UK front pages, Wednesday 13 May
It has taken some time to gel, but something resembling a coherent pandemic shock doctrine is beginning to emerge. Call it the Screen New Deal. Far more hi-tech than anything we have seen during previous disasters, the future that is being rushed into being as the bodies still pile up treats our past weeks of physical isolation not as a painful necessity to save lives, but as a living laboratory for a permanent – and highly profitable – no-touch future.
This is a future in which, for the privileged, almost everything is home delivered, either virtually via streaming and cloud technology, or physically via driverless vehicle or drone, then screen “shared” on a mediated platform. It’s a future that employs far fewer teachers, doctors and drivers. It accepts no cash or credit cards (under guise of virus control), and has skeletal mass transit and far less live art. It’s a future that claims to be run on “artificial intelligence”, but is actually held together by tens of millions of anonymous workers tucked away in warehouses, data centres, content-moderation mills, electronic sweatshops, lithium mines, industrial farms, meat-processing plants and prisons, where they are left unprotected from disease and hyper-exploitation. It’s a future in which our every move, our every word, our every relationship is trackable, traceable and data-mineable by unprecedented collaborations between government and tech giants.
- Confirmed deaths worldwide pass 290,000. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, at least 4,261,955 people around the world are known to have contracted the virus, while at least 291,964 have died since the pandemic began. The numbers, which are based on official and media reports, are likely to be significant underestimates due to suspected underreporting and differing recording and testing regimes.
- More than 147,000 Americans could die by early August – study. A newly revised coronavirus mortality model predicts more than 147,000 Americans will die from Covid-19 by early August, up nearly 10,000 from the last projection, as restrictions for curbing the pandemic are increasingly relaxed, researchers said on Tuesday. The current US death toll stands at 82,376.
- Brazil reports record deaths. Brazil reported a record 881 Covid-19 deaths in 24 hours on Tuesday, its health ministry said, taking its total to 12,400 and making it the world’s sixth worst-affected country in terms of deaths, according to John Hopkins University figures. Its total of 177,589 confirmed cases is the world’s seventh-highest.
- US Senate threatens sanctions on China over Covid-19 accounting. US Republican senators proposed legislation Tuesday that would empower President Donald Trump to slap sanctions on China if Beijing does not give a “full accounting” for the coronavirus outbreak. The legislation will give Trump 60 days to certify to Congress that China has provided a full accounting on the Covid-19 outbreak to an investigation that could be led by the United States and its allies, or a United Nations body like the World Health Organization.
- Wuhan prepares to test 11 million residents. The Chinese city of Wuhan, the original centre of the pandemic, plans to test all 11 million residents for coronavirus, according to local media. It was widely believed that this will be done within 10 days. However, Chinese media reports have given some more clarity today, suggesting that while there is a citywide testing plan, the time limit is for each region on staggered start times.
- Twitter announces employees will be allowed to work from home ‘forever’. Twitter will allow its employees to work from home “forever”, chief executive officer Jack Dorsey said in a company-wide email Tuesday. Twitter has “strongly encouraged” working from home since 2 March and mandated employees to work from home starting 11 March. Those who want to return to the office will probably need to wait until at least September.
- India PM announces US$270bn virus economic package. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a stimulus package for labourers and small businesses on Tuesday worth about 10% of India’s GDP. The package came as the country was set to mark its 50th day in the world’s biggest lockdown as the number of virus cases topped 70,000 with 2,200 deaths.
- Pence avoiding Trump after aide’s positive test. The US vice-president, Mike Pence, is keeping his distance from Donald Trump after the former’s press secretary tested positive, the White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany has confirmed.
- Fauci warns of serious consequences if US states reopen early. Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has warned of serious consequences if US states reopen before building capacity to deal with new Covid-19 outbreaks.
- French schools reopen. Thousands of schools have reopened throughout France as the government eased its lockdown rules, despite fears of a second waves of infections, Agence France-Presse reports.
Ramadan is a quiet affair in Yemen this year. “People are very afraid,” said Ahmed, an aid worker in the Houthi rebel-controlled capital, Sana’a, who asked for his last name to be withheld. “There’s no money, there’s no healthcare and now you can’t even celebrate iftar with family because of the coronavirus.”
Yemen, where five years of war have already created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, is uniquely vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite a unilateral ceasefire announced by Saudi Arabia last month, there has been an uptick in fighting between the Houthis and the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition fighting on behalf of Yemen’s government, as well as renewed hostilities between the coalition and separatist forces in the country’s south.
The fresh violence, combined with humanitarian funding shortfalls and cuts, means Covid-19 could not have arrived at a worse time:
The risk of an uneven economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis poses an “existential threat” to the European Union, one of its most senior economic policymakers has said.
Paolo Gentiloni, a former Italian prime minister and now the EU’s economy commissioner, said the bloc also had a “historic opportunity” as it charts a plan to rescue Europe’s economy.
In an interview a few days after the commission said Europe had entered “the deepest economic recession in its history”, Gentiloni said the EU needed a “sound recovery plan” to avoid the risks of economic division. Shuttered shops and factories, grounded planes and stay-at-home consumers as a result of lockdown restrictions mean the EU economy is expected to shrink by 7.5% in 2020, a deeper fall than the 2009 financial crisis.
Chinese authorities are preparing to test all 11 million residents of Wuhan, after a small outbreak in the city earlier this week. It’s been widely believed that this will be done within 10 days - an extraordinary undertaking for a city of 11 million people.
However, Chinese media reports have given some more clarity today, suggesting that while there is a citywide testing plan, the time limit is for each region on staggered start times.
“Each district shall make arrangements for nucleic acid screening plan for all members within 10 days,” said a Wuhan government notice.
Caixin Global reported some districts will start this week, and some next.The article cited Wuhan disease control officials saying the testing will be done by third party companies and some hospital and disease control employees.
However, it said the rate of testing couldn’t see more than 100,000 a day.
On Tuesday Yicai news said Wuchang district was to be screened between 13 May and 20 May, but with the intention of finishing by the 17 may to allow three days “to find out and fill in the gaps”.
A resident of Jianghan, once the worst-hit district of Wuhan, told media he’d received a registration form on Tuesday for himself and his family to either report having been tested or register for testing. Peng Zhiyong, director of the intensive care unit at the Wuhan University’s Zhongnan Hospital, told the Global Times that he hadn’t received any details of the testing plan as of Tuesday.