COVID-19 International Developments: Daily Scan, March 26, 2020
Prerna Gandhi, Associate Fellow, VIF
Pompeo says CCP prevented cooperation with United States

In a press briefing on March 25, Pompeo mentioned that the US had tried to work with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) throughout by sending US scientists and experts to Wuhan, but the CCP wouldn’t permit that to happen. He mentioned that China knew about it, they were the first country to know about the risk to the world from this virus, and they repeatedly delayed sharing that information with the globe. Cooperation on the pandemic was seen as extraterritorial to China. “Every one of the nations that was at that meeting this morning (G7) was deeply aware of the disinformation campaign that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in to try and deflect from what has really taken place here” said Pompeo.

New York Epicentre of Coronavirus in US

Though the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to grow quickly and has now topped 30,000, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on March 25 said that there were early signs that stringent restrictions on social gatherings and other measures could be slowing down the spread of virus. The Governor said about 40,000 health care professionals, including retirees, have volunteered to work when hospitals become strained; almost half of them are nurses.

US Defence Secretary issues order halting all travel & movement overseas for 60 days, Afghanistan withdrawal to continue

Secretary of Defence Mark Esper enacted a 60-day stop movement order for all US DoD uniformed and civilian personnel and their sponsored family members overseas. Approximately 90,000 Service Members slated to deploy or redeploy over the next 60 days will likely be impacted by this stop movement order. Another statement also issued guidance to raise the HPCON level to Charlie at all DOD installations globally that will entail going to maximum telework, cancellation of large-scale meetings, taking temperatures at certain access points within buildings etc. The US military had already cancelled overseas military exercises as part of a larger effort to re-evaluate where personnel and equipment needed to be focused in the outbreak. However, the drawdown of US forces from Afghanistan will continue. As of March 25, 227 service members have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Coronavirus delays Russian vote on Putin staying in Power

Russian President Vladimir Putin has postponed a vote on constitutional change that would allow him to stay in power because of coronavirus concerns. He said the public vote - previously due to be held on 22 April - would be delayed until a "later date". He also declared on March 25 that all Russians would receive paid leave next week as part of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Coronavirus in Italy: deaths pass 7,000 mark, but rise in new cases down again

The number of coronavirus sufferers to have died in Italy has passed the 7,000 mark, but the rise in the number of new cases of contagion fell for the fourth day running, the Civil Protection Department said on March 25.

Spain asks NATO for coronavirus testing kits, ventilators, protective gear

The Spanish army has asked its NATO partners for coronavirus testing kits, ventilators and protective gear as part of the alliance's international assistance arrangements, Spanish armed forces chief Miguel Villarroya said on March 25. He said Spain made the request to NATO which would pass it on to the member states' armies. Spain has overtaken China to become the country with the second-highest number of coronavirus fatalities in the world after Italy.

Expert warns of second wave of coronavirus cases from infected people returning to Japan

An expert has warned of a second wave of novel coronavirus infections in Japan due to a surge in infected people returning to the country from overseas. Since the beginning of March, the number of new infections has hovered around several dozen per day, but the number of infected people returning to the country from overseas has raised markedly, accounting for nearly 30% of the infections reported in Japan between March 17 and 23.

Coronavirus: Herat emerges as Afghanistan's epicentre

As the number of coronavirus cases in Afghanistan steadily climbs, ¬the western province of Herat has emerged as the epicentre of the country's outbreak with at least 54 of the 75 total cases reported in the country. Thousands of Afghans have returned to Herat from neighbouring Iran, where at least 1,800 people have died due to the pandemic.

Coronavirus scare in Pakistan as preachers from 80 nations attend gathering

A recent mass religious gathering in Pakistan has led to fresh concerns over Covid-19 spread in Pakistan, even as the Imran Khan government remains adamant that it will neither seek assistance under SAARC emergency fund nor contribute any amount to the fund to contain the corona virus. The gathering in the eastern part of Pakistan, the second most populous country in South Asia, brought together tens of thousands of Muslim preachers from about 80 countries. Nationals from Palestine and Kyrgyzstan, who attended the Tablighi Jamaat meet that ended on March 12, have tested positive.

Weaponizing water in Northern Syria?

