Kazakh President Wishes Russian Prime Minister Speedy Recovery from Coronavirus

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev wished Chairman of the Russian government Mikhail Mishustin a speedy recovery on his Twitter account.

“Kazakhstan and Russia are actively cooperating to contain the coronavirus epidemic. I’m confident that we will overcome this challenge thanks to our joint efforts,” Tokayev wrote.

On April 30, Russian news channel Rossyia-24 broadcast a video conference between PM Mishustin and Russian President Vladimir Putin where the PM confirmed a positive result on the recent coronavirus test he took. Today Russian media reported that Mr Mishustin has been hospitalized with a high fever. His duties have been taken over temporarily by First Deputy Andrei Belousov.

Cooperation between all members of the Eurasian Economic Union will be strengthened as the member countries work together to recover from the Covid-19 outbreak and the devastating effects that the preventative lockdown measures had on the economies of the member states.

IMF’s post-COVID 19 economic survey raises hope for Africa

Strong indications are emerging that Africa may come out of the post-COVID 19 pandemic induced economic devastation better off than most other parts of the world, especially Asia, and particularly China from where it originated. This is because of the less impact the virus is expected to have on the continent in terms of widespread infections and mortality rate going by current statistics ceteris paribus.

Although the rate of testing has been limited, however, the corresponding ratio of inflexions to deaths is the least in the world. In other countries, the ratio is between two and four per cent, while Africa’s ratio is less than one per cent so far.

A recent report by International Monetary Fund, IMF’s, experts survey of the post-COVID-19 global economy reveals that Africa may be a potential beneficiary of the situation given its prospect for a faster rate of recovery and growth, as a result of the minimal damage the pandemic may likely cause the continent, unlike others. The outcome could be the potential to get the best from a seemingly bad situation.

“Africa seems to be suppressing the curve so far. It looks like it might escape the worst of the pandemic, but it will have to be cautious about it. There is a good chance of re-occurrence of the virus, which could see a possibility of regular lockdowns, but businesses need to plan accordingly”, the report said.

It said that capital will look for less battered countries. Western economies are badly battered while countries in Africa, etc are not so affected. Global capital could flow there if the continent can act efficiently to pull it. IMF anticipates an economic backlash against China, which might lead to the relocation of some western firms operating in the country, and this will affect it’s trading and export business with Africa; so there is need to develop other options by African economies.

“Businesses with supply chains passing through China will need to keep this in mind and insulate themselves and build alternatives. African exporters need to build trust. They need to live up to promises made. They need to deliver on time and deliver the promised quality. They shouldn’t make incorrect promises just to get more business”.

Africa is expected to witness extreme acceleration to a digital economy. As the lockdown has proved, the digital sector emerged the big winners, as telecoms, fintech and ISP were singing Halleluyia to the banks.

As the western economies are more battered and local economy is less battered so far, there will be more liquidity coming in from the worst affected economies. That’s why there is a rally in the stock market as funds move for profitable outlets. This scenario could change depending on the spread of the disease.

“There will be value destruction and value creation in different companies in the same sector. High Debt low margin companies will find it difficult. High Debt high margin companies could be rewarded, but caution needs to be exercised.  No debt high margin companies are best rewarded now”.

The report said that the economy was in poor shape even before COVID 19, and the government had little leeway to provide large stimulus. But he lockdowns have opened new business opportunities in the digital economy and new fund inflows will capitalize on it because it has the highest growth potential.

There are immediate challenges also for the governments especially Nigeria with its huge population and a massive army of the extreme poor, whose conditions have been further worsened by the pandemic, especially given the limited provision of palliatives on account of government’s funding constraints.

“Inequality has already sharpened. The gap between rich and poor has further increased. The government needs to concentrate on mass health and mass welfare. If not, 40 million people could sink into poverty”, the report stressed.

Although Africa and Nigeria will be required to make need adjustment and reorder its spending priorities, to take care of the most vulnerable and execute urgent infrastructure projects, there is high optimism even amongst the leaders of a better prospect and expectation going forward.

However, the negative effect on revenue as a result of the crash in oil price may be mitigated by the drive for economic recovery in China, India and Europe, which is likely to impact demand and prices positively in the immediate and short term, and consequently more dollar receipts. Thus this outlook is moderating the initial pessimism over the economy.

