Progress, but the COVID-19 “beast is still alive”

 

Thailand alcohol sales bans extended in bid to keep coronavirus epdemic trending downward

Authorities in the Thai capital Bangkok have extended a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages to the end of April as efforts continue to contain the spread of COVID-19. A ban was originally imposed for April 10-20, when Thais would normally celebrate the annual Songkran Lunar New Year festival with drinking-fueled merrymaking at large public gatherings. Official celebrations of the holiday were postponed until a date to be decided.

Sales bans were separately ordered in all 76 of Thailand’s provinces with different ending dates, according to the Interior Ministry.

Pongsakorn Kwanmuang, a spokesman for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, announced the extension, and said other provinces were expected to follow suit. He also said people with alcohol dependency problems could be treated for free at the city’s medical facilities. 

A woman walks past a COVID-19 warning poster, April 17, 2020, in Bangkok, Thailand.

Lauren DeCicca/Getty


Health officials on Monday confirmed 27 new cases of the disease, bringing the nation’s total to 2,792, including 1,999 recoveries and 47 deaths. New cases have dropped from a March 22 high of 188 per day to 45 or less for the past 10 days.

 

Queen Elizabeth’s husband issues rare statement in praise of medical and scientific workers

Queen Elizabeth II’s husband has made a rare public statement praising those tackling the new coronavirus pandemic and keeping essential services running.

Prince Philip, who turns 99 in June, said he wanted to recognize the “vital and urgent” work of medical and science professionals.

He also gave thanks to key workers including people working in food production, garbage collection, and postal and delivery services. 

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Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Britain’s Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Alastair Grant/AFP/Getty


The royal, who retired from public duties in 2017, signed off simply with “Philip.”

Philip has been staying with the queen at Windsor Castle with reduced staff for their safety. 

 

Chinese lab boss insists “there’s no way this virus came out from us” amid mounting U.S. speculation

The director of a Chinese government infectious disease research center that U.S. officials, including President Trump, increasingly point to as a possible origin of the coronavirus pandemic says, “there’s no way this virus came out from us.”

U.S. intelligence officials told CBS News last week that the possibility the virus accidentally slipped out of the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory was still among the theories being investigated. Thus far, U.S. officials have pointed only to circumstantial evidence to back the theory, which was initially dismissed — and still is to some degree — by disease experts as scientifically baseless.

The first known cases of the disease  were reported in Wuhan, just several miles from the lab, which has worked with other coronaviruses, including those found in bats.

U.S. explores theory virus spread started in Chinese lab

“I can tell you for sure that none of our retirees, students or any of our staff has been infected,” lab director Yuan Zhiming told China’s state-run CCTV in a recent interview.

“There’s no way this virus came out from us — we have a strict regulatory regime and a code of conduct for research, so we are confident of that,” he said.

Yuan called the propagation of “rumors” by American officials “horrifying” and accused some, specifically naming Republican Senator Tom Cotton of “deliberately trying to mislead people.”

 

Singapore sees spike in COVID-19 infections as tiny city-state becomes Southeast Asia’s hotspot

Singapore’s confirmed number of coronavirus cases shot up to nearly 8,000 after 1,426 infections were reported Monday, a single-day high for the tiny Southeast Asian city-state.

Singapore now has the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia at 7,984, a massive surge from just 200 on March 15. Authorities say most of the new cases were again linked to foreign workers.

More than 200,000 low-wage workers from Asia live in tightly packed dormitories that became virus hotspots after they were overlooked earlier by the government. Officials have said that cases are expected to rise as testing continues at the dorms, but are hoping that a partial lockdown until May 4, mandatory wearing of masks and strict social distancing measures will help curb the spread of the virus. 

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Residents queue for their food at Tuas South foreign workers dormitory that has been placed under government restriction as preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Singapore on April 19, 2020.

ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty


 

Florida police patrolling beach to enforce social distancing end up arresting homicide suspect

The day after coronavirus restrictions were eased to allow a Florida beach to reopen for physical activity, police patrolling to ensure social distancing guidelines were being followed ended up arresting a Pennsylvania homicide suspect. CBS affiliate WJAX-TV reported Jacksonville Beach police came across Mario Matthew Gatti loitering near the dunes.

Officers learned there was a warrant out for Gatti on criminal homicide charges in Arnold, Pennsylvania, according to Sgt. Tonya Tator. The department posted a photo of the arrest on its Twitter account, with the comment, “This morning while officers patrolled the beach proper they captured a Fugitive from Justice, wanted in Arnold, Pennsylvania for Homicide. Good job!”

CBS/AP

 

Japan’s plan to revive the virus-battered economy: Give every single man, woman and child $927

Japan is moving to adopt an emergency package worth a whopping $1 trillion — equal to one-fifth its GDP — to cope with economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Despite pushback within the conservative ruling party, Tokyo dumped a more targeted relief plan at the eleventh hour in favor of one-off, universal cash handouts of ¥100,000 ($927) for each of its 126 million citizens, including children.  

