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Coronavirus — Global Brief: Bitter Irony For Bernie And Universal Healthcare

Soldiers with masks fighting in Tripoli, Libya
First responders salute medics at North Shore University Hospital, NY

The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a blunt reminder of how small the world has become. For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on this crisis from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus Global Brief in your inbox,sign up here.


Coronavirus didn't kill the once promising campaign of Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator's hopes of winning the U.S. presidency were derailed, for all intents and purposes, five weeks earlier, by rival candidate Joe Biden's sweeping victory in Super Tuesday voting, on March 3.

But the pandemic didn't do Sanders any favors either. To mount a post-Super Tuesday comeback, the 78-year-old Vermont Senator needed to command an ever-greater portion of the nation's attention. But as the COVID-19 crisis escalated — and Sanders, like so many people around the world, retreated behind closed doors — frightened U.S. voters turned their thoughts elsewhere. "The campaign has practically disappeared from people's screens," writes Philippe Corbé of the French radio station RTL. "Most Americans don't have their head in politics right now."

Still, the irony of the situation is bitter for Bernie backers, as the pandemic's rapid and deadly spread may have been the definitive proof that perhaps his most controversial stance — universal healthcare — is just plain common sense.

It's likely too that with unemployment numbers now soaring in the United States, more than a few Americans could benefit from the redistributive economic policies that the self-proclaimed democratic socialist championed.

"The coronavirus crisis turned everything that Mr. Sanders promised he was best equipped to do — fix the health care system, call out the dangers of a Trump presidency — into an agenda that was more urgent than ever for the country," Sydney Ember writes in The New York Times.

But in election cycles, timing is everything: As columnist Leo Aldridge writes in the Puerto Rican daily El Nuevo Día, "Politics is the art of the possible, and in this time of pandemia and uncertainty, a Sanders victory in the democratic primary process isn't possible."

Benjamin Witte


  • Infection milestone: Confirmed cases around the world of those infected are approaching the 1.5 million mark.

  • Quarantine easing: Some European countries are starting to ease lockdown measures, with schools and nurseries in Denmark set to reopen on April 15 and Austria planning to reopen its shops in phases.

  • COVID ceasefire: Saudi-UAE coalition fighting Houthi rebels declares a 2-week unilateral ceasefire to help prevent a coronavirus outbreak in Yemen.

  • Oil factor: crucial talks between OPEC and non-OPEC oil-producing nations today to try to break deadlock over production levels that have combined with COVID-19 to put oil at a historic low.

  • How NYC got so bad: The surge in New York cases resulted largely from infected travellers who came from Europe, new study finds.

  • Boozeless in Bangkok: The Thai capital bans alcohol sales for 10 days to prevent residents from partying during Songkran, the Buddhist New Year.

  • Finally alone: A couple of giant pandas that had been living together for 10 years in a Hong Kong theme park without any — erm, action, apparently just needed some privacy.

CLUES AND CURES: While all eyes are on the race to create a vaccine to COVID-19, this holy grail to definitively defeating the virus will take over a year to produce. In the meantime, scientists around the world are working hard to understand the nature of this new disease, investigating everything from DNA to telltale symptoms to cures.

  • Genetic database: There are seniors with COVID-19 and no symptoms, and healthy young adults in critical condition. Why does the virus affect some people in such drastically different ways? The genetic ancestry service 23andMe is tapping into their DNA database from more than 10 million customers to study potential hereditary explanations for the diverse physiological reactions to the coronavirus. The company is emailing willing customers in the U.S. surveys about their symptoms and testing for the disease in an attempt to identify variations in their DNA that may affect their immunity.

  • Taste & smell: Fever, nausea, coughing… the symptoms of the coronavirus can take many different forms, making it difficult to diagnose without a test. But Le Monde reports that a new study conducted by a team of researchers in a French hospital and a Belgian university has concluded that 80% to 90% of coronavirus patients in Europe experienced a loss of smell and taste. Studying 447 infected patients in ten different hospitals, they found that even patients whose nasal pathways were unobstructed had a significant decrease of the two senses.

  • Survivors' blood: So-called "Convalescent plasma," from the blood of someone who has recovered from COVID, is loaded with antibodies against the virus, and has been held out as a potentially effective treatment. La Stampa reports that a new limited study on the practice in China, reports some hopeful results: most of the 10 severely ill patients treated with a modest injection of plasma showed significant improvement after three days.