This is reflected in a recent McKinsey survey of entrepreneurs released a few days ago, with 67% of African entrepreneurs optimistic, while only 37% of Asian entrepreneurs are optimistic.

There are also concerns for job losses particularly in large firms and possibly government. With a drop in business opportunities and expected time-lag in economic recovery, businesses will be compelled to shed some of its cost content, and personnel cost is usually the prime target. It could worsen unemployment and poverty.

Also with a proposed plan by the Osinbajo Economic Stimulus and Recovery committee, to seek facility from the IMF, the inevitable conditionalities will require a reduction in government recurrent expenditure, which is a euphemism for right-sizing of public sector staff, removal of subsidy, privatization and possibly devaluation. Nigeria had been that route before and knows the implications

Medium and Small businesses will struggle awhile before recovery because they had used up most of their reserve cash during the lockdowns, and will need time to recoup. However, the various assistance-intervention policies introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, will go a long way to cushion their challenges if properly implemented.

“They have to work with thin capital reserves. Excess capital is taken out of the business and applied to personal expense. Small businesses spent their surplus personal assets instead of re-investing in the business. Because of this, they will be unable to meet the cash expenses of even the next month”, it said.

A major consequence of this new business environment is that people will be less loyal towards brands as other aspects will take over. People will switch brands faster due to various other concerns like safety, etc

For individuals, health and safety will become No.1 on their agenda from the 3rd of 4th place. There will be more spending on this area and reduction in other discretionary spending. The ticket size of spending will drop for a while. People will spend on cheaper goods than on expensive goods, or delay spending for a while.

Because of this, cafes and restaurants might see some increase in business. Many chains are implementing measures like social distancing like lesser furniture, etc, to build confidence to consumers. Avoid ad Costs such as unnecessary spending, and change traditional working methods. Don’t be emotional about non-core businesses. Concentrate on core business, it advised.

Presidential Lessons in Crisis Management

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Chris Good.

President Trump has embraced the mantle of “wartime president,” but in a Washington Post op-ed, noted presidential historian Michael Beschloss (who published his latest book, “Presidents of War,” in 2018) offers lessons on wartime leadership from some of Trump’s predecessors. Among those he extracts: “Level with the public,” unlike James K. Polk, who “fabricated” a pretext for war with Mexico; work “to unite the country against the common enemy,” as FDR did in rallying a divided nation to war against Hitler; show empathy, as Lincoln did for Civil War casualties; build confidence in a victory plan, as Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis; warn that more bad news could be on the horizon before it comes, as FDR did after Pearl Harbor; and put trust in wise experts, as Lincoln did with Grant.

At Politico Magazine, John Harris worries over another comparison, asking if Trump will fare as Herbert Hoover did amid the onset of the Great Depression. Like Trump, Harris writes, Hoover assumed the presidency without having held elective office before, but unlike Trump (who has faced challenges in business) Hoover had made it to a late stage in life relatively untested. When the test came, Hoover suffered a “breakdown,” as described by the contemporary columnist Walter Lippmann—not a psychological one, as Harris reviews it, but a political one, in which Hoover “found himself trapped by experience and instincts that suddenly were irrelevant to the moment.” Trump has used bluster and self-promotion to succeed in business and politics, Harris writes, wondering if he has a trait that can serve crisis managers best: the ability to adapt.

In Latin America, Covid-19 Separates Populists From Pragmatists

Latin America’s governments have responded to Covid-19 in very different ways, Frida Ghitis writes for the World Politics Review, but left-right politics have little to do with it. Rather, “a president’s own personal and populist proclivities” have “become the determining factor” in how a given country handles Covid-19, Ghitis writes.

In Brazil, right-wing populist President Jair Bolsonaro has downplayed the virus, while left-leaning populist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico has similarly eschewed precautions. But “[n]o government has put on a more surreal performance than President Daniel Ortega’s in Nicaragua, where the former Marxist guerrilla leader governs alongside his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo,” Ghitis writes. “As the virus started claiming victims in Central America, the eccentric Murillo called for a popular march against the virus—just the kind of mass gathering that public health experts warned should be shut down. Thousands of Ortega loyalists took to the streets in a parade Murillo aptly named, ‘Love in the Time of Coronavirus.’”

Pragmatists, meanwhile, have taken things seriously regardless of ideological slant. Ghitis singles out Argentina; left-leaning Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra, whose response was swift and sweeping; and conservative Colombian President Iván Duque, who addressed the nation in a “somber” tone.

