Contains selective news articles I select

Posts tagged ‘Health’

UN chief warns of violence at home, Japan nears emergency

April 06, 2020

TOKYO (AP) — With more than 1.2 million people infected with the new coronavirus, the U.N. chief appealed for “peace at home” — all homes — out of concern that domestic violence was rising as the social and financial toll of the pandemic deepened.

U.S. officials warned of sad developments to come in the worst-hit country, where medical supplies were short and morgues were crowded. Japanese officials on Monday considered declaring a state of emergency. Infections are soaring in the country that has the world’s third-largest economy and its oldest population.

The reported declaration would likely cover the sprawling megacity of Tokyo and other areas and would come a couple of weeks after the Summer Olympics were postponed until next year. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described “a horrifying global surge in domestic violence” in recent weeks. Following his call on March 23 for an immediate cease-fire in all armed conflicts, he said it was time to appeal for an end to all violence, “everywhere, now.”

“For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest — in their own homes,” Gutteres said in his statement. “And so I make a new appeal today for peace at home — and in homes — around the world.”

He also noted that health care providers and police were overwhelmed and other options for helping victims were stretched or not available as communities cut back services during lockdowns to fight the pandemic.

“I urge all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19,” Guterres said. In Japan, reports say Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to declare an emergency in Tokyo and other cities Tuesday. His government is also expected to announce a $550 billion economic package to fund coronavirus measures and support businesses and jobs.

Japanese officials say they cannot enforce a hard lockdown as in China or parts of Europe, a government restraint that is partly a legacy of Japan’s fascist history until the end of World War II. Most of the measures in Abe’s declaration would be requests and instructions, and objectors would not be punished. But such requests would put major psychological pressure on people to comply.

Tokyo reported more than 100 cases two days in a row for a total of 1,033 on Sunday. Nationwide, Japan has more than 4,000 cases, with more than 80 deaths. In the United States, the nation’s top doctor warned that many would face “the hardest and saddest week” of their lives while Britain assumed the unwelcome mantle of deadliest coronavirus hot spot in Europe after a record 24-hour jump in deaths that surpassed even hard-hit Italy’s.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was hospitalized for tests after continuing to have symptoms of COVID-19. Downing St. says the hospitalization is a “precautionary step” and he remains in charge of the government.

In many parts of Asia, there have been victories against the spread of the disease. But on Monday South Korea’s vice health minister, Kim Gang-lip, expressed concerns over loosened attitudes toward social distancing that he says puts the country at potential risk of an infection “explosion.” The country reported 47 new cases of the coronavirus, the smallest daily jump since Feb. 20, but rising infections have been linked to international arrivals as students and other South Korean nationals flock back from the West as outbreaks worsened and school years were suspended.

Some hard-hit areas were seeing glimmers of hope — the number of people dying appeared to be slowing in New York City, Spain and Italy. Leaders cautioned, however, that any gains could easily be reversed if people did not continue to adhere to strict lockdowns.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams offered a stark warning about the expected wave of virus deaths. “This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment,’’ he told “Fox News Sunday.” But President Donald Trump later suggested the hard weeks ahead could foretell the turning of a corner. “We’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel,” Trump said at an evening White House briefing.

In New York City, the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, daily deaths dropped slightly, along with intensive care admissions and the number of patients who needed breathing tubes inserted, but New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned it was “too early to tell” the significance of those numbers.

The outlook, however, was bleak in Britain, which reported more than 600 deaths Sunday, surpassing Italy’s increase. Italy still has, by far, the world’s highest coronavirus death toll — almost 16,000.

In a rare televised address, Queen Elizabeth II appealed to Britons to rise the occasion, while acknowledging enormous disruptions, grief and financial difficulties. “I hope in the years to come, everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge,” she said. “And those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any.”

Worldwide, more than 1.2 million people have been confirmed infected and nearly 70,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. The true numbers are certainly much higher, due to limited testing, different ways nations count the dead and deliberate under-reporting by some governments.

The vast majority of infected people recover from the virus, which is spread by microscopic droplets from coughs or sneezes. For most people, the virus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause pneumonia and death.

