On Oklahoma plains, an island of near normality in a pandemic

GUYMON, Okla., March 28 (Reuters) – On red cobbled Main Street in Guymon, the biggest town in Oklahoma’s panhandle, Jesus Ruiz gives “high and tight” hair cuts as a red, white and blue barber’s pole turns lazily outside.

About half the customers in the barber shop work at the busy pork processing plant in Guymon, a majority Hispanic/Latino community which rises like an island in a sea of corn and grass. Ruiz hopes this remoteness protects it from the coronavirus encroaching on all sides.

“I love it that nobody knows we’re here,” says Ruiz, 33, a Mexican-American who said the crime rate in Riverside, California, prompted him to quit the city near Los Angeles two years ago and move to this close-knit town of 11,500, where people often leave their doors unlocked when they go out.

In contrast to shuttered businesses and tens of millions of people confined to their homes across America, life seems fairly normal in Guymon, the closest case of coronavirus still more than 100 miles (160 km) away. There is nevertheless fear that COVID-19 may already be here, or will find its way in as workers from Texas, Kansas and other areas of the state commute to jobs in meat processing, feedlots and farms.

Guymon has not been spared the panic buying seen elsewhere and its library and recreation center are closed. All Oklahoma schools are shut for the remainder of their year.

But locally-owned small businesses and restaurants remain open, albeit limiting customers, many owners more fearful of the economic impact of the virus than the virus itself.

Unlike in neighboring New Mexico and Colorado, most Oklahomans do not face a stay-at-home order, but adults over 65 and people with underlying conditions are asked not to go out.

City Manager Joe Dunham said, under an order by Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, it will take just one COVID-19 case in Guymon’s Texas County for non-essential businesses to close.

“I was hoping to keep restaurants open as long as possible just to create a sense of normalcy and not have panic,” said Dunham, who is still getting used to not shaking hands with visitors to city hall. “It’s a little bit quieter, the highway still seems pretty busy though.”


There is nothing quiet about the Seaboard Foods SEB.A pork processing plant three miles up U.S. Highway 64. It is operating at full capacity with nearly 2,600 workers, more than 80 percent of whom live in Guymon or the county.

People from at least four continents speaking about 19 languages and dialects process more than 20,000 hogs a day. This “critical” food operation, by far Guymon’s biggest employer, has been ordered to stay open.

As hundreds of workers change shifts, four Spanish speaking employees pile out of a Chevy Caprice after car-pooling the 40-miles from Liberal, Kansas. One has worked at the plant for a week, another several months, two of them for years.

“Of course we’re scared of coronavirus,” said a 61-year-old woman from Mexico, who asked that her name not be used. “It’s really cold in there and there are a lot of people with flu.”

Plant employees are asked to stay home if they feel sick and Seaboard is offering two weeks paid leave to any worker told to self-quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19, said spokesman David Eaheart. The company is giving extra pay to employees who meet attendance requirements in the busy weeks ahead.

Thirteen coronavirus tests have come back negative in the county, with zero positive and 10 results pending, Texas County Memorial Hospital reported.


Back on Main Street, Kalye Griffin, 42, arranges shirts at her Top Hand western store and trusts in God to safeguard families in this county where eight in ten voters backed President Donald Trump in 2016.

Services have not stopped at Griffin’s Victory Center Church and other houses of worship.

“We are very grounded in our faith and know we are protected,” said Griffin, who has seen sales dwindle as rodeos and dances are canceled. “The fear is doing more damage than the virus.”

A few blocks north, hairdresser Rick French, 66, is skeptical about shutting businesses to fight a virus he believes may only be as deadly as the flu.

At the same time, he says there is some denial in Guymon that anything as nasty as coronavirus could ever come to town.

“It’s almost like we’re detached from reality. Nobody can believe it is going to happen here,” said French, who plans to vote for Trump again this year. He said his business has dropped off as older female customers stay home. “We watch it on TV and just hope it doesn’t come here.”

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Tokyo Olympic Games to take place from July next year

Organisers confirm new dates for the 2020 Games that have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tokyo Olympic Games will take place from July 23 to August 8, 2021, after they were postponed last week by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese organisers because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This year’s Games were scheduled to run from July 24 until August 9.


