Hong Kong protest over proposed national security law met with tear gas

Hong Kong police fire tear gas on pro-democracy protesters

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Hong Kong police fire tear gas on pro-democracy protesters 02:58

Hong Kong (CNN)Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong Sunday to oppose the Chinese government’s move to impose a controversial national security law, which threatens the city’s autonomy and civil liberties.

Police fired tear gas at the crowds less than an hour after the start of the march, which did not receive official authorization and went against coronavirus social distancing restrictions, which ban groups of more than eight people meeting. An online stream showed protesters throwing objects at police.
Protesters had begun gathering around midday in Causeway Bay, a busy shopping district, despite a heavy police presence across Hong Kong Island. Attempts to claim the march was a permitted “health talk” were unsuccessful, and police quickly declared the protest illegal and ordered people to disperse.
Protesters march along a downtown street during a pro-democracy protest against Beijing's national security legislation in Hong Kong, Sunday, May 24, 2020.

Several thousand people marched nevertheless, chanting slogans which became a familiar refrain in the city during the over six months of anti-government unrest, including “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.”
Others chanted “Hong Kong independence, the only way out,” and others flew blue, pro-independence flags. Such activity could likely be illegal under the proposed security law. Beijing has often expressed outrage over separatist sentiment in the city, which remains a niche issue but gained influence during last year’s unrest.
Asked if she was worried about the potential repercussions of chanting such slogans, Macy Wong, 26, said that she was comfortable doing so, as others were doing the same.
“Independence is Hong Kong’s long-term goal,” Wong said. “Maybe it’s not feasible in the near future, but that’s ultimately what we want.”

Anti-sedition law

China announced Thursday that it plans to introduce a new national security law in Hong Kong — bypassing the city’s legislature — which is expected to ban sedition, secession and subversion against Beijing. It will also enable mainland Chinese national security agencies to operate in the city for the first time.
The announcement sparked immediate outcry from opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong, human rights groups and multiple international governments.
It also sent chills through the city’s financial markets with Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng Index plummeting more than 5% on Friday, its worst one-day percentage drop since July 2015.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Sunday that Beijing must institute the law in Hong Kong without delay.
Speaking to reporters during the National’s People’s Congress, Wang said it is the role of China’s central government to create a safeguard and enforcement mechanism for national security.
“We must get it done without the slightest delay,” Wang said.
Wang said the law, which bypasses the Hong Kong legislature, would create more stability and confidence in the Special Administrative Region and provide a better environment for security.
Beijing’s move implies much greater intervention in the city, which has largely been allowed to manage its own affairs since the former British colony became a semi-autonomous region of China more than 20 years ago.
“It is the end of ‘one country, two systems’,” said Dennis Kwok, a pro-democracy lawmaker, referring to the principle by which Hong Kong has retained limited democracy and civil liberties since coming under Chinese control. “(They are) completely destroying Hong Kong.”
The move is likely to fuel further anger and protests in the city, which was rocked by over six months of increasingly violent anti-government unrest last year.
Those protests began over proposed law that would allow for extradition to mainland China, but expanded to include calls for an independent inquiry into police brutality and greater democracy.
The legislation, expected to be passed by china’s National People’s Congress (NPC) later this month, is set to be introduced in Hong Kong through a rarely used constitutional method that will bypass Hong Kong’s legislature.
The law will have drastic effects on large swathes of Hong Kong society, from the city’s political sphere to media, education and international business.
Chinese officials and state media defended the law as vital to protecting national security in the wake of last year’s protests and a 17-year failure by the Hong Kong government to pass similar legislation, since the last effort was met with mass protests in 2003.
“National security is the bedrock underpinning a country’s stability. Safeguarding national security serves the fundamental interests of all Chinese people, including our HK compatriots,” NPC spokesman Zhang Yesui told a news conference in Beijing on Thursday.
Pedestrians walk under a television screen in Hong Kong on May 21, 2020, showing a news broadcast of footage from Beijing of Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) at the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Biggest blow since handover

Hong Kong has always prided itself on following the rule of law, with an independent judiciary and civil liberties far beyond what is allowed across the border in mainland China.
These rights are enshrined within the Basic Law — the city’s de facto constitution — and guaranteed (in theory) by an agreement between China and the United Kingdom when Hong Kong was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997. Hong Kong, unlike China, is also party to international treaties guaranteeing various civil liberties.
The new law challenges all of this. By criminalizing such a broad swath of ill-defined acts, it could give the authorities leeway to go after the city’s opposition as they see fit.
In China, sweeping national security laws have been used to target human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and pro-democracy campaigners. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died in 2017 after more than a decade behind bars, was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the proposed national security law, warning that the passage of the legislation would be a “death knell” for Hong Kong’s autonomy.
“The United States strongly urges Beijing to reconsider its disastrous proposal, abide by its international obligations, and respect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, democratic institutions, and civil liberties, which are key to preserving its special status under US law,” he said, adding that the US stands “with the people of Hong Kong.”

Large chunks of a Chinese rocket missed New York City by about 15 minutes

China’s Long March 5B rocket launched without a second stage.

A Long March 5B rocket lifts off from the Wenchang launch site on China's southern Hainan Island on May 5, 2020.
Enlarge / A Long March 5B rocket lifts off from the Wenchang launch site on China’s southern Hainan Island on May 5, 2020.
STR/AFP via Getty Images

A week ago, China launched the newest version of its largest rocket, the Long March 5B, from its southernmost spaceport. The launch proceeded normally and represented another success for China as it seeks to build a robust human spaceflight program. Over the next few years, this rocket will launch components of a modular space station.

Notably, because of this rocket’s design, its large core stage reached orbit after the launch. Typically during a launch, a rocket’s large first stage will provide the majority of thrust during the first minutes of launch and then drop away before reaching an orbital velocity, falling back into the ocean. Then, a smaller second stage takes over and pushes the rocket’s payload into orbit.

However, the Long March 5B rocket has no second stage. For last week’s launch, then, four liquid-fueled strap-on boosters generated most of the thrust off the launch pad. After this, the core stage with two YF-77 main engines pushed an experimental spacecraft into orbit before the payload separated.

This left the large core stage, with a mass slightly in excess of 20 tons, in an orbit with an average altitude of about 260km above the Earth. Because the perigee of this orbit was only about 160km above the planet, the core stage was slowly drawn back toward the planet as it interacted with the planet’s upper atmosphere.