Associated Press writers around the world contributed to this report.

Europe sees more signs of hope as Italy’s virus curve falls

April 06, 2020

ROME (AP) — Europe saw further signs of hope in the coronavirus outbreak Sunday as Italy’s daily death toll was at its lowest in more than two weeks and its infection curve was finally on a downward slope. In Spain, new deaths dropped for the third straight day.

But the optimism was tempered by Britain’s jump in virus deaths that outpaced the daily toll in Italy. Angelo Borrelli, the head of Italy’s Civil Protection agency on Sunday, said there were 525 deaths in the 24-hour period since Saturday evening. That’s the lowest such figure in the country since 427 deaths were registered on March 19.

Italy now has a total of 15,887 deaths and nearly 129,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. A day shy of one month under a national lockdown that the Italian government ordered, the lower count of day-to-day deaths brought some encouragement.

The number of intensive care unit beds occupied by COVID-19 patients has also showed a decrease in the last few days, including in northern Lombardy, Italy’s most stricken region. Borrelli also noted with a measure of satisfaction that the number of those hospitalized but not in ICU beds also has decreased.

Italy recorded 4,316 new cases Sunday. Earlier in the outbreak, daily increases in caseloads topped the 6,000 mark. “The curve, which had been plateauing for days, is starting to descend,″ national health official Silvio Brusaferro told reporters, referring to graphs indicating daily numbers of confirmed cases.

But Borrelli warned: “This good news shouldn’t make us drop our guard.” For days, anticipating a possible downward slope in the curve, government and health authorities in Italy have cautioned that restrictions on movement would likely last in some form for weeks.

The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most people, but for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause severe pneumonia and lead to death. As warm, sunny weather beckoned across Europe, Queen Elizabeth II appealed to Britons to exercise self-discipline in “an increasingly challenging time.”

Britain recorded 708 new coronavirus deaths Saturday while Italy reported 631 deaths that day. With 621 more deaths reported on Sunday, Britain has 4,934 virus deaths overall among 47,806 cases. Those coming down with the virus in the U.K. include Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the health secretary, England’s chief medical official and Prince Charles, heir to the British throne.

There are wide fears that Johnson’s Conservative government didn’t take the virus seriously enough at first and that beautiful spring weather will tempt Britons and others to break social distancing rules.

Restrictions on movement vary from country to country. In Germany and Britain, residents can exercise and walk their dogs, as well as go to the supermarket and do other essential tasks. Swedish authorities have advised the public to practice social distancing, but schools, bars and restaurants are still open.

Spain announced 6,023 confirmed new infections Sunday, taking its national tally to 130,759 but down from an increase of 7,026 infections in the previous day. Spain’s confirmed new virus deaths dropped for the third straight day, to 674 — the first time daily deaths have fallen below 800 in the past week.

“We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said.

Danica Kirka in London, David Rising in Berlin, and Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, Spain, contributed to this report.

German restaurant takes novel approach to keep cider flowing

April 06, 2020

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — How does a traditional German restaurant comply with the untraditional demands of the coronavirus era? Thomas Metzmacher was faced with the prospect of having to shut down his Frankfurt restaurant specializing in a traditional tart hard cider due to German regulations prohibiting groups of people from gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic. So he came up with a novel solution.

After toying with the idea of a delivery service, he instead turned his half-timbered restaurant into a makeshift drive-thru. Now he is serving up schnitzel, fried potatoes and other German favorites — of course the tasty Aeppelwoi cider — to customers waiting in a long line of cars.

“The restaurant had to close, nobody was allowed to sit inside anymore, so it was either give up or fight,” he said. “And I decided to fight.” Metzmacher’s Zum Lahmen Esel restaurant, which has been in operation since 1807, normally seats 200 people inside and another 200 in an outdoor garden.

Now, cars drive up to a small booth in front of the restaurant, where one of Metzmacher’s 36 employees takes their order, and then pushes a plastic tub down a makeshift slide to the car’s window to take payment at a safe distance. Driving ahead, the customer gets their order in another tub pushed to their window.

“It’s going great,” says Metzmacher. “My regulars are supporting me, they’re really happy I’m open.” Without people sticking around for a few more of the signature ciders, profit margins are low but Metzmacher says it’s better than nothing.

