A New Law Will End Gender Recognition. Now Trans People Are Speaking Out.

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 18, 2020, 12:33 GMT

Patrick Strudwick

BuzzFeed UK LGBT Editor

Share This Article

Courtesy Emma Molnar

Emma Molnar

The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.

“I’m feeling like I did before I transitioned,” says Adel Onodi. “My mental life is really bad right now.” She sounds flatter and more disconnected with each sentence. “I’m thinking I will kill myself.”

Onodi, a 24-year-old actor, is one of many. As the coronavirus pandemic engulfs Europe, transgender people in Hungary now face an extra threat to their safety: a new law that will end gender recognition.

This is not a legal technicality. It means passports and ID cards — which citizens must carry at all times — will revert to sex at birth. A trans woman who goes to a job interview, or into a bank, or who is stopped by the police, will, when asked for her ID, be immediately outed as transgender. Anti-trans abuse is already common in Hungary, and discrimination is widespread. Onodi has been sexually assaulted in an anti-trans attack in a women’s toilet. She has been assaulted at work. Officials laughed at her when she originally went to change her papers.

At the end of March, as other European nations were shutting down, imposing unprecedented restrictions on movement, Viktor Orban, Hungary’s populist prime minister, seized an opportunity. With a two-thirds majority in parliament for his hard-right Fidesz party, he was able to introduce an emergency powers law, billed as a response to the COVID-19 crisis, which allows him to rule by decree, indefinitely. Absolute authority, without normal scrutiny, is guaranteed.

The next day, when other world leaders were focusing on the pandemic, Orban’s government proposed a further bill that would see passports and ID cards no longer reflect someone’s acquired gender — even if they have previously obtained legal recognition. Under the new law, such documents would stop using the word “nem”, which means sex or gender, and instead “születési nem”: birth sex. This would be based on “primary sex characteristics and chromosomes”, regardless of the impact on trans or intersex people, and would be immutable. In a further insult, Orban announced all this on the International Transgender Day of Visibility.

Human rights defenders say the anti-trans bill, which is all but certain to become law next month, is part of Orban’s long-running culture war, and that this, combined with the emergency bill, is an opportunistic power grab. He had already been dubbed by critics the “Viktator”. Now, many who spoke to BuzzFeed News use another description, satirically: “king”.

Attacks in the street against trans people are already increasing, says Onodi. “First the Hungarian government targeted [billionaire philanthropist] George Soros and Jewish people. Now we — trans and all LGBT people — are the target.”

Through a series of interviews with BuzzFeed News, Hungarian transgender people and an organisation trying to help reveal what this means; both in the immediate future and in the long-term for minorities in the country.

As the clock counts down until the law is expected to pass, trans people describe too the desperate, often thwarted, attempts to escape.

If you’re someone who is seeing the impact of the coronavirus firsthand, we’d like to hear from you. Reach out to us via one of our tip line channels.

Onodi knows what can happen when your identity is made public. The 24-year-old actor and singer became a cover star of Hungary’s Elle magazine last year; the first trans woman to do so on a women’s publication.

When Onodi picks up the phone to BuzzFeed News, she apologises almost immediately; worried that her English won’t be good enough because she has only been learning for a few months. When she struggles to find the words, she pauses or laughs a little out of awkwardness and frustration.

Zita Laura Szasz

Adel Onodi

“After Elle magazine [came out], I went to a bar,” she says. “Someone recognised me, and when I went to the toilet and he wanted to join [me in there] because he thought I had a dick and he wanted to see it. It was unbelievable. He just opened the door and I couldn’t do anything. I just told him that I won’t show him.” The man did not know that she had already had surgery. Onodi told him she wanted to leave and only managed to escape, “because I am self-confident,” she says. Her ability to fight back has been developed through necessity, however. “People sometimes just try [to take advantage of] me,” she says.

As she moves on quickly to other incidents she says only that the attack in the toilet was traumatising. On another occasion, she attended an audition alongside a male actor playing her boyfriend. He assaulted her at the casting.

“He touched my pussy because he wanted to know, ‘If I have a dick or pussy or what?’”

Other times, she hears women on the street talking about her, wondering aloud if she is a “female or male”. Although post-transition, Onodi says the remains of her Adam’s apple are enough of a giveaway to lead to hostility, without even anyone recognising her from Elle. So often in Hungary she says you can feel what so many LGBTQ people experience: the shimmer of hatred not dramatic enough to report but clear enough in the glares, whispers, or nudges, to suggest a threat, and to form an overarching message: you are not welcome; you are not safe.

Compared to many, Onodi knows she is lucky; she received her new documentation in 2016 and then emigrated to Berlin, where she stages performances about her experiences as a trans woman. “But if I lose my ID or I need another passport, I face the same situation that someone who has not yet transitioned,” she says. Despite everything she did to be recognised as a woman, “they can take it back”.

Elle – Zita Laura Szasz

Depression struck before she transitioned, she says, and returned when the new law was proposed, plunging her back to the fear and hopelessness from which she thought she had escaped. “It’s really fucked up,” she says, and as a result, “my mental life is like before”: thoughts of suicide. She has since been relying on a psychologist to help.

It will take another 6 years before she can apply for German citizenship and if she has her Hungarian passport changed before then, Onodi faces the prospect of applying for German citizenship as a woman but with a male Hungarian passport.

“So I want to search how I can find another citizenship earlier,” she says. But she does not know where to go, and does not even want to visit her country of birth. “When I did, I was not safe. It’s more dangerous now.” When the pandemic erupted, she thought it was the virus and the lockdowns that would change her life, it didn’t occur to her that instead the situation would be used to implement a law to change her life and her community’s for years to come.

Gergely Besenyei / Getty Images

Budapest Pride.

In the historic city of Gyor, in north-west Hungary, the cobbled streets of Renaissance architecture, normally a draw for shoppers and tourists, now stand empty in the lockdown. Emma Molnar, a 24-year-old trans woman who uses YouTube and Instagram (under the name Emma Dandelion) to speak out about her community, has just woken up.

“I just can’t believe that this is going to happen,” says Molnar, about the new law. Her fear is two-fold: the effect it will have and what it says about her government. “That some people have time to think about things like this with the coronavirus. I just don’t understand.”

Except, to Molnar, it fits the wider pattern of Orban’s manoeuvres. Because of the lockdown, street protests are impossible. “They knew this,” she says. “That we won’t be able to demonstrate.” Instead she made a video and uploaded it to YouTube. “I think my only tools are the media. That’s the only way we can fight.” Even this seemingly safe method of exercising free speech is not without punishment.

Courtesy Emma Molnar

Emma Molnar (Dandelion)

“I get horrible messages every day that I should kill myself, and that I’m a freak, I’m a monster, things like that,” says Molnar. “Hungarian people are not tolerant. They hate trans people and they hate the whole LGBT community. The government says bad things about us all the time. So people have the wrong idea about us: stating that we are perverts, paedophiles. They don’t understand who we are.”

Last year, Laszlo Kover, the speaker of the Hungarian parliament said “morally, there is no difference between the behavior of a paedophile” and of those who advocate for same-sex marriage or adoption. The deputy speaker, Istvan Boldog — also an MP for Orban’s Fidesz party — then called for a boycott of Coca-Cola because its new adverts included pro-gay messages. And in November, Hungary withdrew from the Eurovision Song Contest, reportedly because of its close association with LGBTQ people. Or as public media sources quoted in index.hu, a Hungarian news site, said, for being “too gay”.

But all who spoke to BuzzFeed News said that the specific focus on trans rights is relatively new, and that it finds fertile ground in a population with less awareness of transgender people than in many western European countries. “Five years ago people didn’t know about trans people in Hungary,” says Molnar. “No one was brave enough to talk about it.”

In 2016, the government fired its first salvo, by temporarily suspending legal gender recognition.

Gender recognition was restored. in early 2018 only to be re-suspended in May that year, sparking numerous lawsuits, with several courts ruling the suspension unlawful.

“So legally speaking, the government was losing,” says Tamas Dombos, a board member of the Hatter Society, the largest LGBTQ human rights organisation in Hungary. “And they could only circumvent these court decisions by passing legislation that bans gender recognition altogether.”

But there was another factor dovetailing into this. “The coronavirus situation,” says Dombos. “They thought that when there’s so much more public discussions about something completely different [the pandemic], and no normal international attention on human rights, they could get it passed unnoticed.”

One of the troubles for Hungarian trans people is that no one can be certain how the law would work. In the first instance, whether it would operate retroactively, so that someone who had already been granted an ID card or passport with their correct gender would have this revoked and changed. Or whether this would happen only when they applied for such documents to be renewed.