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“The schedule for the Games is key to preparing for the Games,” Tokyo organising committee president, Yoshiro Mori, said.

Mori said a Spring Olympics was considered but holding it later gives more space to complete the many qualifying events that have been postponed by the virus outbreak.

“We wanted to have more room for the athletes to qualify,” Mori said.

After holding out for weeks, local organisers and the IOC last week postponed the Tokyo Games under pressure from athletes, national Olympic bodies and sports federations.

It is the first postponement in Olympic history, though there were several cancellations during wartime.

The Paralympics were rescheduled to August 24 to September 5.

The new Olympic dates will conflict with the scheduled world championships in track and swimming, but those events are now expected to also be pushed back.

Both Mori and CEO Toshiro Muto have said the cost of rescheduling the Olympic Games will be “massive” – local reports estimate billions of dollars – with most of the expenses borne by Japanese taxpayers.

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Heartbreak as baby dies from coronavirus in US – ‘This is your wake-up call’

Illinois governor Jay Pritzker said the baby was among 13 more deaths reported in the state. He said: “I have some terribly sad news to announce. Among the fatalities over the last 24 hours was a state employee, a member of our team at the Department of Human Services and an infant.”

If you haven’t been paying attention, maybe this is your wake-up call

Dr Ngozi Ezike

Mr Pritzker confirmed the latest fatalities in Illinois as the US coronavirus death toll reached 2,460.

He told  press conference:  “May their memories be a blessing.

“I know how difficult this news can be especially about this very young child.

“Upon hearing it I admit I was immediately shaken, and it’s appropriate for us to grieve today.

“We should grieve with our family of state employees, with the many people we’ve already lost to this virus, young and old.”

Officials said the specific cause of death of the youngster was not clear and that an investigation was underway.

The baby’s death will send shivers down the spine of parents across the USA who were told the elderly and those with underlying health problems were most at risk.

Illinois health director Dr Ngozi Ezike urged people to do all they could to precent the spread of the disease.

CORONAVIRUS LATEST:Coronavirus map LIVE: UK death toll WORSE than predicted 

She said: “If you haven’t been paying attention, maybe this is your wake-up call.”

The US death toll has now topped 2,460 with more than 141,000 cases, the most of any country in the world.


Donald Trump has extended his stay-at-home guidelines until the end of April, dropping a hotly criticised plan to get the economy up and running by mid-April after a top medical adviser said more than 100,000 citizens could die from coronavirus.

Mr Trump told a briefing in the White House Rose Garden: “The peak, the highest point of death rate, is likely to hit in two weeks.

“Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won.”

Earlier, Dr Anthony Fauci of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CNN that the pandemic could ultimately kill between 100,000 and 200,000 people in the US if mitigation was not successful.

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He said: “We feel the mitigation we are doing right now is having an effect.

“The decision to extend this mitigation process until the end of April is a wise and prudent decision.”

The governors of at least 21 states, representing more than half the US population of 330 million, have closed “non-essential businesses” and told residents to stay home.

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Russian experts wipe out COVID-19 in Italian care home as EU stands by and does nothing

Russian medical specialists have been filmed disinfecting a nursing home in one of the worst-hit areas of Italy’s coronavirus pandemic crisis. Incredible video footage released by the Russian Ministry of Defence showed the Russian team working alongside Italians to disinfect the home for Italian old-age pensioners. This has exposed the EU’s failure to help one of its own member-states which has become the hardest-hit country from the coronavirus outbreak.

The clip shows the teams ensuring the Martino Zanchi nursing home in the city of Bergamo in northern Italy’s Lombardy region is safe for the elderly to return to. 

Specialists in protective hazmat suits can be seen spraying the home with disinfectant, after arriving there by a military convoy.

The astonishing effort saw 2,000 square metres of rooms and streets disinfected, according to Russian authorities.

Three disinfection procedures are planned to be performed in Italian medical institutions this week.

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Vladimir Putin agreed to send aid to Italy after speaking with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Soon afterwards, military planeloads of medical equipment including 600 ventilators, military virologists, and epidemiologists landed in Italy.