This is a rather large object to make an uncontrolled return to Earth. According to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and keen observer of satellites, this is the largest vehicle to make an uncontrolled reentry into Earth’s atmosphere since 1991, when the Soviet Salyut 7 space station broke up over Argentina.

Engines likely survived

The core stage is estimated to have a mass of about 21 tons, including extra fuel on board, but it’s not clear how much of the rocket survived its interaction with the atmosphere. Although he did not have access to a detailed model of debris, McDowell estimated that at the very least, dense components of the rocket’s engines would have survived.

“I would not be surprised if several bits with masses of the order of 100 to 300kg hit the surface,” he told Ars. “I would be a bit surprised if anything as big as 1 metric ton did.”

The US Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron confirmed that the core stage re-entered Earth’s atmosphere at 11:33am ET (15:33 UTC) on Monday at a location over the Atlantic Ocean. At this point, the core stage would have been at an altitude of 80km and rapidly descending toward Earth. McDowell said there were some reports emerging about possible debris found downrange in Cote d’Ivoire.

It is perhaps worth noting that before it entered Earth’s atmosphere, the core stage track passed directly over New York City. Had it reentered the atmosphere only a little bit earlier, perhaps 15 to 20 minutes, the rocket’s debris could have rained down on the largest metro area in the United States.

China has previously shown a disregard for debris from its rocket launches, however. It frequently launches rockets from pads surrounded by land. This has led to debris from first and second stages falling on villages in the country.

It is not clear whether future launches of the Long March 5B rocket will continue to send its core stage into an unstable orbit or if this was a one-off instance during the rocket’s test flight. Certainly this will be discouraged, at the very least, by other nations.

Intel shared among US allies indicates virus outbreak more likely came from market, not a Chinese lab

Washington (CNN)Intelligence shared among Five Eyes nations indicates it is “highly unlikely” that the coronavirus outbreak was spread as a result of an accident in a laboratory but rather originated in a Chinese market, according to two Western officials who cited an intelligence assessment that appears to contradict claims by President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“We think it’s highly unlikely it was an accident,” a Western diplomatic official with knowledge of the intelligence said. “It is highly likely it was naturally occurring and that the human infection was from natural human and animal interaction.” The countries in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing coalition are coalescing around this assessment, the official said, and a second official, from a Five Eyes country, concurred with it. The US has yet to make a formal assessment public.
The Five Eyes alliance is made up of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — and the countries share a broad range of intelligence in one of the world’s tightest multilateral arrangements.
The assessment from members of the exclusive intelligence-sharing group seems to undermine forceful claims by Trump and Pompeo in recent days, as they have doubled down on the assertion that the outbreak originated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, rather than a market in the same region.
It will likely increase pressure on the Trump administration to provide evidence to back up its claim, which it has failed to do so far despite the increasingly aggressive rhetoric from the President and his top diplomat.
A third source, also from a Five Eyes nation, told CNN that the level of certainty being expressed by Pompeo and Trump is way out in front of where the current Five Eyes assessment is. This source acknowledged that there is still a possibility that the virus originated from a laboratory, but cautioned there is nothing to make that a legitimate theory yet.
The source added that “clearly the market is where it exploded from,” but how the virus got to the market remains unclear.
But without greater cooperation and transparency from the Chinese it’s impossible to say with total certainty, the first official added.
The third source said it is also possible the US is not sharing all of its intelligence. While the overwhelming majority is shared among the Five Eyes members, there are pockets of information that each country keeps to itself.
In an interview with National Geographic that published on Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said he doesn’t believe the virus originated in a lab.
“If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, (the scientific evidence) is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated, ” Fauci told the magazine, adding that he doesn’t believe that the virus somehow escaped a lab into society.
“… Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that (this virus) evolved in nature and then jumped species.”
The assessment follows repeated claims by Trump and Pompeo that there is evidence the virus originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan,” Pompeo told ABC News on Sunday.
The US intelligence community issued a statement on Thursday saying it is still working to “determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.” The statement said that the Covid-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the State Department did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.
A senior Office of Director of National Intelligence official said Monday night that the US has evidence for both theories.
“We regularly share intelligence with our partners on a variety of threats and Covid is no different,” the senior official told CNN. “The IC stands by the statement that the ODNI released last Thursday and we underscore three points: the IC believes the virus started in China. We’re down to two theories and have evidence on both. We agree that it does not appear to have been purposeful.”
Earlier Monday, a nationalist tabloid controlled by the Chinese Communist Party dismissed claims by the Trump administration that the novel coronavirus originated from a laboratory, as the war of words over the pandemic escalates between Washington and Beijing.
Responding to Pompeo’s comments that there was “enormous evidence” to support the theory, China’s state-owned Global Times newspaper said in an editorial that the former CIA director had “stunned the world with groundless accusations.”
“Since Pompeo said his claims are supported by ‘enormous evidence,’ then he should present this so-called evidence to the world, and especially to the American public who he continually tries to fool,” the editorial said.
“The truth is that Pompeo does not have any evidence, and during Sunday’s interview, he was bluffing.”
CNN reached out to China’s Foreign Ministry for comment on Pompeo’s claims, but has not received a response. The country is in the middle of a five-day holiday that runs through Tuesday.
Scientists around the world have condemned conspiracy theories suggesting that the coronavirus does not have a natural origin, pointing to studies that suggest it originated in wildlife.
China has faced criticism at home and abroad over its handling of the virus, especially during the initial outbreak. It was accused of silencing whistleblowers and delaying informing the public about the severity of the crisis.
But critics allege the Trump administration has ramped up efforts to blame China for the global spread of the virus as it faces growing criticism at home for its own handling of the pandemic. To date, the US has recorded more than 1.1 million cases and at least 68,000 deaths related to Covid-19.
This story has been updated with developments from China earlier Monday, plus background and context.

Compared With China, U.S. Stay-At-Home Has Been ‘Giant Garden Party,’ Journalist Says

Written by Dave Davies 

A booth was taped off to ensure social distancing at a coffee shop in Woodstock, Ga., on Monday, as Gov. Brian Kemp eased restrictions in the state and allowed dine-in service.Photo by Dustin Chambers – Bloomberg via Getty Images

As millions of people remain socially isolated and anxious about COVID-19, several U.S. governors are at least making plans to relax controls in their states and revive economic activity — against the advice of many public health professionals.