“There is no clear text in the law itself,” says Dombos. Lawyers, therefore, disagree upon how it would operate; whether as a piece of procedural law that applies only from enactment, or whether as part of the registry of births, which prevents exceptions. Dombos suspects the government does not wish to create more work for itself and “hunt down” trans people to change their existing passports. “But, unfortunately, who knows?”

Either way, he says, the fear it creates in a fog of uncertainty, is devastating.

“There’s lots of people in my community who are desperate and sad and thinking about ending their life,” says Molnar, the YouTuber. “It’s just horrible. I don’t want to lose good people because of this.” But she understands why.

“How could I live my life like that, with the papers of a man?” she says. Her question is not hypothetical but informed by experience. As a 10-year-old, she knew there was something very different about her, she just did not know what. The other children at school hated that she was extremely feminine, so they beat her. “They bullied me physically and with words. Every day was hell,” she says. “I tried to be grey, to hide and to disappear.”

Courtesy Emma Molnar

Emma Molnar

It did not work. The attacks were so brutal and repetitious that her parents had to remove her from school. She was homeschooled for years. By 16, she was living as a girl and hoping to change her name and her papers, but was told she could not do so legally until she was 18.

“I couldn’t find a job with the looks of a woman and the papers of a man,” she says. “It was impossible.” She only survived, financially and psychologically, because her family supported her.

Even if the government does not revoke her existing ID card and passport, it will only be a matter of time before they need to be renewed. On return, under the new law, only her birth sex would be stated. The prospect now of returning to her pre-transition, pre-legal recognition days, is unbearable.

“I had to wait 18 years to be myself, to start my life,” she says. “I am 24 now, I know how it feels to live like that, not as a human but as someone who has to hide from the world, and I don’t want to go back there.”

The day-to-day implications are far from mundane, yet with all that surrounds this law, also unclear.

“If I go to hospital am I going to be in the men’s section? That’s horrible for me and horrible for the guys there,” she says. “Or, for example, is a [trans] man going to get put in with women? I can’t imagine how patients will react. It’s crazy.”

The discrimination and abuse that would be unleashed by giving all trans people ID cards showing only their sex at birth, is also unthinkable, she says — but a reality that must now be faced. Aside from anti-trans prejudice itself would be a distinct practical problem. If a woman tried to open a bank account with a passport or ID that said male, the initial response would be to “accuse us of having stolen it, or that it’s fake,” says Molnar — and this is partly because of how low the awareness is of trans people, and their legal situation. “They still don’t know this is a thing.”

From there, the trans person presenting their ID would have to try to explain. At this point, many fear mockery, abuse or discrimination would result. The denial of goods or services, as well as access to employment, says Dombos, would be even more widespread. Already, he says, “verbal abuse and discrimination is very common” and “we see a lot of workplace harassment”.

Emma Molnar (Dandelion)

Molnar has felt this too. She used to live in Budapest, Hungary’s capital, where she worked in a tea house. “It was my favourite place,” she says. “And they loved me. I had a good relationship with the boss, they told me I was very positive and kind to customers.” But Molnar moved to London for a while and began posting videos on YouTube, one of which involved her coming out as trans, which received a fair amount of attention back home. When she moved back, she asked for her old job back. “They said that they saw my coming out video and they don’t want to hire me anymore.”

Despite the hostility that looms, Molnar is determined to keep going. “I won’t end my life,” she says. “I’m transgender so that means that I am a survivor.”

“I just want to go away. It’s not liveable here for us. A lot of [trans] people are thinking about leaving the country. But it’s really hard.” It takes money, for one thing, at least until work can be found; the very thing that can elude trans people subject to discrimination.

Documentation isn’t necessarily simple, either. She cites as an example Germany, where many Hungarians emigrate. Although both countries are in the EU and therefore enjoy free movement, it takes 8 years of permanent residency until you can apply for citizenship in Germany. It’s a long time, especially when many trans people have already waited so long to transition or to receive their gender recognition. “But what other choice do we have?”

Amanda Malovics left Hungary in 2015, just months before the first suspension of gender recognition, and before she had begun to transition. She arrived in the UK with a suitcase and a resolution: to finally be herself. She was 25, with a degree in English and American studies.

Now 30, much of the time when Malovics speaks, she sounds determined and sad simultaneously, like a church bell; with determination dominating when talking of others — the struggle of trans people — and sadness when she allows herself to consider her own situation.

“I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t have a job,” she says. But within 8 months, she found work in a restaurant and began her transition. London came to feel like her home, somewhere to be permanently, she hoped. She found friends, others in the trans community, and began volunteering at a sexual health clinic. But then the Brexit referendum happened in June 2016. This coupled with the ensuing confusion surrounding the rights of EU citizens derailed her hopes of UK citizenship. All the while, the creeping infringements on liberty and identity taking place a thousand miles away began to taunt her.

“Hungary has always been there, as a threat,” she says. “I miss my country when it comes to the landscape and I love Budapest, but I don’t want to go back. It’s much more open here.” The comparison is not night and day, however. There are people in the UK who hate trans people, she acknowledges, and wish to erode their human rights. During the coronavirus pandemic, anti-trans commentators have only increased their invective, using their newspaper columns and Twitter accounts to attack this minority.

Courtesy Amanda Malovics

But the UK government is not seeking to snuff out the legal existence of transgender people. Malovics talks about Britain enthusiastically, gratefully even, and delivers the following line as if to say “only”.

“I can count, maybe not on one hand but on two hands, how many times I’ve been hurt or discriminated [against here]. And that’s a massive difference.” She describes what it is like on her annual trips back home to see her family. “I lose my self-confidence immediately. Even at the airport, I feel nervous. Like, ‘Oh my god, who’s going to hurt me? Who’s going to punch me in the face? Who’s going to say something bad?’ It’s always there.”

The reason for Malovics’ fear when returning to Hungary is the same reason she fears for her future now: Despite living and presenting as a woman, her passport and ID only show her former name and gender. By the time she applied in 2018, the suspension was in place. There is now, she feels, no hope of ever having documents that reflect who she is. So every time she returns home, and every moment she is in public when any official could ask to see her papers, she — and others in her situation — is at risk.

“That’s the main concern,” she says, of friends back home. “All of them are afraid of these documents being changed; that the government will allow all officials to read their sensitive information. It’s a violation of law.”

The burgeoning awareness of transgender people in Hungary since 2016 has so far mostly increased hostility, she says. It is a typical trajectory for minorities; a little knowledge of whom by the majority can often mean danger. The aggression, she says, is particularly directed at those who do not pass as cisgender. “They’re targeted and humiliated, verbally and physically attacked.”

“I’m really scared; I live in the UK right now but it still affects me,” she says. “I’m angry and I am sad; I could cry. These people [the Hungarian government] think I’m a freak, a danger, that I’m someone who has to be eliminated. And it’s not just me, it’s everyone else who is like me. I’m really concerned about what’s going to happen with all those people who live in Hungary because many of them are already saying they’re going to end their lives.”

Some have written of their intentions on social media. Malovics invokes a typical comment: “I just can’t deal with this and it’s better if I just end my life.” Others are saying they will delay transitioning; that it is too dangerous to begin now. Those who have already begun, says Malovics, “will have to live in fear of being hurt and will have to be grateful if that hurt is verbal.” The choices being considered are either not transitioning, suicide, or emigration — if they have the money. But even the first of these is not living, she says; it’s “wearing a mask all your life”.

The anguish being expressed is met with anger because of the pandemic, she says. “Many people are like, ‘This is your biggest concern during this time — what is happening with transgender issues?’ Nobody cares. Everyone’s getting mad at trans individuals trying to defend themselves.” This, she believes, was part of the reason for the timing of the bill; a brilliantly deployed tactic to quash resistance and sympathy.

International institutions such as the European Union — of which Hungary is a member — remain similarly muted amid the wider crisis. But the Hungarian government, says Dombos from the LGBTQ rights group the Hatter Society, is pursuing this law partly blindly.

“I don’t think they recognise how big an issue this is both in terms of its relevance for trans people or how clear the international human rights norms are on this issue,” he says.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) made clear the legal position of transgender people 18 years ago. The Goodwin v United Kingdom case — in which a trans woman’s right to privacy, marriage, and family life was deemed to have been violated by the lack of legal gender recognition — formed a foundational precedent upon which supplementary protections grew: trans people must be allowed to change the gender on their birth certificate (and therefore passport).

“This is not debated anymore in [European] international human rights,” says Dombos.

With Hungary’s anti-trans law expected to pass in early May, the only hope of overturning it is in the ECHR, Dombos said. But there are already 23 legal challenges to Hungary’s suspension of legal recognition, which have not yet been heard. The entire process is likely to take many years. “Some of these 23 applications [date] back to 2017 and there’s still no binding decision,” says Dombos. Ultimately, he thinks, there can be only one outcome. “We have no question that the ECHR would find a violation.” By then, he says, innumerable lives could have been ruined.