This contrasts with the silence and infighting from the European Union, which has failed to agree on a joint economic response to the crisis.

Last week, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria all rejected Italy’s pleas for so-called corona-bonds as a way to cushion the economic blow of the pandemic. 

George Galloway has condemned the EU for its inaction to help embattled Italy. 

The former Labour MP said: “A non-socialist country is now receiving an influx of health workers from socialist Cuba, whose we’re supposed to hate. Whom the West has quarantined this past half-century or more.

“Russia, which may well be on the brink of a major coronavirus crisis itself, is sending its doctors and its medicines to Italy.

“Where is the European Union?”

According to figures from the Johns Hopkins University, Italy has suffered 97,689 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 10,779 deaths.

Last week, an internal document from the European Union seen by Reuters accused Russia of carrying out a “significant disinformation campaign” to worsen the impact of the coronavirus.

In response, Russia attached these claims and denied any such plan. 


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Despite these denials, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned of “a struggle for influence through spinning and the politics of generosity”.

Senior EU diplomats claim the Russian assistance is a geopolitical move to extend Russian influence.

France and Germany were criticised by Italians after declining their request for medical masks and equipment during the initial outbreak.

Over the weekend, French President Emmanuel Macron warned Italy not to get “intoxicated” with Russian aid.

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'This is bliss': Chinese barber has clients queuing up as Wuhan eases lockdown

WUHAN, China (Reuters) – For barber Xiong Juan, a recent easing of restrictions in the city of Wuhan, epicenter of China’s coronavirus outbreak, means she is now busier than ever.

Xiong, 39, now spends her days riding around on her electric bicycle and offering her services to local residents who like her were stuck at home after authorities ordered a lockdown in the city of 11 million people in early January.

“It was so difficult to bear,” said one client who only gave his surname as Ren, describing how his hair had grown too long since he last had it cut in December.

“This is bliss,” he said as Xiong carefully trimmed his hair with a pair of clippers.

Xiong worked at a hairdressing salon but, like hundreds of thousands of businesses across China, it had to shut due to government measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which as of Sunday had infected 81,470 people and killed 3,304 in mainland China, mostly in Wuhan.

Xiong stayed indoors to look after her two children, but started venturing out three weeks ago. The additional income is welcome after being off work for such a long time.

“In a day, if it’s a peak period, I might work from 8 a.m. in the morning till 6 p.m. in the evening to cut the hair of 70 people,” she said from an open-air square of a residential compound where she had set up a plastic chair for clients to sit in. She lets them see their final look via her iPhone camera.


Each client is charged 30 yuan ($4.23), much lower than her usual salon-based cuts, which cost up to 156 yuan. She only cuts men’s hair as they usually take less than 15 minutes.

Xiong wears a hazmat suit and gloves and disinfects the clippers between each customer. She usually finds customers by word of mouth or just riding around, and sometimes cuts their hair at the roadside due to the restrictions some compounds still have on visitors.

The salon where she works is expected to reopen in due course when restrictions are eased further.

Asked about the risk of infection, she said: “Of course I’m still a little scared. But society needs us so I should help in the little way I can.”

The relaxing of curbs in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in December, comes as the number of new local cases in China drops sharply, though the disease has since spread to 203 other countries, prompting lockdowns there too.

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Coronavirus: How lockdowns have caused drop in air pollution across the world

Air pollution appears to have decreased in urban areas across the world as cities continue to be locked down to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

In Europe, cities including Brussels, Paris, Madrid, Milan and Frankfurt showed a reduction in average levels of noxious nitrogen dioxide from 5 to 25 March, compared with the same period last year, according to new satellite images.

The images, released by the European Space Agency, show the changing density of nitrogen dioxide, a harmful gas emitted when fossil fuels are burnt at high temperatures, most commonly at power plants and in motor vehicles.

Daily weather events can influence atmospheric pollution, so the satellite pictures took a 20-day average and excluded readings where cloud cover reduced the quality of the data.

However, some scientists have urged caution, with specialists from Lombardy’s Regional Environmental Protection Agency (ARPA) saying it is too soon to draw conclusions from air quality data.

In Madrid, average nitrogen dioxide levels decreased by 56% week-on-week after the Spanish government banned non-essential travel on 14 March.