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, water is running out in the Kurdish region of Northern Syria. Islamist militias in the Turkish-controlled area have allegedly shut down the most important water station in the region. What is clear is that Alouk has not pumped out any water since last Saturday, March 21, as was confirmed to DW by Misty Buswell, regional director of the International Rescue Committee (IRC). From her headquarters in the Jordanian capital, Amman, Buswell explained that there have been repeated interruptions in the water supply since last October: "The latest water stoppage could not have come at a worse time," she added.

IMF, World Bank call for suspending debt payments by poorest nations

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank on March 25 called for governments to put a hold on debt payments from the world's poorest nations so they can battle the corona virus pandemic. "The World Bank Group and the IMF believe it is imperative at this moment to provide a global sense of relief for developing countries as well as a strong signal to financial markets," the Washington-based development lenders said in a joint statement. The move aims to help countries that are home to two-thirds of the world's population living in extreme poverty - largely in sub-Saharan Africa - and qualify for low-cost loans from the International Development Association (IDA) financed by wealthier nations.

China may quit trade deal with Taiwan to allay discontent over handling of virus

Taiwan’s top national security official has suggested that China may refuse to renew a trade deal with the country in an effort to ease public discontent over its handling of the corona virus. National Security Bureau Director-General Chiu Kuo-cheng at a legislative interpellation session said the possibility that China drops out of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) cannot be ruled out, reported Liberty Times. The trade deal, which was signed and went into effect in 2010, expires in September of this year.

White House, Senate reach historic $2 trillion stimulus deal

The White House and Senate leaders struck a major deal early on March 25 morning over a $2-trillion package to provide a jolt to an economy struggling amid the corona virus pandemic. The legislation, if it passes Congress, would be the largest emergency aid package in the US history and the most significant legislative action taken to address the rapidly intensifying corona virus crisis. The full details have yet to be released. But over the last 24 hours, the elements of the proposal have come into sharper focus, with $250 billion set aside for direct payments to individuals and families, $350 billion in small business loans, $250 billion in unemployment insurance benefits and $500 billion in loans for distressed companies.

US Shale Bust wrecks hopes for energy independence

The shale revolution that made the US the world’s biggest oil and gas producer and offered the prospect of energy self-sufficiency has run out of steam, as drillers slash spending and production in response to the price war and corona virus-led collapse of crude demand. Even a modest further oil price drop could cut US production back by almost 4million barrels/day, fully reversing three years of increases.“Shale growth helped to lead the US out of the Great Recession, but may fall victim to the Covid-19-fuelled recession,” said Jamie Webster, senior director of BCG’s Center for Energy Impact.

US puts pressure on Saudi Arabia to end oil price war

The US has raised the pressure on Saudi Arabia to change course in its oil price war with Russia, calling on the kingdom to “rise to the occasion” and start working to stabilise global energy markets. Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, made the remarks ahead of a meeting of G20 leaders on March 26, marking Washington’s most direct appeal yet in a confrontation that has exacerbated a collapse in oil prices triggered by the global coronavirus pandemic.

Corona virus mutation rate is good for vaccine development

The corona virus is not mutating significantly as it circulates through the human population, according to scientists who are closely studying the novel pathogen’s genetic code. That relative stability suggests the virus is less likely to become more or less dangerous as it spreads, and represents encouraging news for researchers hoping to create a long-lasting vaccine.

Corona virus outbreak triggers wave of apps, online tools for diagnosis, testing

As the number of infections caused by the spread of the Coronavirus continues to raise worldwide, med/tech start-ups, healthcare organizations, and others are bringing applications and online services to the market to help people track the virus, check for symptoms, and offer advice on ways to help prevent exposure or even offer testing methods that limit exposure risk.

FDA says it is expediting the use of a blood plasma treatment as New York begins to roll out new clinical trials

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a news release that it is "facilitating access" for patients with life threatening infections to blood plasma taken from a person who recovered after once testing positive for the virus. It's a treatment the state of New York is pursuing in clinical trials, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on March 24.The process, known as plasma-derived therapy or "convalescent plasma," involves doctors testing the plasma of people who recovered for antibodies to the virus and then injecting that plasma, or a derivative of it, into the sick person. However, plasma treatments will take time to get off the ground.The FDA is limiting the plasma treatment to the most seriously ill patients.

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