In the meantime, there is work being done behind the scenes, by human rights groups such as the Hatter Society, as well as through diplomatic channels. All of which pose a quandary that has increasingly beset EU states and other organisations since Orban took office in 2010: how best to respond to the creeping authoritarian moves of a member state’s prime minister?

Courtesy Amanda Malovics

Amanda Malovics

So far, only the softest of interventions have been attempted. The European Parliament’s LGBTI intergroup issued a press release and wrote to the Hungarian government. The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatovic, said the proposed law “contravenes human rights standards and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights”. And some embassies in Hungary, says Dombos, have raised the issue “behind closed doors”, partly due to the work his organisation does. “But whether that will be successful is a big question.”

Dombos is particularly concerned about harassment, as many trans people already face intrusive questions from colleagues, which can escalate. “People don’t really see boundaries about what you can and cannot ask,” he says.

Although one area of escalation can be sexual violence, unlike other countries which show trans people at greater risk of this than other groups, there is no data available in Hungary of sexual assaults on this community, he says. This is compounded by a wider issue of underreporting of hate crimes in the country, studies have shown, with official statistics not breaking down crimes according to motivation, and police and courts often disbelieving victims.

Anecdotal accounts, however, suggest fear of further attacks when the new law outs people is rising.

Onodi, the actor, wants international action, not merely the words of condemnation, to outfox Orban and revoke the bill. The European Union “don’t do anything” she says, and every time in the last 10 years in office Orban behaved badly, “They just wrote a letter saying, ‘No, you don’t do this,’ like it’s kindergarten.” The result of such appeasement is clear, she says. In contrast to trans people, “Orban now has more rights — like a king.”

It is the same word that Molnar, the YouTuber, uses to describe Orban, as she conjures the fears shared by a minority about where Hungary is heading. “This is not just against trans people,” she says. “It wasn’t the first move against our community and it won’t be the last. So if we let this happen now, who’s going to stop the next one?”●

More on this

Patrick Strudwick is a LGBT editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Patrick Strudwick at patrick.strudwick@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

Sweden And Denmark Took Very Different Approaches To Fighting The Coronavirus. The Data Shows Many More People Are Dying In Sweden.

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 27, 2020, 17:24 GMT

Alberto Nardelli

BuzzFeed News Europe Editor

Share This Article

Jessica Gow / TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Ima

People sit in the spring sun at a restaurant in Stockholm, April 26.

The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.

Sweden and Denmark both had relatively mild flu seasons this winter, with fewer people dying compared to recent years. Then COVID-19 struck, and the neighbouring countries adopted very different strategies.

While the Danes were among the first in Europe to go into lockdown, Sweden opted for the herd immunity approach, making it one of the few advanced economies in the world to do so. There was no strict lockdown, and social distancing was recommended but not dictated.

A visiting ban at care homes was introduced at the beginning of April to protect the elderly, gatherings of more than 50 people were prohibited, and universities and colleges were recommended to offer remote learning.

But otherwise, life carries on essentially unchanged: Most schools, restaurants, bars, clubs, and gyms are open, and people are practising social distancing.

A lot has been said and written about Sweden’s strategy. Its outlier status has been met with horror by some, curiosity by most, and applause by those pressing their own governments to lift restrictions that are having a destructive effect on economies and societies. With the leaders of the UK, the US, and other countries under increasing pressure to scale back their lockdowns, the question of whether Sweden’s approach is working is of international concern.

BuzzFeed News has analysed data published by the official Swedish statistics office and other available figures in an attempt to answer that question. The answer is not encouraging: We found that the country recorded a record number of excess deaths in the first three weeks of April.

In the 21 days before April 19, 7,169 people died — 1,843 more people compared to the average number of deaths during the same weeks between 2015 and 2019. That’s the equivalent of a 34.5% increase.

And on Monday, the Swedish statistics office said the number of deaths recorded in the week ending April 12 was the highest this century, surpassing a milestone set in the first week of 2000 when 2,364 people died. Three of the four weeks with the highest death tolls in the past two decades have occurred this month.

A bridge away in Denmark, the numbers tell a very different story. Statistics Denmark recorded 201 extra deaths over the same three weeks compared to a five-year average, an uptick of 6.5%. The contrast with the recent past is minimal. Even taking into account population size — Sweden is home to 10.3 million people, Denmark to 5.8 million — the gulf between the two countries appears stark.

The full extent of the impact of COVID-19 will not be clear for many months, maybe even years — but for now, the two Nordic countries are on different paths, not only in how they are fighting the coronavirus but also on the results so far.

Denmark’s approach has been much stricter than that of its neighbour. It announced the closure of schools, gyms, restaurants, cafés, and borders on March 11, as well as a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. The country started easing restrictions on April 15, reopening schools as a first step.

Niels Christian Vilmann / Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Ima

People keep their distance as they queue outside an Ikea in Gentofte, near Copenhagen, April 27.

An accurate like-for-like comparison between countries is complicated.

Figures published daily by governments, which include deaths and tests conducted, are often recorded differently in different countries. There are then specific circumstances — such as where and when transmissions occurred in a community, demographic factors like the age composition of a population, and the capacity of health care systems to deal with a pandemic — all of which vary between countries.

That’s why a metric known as “excess mortality” is seen by much of the scientific community as the best measure of the true death toll linked to the novel coronavirus outbreak, even though the exact cause of every death is not known.

Excess mortality is the least imperfect of measures. It looks at how many people have died on top of what would normally be expected at any given time of year by measuring the gap between the total number of deaths, regardless of cause, and the historical average for that place and time of year. David Spiegelhalter, a professor at Cambridge University, describes the metric as “the only unbiased comparison”.

Jonathan Nackstrand / Getty Images

A Swedish man shows his tattoo of state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.

Sweden’s policy remains popular with the vast majority of voters, despite coming under some criticism from parts of the country’s scientific community. Backing for prime minister Stefan Löfven has soared, and state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, the public face of the country’s fight against the virus, is a household name.

And there are some nuances to the reality of the policy, as opposed to how it is often portrayed. Sweden has, for example, seen a substantial reduction in mobility, despite having mostly voluntary measures in place.

According to reports published by Google that use data from Google Maps to measure mobility trends, places like restaurants, cinemas, and other retail and recreation locations saw a 22% drop by April 1 relative to a baseline of usual activity. Transit stations and workplaces fell 38% and 29% respectively, while parks and places of residence rose 27% and 11%.

Data produced by Apple paints a similar pattern in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm: Driving was down 21%, walking 36%, and public transport saw a 52% fall. Corresponding figures for Copenhagen show sharper falls, though the gap has narrowed as lockdown measures in Denmark are gradually relaxed.

Our World in Data / Via ourworldindata.org

The number of people who have officially tested positive for the coronavirus in Sweden and Denmark isn’t that different.

By April 27, Sweden had 1,846 cases per 1 million people, while Denmark had 1,480 cases per 1 million, according to figures collected by Our World in Data, a collaborative project by researchers at the University of Oxford.

However, below the surface of all these topline numbers, there are significant differences.

A comparison between countries based on the number of officially counted positive cases alone is an imperfect exercise because it is largely linked to the number of tests a country carries out. If fewer tests are conducted, the chances are larger that positive cases are being missed. This has been a particular issue in the UK, which stopped all community testing when the virus took hold and is only now trying to scale it up again but remains well short of the government’s official target of 100,000 tests a day by this Thursday, April 30.

Although the World Health Organization hasn’t taken a side on the merits of a lockdown, the global health body has repeatedly stressed the importance of aggressively testing at scale.

At a press conference last month, the WHO said testing at the level of 10 negative tests to one positive should be seen as a general benchmark of a system that’s doing enough tests.

On that measure, Sweden is falling short. As of April 19, the most recent date with comparable figures available, about 14.5% of people tested in the country had tested positive for the coronavirus, compared to some 7.5% of people tested in Denmark. According to records collected by Our World in Data, relative to population size, Sweden had tested 9.4 people per 1,000 by that date, and Denmark had 16.3 people.

These metrics suggest that many more people have had the virus than official figures suggest.

But it is death count where the comparison between the two countries is most striking.

According to the latest official coronavirus figures published by each government, 2,194 people have died in Sweden and 422 have died in Denmark. A seven-day rolling average of confirmed COVID-19 deaths compiled by Our World in Data shows Sweden’s rate at 9.6 deaths per million and Denmark’s at 1.8 — and the gap between the two countries has widened this month.