  • Another existing drug: Much debate has swirled around the possibility that a longstanding anti-malaria cure, hydroxychloroquine, is a miracle cure for COVID-19. But now researchers in Australia discovered another existing drug that may be capable of killing the SARS-CoV-2 virions within 48 hours. Their study, published in the medical journal Antiviral Research, found that the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin quickly decimated the virus when tested in a lab, but they're not quite sure why. Although Ivermectin is FDA-approved, its use as a coronavirus antidote has yet to be tested in humans.


Collecting swab samples in Mumbai, India — Photo: Himanshu Bhatt/NurPhoto/ZUMA

For our clients, the area around the main station is their living room, their workplace, their bedroom.

— Gabi Becker, who runs the addiction support organization Integrative Drogenhilfe in Frankfurt, quoted in Die Welt"s article (in English via Worldcrunch): Why COVID-19 Is Hitting Drug Addicts So Hard

Online mass on the front page of Peruvian daily El Comercio

REAP WHAT YOU SOW: Father Giovanni Rizzi of the Camillians Order (Ministers to the Sick), has been well known in Taiwan for his decades of work helping to set up hospitals on the island nation. But in recent days, Rizzi humbly asked for some help in return: for contributions to purchase face masks for hospitals in his hometown of Milan, one of the worst-hit epicenters of COVID-19. Taiwanese officials and individual citizens alike were quick to respond, donating upwards of $4 million, the United Daily News reported.

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The New York Times (sometimes abbreviated to NYT) is an American daily newspaper, founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. It has won 117 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other news organization. Its daily circulation is estimated to 1,380,000.
This leading French daily newspaper Le Monde ("The World") was founded in December 1944 in the aftermath of World War II. Today, it is distributed in 120 countries. In late 2010, a trio formed by Pierre Berge, Xavier Niel and Matthieu Pigasse took a controlling 64.5% stake in the newspaper.
Founded in Lima in 1839, El Comercio is Peru's leading daily and one of the world's oldest Spanish-language newspapers. It became very politically influential during the 20th century, and is positioned on the center-right of the political spectrum.
United Daily News is a Chinese-language daily published in Taiwan. It was founded in 1951 and is headquartered in Taipei. It is regarded as taking an editorial line that supports the conservative Pan-Blue coalition.
El Nuevo Día ("The New Day") is the highest-circulation daily in Puerto Rico. It was founded in 1909 and is today a subsidiary of GFR Media. It is headquartered in Guaynabo.
Premium stories from Worldcrunch's own network of multi-lingual journalists in over 30 countries.
La Stampa ("The Press") is a top Italian daily founded in 1867 under the name Gazzetta Piemontese. Based in Turin, La Stampa is owned by the Fiat Group and distributed in many other European countries.
Die Welt ("The World") is a German daily founded in Hamburg in 1946, and currently owned by the Axel Springer AG company, Europe's largest publishing house. Now based in Berlin, Die Welt is sold in more than 130 countries. A Sunday edition called Welt am Sonntag has been published since 1948.

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D.C. Or Beijing? Two High-Stakes Trips — And Taiwan's Divided Future On The Line

Two presidents of Taiwan, the current serving president, Tsai Ing-wen, and her predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou from the opposition Kuomintang party, are traveling in opposite directions these days. Taiwan must choose whom to follow.

Photo of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen

Tsai Ing-wen, the President of Taiwan

Pierre Haski


PARIS — Tsai Ing-wen, the President of Taiwan, is traveling to the United States today. Not on an official trip because Taiwan is not a state recognized by Washington, but in transit, en route to Central America, a strategy that allows her to pass through New York and California.

Ma Ying-jeou, a former president of Taiwan, arrived yesterday in Shanghai: he is making a 12-day visit at the invitation of the Chinese authorities at a time of high tension between China and the United States, particularly over the fate of Taiwan.

It would be difficult to make these two trips more contrasting, as both have the merit of summarizing at a glance the decisive political battle that is coming. Presidential and legislative elections will be held in January 2024 in Taiwan, which could well determine Beijing's attitude towards the island that China claims by all means, including force.

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