North Korean leader Kim Jong-un

North Korea leads the way

The rapid expansion of police state powers across Australia has provided a rare occasion of bringing Crikey broadly into agreement with an editorial in The Australian. However necessary we may believe these powers to be, we must be vigilant that this simulacra of totalitarianism doesn’t morph into the real thing.

For a glimpse at how the real thing deals with a crisis of this sort we can look to North Korea. The hermit kingdom acted early and claims to not have a single case of coronavirus — but then they also claim supreme leader Kim Jong-Un can control the weather, so many experts have their doubts.

But, as The New York Times reports, a lack of testing ​equipment ​​may mean the state would genuinely not detect a single case​ in the likely case that outbreak did occur. This is particularly worrying for a country whose health system has been ravaged by years of international sanctions.

Elsewhere in Asia, there has been a surge in cases tied to international travellers in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, causing them all to close their borders to foreigners.

By the numbers

The graph of Australian cases compared to other countries has some cautiously optimistic that Australia’s curve flattening measures have had early success.

Country death song

The virus continues to cut through significant cultural figures. Legendary opera singer Plácido Domingo (Buzz Aldrin to Luciano Pavarotti’s Neil Armstrong) has been hospitalised because of COVID-19 symptoms.

Domingo is in a stable condition, while folk-country great John Prine remains in a critical condition, having been hospitalised last Thursday and intubated over the weekend. Star Wars actor Andrew Jack has died from the virus, as has country singer Joe Diffie at the age of only 61.

Acting the goat

Alas, many of the stories of oblivious animals enjoying the newly vacated streets and newly clean waterways turned out to be apocryphal. But this one isn’t: goats have taken over a town in Wales.

The coastal town of Llandudno is surrounded by hills full of mountain goats. With the town in lockdown, the goats have descended, grazing on gardens and church grounds and just sort of milling about.