WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand on Sunday marked 100 days since it stamped out the spread of the coronavirus, a rare bright spot in a world that continues to be ravaged by the disease.
Life has returned to normal for many people in the South Pacific nation of 5 million, as they attend rugby games at packed stadiums and sit down in bars and restaurants without the fear of getting infected. But some worry the country may be getting complacent and not preparing well enough for any future outbreaks.
New Zealand got rid of the virus by imposing a strict lockdown in late March when only about 100 people had tested positive for the disease. That stopped its spread. For the past three months, the only new cases have been a handful of returning travelers who have been quarantined at the border.
“It was good science and great political leadership that made the difference,” said professor Michael Baker, an epidemiologist at the University of Otago. “If you look around the globe at countries that have done well, it’s usually that combination.”
From early on, New Zealand pursued a bold strategy of eliminating the virus rather than just suppressing its spread. Baker said other countries are increasingly looking to New Zealand for answers.
“The whole Western World has terribly mismanaged this threat, and they’re realizing this now,” Baker said.
He said many leaders saw a false dichotomy between saving lives or saving their economies, when in fact businesses thrive best when they have certainty about things like diseases.
Indeed, New Zealand’s economy has fared better than many predicted. The country has managed to keep its unemployment rate at just 4%, although many economists say the number doesn’t account for recent job losses and will likely get significantly worse after a government-funded wage subsidy expires next month.
Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern’s leadership has been widely praised. She reassured people during the lockdown with daily briefings and a message that resonated: “Go hard and go early.”
Total infections were limited to just over 1,500 and the country has had just 22 deaths. Opinion polls indicate support for Ardern’s liberal Labour Party has surged ahead of a general election next month.
Still, New Zealand’s international tourism industry has collapsed and the country remains more isolated from the outside world than before. Ardern’s government has been reluctant to reopen the border to any other countries, even as other nations cautiously do so.
And the experience of some other countries, including Vietnam and Australia, shows how easily the virus can flare up again even when it looks like it’s been brought under control.
Baker said New Zealand remains in a reactionary mode and is not doing enough planning to keep the virus out. He said the country needs to create a national public health agency and better fund scientists studying the spread of the disease.
But Sunday, at least, marked a milestone that many in New Zealand noted with a sense of thankfulness and relief.
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Hello, Warren Murray bringing you matters topical this Friday morning.
The Home Office has drawn on “anecdote, assumption and prejudice” to draw up immigration policies instead of relying on evidence, the public accounts committee of MPs has concluded in a highly critical report. Priti Patel’s department was unaware of the damage caused by policy failures, with officials having “no idea” what its £400m annual spending on immigration enforcement achieves.
Meg Hillier, chair of the committee, said that while the Home Office accepts the damage done by the Windrush scandal, “the evidence we saw shows too little intent to change”. Despite years of debate and concern, the department has not estimated the illegal population in the UK since 2005, meaning “potentially exaggerated figures calculated by others could inflame hostility towards immigrants”, says the report. A lack of diversity at senior levels has created blind spots in the organisation: “Only one member of its executive committee came from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background.” On Brexit, the report warns officials have been caught “unprepared for the challenges”, such as cooperation with the EU on the return of foreign offenders and illegal migrants.
The committee has given the Home Office six months to come up with a detailed plan to fix problems, particularly with regard to tackling illegal migration. Minnie Rahman of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said the report was a “very accurate picture of a clueless, careless and cold-hearted Home Office”. A Home Office source said the home secretary agreed with the PAC assessment of “historical issues … She has spoken at great length about how the department puts process before people, and it is why she has committed to implementing the findings of the Wendy Williams review into Windrush.”
Just 1.9% of people using a home test kit in England got their results within 24 hours in the week to 9 September – the lowest since test and trace began in May. Results from 33.3% of in-person tests were turned around within 24 hours, down from 66.5% the previous week. Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, has said in a CNN town hall: “I don’t trust the president on vaccines. I trust Dr Fauci. If Fauci says a vaccine is safe, I would take the vaccine. We should listen to the scientists, not to the president.” Follow further developments at our live blog.
GCSE gap narrows – Disadvantaged students in England narrowed the GCSE attainment gap with their peers this summer, according to an analysis. Based on this year’s results at 1,200 secondary schools, researchers found that 56% of disadvantaged pupils achieved a 4 or above in English and maths, compared with 78% of non-disadvantaged pupils. At 22 percentage points the gap remains vast, but it is an improvement on 2019 when it was 26 percentage points. A separate report has found that state schools in the most deprived areas of England have suffered their worst decline in funding since the 1980s. The decline that began under David Cameron’s Tory-led coalition is so deep that the additional £7bn pledged by the current government will not be enough to reverse the cuts by 2023, says the IFS. England spends around £6,100 per pupil a year, well behind £7,300 in Scotland where investment continued to rise over the course of the 2000s.
Russia still meddling: FBI – Christopher Wray, the FBI director, has warned that Russia is interfering in the 2020 US presidential elections to undermine Joe Biden and sap Americans’ confidence in the election process. He said a “steady drumbeat of misinformation” could undermine confidence in the result of the election. On the US campaign trail, Donald Trump has been condemned for downplaying America’s historic legacy of slavery and claiming schoolchildren have been subjected to “decades of leftwing indoctrination”.