New York Times science and health reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr. warns that the push to reopen is premature. “We’re nowhere near getting on top of this virus,” he says.

McNeil has spent decades at the Times covering infectious diseases, including AIDS, Ebola, malaria, swine and bird flu, and SARS. He describes the ways that some Americans are approaching social distancing measures as a “giant garden party” compared with what the citizens of China and Italy have faced.

“I hear anecdotally that people [in the U.S.] are holding … barbecues and people are still going out on Internet dates and having play dates with kids,” he says. “Unfortunately, that’s the reason that we have about 30,000 new infections a day in this country. … China didn’t reopen until they had zero new infections a day.”

McNeil says even a fairly strict stay-at-home policy is “just the first step” in the battle against the pandemic: “There’s a Harvard study that came out recently that said we should have 5 million to 10 million tests per day across [the U.S.] in order to have a clearer idea of where the virus is, where cases are going up. And cumulatively, all the tests we’ve done now has been 5 million.”

McNeil points to China as a model of how to stop a fast-moving pandemic in its tracks, using widespread testing and a strict quarantine. “We’re reluctant to follow China, but they did it,” he says. “They did it brutally, but brilliantly.”


Interview Highlights

On how testing worked in China

The model in China was, when it was time to be tested, you were taken to a fever clinic. You were screened in several ways: Your temperature was taken. You were given a quick flu test and a quick white blood cell count to make sure you didn’t have a flu or bacterial pneumonia. And then you’d be given a quick CT scan. They could run as many as 200 CT scans a day on some of these portable machines so that they could check your lungs — because their tests had some time before the results came back too. And only after you cleared all those hurdles and you were definitely still a COVID case, then you got the test, because their tests were imperfect like ours are. And then you didn’t go home to wait for the results of your test. You stayed there in the fever clinic, in the center. You were told to sit far apart from other people — 6 feet away from other people. And people sat there sort of scared with their envelopes with their CT scan results in their hands, waiting to hear if they were yes or no.

And then, if you were positive, you went straight into isolation — not back with your family but in one of these gymnasiums or armories, someplace like that, where you were in bed. There might be 100 people in a room.

On the idea that China’s lockdown was overly strict

Chinese people love their families just as much as Americans love their families. They were initially reluctant to go into these quarantine shelters too. But when it became clear that it was saving the lives of their families. I mean, yes, some of them were forced in. Some of them were chucked into the back of ambulances by policemen. But that was not the norm. The norm was you were told, “Please come with us to the shelter. You will have food. You will have medical care. We will keep an eye out for you. And in three weeks, if you’re good to go back home, we’re going to test you, make sure you’re OK, and then you can go back home.” It’s portrayed as brutal. But there are a lot of brutal things that the government in Beijing does. … In this case, it was not brutal to its own citizens. It saved probably 10 million lives. That’s how many I estimated would have died in China if this had just gone unchecked.

On what might happen if the U.S. reopens too quickly

If we all went back into baseball stadiums and churches and piled into grocery stores and got onto the subway, everything would be quiet for about two weeks, and then, whammo! You’d see temperatures go up on the Kinsa app, and then you’d see positive tests go up, and then you’d see hospital admissions go up. And then you’d see people being transferred into ICUs go up — and then you’d see deaths. We’d be on our way back to [previous predictions of] 1.6 to 2.2 million deaths [in the U.S. because of COVID-19] again.

So we have to go out very carefully, in little bits. And if we have enough testing to know how much virus there is around — that’s what Tony Fauci [director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases] means when he says, “The virus will tell us.” You’ll see as the percentage of positive tests goes up — if you have millions of tests being done every day — you’ll see, “Uh-oh. We have a problem here in southern Georgia,” or “We have a problem here in the upper Michigan peninsula,” or wherever we have a problem, and then you go back into hiding. You socially distance yourself as much as possible in that area. That can include anything from closing the schools again to keeping the universities open, because college students can socially distance, but kindergartners can’t. You make choices, and you see how far you have to back off.

This is probably going to be a series of steps. We’re going to have to do this again and again, dancing in and dancing out until we get to the point where we either have a vaccine or a prophylactic pill or some regimen — some curative regimen that’s so good that we’re confident that, if I get sick, maybe I get sick, but if I crash, I can count on being saved.

On how we don’t yet know if people can become immune to COVID-19 — and how long that immunity would last

We do not know enough, and that’s one of the big unsolved things … because there are these anecdotal reports of people who seem to have been infected a second time. But you never know whether or not they had a false negative test that cleared them before that or whether or not there are some people who have kind of immune systems that are not perfect.

So it’s very fuzzy where we are on this thing. But, as Fauci says, normally when you recover from a disease, especially if you’ve had a bad case of that disease, you have some period of immunity. With things like chickenpox and measles, it’s lifelong. Even with flu, it usually lasts a year or two against that brand of flu — that mutation of H1N1 or whatever it is. So we would expect that there’s protection, but we don’t know what the antibody level is that confirms protection.

On a scenario in which people with immunity could have advantages

They would be the immune elite. There [would] be a whole new class of X-Men in this country. I mean, it’s already happening. People who’ve recovered are very much in demand. We want your blood for the antibodies in it. And they [could], in theory, do the scary jobs, like intubating patients (if they’re medical personnel), without fear. As more of them develop, they’ll take my job or take yours, because they can go into the office and also they can fly on planes and go out to parties as long as everybody there is immune.

It [would] be a weird dystopian world of two classes: of the immunes and the vulnerables.

On the possibility that people would be tempted to infect themselves, hoping to achieve immunity

I am absolutely sure that will happen. I haven’t found it, but I’m sure of that, because lots and lots of young people in this country are cooped up — out of work, frustrated. They’re gonna see their friends outside having fun. … And they’re going to say, “What are my chances? One percent I end up dead? Three percent I end up in a hospital needing oxygen? Why don’t I just get infected, take my chances and recover?”

On ways in which the pandemic might change our country for the better

This is like going through a war. And if we went through World War I and World War II, and after each of those wars, we tried to create the League of Nations, and we did create the United Nations. People saw that we were all in this together, and the attitudes changed after those wars. Unions were strengthened. Incomes became more level. People had had it with war profiteers, and taxes on the rich went up.

