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US body recommends India be designated for religious freedom violations

WASHINGTON, April 28: A US commission mandated to monitor religious freedoms around the world on Tuesday recommended the Trump administration should add India to a list of countries seen by the US as systematic and egregious violators and sanction Indian government agencies and officials responsible for it.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) cited the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which fast-tracks Indian citizenship for non-Muslim refugees fleeing persecution, and “nationwide campaigns of harassment and violence against religious minorities” as its reasons.

In its 2020 annual report released Tuesday, the commission recommended that the US government (technically, the state government) should designate India a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC), for “engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations”. India was on the commission’s for Tier 2 list of countries to be watched in 2019.

This is the first time since 2004 that USCIRF recommends #India as a Country of Particular Concern #USCIRFAnnualReport2020

The commission also recommended that the US government should impose targeted sanctions against Indian government agencies and officials responsible for religious freedom violations, freeze their assets in the United States and ban them from entering the country.

It separately recommended to US congress to continue to hold hearings on the state of religious freedoms in India.

It could not be immediately ascertained if the recommendation were binding and whether the Trump administration would indeed accept those meant for the the US government. It had ignored a previous recommendation by the commission in December to sanction Union home minister Amit Shah if the CAA was enacted.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act in #India “potentially exposes millions of Muslims to detention, deportation, and statelessness when the government completes its planned nationwide National Register of Citizens” USCIRF Vice Chair @nadinemaenza #USCIRFAnnualReport2020

India had dismissed the USCIRF’s December recommendations as “guided only by its prejudices and biases” and has in the past denied its officials entry into the country.

The commission held a hearing on India’s citizenship laws and changes and the state of religious freedom in March at which the CAA and a proposed National Register of Citizens had been criticized by expert witnesses as aimed as India’s Muslim minorities.

USCIRF Chair @tperkins discusses #India saying "We are seeing impunity for violence by non-state actors committed against religious minorities.” #USCIRFAnnualReport2020

The commission recommended re-designating Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as CPC and adding to it along with India, Nigeria, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam. It also sought for Cuba, Nicaragua, Sudan, and Uzbekistan to be kept on the next tier of special watch list and add 11 more: Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Central African Republic (CAR), Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, and Turkey.

IOC USA regrets commualisation of Palghar killings

By Deepak Arora

NEW YORK, April 25: The Indian Overseas Congress (IOC, USA) strongly condemns the attack on the two monks in Palghar, Maharashtra. "The violence of all forms ought to be condemned, and these vile attacks on the monks are reprehensible," said Mohinder Singh Gilzian, President of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA.

"it is a sad commentary that during the height of this corona virus pandemic, we are unable to come together as one nation to fight this invisible enemy but rather coloring every incident through the communal angle," said George Abraham, vice-chairman of the IOC, USA.

"It is incumbent upon the law enforcement officials to conduct an impartial inquiry into these attacks and bring out the truth for the sake of peace and harmony within the community and mete out justice for the deceased," Abraham added.

"The IOC, USA, has always condemned all acts of violence and actions that have undermined the peace and harmony for the people of India and it is time that we take lessons from our great leaders from the past like Mahama Gandhi who has inspired us with messages of non-violence, tolerance and hope," said Rajender Dichpally, General Secretary of the IOC, USA.

IOC USA, has urged the government of Maharashtra to bring the culprits of this heinous attack and murder of the monks to justice and ensure that there is no communal hatred being spread by unruly elements due to this incident while appealing for peace and calm in the region. We hope that the authorities will bring the culprits to justice and maintain law and order in the state.

More than 2,700 dead in US from coronavirus in last 24 hours

NEW YORK, April 22: The coronavirus death toll in the United States -- the country with the most fatalities in the pandemic -- has climbed by 2,751 in the past 24 hours, the latest tally from Johns Hopkins University showed Tuesday.

The US has recorded more than 800,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to the Baltimore-based university, with 44,845 deaths.

Nearly 40,000 new cases were reported between Monday at 8:30pm local time, and Tuesday at the same time, the university.

China Could Face Consequences If 'Knowingly Responsible' For Virus: Trump

WASHINGTON, April 18: US President Donald Trump warned on Saturday that China could face consequences if it was "knowingly responsible" for the coronavirus pandemic.

"It could have been stopped in China before it started and it wasn't," Trump told reporters at a White House briefing. "And now the whole world is suffering because of it."

Trump was asked whether China should suffer consequences over the pandemic which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December and has left more than 157,000 people dead around the world.

"If they were knowingly responsible, certainly," he said. "If it was a mistake, a mistake is a mistake.

"But if they were knowingly responsible, yeah, then there should be consequences," Trump said.

"Was it a mistake that got out of control or was it done deliberately?" he asked. "That's a big difference between those two.

"In either event they should have let us go in," he said. "We asked to go in early. And they didn't want us in. I think they knew it was something bad and they were embarrassed."

"They said they're doing an investigation," the president continued. "So let's see what happens with their investigation. But we're doing investigations also."

