US Hails Britain For Removing Huawei’s 5G Access

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he departs for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center from the White House on July 11, 2020 in Washington, DC. Joshua Roberts/Getty Images/AFP
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he departs for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center from the White House on July 11, 2020 in Washington, DC. Joshua Roberts/Getty Images/AFP

 

The United States hailed Britain’s decision Tuesday to order the phased removal of China’s Huawei telecoms giant from its 5G network, following months of pressure from Washington.

The British ban, which came despite warnings of retaliation by Beijing, handed US President Donald Trump a victory.

“The reported #UK action reflects a growing international consensus that #Huawei and other untrusted vendors pose a threat to national security, as they remain beholden to the Chinese Communist Party,” White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said on Twitter.

“We look forward to working with the UK, as well as our many other partners and allies, to spur innovation, promote vendor diversity in the #5G supply chain, and ensure 5G security free from dangerous manipulations.”

Amid rising tensions with China, Trump has pushed allies to ban Huawei from their telecommunications networks on the grounds that it poses a national security risk.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially resisted, allowing Huawei to roll out a new high-speed network in Britain in January.

But US sanctions in May blocking Huawei’s access to US chips for the 5G networks brought a change of heart in London.

 

AFP

Hushpuppi Denied Bail In US

Ramoni Igbalode aka Hushpuppi, was arrested by Dubai Police in June for fraud, among other crimes.
Ramoni Igbalode aka Hushpuppi, was arrested by Dubai Police in June for fraud, among other crimes.

 

A suspected international fraudster, Raymond Abbas, aka Ray Hushpuppi, has been denied bail by a court in the US Northern District of Illinois.

The court ruled that the self-acclaimed billionaire Gucci master, who has over 2.5m followers on Instagram, will remain in detention until his trial this year over money laundering allegations.

Hushpuppi will be transported to Los Angeles by the United States Marshall Service and will not be allowed to stay with his girlfriend’s uncle in Homewood, Illinois.

The trial is slated to be held in Los Angeles where the case was filed rather from Chicago where the investigation is being handled.

At the hearing, Hushpuppi’s lawyer denied that his client was a flight risk or a danger to the community as he repeatedly rejected the allegations made against him by the US’ Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).

He is accused of being part of a network that made hundreds of millions of dollars from business email compromise fraud and other scams.

Naya Rivera: Rescuers Recover Body From Lake In Search For US Actress

(FILES) In this file photo a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department boat is seen on Lake Piru as it aids in the effort to find actress Naya Rivera on July 10, 2020 in Piru near Fillmore, California. 
Robyn Beck / AFP

 

Rescuers on Monday found a body at the California lake where “Glee” star Naya Rivera went missing last week.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s office said “recovery is in progress” of the unidentified body after a sixth day of searching for the US actress began again at first light.

Rivera, 33, is believed to have accidentally drowned in Lake Piru after renting a boat at the camping and recreational hotspot with her four-year-old son, authorities said last week.

She vanished on Wednesday afternoon, and a massive search involving divers, patrol boats and helicopters was launched after her son was spotted drifting alone in a boat on the lake.

“Investigators believe Rivera drowned in what appears to be a tragic accident,” the sheriff’s office said last week.

“Rivera’s son told investigators that he and his mother had been swimming in the lake, and he got back in the boat, but Rivera did not,” a statement said.

The lake, an hour’s drive northwest of Los Angeles, has been closed to the public since, with around 100 personnel, including the US Coast Guard and rescuers from neighbouring counties, joining the search.

With less than one foot (30 centimetres) of visibility underwater in daylight, the recovery operation has been “a very slow process” even with the use of sonar equipment, officials said.

A news conference is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Rivera was best known for her role as high school cheerleader Santana Lopez in “Glee.”

She starred for six seasons in the wildly popular musical television series set in a US high school that ended in 2015.

The “Glee” cast has been struck by tragedy before.

Actor Mark Salling took his own life in 2018, weeks before being sentenced for possession of child pornography.

Canadian castmate Cory Monteith died in July 2013 of an overdose of drugs and alcohol.

AFP

COVID-19: Florida Reports 15,000 Cases In A day, A US Record

florida
(FILES) In this file photo a sign with a facemask promoting COVID-19 safety measures is seen in a store in Miami Beach, Florida on June 16, 2020. Eva Marie UZCATEGUI / AFP

 

 

Florida has registered more than 15,000 new cases of coronavirus in a day, easily breaking a record for a US state previously held by California, according to official numbers published Sunday.