“At least we’re carrying on and we’re continuing to work,” he says.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hospitalized with virus

April 06, 2020

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to a hospital Sunday for tests, his office said, because he is still suffering symptoms, 10 days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19. Johnson’s office said the admission to an undisclosed London hospital came on the advice of his doctor and was not an emergency. The prime minister’s Downing St. office said it was a “precautionary step” and Johnson remains in charge of the government.

Johnson, 55, has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26 — the first known head of government to fall ill with the virus. Johnson has continued to preside at daily meetings on Britain’s response to the outbreak and has released several video messages during his 10 days in isolation.

In a message Friday, a flushed and red-eyed Johnson said he said he was feeling better but still had a fever. The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most people, but for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and lead to death.

U.S. President Donald Trump offered encouragement to Johnson as he opened a White House briefing on the pandemic Sunday. ”All Americans are praying for him,” Trump said. Johnson has received medical advice remotely during his illness, but going to a hospital means doctors can see him in person.

Dr. Rupert Beale, a group leader of the cell biology of infection lab at the Francis Crick Institute for biomedical studies, said doctors would likely “be monitoring important vital signs such as oxygen saturations,” as well as performing blood tests, assessing Johnson’s organ function and possibly performing a CT scan on his chest to assess his lungs.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has been designated to take over if Johnson becomes incapacitated, is set to lead the government’s coronavirus meeting Monday. Johnson’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds, 32, revealed Saturday that she spent a week in bed with coronavirus symptoms, though she wasn’t tested. Symonds, who is pregnant, said she was now “on the mend.” She has not been staying with the prime minister in Downing St. since his diagnosis.

The government said Sunday that almost 48,000 people have been confirmed to have COVID-19 in the U.K., and 4,934 have died. Johnson replaced Theresa May as Conservative prime minister in July and won a resounding election victory in December on a promise to complete Britain’s exit from the European Union. But Brexit, which became official Jan. 31, has been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe.

Johnson’s government was slower than those in some European countries to impose restrictions on daily life in response to the pandemic, leading his critics to accuse him of complacency. He imposed an effective nationwide lockdown March 23, but his government remains under huge pressure to boost the country’s number of hospital beds and ventilators and to expand testing for the virus.

London has been the center of the outbreak in the U.K., and politicians and civil servants have been hit hard. Several other members of Johnson’s government have also tested positive for the virus, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock and junior Health Minister Nadine Dorries. Both have recovered.

News of Johnson’s admission to hospital came an hour after Queen Elizabeth II made a rare televised address to the nation, in which she urged Britons to remain “united and resolute” in the fight against the virus.

“We will succeed — and that success will belong to every one of us,” the 93-year-old monarch said, drawing parallels to the struggle of World War II. “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again,” she said.

‘Complete collapse of economies’ ahead as Africa faces virus

April 05, 2020

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Some of Uganda’s poorest people used to work here, on the streets of Kampala, as fruit sellers sitting on the pavement or as peddlers of everything from handkerchiefs to roasted peanuts.

Now they’re gone and no one knows when they will return, victims of a global economic crisis linked to the coronavirus that could wipe out jobs for millions across the African continent, many who live hand-to-mouth with zero savings.

“We’ve been through a lot on the continent. Ebola, yes, African governments took a hit, but we have not seen anything like this before,” Ahunna Eziakonwa, the United Nations Development Program regional director for Africa, told The Associated Press. “The African labor market is driven by imports and exports and with the lockdown everywhere in the world, it means basically that the economy is frozen in place.

“And with that, of course, all the jobs are gone.” More than half of Africa’s 54 countries have imposed lockdowns, curfews, travel bans or other measures in a bid to prevent local transmission of the virus. They range from South Africa, where inequality and crime plague Africa’s most developed country, to places like Uganda, where the informal sector accounts for more than 50% of the country’s gross domestic product.

The deserted streets in downtown Kampala, Uganda’s capital, underscore the challenge facing authorities across the world’s poorest continent, home to 1.3 billion people: how to look after millions of people stuck at home for weeks or even months of lockdown.