The Trump administration has said it doesn't rule out that the novel coronavirus was spread -- accidentally -- from a laboratory researching bats in Wuhan.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian -- who previously alleged that the US military may have brought the virus into China -- has rejected US media reports on the subject and said there is "no scientific basis."

Trump also cast doubt on official Chinese figures showing the country has suffered just 0.33 deaths per 100,000 people.

"The number's impossible," he said. "It's an impossible number to hit."

The United States, according to a chart displayed at the briefing, has had 11.24 deaths per 100,000 people while France has had 27.92 and Spain 42.81.

Did Coronavirus Originate In A Chinese Lab?

By Harry J. Kazianis

WASHINGTON, April 17: It’s been billed as a right-wing nut-job conspiracy theory: the idea that the coronavirus accidentally escaped from a virology facility in Wuhan, China. Originally the virus was thought to have originated in Wuhan at a so-called wet market.

In fact, those who have dared to discuss such a possibility—a seemingly logical one, as not just one but two virology centers are in the Wuhan area—such as Senator Tom Cotton and Fox News Host Tucker Carlson, have been ridiculed in just about every way imaginable.

But the idea might not end up being such a grassy knoll after all. A growing body of evidence, some circumstantial, some more concrete, suggests that at the very least, the theory warrants an investigation.

Such a probe, in many respects, has already been done, and could be built upon to either lend credibility to the idea of a viral release in Wuhan or debunk it altogether. The Epoch Times last week released a video documentary exploring the potential origins of COVID-19. The report is impressive in its scope, scale, and overall depth. It reveals that a large amount of research was done on the coronavirus at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The report uncovers large volumes of academic papers that were authored by researchers in Wuhan on the potential of the coronavirus passing from animals to humans and how various other scientists were concerned about the impact such research could have in the future. The Epoch Times also details claims on specific research on various new strands of coronavirus that it claims were actually created in Wuhan labs, allegedly pieced together from HIV and SARS virus materials that make it deadly to humans, as it can easily infect tissue. It’s a bombshell if it can be corroborated.

However, while the reporting done in The Epoch Times seems quite solid to a layman such as myself, there are reasons to be skeptical. While the documentary does include expert commentary by TAC contributor Gordon Chang and former senior Trump administration official Robert Spalding, as well as analysis by credible scientists, The Epoch Times has a clear bias against China, as its founders are part of the Falun Gong movement. Also, midway through the documentary, the work takes a strange turn that makes it feel like an attack ad on China and not solid reported material.

That’s not to say that their reporting should be dismissed. Rather it should be followed up on and serve as the basis for additional reporting that can either corroborate or debunk it.

There are other more mainstream outlets that have picked up the scent, such as The Washington Post. According to a scoop by the Post’s Josh Rogin, U.S. officials visited virology facilities in Wuhan and “sent two official warnings back to Washington about inadequate safety at the lab, which was conducting risky studies on coronaviruses from bats.” Rogin believed that “the cables have fueled discussions inside the U.S. government about whether this or another Wuhan lab was the source of the virus—even though conclusive proof has yet to emerge.”

While Rogin clearly wants to be cautious in his reporting, he does note, “The cables warned about safety and management weaknesses at the WIV lab and proposed more attention and help. The first cable, which I obtained, also warns that the lab’s work on bat coronaviruses and their potential human transmission represented a risk of a new SARS-like pandemic.”

Then there are the actions of the Chinese government, which seem almost designed to fuel the fire. A new mandate passed by Beijing declares that any and all research papers on the origins of COVID-19 will be subjected to additional vetting before they can be published and must be approved by the central government. That’s according to what now appear to be deleted posts by the Chinese government.

All of this led me to pick up on the scent myself. My own contacts at the White House, while also careful, seem to be open to the idea that a Chinese manufactured virus could have escaped into the wild. Still, White House officials who spoke to me on condition of anonymity were quick to add that they would have to assume such a release was a mistake and not intentional.

“Look, is it possible China did, in fact, have an accidental release of a coronavirus that they were doing research on? Yes. Can we prove it right now definitely? No,” explained one official. “However, we can’t ignore the large body of evidence that points to this growing possibility. And at some point, we will have to hold China accountable. But now is not the time. You put the arsonist on trial after the fire is over—not when you are trying to put it out.”

@ Harry J. Kazianis serves as a senior director at the Center for the National Interest.

White House says G7 leaders call for ‘thorough review and reform’ at WHO

WASHINGTON, April 16: The White House said G7 countries expressed support Thursday for President Donald Trump’s fierce criticism of the World Health Organization, calling for a “thorough review and reform” at the UN body.

The WHO was discussed during a videoconference that Trump hosted with other G7 leaders -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

The US president accuses the WHO of covering up the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in China and doing Beijing’s bidding. He has threatened to cut US funding, the largest portion of the organization’s revenue.

According to the White House, other G7 leaders were sympathetic to his stand.