The total of 15,299 cases in the hard-hit southeastern state was up sharply, 47 percent above the previous day’s total, the Florida state health department reported.

The state also recorded a one-day toll of 45 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Over five days, Florida has tallied 55,842 new cases.

The previous one-day record for new cases had been held by California, with 11,694 cases registered on Wednesday, and before that by New York, with 11,571 cases reported on April 14.

Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, moved quickly to begin unwinding the state’s lockdown starting May 4, before most other states.

In an unusually direct criticism, top US health official Anthony Fauci said Thursday that Florida had moved out of its lockdown before public-health indicators justified such a move.

DeSantis contested that, saying his decision was based on the best data at the time.

In late June, in a partial reversal, DeSantis ordered bars to be re-closed in an effort to curb the spread of the disease, but infection numbers continued to rise.

But the Florida governor has refused to require mask-wearing in public — a step some other southern governors have now taken — saying that was a matter for local officials to decide.

AFP

As Virus Rages In US, Trump Finally Wears A Mask

US President Donald Trump wears a mask as he visits Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland' on July 11, 2020. ALEX EDELMAN / AFP
US President Donald Trump wears a mask as he visits Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland’ on July 11, 2020. ALEX EDELMAN / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump wore a face mask in public for the first time Saturday, finally yielding to intense pressure to set a public health example as the coronavirus rampages across America.

Trump had on a dark mask featuring the presidential seal as he walked through the corridors of Walter Reed military hospital outside Washington to meet with wounded veterans.

Trump strode past reporters and did not stop to speak to them about what had become a hotly anticipated moment — would he have a change of heart on a practice recommended by the government’s own medical experts, even as he resisted?

“I’ve never been against masks but I do believe they have a time and a place,” Trump said as he left the White House.

News reports this week said aides practically begged the president to relent and wear a mask in public — and let himself be photographed — as coronavirus cases soar in some states and as Trump trails Democrat Joe Biden badly in polls ahead of the November election.

Trump has steadfastly defended his administration’s handling of the pandemic even though the US is the hardest-hit country in the world.

The country has recently seen several days of more than 60,000 new cases, nearly 135,000 people have died and states have been left to figure out on their own how to reopen without a clear and coherent strategy from the White House.

Masks ‘a great thing’

To wear a mask or not has become a sort of political fulcrum for a deeply divided America.

Conservatives who back Trump often refuse to don one on grounds it impinges on their freedom, while progressives tend to back the practice as a show of collective responsibility at a time of a life-or-death crisis.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend people wear masks in public when they cannot engage in social distancing.

But Trump — at political rallies, media briefings and elsewhere — has repeatedly avoided wearing a mask, even after staffers at the White House tested positive for the virus and as more aides, including Vice President Mike Pence, have taken to wearing them.

In May Trump even made fun of Biden when the latter started wearing a mask in public, sharing a tweet that featured an unflattering photograph of the former vice president in a black face covering.

Trump has reportedly told aides that wearing a mask would make him look weak and he could not stomach the idea of letting the media photograph him in one.

Even Saturday as he left the White House to head to Walter Reed, Trump made it sound like he would wear a mask only because he would be in a hospital — not that he had come around and embraced the idea of donning one regularly.

“I think when you’re in a hospital, especially in that particular setting, where you’re talking to a lot of soldiers and people that, in some cases, just got off the operating tables, I think it’s a great thing to wear a mask,” Trump told reporters.

2020 Poll: Biden Unveils $700bn Recovery Plan

In this file photo taken on October 31, 2018, former US Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Bridgeton, Missouri.  SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

Joe Biden unveiled a $700 billion plan Thursday to create jobs and invest in new technologies in an aggressive challenge to President Donald Trump on economic policy, as the warring sides clashed in key election battleground Pennsylvania.

The Democratic challenger presented his sweeping “Build Back Better” proposal, a contrast to Trump’s “America first” agenda, during a speech at a metalworks plant in a swing state critical to either candidate’s victory in November.

Vice President Mike Pence was simultaneously barnstorming Pennsylvania, defending his boss’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and assuring voters that Trump was best qualified to revive the sputtering economy.