Pollution over parts of Italy also dramatically fell as the entire country was placed in lockdown.

However, in some regions of Poland nitrogen dioxide levels remained relatively high during the period despite its lockdown, perhaps due to the prevalence of coal-based heating.

Experts at Copernicus have warned that until a complete lockdown is imposed, emissions from some sectors may increase.

For example, people might take private cars more often to avoid using public transport.

China – the world’s biggest polluter – recorded a drop in nitrogen dioxide pollution in cities during February, when the government imposed draconian lockdown measures to contain the virus.

The country’s ministry of ecology and environment said the average number of “good quality air days” increased by 21.5% in February when compared to the same period last year.

According to Nasa, nitrogen dioxide levels have dropped by between 10-30% across eastern and central China.

Satellite images show nitrogen dioxide levels have fallen over China. Pic: NASA

Drops in pollution levels were particularly prominent in the city of Wuhan, the original epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Meanwhile, CO2 emissions in China were down by at least 30% between 3 February and 1 March, according to the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).

CREA estimates this is equivalent to 200 million tons of carbon dioxide.

In Hong Kong, key air pollutants dropped by nearly a third from January to February, according to data from Hong Kong University School of Public Health.

South Korea also appears to have seen a drop in nitrogen dioxide levels, despite avoiding putting entire regions under lockdown.

However, it has taken an aggressive approach to tracing and isolating suspected cases.

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Hot 21C sizzler to roast UK this weekend despite Brits being on lockdown

Britain is set to sizzle in a 21C heat blast this weekend as the nation on lockdown gets its first real taste of Spring.

An Arctic blast swept the country with wintry weather last weekend as snow and bone-chilling temperatures took hold.

But the cold weather will give way to glorious conditions this weekend as an area of high pressure sweeps the UK.

Weather Outlook forecasts temperatures to soar to 21C in southern England for the first time this year.

WXCharts also forecasts highs of 19C as the mercury heats up while the nation bunkers down amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Weather Outlook’s forecast reads: “By the weekend winds high pressure migrates eastwards and become centred over the continent.

“That leads to winds turning into a southerly direction.

“It could become warm up significantly and there is a chance of temperatures in the southern half of the country reaching 21C (70F) for the first time this spring.”

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WXCharts’ forecast also states: “By next weekend a more southerly flow looks possible so it could feel more like last week, briefly in the sunshine. Some warmth as we stay at home.”

Daily Star Online reported at the weekend how a mini-heatwave is also set to roast the country over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

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Until then, most of the UK looks set to be largely dry this week – with any rain contained to the north – along with clouds and sunny spells.

Daytime temperatures will hover around the low teens, while at night figures will drop to near freezing to deliver frosty starts.

The Met Office's forecast for the weekend, suggesting the warm weather will be contained to the south-east, states: "Through the beginning of the period unsettled conditions across the north are likely to spread southwards.

"The northwest will see the worst of the weather with spells of heavy rain and strong winds interspersed with sunshine and showers whilst the southeast should stay drier and brighter."

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UK’s coronavirus crisis to be ‘worse than China’ warns scientist as deaths soars

A top scientist has warned that the UK is in a "dangerous state" as the coronavirus death toll accelerates faster than China at the worst stage of the pandemic.

Scientist Tom Pike from Imperial College now admits he underestimated the danger of the disease after he previously predicted 5,700 people would die in the UK.

He calculated his original death rate based on the assumption that Britain would follow a similar pattern to Wuhan in China, where the disease was first spotted.

His paper put Britain's peak at 260 deaths a day, but the UK has already hit that figure over the weekend, with no hint of it slowing down.

The doomsday scenario puts the UK death toll at something closer to 20,000.

Speaking to The Times, Professor Pike said: "We don't know where that uptick is going to go, or if it will keep going in the same direction.

"That's critical in terms of the projected total deaths. If we don't regain the Wuhan trajectory, each day we are building up more deaths.

"It's a very dangerous state to be in."

Professor Pike's paper last week predicted that if the country follows the same trajectory as China did, it could see between 4,700 and 7,100 deaths.