“The leaders recognized that the G7 nations annually contribute more than a billion dollars to the World Health Organization (WHO), and much of the conversation centered on the lack of transparency and chronic mismanagement of the pandemic by the WHO,” the White House said in a statement.

“The leaders called for a thorough review and reform process.”

New York extends shutdown order to May 15

NEW YORK, April 16: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo extended the state’s shutdown order Thursday until May 15, citing data showing conditions were improving but insisting on the need to maintain vigilance.

The governor pointed to falling rates of hospitalization and patients admitted to intensive care, but said infection rates would have to decrease significantly before the economy could begin re-opening.

“I would like to see that infection rate get down even more,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing, reporting that 606 more people had died in the US Covid-19 epicenter, the lowest daily toll in 10 days.

“I don’t want to project beyond that period,” he said. “One month is a long time.”

The announcement came on the eve of the implementation of a directive forcing New Yorkers to wear face coverings in public places where they cannot stay six feet (1.83 meters) apart.

In a hopeful sign, Cuomo said New York state -- where at least 11,586 people have died from Covid-19 and well over half a million have tested positive -- would donate 100 ventilators each to hard-hit New Jersey and Michigan and 50 to Maryland.

“We understand about sharing resources like we’ve never understood before, and we understand about sharing among states and how good people were to New York when we needed it,” Cuomo said.

 

Obama endorses Biden's 2020 presidential campaign

WASHINGTON, April 15: After staying on the sidelines as a record high number of Democratic candidates fought for the right to take on President Donald Trump at the November 3 election, former U.S. President Barack Obama gave his support to Biden in a video posted online.

“Choosing Joe to be my vice president was one of the best decisions I ever made and he became a close friend. And I believe Joe has all the qualities we need in a president right now,” Obama said in the video.

The endorsement by the first black U.S. president came after Biden's last remaining rival in the Democratic nominating race, Senator Bernie Sanders, backed Biden on Monday.

Obama had publicly remained neutral as Biden, who served him for eight years in the White House, at first struggled to impose himself on the 2020 Democratic race then swept to victory in a series of primaries in March.

Obama “is a uniting partner in helping bridge this party after an intense primary and paving the road ahead,” said Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright.

Three years after they departed the White House, Obama and his wife Michelle remain two of the most beloved figures in the Democratic Party. Trump won in 2016 vowing to reverse many of the two-term president's policies.

Obama’s popularity within the Democratic Party could bolster Biden, particularly among demographic groups with which he has struggled. A CNN poll released when Obama left office showed more than 70% of voters under the age of 34 viewed him favorably as did 90% of self-described liberals.

“Because he is so popular and the comparison between President Trump and Barack Obama is so stark, it will be such a unifying, motivating factor,” said Terry McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor and longtime party official.

The former president's support also gives Biden access to a network of donors and other allies, some of whom were initially cool to the former vice president.

“If in fact I win, get ready to suit up,” Biden told a group of former Obama officials at a fundraiser in Washington in November.

US hits record 2,228 deaths in past 24 hours

WASHINGTON, April 15: The United States recorded 2,228 deaths related to the coronavirus pandemic over the past 24 hours, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University as of 8:30 pm Tuesday (0030 GMT Wednesday).

The number of fatalities was a sharp increase after two days in decline.

The outbreak has now claimed the lives of at least 25,757 people in the US, the most of any country.

Confirmed cases of coronavirus surpass 2 million worldwide

WASHINGTON, April 14: New York’s coronavirus death toll topped 10,000 even as the lack of fresh hot spots in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world yielded a ray of optimism and fueled discussions Monday about how some places might begin to reopen.

The brunt of the disease has been felt most heavily in New York, Italy, France, Spain and the United Kingdom, but grim projections of a virus that would spread with equal ferocity to other corners of America and the world have not yet materialized after more than a month of measures meant to blunt its impact. Even so, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 2 million on Monday.

The death toll in populous states such as Florida and Pennsylvania was on par with some individual counties outside New York City. Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city and a hub for immigrant communities and business travelers in the energy industry, has been largely spared compared to other parts of the U.S. As Colorado deaths surpassed 300 on Monday, Gov. Jared Polis compared that figure to New York’s thousands and called it “a tragic indication of our success in Colorado.”

Officials around the world worried that halting quarantine and social-distancing measures could easily undo the hard-earned progress that those steps have achieved in slowing the spread.

Still, there were signs countries were looking in that direction. Spain permitted some workers to return to their jobs, while a hard-hit region of Italy loosened its lockdown restrictions. Governors on both coasts of the U.S. announced that they would join forces to come up with a coordinated reopening at some point, setting the stage for a potential conflict with President Donald Trump, who asserted that he is the ultimate decision-maker for determining how and when to reopen.

