Donald Trump

US bans European travel

US President Donald Trump has blamed the European Union for the spread of the coronavirus in the US and is putting a travel ban on Europe. The suspension will last for 30 days, and will be effective as of midnight Friday. Curiously, the UK is not included in this ban.

Trump pointedly described the action as “the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history”.

The move follows Central American nation Guatemala — which, unlike the US, is yet to report any cases of the virus — announcing yesterday that there will be a blanket ban on the entry of any European citizens.

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Oh, and in case your brain has any space left, Tom Hanks has the virus too.

Pandemic declared

Trump’s announcement follows the the World Health Organisation (WHO) official declaration that the coronavirus outbreak is now a pandemic.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom mentioned in the same announcement, worryingly: “We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction”.

A pandemic is defined as “an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people”.

It has nothing to do with the severity of the disease, or the relative immunity of affected communities. It’s all about geographical spread, and how that spread occurs — to count towards WHO’s assessment of pandemic, a country has to have the disease spread within the community, rather than have an infected traveler simply arrive. There’s no specific threshold of countries affected, numbers infected or numbers killed.

“There is no official category (for a pandemic),” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said back in February.

WHO last declared a pandemic in 2009, during the global spread of the H1N1 “swine flu”, a move that was criticized at the time as causing unnecessary panic. This, plus the fact that they have tweaked their system of classification for pandemics since, may explain their reticence in using the word on this and other occasions.

On either side of the swine flu, the SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) outbreaks were not designated as pandemics.

Flippin’ eck! Cor Lummy! The health minster’s only bloody gone and got the bloody Miley Cyrus!

In the UK, Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Nadine Dorries has been diagnosed with coronavirus.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson — like his buddy Donald Trumpwill not be getting tested, raising fears it might spread across Westminster. Meanwhile, his government have pledged a £30 billion (A$59 billion) stimulus package in response to the disease.

Romania postpones pride

The Bucharest Pride event, which attracts about 10,000 people, has been postponed from May 23 until August or September, after Romania banned events with more than 1000 attendees.

Twenty-five virus cases were confirmed in the country on Monday.

Wooing in Wuhan

As reported by Buzzfeed, information on life in the epicentre of the outbreak has found an interesting conduit to the outside world: Tinder’s premium services.

Tinder Plus or Tinder Gold memberships allow the user to swipe in any location, like Wuhan, regardless of where they are.

The messages users have receiving from the quarantined city are largely what you’d expect; everyone has to stay indoors, the bridges are blocked and public transport isn’t available, and some are just on the app for “fun” and don’t want to talk about the lockdown.

If nothing else, we’ve learned why anyone would want to get Tinder Gold.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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