What you need to know about the coronavirus right now – Metro US

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Milan
The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Milan

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Facing attacks at home, Trump targets WHO

U.S. President Donald Trump has momentarily managed to deflect domestic criticism of his handling of the coronavirus crisis by announcing a suspension of U.S. funds to the World Health Organization. He accused the agency of promoting China’s “disinformation” and so leading to a wider outbreak than would have otherwise occurred – an accusation WHO rejects.

Outside the United States, the move drew condemnation and concern that it would hold back efforts to tame the pandemic – even from those who are critical of the WHO’s track record. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country was not going to follow suit and, as he put it, throw the baby out with the bathwater.

(Open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in a separate browser for an interactive graphic to track the global spread.)

Debt holiday

Big lender nations will later on Wednesday confirm they are relieving the world’s poorest countries of debt payments this year to help them deal with the pandemic.

Finance officials from the United States, China and other Group of 20 major economies will meet online to finalize an agreement for some 76 countries, including 40 in sub-Saharan Africa, to have debt payments worth a combined $20 billion suspended by official and private creditors.

Debt relief campaigners welcomed the move as a step forward but appealed for rich nations to go further and cancel the debt outright.

Ahead of the coronavirus curve

South Korea, among the first countries to bring a major coronavirus outbreak under control, is now taking steps to control the disease well into the future, relying heavily on technology and its hyper-connected society.

Tools deployed will include a smartphone tracking app for new airport arrivals; a so-called “smart city” database of thousands of people infected by the new coronavirus and their contacts; and electronic bracelets that track people breaking quarantine laws.

“We are in a lengthy tug of war with the coronavirus,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said, adding the battle could last months or even years.

The effort is being closely watched elsewhere – not least because of the privacy questions it raises.

Merkel consults

Unlike Trump who this week declared his authority “total”, German Chancellor Angela Merkel seems to accept that decision-making must be shared in a federal republic. She will on Wednesday consult with the premiers of the regional Bundeslaender on when and how Europe’s top economy can start easing some of its restrictions.

Stay off Zoom, Google Hangouts, StanChart chief tells staff

Standard Chartered Chief Executive Officer Bill Winters told managers in a memo last week not to use Zoom Video during the coronavirus pandemic due to cybersecurity concerns, becoming the first global bank to make such a directive.

He also warned against using Alphabet Inc’s Google Hangouts platform for virtual gatherings.

Neither service has the level of encryption included in rival platforms offered by the likes of Cisco Systems, Microsoft Corp or Blue Jeans Network, industry experts said.

An online training session hosted by Scottish Swimming is among the latest victims of a so-called “zoom-bombing” incident.

New Zealand PM takes a paycut

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, government ministers and public service chief executives will take a 20% pay cut for the next six months to help mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is where we can take action and that is why we have,” Ardern said.

(For a selection of updated, curated coronavirus coverage, click: https://www.reuters.com/live-events/coronavirus-6-id2921484)

(Compiled by Mark John and Karishma Singh)