China’s Covid-19 Deflections

Covid-19 may have originated in China, but the Chinese government has aggressively sought to deflect blame, David Gitter, Sandy Lu, and Brock Erdahl write for Foreign Policy. Lower-level spokesmen with the Chinese Foreign Ministry suggested the US may have seeded the virus in Wuhan, and although Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai seemed to contradict them, the authors suggest this is merely a good-cop, bad-cop routine. Chinese state media has also suggested the virus came from Italy, they note, surmising the Chinese Communist Party is doing whatever it can to protect its reputation. Disinformation watcher Laura Rosenberger of the German Marshall Fund, meanwhile, tells Axios that China has taken a page from Russia’s disinformation playbook, offering up contradictory narratives to sow confusion.

“To be sure, Beijing may well decide this messaging is counterproductive and cool it down,” Gitter, Lu, and Erdahl conclude. “But for now bellicose conspiracies and smooth-talking diplomats all are working under the same orders: redirect blame away from the [Chinese Communist Party] for the greatest global health catastrophe of our time.”

Lies in the Time of Coronavirus

As Covid-19 sweeps over the globe, observers are noting that disinformation abounds, in various forms. Typically unreliable websites have taken up Covid-19 as a topic—Karen Kornbluh and Ellen Goodman of the German Marshall Fund write that “of the top ten outlets that repeatedly share false content, eight out of ten are pushing misleading or outright false articles about coronavirus”—while The New Yorker’s Andrew Marantz points out that Alex Jones and Infowars are hawking products containing colloidal silver, claiming it fights viruses, despite the FDA’s clear statement that there are “no FDA-approved medical countermeasures for COVID-19.” More traditional government propaganda is a problem, too: German public-media outlet Deutsche Welle reports that Iranian officials have obscured the virus’s severity and, in at least one case, blamed the US.

As for what to do about all this, Kristin Lord and Elayne Deelen of New America remind us that media literacy and healthy skepticism are the best medicines, and in an essay for The Atlantic, Andy Carvin and Graham Brookie of the Atlantic Council recommend epistemic best practices (checking sources, checking one’s own biases) and turning down the temperature: “Your tone matters. And screaming into the void online or at someone in particular isn’t likely to make things better.”

An Oil Collapse Could Shake the World Economy Even Further

Covid-19 is hurting industries across the economy—Lufthansa’s CEO tells Der Spiegel, predictably, that the airline is “barely generating revenues any longer” amid transportation shutdowns—but oil could take a particularly severe hit, according to two essays in Foreign Affairs. The Saudi-Russian feud had already sunk prices, and amid the global shock of Covid-19, a “resulting collapse in demand will be bigger than any recorded since oil became a global commodity,” Daniel Yergin writes. “The decline in global consumption in April alone will be seven times bigger than the biggest quarterly decline following the 2008–9 financial crisis. In areas that lack access to storage and markets, the price of a barrel of oil could fall to zero.”

That will carry massive implications, Amy Myers Jaffe writes—particularly for developing countries that rely on oil exports, already face high debt, and count on oil prices in the $50-per-barrel range when drawing up their budgets. “Oil-linked debt troubles could explode across the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa in 2020, setting off financial crises and potentially even defaults that would be felt around the world,” Jaffe predicts—a catastrophe for world financial markets, where portfolios include oil-related and emerging-market investments.

And as the world economy confronts a Covid-19 crisis, an oil collapse could deprive it of a safety net it unfurled after the 2008 crash, when oil-rich countries helped out: “Tiny Qatar injected billions of dollars into Barclays during that crisis and helped secure emergency support to UBS and Credit Suisse,” Yaffe writes. “The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority simultaneously invested $7.5 billion in bonds issued by Citigroup to shore up that bank, while the United Arab Emirates injected $19.0 billion into its own banks to keep them afloat.” This time, that help is less likely to arrive.

Kobe Bryant dead in California helicopter crash

Legendary NBA player Kobe Bryant has died in a California helicopter crash, reports said Sunday.

He was 41.

The retired Los Angeles Lakers star was traveling in his private helicopter over Calabasas when a fire broke out, sending the chopper spiraling from the sky, according to TMZ Sports.