That would see the peak of the outbreak – with between 210 and 330 dying in a single day – happening next Sunday on April 5.

But the doomsday scenario, published by one of the government's leading Covid-19 advisers, warned that 20,000 could die.

Professor Neil Ferguson's plan convinced the government to step up the UK lockdown and order millions to stay at home.

A projection from the same university developed by engineer Professor Thomas Pike compared eight countries' death rates to China's after Beijing put the country on lockdown.

The horrifying study showed that up to 41,000 could die in the US, 60,000 in Spain, 32,000 in Italy and 23,000 in France.

Another paper this week said countries around the world have averted catastrophe by sending citizens into lockdown, warning that 40million could have died if they hadn't.

More than a billion people worldwide are now in some form of lockdown, including 1.3billion people in India.

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The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has now soared past 700,000, but another study from Imperial said almost the entire world population could have been infected if no action was taken.

Last week, Sir Patrick Vallance, the government's chief scientific adviser, said keeping the number of coronavirus deaths in the UK below 20,000 would be a "good outcome" but still "horrible".

Dr Patrick Walker, who worked on the paper, said: "Our findings suggest that all countries face a choice between intensive and costly measures to suppress transmission or risk health systems becoming rapidly overwhelmed.

"However, our results highlight that rapid, decisive and collective action now will save millions of lives in the next year."

Yesterday, the UK's coronavirus death toll soared by 209 to 1,228, while the total number of infections jumped by 2,483 to 19,522.

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Coronavirus Live Updates: 200,000 Americans Could Die, Warn Top Health Officials

President Trump extended social distancing guidelines to April 30 as cases in the U.S. topped 140,000. The doctors advising him said that without any restrictions on movement more than 1 million Americans could die.

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First shipment of Chinese-made medical gear arrives in New York. But other countries say some of the equipment is faulty.


Here’s what you need to know:

200,000 Americans could die even if the U.S. takes aggressive action, Fauci says.

Two of the top doctors advising President Trump on the coronavirus pandemic warned on Sunday that as many as 200,000 Americans could die during the outbreak, even with much of the country already under stay-at-home orders and practicing social distancing.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said during a White House briefing that the grim projection was based on scientific modeling, and the forecasts had convinced Mr. Trump to extend social distancing guidelines through the end of April.

“I think it’s entirely conceivable that if we do not mitigate to the extent that we’re trying to do that you could reach that number,” Dr. Fauci said.

Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the lead coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, said that even with precautions and restrictions the government’s model estimated “between 80,000 and 160,000, maybe even potentially 200,000 people succumbing” to Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

She added that without any precautionary measures, the same models projected that 1.6 million to 2.2 million Americans could die from complications of the virus.

“Some of them predicted half of the United States would get infected,” she said.

Dr. Birx said it was a huge sacrifice for Americans being asked to stay home another month.

“They have to know that we really built this on scientific evidence and the potential to save hundreds of thousands of American lives,” she said.

Trump extends the federal government’s social-distancing guidelines through the end of April.

President Trump said Sunday that the federal government’s guidelines for social distancing would last until April 30, backing down from his previous comments that he hoped the country could go back to work by Easter.

He had clashed with public health experts around the country when he suggested that the guidelines — which urge people to stay at home and not to gather in groups of more than 10 — might be relaxed by April 12. His announcement on Sunday indicated that he had backed down from that suggestion.

The number of coronavirus cases in the United State exceeded 140,000 on Sunday, and at least 2,469 people have died. In New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, the death toll passed 1,000. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that the city had only one week’s worth of medical supplies left.

While the supplies will be welcomed by hospitals and health care workers — some of whom have resorted to rationing protective gear or using homemade supplies — they represent just a tiny portion of what American hospitals need. The Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that the United States will require 3.5 billion masks in the event of a pandemic lasting a year.

The pandemic has started a race among foreign governments, American governors and mayors, good Samaritans and opportunists to acquire protective gear, ventilators and other goods from China, the source of more than one-third of medical supplies in the United States in 2019. While China’s own coronavirus epidemic has subsided since February, newly built factory lines in the country are beginning to churn out masks, gowns and gloves.

