Covid-19 wrap | China slams US after Trump virus ‘attack’ claim, India repatriation to begin and Poland, Syria postpone elections due to pandemic

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

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China slams US after Trump virus ‘attack’ claim      

China accused the United States on Thursday of trying to shift blame over the coronavirus, after President Donald Trump said the pandemic was a worse “attack” than Pearl Harbor or 9/11.

Tension between the world’s two biggest economies has reached fever pitch in recent days as they have exchanged barbed comments on each other’s handling of the virus.

“We urge the US side to stop shifting the blame to China and turn to facts,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying at a press briefing.

Hua added that “lots of foreign countries, experts and scientists have all made positive comments on China’s effective virus prevention and control, but the US alone has made some very disharmonious, untruthful and insincere remarks,” said Hua.


Pandemic brings panic, solidarity to Polish sex industry      

The coronavirus pandemic has closed down Poland’s strip clubs and massage parlours, leaving many sex workers struggling to make ends meet but also inspiring solidarity via an online fundraising campaign.

“Over a couple of weeks, we’ve raised more than 16 000 zloty ($3 800). It’s incredible,” one of the organisers of the Polish fundraiser, a purple-haired 22-year-old who goes by her sex worker name of Medroxy, told AFP.

The crisis initiative started as donation-only but a group of men and women in the industry – a legal grey zone in Poland – have since signed on to offer photos, videos or even encounters in return for contributions.

Two Dutch Christian parties in the ruling coalition and the opposition Labour party recently called on the government to do more to help sex workers in financial straits.


Massive India repatriation set to begin with flights from UAE     

The first wave of a massive exercise to bring home hundreds of thousands of Indians stuck abroad was due to begin on Thursday with two flights from the United Arab Emirates.

Coronavirus cases in India rose past 50 000, the health ministry said on Thursday, with the pace of new infections showing no signs of abating despite a strict weeks-long lockdown in the world’s second-most populous country.

India banned all incoming international flights in late March as it imposed one of the world’s strictest virus lockdowns, leaving vast numbers of workers and students stranded.

The first two flights from Abu Dhabi and Dubai on Thursday – both destined for the southern Indian state of Kerala according to an Air India schedule – will transport just 354 people, and a planned flight from Doha has been postponed until the weekend.

AFP, Al Jazeeera

Syria postpones election for second time over virus        

Syria postponed a parliamentary election for a second time on Thursday as part of measures to protect the war-battered country from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Syrian government has recorded 44 cases, including three deaths in areas under its control, while the Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria has reported three cases, including one death.

The president’s office said on its official social media accounts that the vote will be pushed back to 19 July, from the scheduled date of 20 May as “part of preventive measures” to combat the virus.

They were initially supposed to happen on 13 April before the government in March enforced a lockdown to slow the spread of the virus.


Poland greenlights postal ballot for postponed election 

Poland’s parliament on Thursday passed legislation paving the way for a presidential election delayed by the coronavirus pandemic to go ahead via a postal ballot, a move the opposition said jeopardised democracy.

It came amid a chaotic week during which voters were left in the dark as to whether they would be able to cast ballots in a presidential election scheduled for Sunday despite an ongoing coronavirus lockdown.

In a last-minute delay, the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party agreed late on Wednesday to postpone the vote after it became clear it would be impossible to hold safely given the pandemic.


Russia registers record rise in coronavirus cases

Russia on Thursday reported another record increase in coronavirus infections with more than 11 000 new cases as Moscow imposes new virus restrictions and ramps up testing.

A daily government tally of virus cases in the country saw 11 231 new infections in 24 hours, bringing Russia’s total to 177 160.

Russia now ranks fourth in the overall number of reported virus cases in Europe and fifth in the world, according to an AFP tally.