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Trump says evidence ties China lab to coronavirus, threatens tariffs

Even as United States (US) is grappling with Coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump once again threatened China with fresh tariffs as he stepped up his attacks on Beijing over the COVID-19 crisis, saying he had seen evidence linking a Wuhan lab to the contagion, which has infected at least 3.2 million people so far.

Data showed that the United States shed more than 30 million jobs in six weeks, as lockdown measures began to bite across the nation,  therefore the diatribe from the Republican incumbent, Trump.

 

Global gloom in the economy is evident, with the largest economy America finding its parallel across the Atlantic, where experts warned of an unprecedented financial catastrophe in Europe.

With almost the whole world under lockdown to check the spread of Coronavirus outbreak which has so far killed more than 230,000 people and   crippled economies.

Chinese city of Wuhan remained the epicentre of COVID-19 for a long time and novel coronavirus is believed to have originated late last year in its wet market that sold wild animals for human consumption, but speculation has swirled about a top-secret lab in the ground-zero city.

Asked if he had seen anything giving him a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the source of the outbreak, Trump replied, “Yes, I have.”

As the journalists at White House briefing pressed him for further details on what made him so confident, Trump replied: “I cannot tell you that.”

US President is increasingly making Beijing’s handling of the outbreak a major issue for his November re-election campaign.

When asked about reports that he could cancel US debt obligations to China, Trump said he could “do it differently” and act in “probably a little bit more of a forthright manner.”

“I could do the same thing but even for more money, just putting on tariffs,” he said.

Despite a truce in the long-running trade war between Washington and Beijing reached in January, tariffs are already in place on two-thirds of trade between the economic powers.

The US and European trade markets finished the day in negative territory, as a spate of figures confirmed fears about how the COVID-19 crisis is pulverizing global growth.

The latest jobless claims by another 3.84 million Americans translate into a jarring conclusion, roughly nine percent of the US population has filed for unemployment benefits in six weeks.

In the state of Michigan, protesters, some of whom were armed, stormed the state capitol building, demanding that the Democratic governor remove strict lockdown rules, which they say hurt the economy and represent governmental overreach.

Christine Lagarde, the President of European Central Bank, gave a tough message amid depressing US jobs data.

“The euro area is facing an economic contraction of a magnitude and speed that are unprecedented in peacetime,” she warned.

ECB economists expect output in the 19-nation currency club to shrink by “five to 12 percent” this year, she added.

Eurostat figures showed the eurozone economy was estimated to have shrunk by 3.8 percent in the first quarter.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, “will experience the worst recession in the history of the federal republic,” Economy Minister Peter Altmaier warned, predicting it would shrink by a record 6.3 percent.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has become the latest high-profile figure to test positive for Coronavirus as his country’s caseload surged past 100,000,

But there is something to cheer about as American scientists reported positive tests for an improved treatment, and with deaths and infections starting to drop in some hotspots, countries looked at the next phase in their plans to lift crippling lockdown measures.

On Thursday, Germany accelerated plans to start lifting its anti-virus lockdown, preparing to ease curbs on public life and reopen religious institutions, museums and zoos, with having restarted shopping last week. A decision on when to reopen schools is to come next week.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “It remains absolutely important that we stay disciplined.”

In South Korea, where COVID-19 was detected in mid-February, no new infections were reported for the first time, suggesting its aggressive test-and-trace strategy is working.

South Korea’s death toll is around 250 — vastly lower than that of Italy, Britain, Spain and France, which have each recorded at least 24,000 fatalities.

The United States tops the table with nearly 63,000 deaths. It recorded more than 2,000 deaths for the third day running Thursday.

Italy, once the world center of the outbreak, said it was hoping to reopen two major airports next week, but — like Spain — plans a cautious reopening.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, “We cannot allow the efforts made to be in vain because of rashness at this delicate stage.”

And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who himself battled COVID-19, said the country was “past the peak” of its outbreak.

Meanwhile, in the first evidence of successful treatment, a US clinical trial of the drug remdesivir showed that patients recovered about 30 percent faster than those on a placebo.

“The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery,” said Anthony Fauci, the top epidemiologist in the United States.

But it is a treatment, not the much-sought-after vaccine that might allow a full return to normal life.

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations said on Thursday that more than 130 virus therapies are currently being investigated.

Most are still in the early stages of testing, but more than 25 clinical trials have begun, IFPMA director Thomas Cueni said.(AFP)