The flights are the product of a public-private partnership — led by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a White House senior adviser — in which the administration is looking to health care distributors like McKesson Corporation, Cardinal, Owens & Minor, Medline, and Henry Schein.

With pleas from state and city leaders for more medical supplies, and questions raised about his interactions with some of them, Mr. Trump on Sunday acknowledged that he would delegate calls to governors — typically Democrats — that he has had personal disagreements with, doubling down on his assertion that the governors need to treat him “fairly.”

“I don’t have to call because I’m probably better off not,” Mr. Trump said. “I get Mike Pence to call. I get the head of FEMA to call. I get the admiral to call.”

Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count

A detailed county map shows the extent of the coronavirus outbreak, with tables of the number of cases by state and county.

As the U.S. receives first shipments of Chinese medical equipment, other nations say some is faulty.

As the first of 22 shipments of Chinese-made medical equipment arrived in the United States on Sunday, other countries are complaining that China provided faulty protective equipment and inaccurate coronavirus test kits.

Chinese companies have kicked into overdrive to supply masks, respirators, testing kits and other protective gear to tackle the fast-moving global pandemic. With its own outbreak seemingly under control, it has looked to sell or donate gear to improve its image on the global stage.

But some faulty products are showing up in the supply chain, prompting governments in the Netherlands, Turkey and the Philippines to complain.

A commercial aircraft carrying gloves, masks, gowns and other medical supplies from Shanghai touched down at Kennedy International Airport in New York on Sunday, the first of 22 scheduled flights that White House officials say will funnel much-needed goods to the United States by early April.

The plane carried 130,000 N95 masks, nearly 1.8 million surgical masks and gowns, 10 million gloves and more than 70,000 thermometers, said Lizzie Litzow, a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The quality of the gear that was received, however, is unknown.

Faulty protective equipment could endanger the lives of health care workers and malfunctioning tests could prevent sick people from getting essential treatment.

The Netherlands on Saturday recalled hundreds of thousands of face masks from China, after it was revealed that they did not meet standards set by the Dutch health authorities. Spanish officials said last week that hundreds of thousands of testing kits delivered by a Chinese company had only a 30 percent accuracy rate. The Chinese Embassy later said that the company was not on its official list of certified suppliers.

In the Czech Republic, for example, a local newspaper cited medical workers who had complained that as many as 80 percent of the rapid coronavirus tests that the government ordered from China did not work properly.

In the Philippines, a Department of Health official said an early first batch of tests sent from China were defective but later walked back his comments after the Chinese Embassy denied the test kits were part of a donation to the Philippines and said its donations had been assessed by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

The Turkish health authorities have also spoken publicly about their concern about testing kits from China without offering details.

Some world leaders scoff at the virus, even suggesting vodka and saunas as a cure.

As countries around the world enact lockdowns in an attempt to curb the pandemic, some leaders have scoffed at containment efforts.

In Belarus, the authoritarian President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko called the coronavirus “nothing else but a psychosis” and has joked that a shot or two of vodka a day will poison the virus, advice rejected by medical experts.

Mr. Lukashenko has even suggested that farm work in a tractor, eating breakfast at a particular time or sitting in a sauna can help prevent infection.

While all of Europe and many other parts of the world have suspended professional soccer and other sports leagues, Belarus’ premier league has continued to play, a reflection of the country’s lax coronavirus response.

President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has also argued that concerns over the pandemic are overblown.

He visited shopkeepers outside of Brasília, the capital, on Sunday and argued that people must continue their jobs to survive, even while older people should stay home.

“I advocate that you work, that everyone works,” he said Sunday as he visited, Folha de São Paulo reported.

He repeated his argument that the harm to the economy from efforts to curb its spread can be worse than the pandemic itself.

“Sometimes, too much medicine becomes poison,” he added.

Mr. Bolsonaro has called the virus a simple cold and questioned the death toll in São Paulo, the country’s largest city. Brazil has recorded 4,256 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 136 deaths as of Sunday.

Mr. Lukashenko has also questioned the harm of coronavirus response efforts, saying he endorsed President Trump’s comments that the cure to the pandemic cannot be worse than the disease itself.

