- Many countries have implemented travel restrictions on China and foreigners who have visited China to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
- In Hong Kong, hospital workers launched a 5-day strike after leader Carrie Lam refused to fully close the city’s border with China, despite pressure from across the political spectrum and the fact that other countries have closed their shared border with China.
- China slammed the U.S. in particular for its strict travel restrictions, arguing that U.S. media condemned the Trump administration’s decision to impose the new rules.
- Some disputed that claim, noting that media outlets in the U.S. have received criticism for sensationalist headlines and fostering xenophobia.
WHO Announces More Coronavirus Cases and Deaths
More and more countries around the world have ramped up travel restrictions as fears over the coronavirus continue to spread.
World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday that there have been 17,238 confirmed cases and 361 deaths in China.
He also said that there were 151 confirmed cases in 23 other countries and one death, which was reported by the Philippines on Sunday.
“Last week I declared a public health emergency of international concern over the outbreak of #2019nCoV.— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) February 3, 2020
As of this morning, there are 17,238 confirmed cases in 🇨🇳 & 361 deaths. Outside 🇨🇳, there are 151 confirmed cases in 23 countries & 1 death”-@DrTedroshttps://t.co/JvKC0PTett
In a warning to his colleagues at the WHO executive board meeting, Tedros stated that “panic and fear” were the real challenges in addressing the coronavirus outbreak.
“It’s no reason to really panic now,” he said. “The chances of getting this going to anywhere outside China is very low, and even in China, when you go to other provinces, it’s very low.”
Tedros also reiterated that there was no need for measures that “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade,” a point the WHO has repeated since it declared that the coronavirus an international emergency.
U.S. Travel Restriction
But global leaders appear to be ignoring that warning.
The U.S., for example, has already implemented some of the strongest measures. On Friday, President Donald Trump’s administration declared the coronavirus a public health emergency and imposed strict travel restrictions.
In the announcement, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that all foreign nationals who have been to China in the past 14 days will be barred from entering the states starting Sunday.
Those restrictions do not apply to immediate family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
The secretary also described restrictions for the Hubei province, which houses Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus first broke out. Under the new rules, U.S. citizens who visited the Hubei province in the last two weeks will be subject to quarantine for 14 days.
U.S. citizens who have been to other areas of mainland China in the last two weeks will be subject to screening for 14 days as well.
Following Azar’s announcement, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman criticized the Trump administration’s response.
“Just as the WHO recommended against travel restrictions, the U.S. rushed to go in the opposite way,” she said. “Certainly not a gesture of goodwill.”
Other Countries Impose Restrictions
The U.S. is not the only country to impose travel restrictions.
According to reports, Australia, Singapore, and New Zealand have implemented similar travel bans on foreign nationals who have gone to China.
Other countries like Japan and South Korea have denied entry from foreigners who visited the Hubei province.
Italy and Israel have reportedly stopped all incoming air traffic from China, while airlines all over the world have also announced they will not fly to or from the country.
North Korea and Mongolia, which share borders with China, have sealed them entirely.
But Hong Kong, which is an autonomous city-state of China and shares a land border, has not fully closed its borders with the country.
That decision, however, has been highly contested in Hong Kong, which has reported 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus.
Pro-democracy protestors, hospital workers, businesses, and even some pro-government lawmakers have all called on the city’s embattled leader, Carrie Lam, to close the border shared with China immediately.
Lam put some travel restrictions in place last week. On Monday she announced the closure of four more crossing points along the city’s border with mainland China, defying calls for full closure and leaving three crossing points open.
In response, thousands of hospital workers in Hong Kong have launched a five-day strike calling for all border crossings to be sealed. Lam, for her part, has said a full closure would be “a discriminatory approach.”
But others have argued that Lam is just listening to directives from the Chinese Communist Party, and is putting her obligations to the party before her own people in the face of a growing public health crisis.
Chinese Response and Media Criticism
A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said in a statement Monday that China respects the decision of some countries to “adopt or enhance quarantine measures at border entry,” but added, “some countries, the US in particular, have inappropriately overreacted, which certainly runs counter to WHO advice.”
The spokeswoman said that the U.S. response “could only create and spread fear, which is a very bad example.”
“Even American media and experts doubted the government’s decision, saying that the US government’s restrictions on China are precisely what the WHO rejects, that the US is turning from overconfidence to fear and overreaction, and that banning the entry of visitors who traveled to China in the past 14 days is suspected to be violating civil rights instead of reducing risks of virus spreading,” she continued.
Following this statement, some argued that the opposite may be true, noting that the media, especially in the U.S., has been criticized for creating hysteria and fearmongering around the coronavirus outbreak.
Some have even blamed the media for fostering a recent spike in xenophobia. According to reports, the University of California Berkeley faced backlash after the administration stated that “xenophobia” is a “common” or “normal” reaction to coronavirus.
However, reports of xenophobia are not limited to the U.S. Chinese Canadians have also reported an uptick in nationality and race-based prejudice, which they say is largely due to social media.
On Monday, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte called on his country to stop stirring up anti-Chinese sentiments.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (BBC) (Al Jazeera)
200 Children Seeking Asylum in the U.K. Are Missing
The missing include at least 13 children under the age of 16.
Children Missing From Hotels
There are 200 asylum-seeking children missing from government care in the United Kingdom according to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office.
When children are seeking asylum in the U.K. alone or separated from their parents, the government puts them up in hotel rooms for temporary accommodation. They have done so since 2021 and have temporarily accommodated 4,600 children in that time. However, Simon Murray, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office, said that 200 of the children placed in those hotels are missing, including at least 13 who are under the age of 16.