Toe springs’ internal toll – Trainers that curve upward at the toe may carry a risk of doing long-term damage to the wearer’s feet, researchers are warning. The “toe spring” is a common feature that helps the front of the foot roll forwards, making thick and cushioned soles more comfortable. But the effect on foot muscles had not been well studied until now. A team at Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany found the spring makes the muscles’ work easier but this might weaken them to the point where other structures in the foot, such as ligaments, take over, increasing the risk of conditions like plantar fasciitis. Responding to the study, Trevor Prior, consultant podiatric surgeon and spokesman for the College of Podiatry in the UK, said the detrimental effect was theoretical but people should wear a range of footwear to minimise the negative effect any specific shoe design might have.
Ockham’s poo knife – To test a folk story, Metin Eren from Kent State University in Ohio tried making a knife from his own frozen faeces. He tested it on animal hide – ending in failure but ultimately earning an Ig Nobel award for research that “first makes people laugh, and then makes them think”. This year’s awards included a physics prize for recording the shape of earthworms when vibrated at high frequency; a peace prize to India and Pakistan for having their diplomats ring each other’s doorbells and run away; and an economics prize for the UK after Chris Watkins, a psychologist at the University of Abertay, found French kissing is more common in areas of high income inequality. Boris Johnson shared a medical education prize with the likes of Trump and Putin for demonstrating during the pandemic that politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors.
Today in Focus podcast: Amy Dorris – ‘Trump groped me’
Rob Baxter backed the decision to allow Northampton to draft in Gloucester’s Alex Seville for the European Champions Cup quarter-final at Exeter on Sunday, but he accused the Saints of playing mind games to swing the decision. Fifty years after she helped form a breakaway women’s tour, the Fed Cup has been renamed the Billie Jean King Cup. And German amateur side SG Ripdorf/Molzen II sacrificed a tight defence for social distancing as they fielded only seven players as a coronavirus precaution in a 37-0 loss to local rivals SV Holdenstedt II.
Asia-Pacific shares have been slightly higher despite the overnight fall on Wall Street. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 inched up as did South Korea’s Kospi and the Hang Seng while Sydney was little changed and Shanghai added 0.5%. A 0.18% fall is indicated for the FTSE at the open while the pound is worth $1.295 and €1.093 at time of writing.
The Times reports “‘Chaos and inefficiency’ in Covid-19 testing labs” while the Telegraph has “Hospitals told to clear beds for Covid spike in two weeks”– both papers give a picture slot to models for London fashion week. Metro leads with “Cases up 75% in one week … 24-hour test results down 50%”.
“Here, at last!” – a debatable comma there but the Express continues “Virus test result in just 90 minutes”. It’s about the NudgeBox – as our report explains the device is a game-changer for testing where lab facilities are unavailable, but can only take one sample at a time, meaning a maximum of 16 tests in 24 hours. The Mail has “£1bn cost of maternity blunders”. The i bags a decent angle: “Emergency powers will allow use of unlicensed vaccine in UK”, saying the government is prepared to sidestep EU licensing laws. The FT goes with Brexit: “Von der Leyen ‘convinced’ Brussels can still reach trade deal with UK”.
The Guardian Morning Briefing is delivered to thousands of inboxes bright and early every weekday. If you are not already receiving it by email, you can sign up here.
On Wednesday, India had more than 5.1 million confirmed cases — one million cases were reported over the last month.
Canada has reported more than 140,000 coronavirus cases, with 9,200 confirmed deaths.
Coronavirus: Dr. Tam calls case-count increase as schools reopen ‘concerning’
Coronavirus: Dr. Tam calls case-count increase as schools reopen ‘concerning’
Canada has seen a steady uptick of coronavirus cases over the past few weeks as the weather gets colder and children and teachers head back to school.
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The federal government has pledged billions of dollars in funding to provinces and territories to boost testing capacity, while some provinces have begun re-imposing measures to rein in the spread of the virus.
(Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday announced charges against three Iranians over allegations they stole information from aerospace and satellite technology firms on behalf of the Islamic republic’s Revolutionary Guards.
The indictments follow a flurry of recent actions against alleged Iranian cyber spies including the announcement, earlier on Thursday, that entities and individuals associated with an Iranian hacking group sometimes dubbed APT39 were being sanctioned by the Treasury Department.
U.S. Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement it was the third time in three days that alleged Iranian hackers had been indicted, calling out what he described as “yet another effort by a rogue foreign nation to steal the fruits of this country’s hard work and expertise.”
The defendants, identified as Said Pourkarim Arabi, 34, Mohammad Reza Espargham, whose age is unknown, and Mohammad Bayati, 34, are alleged to have impersonated colleagues or academics to get their targets to download malicious software, prosecutors said.
Attempts to locate contact information for the Iranian defendants were not immediately successful. Messages sent to email addresses allegedly used by the hackers either bounced back as undeliverable or were not immediately returned.
At one point, according to prosecutors, Arabi, Espargham, and Bayati had a hit list more than 1,800 accounts long, including targets in the aerospace and satellite technology fields as well as employees of international governmental organizations. The indictment did not identify the people or organizations targeted but said they hailed from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Israel, and Singapore.
Prosecutors said the trio were working for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the United States considers a terrorist organization. Arabi, the indictment says, was an IRGC operations manager and lived in IRGC housing.
A message left with Iran’s mission to the United Nations was not immediately returned. Tehran regularly denies involvement in hacking.
(Reporting by Raphael Satter; Editing by Tom Brown)