Our World in Data / Via ourworldindata.org

Given the lagging nature of mortality data, the true death count from the pandemic in both countries is likely to be revised upwards over time.

Similarly to the number of positive cases, a comparison based on the number of deaths that are published daily isn’t straightforward. The initial figures are fed from a limited number of more readily available sources, such as hospitals. Determining and certifying a cause of death takes time and isn’t always a comparable process across countries. Governments record and present daily figures differently. Some, for example, only count deaths occurring in hospitals.

This is why mortality figures published by national statistics bodies are a better measure to make comparisons. Over time, they record all deaths that have taken place in a country, indicating a cause of death when possible. Excess mortality will capture both those who died directly from the coronavirus as well as those who have died for reasons linked to the pandemic — for example, whether people didn’t seek or receive medical attention for other illnesses.

The number of deaths recorded in Sweden in the first three weeks of April are 2,354, 2,505, and 2,310, respectively, which equates to 530, 755 and 558 excess deaths compared to the average between 2015 and 2019 for those same three weeks. All three weeks saw more deaths than previous highs recorded in the past five years.

The equivalent figures in Denmark are 1,152, 1,138, and 1,061 deaths, translating into 96, 69, and 36 excess deaths.

In both countries, more recent statistics are preliminary and likely to be revised upwards.

Statistics Sweden told BuzzFeed News that the data it publishes has a lag of about two weeks, meaning it takes some 14 days for most deaths to be reported. National statistics offices in Britain and France work on a similar timescale.

The Danish statistics body told BuzzFeed News that it was right to say that the number of deaths during March and April 2020 is almost at the same level as the country’s 2015–2019 average.

Jonathan Nackstrand / Getty Images

State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell

The Swedish government has said that deaths in nursing homes have contributed to the country being hit by a higher toll than its neighbours. Some reports have suggested that the virus has reached up to 75% of care homes in Stockholm.

State epidemiologist Tegnell told the BBC last week that nearly half of all deaths have occurred in care homes and the government should have acted sooner to shield the most vulnerable. But the death rate itself doesn’t automatically undermine the entire strategy, he said.

Tegnell has also said that Sweden’s modellers are starting to see immunity build up as the disease spreads through the population, one of the factors that many see as crucial before allowing restrictions to ease significantly. The WHO has warned, however, that there still isn’t enough evidence to say that those who defeat the virus are immune from getting it again.

Another of Sweden’s most senior epidemiologists, Professor Johan Giesecke, criticised other governments’ more stringent lockdowns, arguing in an interview with UnHerd that countries such as the UK overreacted to a report produced by the Imperial College London. The report had warned of hundreds of thousands of deaths without tougher restrictions, and its model is credited with having greatly influenced many governments’ response to the pandemic.

Responding to the criticism, Professor Neil Ferguson, one of the report’s authors, noted that per capita, Stockholm’s mortality rate is approaching that of New York. He told UnHerd that he expected those numbers to continue to rise day by day. “It is clearly a policy decision for the Swedish government whether they wish to tolerate that,” said Ferguson. “I don’t think it’s a decision other countries have made.”

Giesecke has predicted that death tolls will even out over time as governments lift restrictions, and as a result more people will become infected where lockdowns were strictest.

Health experts in the country also note that Sweden’s hospital capacity and health service have not been overwhelmed at any stage during the crisis, which is one of the main objectives that underpin the strategies of all countries, regardless of the rigidity of the specific measures each has put in place. In Stockholm this past week, more people left hospitals than entered.

It is too early to fully judge efforts to fight the pandemic, and a lot is still not known about the coronavirus itself. It will be a long time before the entire debate has played out, and even the best data is subject to revisions and reporting lags. But, for now, the data shows that Sweden’s different approach is coming with a heavier death toll.

More on this

Alberto Nardelli is Europe editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Alberto Nardelli at alberto.nardelli@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

Please Don’t Drink Disinfectant, Lysol And Dettol Maker Said After Trump Suggested People Could Inject It To Kill The Coronavirus

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Originally posted on

April 24, 2020, 10:06 GMT

Updated on

April 24, 2020, 17:05 GMT

Emily Ashton

BuzzFeed News Reporter

Share This Article

Mandel Ngan / Getty Images

The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.

The makers of Dettol have been forced to issue a press release telling people not to inject themselves with disinfectant — after US president Donald Trump suggested it could help kill the coronavirus.

British firm Reckitt Benckiser (RB), which makes disinfectants Dettol and Lysol among other household products, said “under no circumstance” should disinfectant be injected or ingested.

At his press conference on Thursday, Trump suggested scientists should investigate if they could inject the human body with disinfectants to kill the virus.

“I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” he said. “Is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that.”

In a statement, RB said: “Due to recent speculation and social media activity, RB (the makers of Lysol and Dettol) has been asked whether internal administration of disinfectants may be appropriate for investigation or use as a treatment for coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).

“As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route). As with all products, our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines. Please read the label and safety information.”

Trump also suggested that scientists should look at how they could “hit the body” with ultraviolet light to treat patients for coronavirus.

His comments at the White House briefing have sparked an outcry from the medical profession.

Judy Melinek M.D.
@drjudymelinek

Oh FFS please don’t do this. I don’t need the extra work. If you are sick call your doctor. Don’t self medicate. https://t.co/uBXIasVXio

12:19 AM – 24 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

Kashif Mahmood
@kashmood

As a physician, I can’t recommend injecting disinfectant into the lungs or using UV radiation inside the body to treat COVID-19. Don’t take medical advice from Trump. https://t.co/YcZXJXfSxu

11:22 PM – 23 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

Jonathan Spicer MD PhD
@DoctorJSpicer

No joke – we had a patient swallow Lysol as a #disinfectant a couple of weeks ago to prevent COVID19 infection. He made it out of the hospital after his gastrectomy…
This kind of nonsense is absolutely mind blowing.

11:52 PM – 23 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

Speaking at the UK government’s daily coronavirus briefing on Friday evening, deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries also urged people not to follow the president’s suggestion.

“Clearly, we would not support [that], from a medical professional perspective, it is really important that people use appropriate treatments that are evidence-based and tested,” she said.

“We have very good programmes that have been taken up very rapidly, coordinated in this country, testing various different alternative treatments. Those trials will report reasonably early, but certainly nobody should be injecting anything, and we should be using evidence-based and properly trialled treatments that we know will be safe.”

More on this

Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Emily Ashton at emily.ashton@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

Britain’s Coronavirus Toilet Roll Panic Has Created A Bidet Sales Boom

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 23, 2020, 11:48 GMT

Alberto Nardelli

BuzzFeed News Europe Editor

Share This Article

Isabel O. / Getty Images

The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.

The coronavirus has changed people’s habits in peculiar ways. Germans are sleeping longer. Italians are eating more rabbit and apricots, even though the fruit is not in season. Britons, meanwhile, are buying bidets.

Online searches for the term “bidet” spiked in March, according to Google Trends data. The queries “what is a bidet used for” and “how to use a bidet” had, in Google parlance, a “tremendous increase”, with triple-digit percent rises.

And retailers say that interest, coupled with ongoing fears of toilet paper running out again, has translated into a sales boom.

Ahmad Abuleil, the founder of Boss Bidet, which sells bidet toilet seat attachments told BuzzFeed News that his company’s sales had increased tenfold since panic buying emptied shelves of roll at the start of the UK’s outbreak in March.

He’s not alone. The Big Bathroom Shop said there had been a “notable upturn” in people buying bidets, Tooaleta said it was selling four times as many of its nonelectric bidet seats as usual, and Tushy’s UK sales have tripled in the last month.

The bidet was invented in the 1700s in France. Its first known user, according to the book Bum Fodder: An Absorbing History of Toilet Paper at least, was Jeanne Agnès Berthelot de Pléneuf, the marquise de Prie. The same story is recounted in other histories of the basin-shaped toilet ware.

Stephane De Sakutin / Getty Images

The sculpture “Tableau objet: bidet” (1968) of Peter Klasen is shown in 2008 at the Grand Palais in Paris.

The bidet became a curiosity among noble families in France and Europe, making its way to Italy thanks to the Queen of Naples and Sicily who had them installed in her castle in Caserta.

Developments in plumbing allowed the use of bidets to extend into the bathroom and eventually across society more widely. Bidets remain a relatively common feature in households in France, Italy, and other parts of southern Europe to this day.

In 1980, the bidet got a significant upgrade when the Japanese company Toto launched an electronic variation of the product. The Toto Washlet, which essentially bakes the concept of a bidet directly into a toilet, now includes features such as heated seats, powered at the touch of a button.

The company told BuzzFeed News that it has sold more than 50 million Washlets worldwide since launch, and some 20 five-star hotels in London have guest rooms with Washlets installed.