“I really like his recent statements,” Mr. Lukashenko said of Mr. Trump on Friday, according to the state media. “He said that unemployment can claim more lives than coronavirus itself unless they reopen businesses and get Americans back to work. Now you have understood why I did not authorize closures of businesses.”

Mr. Trump has since pulled back from his suggestion that the United States should ease restrictions by Easter and has extended social distancing guidelines through the end of April.

A coronavirus slowdown in Seattle suggests that restrictions are working.

The Seattle area, home of the first known coronavirus case in the United States and the place where the virus claimed 37 of its first 50 victims, is now seeing evidence that harsh containment strategies, imposed in the earliest days of the outbreak, are beginning to pay off — at least for now.

Deaths are not rising as fast as they are in other states. Significant declines in street traffic show that people are staying home. Hospitals have so far not been overwhelmed. And preliminary statistical models provided to public officials in Washington State suggest that the spread of the virus has slowed in the Seattle area in recent days.

While each infected person was spreading the virus to an average of 2.7 other people earlier in March, that number appears to have dropped, with one projection suggesting that it was now down to 1.4.

The researchers who are preparing the latest projections, led by the Institute for Disease Modeling, a private research group in Bellevue, Wash., have been watching a variety of data points since the onset of the outbreak. They include tens of thousands of coronavirus test results, deaths and mobility information to estimate the rate at which coronavirus patients are spreading the disease to others.

The progress is precarious, and the data, which was still being analyzed and has yet to be published, is uncertain. But the findings offer a measure of hope that the emergency measures that have disrupted life in much of the nation can be effective in slowing the spread of the disease.

“We made a huge impact — we slowed the transmission,” Seattle’s mayor, Jenny Durkan, said in an interview. She cautioned that any lifting of restrictions would bring a quick rise in new cases, and that she expected distancing requirements to continue in some form for months.

“There is evidence that doing the aggressive measures can have a benefit,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in an interview, discussing the overall numbers he is seeing.

But the governor said that the state was far from turning a corner. While there are indications of improvement, he said, he has also seen numbers in the last few days that still have him worried, including a rise in positive test results statewide and new cases in rural areas.

Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak

The virus has infected more than 710,400 people in at least 171 countries.

Indian officials deny rumors of a lengthy lockdown as hundreds of thousands of people try to head home.

Indian officials denied on Monday that an abrupt nationwide lockdown that has thrown this country of 1.3 billion people into chaos would last more than three weeks.

The lockdown, announced last Tuesday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was imposed with just four hours notice and followed reports that India may be in the early stages of community transmission. With the suspension of India’s train and bus services, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers found themselves trapped in cities like New Delhi without food or money.

Rajiv Gauba, the cabinet secretary, told reporters that he was “surprised” to read reports suggesting that the severest restrictions would remain in place beyond April 15.

“There is no such plan,” he told Asian News International, a local news outlet.

In what has been described as the largest migration in recent history, huge masses of people began long journeys by foot to their home villages, balancing bags on their heads and children on their shoulders. As of Sunday, just one of India’s 36 states and territories made arrangements to bring migrants home.

Since the lockdown was announced thousands of people have been seen waiting at bus stops on the outskirts of New Delhi, packed together without protective gear, before being turned away for lack of space.

Many are panicking about the spread of the virus. In one northern Indian city, migrants were sprayed down with a chemical solution on the roadside by people in hazmat suits, according to local reporters.

Covid-19 patients ‘don’t have to worry’ about big medical bills, health insurers say.

Two of the nation’s largest health insurers, Cigna and Humana, agreed to protect their customers from out-of-pocket costs if they need treatment for Covid-19, a decision that represents a rapid change in how companies are responding to the pandemic.

Describing the insurers’ decision as “a big deal,” President Trump on Sunday said the companies don’t “waive co-pays too easily, but we asked them and they did it.”

While insurers and government officials have taken steps in recent weeks to limit people’s out-of-pocket costs when they get tested, the bills associated with treatment for Covid-19 can run in the tens of thousands of dollars for a single hospital stay.

“Let’s take the economic burden and the economic uncertainty off the table,” said David M. Cordani, the chief executive of Cigna, in an interview before the White House briefing.

