The coronavirus crisis has seen countries around the world enforce unprecedented restrictions. (Reuters: Lindsey Wasson)
After Australia led calls for an independent investigation into the coronavirus pandemic, German officials have revealed Chinese diplomats sought positive statements about Beijing’s handling of the outbreak.
This story is being updated regularly throughout Monday. You can also stay informed with the latest episode of the Coronacast podcast.
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China asked for good PR, Germany says
Chinese diplomats approached German Government officials in an attempt to encourage them to make positive statements on how Beijing is handling the coronavirus pandemic, the German interior ministry said in a letter this month.
“The German Government is aware of individual contacts made by Chinese diplomats with the aim of effecting positive public statements on the coronavirus management by the People’s Republic of China,” said the letter, seen by Reuters on Sunday.
“The Federal Government has not complied with these requests.”
The letter was dated April 22 and was sent to Green Party MP Margarete Bause in response to her question on whether Chinese diplomats had contacted German officials with the goal of encouraging them to make positive remarks.
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The comments by the interior ministry were first reported by the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. The paper cited the Chinese embassy in Berlin as rejecting the report as untrue and irresponsible.
The embassy could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday and the Chinese foreign ministry did also not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
China has been under scrutiny for its response to the virus, which originated in the city of Wuhan and has since spread around the world, infecting 2.9 million and killing more than 203,000 people.
Pitt’s Dr Fauci pokes fun at Trump on Saturday Night Live
Oscar-winning actor Brad Pitt has made an appearance on Saturday Night Live, playing the role of Dr Anthony Fauci to fact-check US President Donald Trump’s claims about coronavirus.
“Tonight I would like to try to explain what the President was trying to say,” Pitt, dressed in a wig and glasses, says. “Miracles shouldn’t be Plan A.”
After a clip in which Mr Trump appears to float the question of injecting disinfectant or hitting the virus with a “very powerful light”, the video cuts to Pitt as Dr Fauci with his head in his hands.
“I know I shouldn’t be touching my face, but…” he says.
Dr Fauci has has assumed national prominence as a leader in the fight against the coronavirus. (Reuters: Tom Brenner)
The top infectious diseases expert has won widespread praise for his public messaging as COVID-19 spreads across the US, infecting more than 939,000 to date.
But Mr Trump recently retweeted a post calling for Dr Fauci to be sacked, but Mr Trump later said he did not intend to fire the leading health expert.
Pitt poked fun at that too before finishing the show’s opening segment by thanking Dr Fauci for the messaging he has been delivering to Americans.
Chechnya goes bald in lockdown
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has urged people in the south-east Russian region to shave their heads as hairdressers remain closed due to coronavirus lockdowns.
“All our beauty salons are closed so, like our ancestors did, I decided to shave my head,” he said on Instagram, according to Agence France-Presse, and encouraged others to do the same.
Top officials and members of emergency services then followed suit, uploading photos of themselves with freshly-shaven heads.
Confirmed coronavirus cases in Russia have surpassed 80,000, with 747 deaths recorded.
‘As bad as anything we’ve seen before’
White House advisers hope to come up with several options to present to President Donald Trump for “big thoughtful policies” to help rebuild confidence in an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic, a Trump economic adviser said on Sunday [local time].
Nationwide lockdowns to curtail the spread of the virus have impacted the US economy, closing businesses and causing rising unemployment, with a record 26.5 million Americans filing for jobless benefits since mid-March.
“We’re going to need really big thoughtful policies to put together to make it so that people are optimistic again,” White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett told reporters, warning that the US jobless rate would likely hit 16 per cent or higher this month.
Mr Hassett said it was possible the economy could quickly rebound as it begins to reopen, but warned that things will start to look worse before they begin to look better.
“I think the next couple of months are going to look terrible,” Mr Hassett said.
“You’re going to see numbers as bad as anything we’ve ever seen before.”
Police die from COVID-19 while enforcing lockdown in Peru
Due to strict quarantine rules, workers have been living on the side of the road for days blocked by police from returning to their homes. (AP: Rodrigo Abd)
Seventeen police officers have died in Peru from COVID-19 while carrying out a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Peru’s former Interior Minister Carlos Moran was sacked on Friday, after being criticised for failing to provide officers with masks and medical care.
His replacement Gastón Rodríguez said there was no excuse for personal protective equipment like masks and hand sanitiser not reaching police personnel and putting them at risk of infection.
More than 1,000 officers in the country have contracted coronavirus. There are more than 25,000 confirmed cases in Peru and 700 deaths.
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