Passengers line up to enter the Wuhan Railway Station in Wuhan on Wednesday.
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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.

SPOTLIGHT: WHAT HAPPENS IN WUHAN MATTERS IN WICHITA

And 76 days later…

It was Jan. 23, 2020 when the central Chinese city of Wuhan was cut off from the rest of the world, as government authorities took action to severely restrict people's movements at the epicenter of what was then just the beginning of the burgeoning coronavirus outbreak. On Wednesday, the two-and-a-half-month ban on travel was lifted, ending the world's longest mass quarantine in memory.

That, of course, leaves much time for the rest of the world to count the days shut inside our own homes and cities. But even as each of us monitors our respective local situation, we will all be watching Wuhan closely to see what happens after its landmark "liberation" from coronavirus lockdown.

The international criticism for what were considered draconian measures in Wuhan are no doubt seen in a new light as other countries are now enforcing lockdowns of their own. And now, we will see another real-world experiment as restrictions are eased, providing precious data: to epidemiologists on the resurgence of cases, to economists on how quickly businesses can bounce back, and to all of us on how much it will take to get back to normal after weeks or months in isolation.

There is certainly a lot to learn from the Wuhan example, even if containment measures in different countries have varied widely. In China, the virus has been contained by forcing anyone with a fever and people who had been in close contact with someone believed to be infected into "centralized quarantine." This means that thousands of people were taken from their homes and placed in converted hotels, dorms and classrooms in order to stop transmission, even among family members at home. This has not been the case in most Western countries, where authorities have sought to keep people out of hospitals unless their cases are severe and advised people with symptoms to self-isolate at home.

All this to say that what happens in Wuhan won't necessarily determine what will happen in the rest of the world. If the resurgence of cases depends on how much immunity is already in the population, as some epidemiologists claim, China's efficient containment might eventually prove to be a weak spot. So, even as we count the days, there will be plenty of other data to calculate as well.

Michaela Kozminova

THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

  • Wuhan reopens: Coronavirus lockdown ends after 76 days in the central Chinese city where it was believed to have begun.

  • Toll: Deaths pass 10,000 in France, as the U.S. records highest death toll in a single day with more than 1,800 fatalities, 731 in New York state alone.

  • Europe blocked: Talks of European Union recovery fund to help southern countries, especially Italy and Spain, have stalled after 16 hours, leading the head of the European Research Council to resign, "extremely disappointed by the European response".

  • Polish vote: parliament approves legislation to allow presidential elections in May to be held as a postal ballot.

  • Pyongyang tests: In North Korea, 709 people have been tested and 509 are in quarantine, according to a WHO representative, but the country still reports no cases.

  • Where's El Señor Presidente? Even as Nicaragua continues to promote gatherings and mass events, while President Daniel Ortega has been absent for almost a month.

  • RIP Prine: U.S. raspy-voiced country icon John Prine dies from coronavirus complications in Nashville at age 73.


FRANCE'S ELDERLY HECATOMB: Out of the 10,328 deaths recorded in France since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, 3,237 were residents in nursing homes and similar structures. The country's "EHPAD Battle" (acronym for "Accommodation Facility for Dependent Elderly") features on today's front page of daily La Croix.

IRAN RISKS PREMATURE END TO QUARANTINE: From open schools in Singapore to newly closed businesses in the U.S., the world is wondering what the safest way back to normalcy might be. Iran is putting this question to the test as many citizens returned to work in early April after the Persian New Year holiday, despite an official count of 55,740 infections and 3,452 deaths on April 4th.

  • Rouhani v. Task Force: President Hassan Rouhani has announced a reopening of a portion of business activities on Wednesday, citing the need to "move the wheel of the economy." The Tehran task force charged with fighting the virus adamantly disagrees with Rouhani's choice. "Not only have we not reached the phase of controlling this virus, but it is increasing."

  • Locked down late and soft: Social distancing was only officially implemented on March 27, even as death tolls soared. And then once implemented, the restrictions were loosely enforced, with Iranian news agency ISNA showing a fairly crowded Tehran metro on April 4th, with only some users wearing face masks.

  • Public anger: The London-based Kayhan newspaper attributed partial compliance to officials' "contradictory" positions on confinement as well as people's fear of losing their jobs. One Twitter user, Delvar, claimed ordinary workers had to go out and work while "the mullahs hide away in their villas."

  • Pressure from the boss: The government, instead, has blamed private companies. The government's coronavirus coordinator in greater Tehran, Alireza Zali, told the Fars news agency too many businesses are not "cooperating" with the official recommendations to work from home, and pressure employees to return to the office.