It led to the GI Bill and the Veterans Administration mortgages. In Europe, the widows’ and orphans’ pension funds led to the creation of the famous European social safety net. [They were] a very equalizing kind of events. And I’m hoping that something like that will happen in this country too, that we’ll have kind of a rosy outcome from this and that people will value life more.

You heard it in Wuhan. People came out after two months in hiding, and they said, “My God, the flowers are so beautiful. I’ve never really noticed before.” I think people will take more pleasure in the simple things in life and feel lucky that they got through this. So I’m hoping we have a brighter dawn, but we’re going to go through some pain first. But then that’s one of the reasons I stay relatively optimistic about this, because I can see maybe a better country emerging from this.

US intelligence agencies under pressure to link coronavirus to Chinese labs

Senior Trump administration figures said to be demanding evidence on virus’s origins

Donald Trump is under pressure with more than 1 million Americans infected and 60,000 dead from the virus.
Donald Trump is under pressure with more than 1 million Americans infected and 60,000 dead from the virus. Photograph: Carlos Barría/Reuters
Published onThu 30 Apr 2020 09.49 EDT

Senior figures in the Trump administration have put pressure on US intelligence agencies to provide evidence supporting claims that the coronavirus outbreak originated in state-run laboratories in China, a report in the New York Times claims.

Intelligence analysts fear Donald Trump is looking for propaganda to be used in the escalating blame game over whether China covered up the crisis or even generated the virus in its laboratories.

Trump has claimed that China’s handling of the pandemic is proof that Beijing “will do anything they can” to make him lose his re-election bid in November and told Reuters he was considering different forms of retaliation.

The Washington Post reported that high-level meetings were under way in the White House to discuss options, including suing for compensation, which would involve stripping China of “sovereign immunity” or cancelling debt obligations to China.

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has repeatedly suggested that the coronavirus could have come from a virology laboratory in Wuhan, after cables surfaced from early 2018 in which US diplomats expressed concern about safety standards at the facility.

The office of the director of national intelligence said in a statement on Thursday that it had concluded that the virus was “not manmade or genetically modified”, but said that officials were still examining whether the origins of the pandemic could be traced to contact with infected animals or an accident at a Chinese lab.

“The intelligence community [IC] also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the Covid-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified,” said the statement. “The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”

Most scientists who have studied the genetics of the coronavirus provided by China say that the overwhelming probability is that it leapt jumped from animal to human in a non-laboratory setting, as was the case with previous pandemics.

In recent days Trump and his allies have sharpened their rhetoric on China, accusing it of failing to act swiftly enough to stop the spread of the virus or sound the alarm about the outbreak.

Those reported as pushing US intelligence agencies to lend credence to the theory that the virus was created in Chinese labs include the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, the deputy national security adviser, Matthew Pottinger, and Richard Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence.

In numerous TV interviews, Pompeo has said China suppressed information on the virus and withheld key facts from the World Health Organization, and he has hinted that he believes the virus originated in Chinese laboratories.

But the suggestion that intelligence agencies are being put under pressure to produce evidence represents a step up from such comments. Such a finding would turn the international disaster into something akin to biological warfare, or a lab accident of catastrophic proportions.

More than 1 million people have been infected and more than 60,000 have died in the US from the virus, adding political urgency to Trump’s desire to shift blame for the crisis on to China.

China has been resisting an international inquiry into the origins of the outbreak in Wuhan and, under pressure, says it is a matter for the WHO to investigate. The proposal is unlikely to mollify Trump, who has condemned the WHO as Chinese-centric and has suspended US funding from the UN agency pending a review.

Chris Patten, the former governor general of Hong Kong and a long-term critic of Chinese efforts to control democracy in the former colony, has joined the calls for an international inquiry, accusing China of initially covering up the outbreak.

The calls for an inquiry have been strongest in Australia, leading to a diplomatic confrontation between the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, and the Chinese ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye. The calls have also been supported by Winston Peters, New Zealand’s foreign minister.

Peters said: “It is very hard to conceive, no matter what country it is, of there not being a desire from every country around the world – including the country of origin – for an investigation to find out how this happened.”

Jingye has warned of a Chinese boycott of Australian goods and services.

Beijing has been caught in a bind, with its diplomats sometimes saying it is not even clear whether the virus originated in China, contending that it is a legitimate matter for inquiry by scientists, but then rejecting an international inquiry into the source of the outbreak. Chinese diplomats distinguish between an international inquiry, which they say is likely to be a political blame game, and a dispassionate examination by WHO scientists.

Critics of China counter that the WHO’s record shows it has neither the will nor the investigative powers required to look deep into the entrails of the Chinese Communist party and expose any cover-up. The WHO is dependent on the cooperation of its member states for access and has no mechanism to punish countries that keep its officials in the dark.

Proposals have been floated for the WHO to be given the power to impose sanctions on countries that are not transparent with it, but this proposal would need to pass the WHO’s general assembly, and would require nation states handing over a degree of sovereignty to a multilateral body.

The Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, delivered a lengthy rebuttal to the prospect of an international inquiry last week. “You’re talking about independent investigation. It’s up to the WHO. We support the WHO. We believe we should play by international norms and international rules, not by some other countries’ rules. Some other country even sues China at its local court. It’s absurd,”he said in remarks to the Asia Society in London.

“This is not the first time that some politicians want to play world police. This is not the era of ‘gunboat diplomacy’. This is not the era when China was still in a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society. This is the third decade of the 21st century. Those people cannot understand it. They think they still live in the old days when they can bully China and the world. If the WHO does not act their way, they stop their support and criticise the WHO to be ‘China-centric’. That’s simply not right.

“So we are calling for international cooperation. That’s the only weapon and only way out to win this battle against the virus. Not by scapegoating, not by playing games, not by politicising the virus, not by spreading a political virus.”

A spokesperson for the UK Foreign Office said: “Coronavirus is a global challenge and it’s vital that countries come together to tackle this shared threat. The Foreign Secretary has been clear that, in time, we will need to learn lessons and ask rigorous questions about why this outbreak happened, why it couldn’t be stopped earlier and what can be done to prevent another outbreak in future. This is something that we will look at with all of our international partners.”