With some governments saying they’re unable to offer direct support, the fate of Africa’s large informal sector could be a powerful example of what experts predict will be unprecedented damage to economies in the developing world. Among the millions made jobless are casual laborers, petty traders, street vendors, mechanics, taxi operators and conductors, housekeepers and waitresses, and dealers in everything from used clothes to construction hardware.

Unless the virus’ spread can be controlled, up to 50% of all projected job growth in Africa will be lost as aviation, services, exports, mining, agriculture and the informal sector all take a hit, Eziakonwa said.

“We will see a complete collapse of economies and livelihoods. Livelihoods will be wiped out in a way we have never seen before,” she warned. The U.N. Economic Commission for Africa has said the pandemic could seriously dent already stagnant growth in many countries, with oil-exporting nations like Nigeria and Angola losing up to $65 billion in revenue as prices fall.

Economies in sub-Saharan Africa are seen as especially vulnerable because many are heavily indebted and some struggle just to implement their budgets under less stressful circumstances. Now the continent might need up to $10.6 billion in unanticipated increases in health spending, and revenue losses could lead to debt becoming unsustainable, UNECA chief Vera Songwe said in March.

Urgent calls for an economic stimulus package have followed. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has spoken of an “existential threat” to Africa’s economies while seeking up to $150 billion from G20 nations. A meeting of African finance ministers agreed that the continent needs a stimulus package of up to $100 billion, including a waiver of up to $44 billion in interest payments.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa backed the calls for a stimulus package, saying in a recent speech that the pandemic “will reverse the gains that many countries have made in recent years.” Several African nations have been among the fastest-growing in the world.

The International Monetary Fund on March 25 said it had received requests for emergency financing from close to 20 African countries, with requests from another 10 or more likely to follow. The IMF has since approved credit facilities for at least two West African nations — Guinea and Senegal — facing virus-related economic disruption.

Further challenges exist. Rampant corruption in many African countries feeds inequality, and poor or non-existent public services stoke public anger that sometimes escalates into street protests and deadly violence.

Measures to control the spread of COVID-19 could make that worse as people trapped at home go hungry. UNECA has called for emergency actions to protect 30 million jobs immediately at risk across Africa, particularly in the tourism and airline sectors, saying the continent will be hit harder than others with an economic toll that will exacerbate “current fragilities.”

After Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni announced that food markets could remain open under orders to decongest crowded areas, some fruit vendors were assaulted by armed men and had goods confiscated, drawing an apology from the army commander. Museveni later announced an effective lockdown, closing public transport and all but essential businesses.

“What am I going to eat if he stops us from working? Museveni cannot do that,” said Marius Kamusiime, who operates a passenger motorcycle. “We may have to go back to the village if this corona becomes serious.”

On a continent where extended families are common, some say, one job loss can spell doom for up to a dozen or more people. “Sitting down is not an option because they don’t have money locked away,” said Eziakonwa, the UNDP official in charge of Africa.

Some governments such as Rwanda are distributing food to those who need it, but there are questions about sustainability. “We do know what to do to bring the economy back to life. What we don’t know is how to bring back people to life,” said Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo. He has created a virus alleviation fund to look after the neediest and has donated the equivalent of his salary for three months.

But many want to see more support, including tax relief that benefits a wider section of the urban poor. In Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta has announced temporary tax relief to people described as low-income earners — those earning up to $240 in monthly wages — as well a reduction in the maximum income tax rate from 30% to 25%. He also gave $94 million to “vulnerable members of our society” to protect them from economic damage.

But other leaders say they cannot afford such benefits. Noting that “the rich countries are unlocking staggering sums” to stimulate their economies, Benin’s President Patrice Talon said that his West African country, “like most African countries, does not have these means.”

Francis Kokutse in Accra, Ghana; Elias Meseret in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and Virgile Ahissou in Cotonou, Benin contributed.

France turns to speedy trains to catch up in virus response

April 05, 2020

PARIS (AP) — The high-speed train whooshing past historic World War I battle sites and through the chateau-speckled Loire Valley carried a delicate cargo: 20 critically ill COVID-19 patients and the breathing machines helping keep them alive.