The crash occurred around 10 a.m. local time amid foggy conditions in the hills overlooking Calabasas, with the Sikorsky S-76 chopper sparking a brush fire on impact that hampered initial rescue efforts, according to The Los Angeles Times, which confirmed the deaths of Bryant and four others aboard the craft.


Kobe Bryant dead in California helicopter crash

Legendary NBA player Kobe Bryant has died in a California helicopter crash, reports said Sunday.

He was 41.

The retired Los Angeles Lakers star was traveling in his private helicopter over Calabasas when a fire broke out, sending the chopper spiraling from the sky, according to TMZ Sports.

The crash occurred around 10 a.m. local time amid foggy conditions in the hills overlooking Calabasas, with the Sikorsky S-76 chopper sparking a brush fire on impact that hampered initial rescue efforts, according to The Los Angeles Times, which confirmed the deaths of Bryant and four others aboard the craft.

Authorities later revealed that nine people are believed to have died in the crash. There were no survivors, and the cause of the crash is under investigation, according to TMZ.

Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, was not among those aboard the chopper, but his 13-year-old daughter Gianna was, according to reports.

He is survived by the couple’s other three daughters: Natalia, 17; Bianka, 3; and Capri Kobe Bryant, born just last June.

Bryant, a Philadelphia native, starred for two decades with the Lakers, winning five championships and making 18 All-Star Games before hanging up his basketball shoes following the 2016 season.

The stunning death of the sweet-shooting guard came just hours after he toasted fellow NBA icon and current Laker LeBron James for passing him for third place on the league’s all-time scoring list.

“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames,” wrote Bryant on Saturday night in what would prove to be his final tweet. “Much respect my brother.”

Bryant concluded the message with an emoji of a bicep flexing, and the hashtag “#33644,” one point more than he scored in his illustrious career.

Bryant was considered a lock to be among the next class inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, set to be announced next month.

Sanders Leads, Klobuchar Climbs and Buttigieg Drops in Iowa

Source: Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) — Senator Amy Klobuchar has broken into the top three Democratic presidential candidates in Iowa for the first time, a poll released Sunday showed. It was the third poll of the day to show her rival, Bernie Sanders as the frontrunner in an early state.

An Emerson University poll showed Sanders leading in Iowa with 30% while Joe Biden followed with 21%. Klobuchar was in third with 13% ahead of Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg who had 11% and 10%, respectively. The poll was conducted from Jan. 23-26 and has a margin of error of 4.6 percentage points.

Since December, Sanders has risen 8 percentage points in the Emerson poll. Conversely, Buttigieg fell 8 percentage points. Klobuchar’s rise comes on the heels of an endorsement from The New York Times.

Two New Hampshire polls released Sunday morning by CNN/University of New Hampshire and NBC News/Marist both also found Sanders in first.

Cyber security: The Jeff Bezos phone hack proves anyone can fall victim

Source Business Insider:

Jeff Bezos’ phone was hacked in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message from Mohammed bin Salman, according to an explosive new report from The Guardian , which sites multiple sources familiar with the investigation.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was reportedly hacked by Saudi Arabia crown prince MbS in 2018, according to a new bombshell report from The Guardian’s Stephanie Kirchgaessner.

Citing unnamed sources with knowledge of an international investigation into the hacking, The Guardian report reveals that Bezos’ phone was infiltrated after opening a malicious video file sent from the crown prince’s number on WhatsApp.

The two men reportedly had a seemingly friendly texting exchange on WhatsApp on May 1, 2018, after which an unsolicited video file was sent from bin Salman’s account. After Bezos opened the file, data was rapidly extracted from his personal phone, according to the report.

Saudi Arabia has yet to comment on The Guardian’s report, while an attorney for Bezos declined to comment beyond saying Bezos was cooperating with investigations.

Representatives for Bezos and the Saudi Arabian government did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

The incident was revealed in a forensic investigation conducted by FTI Consulting that was first reported by The Guardian earlier this week. The United Nations has since called on the United States and other relevant authorities to conduct an investigation. The Saudi government denied the allegations against it and called them “absurd.”

While reports suggest the Bezos hack was a specific and targeted attack, security experts say that the critical amount of sensitive data stored on today’s smartphones means mobile devices will continue to be high-value targets for state-sponsored attackers and black market hackers alike. It also illustrates that anyone, even prominent CEOs with vast resources, can be vulnerable to cybersecurity threats.

