China’s ‘bat woman’ says virus ‘tip of the iceberg’
A Chinese scientist specilising in viral transmissions from bats has warned that coronavirus is "just the tip of the iceberg" in a television interview.
Shi Zhengli, a scientist dubbed China's "bat woman" researcher, said on Chinese television on Monday (local time) that "if we want to prevent human beings from suffering from the next infectious-disease outbreak, we must go in advance to learn of these unknown viruses carried by wild animals in nature and give early warnings."
"If we don't study [the viruses], there will possibly be another outbreak," Dr Shi warned.
Dr Shi works in the same Wuhan lab that was accused of accidentally unleashing the virus on humans.
She denies those claims, saying that her lab has been researching a different strain of coronavirus.
So far, the virus has killed more than 345,000 people around the globe.
Meanwhile, the city of Wuhan has conducted more than 6.5 million coronavirus tests over a 10-day period in a bid to test all its 11 million residents, state media said Monday.
The city's health commission, in a post on its website, asked anyone who hasn't been tested to come forward by the end of Tuesday.
No new COVID-19 cases have been reported since the ten-day campaign started, though some people with no symptoms tested positive.
More than 3 million people had been tested prior to the campaign, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Wuhan, where the global pandemic is believed to have started late last year, was by far the city hit hardest in China.
DONALD TRUMP HITS BACK AT GOLF CRITICS
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has fumed at negative media coverage of him playing golf over the US' Memorial Day weekend, as the American death toll from the coronavirus pandemic neared 100,000.
"The Fake and Totally Corrupt News makes it sound like a mortal sin!" the golf-loving president said on Twitter, noting that the game at his own course in Virginia was the first time he had played since early March.
The timing of his outing, as the nation approached a milestone in deaths from the pandemic, sparked widespread criticism in the media, with commentators recalling Mr Trump's own past attacks on his predecessor Barack Obama for playing the game during the 2014 ebola outbreak.
"There are times to play and times that you can't play. It sends the wrong signal," Mr Trump said at the time.
"You know when you're president you sorta say, like, 'I'm gonna give it up for a couple of years and I'm really gonna focus on the job,'" he said in 2014.
After being raked over the coals at the weekend, Mr Trump lambasted the media as being "sick with hatred and dishonesty." "I knew this would happen!" he said.
"What they don't say is that it was my first golf in almost 3 months, and, if I waited three years, they would do their usual 'hit' pieces anyway."
The US President went on to say that in 2014 Mr Obama flew to his home state of Hawaii shortly after he had publicly denounced the beheading of American hostage James Foley by Islamic State militants.
Mr Obama apologised for the poorly timed visit afterwards and acknowledged the gravity attached to presidential behaviour at such moments.
Mr Trump received some unexpected support from one-time Obama adviser David Axelrod.
"I don't often defend this @POTUS but I don't begrudge him a round of golf," Mr Axelrod, now a political commentator, said on Twitter.
"Besides, it gives the rest of us a respite from those crazy tweets! Yes, it's hypocritical for @realDonaldTrump to have attacked @BarackObama for seeking some relief from the pressures of the presidency on the golf course when Trump has logged many more rounds," he said.
"It's also hypocritical to attack Trump for it now if you defended Obama then."
HEALTH MINISTER; 'NO RESAON FOR BORDER CLOSURES'
Meanwhile, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says there is no medical reason for state borders to remain closed as momentum builds to allow holidays interstate.
Mr Hunt said no Commonwealth body had recommended the move to shut state borders.
While interstate travel was discouraged under current guidelines agreed to by National Cabinet, there are growing calls for greater movement to be allowed to bolster local economies.
Mr Hunt told reporters on Monday there was no reason for domestic borders to be closed, despite most states and territories implementing measures.
"At this point, there've been no Commonwealth recommendations in favour, there've been no National Cabinet recommendations in favour and there has been no medical expert panels in favour of state border closures," he said.
"The National Cabinet three-step plan for recovery also included the progressive restriction- the progressive movement and lifting of state border restrictions."
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has taken aim at states with closed borders, claiming it was "hindering" Australia's economic recovery.
Only Victoria, the ACT and NSW have resisted slapping bans on their borders, with Queensland's Labor government going so far as declaring their borders could remain closed until September.
Australia is currently nearing the end of step one of an agreed three-step framework to ease restrictions.
The final step includes the possibility of travel to New Zealand, but restrictions are being eased slowly to ensure the virus is under control.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly last week said border measures were not medically required.
"From a medical point of view I can't see why the borders are still closed," he said.
With mounting traction for a travel bubble with New Zealand to be created, Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said stubborn domestic borders should not hold the plan back.
"If New Zealand and some Australian states are ready and willing to progress then the reluctance of other states to open up their domestic borders shouldn't become an obstacle to progress.
"The recovery of jobs and small businesses in some states shouldn't be held back by the decisions of other state governments."
He said New Zealand was "obviously the first, and right now only" other nation safe enough to consider opening the borders.
News Corp Australia understands countries including Fiji had hoped to welcome Australian tourists back as soon as possible but any talks were in their infancy.