Biden’s manufacturing and innovation plan aims to bring back positions lost during the coronavirus pandemic, and create more than five million new jobs by investing in domestic production and research and shrinking foreign supply chains.

The multi-pronged approach also tightens “Buy America” guidelines, promotes new tax rules including hiking the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, and expands union access to empower American workers.

“That’s what my plan is, to build back better,” Biden told ironworkers after touring their 101-year-old factory near Scranton, the blue-collar city where the former vice president grew up.

The goal, he said, is “to sharpen America’s competitive edge” in new industries like battery technology, artificial intelligence, biotechnologies and clean energy. “That’s the future.”

Biden said he rejects the “defeatist view” that automation and globalization will sap well-paid US jobs.

“American manufacturing was the functioning arsenal of democracy in World War II, and has to be part of the engine of new prosperity in America now,” he said.

Biden’s plan to protect American workers underscores a recognition that, despite Trump’s poor job approval numbers, voters still see him as stronger than Biden on handling the economy.

But Biden drew a sharp contrast with his billionaire rival, highlighting his working-class upbringing and even making a side-trip to his old Scranton neighborhood.

Trump won in 2016 largely on the promise of bringing back lost manufacturing jobs.

Biden accused him of turning his back on the working class.

“Trump has simply given up,” Biden said, adding that American families are “paying the price for this administration’s incompetence.”

While the president repeatedly invokes American business as a leading force in economic revival, Biden’s plan relies on the federal government to “bolster American industrial and technological strength.”

It proposes a $400 billion investment in domestic product procurement, and $300 billion for research and development as well as breakthrough technologies including reusable energy and electric vehicles.

“This will be a mobilization of R&D and procurement investment in ways not seen since the Great Depression and World War II,” Biden said.

– Administration ‘incompetence’ –

Pence’s arrival in state signaled the White House’s all-out fight for Pennsylvania, which flipped to Trump in 2016 but now leans towards Biden.

“I know, not far from here Joe Biden is at another company, talking about his plans for the economy going forward. And I think the choice has never been clearer for the American people,” Pence told a roundtable in the town of Malvern.

Later in Philadelphia at a Fraternal Order of Police rally, he attacked “radical” leftists for “trying to smear police officers.”

The remark reflected the intense debates over racial injustice and policing that have marked coast-to-coast protests following the police killing of African-American man George Floyd.

Trump’s team also accused Biden of aligning with his progressive former campaign rival Bernie Sanders to unveil joint policy proposals Wednesday, including ambitious climate change mandates, that would plunge the country “into economic catastrophe.”

Biden, meanwhile, savaged Trump for being woefully unprepared to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 133,000 Americans, and ignoring the plight of working-class families.

“He’s exactly the wrong person to lead in this moment,” Biden said.

Biden holds a sizeable 8.8 percent lead over Trump nationally, according to a RealClearPolitics poll aggregate.

The Democrat also leads in swing states that Trump won in 2016, including Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

AFP

Another 1.3m Workers File For Jobless Benefits In US

US-workers

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 19, 2020, hundreds of unemployed Kentucky residents wait in long lines outside the Kentucky Career Center for help with their unemployment claims in Frankfort, Kentucky.  John Sommers II / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

A spike in coronavirus cases in the United States has forced some states to again close bars and restaurants, but the longer-term effect on jobs is uncertain, with new claims for unemployment benefits dropping again last week.

Another 1.3 million US workers filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending July 4, the Labor Department reported Thursday — down 99,000 from the week before.

That continues the slowdown in the pace of layoffs as the world’s largest economy gradually reopens and workers are recalled to their jobs.

But the level remains far higher than any pre-pandemic week. In the same week of 2019, only 211,000 people filed initial claims for jobless benefits.

The decline in the latest week slowed the four-week moving average to 1.44 million, the Labor Department reported, while 18 million remained on the jobless rolls through the week ended June 27.

“The labor market has been improving, but the impacts from the virus resurgence could slow that progress,” economist Joel Naroff said in a note.

With cases spiking in a number of states including Florida, Texas and California, governors have reimposed some lockdown measures or suspended their reopening protocols.

President Donald Trump, who is counting on a strong economy to help in his tough reelection bid in November, has cheered the recent signs of recovery — and minimized the resurgence in cases.