Toto / Via gb.toto.com

But in the UK, although bidets became momentarily fashionable in the ’70s and ’80s, they never really caught on — until toilet paper started running out in supermarkets last month.

A Big Bathroom Shop spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that “toilet paper crisis” was among the most popular related keywords behind Google searches for the term bidet.

“We have received a higher proportion of calls about bidets and Japanese toilets than has been usual. The presales team have also mentioned that the looming “toilet roll crisis” is something that is mentioned quite regularly by those people calling up,” the spokesperson said.

“I wouldn’t say it’s bidet panic stations, but there is a notable upturn in people looking at this sort of product,” the spokesperson added.

The spokesperson said sales of bidets and Japanese toilets were three times higher in the first three months of this year compared to 2019.

According to a report published in the Wall Street Journal last week, worries about toilet paper shortages in the US have driven increased interest in bidets there too.

Retailers told BuzzFeed News that British consumers have been mostly opting for non-electric Bidet attachments and seats, rather than higher-end Japanese toilets and porcelain options, which often require professional help with plumbing and instalment.

Jonas Mayer of the online shop Tooaleta said the company had seen a significant uptick, and is selling about 40–50 nonelectric bidet seats and attachments per day at the moment, from 10–15 units previously.

However, Mayer added that Tooaleta has also seen a drop in sales of more expensive electric models, where prices can range from £500 to £10,000.

Nonelectric alternatives retail from about £50 to £150.

Bidet attachments and portable bidets have recently made regular appearances in Amazon’s list of 100 best sellers in bathroom fixtures, suggesting that consumers may mostly be attracted to budget or short-term flirtations.

Mayer said the focus on budget options could continue during a recession but, he added, “changing toilet habits doesn’t happen overnight”.

Manufacturers are hoping the pandemic catapults bidets into the mainstream, and they say that environmental considerations are on their side of the argument.

The average Briton goes through an estimated 127 rolls of toilet paper a year, making it one of the world’s top consumers of loo tissue. Worldwide, toilet paper wipes out 27,000 trees a day, according to a report by World Watch magazine cited in National Geographic. Some studies suggest that toilet paper accounts for 15% of global deforestation.

TUSHY

The US manufacturer Tushy, whose UK sales have risen nearly three-fold in the past month, has placed an environmental message at the heart of its mission to change America’s toilet habits, the company says.

“While this could be the tipping point that finally gets people to adopt the bidet,” said Miki Agrawal, the company’s founder, “Tushy’s goal has always been to save the 15 million trees that are getting flushed down every year, save billions of gallons of water required to make the toilet paper and actually help clean bottoms properly, once and for all.”

More on this

Alberto Nardelli is Europe editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Alberto Nardelli at alberto.nardelli@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

“WTF Was I Meant To Do?” Australia’s Former PM Spilled The Tea About That Phone Call With Trump In His New Book

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 23, 2020, 05:08 GMT

Hannah Ryan

BuzzFeed News Reporter, Australia

Share This Article

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

Donald Trump and Malcolm Turnbull in November 2017.

Remember the infamous first phone call between US president Donald Trump and then Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull?

“This is the most unpleasant call all day,” Trump said, as he brought the January 2017 conversation to an end. “Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous.”

The topic of the call was the refugee swap deal between Australia and the US, struck by Barack Obama and Malcolm Turnbull, and later reluctantly adopted by the Trump administration.

Under the deal the US agreed to resettle up to 1,200 refugees Australia had held in offshore detention camps in the Pacific for years.

The deal survived Turnbull’s August 2018 removal from office, and so far the US has resettled more than 700 refugees under it, with almost 300 more approved for transfer. Homeland Security staffers were in Sydney as recently as February interviewing candidates for resettlement.

Turnbull’s tell-all book about his political career, A Bigger Picture, was released on Monday. Here’s what it reveals about the deal he argued over with Trump.

Turnbull says that resettling refugees and asylum seekers was one of his “highest priorities” when he became prime minister

When Turnbull won the prime ministership from Tony Abbott in September 2015, there were about 1,800 people in offshore detention, on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. Finding a third country resettlement solution for these people was one of Turnbull’s highest priorities, and he met regularly with then immigration minister Peter Dutton and foreign minister Julie Bishop about it in the early months of his term, he writes.

Turnbull and Obama agreed on the deal in January 2016

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Turnbull and Obama at the White House in January 2016.

Turnbull said he realised early on that the US was the “best, and possibly only, realistic option” for resettling the refugees. He raised the issue in an Oval Office meeting with Barack Obama in January 2016, where the two made an in principle agreement.

Turnbull writes that he told Obama the offshore population of about 1,800 people, mostly from the Middle East, “weren’t terrorists or criminals” and had been thoroughly vetted, but that if he brought them to Australia it would encourage people smugglers to start sending boats to Australia again. He said the largest single group was of Iranians, who were mostly economic migrants, but that Iran would not accept returned asylum seekers.

“I said, ‘And we want to get them off those islands. So, can we do a deal where you offer asylum to them and we do the same with some of the people seeking refuge in the US?’

“The president described his nation’s challenge: waves of unaccompanied children and youths crossing the border from Guatemala, El Salvador and elsewhere fleeing gang violence.”

Australia and the US decided to hold off announcing the deal until after the 2016 presidential election

The deal was signed on Sept. 20 that year when Turnbull was in New York. Obama and Turnbull both agreed they should not announce it during the presidential campaign, “lest Trump seize on it and make an issue of it”.

Australia agreed to take “complex cases” from the Americans

The text of the deal has never been made public, and it is not clear exactly what Australia’s side of the bargain was.

“It was a fair deal: we were resettling people for the Americans, including some complex cases, as they were assisting us,” Turnbull writes. Those complex cases may include three Rwandan men who were charged with murder over a massacre of tourists.

(A US official has said that Australia agreed to make efforts to take refugees fleeing Central America, and to take refugees from areas it does not normally take refugees from, but it was not a one-to-one swap.)

Australia was nervous that Fox News would criticise the deal

The deal was announced on Nov. 13 and American officials began interviews on Nauru in early December. “Naturally, we were anxious to ensure that the right-wing media in the USA, especially Fox News, didn’t latch on to the deal and make it an issue, so we were careful to say as little as possible,” Turnbull writes.

Jared Kushner helped save the deal when Trump introduced his travel ban

A December conversation with incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus gave Turnbull the impression Trump would stick with the deal, but then in January Australia heard of Trump’s plans to ban refugees from majority-Muslim countries. “Frantic lobbying” from Australia followed. Dow Chemicals CEO, Australian-born Andrew Liveris, introduced Turnbull and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Turnbull called Kushner and Trump’s immigration adviser Stephen Miller to urge them to stick with the deal.

“They were sympathetic and assured me the new executive order wouldn’t prevent the refugee deal going ahead,” Turnbull writes.

Vice president Mike Pence and national security advisor Mike Flynn also assured senior Australian officials that the Trump administration would honour the deal. On Jan. 27, the executive order carved out an exemption for preexisting international agreements.

“Thanks, Jared!” Turnbull writes.

The Australians were told Trump would not honour the deal shortly before Trump and Turnbull got on the phone

Mandel Ngan / Getty Images

Trump’s first call with Turnbull.

Just before Turnbull arrived at his office for his first call with Trump, Flynn and Pence called Australian counterparts to ask them not to even mention the deal on the call. Trump had changed his mind and he would not honour the deal.

Despite the tension on the call, Turnbull writes, “I reasoned with Trump and finally won him over”.

Trump held a grudge against Turnbull after the call

Kushner told Turnbull over a month later that Trump was “still hurt” about the deal.

“‘He hadn’t expected you’d come on so strong, although we knew that was your reputation,'” Kushner told him, according to Turnbull. “I told him I didn’t think the call was so bad. ‘Malcolm, it was bad’.”

Kushner urged Turnbull to be “low-key and deferential” towards Trump at an upcoming event, which Rupert Murdoch had persuaded Trump to attend.

Turnbull wrote in his diary that day: “It sounds like Trump felt he had been bested in the negotiation and was furious with himself and with me. Well, WTF was I meant to do? Anyway sounds like we have to play it by ear and the goal of the meeting is simply not to have a row or a diplomatic debacle like so many of his other international meetings.”

Australia’s ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey, was also worried that Trump might “nurse this grievance and want to pay me back”. At one point, Australian diplomats suggested Turnbull offer Trump a concession on a tax treaty in exchange for honouring the refugee deal.

Turnbull was annoyed Australian journalists kept asking about the deal at White House press briefings

Turnbull’s plan was to keep the deal “very low-key” and send the message that Trump didn’t like the deal but had decided to honour it anyway. But the Australian media, particularly the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “badgered the White House” for detail and did “everything they could” to make it a US news story, including raising the issue in the White House briefing room, Turnbull writes.