PHOTO DU JOUR

Labeling hand sanitizers in Kathmandu, Nepal — Photo: Skanda Gautam/ZUMA

TRUMP CRISIS MANAGEMENT — FIND THE SCAPEGOATS: As the death toll in the U.S. marked a new global high, topping 1,800 dead on Tuesday alone, President Donald Trump is back on the hunt for someone to blame. Facing criticism for initially downplaying the severity of the coronavirus crisis, Trump continues to point fingers at supposed enemies, both foreign and domestic:

  • W.H.O.: In a White House press conference Tuesday evening, the president threatened to cut U.S. funds to the World Health Organization (WHO), claiming that the international body "missed the call" on the coronavirus pandemic.

  • CHINA: Trump has, for the moment, ceased calling COVID-19 "the Chinese virus," but his latest targeting of World Health officials was another chance to lash out at Beijing. Saying the WHO is in cahoots with Chinese officials, and failed to catch the spreading virus in Wuhan, China. Trump has previously blamed China for the spread, arguing that American officials could have acted faster if China's government had better shared information about the outbreak.

  • SWEDEN: Another favorite target for Trump is Sweden, and Tuesday he claimed the country was "suffering very greatly" due to its herd-immunity approach. Sweden's state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was quick to respond, telling Swedish Television on Wednesday that we should "pay little attention to Trump's bravados," and that New York is in a much more dire situation than Sweden.

  • HOME FRONT: Trump's decision to hold daily press briefings is also a chance to both bash the media (a favorite target) but also individual U.S. states for the shortages of medical equipment and other difficulties in responding to the crisis.


Some hoped that this would blow over, and sat tight until the moment when they needed emergency evacuation.

— Read the Worldcrunch article by Alastair Gill: As Virus Takes Hold, Russia (And Russians) Caught In Limbo.


WHAT'S UP IN SPACE? The colossal impacts of that tiny virus are visible from space. Wired magazine reported about a Colorado-based space technology company Maxartaking low-Earth orbit satellite photographs of COVID-19 hotspots, capturing images of empty cities, make-shift hospitals being constructed and airport rental car lots suddenly filled with cars as people stopped travelling. But the flipside question to those photos is also worth asking: What's the impact of coronavirus on the world of space?

  • Mars race still on: Despite the outbreak, NASA is working hard to ensure the launch of the Mars 2020 mission in July. Limiting or even suspending other space projects amid the global pandemic, the US Space Agency made Mars 2020 its top priority, especially since their Chinese counterparts have no intention of giving up their ambitious Martian project Huoxing-1 scheduled for take-off on July 23, reports Le Monde.

  • Science hand: NASA has set up a crowdsourcing platform to exchange research ideas to aid in the fight against the pandemic, with three areas in which it could potentially make the most meaningful difference: personal protective equipment, ventilators and forecasting the spread and impact of the coronavirus.

  • Changed planet: After more than six months aboard the International Space Station, three astronauts will return April 17 to an Earth that is forever changed. In a video interview, U.S. astronaut Jessica Meir said that she and her fellow crew members exercise daily to maintain their physical and mental health, and keep in touch with friends and family via weekly video chats. Sound familiar?

  • Quarantine tips: Al-Jazeera reports that NASA with the Space Medicine Innovations Laboratory at Dartmouth University have developed a self-guided online program to manage conflict, stress, and depression. This conflict resolution module designed for astronauts on missions for long periods of time in tight living quarters is now available for everyone.




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LE MONDE
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.
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AL JAZEERA
Al Jazeera is a state-funded broadcaster in Doha, Qatar, owned by the Al Jazeera Media Network. Initially launched as an Arabic news and current-affairs satellite TV channel, Al Jazeera has since expanded into a network with several outlets, including the Internet and specialty television channels in multiple languages.
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REUTERS
Reuters is an international news agency headquartered in London, UK. It was founded in 1851 and is now a division of Thomson Reuters. It transmits news in English, French, Arabic, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Urdu, and Chinese.
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Al-Monitor
Founded by Jamal Daniel in 2012, Al-Monitor features reporting and analysis by prominent journalists and experts from the Middle East and North Africa.
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NPR
An independent, nonprofit media organization that was founded on a mission to create a more informed public.
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SVT
Sveriges Television AB, Sweden's Television, is the Swedish national public television broadcaster, funded by a public service tax on personal income set by the Riksdag.
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EURONEWS
Euronews is a European pay television news network, headquartered in Lyon, France.
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COURRIER INTERNATIONAL
Courrier International is a Paris-based French weekly newspaper which translates and publishes excerpts of articles from over 900 international newspapers.
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FRANCE INTER
France Inter is a major French public radio channel and part of Radio France. It is a "generalist" station, aiming to provide a wide national audience with a full service of news and spoken-word programming, both serious and entertaining, liberally punctuated with an eclectic mix of music.
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LA CROIX
La Croix ("The Cross") is a French-language Roman Catholic daily. It was founded in 1880 and is headquartered in Paris. It is currently owned by French publisher company Bayard Presse. Although it covers Church issues closely, it mainly focuses on topics of general interest.
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A tribute to the 30,000 Iranian political prisoners murdered in Iran in 1988