Under the new policy, customers “don’t have to worry about the financial burden of the virus while their lives are being turned upside down,” said Bruce Broussard, the chief executive of Humana.

Both Mr. Cordani and Mr. Broussard said they hoped other insurers would follow suit. Last week, another large insurer, Aetna, now part of CVS Health, said it would also waive cost-sharing related to hospital stays.

Employers that self-insure provide coverage to the majority of workers in this country, and they would not be affected by the insurers’ decision. They would have to decide individually whether they would take similar action. “It is going to be a client-by-client decision,” Mr. Cordani said.

Whether individuals will be completely free of any surprise medical bills is also unclear, given the frequent disputes that normally arise between insurers and hospitals and doctors. People who get care from doctors outside their plan’s network could also still potentially face unpaid bills.

Neither Cigna nor Humana said it had calculated the expected cost of the virus over the coming year, but one recent analysis said insurers, employers and individuals could face tens of billions of dollars in additional costs.

How is China counting its cases? Asymptomatic patients do not get included in the national tally.

Discussion in China is swirling about the true extent of the coronavirus outbreak in the country and the risk of asymptomatic infections.

Caixin, an influential Chinese newsmagazine that has aggressively reported on the coronavirus pandemic, published a commentary that urged the government to disclose the number of asymptomatic infections in the country, a figure that has been kept secret.

In China’s official count of confirmed coronavirus cases, people who test positive but show no symptoms are excluded; they are added to the tally only if they start to feel sick.

The magazine’s commentary came after confirmation of a case on Sunday in Henan Province, who apparently was infected by a person who did not show symptoms and was not counted in the official tally released to the public.

The Caixin commentary said revealing the scale and spread of asymptomatic cases was important for research and informing the public of continuing possible risks.

China has reported several days with no new cases outside those brought in from overseas. The case reported in Henan on Sunday suggests that the virus continues to spread among people who might not be included in the public tally.

Observers have also scrutinized the country’s death toll. Caixin reported last week that thousands of urns were sent to funeral homes in Wuhan, the center of the outbreak, in recent days, raising questions about whether the death toll in the city could be higher than the official figure of 2,547.

Reporting was contributed by Austin Ramzy, Neil Vigdor, Kate Taylor, Vivan Yee, Mike Baker, Rick Rojas, Vanessa Swales, Michael Levenson, Aimee Ortiz, Suhasini Raj and Kai Schultz

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Singapore court upholds colonial-era law that criminalizes sex between men

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore’s high court upheld on Monday a rarely-used law that criminalizes sex between men, dismissing three appeals that argued it was unconstitutional.

The ruling follows challenges to the colonial-era law by activists emboldened after India’s decision to scrap similar legislation in 2018. Previous repeal efforts in the socially-conservative city-state in 2014 also failed.

“The High Court dismisses all three applications,” Judge See Kee Oon said in a summary of the case published by the court.

“Legislation remains important in reflecting public sentiment and beliefs,” it said, adding that non-enforcement of the law against consensual male homosexual activity in private did not make it redundant.

Bryan Choong, one of the three men who challenged the law, said he was disappointed by the ruling. “But my eyes are firmly on the road ahead,” he said.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers did not immediately comment. Previously, it has said prosecution under the law would not be in the public interest.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has previously said that society in Singapore “is not that liberal on these matters”.

However, after the Indian decision, a prominent Singapore diplomat urged challenges to the city-state’s law, while Law Minister K. Shanmugam said a “growing minority” wanted it repealed and that laws should keep pace with societal change.

Polls have also suggested changing attitudes towards homosexuals, and a perceived softening in tone from some establishment figures.

The applicants in Monday’s cases had argued that Section 377A, which provides for jail terms of up to two years for a man found to have committed an act of “gross indecency” with another man, was unconstitutional. The law does not apply to lesbians.

Rights groups had said Singapore’s decision had wider implications for Asia, where social attitudes are conservative.

“In declining to strike out this archaic and discriminatory law, the court has reaffirmed that all gay men in Singapore are effectively unapprehended criminals,” Téa Braun, director of the London-based rights group, Human Dignity Trust, said in a statement.

There have been concerns around growing intolerance toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Muslim-majority neighbours like Malaysia and Indonesia.

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