Mr Hunt said the timing of the proposed trans-Tasman bubble was up to the AHPPC medical expert committee, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
"That is something that I think offers real prospect and hope for people on both sides of the ditch," he said.
"It's a really important thing that, if we can have greater international movement that is safe, we do that.
"They'll look at when they think it's safe."
New Zealand has enjoyed very low case levels, with just 27 active cases remaining in the country yesterday.
From March, Australians have been banned from travelling overseas.
The strict border measures were put in place to prevent travellers returning with coronavirus.
Aussies landing on home soil are required to remain in a hotel quarantine for 14 days before being allowed home.
COLES LIFTS RESTRICTIONS
Retail giant Coles will lift all of its remaining buying restrictions on products from tomorrow as social restrictions continue to ease.
From Tuesday, customers will be able to as much as they like of items such as flour, pasta, rice, toilet paper, liquid soap and hand sanitiser.
Product limits had been placed on up to 24 products in early March as panic buying swept the nation.
During the shortage, customers could only buy two packets or less per transaction and only one packet of toilet paper.
Antibacterial wipes and liquid soap are the final products to have buying limits removed tomorrow, following the lifting of restrictions on rice and flour last week.
The product limit of four tins of baby formula remains in place as this restriction was in place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Coles spokesman said the supermarket giant thanked customers for their patience during the nationwide restrictions.
"We know it's been a challenging time for many and we hope having no buying restrictions on these every day products will help make life easier for our customers," the spokesman said.
"We are also grateful to our suppliers and logistics partners who helped restock our shelves and the state and federal governments who helped us to get deliveries to stores as quickly as possible during the height of the crisis."
Coles urged customers to maintain social distancing and follow guidelines to ensure the safety of the community.
JAPAN LIFTS EMERGENCY
It comes as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and four other remaining areas on Monday (local time), ending the restrictions nationwide as businesses begin to reopen.
Abe also unveiled a plan for a new stimulus package to support businesses hit by the pandemic.
Experts on a government-commissioned panel approved the lifting of the emergency in Tokyo, neighbouring Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama prefectures, and in Hokkaido to the north, which had more cases and remained under the emergency declaration after it was removed in most of Japan earlier this month.
Under the emergency, people were asked to stay at home and non-essential businesses were requested to close or reduce operations, but there was no enforcement. Since May 14, when the measures were lifted in most of Japan, more people have been leaving their homes and stores have begun reopening.
Japan, with about 16,600 confirmed coronavirus cases and about 850 deaths, has so far avoided a large outbreak like those experienced in the US and Europe despite its softer restrictions.
"We were able to bring the outbreak nearly under control in just a month and a half in a uniquely Japanese way" without enforcing measures with penalties, Abe said. "We demonstrated the power of the 'Japan model.'"
But the world's third largest economy has fallen into a recession, and public discontent over Abe's handling of the outbreak has sent his support ratings tumbling. Recent media surveys show public support for his Cabinet has plunged below 30 per cent, the lowest since he returned to office in December 2012.
Abe said the lifting of the emergency does not mean the end of the outbreak. He said the goal is to balance preventive measure and the economy until vaccines and effective drugs become available.
"Our goal is to create a new normal," he said. "We need a new approach to resume our daily social and economic activity."
The Japanese PM also said development of effective drugs and vaccines is essential for holding the Tokyo Olympics next year.
He said it isn't enough for coronavirus infections to be under control in Japan if outbreaks continue elsewhere since the Olympics is an international event.
"I'm anxious to bring together wisdom from around the world to speed up development of vaccines and effective medicines," Abe said.
Japan hopes to host the Tokyo Games "in a complete form" to demonstrate human victory over the coronavirus, he said.
In late March, Japan and the International Olympic Committee agreed to postpone the games by one year to July 2021.
Experts say developing an effective and safe vaccine by then is difficult.
INDIA FLIGHTS BACK IN AIR
Domestic airline travel partially resumed in India, which is easing its virus lockdown despite adding more than 6,000 new infections per day.
At New Delhi's airport, passengers in masks or full protective suits stood in long lines to show identification and boarding passes to security personnel standing behind plastic partitions.
Ticket machines have been shifted outside, where airport workers sanitised baggage. Commercial flight traffic returned across India except for the states of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.
India's Supreme Court has ordered social distancing norms in airports and in flight, forcing airlines to keep middle seats open.
NEW ZEALAND TO ALLOW CROWDS
New Zealand plans to further loosen its coronavirus restrictions by increasing the maximum size of gatherings from 10 people to 100.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the change would take effect midday Friday.
The timing is designed, in part, to allow religious services to proceed that day and over the weekend.
New Zealand has reported just one new case of coronavirus over the past week.
Ardern attributed that success to a strict early lockdown and people's ongoing vigilance.
"We are still in a global pandemic," Ardern said.
"Cases continue to grow overseas, and we still do have people coming home.
But for the most part, many aspects of life can and should feel much more normal."
Originally published as China's 'bat woman' says virus 'tip of the iceberg'