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China virus death toll passes 1,000 as WHO warns of ‘bigger fire’

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The toll from China’s deadly coronavirus outbreak passed 1,000 on Tuesday after President Xi Jinping called for more “decisive” measures to tackle the outbreak in a rare visit to a frontline hospital.

The Chinese president donned a face mask and had his temperature checked while visiting medical workers and patients affected by the deadly coronavirus that has killed at least 1,011 people.

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The fatalities soared after hardest-hit Hubei province — the epicentre of the outbreak — reported another 103 deaths on Tuesday, the highest single-day toll since the virus emerged.

At a hospital treating infected patients in Beijing, Xi on Monday called the situation at the epicentre “still very grave” and “more decisive measures” to contain the spread of the virus, said state broadcaster CCTV.

AFP / Alain BOMMENEL Virus emergency: the latest we know

Xi has largely kept out of the public eye since the virus outbreak spiralled across the country from Hubei province to infect more than 42,000 people.

He appointed Premier Li Keqiang to lead a group tackling the outbreak and it was Li who visited ground zero in Wuhan last month.

On Monday, Xi put on a blue mask and white surgical gown to meet doctors at Beijing Ditan hospital, observe the treatment of patients and speak via video link to doctors in Wuhan, state media said.

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He then visited a residential community in central Beijing to “investigate and guide” efforts to contain the epidemic, said CCTV.

Video footage showed Xi having his temperature taken with an infrared thermometer then speaking with community workers and waving at smiling residents leaning out of apartment windows.

AFP / NOEL CELIS A security guard checks the temperature of a visitor at a compound in Shanghai, where the government suggested staggered work schedules, avoiding group meals and keeping at least one metre (yard) away from colleagues

The outbreak has prompted unprecedented action by the Chinese government, including locking down entire cities in Hubei as well as cutting transport links nationwide, closing tourist attractions and telling hundreds of millions of people to stay indoors.

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The sweeping measures have turned cities into ghost towns — but there were some signs of normality returning as many went back to work this week.

– ‘We’re worried’ –

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Roads in Beijing and the financial hub of Shanghai had significantly more traffic, while the southern city of Guangzhou said it would start to resume normal public transport.

AFP / STR A man wearing a face mask walks inside a subway station in Beijing, where passenger numbers on the underground network were down by about half compared to a normal work day, state media reported

However, many of those returning to work were uneasy.

“Of course we’re worried,” said a 25-year-old man surnamed Li in a Beijing beauty salon that reopened Monday.

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“When customers come in, we first take their temperature, then use disinfectant and ask them to wash their hands.”

The Shanghai government suggested staggered work schedules, avoiding group meals and keeping at least one metre (three feet) away from colleagues.

Many were encouraged to work from home and some employers simply delayed opening for another week.

State media reported that passenger numbers on the Beijing subway were half that of a normal working day.

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Large shopping malls in the capital were deserted and many banks closed.

AFP/File / FABRICE COFFRINI Bruce Aylward, who oversaw WHO’s 2014-2016 response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, leads an international expert mission in China

One bank employee in Shanghai was heading to work for a half-day, with other workers due to take over in the afternoon.

The rest of the day he would work from home.

“It makes our work more difficult,” he told AFP.

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Schools and universities across the country remained shut.

The toll has overtaken global fatalities in the 2002-03 SARS epidemic when China drew international condemnation for covering up cases, though Beijing has drawn praise from the World Health Organization this time.

– ‘Go back’ –

An advance team for a WHO-led international expert mission on the virus arrived in China late Monday, headed by Bruce Aylward who oversaw the organization’s 2014-2016 response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

AFP / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU People wearing protective suits walk from the Diamond Princess cruise ship where 135 cases of the virus have been detected — the vessel is quarantined in Yokohama, Japan

Ahead of the team’s arrival, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned there had been some “concerning instances” of cases overseas in people with no travel history to China.

“We may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg,” he tweeted.

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Aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship moored off Japan, another 65 people were diagnosed with novel coronavirus, the health ministry said, bringing the total number of known infections on the ship to 135.

The Diamond Princess has been in quarantine since arriving off the Japanese coast early last week after the virus was detected in a former passenger who disembarked last month in Hong Kong.

Beyond Asia, Britain recorded a doubling of cases to eight, and the government warned the outbreak of novel coronavirus was a “serious and imminent threat”.

And US President Donald Trump said he expected the outbreak would disappear in April due to hotter weather, despite top US health officials warning against commenting on the epidemic’s trajectory.

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There’s no respite from Trump’s vindictiveness and foolishness

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As we know, even in the midst of a national emergency, Donald Trump could find time and bandwidth to continue his retribution campaign.

He dismissed Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence agencies, for doing “a terrible job,” satisfying his own thirst for vengeance for anyone who actually adhered to law and practice over blind loyalty to Trump himself. Indeed, asked about it the next day, Trump underscored his action by saying, Atkinson “was no Trump supporter, that I can tell you.”

It was an act that we once would have labeled corruption, by Democrats and Republicans – that is using the office for personal purposes – if Congress and too many Americans had not since become inured by so many like instances.

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This is how Taiwan and South Korea bucked the global lockdown trend

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As the coronavirus pandemic sparks global lockdowns, life has continued comparatively unhindered in places like Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong after their governments and citizens took decisive early action against the unfolding crisis.

At first glance Taiwan looks like an ideal candidate for the coronavirus. The island of 23 million lies just 180 kilometres (110 miles) off mainland China.

Yet nearly 100 days in, Taiwan has just 376 confirmed cases and five fatalities while restaurants, bars, schools, universities and offices remain open.

The government of President Tsai Ing-wen, whose deputy is an epidemiologist, made tough decisions while the crisis was nascent to stave off the kind of pain now convulsing much of the rest of the world.

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Republican ex-lawmaker with coronavirus scolds Wisconsin GOP for forcing voters to risk their health

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On CNN Tuesday, former Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), who is himself dealing with a bout of COVID-19, chastised the Wisconsin GOP for doing everything in their power to block the state elections from being moved — and forcing many voters to stand in line and risk exposure to the virus to cast their ballot.

"I have to tell you, here in Pennsylvania we have a Democratic governor and Republican legislature," Dent told host Don Lemon. "They postponed the election here from April 28 until June 2. Without any controversy. Everybody agreed it was the right thing to do and they moved on. I'm surprised Wisconsin took this risk, knowing they don't have to."

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