Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe
Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

The end of Honest Abe?

Could coronavirus be about to claim its first major political scalp? There are widespread calls for the resignation of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe.

After weeks of inaction, Abe’s sudden decision to close the nation’s schools for a month was poorly received.

Japan has struggled to roll out testing for the virus, managing only 900 patients per day while neighbouring countries test up to 10,000. Japan’s former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe said the handling of virus had been “so disastrous” because Abe “has stayed too long in power”.

Abe’s polling has since plummeted and Twitter has been flooded with more than a million posts demanding his resignation.

Lack of cruise control

Yet another cruise ship carrying thousands of people is not being allowed to dock after one of its recent passengers became the first person in California to die of the disease.

The Grand Princess cruise ship is currently bobbing off the Californian coast, where it was scheduled to dock on Saturday after a 15-day cruise, awaiting a helicopter drop of test kits.

No passengers will be allowed to disembark until all results have been received.

Eleven passengers and 10 crew members on the voyage between Hawaii and San Francisco had reported symptoms that could turn out to be coronavirus, California Governor Gavin Newsom said, though as yet none are confirmed.

Dimming the light in Bethlehem

Overnight, Israel and the Palestinian Authority collaborated to impose a lockdown on Bethlehem, including the Church of the Nativity, and surrounding towns and villages after the discovery of seven cases of coronavirus.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas has declared a state of emergency across the West Bank.

Religious pilgrims have played a suspected role in spreading the virus across Iran and surrounding countries, and a confirmed role in spreading it around South Korea. Saudi Arabia, home of the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, has already banned pilgrims from entering the country.

By the numbers

There are seven new cases of coronavirus detected in the Republic of Ireland, including the first confirmed case of community transmission, since the patient had not traveled to an infected area. This brings the total to 13 in the country.

Next door in England, a Liverpool child has been confirmed as the third case of coronavirus in the Merseyside city. Cases of coronavirus in the UK have jumped from 39 to 116 since Monday, and today reported its first death, a 70-year-old woman from Reading.

Italy reported a sharp jump in deaths on Thursday, taking the total to 148.

The number of US cases has now jumped to 197, and Congress has overwhelmingly approved an US$8.3 billion emergency spending bill to combat the virus.

And just in case you don’t have enough to be angry about, The New York Times has a piece looking at the ways the super rich are dealing with the threat of the virus — upgrading from first class to private planes and private “concierge doctors” and “other V.I.P. health care services”, and buying US$35 hand sanitiser with floral notes of pear and bergamot.

Meanwhile, in China, instances of new cases are apparently slowing — and a feel-good report is spreading on social media site Weibo of a 101-year-old man who apparently recovered.

That said, given this is the kind of story the Chinese government has been keen to get out there, at the expense of more painful truths about the outbreak, it’s worth viewing with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Legacy media is going down the toilet

Here in Australia, where the greatest pictures have been of emptied toilet paper aisles, we’ve seen some novel responses.

Kevin Rudd — who will let no opportunity to slam the Murdoch media pass unexploited — found a second use for his copy of The Courier-Mail. I’m sure Courier editors will console themselves that he still had to buy a copy to pull this joke.

The NT News decided to cut out the middle man entirely, putting out an edition with a blank section for that very same purpose.