“It’s ultimately a fact of life at this point,” Paul Lipman, CEO of cybersecurity firm BullGuard, said to Business Insider. “As more of what we do relies on technology, [devices] become a target.”

Although it may be impossible to completely prevent and detect some cyber attacks before they occur, there are certain measures that both high-profile figures like Bezos and average smartphone users can take to mitigate the risks, experts say. The first thing people need to do to protect themselves is understand how they might be vulnerable to attacks.

Bezos’ phone reportedly began leaking data within hours of the encrypted downloader being received, and it continued to do so for months, FTI Consulting’s report said. In its statement calling for an investigation, the United Nations said that spyware tools believed to have previously been used by Saudi officials, such as the NSO Group’s Pegasus-3 malware, may have been used to execute the attack.

Malware attacks can generally be difficult to prevent because, in some cases, the target doesn’t even need to click on a link or download a file to become infected.

A previous vulnerability in WhatsApp, for example, made it possible to inject spy software on a user’s smartphone simply by calling them, even if the victim didn’t answer. That exploitation was carried out using software from NSO Group, as the Financial Times reported.

“Malware wants to remain under the radar,” said Etay Maor, chief security officer at Intsights. “And usually once it’s in, it’s extremely hard to identify that something is wrong.”

That’s why Bogdan Botezatu, director of threat research and reporting at cybersecurity firm Trend Micro, suggests that high-profile targets like Bezos use two phones: one with no valuable personal information stored on it for browsing social media and using apps like WhatsApp, and a separate highly-secure phone with limited access to the Internet and apps for storing sensitive information.

Maor similarly suggests leaving your primary mobile device in a secure location when traveling and bringing a burner phone instead to mitigate the risk of an attack.

“There’s no such thing as ‘this device cannot be hacked,'” Maor said. “And we’ve seen this over and over again. So at the end of the day, it’s a game of risk management.”

Such measures may be practical and worthwhile for public-facing figures like Bezos, one of the world’s richest men who runs one of the world’s most valuable companies and owns The Washington Post. But most people will probably be able to adequately protect themselves by following best practices when it comes to digital security, like keeping software up to date, avoiding downloading files from unknown sources, and only installing apps and programs from official app stores managed by Apple and Google.

“The reality is that these kinds of attacks are highly targeted, not attacks that the average person is going to fall prey to,” Lipman said. “And the reality is that anyone can be hacked, with enough time, motivation, and resources.”

Trump: Travel ban expansion coming, nations aren’t yet final

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday the U.S. would soon be imposing visa restrictions on more countries — though it’s not clear yet how many nations will be affected by his expansion of the travel ban.

Seven additional nations were listed in a draft of the proposed restrictions — but the countries were notified by Homeland Security officials that they could avoid being included if they make changes before the announcement is made, according to two administration officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing negotiations.

U.S. President Donald Trump leaves the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. Trump’s two-day stay in Davos is a test of his ability to balance anger over being impeached with a desire to project leadership on the world stage. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

The tentative list featured Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania, according to the officials and a person familiar with the draft proposal. But several countries are believed to have taken action or demonstrated good faith efforts to comply in order to avoid inclusion, the officials said. The steps include better border security, better sharing of identification information among nations and better travel document security, one official said. It’s not clear how many nations will wind up on the final list.

Trump told reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that he’s doing it to protect the United States.

“We’re adding a couple of countries to it,” he said. “We have to be safe. Our country has to be safe. You see what’s going on in the world. Our country has to be safe. So we have a very strong travel ban and we’ll be adding a few countries to it.”

Five of the countries on the draft list have either Muslim majorities or substantial Muslim minorities.

The current ban suspends immigrant and non-immigrant visas to applicants from five majority-Muslim nations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as Venezuela and North Korea.

But it allows exceptions, including for students and those who have established “significant contacts” in the U.S.. And it represents a significant softening from Trump’s initial order, which had suspended travel from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days, blocked refugee admissions for 120 days and suspended travel from Syria.

That order was immediately blocked by the courts, prompting a months-long effort by the administration to develop clear standards and federal review processes to try to pass legal muster. Under the current system, restrictions are targeted at countries that Homeland Security says fail to share sufficient information with the U.S. or haven’t taken necessary security precautions, such as issuing electronic passports with biometric information and sharing information about travelers’ terror-related and criminal histories.