Economists and the Congressional Budget Office nevertheless warn that it will take years for employment to return to pre-pandemic levels.

And the US could suffer a second wave of layoffs as more states see spiking case counts, and once expanded jobless benefits expire.

“Filings remain high and are declining at a stubbornly slow pace,” said Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics.

“We could see upward pressure in coming weeks in response to a surge in virus cases and related closures of businesses.”

The unemployment rate in June dropped to 11.1 percent as 4.8 million jobs were added, with huge gains in the leisure and hospitality sector, which suffered the biggest blows from COVID-19 restrictions on travel and restaurants.

Trump says the “crisis is being handled” and the economy is “roaring back.”

– ‘Hotspots’ –

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin acknowledged the new virus “hotspots” in the country on Thursday, but overall offered an upbeat assessment.

“We’ll deal with those hotspots. People are beginning to learn how to be able to work in this environment,” Mnuchin told CNBC.

“Certain businesses have recovered very effectively. Certain businesses will take longer,” he added, naming the airline and hospitality industries as ones that will “need more help.”

Oxford Economics noted that the number of people getting unemployment benefits “is nearly three times the Great Recession peak.”

“It’s now evident that the economy is entering Q3 with much less momentum than previously anticipated. A mismanaged health crisis across many states means short-term gains will transform into medium-term sluggishness.”

AFP

US Invites China To Arms Control Talks

File: China’s President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump. Photo: Nicolas ASFOURI / POOL / AFP

 

 

The United States on Thursday again invited China to talks on arms control, saying it saw an opening with Beijing on three-way negotiations with Russia despite intense disagreements.

“The United States welcomes China’s commitment to engage in arms control negotiations. As such, prudent next steps will need to include face-to-face meetings between the United States and China,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

President Donald Trump’s administration has been demanding that a rising China take part in talks on a successor to the New START treaty, which caps the nuclear warheads of Cold War-era superpowers the United States and Russia.

China did not join initial US-Russia talks last month in Vienna on the treaty, which expires in February.

But China on Wednesday said it was willing to participate in arms control negotiations with the United States — with the major caveat that Washington reduce its arsenal to the much smaller size of Beijing.

Fu Cong, director general of the Department of Arms Control at China’s foreign ministry, charged that the US stance was “nothing but a ploy” to let Washington leave New START and have a free hand in ramping up its nuclear program.

The United States nonetheless saw the glass as half-full and seized on the statement, saying that Marshall Billingslea, the US negotiator, would invite China to talks to follow up.

“We will all bring different perspectives and objectives to the negotiating table and will surely have disagreements,” Ortagus said.

“But it is time for dialogue and diplomacy between the three biggest nuclear weapons powers on how to prevent a new arms race.”

– Russia doubts China role –

In Vienna, the United States deplored the Chinese absence and released a photo of the three nations’ flags in an empty room — infuriating Beijing, which called the photo a stunt as it had never agreed to participate.

Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the United States, said Wednesday it remained “crystal clear” that China was not ready to participate — and that Moscow, while not opposed to Beijing’s role, would not join US pressure to bring in the Asian power.

“We are ready for any development of the situation with the New START. We are not going to save it at any cost, especially the one that Americans insist upon,” he said at the Center for the National Interest.

He renewed Russia’s call for US-allied nuclear powers France and Britain to join talks if China enters — and questioned the ultimate effects if Beijing is part of New START.

If the United States and Russia do not reduce their arsenals, a future treaty could effectively condone China ramping up its arsenal to the extent of the other two nations, he said.

“A question to those guys who are in favor to invite China — whether the Russian Federation and the United States are ready to decrease their quantity of warheads and missiles at the level China has,” he asked.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Russia possesses 6,375 nuclear warheads, including those that are not deployed, and the United States has 5,800.

China was a distant third with 320 warheads.

The Trump administration says that China nonetheless is quickly expanding its military with no requirements of transparency, belying its desire to be treated as a major power.

Russia, as well as some US Democrats, have called for a simple extension of New START. The treaty expires February 5, meaning the decision could ultimately fall on Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, if Trump loses re-election.

AFP

US Supreme Court Orders Trump To Hand Over Financial Records To Prosecutors

U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board in the East Room of the White House on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP
U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board in the East Room of the White House on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

 

The US Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Donald Trump must hand over financial records to prosecutors in New York.

