(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Awaiting decisions in NZ and Australia
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is due to announce on Friday whether strict lockdown measures will be extended. Opinion is divided on whether she should repeat that strategy, given its huge economic cost and mounting global evidence that the virus cannot be permanently suppressed.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins said genome testing suggested the new virus outbreak had originated in Britain or Australia, but officials were investigating how the family in Auckland contracted it.
It was a waiting game over in Australia as well as public enquiry findings into how passengers infected with the novel coronavirus were allowed to disembark the Carnival Corp-owned Ruby Princess cruise ship in Sydney in March, triggering a major outbreak, are set to be released.
Hitches to deciding on U.S. coronavirus aid
President Donald Trump said on Thursday he was blocking Democrats’ effort to include funds for the U.S. Postal Service and election infrastructure in a new coronavirus relief bill, a bid to block more Americans from voting by mail during the pandemic.
“The items are the post office and the $3.5 billion for mail-in voting,” Trump told Fox Business Network, saying Democrats want to give the post office $25 billion. “If we don’t make the deal, that means they can’t have the money, that means they can’t have universal mail-in voting.”
Trump later told a news briefing that if a deal was reached that included postal funding, he would not veto it.
Reciprocal quarantines across the Channel
Britain’s decision to impose a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals from France will lead to a reciprocal measure, French junior minister for European affairs Clément Beaune said late on Thursday.
Britain will quarantine all arrivals from France from Saturday because coronavirus infection rates there are too high, transport minister Grant Shapps said.
The reimposition of stringent quarantine conditions is in contrast to earlier in the year when the British government was criticised for being too slow to lock down at the beginning of the pandemic when many cases are thought to have arrived from holidaymakers returning from Italy.
Frozen food virus conclusion
The World Health Organization has played down the risk of the virus entering the food chain after two cities in China found traces of it in cargoes of imported frozen food.
Viruses can survive up to two years at temperatures of minus 20 Celsius, but scientists and officials say there is no strong evidence the coronavirus can spread via frozen food.
Coronaviruses cannot multiply in food – they need a live animal or human host to multiply and survive. Since the new coronavirus cannot replicate on the surface of food or packaging, it can only become gradually weaker outside a living cell, said Jin Dong-Yan, virology professor at the University of Hong Kong.
Infection from contact with a frozen virus through imported food “is still not to be considered a major route of infection and still not an event that should substantially affect policy at the public health levels”, said Eyal Leshem, director of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Diseases at Sheba Medical Center in Israel.
(Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Robert Birsel)