Wuhan shows the world that the end of lockdown is just the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis

https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/29/asia/wuhan-coronavirus-lockdown-analysis-intl-hnk/index.html

Shanghai (CNN)All around the world, people are waiting for the announcement that the coronavirus pandemic is contained and they can return to normal life.

But the Chinese city at the center of the pandemic has shown that normal might still be a long way off.
When Wuhan officials eased outgoing travel restrictions on April 8, effectively ending the city’s 76-day lockdown, residents and local businesses soon learned that city’s actual reopening would be painfully slow.
Despite the lifting of most strict lockdown laws, many stores are still shut, restaurants are restricted to takeaway and even when citizens go outside they still wear protective equipment and try to avoid each other.
The mood on the ground is very different to the official statements. At a press conference on April 8, Luo Ping, an epidemic control official in Wuhan said that some sectors of the city were already back to 100% resumption rate.
In a meeting of the Wuhan government on April 25, they promised a “double victory” of success of the epidemic and economic growth.
But even government-controlled media has suggested that plans to get the city back to 100% production by the end of April might be “too optimistic.”
During a recent trip to the city, business owners told CNN that they were struggling with zero profits and huge rents and experts said that it might take the city’s economy months to recover, if not longer.
“In the short term, of course, there’s going to be a recovery,” said Larry Hu, economist at Macquarie Capital Limited. “Production will recover first and then consumption, because a lot of people are still reluctant to come out … but from a long term perspective, from a three-year perspective the virus is still going to hurt the long term growth of Wuhan.”
A person wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus carries groceries in a neighbourhood in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on April 20.

Struggling to recover

Wuhan is a metropolis with a population of more than a 11 million, larger than most US cities, and yet it is considered a second-tier size city within mainland China.
The capital of central China’s Hubei Province, Wuhan, is both a manufacturing and transportation hub for the rest of the country.
The original outbreak was first detected in Wuhan in mid-December, and as the outbreak worsened, the city sealed its borders from the rest of China on January 23 in an attempt to contain the spread.
Virtually overnight, life was halted. In some parts of the city people were confined to their homes for several months straight, unable to leave and relying on delivery services for groceries and other basic needs.
With the lockdown now over, the local government is keen to resume normal business as quickly as possible, as Beijing puts pressure on provinces to help boost a flailing economy.
But there are signs that despite the hopeful rhetoric, Hubei’s economy might take a long time to recover from the severe lockdown.
Small businesses suffer despite lifting lockdown in Wuhan

Small businesses suffer despite lifting lockdown in Wuhan 03:18
Shaun Roache, Asia Pacific chief economist at S&P Global Ratings, said that the lesson of Wuhan to the rest of the world was that swift, early action on coronavirus was costly to the economy but might lead for a quicker reopening.
“(But) lockdowns have a disproportional effect on small and medium-sized enterprises. These firms have less access to credit to help them ‘bridge to the recovery’ and can also struggle to meet the requirements for opening up,” he said.
When CNN returned to the city on April 21, a drive through a commercial street showed more than half the local businesses remain shuttered.
The province’s GDP shrank almost 40% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2020, according to state news agency Xinhua, with retail sales dropping more than 15% in March alone.
The government has announced it will be letting businesses leasing from state-owned enterprises go rent-free for three months, but for those with private landlords, the weight of rent and no profit is pushing them out of business.
“I opened for two days. No costumers come in to eat, as it was forbidden, and I got only two or three orders from the online delivery platform. The cost of opening was much more than I earn each day, so I closed it again,” one restaurant owner told the government-controlled Global Times.
Wuhan resident: A second wave is 'absolutely' coming

Wuhan resident: A second wave is ‘absolutely’ coming 04:28

Fears of a second wave

Some small business owners relayed to CNN their concern that any government assistance will likely arrive too late to save their small shops and restaurants, leading them to shut down for good.
Noticeably shuttered still are fitness centers and movie theaters, with no immediate plans to reopen.
Most the stores that have reopened have changed their business models. Major chains like Starbucks, McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut are among the brands preventing customers from entering the physical space. Instead tables are setup at the storefronts and staff brings up the orders to hand off.
Roache said while manufacturing could recover reasonably quickly from the virus, it was the service sectors which appeared to be the slowest to return to 100% productivity. “This is important because service industries are the largest employers in most economies,” he said.
Worst of all, some local citizens and business owners told CNN that they believed it was only a matter of time until a second wave of infections swept through the city, prompting a second lockdown and dealing another blow to the economy.
On Saturday, the day after the CNN team left, the Wuhan health authority reported that they had found 19 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases in the city.
There might be a long way to go yet for Wuhan and the rest of the world before we can return to anything resembling normality.

‘It’s unfathomable’: Reopening of China’s wet markets bewilders Scott Morrison as PM doubles down on his criticism of the World Health Organisation

  • Australia’s Prime Minister repeated criticism of the World Health Organisation 
  • Scott Morrison said on Tuesday he found the WHO’s stance ‘unfathomable’ 
  • WHO said China ‘wet markets’, the suspected source of COVID-19, could reopen 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stepped up his criticism of the World Health Organisation following its support for the reopening of China‘s ‘wet markets’ after one in Wuhan was widely identified as the source of the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘It’s unfathomable, frankly,’ Mr Morrison told the Today show on Tuesday when asked about the WHO’s decision.

‘We need to protect the world against potential sources of these types of outbreaks. IT’s happened too many times,’ he said.

‘We don’t have them in Australia. I’m just puzzled by that decision.’

Australia's leaders have repeated criticism of the World Health Organisation after it supported reopening China's wet markets (pictured)

Australia’s leaders have repeated criticism of the World Health Organisation after it supported reopening China’s wet markets (pictured)

'We need to protect the world against potential sources of outbreaks of these types of viruses. It's happened too many times,' Mr Morrison said

‘We need to protect the world against potential sources of outbreaks of these types of viruses. It’s happened too many times,’ Mr Morrison said

Last week the United Nations health authority claimed the Chinese markets could be made to sell safe products with increased hygiene practices as they provided important sources of food and income.

The WHO has been under attack for its handling of the worldwide coronavirus crisis and has been accused of a pro-China bias.

Questions have been raised about its advice early in the crisis, most critically in allowing international travel from China to remain open, thus spreading the disease across the world.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom had praised China for its ‘transparency’ and handling of the outbreak after travelling to the country in January.