Trump continued those assertions during an afternoon White House briefing on Monday, pushing back against reporters’ questions about whether the president or governors have the authority to ease the restrictions. He said his administration has “a very good relationship” with the governors, but “the federal government has absolute power” in that decision-making process if it chooses to exercise it.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at the briefing that he expects more than 80 million Americans will have tax rebates directly deposited into their bank accounts by Wednesday. Under the program, single filers will receive $1,200 and joint filers $2,400, though it phases out for higher incomes. The rebates are aimed at boosting the economy as the country responds to the coronavirus.

New York saw a few positive signs Monday even as it reached another bleak milestone. It marked the first time in a week that the daily toll dipped below 700. Almost 2,000 people were newly hospitalized with the virus Sunday, though once discharges and deaths are accounted for, the number of people hospitalized has flattened to just under 19,000.

“This virus is very good at what it does. It is a killer,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

In the U.S., about half of the more than 22,000 deaths reported are in the New York metropolitan area. Meanwhile, tracking maps maintained by Johns Hopkins University showed a dense patchwork of coronavirus cases along the Northeast corridor, as well as significant outbreaks corresponding to other major metropolitan areas — though nothing on the scale of what New York has endured.

Houston’s 18 total deaths since the start of the outbreak make up a tiny fraction of the one-day toll in New York City, prompting Mayor Sylvester Turner to say the city was achieving its goal of slowing “the progression of this virus so that our health care delivery system would not be overwhelmed.”

Dr. Sebastian Johnston, a professor of respiratory medicine at Imperial College London, said it appeared that COVID-19 had peaked in much of Europe, including France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the U.K. He was worried the virus might now start to take off in countries across Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia. There’s also concern about Russia.

Hot spots may yet emerge as states lift stay-at-home orders, said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the University of Washington institute that created widely cited projections of virus-related deaths. He pointed to states where the number of COVID-19 cases is still climbing: Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas and Florida.

“Don’t consider relaxing social distancing in the near term,” Murray said he’d advise leaders in those states. “You need to stay the course.”

To date, some U.S. infections have taken off like sparks starting fires, while others have sputtered out. Trevor Bedford, whose lab at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has been tracking the pandemic using the virus’s genetic code, acknowledges it’s a “dice roll” that makes it hard to predict hot spots.

And when restrictions are eased, people will not immediately dive back into their social connections, at least not without precautions, Bedford said.

A study released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, relying on data from mobile devices in New Orleans, New York City, San Francisco and Seattle, suggested that social-distancing policies prompted more people to stay at home in March and might have curbed spread of the virus.

Researchers say people increasingly left their devices, and themselves, at home as cities, states and the federal government adopted increasingly restrictive closures and social distancing policies.

The report “provides some very early indications that these measures might help slow the spread of COVD-19,” the authors said.

In Washington, the Trump administration sought to delay deadlines for the 2020 census because of the outbreak, a move that would push back timetables for releasing data used to draw congressional and legislative districts.

The infection rate remains relatively low in areas of the developing world that have poor or nonexistent health care infrastructure. The rapid spread of the coronavirus beyond cities to more rural areas often depends on travel and social connections, said Dr. Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s emergencies chief.

But he noted that rural areas often have less sophisticated health surveillance systems to pick up potential disease clusters, prompting the question, “Is it that it’s not there or is it that we’re not detecting the disease when it is there?”

In some European countries, officials pointed to positive signs as they began prepping for the reopening of largely shuttered economies and industries.

Italian authorities announced on Monday that there were 3,153 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, approximately a 1.9 percent increase. That brings the country’s overall toll of known cases to nearly 160,000. The day-to-day death toll, 566, however, was up, from the 431 new deaths registered on Sunday.

Italy’s day-to-day increase in infections was one of the lowest in weeks, bolstering a generally downward trend. Slightly eased restrictions were about to take effect in some sectors of the country, such as allowing stores selling necessities for newborns to reopen.

The hard-hit Veneto region, which has been credited with a rapid response to the virus that has helped limit the number of fatalities. is entering a phase the governor, Luca Zaia, termed "lockdown light."

Zaia is allowing residents to go beyond 200 meters (219 yards) from home for physical fitness and permitting open-air markets, under a new ordinance taking effect Tuesday. The ordinance also makes masks or other face coverings mandatory everywhere outside the home.

In hard-hit Spain, workers were permitted to return to some factory and construction jobs as the government looked to restart manufacturing. Retail stores and services were still required to stay closed, and the government required office workers to keep working from home.

Some health experts and politicians argue that it’s premature to ease the lockdown in a nation that has suffered more than 17,750 deaths and reported more than 170,000 infections, second only to the United States’ nearly 683,000 infections.

Health Minister Salvador Illa said Monday that he would proceed with “the utmost caution and prudence ... and always based on scientific evidence.”

New York Death Toll Crosses 10,000-Mark; Governor Cuomo Declares the 'Worst is Over'

NEW YORK, April 13: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared Monday that the "worst is over" in the state's coronavirus pandemic, as he reported that the death toll there had passed 10,000.

Cuomo said lower average hospitalization rates and intubations suggested a "plateauing" of the epidemic and that he was working on a plan to gradually reopen the economy.

