April 14 roundup: The COVID-19 tale of two countries

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At the end of March, China announced that more than 98 per cent of major industrial companies have resumed operations and that nearly 90 per cent of their workers are back on their jobs. The lockdown on Wuhan – where the coronavirus first emerged – was later ended by Chinese officials. This also came as China reported its first day since January with no deaths.

On the other hand, in the United States – which now leads the world both in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths – president Donald Trump extended his administration’s social-distancing guidelines for another 30 days until the end of April. And in a striking change in tone, he also warned that the virus could claim hundreds of thousands of lives, even with partial lockdowns and social-distancing measures in place. In addition, the coronavirus-induced economic shutdown has led to unprecedented weekly surges of jobless claims.

In other COVID-19 related news: The International Monetary Fund said the global economy has entered a recession which could be worse than the one in 2009. And in Hungary, the country’s parliament approved a bill to give the government of prime minister Viktor Orbán extraordinary powers but did not set an end date for them.

And in non-COVID-19 news:

  • The Netherlands: Thieves stole the Vincent van Gogh painting, “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring”, from a museum near Amsterdam, which had been closed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Saudi Arabia: A unilateral ceasefire was declared in Yemen, marking an unprecedented break in a five-year conflict and humanitarian crisis.
  • United Kingdom: Moderate lawyer Keir Starmer was elected as leader of the opposition Labour Party – which suffered its worst electoral defeat in 85 years in December last year – replacing outgoing leader Jeremy Corbyn.
  • On the other side of the political aisle, prime minister Boris Johnson, who has the coronavirus, was admitted into intensive care after his condition worsened. He was later discharged from the hospital.
  • United States: Senator Bernie Sanders ended his 2020 presidential campaign, clearing former vice-president Joe Biden’s path to the Democratic presidential nomination.

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