World coronavirus dispatch: WHO has a lot of answering to do at annual meet

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus | Photo: Twitter/ DrTedros
The World Health Organization (WHO) is convening its annual meeting on Monday. Its effort will involve answering a lot of questions about the coronavirus pandemic strategy and managing expectations of various members, including the US. All eyes will be on how countries – including the US, Australia, Canada, France and Germany – pursue an investigation into China’s handling of the pandemic within the framework of the global health body. That could include taking the Chinese government to the international court. Read more here.

Let’s look at the global statistics

Total confirmed cases: 4,716,513

Change over previous day: 82,381

Total deaths: 315,225

Total recovered: 1,734,578

Nations hit with most cases: The US (1,486,757), Russia (281,752), the UK (244,995), Brazil (241,080) and Spain (230,698).

Source: Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center

Japan officially enters recession: Japan has fallen into recession, for the first time since 2015, as the financial toll of the coronavirus continues to escalate. The world's third-biggest economy shrank at an annual pace of 3.4 per cent in the first three months of 2020. Japan did not go into full national lockdown, but it issued a state of emergency in April which severely affected supply chains and businesses in the trade-reliant nation. Read more here.

Thailand’s economy shrank in Q1, first time since 2014: Thailand sees its economy contracting by as much as 6 per cent this year, among the worst in Asia, as the coronavirus outbreak cut off travel to the tourism-reliant nation and shuttered commerce. Gross domestic product is forecast to shrink 5-6 per cent in 2020. Read more here.

US cases climb to 1.5 million: The US has a population of about 327,200,000, which means about 0.46 per cent of the country has tested positive for coronavirus so far. Because of the unknown number of people who might have had the virus and were asymptomatic or were not tested, that number could be even higher. But the reported number itself is over five times more than the second-most-infected nation, Russia. Read more here.

UK watchdog seeks powers to tackle coronavirus profiteering: The UK competition watchdog has lobbied the government for emergency powers to crack down on companies profiteering from the pandemic. The Competition and Markets Authority has asked the government for “emergency time-limited legislation” to pursue retailers bumping up prices for products like hand sanitisers and face masks in response to the virus. Read more here.


First ‘socially distanced’ concert a test for live music industry: The first big “socially distanced” concert in the US since the coronavirus lockdowns came into force is set to take place this week. Travis McCready, a blues-rock musician, aims to play a show for a couple of hundred people in Fort Smith, Arkansas — a feat that his tour promoter says “represents hope”, and perhaps a path forward, for the battered industry. Arkansas is one of the earlier US states to loosen the lockdown restrictions, with some theatres and arenas being allowed to reopen on May 18. Read more here.

How France lost the weapons to fight a pandemic: When President Emmanuel Macron declared “war” on the coronavirus in March, he solemnly promised that France would support “front-line” health workers with “the means, the protection”. The reality was that France was nearly defenceless. The government’s flip-flopping policies on past pandemics had left a once formidable national stockpile of face masks nearly depleted. Officials had also outsourced the manufacturing capacity to replenish that stockpile to suppliers overseas, despite warnings since the early 2000s about the rising risks of global pandemics. Read more here.

Steps to avoid work from home burnout: Recovery time is key to innovation and output, says digital anthropologist Rahaf Harfoush. Read his comments here.

The pandemic has laid bare disparity in sharing household chores: The pandemic is exposing like never before the severe disparities in how couples divide housework. One man who thought he was doing his share gave his wife a list of the 21 tasks he does. A spreadsheet of her task list was 10 times as long. Read the story here.

Long Reads 

How coronavirus started and what happens next, explained: On December 31, 2019, the WHO’s China office heard the first reports of a previously-unknown virus behind a number of pneumonia cases in Wuhan. Five months later, it has become a global pandemic affecting 4.7 million people. For those who have not been following day-to-day updates, here’s an exhaustive piece covering the magnitude of the spread, the anatomy of the virus, the status of the vaccine, and much more. Read here.

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