Iraq, Sudan and Chad had been affected by the original order, which the Supreme Court upheld in a 5-4 vote after the administration released a watered-down version intended to withstand legal scrutiny. They were not part of the pared-down version.

During his 2016 campaign, Trump had floated the idea of a ban to keep all Muslims from entering the country and he criticized his Justice Department for the subsequent changes.

Several of the people said they expected the announcement to be timed to coincide with Monday’s third anniversary of the first, explosive travel ban, announced without warning on Jan. 27, 2017, just days after Trump took office. That order sparked an uproar, with massive protests across the nation and chaos at airports where passengers were detained.


Associated Press Writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report from Davos.

China confirms Wuhan virus can be spread by humans

Hong Kong (CNN) — Officials in China are racing to contain the outbreak of a new virus that has left at least nine people dead and sickened more than 440, after it was confirmed the infection can be passed between humans.
The spread of the respiratory virus to Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and now the United States, is fueling fears of a broader epidemic, as China enters its busiest travel period of the year.
Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the coronavirus was first detected, announced a series of new measures Tuesday, including the cancellation of upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations, which had been expected to attract hundreds of thousands of people.

Tour agencies have been banned from taking groups out of Wuhan and the number of thermal monitors and screening areas in public spaces will be increased. Traffic police will also conduct spot checks on private vehicles coming in and out of the city to look for live poultry or wild animals, after the virus was linked to a seafood and live animal market, according to a report by state media outlet the People’s Daily, citing Wuhan’s Municipal Health Commission.

The new measures come after Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered “resolute efforts to curb the spread” of the virus Monday.
There are now fears, however, that efforts to contain it are coming too late, hampered by a slow-moving Chinese bureaucracy which failed to put sufficient measures in place in time.

In the coming days, hundreds of millions of Chinese are expected to begin traveling across the country and overseas as the annual Lunar New Year break gets fully underway, compounding concerns of a further spike in cases.
Though infections were first detected in Wuhan in mid-December, infrared temperature screening areas were not installed in the city’s airports and stations until January 14, according to state media.

More than 440 cases of the virus have been confirmed across China, with the majority in Wuhan itself, but also as far afield as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong province, near Hong Kong.

The death toll rose to nine Wednesday morning. Among the victims are a 66-year-old man and a 48-year-old woman who died on January 20, according to the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission. The majority of those who have died as a result of the virus have been elderly and had pre-existing conditions.

Cases confirmed worldwide

Around a month after the virus was first identified in Wuhan, it has already spread well beyond mainland China.
In Asia, cases have been detected in Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand and Japan, while authorities in the US confirmed their first case on Tuesday and there have been reports of potential cases in Australia.
Despite initial reports that the virus was unlikely to spread between humans, Chinese health authorities have now said there is “definitely human-to-human transmission.” One patient is believed to have infected as many as 14 medical staff in one hospital, suggesting the disease can be spread far more easily than previously thought.
The specter of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), which infected more than 8,000 people and killed 774 in a pandemic that ripped through Asia in 2002 and 2003, has loomed large over discussion of the current virus.
During the SARS outbreak, Chinese authorities initially downplayed the dangers and censored coverage, preventing people from realizing the severity of the virus and taking action in time to stop its spread.
Zhong Nanshan, an expert with China’s National Health Commission who is investigating the Wuhan virus, told state media Monday that while it is not as serious as SARS, the number of people with the disease was “climbing” and suggested that the “death rate at the moment is not so representative.”
A study by researchers in the UK estimated that the number of infections in Wuhan is still grossly underestimated, with the real number closer to 1,700, based on the spread of the virus to other cities and countries in a relatively short period of time.
US authorities announced the country’s first confirmed case on Tuesday. The patient, a young man, had been traveling and arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington state before health screenings for the virus began.
Travelers wear face masks as they walk outside of the Beijing Railway Station in Beijing, Monday, January 20, 2020.
Travelers wear face masks as they walk outside of the Beijing Railway Station in Beijing, Monday, January 20, 2020.

Worldwide effort

Even before cases were detected in other countries, the efforts to contain the Wuhan coronavirus were international. Wuhan alone has connections to dozens of overseas destinations, and Beijing and Shanghai have hundreds more.
Airports across Asia have stepped up temperature screening of incoming passengers, as have several hubs in the US with connections to Wuhan, including New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
With all indications that the virus has a relatively slow incubation time, however, these efforts may be insufficient to stop its spread.
“You cannot absolutely prevent entry into the country of a disease like this. The incubation period is probably a week,” Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, said Tuesday. “It’s about identifying those with a high risk and making sure people with a high risk know about it and know how to get medical attention.”