People wearing protective face masks shop at a chicken stall at a 'wet market' in Shanghai on February 13, 2020

People wearing protective face masks shop at a chicken stall at a ‘wet market’ in Shanghai on February 13, 2020

According to Johns Hopkins University at least 1,919,000 people have been infected and there have been at least 119,000 deaths from COVID-19 across the globe while at least 458,000 people have recovered.

In Australia, politicians from both sides of parliament have condemned the WHO’s stance and called for strict international regulations.

‘Australia and the world will be looking to organisations like the WHO to ensure lessons are learned from the devastating coronavirus outbreak,’ Mr Morrison said on Monday.

‘There must be transparency in understanding how it began in Wuhan and how it was transmitted. We also need to fully understand and protect against the global health threat posed by places like wet markets.’ Mr Morrison told The Australian.

The virus is understood to have originated from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.

The Chinese ‘wet markets’ are notorious for keeping wild animals in inhumane cages, with the animals then slaughtered at the market.

One theory is that the disease was transferred to humans from bats, or possibly through another animal such as a pangolin, which are highly trafficked.

Both sides of parliament have been critical of the WHO with Labor MP Peter Khalil saying ‘wet markets’ must be shut down unless they can be proven to be safe.

Signs for various beef, pork and poultry products are displayed at stalls as chest refrigerators stand at the Baishazhou wet market in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, on Monday, April 6, 2020

Signs for various beef, pork and poultry products are displayed at stalls as chest refrigerators stand at the Baishazhou wet market in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, on Monday, April 6, 2020

‘Unless they can demonstrate that the regulations, the health and safety measures, are so strict that they can completely cut off the risk factors, they’re going to have to shut them down,’ he said.

‘It’s happened with SARS. It’s happened with avian influenza. It’s happened with COVID-19. Next time it might be an even worse virus.’

The SARS virus, which is very similar to COVID-19, is understood to have also originated in China, however, the virus was contained in 2003 with a comparatively small infection rate.

People wearing face masks in a wet market as residents in Mei Foo district in China on February 2 2020

People wearing face masks in a wet market as residents in Mei Foo district in China on February 2 2020

World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands in Beijing on Jan. 28, 2020, ahead of their meeting to discuss how to curb the spread of a new pneumonia-causing coronavirus

World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands in Beijing on Jan. 28, 2020, ahead of their meeting to discuss how to curb the spread of a new pneumonia-causing coronavirus

Liberal MP Andrew Hastie previoulsy told Daily Mail Australia the WHO had not been proactive enough in acting to stop the global health threat.

He said organisations like the WHO need to act quickly to ensure an outbreak like this does not happen again.

‘The WHO has been glacially slow in its decision-making,’ Mr Hastie said.

‘When Beijing shut down travel from Hubei to the rest of China on January 23 – but strangely not from Hubei to the rest of the world – why didn’t the WHO act decisively then?

‘It could’ve prevented the mass global exportation of COVID-19 then by declaring a pandemic and alerting governments around the world of the danger ahead.

‘Closing borders then could’ve saved lives and a lot of economic hardship.’

Why is the WHO director-general ‘sympathetic’ to China?

At the end of Janaury, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom enjoyed a trip to China to rub shoulders with President Xi Jinping.

When he returned, he hailed China for ‘transparency’ – even though it had covered up the extent of the outbreak by detaining doctors who sought to alert citizens.

Australian professor John Mackenzie, a member of the World Health Organization’s emergency committee, called China ‘reprehensible’ – but Dr Adhanom said China should be ‘congratulated’ for protecting ‘the people of the world’.

He then fawned over the communist leader, telling aides he was ‘very impressed and encouraged by the president’s detailed knowledge of the outbreak.’

Since then, Tedros Adhanom has been called a ‘China apologist’ by various commentators.

Kristine Lee, China analyst at an influential US think-tank said: ‘There is a clear narrative coming out of the WHO that panders to Xi Jinping’s view about his country’s handling of coronavirus.’

But why? Perhaps it goes back to his time as a top Ethiopian politician, wrote journalist Ian Birrell.

He served in senior roles under Meles Zenawi, who ran a brutal dictatorship with close ties to Beijing, which admired the regime’s authoritarian model of development.

Intriguingly, Tedros was accused of covering up three outbreaks of cholera during his seven years as health minister, although the claims were dismissed as dirty tactics to try to derail his bid to become the WHO boss.

Shortly after starting his new job with the WHO in 2017, he appointed Robert Mugabe as a ‘goodwill ambassador’, only to back down after furious protests from human rights groups pointing out the despot had devastated Zimbabwe’s health service while wrecking his nation.

Mugabe, as head of the African Union and a close ally of China, had helped him win the WHO post. Beijing also used its financial muscle to build support among developing nations, with Xi said to see the achievement as a sign of China’s growing strength.

Ricky Gervais demands global shutdown of all wildlife ‘wet’ markets to avert future pandemics

Ricky Gervais demands global shutdown of all wildlife 'wet' markets to avert future pandemicsImage: Ron Adar / shutterstock.com

For the sake of people and animals, wildlife trade and consumption has to end, now.’

Ricky Gervais called for a global shutdown of wet animal markets and a ban on wildlife trade while speaking to the Mirror on the current pandemic situation that has claimed more than 1,26,681 lives at the time of writing.

The actor and animal rights activist made the comments after the tabloid revealed images of live bats and reptiles still on sale alongside dogs in Indonesia.

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According to experts the coronavirus reportedly spawned from one such wet market in China, Wuhan and has since spread globally forcing countries into lockdowns.

“For the sake of people and animals, wildlife trade and consumption has to end, now,” the 58 year old told the tabloid, adding that if humans kept on exploiting the animal kingdom, we could soon again find ourselves facing another pandemic.

“We can’t carry on exploiting animals, eating wildlife and trashing the planet,” he warned.

“The wildlife trade and markets have to close, otherwise it will be a case of when, and not if, we have another global pandemic.”

Wet markets

In a separate livestream on his Twitter account, the animal lover reiterated the risks posed by wet markets and stressed on how COVID-19 could easily not be the last pandemic humanity has witnessed, if stricter measures are not enforced.