In response to this information, a collection of more than 100 charities sent a letter to the Prime Minister demanding the end of the procedure of placing kids in hotels over safety concerns. The letter says that these children are at risk of trafficking and exploitation by staying in these hotels alone.
Other officials have echoed these concerns, claiming these hotels are targets for organized crime where people use these vulnerable children for labor or trafficking.
Parliament Calls Incident “Horrific”
Murray told the House of Lords on Monday that despite the media reports, his department does not know of any kidnapping cases, though they are investigating. He went on to say there are many reasons why children go missing.
However, lawmakers were not appeased by Murray’s assurances. In a later debate, one member of Parliament called the missing cases “horrific” and another said that it was “putting children at risk.” The children’s commissioner for England also reportedly chimed in asking for, quote “assurances on the steps being taken to safeguard the children.”
Murray went on to say that the use of hotels for asylum-seeking children will hopefully be phased out as soon as possible but did not give a timeline.
The nonprofit Refugee Council called on the government in a tweet to spare no expense in the location of these missing kids.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Guardian) (The Telegraph)
100,000 U.K. Nurses Launch Biggest Strike in NHS History
Opposition leader Keir Starmer called the strike “a badge of shame on this government.”
The NHS Grinds to a Halt
Some 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the United Kingdom’s largest nursing union, launched a historic 12-hour strike Thursday after the government refused to negotiate on higher pay.
The work stoppage, which spans England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is only the second in the RCN’s 106-year history and the largest the NHS has ever seen. It marks the breaking point for many underpaid nurses and the culmination of a years-long decline in the NHS’s quality of care, put under increasing stress by severe staffing shortages.
Although most NHS staff in England and Wales received a pay rise of around £1,400 this year, worth about 4% on average for nurses, they say it has not kept up with inflation as Britain plunges deeper into a cost-of-living crisis.
When inflation is accounted for, nurses’ pay dropped 1.2% every year from 2010 to 2017, according to the Health Foundation.
Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting for care has reached a record 7.2 million in England, or over one in eight residents, more than double what it was seven years ago.
In July, the cross-party Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee estimated the staffing shortfall could be as high as 50,000 nurses and 12,000 doctors, what one MP called the “greatest workforce crisis in history.”
Many nurses argue that boosting pay will help hospitals recruit more staff.
The RCN demanded a pay raise 5% above the retail rate of inflation, which amounts to a 19% increase, but both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the government’s health secretary have claimed that’s not affordable.
During Thursday’s strike, partial staffing continued to remain open for urgent care such as chemotherapy, kidney dialysis, and children’s accident and neonatal units.
Sunak and Starmer Brawl in Parliament
Labor leader Keir Starmer grilled Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on the upcoming strike.
“Tomorrow will be the first-ever nationwide nurse’s strike,” he said. “All the Prime Minister has to do to stop that is to open the door and discuss pay with them. If he did, the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief. Why won’t he?”
“We have consistently spoken to all the unions involved in all the pay disputes that there are,” Sunak replied. “Last year, when everyone else in the public sector had a public sector pay freeze, the nurses received a three-percent pay rise.”
Starmer fired back: “Nurses going on strike is a badge of shame for this government. Instead of showing leadership, he’s playing games with people’s health.”
Sunak called Starmer’s demand that he reopen negotiations with the RCN “just simply a political formula for avoiding taking a position on this issue.”
“If he thinks the strikes are wrong, he should say so,” Sunak said. “If he thinks it’s right that pay demands of nineteen percent are met, then he should say so. What’s weak, Mr. Speaker, is he’s not strong enough to stand up to the union.”
While Starmer has called on Sunak to negotiate with the RCN, he has not explicitly backed the 19% pay raise himself.
Unless the government returns to the bargaining table, the RCN plans to launch a second round of strikes on Dec. 20 to be followed by ambulance strikes that Wednesday and the next.
If the government still refuses to budge, the union said in a statement that nurses will strike for longer periods in more places starting in January, disrupting more health services.
Other industries are also set to see work stoppages this month, including workers on railways, buses, highways, and borders, as well as teachers, postal workers, baggage handlers, and paramedics.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNN) (The Guardian)
Fortnite Developer Sued By Parents for Making the Game as “Addictive as Possible”
One child mentioned in the lawsuit played over 7,700 rounds of Fortnite in two years.
Epic Games Sued
A Quebec City judge recently approved a 2019 class-action lawsuit accusing Fortnite developer Epic Games of deliberately making Fortnite addictive.
The parents who brought forward the lawsuit claim their children have become so obsessed with the game that in some cases, they’ve stopped eating, showering, or socializing. The lawsuit claims that these kids have played thousands of games since Fortnite’s release in 2017. In one example, a teenager played over 7,700 games in less than two years.
If the lawsuit succeeds, players addicted to Fortnite living in Quebec since September 2017 could receive compensation. The plaintiff’s attorney, Philippe Caron, reports that over 200 parents outside the lawsuit have reached out to him, saying their child’s well-being has diminished since downloading Fortnite. He told The Washington Post that they are very confident about their case.
Epic Games Responds
“We plan to fight this in court,” Natalie Munoz, a spokesperson for Epic Games said to The Post, “We believe the evidence will show that this case is meritless.”
Munoz also said that Fortnite does allow parents to supervise their child’s playtime and require permission for purchases.
The parents involved in the lawsuit are claiming that they were not aware of the dangers playing Fortnite could pose for their children.
“If she had been informed by the defendants of the risks and dangers associated with the use of FORTNITE,” the lawsuit says of one guardian. “She would have categorically refused to allow the game to be downloaded.”