“I wasn’t surprised they relished the prospect of embarrassing Trump and, if the deal fell over, my government as well,” Turnbull says.

“But I wonder if the ABC’s Zoe Daniel [then Washington correspondent] ever considered the refugees who stood to benefit from the arrangement.”

Australia thought Steve Bannon was trying to undermine the deal

The Washington Post published details of the Trump-Turnbull call, including Trump’s accusation that it was his worst call that day, on Feb. 2, 2017, less than a week after the call, and a few hours after this tweet:

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump

Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!

03:55 AM – 02 Feb 2017

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

“We assumed the leak had come from Bannon; his motive would have been either to produce enough heat to force Trump to renege on his commitment to me or, at the very least, to demonstrate to Trump’s base that he’d agreed to the deal only through the most gritted of teeth,” according to Turnbull.

Turnbull was happy details of the call were leaked

The deal had never been a big US news story — but the tense call was, and it had the opposite of its intended effect, Turnbull said. “Both fans of Australia and critics of Trump lined up to express their solidarity with us,” he writes. “Trump and/or Bannon had overreached and now we had the upper hand.”

Trump joked that Turnbull had “two thousand of the worst terrorists in the world locked up on a desert island” and had talked Trump into taking them

When Trump and Turnbull finally met in May 2017, Trump told his wife Melania: “Melania, do you know, Malcolm has two thousand of the worst terrorists in the world locked up on a desert island and that fool Obama agreed to take them. Can you believe that? And now Malcolm has talked me into taking them too! He got me to do something I promised never to do! He is a tough negotiator!” By this point, Trump knew that the refugees posed no security risks.

“Melania smiled, faintly and mischievously. ‘Just like you, Donald,’ she said,” Turnbull writes.

New Zealand told Australia they would take 150 people per year, but they didn’t want to take single men

Afp Contributor / Getty Images

Ardern and Turnbull in Sydney in November 2017.

New Zealand has a standing offer to take 150 people from offshore detention. But, Turnbull writes, “they didn’t want any single men (the bulk of the detainee population)”, and Australia’s agencies advised that people smugglers would exploit resettlement in New Zealand as being the same as settlement in Australia.

When Jacinda Ardern raised the issue with Turnbull shortly after she was elected New Zealand’s prime minister in October 2017, he told her he wanted to complete the US deal first, he writes. “She was later to press me on this but wanted to prioritise taking women and children; as I pointed out, these were the most likely to get offers to go to the USA.”

A spokesperson for Ardern has described Turnbull’s account as fair, as New Zealand prioritises families, children, vulnerable groups and people with high protection within its refugee intake. However, the New Zealand government has also said its policy does not exclude men.

Turnbull regretted not getting everybody off Manus and Nauru during his prime ministership

“Of course, I left the prime minister’s office with many things undone…while there was not one successful people-smuggling expedition to Australia during my time, I wasn’t able to realise my goal of resettling all the asylum seekers in PNG and Nauru,” Turnbull writes. Nevertheless, Turnbull cites signing the deal and getting it underway even with Trump as one of his proudest achievements.

More on this

Hannah Ryan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Hannah Ryan at hannah.ryan@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

This Facebook Page Was Known For Its Spiritual Memes. Now It’s Been Classified As A Coronavirus “Misinformation Super-Spreader”.

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 27, 2020, 17:26 GMT

Joey D’Urso

BuzzFeed Staff

Share This Article

Facebook / Via Facebook

If you like your News Feed on Facebook to include a steady stream of sunset photos, Buddha memes, and inspirational quotes from the likes of Bob Marley and the Dalai Lama, you might be among the 2 million people who have followed a page called “Energy Therapy UK” since it was created in 2009.

It was set up by London-based yoga teachers Jaime and Jennifer Tanna, who say they seek to “educate the public about energy healing, personal growth and valid alternative approaches to health and wellbeing”.

In addition to posting uplifting memes, the page also sells remote tarot readings and online sessions devoted to “chakra healing” and “spiritual restructuring”.

But in recent weeks, it has sharply changed tack.

It now pumps out material about the coronavirus pandemic, which has been branded as a mix of conspiracy theories and debunked hoaxes by researchers, who last week described it as one of the world’s biggest “super-spreaders” of COVID-19 misinformation.

Many recent posts have been flagged as “false” by Facebook’s fact-checkers or removed by the platform altogether, leading to a backlash among some followers and the page admins claiming censorship.

According to NewsGuard, a website that gives “trust” ratings to news sites, this is an example of a wider trend — pages devoted to spirituality and alternative therapies are becoming a major source of misleading information relating to the pandemic.

The page’s gentle, uplifting posts about spirituality and nature often get shared hundreds or thousands of times on Facebook by people who may not be aware of the source but help Energy Therapy UK pile on new followers.

Facebook / Via Facebook

The primary purpose of the page is to sell products like a 45 minute “remote chakra healing session” costing £60, an hour-long “remote energy healing session” costing £90, or a “spiritual restructuring session” costing the same amount.

It’s not unusual for businesses to post things on Facebook that diverge from their core product in order to reach a bigger audience. But those who “liked” the page several years ago because they saw a spiritual meme won’t just be seeing adverts for tarot readings, but a steady stream of coronavirus-related stories Facebook classifies as misinformation.

One recent post suggested that there is a link between the virus and 5G mobile phone networks, a claim widely alleged to be without scientific evidence and debunked.

Others downplayed the severity of the virus or pushed conspiracy theories about totalitarian governments.

Facebook / Via Facebook

Page founders Jaime and Jennifer Tanna teach yoga and reiki, a Japanese form of alternative medicine. According to the website associated with the Facebook page they have been teaching outdoor yoga in Paphos in Greece but are planning to move to Bali. However Jaime Tanna’s LinkedIn page lists his location as London.

The website shares uplifting quotes as well as listing the online sessions for sale.

Until recently the Facebook page rarely featured the Tannas directly, but in recent weeks Mr Tanna has uploaded lengthy monologues about the coronavirus.

In one recent broadcast he appeared to deny the existence of the virus, saying “there are smart people in this world and if there was a virus, they would have isolated it by now, and they would have done other things, and they would be using a test that was much more accurate — this is all media hype and bullshit”.

This video had been shared over 30,000 times before being deleted when BuzzFeed News approached Facebook for a comment, along with another post saying that data shows the pandemic is “over”.

However other posts flagged by BuzzFeed News were not removed, including one which said the virus is being used as “bait to trick you” as part of a plan for “forced vaccinations”.

Another recent Energy Therapy post referenced “Agenda 2030”, linked to the “Agenda 21” conspiracy theory about a totalitarian world government seeking to kill most of the world’s population as part of a UN plot. As BuzzFeed News has previously reported, this has been given fresh life by the coronavirus pandemic.

Facebook / Via Facebook

This post was not deleted, nor was one which said “If you don’t get your 50 mandatory vaccines and do EXACTLY what your told, then you will be “cut off.” Corona Virus is being used as the bait to trick you. Make no mistake.”

An Energy Therapy post sharing an interview with David Icke was flagged as “false” by fact-checkers working with Facebook, but not removed.

Facebook / Via Facebook

Facebook says it removes content “that could contribute to imminent harm” but more general conspiracy theories do not get removed.

The company believes it is better to leave these things up and label them “false” rather than remove everything, as then it would simply exist elsewhere on the internet.

A Facebook spokesperson said in March the platform removed “hundreds of thousands” of pieces of harmful misinformation and applied warning labels from independent fact-checkers to 40 million posts.

The pivot from Buddha memes to “misinformation” is not unique to Energy Therapy UK.

“Many websites and Facebook pages that were formerly centred around self-care or ‘alternative care’ have now become fully dedicated to spreading health-based disinformation,” William Dance, a PhD researcher in linguistics and disinformation at Lancaster University, told BuzzFeed News.

Other pages have also built up a huge audience posting inoffensive content then suddenly changed tack to more harmful content, he says.

“Facebook and other social media platforms must do more to identify and act against pages who shift their narrative towards disinformation over time.”

NewsGuard, a website which gives “trust ratings” to news sites, published a list of 15 Facebook pages around the world which are “super spreaders” of coronavirus misinformation this week.

As well as Energy Therapy UK, it named Health Impact News, which it described as: “a network of health sites that publishes false content… including a false claim that Vitamin C was an effective treatment for the coronavirus” and Tropical Traditions, a page that “publishes a mixture of lifestyle content, recipes, and health information from unreliable sources,” which made the same claim about Vitamin C.