“The package is huge in size, and will be fast-implemented,” said Martin Schulz, chief policy economist for Fujitsu Research Institute, hailing the decision.   

If parliament enacts the plan as expected around May 1, money could start flowing by the end of the month. “Those who need it will get it, and better-off households will spend also,” Shulz said, adding that “later on, it will be clawed back in tax hikes.”

The emergency relief program includes subsidies for sole proprietors and medium-sized firms that have taken a significant hit because of COVID-19. Local governments will receive money to compensate businesses closing down under the nationwide state of emergency, which runs through May 6. 

Japan expanding state of emergency as number of coronavirus cases soar

Shulz said the most critical element of re-starting the economy is ramping up testing for the disease and enabling companies to do contact tracing. 

“Government can shut down the economy,” he said, “but only companies can re-start it.”

 

Shake Shack returning $10 million virus-linked small business loan

The burger chain Shake Shack says it has obtained new funding and will return a small-business loan it got to help weather the coronavirus crisis.

Shake Shack has laid off or furloughed hundreds of its employees and needed the assistance, its CEO, Randy Garutti, and its founder, Danny Meyer, said in a statement seen Monday.

But the company said it was able to get extra funding late last week through an “equity transaction” and decided to “immediately return” the $10 million paycheck protection loan it obtained through the CARES Act. Click here to read more.

Head of U.S. Chamber of Commerce expects deal in Congress on small business loans

 

India records sharp spike in cases as lockdown begins to ease

India recorded its biggest single-day jump in coronavirus cases on Sunday, with 1,553 new patients, government data show. India’s Health Ministry said the spike brought the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country to 17,265.

The number of deaths rose by 36 to 543. The government also said more people were overcoming the disease, however, with the overall rate of recoveries rising from 10% last week to 14%. More than 2,500 patients have recovered from the illness so far.

Experts believe the outbreak will peak in India between May and June.

India, under a strict nationwide lockdown since March 25, eased several restrictions Monday in areas least affected by the virus. Agriculture, along with some industries and businesses, are now allowed to resume in these select areas until May 3, when the lockdown is scheduled to end.

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Police personnel stop motorists at a checkpoint during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Allahabad on April 20, 2020.

SANJAY KANOJIA/AFP/Getty


There’s no relaxation on the restrictions yet in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai. 

Across India’s 14 states, 54 districts have reported no new COVID-19 cases in two weeks, officials said Sunday. Even when the nationwide lockdown ends, the government says restrictions will be lifted gradually.

 

Congress, White House near deal on $350 billion in additional small business aid

The Trump administration and Congress expect an agreement Monday on an aid package of up to $450 billion to boost a small-business loan program that has run out of money and to add funds for hospitals and COVID-19 testing.

As talks continued, President Trump said there’s a “good chance” of reaching a bipartisan agreement with Democrats. “We are very close to a deal,” Mr. Trump said Sunday at the White House.

Along with the small business boost, he said the negotiators were looking at “helping our hospitals,” particularly hard-hit rural health care providers.

The Senate is scheduled for a pro forma session Monday, but no vote has been set. The House announced it could meet as soon as Wednesday for a vote on the pending package, according to a schedule update from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Click here to read more.

 

Ventura County in California easing restrictions in modified stay-at-home order

Ventura County is extending its stay-at-home order until May 15, but the county is starting to ease its restrictions in hopes of reopening soon, CBS Los Angeles reports.

The new order, which went into effect Sunday, allows some business that were formerly considered “nonessential” to operate with 10 employees. This includes bike shops, car dealerships and golf courses.

All businesses, according to the order, must maintain social distancing inside. In addition, social gatherings are now being allowed with up to five people. Click here to read more.

 

CBS News presses Trump over coronavirus response in February

At Sunday’s Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the White House, CBS News correspondent Weijia Jiang pressed President Trump on his remarks earlier this week that China should have warned the U.S. sooner.

“Many Americans are saying the exact same thing about you: That you should have warned them the virus was spreading like wildfire through the month of February instead of holding rallies with thousands of people,” Jiang said. “Why did you wait so long to warn them and why did you not have social distancing until March 16?”

CBS News presses Trump on February response to coronavirus

Mr. Trump did not directly answer her question, instead insisting “that if you look at what I did in terms of cutting off China,” he was “very early” in response. 

Jiang pushed him on how coronavirus was already in the states when the president issued the ban and on March 23, he said he knew it was going to be a pandemic. When she asked “so do you acknowledge you didn’t think it would spread,” Mr. Trump said “keep your voice down.” He continued by saying “I believe there were zero deaths at the time I closed up the country, nobody was there, and you should say thank you very much for good judgment.”