
The government also announced they would provide other types of aid for foreign workers, including care packages with masks and thermometers, and providing them with three meals a day.
Unclaimed victims of the coronavirus could be buried on New York's Hart island, officials say
From CNN’s Mark Morales and Laura Ly
People in New York who have died from the coronavirus and not been claimed by anyone could be buried on Hart Island, east of the Bronx, officials told CNN today.
“For decades, Hart Island has been used to lay to rest decedents who have not been claimed by family members. We will continue using the Island in that fashion during this crisis and it is likely that people who have passed away from Covid-19 who fit this description will be buried on the Island in the coming days,” said NYC Mayor Press Secretary Freddi Goldstein.
“These are people who, for two weeks, we have not been able to find anyone who says ‘I know that person, I love that person, I will handle the burial,’” she said. “These are people who we have made zero contact with the family.”
If morgue officials make contact with a relative of a deceased person within 14 days, the body will not be moved to Hart Island, said Goldstein. This is part of the city’s plan to ensure they have morgue space during the pandemic.
Prison inmates won't be tasked with burying people on Hart Island, as they once were, said the Department of Corrections Press Secretary on Tuesday. Inmate labor on the island has been suspended for social distancing purposes.