"I believe we can now start on the path to normalcy," Cuomo told reporters.

The governor announced that 671 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths in America's hardest-hit state to 10,056.

It was the lowest single-day toll in New York since April 5. The highest of 799 was reported on Thursday of last week.

"The worst is over if we continue to be smart going forward," said Cuomo, adding that he would speak to neighboring governors later on Monday to come up with a reopening plan.

He said a reopening would be gradual, could start with recalibrating who is an essential worker and would require an increase in testing to monitor infection rates.

"It's not going to be, we flip the switch, and everybody comes out of their house, gets in their car, waves and hugs each other, and the economy will start, Cuomo said.

"Do it carefully, do it slowly and do it intelligently," he added.

Cuomo encouraged New Yorkers to continue to follow social distancing guidelines, saying "two or three days of reckless behavior" could set the fight against the pandemic back.

New York state quickly became the epicenter of the United States' outbreak and accounts for almost half of the country's 22,150 deaths, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.

US now has most Covid deaths at 19,833; overtaking Italy

WASHINGTON, April 12: It was a day of tragic records for the US on Saturday, as the coronavirus pandemic continued to torment the country, forcing authorities to start digging up trenches for mass graves.

With at least 19,833 deaths reported from the Covid-19 outbreak, the US has now become the most affected country in terms of fatalities - overtaking Italy, which has reported 19,468 deaths.

America is already the worst-hit nation in terms of cases. It is the only country to have reported more than 500,000 infections. New York is the most affected American state, having recorded nearly 9,000 deaths and over 172,000 infections.

Earlier in the day, the US also became the first country to report more than 2,000 fatalities from the coronavirus disease in a single day. By Saturday, the global death toll had gone past 106,000, while the number of cases worldwide stood at 1.73 million.

Amid the deepening crisis in the country, US President Donald Trump said that he will appoint a special task force next week that will decide on when to reopen the country.

Despite the rising number of cases and fatalities, US officials insist there are signs of an improvement in the situation, especially in the areas with a high incidence of cases. New York state has seen a drop in instances of hospitalisation. New Jersey and Connecticut have somewhat stabilised and although cities such as Boston and Chicago continue to report cases, the rate of increase has stabilised.

But the crisis has not yet reached the peak, health officials said. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House task force for the coronavirus outbreak, said, “As encouraging as they are, we have not reached the peak.” April 16 is widely believed to be the projected peak day in the US.

Trump is admittedly in a hurry to reopen the country as the economy continues to take a hammering due to shutdowns . Asked if he is determined to remove the restrictions by May 1 as he had vowed earlier, he said, “I would love to open it. I’m not determined (on) anything. The facts are going to determine what I do.”

A study examining air samples from hospital wards with Covid-19 patients has found the virus can travel up to 13 feet, twice the distance current guidelines say people should leave between themselves in public.

The preliminary results of the investigation by Chinese researchers were published on Friday in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal of the US CDC.

They add to a debate on how the disease is transmitted, with the scientists cautioning that the small quantities of virus they found at this distance are not necessarily infectious. The researchers were led by a team at the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing.

2,000 Coronavirus deaths in a day in US

WASHINGTON, April 11: The United States has become the first country to report more than 2,000 fatalities from the coronavirus disease in a single day and President Donald Trump said he will name a task force next week to decide when to reopen the country, and it does not have to be May 1, a date he has been reportedly considering.

The president also continued his feud with the World Health Organization (WHO) and said he will have an announcement abut US funding for it. He has accused the world body of getting the pandemic wrong and then being “China-centric” and siding with it to help conceal the true extent of their outbreak.

The United States continued to be hammered by the pandemic with the toll, which stood at 18,770 Saturday morning, set to overtake Italy’s 18,849. New York, the epicenter of the American outbreak, accounted for nearly half the country’s fatalities with 7,887; most of them in New York City, 5,820.

The number of confirmed cases in the United States went past the half-million mark in the same period to 501,560; the world total of cases was 1.7 million effecting 184 countries, and 103,800 deaths.

Despite the rising numbers of cases and fatalities US officials have said there are signs of an improvement in the situations, specially in the hotspots, geographies with high incidence of cases. New York, for instance, has seen a drop in hospitalization; adjoining states of New Jersey and Connecticut have stabilized and cities such as Boston and Chicago that continue to report cases, the rate of increase has stabilized.

But the country has not yet reached the peak, health officials have said. “As encouraging as they are,” Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House task force on the coronavirus outbreak, said at the daily briefing Friday, “we have not reached the peak.” April 16 is the projected peak day.

The current strategy of social-distancing is working, she and other experts have said as they caution against easing up. “It’s important to remember that this is not the time to feel that since we have made such important advance in the sense of success of the mitigation, that we need to be pulling back at all,” said Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading epidemiologist and a member of the task force Americans have come to trust the most.