In a 7-2 ruling, the court said the president does not have absolute immunity from criminal investigation.

The nation’s highest court also issued a ruling in a separate case concerning a request by Democratic-led congressional committees for Trump’s tax returns and financial records.

In a 7-2 ruling and a partial victory for Trump, the court sent the congressional case back to a lower court for further consideration.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat, has asked for eight years of the president’s financial records in connection with an alleged “hush money” payment made to porn actress and former Playboy model Stormy Daniels.

Trump’s attorneys had claimed the president was immune from criminal investigation — a claim rejected by the court.

“Two hundred years ago, a great jurist of our Court established that no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding,” the court said. “We reaffirm that principle today.”

Vance called the ruling “a tremendous victory for our nation’s system of justice and its founding principle that no one – not even a president – is above the law.

“Our investigation, which was delayed for almost a year by this lawsuit, will resume, guided as always by the grand jury’s solemn obligation to follow the law and the facts, wherever they may lead,” Vance said.

 

AFP

US Formally Starts To Withdraw From WHO

US President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 14, 2020, in Washington, DC.
MANDEL NGAN / AF

 

President Donald Trump has formally started the withdrawal of the United States from the World Health Organization, making good on threats over the UN body’s response to the coronavirus, officials said Tuesday.

The United States is the largest financial contributor to the WHO — which leads the fight on global maladies from polio to measles to mental health — but it has increasingly been in Trump’s crosshairs as the coronavirus takes a heavy toll.

After threatening to suspend the $400 million in annual US contributions and then announcing a withdrawal, Trump has formally informed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that he has started the US pullout, a State Department spokesperson said.

The withdrawal is effective in one year — July 6, 2021 — and Joe Biden, Trump’s presumptive Democratic opponent, is virtually certain to stop it and stay in the WHO if he defeats Trump in the November election.

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for Guterres, confirmed that the United States gave its notice.

Under conditions set when the United States entered the World Health Organization in 1948, Washington has to give a one-year notice to pull out — and meet its remaining assessed financial obligations, Dujarric said.

“To call Trump’s response to COVID chaotic and incoherent doesn’t do it justice,” said Senator Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, who said that Congress was notified.

“This won’t protect American lives or interests — it leaves Americans sick & America alone,” he said.

Trump has accused the World Health Organization of bias toward China, saying it ignored early signs of human-to-human transmission of the deadly virus.

While many public health advocates share some criticism of the WHO, they question what other powers the world body had other than to work with China, where COVID-19 was first detected late last year.

Critics say Trump is seeking to deflect criticism from his own handling of the pandemic in the United States, which has suffered by far the highest death toll of any nation.

 

AFP

US Looking At Banning TikTok, Other Chinese Apps – Pompeo

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a briefing at the State Department on February 5, 2020 in Washington, DC. Secretary Pompeo spoke on several topics including the coronavirus and the recent truce with the Taliban. Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the US is “looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok, over allegations Beijing is using them to spy on users.

India has already barred the wildly popular TikTok app over national security and privacy concerns while other countries are reportedly mulling similar measures.

Asked on Monday by Fox News’s Laura Ingraham if the US should consider blocking the apps — “especially Tik Tok” — the country’s top diplomat said the Trump administration was “taking this very seriously; we are certainly looking at it.”

Pompeo said the US had been working for a “long time” on the “problems” of Chinese technology in infrastructure and was “making real progress.”

“With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right too,” he said.

“I don’t want to get out in front of the president, but it’s something we are looking at.”

Pompeo earlier lashed out at what he called China’s “Orwellian” moves to censor activists, schools and libraries in Hong Kong under a sweeping new security law.

Authorities in the financial hub have ordered schools to remove books for review under the law, which has criminalized certain opinions such as calls for independence or more autonomy.

Libraries in Hong Kong said they were pulling titles written by a handful of pro-democracy activists.

“The Chinese Communist Party’s destruction of free Hong Kong continues,” Pompeo said in a sharply worded statement.

“With the ink barely dry on the repressive National Security Law, local authorities — in an Orwellian move — have now established a central government national security office, started removing books critical of the CCP from library shelves, banned political slogans, and are now requiring schools to enforce censorship,” he said.

Pompeo condemned what he called the “latest assaults on the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.”