Some followers of Energy Therapy UK are not happy with the recent pivot according to posts on the site’s Facebook page.

“The page should stick to the positive energy healing” one said. “There were so many political posts I finally quit scrolling through.”

“Lately it has been too political and divisive, therefore I am unfollowing” said another. “I try to fill my feed with positive energy.”

However other followers are strongly supportive of the Tannas and last week the page addressed the backlash directly, posting to say “we’ve lost some people and that’s fine. But the truth cannot be squashed.”

Facebook.com

As Facebook clamps down more and more on Energy Therapy UK, the page has been decrying Facebook’s ‘censorship’ and directing users to its profile on an alternative social media app called MeWe which is less rigorously policed.

BuzzFeed News approached Energy Therapy UK for comment and received no reply. Tanna has accused Facebook of “actively censoring” content in response to posts being removed.

A Facebook spokesperson said the company is doing more than just removing harmful content.

“We’re also distributing authoritative health information across our apps: so far we’ve directed over 2 billion people to resources from health authorities through our COVID-19 Information Center — with over 350 million people clicking through to learn more.”

More on this

Joey D'Urso is media and politics reporter at BuzzFeed News UK and is based in London.

Contact Joey D’Urso at joey.durso@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

Visitors Swarmed To Sydney’s Reopened Beaches Last Week And Proved We Can’t Have Nice Things

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 27, 2020, 02:42 GMT

Julia Willing

BuzzFeed Staff

Share This Article

In an effort to minimise the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, major beaches across Sydney (and indeed, the country) have remained closed for the past month — as our government battles to flatten the curve of infection.

Getty Images

However, last week in Sydney’s East, Randwick Council optimistically tried reopening some of its beaches — with designated exercise times permitted at Coogee, Clovelly and Maroubra.

Saeed Khan / Getty Images

Over the Anzac Day weekend, the beaches were opened from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. for exercise only.

And in a turn of events that will surprise absolutely nobody, crowds soon arrived en masse to the beaches — with little to no regard for the rules of social distancing.

Ryan Pierse / Getty Images

Police at Maroubra Beach were forced to evacuate swimmers from the water due to “non-compliance”.

At Coogee, things were no better.

Ruth Wynn-Williams
@RuthWW

Moths to a flame at Coogee at 8.40 this morn.
Three hour opening hours going great guns*

*if you are the virus

12:41 AM – 26 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

Bruce Templeton
@brucetempleton

Social distancing at Coogee beach. #COVID19Aus #coogee #SocialDistancing

11:15 PM – 24 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

And at Clovelly, sights were much the same:

Paul Chivers
@riskfacilitator

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. #Clovelly 🙁

04:27 AM – 26 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

On Sunday night, Randwick council announced the beaches would remain open from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. today, but didn’t confirm whether those conditions would change over the remainder of the week.

Randwick Council
@RandwickCouncil

Coogee, Maroubra and Clovelly Beaches will be accessible for exercise tomorrow (Mon) from 6-9am. That means swimming, surfing and jogging. 🏊‍♀️ 🏄‍♂️ 🏃‍♂️ Please practise social distancing and leave once you’ve finished exercising. We need everyone’s help to do the right thing. 🙏

07:46 AM – 26 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

And with neighbouring council, Waverely, set to reopen Bondi and Bronte Beach tomorrow, swimmers and surfers are being warned not to disregard the rules.

Paula Masselos
@paulamasselos

Not long now Bronte. 7.00 am Tuesday 28 April swimmers and surfers will be able to safely access the water via designated corridors. Beach remains closed. Please observe rules and social distancing as I really want this to work. Otherwise reclosure.

05:35 AM – 25 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

Please, for the love of god, observe the rules of social distancing, so we can all enjoy nice things in moderation. 🙏🙏🙏

You can keep up-to-date with all of our most recent coverage of the coronavirus here.

How The Coronavirus Is Affecting Black And South Asian Communities Across The UK

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 16, 2020, 13:56 GMT

Hannah Al-Othman

BuzzFeed News Reporter

Ikran Dahir

BuzzFeed News Reporter

Share This Article

Daniel Leal-Olivas / Getty Images

Shoppers buy fruit and vegetables from stallholders at Whitechapel Market in east London.

The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.

Mohammad Rakib’s aunt Nazma Abidin recently died from COVID-19. “My aunt’s immediate family, her children, and grandchildren were not permitted to see her and she died, alone in a hospital bed, just four days after testing positive,” he told BuzzFeed News.

Rakib, who is of Bangladeshi heritage, lives in Tower Hamlets, in east London, where he has seen firsthand the devastating impact of the coronavirus on his community. As well as the death of his aunt, he has witnessed friends, relatives and neighbours suffer losses as hundreds of people per day continue to die from the virus.

“My best friend lost her uncle and grandmother just 24 hours apart,” he said. “A neighbour shared a message asking for prayers for his friend who lost his mother and older sister in the space of a week. I now have another aunt in hospital and she too has tested positive for COVID-19.”

In minority communities such as Rakib’s across the UK, the impact of coronavirus is being felt disproportionately. While everyone in the country is dealing with the fear over the pandemic’s spread, in these communities the toll is even higher.

A report out last week from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) suggested that ethnic minority groups are already being impacted more by the virus. It found that 35% of intensive care patients were from minority ethnic backgrounds — despite the fact that they make up just 14% of the general population.

The research, taking data from around 2,000 seriously ill patients, found that 14% were Asian and the same proportion were black. The research provides the first real quantitative data on the impact the virus is having on minority populations in the UK.

The government has now launched a formal review into why people from BAME backgrounds are being disproportionately affected.

“That’s something that we’re looking at very carefully to try to understand,” the government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance told ITV News on Monday, adding that the impact was “particularly noticeable among some of the healthcare practitioners that we’ve seen who have unfortunately succumbed as a result of this”.

Mahatir Pasha
@mahatir_pasha

10 doctors have now died from #COVID19 in the UK. All immigrants.

Adil el-Tayar 🇸🇩
Amged el-Hawrani 🇸🇩
Habib Zaidi 🇵🇰
Alfa Sa’adu 🇳🇬
Jitendra Rathod 🇮🇳
Anton Sebastianpillai 🇱🇰
Sami Shousha 🇪🇬
Syed Haider 🇵🇰
Abdul Mabud Chowdhury 🇧🇩
Fayez Ayache 🇸🇾

#NHSheroes 🇬🇧

12:40 PM – 10 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

BuzzFeed News spoke to doctors, epidemiologists, charities, and community leaders in different communities across the UK, to build a fuller picture of the impact coronavirus is having on black and Asian people in Britain.

They say several factors are driving the infection rate and death toll higher: bigger, more overcrowded households make it easier for the virus to spread; higher rates of comorbidities such as diabetes and heart disease mean more chance of becoming seriously ill in the first place; and a lack of information in community languages, combined with the spread of misinformation on platforms such a WhatsApp.

With a high proportion of black and minority ethnic people also working in frontline services — in the NHS, or as cleaners, bus drivers, or carers — for many it increases the risk of coming into contact with the virus in the first place.

“We have underlying health issues depending on what part of the world we’re from,” said Rakib in Tower Hamlets.

“Having multigenerational households, you know, you’re more likely to get sick, because you’ve got vulnerable people, whether the young kids or elderly, and then the places that we live, especially in places like Tower Hamlets, are very overpopulated, very densely populated multi-generational households, overcrowded houses.

“People live in flats with more people than they should be in those flats. That’s why I think it’s affecting our community the way it is because especially in places where I live, in Tower Hamlets, it will rip through, with no mercy.”

Mark D. Levine
@MarkLevineNYC

BREAKING: New York City publishes racial breakdown for coronavirus deaths.

And it paints the picture that we feared it would.

02:11 PM – 08 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

The disproportionate impact on minority groups is not just a UK phenomenon. Data from the United States has also shown that in New York, black and Hispanic populations are being harder hit by the virus than their white counterparts. In Chicago, 70% of deaths have been black residents, despite them making up just 30% of the population.

In Sweden, six out of 15 people who died in one day from the coronavirus were Swedish Somalis. The Swedish Somali medical association has voiced concern about a lack of information in Somali being sent out to the community during the beginning stages of the pandemic.

The first coronavirus death in Sweden was an elderly Somali woman from the UK who had underlying health conditions. Statistics from Norway similarly show that 1 in 100 Somalis have tested positive for the virus and 1 in 5 positive cases are people who were outside of Norway.

Fredrik Sandberg / TT News Agency/PA Images

Stockholm

One reason that ethnic minority communities seem to be being hit harder is obvious to Shikta Das, a senior research fellow in epidemiology at University College London. She has researched the ethnic difference in Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease markers.