President Trump has seemed in a hurry to open the the country and put it back to business as the economy is getting pummeled by the virus. Unemployment has shot up into double digits, with more than 16 million filing for unemployment benefits in the last three weeks, and experts are warning of the return of the Great Depression of 1929.

Trump is concerned about implications for his re-elections prospects and has reportedly sought a plan from aides to reopen the country by May 1. Asked if he is determined to remove the restriction by that date, he said, “I’m not -- I am -- I would love to open it. I’m not determined anything. The facts are going to determine what I do.”

The president then went on to announce he will be naming a task force or a council to decide when the country should be reopened. “This is really -- I call it, ‘The Opening Our Country Task Force’ or ‘Opening Our Country Council’, so we don’t get it confused with Mike’s task force (the White House task on coronavirus headed by Vice-President Mike Pence), which has done so great. And we’re going to have the great business leaders, great doctors. We’re going to have a great group of people.”

The president, who expects to name the members of the body on Tuesday, also assured reporters he will abide by the advice of his experts on this issue.

Also next week, the American leader expects to announce his decision on continued funding of the WHO, with whom he has been carrying on a very public spat. "We’re paying them more than 10 times more than China,” he said Friday, referring to the annual contributions of the two countries, which he added, were around $450 million and $42 million respectively.

“They are very, very China-centric … China always seems the to get the better of the -- the argument, and I don’t like that.”

WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu has hit back and called on Trump to “quarantine politicizing COVID” earlier in the week.

799 Coronavirus Deaths In New York In 24 Hours, Highest In Single Day

NEW YORK, April 9: America's coronavirus epicenter of New York recorded a new single-day high of 799 COVID-19 deaths Thursday but Governor Andrew Cuomo said the rate of hospitalizations continued to fall.

Cuomo said 799 people died in the last 24 hours, outdoing the previous high of 779 announced on Wednesday, but added that the curve was flattening because of social confinement measures.

"We had a 200-net increase in hospitalizations, which you can see is the lowest number we've had since this nightmare started," Cuomo told reporters, adding that intensive care admissions were also at the lowest yet.

COVID-19 has killed more than 14,800 people in the United States, and the number of confirmed cases has grown to more than 432,000, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.

New York is bearing the brunt of the United States' deadly coronavirus pandemic, accounting for around half the number of deaths across the country.

On Monday, Cuomo extended the state-wide shutdown of schools and non-essential businesses until April 29 to help stop the rate of infections increasing again.

"We are flattening the curve by what we are doing," he said Thursday, adding, "We have to keep the curve flat."

He warned that there could be a second wave of infections and said it was too early to say when the city might be reopened again.

"I'm not going to say to anyone 'this is where I think we'll be in three weeks or four weeks or five weeks.' I have no idea," Cuomo admitted.

 

Trump thanks Modi for hydroxychloroquine export

NEW DELHI, April 8: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday showered praises on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian people on Twitter, his response to the Indian government easing restrictions on export of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine that he has said would be a game-changer in the battle against Covid-19 pandemic.

Trump’s tweet, which effusively thanked India for lifting the export restrictions on the drug, was the second occasion in 24 hours that he had applauded Modi for his decision. It was a sharp contrast to his interaction with reporters this week when Trump threatened “retaliation” if the restrictions weren’t lifted.

“Extraordinary times require even closer cooperation between friends. Thank you India and the Indian people for the decision on HCQ. Will not be forgotten! Thank you Prime Minister @NarendraModi for your strong leadership in helping not just India, but humanity, in this fight!,” President Trump tweeted.

Trump’s tweet reflected the sentiment that he had expressed in an interview with Fox News a few hours earlier. In this one, he had spoken about buying more than 29 million tablets of the drug, his conversation with Modi on Saturday and India’s success in handling the pandemic.

“I asked him (PM Modi) if he would release it? He was great. He was really good. You know they put a stop because they wanted it for India. But there is a lot of good things coming from that. Lot of people looking at it and saying, you know I don’t hear bad stories, I hear good stories. And I don’t hear anything where it was causing death,” he told the TV news channel in the interview.

India is the world’s largest manufacturer of hydroxychloroquine, producing nearly 70 percent of the world’s supply. The demand for the drug, which is also used by patients of rheumatoid arthritis, was boosted after a small placebo-controlled clinical trial in China demonstrated that the anti-malarial drug shortened the duration and reduced the severity of cough, fever and pneumonia in patients with mild and moderate disease.

India banned the export of hydroxychloroquine and any formulation containing it on March 25. Last week the ban was expanded to cover exports from special economic zones, blocking pending orders, including from the US.

Donald Trump spoke to Modi to lift the restrictions on Saturday. The same day, PM Modi received phone calls from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro as well. In all, requests were received from 20 countries to lift this restriction.

On Monday, a committee of bureaucrats which looked into the issue decided to rescind the restriction placed on Saturday by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade and let the department of pharmaceuticals decide.

India’s National Taskforce for Covid-19 only recommends the use of hydroxychloroquine for infections among “asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19” and “asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory confirmed cases”.

