March 30 roundup: The COVID-19 epicentre is now the United States

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This roundup summarises the most important news stories around the world in the last two weeks (March 15 to 30, 2020).

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Italy’s death toll from the coronavirus surpassed China’s, on the same day China reported no new infections for the first time since December last year. Days later, Spain overtook the Chinese virus toll. Overall, the United States now has more cases of the coronavirus than any other country, becoming the first country to surpass 100,000 cases. Right now, almost a fifth of the world’s population is on lockdown. India announced the world’s biggest lockdown – with 1.3 billion people ordered by the country’s prime minister to stay at home for at least 21 days – so as to stem the spread of the virus.

There are now over 700,000 confirmed cases around the world (March 30, 2020).

The United States epicentre: The virus was identified in all 50 states, with the highest number of cases in New York. Economically, the Dow Jones Industrial Index fell briefly below where it was when President Donald Trump first took office. Congress and the White House then agreed to a nearly US$2 (S$2.9) trillion stimulus package to combat the economic fallout of the outbreak, and the optimism over this stimulus consequently led to significant gains in the stock market. The stimulus package includes direct payments to Americans, enhancement of jobless benefits, federally guaranteed loans to small businesses and a lending programme for distressed companies, as well as money to hospitals on the frontlines.

Postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics: It was announced that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would be postponed to 2021. It is the first time the games have been postponed and only the fourth time since the 1896 modern Olympics that the games will be not happening as planned (once during the First World War and twice during the Second World War).

In other legal and political news across the globe:

  • France: In the country’s largest anti-trust fine ever, the French anti-trust regulator fined Apple US$1.2 (S$1.7) billion for a deal with two wholesalers to prevent distributors from competing. Earlier this year, the regulator had also fined Apple for allegedly slowing down older versions of iPhones.
  • Israel: Political drama in the country resulted in a unity government between prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and political rival Benny Gantz. Under the deal Mr. Netanyahu will stay as prime minister until September 2021 before Mr. Gantz – who will serve as foreign minister and Knesset speaker in the interim – succeeds the former.
  • Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro and his senior government officials were charged by American authorities with drug trafficking and conspiring with terrorists, even though Mr. Maduro is unlikely to ever be in American custody to face the charges.

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