He said: “This will happen again. The wet markets are already opening in China and other parts. They are already getting back to it. This comes from animals, like all the other things, MERS and SARS… it comes from animals and f***ing eating things you shouldn’t. I don’t know what to do. What can I do? I’m annoyed at sunbathers so if I saw a wet market, I don’t know what I’d f***ing do.”

According to reports China reportedly allowed its markets in south-west China’s Guilin and southern China’s Dongguan to reopen and resume selling bats, pangolins and dogs for human consumption. Also, footage released by the Mirror showed that wet markets in Indonesia and Thailand continued to operate despite the pandemic.

Ironically, while Asian wet markets are going unchecked, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs released a draft policy earlier this month banning dog meat from consumption. The newly proposed regulation states that dogs “have evolved from traditional livestock to companion animals,” and thus excluded.

‘Shut them down right away’

Gervais is not the only one to have called for a global wet market ban.

America’s chief infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci mentioned that the ongoing public health crisis is a “direct result” of the thriving wet animal markets and demanded  that they “should shut down those things right away.”

PETA has even launched a petition urging the WHO to shut these markets across the globe to prevent future pandemics and end the horrific torture that animals are subjected to for food.

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“Just as we don’t want to be infected with or die from COVID-19, other animals don’t want to suffer or be killed for food, “wrote PETA in a statement

“No matter what species they are peddling, live-animal meat markets will continue to put the human population at risk as well as sentencing countless animals to a miserable death.”

Share this story to reveal the truth of wet markets.

CHINA RAISES CORONAVIRUS DEATH TOLL BY 50% IN WUHAN

China Raises Coronavirus Death Toll by 50% in Wuhan

China Raises Coronavirus Death Toll by 50% in Wuhan

China on Friday raised its coronavirus death toll by 50 percent in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak first emerged, amid accusations that the government had concealed the extent of the epidemic.Officials placed the new tally at 3,869 deaths from the coronavirus in the central Chinese city, an increase of 1,290 from the previous figure. The number of cumulative confirmed infections in the city was also revised upward to 50,333, an increase of 325.The move appeared to be a response to growing questions about the accuracy of China’s official numbers and calls to hold the country responsible for a global health crisis that has killed more than 142,000 people and caused a worldwide economic slowdown.China has been criticized as having initially mismanaged and concealed the extent of the epidemic, though it ultimately swung into action and seemingly tamed the virus. Recently, as other countries have grappled with their own outbreaks, Chinese officials have come under even greater pressure to explain how exactly the epidemic unfolded in Wuhan.“They are on the defensive, clearly,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a political science professor at Hong Kong Baptist University and an expert on Chinese politics. “It’s an uphill battle now for China to improve its image.”In an interview Friday with the official Xinhua news agency, an unidentified official from Wuhan’s epidemic command center said that revising the figures was important for protecting the “credibility of the government” and “maintaining respect for each individual life.”The local authorities say the new totals were reached after a detailed investigation and now include deaths at home from the virus that went unreported in the early days of the outbreak and deaths that were incorrectly reported by hospitals. After reaching a peak in February, the epidemic appears to be controlled for now in China, and restrictions in Wuhan have been loosening this month.Experts say the revisions are not unusual. Many countries are probably underreporting their official tallies of infections and deaths, in part because of problems with testing and the speed with which the virus has overwhelmed public health care systems.Still, the changes to the official figures are small enough that they are unlikely to quash lingering doubts about their veracity. Researchers at the University of Hong Kong recently estimated there were probably around 232,000 confirmed cases in China by late February, more than four times the number of reported cases at the time. As of Friday, China had reported more than 82,000 officially confirmed cases and over 4,500 deaths from the coronavirus, including the revised tallies in Wuhan.Foreign governments have also raised questions about China’s official figures after seeing how the virus has ravaged their own populations.Dominic Raab, the British foreign secretary, told Reuters on Thursday that China would have to answer “hard questions” later about how the pandemic came about and how it could have been stopped earlier. President Emmanuel Macron of France told The Financial Times, “There are clearly things that have happened that we don’t know about.”The C.I.A. has also told the White House that China’s official figures are vastly understated, though it does not know the exact numbers, current and former American intelligence officials say. As of Friday in New York City, the virus had officially sickened 123,146 people and killed 8,632, far higher than the official tallies in Wuhan, an even larger city, where the virus is believed to have been circulating since as early as November.“This is quite strange,” said David Hui, the director of the Stanley Ho Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, referring to the revised figures. “I really don’t understand how they were able to get information on so many additional people.”Beijing has maintained that it has been open and transparent from the start of the epidemic, and that it moved quickly to inform the World Health Organization and other countries about the outbreak in early January. The revision on Friday of the official figures appeared to be its latest attempt to show transparency. Officials had previously revised figures, in the face of public pressure, to include infections diagnosed clinically rather than through tests and, more recently, asymptomatic cases.But even as Beijing seeks to project an image as a responsible global leader, it has struggled to restore its credibility after early reports emerged that it had silenced whistle-blowers, delayed informing the public that the virus could be transmitted among humans and rebuffed offers of help from foreign scientific experts.Since then, the government has sought to take control of the narrative by ramping up propaganda, detaining citizen journalists, aggressively censoring news reports and expelling foreign reporters. Adding to the tensions has been a recent extended war of words between Washington and Beijing, as each side has tried to deflect blame for failures in managing the virus.The result of China’s mixed messaging, experts say, may be a breach in global trust that could last long after the pandemic has faded.“If you look at the state of public opinion around the world, it’s not a good omen for China,” said Mr. Cabestan of Hong Kong Baptist University. “The relationship with China is going to become much more difficult in the coming years, and the coronavirus crisis has not mitigated those tensions but fed them.”

When will this end?

This is a difficult question, because a lot depends on how well the virus is contained. A better question might be: “How will we know when to reopen the country?” In an American Enterprise Institute report, Scott Gottlieb, Caitlin Rivers, Mark B. McClellan, Lauren Silvis and Crystal Watson staked out four goal posts for recovery: Hospitals in the state must be able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization, without resorting to crisis standards of care; the state needs to be able to at least test everyone who has symptoms; the state is able to conduct monitoring of confirmed cases and contacts; and there must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days.