The Indian Council of Medical Research says hydroxychloroquine has been found to be effective against coronavirus in laboratory studies and in-vivo studies. “Its use in prophylaxis is derived from available evidence of benefit as treatment and supported by pre-clinical data.”

Sanders Drops Out Of US Race, Joe Biden To Be Democratic Nominee

WASHINGTON, April 8: US Senator Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign Wednesday, clearing the way for rival Joe Biden to win the Democratic nomination and challenge incumbent Donald Trump in November.

"I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful," the leftist Sanders told supporters in a livestream announcing he is dropping out.

"Vice president Biden will be the nominee," the 78-year-old added.

"I congratulate Joe Biden, a very decent man, who I will work with to move our progressive ideas forward."

Sanders, who challenged Hillary Clinton for the party's nomination in 2016, mounted a formidable challenge to Biden in the 2020 race, becoming the frontrunner early this year and earning the most votes in the first three state-wide contests.

But he was soon eclipsed by a surging Biden, who won the vast majority of the remaining primaries and now holds a commanding lead in the all-important race for delegates who choose the nominee.

Sanders ran an intense, issue-driven campaign, bringing his liberal ideological platform -- including a call for universal health care and a $15 hourly minimum wage -- into the mainstream.

"Together we have transformed American consciousness as to what kind of nation we can become, and have taken this country a major step forward in the never-ending struggle for economic justice, social justice, racial justice, and environmental justice," Sanders said.

Several US lawmakers have come out in support of such prescriptions, and Biden himself has shifted leftward to incorporate some Sanders policies, although he has stressed he does not support Sanders's Medicare for All plan.

Biden tweeted his thanks to Sanders, hailing him as "a good man, a great leader, and one of the most powerful voices for change in our country."

US toll nears 13,000, African Americans hit hardest by Covid-19

WASHINGTON, April 8: The novel coronavirus is killing a disproportionately higher number of African Americans than other racial demographics, US president Donald Trump and his top public health experts said Tuesday, acknowledging an emerging concern as the country recorded its highest single-day fatalities of nearly 2,000.

The US toll stood at 12,991 Wednesday morning and reported confirmed cases were up to about 399,000, as officials expressed cautious optimism that some of the severely-hit areas may have stabilized. New York, the worst hit state with nearly 5,500 fatalities (more than 4,000 in New York City alone), is looking at a “projected plateau” in hospitalization numbers.

The disproportionately high death rate among American Americans has emerged as a new worry. “We’re seeing tremendous evidence that African Americans are affected at a far greater percentage number than other citizens of our country,” President Trump said at the daily White House briefing by the coronavirus task force.

Nation-wide figures are not available yet, but the evidence is unmistakable from some state numbers. African Americans comprise just 14% of the population in Michigan but account for 40% of the fatalities; they are 32% of the population in Louisiana but 70% of all deaths. Black Americans make up 30% of Chicago but 68% of fatalities. These numbers are based on data published by states and news media outlets; there is no nation-wide data available yet, but the White House coronavirus task force is expected to release a compilation shortly.

Public health officials and experts have blamed the high death rate to the high incidence of underlying conditions such as blood pressure and heart ailments, diabetes, asthma and obesity among African Americans, linked to poverty and the comparative lack of healthcare facilities among some communities.

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who is African American, and 45-years-old, addressed the underlying issues speaking about himself. “I and many black Americans are at higher risk for COVID (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus). That’s why we need everyone to do their part to slow the spread,” he told CBS.

He is pre-diabetic, has high blood pressure and suffers from asthma. “So I represent that legacy of growing up poor and black in America,” Adams said.

As the president acknowledged for the first time the growing concerns about African Americans being most at risk, he said, “We are doing everything in our power to address this challenge, and it’s a tremendous challenge,” Trump said. “It’s terrible.” He added that Anthony Fauci, country’s premier epidemiologist and member of the task-force, is “is looking at it very strongly.”

Deborah Birx, coordinator of the task force, added, “We don’t want to give the impression that the African American community is more susceptible to the virus; we don’t have any data that suggests that. What our data suggests is they are more susceptible to more difficult and severe disease and poorer outcomes.”

New York records 731 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours

NEW YORK, April 7: New York state has recorded its highest number of COVID-19 deaths in 24 hours, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday, adding though that hospitalizations appeared to be “plateauing.”

Cuomo said 731 people succumbed to the new coronavirus on Monday, bringing the state’s total death toll to 5,489. The previous single-day record was 630, set on Friday.

New York has borne the brunt of America’s deadly coronavirus pandemic, accounting for around half the number of deaths across the country.

COVID-19 has killed more than 11,000 people in the United States, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Cuomo said New York appeared be nearing the peak of its pandemic, with a three-day average of hospitalizations down.

He added that intensive care admissions and intubations had also declined.

“We’re projecting that we’re reaching a plateau in the number of hospitalizations,” Cuomo told reporters.