“Until now, Hong Kong flourished because it allowed free thinking and free speech, under an independent rule of law. No more,” he said.

Beijing has faced a groundswell of criticism from primarily Western nations over its decision to impose the security law, which outlaws acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces.

US Vice President Mike Pence told CNBC last week that the law was a “betrayal” and “unacceptable to freedom-loving people around the world.”

Last week the US Congress passed tough new sanctions targeting banks involved in violating Hong Kong’s autonomy.

The act would punish banks — including by blocking loans from US institutions — if they conduct “significant transactions” with officials who violate the city’s autonomy.

President Donald Trump must sign the legislation for it to take effect.

AFP

India Becomes Third Worst-Hit Country By COVID-19 As Cases Continue To Rise In US

A plasma donor (C) is seen at the newly inaugurated plasma bank of the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) donating plasma for the treatment of patients suffering from the COVID-19 coronavirus, in New Delhi on July 2, 2020. Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP
A plasma donor (C) is seen at the newly inaugurated plasma bank of the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) donating plasma for the treatment of patients suffering from the COVID-19 coronavirus, in New Delhi on July 2, 2020. Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP

 

India on Monday became the third-highest coronavirus caseload in the world, as officials warned hospitals in the United States were in danger of being overwhelmed by a surge in infections.

Despite signs of progress in parts of Europe — where the Louvre in Paris will reopen on Monday — total global infections are fast approaching 11.5 million, with more than 533,000 deaths.

The Indian government — like many around the world — has gradually lifted virus restrictions to help the battered economy, but the number of cases has continued to climb, with 24,000 reported in 24 hours to take the total to nearly 700,000 on Monday.

India’s major cities including New Delhi and Mumbai are the hardest-hit, and critics say too few tests are being conducted and that many COVID-19 infections are likely to go undiagnosed.

The surge has forced authorities in India to convert hotels, wedding halls, a spiritual centre and even railway coaches to help provide care to coronavirus patients.

And in Australia, where the virus outbreak had largely been brought under control, a new spike in cases in Melbourne forced authorities to effectively seal off the state of Victoria from the rest of the country.

There was an illustration of the lingering threat of the virus in Fiji, with the Pacific nation confirming Monday its 78-day run without any cases had ended with a 66-year-old man testing positive.

US struggling

The US — the worst-hit nation — has struggled to respond to the devastation wrought by the virus, with its national death toll rising to nearly 130,000 out of 2.8 million confirmed cases, and many states hit by increasing infections after lockdowns were eased.

Hospital beds are full in parts of Texas, while calls for fresh stay-at-home orders are growing. Some mayors have said their cities reopened too early, as President Donald Trump tried to downplay the disease that has gripped much of the country.

The annual July 4 holiday weekend was overshadowed by growing evidence that the fractured pandemic response has exacted a heavy price across the south and west of the country, after previous hotspots such as New York emerged from the worst of the virus.

“Our hospitals here in Harris County, Houston, and 33 other cities… they’re into surge capacities. So their operational beds are taken up,” said Lina Hidalgo, chief executive of Texas’s Harris County, which includes Houston.

“Restaurants are still open. Indoor events can take place no matter the size,” she told ABC. “What we need right now is to do what works, which is a stay-home order.”

Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin, Texas, also expressed concern that the healthcare system could buckle as the disease spreads rapidly.

“If we don’t change the trajectory, then I am within two weeks of having our hospitals overrun. And in our ICUs, I could be 10 days away from that,” he told CNN.

The US is now recording 40,000 new cases a day, with a peak of 57,000 on Friday alone.

Military medics

In South Africa, dozens of military medics were deployed on Sunday after a surge in infections in East Cape province.

Like India, South Africa imposed some of the strictest stay-at-home measures in the world in late March in a bid to limit the spread of COVID-19, but the number of infections is rising daily as lockdown rules are gradually eased.

Iran announced 163 new deaths, the country’s highest official one-day toll since the outbreak began, while Morocco discovered an outbreak in a fish-canning factory, with 300,000 inhabitants placed under lockdown.

The Louvre, the world’s most visited museum, will reopen on Monday with nearly a third of its galleries shut and crowding banned around the “Mona Lisa” and other masterpieces.

Latin America’s grim virus battle continued, with Chile passing 10,000 deaths on Sunday, while Mexico has had 30,000 fatalities.

 

AFP