He said that while there was no cause for immediate alarm, the true number of cases was likely far higher than currently reported and urged people to be vigilant about potential symptoms.
Australian authorities on Tuesday quarantined a man in Brisbane who had returned from Wuhan with possible symptoms of the coronavirus. He will remain in isolation until his symptoms have resolved, Queensland Health authorities said.
Raising concerns about how difficult it is to detect those with the virus, even if they have some symptoms, a patient in South Korea told doctors there she had developed a fever and muscle pains on Saturday and was prescribed cold medicine by a doctor in Wuhan, before being sent on her way. She was later confirmed to have the coronavirus during a check in Seoul.
In the US, the National Institutes of Health is working on a vaccine for the new virus, though it will take at least a few months until the first phase of clinical trials get underway and more than a year until a vaccine might be available.
Scientists in Texas, New York and China are also at work on a vaccine, according to Peter Hotez, a vaccine scientist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

“The lesson we’ve learned is coronavirus infections are serious and one of the newest and biggest global health threats,” Hotez told CNN.
The World Health Organization will convene an emergency meeting on Wednesday to determine whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of “international concern” and what recommendations should be made to help manage its spread.

CNN’s Yong Xiong and Angus Watson contributed reporting from Beijing. Journalist Isaac Yee contributed from Hong Kong.

Harry and Meghan in Canada: Couple warn media over photos

(CNN)Prince Harry’s plans for a “more peaceful life” away from the royal spotlight have already been cast into doubt as he joined his wife, Meghan, and son, Archie, in Canada on Tuesday amid a fresh paparazzi feud.

The publication of photographs showing the Duchess of Sussex hiking with baby Archie and their dogs in Canadian woodland prompted a warning to the media from the couple’s lawyers against running images without consent, a royal source has confirmed.
The images were used in a number of media outlets, including on the front page of British tabloid newspaper the Sun.
Harry has had an uneasy relationship with the press since his childhood; brought up under the glare of publicity, the young prince saw his mother, Princess Diana, struggle with the paparazzi. Diana died after a high speed chase of her car through Paris by photographers.
Last year, Harry accepted “substantial damages” and an apology from a picture agency that used a helicopter to take photos of the home he shared with Meghan, forcing the couple to move out.
The latest scuffle comes just days after the couple finalized the terms of their split from official British royal family duties, a move intended to allow them a life further from the public eye.
A royal spokesperson told CNN they would not comment on the family’s private schedule.

Strong Canada connection

Photos in UK media showed Harry walking off a plane early Tuesday on Vancouver Island, where the family spent time over Christmas holidays with the Duchess’ mother, Doria Ragland.
Meghan lived in the country for seven years and the couple say they have a “strong connection to Canada.”
The Sussexes are set to embark on a proposed new life in the country, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that discussions are ongoing in over who will pay the costs of their security detail.
The prince’s departure from the UK follows a turbulent period in which Harry and Meghan agreed to give up their royal titles and end their official duties.
The couple made the shock announcement that they were stepping back from senior royal duties on Instagram on January 8, and the Queen announced a transition period had been agreed Saturday.
Conversations with the pair had been going on for months, said the monarch in a statement.
“I am pleased that together we have found a constructive and supportive way forward for my grandson and his family,” read the statement.
Under the terms of the deal, Harry and Meghan will no longer represent the Queen as working royals, splitting their time between the UK and North America as they work toward becoming financially independent.
Harry, Meghan and baby Archie are expected to split their time between the UK and North America.

Wrangling over titles

The pair will no longer use their royal titles — His and Her Royal Highness — beginning this spring, and Buckingham Palace announced Saturday they would instead be addressed as “Harry, Duke of Sussex” and “Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.”
It’s a move the Queen hadn’t been expected to make and it’s entirely unprecedented for a monarch to ask her own grandchild to drop their title, but given the prospect of the Sussexes signing commercial deals in the future, the need to separate their ventures from the royal household was pressing.
However, in one of the first hiccups in the process of decoupling Harry and Meghan from the royal family, the palace later said it would revise its guidance after reports Meghan’s new title made it sound as though she were divorced.
The problem is that the same formatting was adopted by Sarah Ferguson — now addressed as “Sarah, Duchess of York” — after she divorced Prince Andrew in 1996. And Harry’s mother was known as Diana, Princess of Wales after her divorce from Prince Charles.

