Covid-19 | Brazil presidential spokesperson tests positive, Trump says task force being ‘refocused’ and Australia fears suicide spike due to shutdown

Keeping you up to date on the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.

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Brazil presidential spokesperson tests positive for virus

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s spokesperson has tested
positive for the new coronavirus, the government said Wednesday, the latest
case to hit close to the far-right leader, who rejects social distancing

Army General Otavio Rego Barros, 59, one of the administration’s
top public figures, “is home following all recommended protocols”
after his positive test result was confirmed Tuesday, the president’s office
said in a statement.

More than 20 top Bolsonaro officials have tested positive for
the virus, including communications chief Fabio Wajngarten and National
Security Minister Augusto Heleno.

Bolsonaro himself says he tested negative, but he has not
publicly released his test results. 


Trump: Coronavirus task force being ‘refocused’, not

States President Donald Trump on Wednesday reversed course on plans to wind
down his coronavirus task force, telling reporters at the White House that –
contrary to earlier statements by Vice President Mike Pence – the task force is
not being dismantled, but instead refocused.

One day after the administration
suggested that its work would be done around Memorial Day (25 May), Trump said
the White House task force of public health professionals and senior government
officials would continue after all, indefinitely, with its focus shifting
towards rebooting the economy and the development of a vaccine.

“I thought we could wind it
down sooner,” Trump said, adding, “I had no idea how popular the task
force is.”

A White House official
acknowledged to the Associated Press news agency that Tuesday’s statements
about the task force shutting down had sent the wrong message.

– Al Jazeera

Australia fears suicide spike due to virus shutdown

Thousands of Australians are expected to take their own lives
because of the financial and psychological stress of the coronavirus crisis,
far outstripping the death toll from the disease itself, experts warned on

Modelling by the Brain and Mind Centre at Sydney University
predicted an additional 750 to 1 500 suicides per year for up to five years as
a result of the impacts of the pandemic and economic shutdowns imposed to curb
its spread.

That would mark a spike of 25 to 50% over the 3 000 suicides
usually recorded each year in the country.

Youth, hit hard by the closure of schools and hospitality
businesses, were expected to make up about 30% of the additional suicides, the
centre said in a joint report with the Australian Medical Association and
mental health experts.


UN appeals for $4.7 billion dollars more to fight virus

The United Nations on Thursday issued a new appeal for $4.7
billion in funding to “protect millions of lives and stem the spread of
coronavirus in fragile countries”.

The money is on top of the $2 billion the UN already called for
when it launched its global humanitarian response plan on 25 March. It has
received about half of that money so far.

“The most devastating and destabilising effects” of
the novel coronavirus pandemic “will be felt in the world’s poorest
countries,” UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark
Lowcock said in the statement.

The full $6.7 billion is expected to cover costs of the
humanitarian response plan until December.


South Korea returns largely to normal as outbreak controlled

Korea returned largely to normal on Wednesday as workers went back to offices,
and museums and libraries reopened under eased social distancing rules after
new coronavirus cases dropped to a trickle.

were urged to work from home where possible while the new school term was
postponed from its March start, to reopen in stages starting from 13 May.

least 100 people visited the National Museum of Korea in Seoul on Wednesday
morning, and the first visitors of the day – a married couple – were given a
bouquet of flowers by staff.

South reported two new infections on Wednesday, taking the total to 10 806, the
Korea Centres for Disease Control said.