The TGV-turned-mobile-intensive-care-unit is just one piece of France’s nationwide mobilization of trains, helicopters, jets and even a warship, deployed to relieve congested hospitals and shuffle hundreds of patients and medical personnel in and out of coronavirus hotspots.

“We are at war,” President Emmanuel Macron tells his compatriots, again and again. But as the 42-year-old leader casts himself as a warrior and harnesses the might of the armed forces, critics charge that he waited far too long to act against this foe. France, one of the world’s wealthiest countries with one of the best health care systems, they say, should never have found itself so deep in crisis.

Macron had just emerged from weeks of damaging retirement strikes and a year of violent “yellow vest” protests over economic injustice when the pandemic hit. Now he is struggling to keep the house running in one of the world’s hardest-hit countries.

The Rungis food market south of Paris, Europe’s biggest, is transforming into a morgue as France’s death count races past 7,500. Nearly 7,000 patients are in intensive care, pushing French hospitals to their limit and beyond. Doctors are rationing painkillers and re-using masks.

France’s centralized state and powerful presidency make it easier to coordinate the exceptional patient-moving efforts, which have crisscrossed the country and even extended to overseas territories. But the pandemic has exposed weaknesses in the world-renowned state hospital system after decades of cost cuts. When the president visited a Paris hospital on the front lines of the virus battle, an angry neurologist challenged him to reinvest massively.

“When it was about saving Notre Dame, many were moved,” Dr. Francois Salachas said, a reference to the Paris cathedral that was severely damaged by fire a year ago, prompting immediate, massive pledges of public and private funds for reconstruction. “This time it’s about saving public hospitals, which are going up in smoke at the same speed as Notre Dame almost did.”

Many think Macron did not anticipate the severity with which the virus could hit and set a bad personal example. Similar criticisms have been leveled at other world leaders including the presidents of Mexico, Brazil and the United States.

In February, Macron made a point of repeatedly kissing Italy’s premier on a visit to Naples to show there was nothing to fear. At the time the virus was already spreading fast across France, but limited testing meant health authorities didn’t yet know.

In early March, he toured a retirement home even as he announced that families should no longer visit elderly relatives. That same day he went with his wife to a Paris theater where the owner tweeted that the president wanted to show that “life goes on.” By then the official virus infection numbers in France were doubling every two days.

In mid-March, as COVID-19 was ravaging neighboring Italy, France went ahead with the first round of nationwide municipal elections. First lady Brigitte Macron strolled the banks of the Seine, which were crowded with Parisians enjoying a sunny day despite recommendations of social distancing.

It wasn’t until March 16 that Macron abruptly changed his tune, declaring war on the virus and announcing nationwide confinement measures. A week later he appeared wearing a face mask for the first time at a field hospital set up by troops outside Mulhouse, the eastern city that saw an eruption of cases stemming from a five-day evangelical gathering.

The armed forces took on a key role, as military and hospital authorities worked out the system to shuttle patients to less-strained hospitals and medics to virus zones in need. The first “medicalized” TGV made its inaugural trip on March 26. Doctors in protective gear pushed gurneys along the nearly empty platform of the train station in the eastern city of Strasbourg as safety warnings echoed from loudspeakers. Inside the double-decker cars, patients and webs of tubes and wires were squeezed past luggage racks and rows of seats. Once they were secured, the train sped off toward less impacted hospitals in the west.

While the militarized mobilizations are broadly popular, public debate mushroomed over issues such as the relatively low numbers of people being tested for the virus in France and shortages of medical equipment. Macron ordered all face masks requisitioned for medical personnel after it became evident France entered the crisis well short of the necessary supply.

“The question of masks is now the priority question for the French,” said Jean-Daniel Levy of polling agency Harris Interactive, adding that the public feels the government “didn’t take enough responsibility” for it at the outset.

France has had to send some patients for treatment to neighboring Germany, which has conducted massive nationwide testing and confirmed more cases than France while recording a death toll about one-fifth as high so far.