How can I help?
The Times Neediest Cases Fund has started a special campaign to help those who have been affected, which accepts donations here. Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities. More than 30,000 coronavirus-related GoFundMe fund-raisers have started in the past few weeks. (The sheer number of fund-raisers means more of them are likely to fail to meet their goal, though.)

What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

Should I wear a mask?
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

How do I get tested?
If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.

How does coronavirus spread?
It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.

Is there a vaccine yet?
No. Clinical trials are underway in the United States, China and Europe. But American officials and pharmaceutical executives have said that a vaccine remains at least 12 to 18 months away.

What makes this outbreak so different?
Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and little is known about this particular virus so far. It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain. And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions — not just those with respiratory diseases — particularly hard.

What if somebody in my family gets sick?
If the family member doesn’t need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, according to guidelines issued by the C.D.C. If there’s space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.

Should I stock up on groceries?
Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

Can I go to the park?
Yes, but make sure you keep six feet of distance between you and people who don’t live in your home. Even if you just hang out in a park, rather than go for a jog or a walk, getting some fresh air, and hopefully sunshine, is a good idea.

Why comedian Bill Maher is right in calling COVID-19 the ‘Chinese virus’

After SARS and COVID-19, it is not wrong to call China a hotspot for deadly viruses

Xi-Jinping-Bill-Maher-AP-FileXi Jinping and Bill Maher | AP, File

US President Donald Trump came under fire from many for calling the coronavirus the Chinese virus. Social experts suggested that it encourages racism against Asian Americans.

Xi Jinping was not happy about the president addressing the virus as the Chinese virus. The two nations even ensued a blame-game over which nation started the virus. In fact, for about a week or two towards the second half of March, Trump maintained that China hid initial information about the virus and the world is paying a ‘big price’ for china withholding crucial information.

Finally, in a bid to deescalate tensions between the two nations, Trump, after a call with China’s President Xi Jinping, agreed to stop calling COVID-19 the Chinese virus.

Turns out, Trump was, after all, not wrong to call the virus after the place of its origin.

Comedian Bill Maher on Friday’s episode of Real Time with Bill Maher said it should be okay to call coronavirus the ‘Chinese virus’.

He went on to say why he thought it was okay to name diseases based on where they originate.

If one were to think about it, Maher is right about it. Scientists have been naming diseases after the places they came from for a very long time. Zika is from the Zika Forest, Ebola from the Ebola River, hantavirus the Hantan River; then there is the the West Nile virus and Guinea worm and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. MERS is short for Middle East respiratory syndrome.

Maher defended Trump’s terming the coronavirus as the Chinese virus by saying that it originated in the wet markets of China, and that, China must be held responsible for the same—this bit seems logical to say the least.

For the virus did originate in a wet market in Wuhan and was transferred from an infected bat to a human. SARS or severe acute respiratory syndrome too originated as a result of wildlife trading in Guangdong province—it was linked to a mix of several species in cramped cages. SARS affected more than 8,000 people across the globe. The H7N9, a strain of bird flu, originated, in a  bird market in China. The spread of this flu was somehow, limited to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia. A total of 619 deaths were seen.

It could, therefore, be said that China has been a hotspot of sorts for viruses that transmit from animals to humans and should take some responsibility for the same.

China, to be put in Maher’s words, should not get a pass. COVID-19 should be called the ‘Chinese virus’ so that the world, as well as China, knows the implications that its wildlife trade is having on the rest of the world.

As a Guardian report points out, not only did the virus originate in China, but doctors were not allowed to sound the alarm about it either. China’s Communist Party also censored people who attempted to raise alarm bells about the virus. And this probably made the situation worse than it could have been. Li Wenliang, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital tried to warn his medical school classmates about the existence of the SARS-like virus but was detained on January 1 for rumour-mongering.

Yes, currently China and rest of the world should work together in stopping the pandemic. At the same time, it cannot be ignored how China is propagating its efforts in conquering the disease.  According to an Economist report, China has come out with a book, A Battle Against Epidemic: China Combating Covid-19 in 2020, which glorifies how the nation handled the epidemic under the leadership of Xi Jinping. The book has dubbed Xi as ‘Commander of the People’s War’, even as the country’s economy struggles to recover from the impact COVID-19 left behind.

Analysts in a Reuters report, warn of a period of struggle for China’s businesses and the broader economy due to the rapid spread of the virus across the world.

Coming back to China owning up for the COVID-19 mess, China, on April 10 removed bats, dogs and pangolins from a list of meat fit for human consumption. It has not, however, banned wildlife trading. Moreover, the ‘yes’ list of meats includes deer, alpaca and ostriches. There isn’t much guarantee that a new kind of disease won’t emerge from these species.

After the SARS epidemic, China banned wildlife trading but then lifted it after just three months. Administration announced that 54 types of wildlife, civets included, could be consumed and sold, as long as they were raised on farms.

And now, here we are with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Post the outbreak of COVID-19, a permanent ban was imposed on wildlife trading and the consumption of wildlife meat on February 24. Since then more than 20,000 shops selling a variety of meats were shut, including farms raising peacocks, porcupines, ostriches and other animals.

However, this was but a small step towards the prevention of similar outbreaks in the future. As per a report by the LA Times, it still leaves the loophole of allowing wildlife to be used for traditional Chinese medicine, including animal-based remedies that national health authorities are now prescribing as a treatment for the coronavirus.

The law permits farming of bats, pangolins and bears to make medicine from their feces, scales and bile, which drives the demand for wildlife and raises the risk of another pandemic.

Such illicit wildlife trade includes practices like stacking animal cages one on top of the other, leading to animals at the bottom being soaked with liquids from animals on top including e

And this is how viruses jump from one species to another. Dr Vincent Nijman, a wildlife trade researcher at Oxford Brookes University in England was quoted in a New York Times report as saying that basic hygiene isn’t followed in these markets either, where the same blade is often used to chop different species. Newer, exotic animals are often introduced in the trade as well.

Experts say that only a complete ban can prevent similar outbreaks in the future. In a CNN report, wildlife campaigner Aron White, too, said that the Chinese government needed to avoid loopholes by extending the ban to all vulnerable wildlife, regardless of use.

So, coming back to the uproar against calling coronavirus the ‘Chinese virus’, don’t we have more reasons to call it so?

https://www.theweek.in/news/world/2020/04/13/why-comedian-bill-maher-is-right-in-calling-covid-19-the-chinese-virus.html