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Laba diena!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Afghanistan's Taliban demand to speak at the United Nations, China takes a bold ecological stand and we find out why monkeys kept their tails and humans didn't. Business magazine America Economia also looks at how Latin American countries are looking to attract a new generation of freelancers known as "digital nomads" in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

[*Lithuanian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Taliban ask to speak at UN: With global leaders gathered in New York for the 76th meeting of the UN General Assembly, Afghanistan's new rulers say their country's previously accredited United Nations ambassador no longer represents the country, and have demanded a new Taliban envoy speak instead. Afghanistan is scheduled to give the final intervention next Monday to the General Assembly, and a UN committee must now rule who can speak.

• Four corpses found on Belarus border with Poland: The discovery of bodies of four people on Belarus-Poland border who appear to have died from hypothermia are raising new accusations that Belarus is pushing migrants to the eastern border of the European Union, possibly in retaliation over Western sanctions following the contested reelection of the country's strongman Alexander Lukashenko. The discovery comes amid a surge of largely Afghani and Iraqi migrants attempting to enter Poland in recent weeks.

• China to stop building coal-burning power plants abroad: Under pressure to limit emissions to meet Paris climate agreement goals, China announces an end to funding future projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries through its Belt and Road initiative.

• Turkey ratifies Paris climate agreement: Following a year of wildfires and flash floods, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced at the UN that Turkey will become the last G-20 country to ratify the emissions-limiting accords. Turkey already signed the agreement in 2016, but has yet to hold a vote in parliament.

• Mass evacuations following Canary Islands volcano: More than 6,000 people have fled the Spanish archipelago as heavy flows of lava have buried hundreds of homes. Four earthquakes have also hit the Canaries since the Sunday eruption, which could also cause other explosions and the release of toxic gas.

• Rare earthquake hits Melbourne: The 5.9 magnitude quake struck near Melbourne in southern Australia, with aftershocks going as far Adelaide, Canberra and Launceston. Videos shared on social media show at least one damaged building, with power lines disrupted in Australia's second largest city. No injuries have been reported.

• The evolutionary tale of tails: Charles Darwin first discovered that humans evolved to lose this biological trait. But only now are New York scientists showing that it was a single genetic tweak that could have caused this shift, while our monkey relatives kept their backside appendages.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"The roof of Barcelona" — El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world. Work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882 as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. The Barcelona-based daily reports that a press conference Tuesday confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years. Although it is currently the second tallest spire of the complex, it will become the highest point of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated "great cross."

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Latin America, the next mecca for digital nomads

Latin American countries want to cash in on the post-pandemic changes to the fundamental ways we work and live, in particular by capitalizing on a growing demand from the new wave of remote workers and "youngish" professional freelancers with money to spend, reports Natalia Vera Ramírez in business magazine America Economia.

💻🏖️ Niels Olson, Ecuador's tourism minister, is working hard to bring "digital nomads" to his country. He believes that attracting this new generation of freelancers who can work from anywhere for extended visits is a unique opportunity for all. Living in a town like Puerto López, he wrote on Twitter, the expat freelancer could "work by the sea, live with a mostly vaccinated population, in the same time zone, (enjoy) an excellent climate, and eat fresh seafood." For Ecuador, the new influx of visitors with money to spend would help boost the country's economy.

🧳 While online-based freelancers already hopped from country to country before COVID-19, the pandemic has boosted their current numbers to around 100 million worldwide. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates there could be a billion roaming, digital workers by 2050. Some European countries already issue visas for digital nomads. They include Germany, Portugal, Iceland, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic, but in the Americas, only four countries make the list, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Panama and Costa Rica.

💰 In August 2021, Costa Rica approved a law for remote workers and international service providers, intended to attract digital nomads and make its travel sector more competitive. The law provides legal guarantees and specific tax exemptions for remote workers choosing to make the country their place of work. It allows foreign nationals earning more than $3,000 a month to stay for up to a year in the country, with the ability to renew their visa for an additional year. If applicants are a family, the income requisite rises to $5,000.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$2.1 billion

Google announced yesterday it will spend $2.1 billion to buy a sprawling Manhattan office building, in one of the largest sales of a building in U.S. history. The tech giant plans on growing its New York workforce to more than 14,000 people.

📣 VERBATIM

It is sickening and shameful to see this kind of president give such a lie-filled speech on the international stage.

— Opposition Brazilian congresswoman Vivi Reis in response to President Jair Bolsonaro's inflammatory 12-minute speech at the UN General Assembly. The unvaccinated head of state touted untested COVID-19 cures, criticized public health measures and boasted that the South American country's environmental protections were the best in the world.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank & Bertrand Hauger

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