Macron, a centrist, has taken fire from both ends of the political spectrum. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen told France 2 television that “the government lied about the preparedness of the country,” while far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said Macron, a former investment banker, “used to think that the free market would meet the country’s needs, so his mental framework collapsed.”

Among the broader public, Macron “is seen as relatively authoritarian,” Levy said. That hurt him during the protest movements but helps his popularity now because “we want to have a strong authority figure” to manage the crisis.

In the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, a fact-finding mission is scrutinizing the government’s handling of the emergency. Macron, however, said while visiting a mask manufacturing company that it’s not yet time to focus on what went wrong.

“When we’re fighting a battle, we must all be united to win it,” the president said. “And I think those who seek to send people to trial when we have not yet won the war are irresponsible.”

Keir Starmer picked to lead UK Labor amid virus crisis

April 04, 2020

LONDON (AP) — Lawyer and lawmaker Keir Starmer was elected leader of Britain’s main opposition Labor Party on Saturday by a decisive margin, after a contest thrown into turmoil by the coronavirus outbreak.

A special conference to announce the winner was scrapped when the nation went into lockdown, and the news came in a press release accompanied by a pre-recorded acceptance speech. Starmer, 57, comes from Labor’s center-left wing, and his election marks a shift from the more strongly socialist course set by his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn.

Starmer acknowledged that he was becoming leader of the opposition “at a moment like none other in our lifetime” and promised to “engage constructively” with the Conservative government to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The party said Starmer won on the first round of voting with 56.2% of all the votes cast, well ahead of rivals Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy. Angela Rayner was chosen as deputy leader in a vote of Labor’s half a million members.

A former U.K. chief prosecutor named after Labor Party co-founder Keir Hardie, Starmer faces the challenge of reuniting a party deeply divided over the policies and legacy of Corbyn. The outgoing leader was elected party chief in 2015 on a wave of grassroots enthusiasm, and took Labor sharply to the left, proposing the nationalization of major industries and a huge increase in public spending.

Corbyn also faced allegations that he had allowed anti-Semitism to fester in the party. He is a longtime supporter of the Palestinians and critic of Israel. Starmer said “anti-Semitism has been a stain on our party.”

“On behalf of the Labor Party, I am sorry, and I will tear out this poison by its roots,” he said. Corbyn drew thousands of new activists to the party, but lost two successive elections in 2017 and 2019. In December’s election, Labor suffered its worst result since 1935, as the Conservatives won in working-class areas that had voted Labour for decades.

Labor has now been out of office for a decade that has brought the country three Conservative prime ministers — David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson. Starmer said the party had “a mountain to climb” before it could return to government.

His election was welcomed by Labor moderates such as London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who said he was “delighted.” But the Corbyn-supporting grassroots group Momentum said it would hold Starmer to account. It said “his mandate is to build on Jeremy’s transformative vision.”

Starmer has been the party’s spokesman on Brexit, the issue that has consumed British politics for four years. But the country’s departure from the European Union, which became official Jan. 31, has been pushed into the background by the pandemic sweeping the globe.

Like many other countries, Britain is in effective lockdown, with schools, bars, restaurants and many businesses shut to help slow the spread of the new coronavirus. A Dec. 31 deadline set by the government to forge a new relationship with the EU on trade and a host of other issues looks increasingly hard to meet.

The rules of politics have been upended. Many policies that Conservatives dismissed as socialist follies have been introduced, if only temporarily, by Johnson’s government in an effort to keep people and businesses afloat until the pandemic is over. The government is handing out cash to small businesses and made many more people eligible for welfare benefits.

Meanwhile, Parliament is currently on an extended recess, and it is unclear when lawmakers will return. Starmer faces a delicate challenge: How to hold the government to account during a national emergency while also supporting the fight against the virus.

Johnson announced Saturday that he was inviting leaders of opposition parties to a briefing with him and the government’s top medical and scientific advisers on the fight against COVID-19. “As party leaders, we have a duty to work together at this time of national emergency,” Johnson wrote.

Starmer said he would not engage in “opposition for opposition’s sake” but would criticize the government when necessary. “We will shine a torch on critical issues and where we see mistakes or faltering government or things not happening as quickly as they should we’ll challenge that and call that out,” he said.

Tag Cloud