He said social distancing was working, urging New Yorkers to continue to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary.

“I know it’s hard but we have to keep doing it,” Cuomo implored.

On Monday, the governor extended a shutdown until near the end of the month, ordering schools and non-essential businesses to remain closed until April 29.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was “too early to draw any definite conclusions” about whether the situation was improving in the Big Apple.

“I want to really make sure none of us in public life tell you we have turned a corner until we are absolutely certain,” he told reporters.

Elsewhere, a crew member of the military hospital ship USNS Comfort tested positive for the virus, said a navy spokesperson.

The vessel arrived in New York last month to relieve the burden on hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

“The crew member is isolated from patients and other crew members. There is no impact to Comfort’s mission, and this will not affect the ability for Comfort to receive patients,” said the spokesperson.

Surgeon General, Trump sound alarm as U.S. cases top 300,000

WASHINGTON, April 5: On Sunday, Surgeon General Jerome Adams called on U.S. governors who haven't issued statewide stay-at-home orders to at least "give us a week" of restrictions, as health officials warn of an accelerating rate of coronavirus cases and deaths. This week is going to be "our Pearl Harbor moment," Adams said.

The warning comes after President Donald Trump said "there will be a lot of death" on Saturday, as the U.S. faces its "toughest week" in the fight against the pandemic.

The total number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. rose to over 300,000 on Saturday, with the number of deaths at more than 8,000, according to NBC News' tally. Globally, the death toll is more than 65,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

US Covid-19 death toll touches 1,480 in 24 hours

WASHINGTON, April 4: US authorities on Friday announced “voluntary” use of face masks in public as the number of fatalities went up to more than 7,100 with 1,480 in the last 24 hours.

The total of confirmed cases rose by 30,000 over the same period of time to go past the quarter million mark. America ended the day, as a result, with 278,000 confirmed cases and 7,141 fatalities, according to the Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker Saturday.

Washington DC, the national capital, has emerged as an area of “developing concern” along with the states of Colorado and Pennsylvania and the cities of Chicago in Illinois and Detroit in Michigan based on new cases and deaths, according to the White House coronavirus task force. New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Louisiana, Connecticut continue to report high incidence.

New York state remains the worst hit with 103,000 cases, a tenth of the world total of 1 million cases, and 2,935 deaths. New York City, which alone accounted for 1,867 deaths, is faced with an additional crisis of the shortage of medical supplies, and officials have warned of empty racks by this weekend.

Washington state, where the first reported coronavirus death in America was announced on February 29, and California have been able to slow the spread belying early fears, and are beginning to be cited on how to beat the deadly pathogen with rigorous and disciplined social distancing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whose social-distancing guidelines have served as the template for the shutdown of all but a handful of US states, recommended Friday Americans should wear masks in public, as announced by President Donald Trump at the daily brief of the White House coronavirus task force, citing studies that show the “transmission from individuals without symptoms is playing a more significant role in the spread of the virus than previously understood”.

“In light of these studies, the CDC is advising the use of non-medical cloth face covering as an additional voluntary public health measure,” the president said, and added, infusing the new recommendation with his characteristic scepticism about the virus.,

“So it’s voluntary; you don’t have to do it. They suggested for a period of time. But this is voluntary.” And, he added, severely undermining the credibility of the move, “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”

The president also addressed questions impact of the epidemic on the general election on November 3, when he will up up re-election. Asked if they be held as scheduled, he said, “The general election will happen on November 3.” But he dismissed suggestions of switching to mail-in voting in case social-distancing guidelines were still in place — “lot of people cheat with mail-in voting”.

US Coronavirus death toll exceeds 5,000

NEW YORK, April 2: The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in the US has gone above 5,000, while confirmed cases worldwide are close to reaching one million.

There were 884 deaths in the US in 24 hours, a new record, according to Johns Hopkins University, which has tracked virus figures globally.

The latest victims include a six-week-old baby. More than 216,000 are now infected, the world's highest figure.

Reserves of protective equipment and medical supplies are almost exhausted.

This has left the federal government and individual US states competing for safety gear, while the unprecedented demand has led to profiteering, officials in the Department for Homeland Security were quoted by the Washington Post as saying.

The Trump administration says it can acquire adequate supplies, and has $16bn (£13bn) available to do so. State and local officials have complained about insufficient protective equipment such as masks and gowns as well as ventilators, needed to help keep patients breathing.

Meanwhile, US Vice-President Mike Pence warned the US appeared to be on a similar trajectory as Italy where the death toll has exceeded 13,000 - the worst in the world.

The number of confirmed infections across the US rose by more than 25,000 in one day. The worst-hit place is New York City, where nearly 47,500 people have tested positive and more than 1,300 have died.

Officials say as many as 240,000 people could die in the US from Covid-19 - the disease caused by the virus - even with the mitigation measures in place. In Connecticut, a six-week-old baby has died from coronavirus, believed to be America's youngest victim of the virus so far.

 

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