Sadness from Harry

On Sunday, Harry expressed “great sadness” about the developments at a charity event in London.
“Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the commonwealth, and my military associations, but without public funding,” he said in a speech. “Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible.”
Harry emphasized that the decision “is not one I made lightly” during his speech.
“The UK is my home and a place that I love,” Harry said. “That will never change.”
“It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges. And I know I haven’t always gotten it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option.”

Impact: The Russia and Saudi Arabia oil deal

In Riyadh

Energy superpowers Saudi Arabia and Russia on Monday signed a key deal to bolster cooperation among the world’s oil giants, as visiting President Vladimir Putin sought to defuse political tensions in the Gulf.

Putin’s visit follows attacks on Saudi oil installations that Riyadh and Washington have blamed on Moscow ally Tehran.

At a ceremony in Riyadh, Putin and his host, Saudi King Salman, penned a string of multi-million-dollar investment contracts targeting the aerospace, culture, health, advanced technology and agriculture sectors.

Key among the deals was the agreement to bolster cooperation among the so-called OPEC+ countries — the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries plus 10 non-members of the cartel.

Moscow is not a member of OPEC, but it has worked closely with the group to limit supply and push up prices after a 2014 slump that wreaked havoc on the economies of Russia and cartel heavyweight Saudi Arabia.

Monday’s deal seeks to “reinforce cooperation … and strengthen oil market stability”, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said at the signing ceremony.

Putin said “Russia attaches particular importance to the development of friendly, and mutually beneficial ties with Saudi Arabia”.

King Salman told Puting “we look forward to working with Your Excellency on everything that will bring security, stability and peace, confront extremism and terrorism and promote economic growth”.

– Role of ‘peacemaker’ –

Moscow and Riyadh, a traditional US ally, have made a striking rapprochement in recent years, marked in particular by King Salman’s first visit to Russia in October 2017.

A year later, when the Saudi crown prince, known as MBS, was under fire over the assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Putin went out of his way to shake his hand at a G20 summit, to much comment.

In an interview with Arabic-language television channels ahead of his visit, Putin praised his good relations with the Saudi royals.

“We will absolutely work with Saudi Arabia and our other partners and friends in the Arab world… to reduce to zero any attempt to destabilise the oil market,” he said in the interview broadcast Sunday.

Russian political analyst Fyodor Lukyanov said that Moscow, with its older ties to Iran and new links with Saudi, could “play the role of peacemaker” as tensions soar between Tehran and Riyadh.

These tensions spiked last month after the attacks on Saudi oil facilities that halved the kingdom’s crude output and set oil markets alight.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels claimed responsibility. But US officials blamed Tehran, charging that the rebels did not have the range or sophistication to target the facilities.

Tehran has denied involvement and warned of “total war” in the event of any attack on its territory.

Russia has sought to keep a foot in both camps, offering missiles to Riyadh to defend itself, while at the same time warning against “hasty conclusions” regarding Iran’s alleged involvement.

Last week an Iranian tanker was hit by suspected missile strikes off the coast of Saudi Arabia, sparking fresh fears of war.

– Syria war –

Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov said Syria’s eight-year-old war would also feature in the leaders’ talks on Monday.

Russia and Iran back President Bashar al-Assad, while the Saudis support the opposition seeking his ouster.

But “it is important for Russia that an Arab country participates in the political settlement in Syria,” said Lukyanov.

For now “only three non-Arab countries” — Turkey, Russia and Iran — are hosting talks, the analyst added.

In terms of business, the visit is expected to result in around 30 agreements and contracts, according to Ushakov.

A dozen of these, in the advanced technology, energy and infrastructure sectors, will be signed by the Russian sovereign wealth fund and are worth around $2 billion.

In October 2017, Russia and Saudi Arabia also signed a memorandum of understanding paving the way for Riyadh’s purchase of Moscow’s powerful S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems.

The sale never materialised, however, as Saudi Arabia eventually opted to purchase a US system.

After Saudi Arabia, Putin will travel to the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday to meet the powerful crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.