Supplied

Shikta Das

“There is going to be a huge difference in how ethnic groups respond to coronavirus in comparison to the white Europeans, Caucasians,” she told BuzzFeed News, “basically because we as ethnic groups, the BAME group, we have a lot of comorbidities like diabetes, we have the highest amount of Type 2 diabetes in our sort of ethnic group.”

“If you look at some of the figures,” she continued, “they are astounding… just looking at prevalence of cardiovascular diseases, it’s the highest among the Pakistani men. And Type 2 diabetes in Bangladeshi men, Bangladeshi women and again, Indian men and women are equally, extremely high in terms of diabetes. So, looking at those figures, I am absolutely not surprised to see the amount of dead among this group.”

She also highlighted the problem of families living more closely together. “Coming from an Asian background, I can tell you that, culturally because we do live in a more multigeneration population, you know, so that makes it very, very difficult that there is a infected person in the family.”

The West Midlands has the second peak of the virus, behind London, and Birmingham has the highest number of cases of any upper-tier local authority. Shabana Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywell, said she was constantly fielding calls from worried constituents who are concerned about how best to protect their families.

Uhb Nhs Foundation Trust / PA

Mahmood said there were several reasons for this, but one big concern is the number of generations living under one roof.

“One of the things I’ve been particularly concerned about,” she said, “is the very high prevalence in a constituency like mine, but across Birmingham and the West Midlands of intergenerational families, which is obviously a big feature of the South Asian origin community in this country.

“I was worried about the fact that a lot of the advice on shielding, and people who are over 70, and people with underlying conditions, didn’t take into account that a very large number of those people will be living with younger members of their family,” she added.

“And also,” she said, “if you’re the carer for your parent, and the carer for your children, it’s very difficult then isn’t it because you’re having to move between your children and your parents, and they both need your care, personal care as well, getting changed in the morning, prepping meals.”

“I think it is that combination — higher rates of intergenerational living, and then higher rates of either underlying heart conditions or diabetes, which are the two big risk factors,” she said.

/ PA

Shabana Mahmood

Mahmood said what was missing was advice from the government for how best to protect elderly or vulnerable relatives if you live in close proximity.

“I just think nothing has been simplified and tailored for people in those circumstances, of which there are many thousands in my patch alone, and so that’s where there’s the concern because no one quite knows how to shield their elderly grandparent.”

Mahmood also thinks the government was too slow to act and that coronavirus could have spread widely at large community gatherings — which carried on right until the government announced full lockdown, meaning the full impact may not yet have been seen.

“I’m worried about that period in the lead up to full lockdown,” Mahmood said, “where there was just a lot of confusion about what was and wasn’t possible and in that period people were still going to weddings, still going to funerals, and there’s been a lot of weddings because it’s in the pre-Ramadan season.

“The government had only just started saying ‘oh, well, this is very dangerous and people need to take more care’, but didn’t actually spell out what that means and so people not unreasonably just sort of carried on because like everybody else they thought we were talking about mild flu. So I think that confusion in that period leading up to lockdown has had a big impact on the spread of the infection.”

Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Birmingham, England

Adnan Sharif, a consultant nephrologist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, told BuzzFeed News: “We’ve noticed probably maybe four out of every ten admissions are people from the BAME community.”

While he said that to an extent “that is representative probably of local demographics”, he said there is evidence of some communities being affected more.

“I mean, even if you look nationally, I think the ITU data which was published suggests that 35% of people who were admitted to intensive care were people from the BAME community,” he said, “which national perspective is something much higher than the proportion of the BAME community.

“I know there’s been a lot of talk about whether there’s something very specific about people from the BAME community from a biological perspective. My personal feeling was that it probably is just reflective of other factors. So we know from emerging research, they have certain health issues and put you at much higher risk of developing COVID or maybe getting more severe COVID such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and we know that those problems are a lot more common in the BAME community.”

He also supported Mahmood’s view that the living situation of many of her constituents could put them at increased risk from the virus.

“I think the other factor is probably more sociocultural factors,” he said. “I think more people from the BAME community perhaps live in social housing, they’re more likely to live in households with multiple occupancy, they may have more individuals from different generations living there, and perhaps more communal activities, eating together, etc, etc.”

Sharif said that the medical community was trying to understand how the virus affected different groups — but said he did not think that ethnicity posed a greater risk in itself.

“We want to be careful not to worry people unnecessarily,” he said, “I don’t think being black or Asian, by itself, is a risk factor. I think it’s just what comes with it, it’s the fact that black and Asian people are more likely to have these other health issues, and they are more likely to have a social setup, which makes them more vulnerable, rather than their ethnicity by itself.”

He added: “As more and more data comes through, we’re hoping to try and kind of answer this question with regards to ethnicity, and hopefully reassure the BAME community that ethnicity itself is not a risk factor. It’s the other either health issues or social factors which play a part.”

Daniel Leal-olivas / Getty Images

Shoppers stand by the shuttered frontage of a closed-down shop in Whitechapel, east London

Rabina Khan, a Liberal Democrat councillor in Tower Hamlets and special adviser to the Lib Dem leader in the House of Lords, said that she could already “see the devastating impact [of the coronavirus] on the ground.”

She told BuzzFeed News: “I don’t think the government has got advisors to help them to direct their strategy in terms of reaching these communities… They didn’t even, haven’t even, thought about this properly,” she said.

Supplied

Rabina Khan

“They need to realise that diabetes, cholesterol, all of that is prevalent in the South Asian communities,” she added, “South Asian communities do live as intergenerational and often care for their older generations of parents, there are many of living in high rise towers, and it’s even more difficult for them.”

Khan said that one family she knows has paid to put older relatives in privately rented accommodation during the outbreak — but most people in her community can’t afford to.

“The stress level on these families is enormous,” she said, “because they’ve been severely overcrowded, [their] first language is not English, and there are many of them who also work in the care support sector who haven’t got proper PPE — and that’s another factor as well, because if you look at the South Asian communities, you will see many of them working as either as cleaners in hospitals or nursing homes, or they are care support workers, or they’re auxiliary nurses… and there’s a lot of men who are security guards in hospitals, and care places. And they, too, haven’t got the PPE. So we have to think of the fact that once we talk about them with health problems, they are actually part of the workforce in this country.”

She said that in order to protect the whole population, the government needs to have a plan in place to look at the impact on different ethnic groups — and she said they should draw on support from within those communities.

“I’m happy to help them,” she added. “And there are lots of people who would help them, they don’t have that knowledge and understanding. They’ve got to get out there and do this.”

In the UK, Somalis have gradually been noticing more cases of the coronavirus and more deaths within their community.

While there are no official statistics yet on the impact of the virus on Somalis in the UK, Dr Marwa Jama, a 28-year-old general surgery trainee based in Sheffield, told BuzzFeed News that the anecdotal evidence suggested the population here had been badly hit.

“There is some evidence BME is more affected but no official numbers are available yet,” she said.

“This could have to do with a lot of factors that are mostly socioeconomic; more underlying health conditions such as diabetes, more people in one household, living in bigger cities, not being able to self distance or stop work before the actual lockdown started.”

Supplied

Farah Farzana

Farah Farzana, a junior doctor working in Greater Manchester, told BuzzFeed News that some patients who do not speak English are struggling in hospital without their relatives at their bedside to translate.

“I’m not seeing as many translators coming into hospitals at the moment especially out of hours,” she said. “I completely understand that because we’re reducing the number of visitors”

She added: “With coronavirus, you essentially can become very hypoxic which means lacking adequate oxygen, that can often lead to delirium. When these patients become delirious they often forget even the little bit of English they know and tend to really struggle.”

“These patients usually rely on the family members to translate for them, but given the current circumstances you can’t have them present,” she added. “We try our best to communicate using various methods but sometimes it can be hard. For the last two weeks, I have seen a lot of patients admitted into hospital with such barriers and it has been quite tough.”

Farzana said she realised one patient was not complying with his treatment because he did not understand any of the medical advice.

“When I went to see that man, he wasn’t complying with any of the treatment, but I soon realised it was mostly because he didn’t understand anything that was being communicated to him,” she said.

“He wasn’t aware why not having the oxygen was detrimental to his health. When I spoke to him in his own language I managed to explain the importance of his treatment and it helped calm him down massively. He immediately put his trust on me and was very grateful. I think it did make a difference and I was able to provide him with the care and treatment he needed.”

Anthony Devlin / Getty Images

Manchester, England

Farzana said that a separate concern is the number of frontline NHS staff from minority ethnic backgrounds who are dying from coronavirus, which she says is an issue that needs urgent attention.

“A lot of my friends are also junior doctors,” she told BuzzFeed News, “and we were actually talking about how in the BAME community, BAME healthcare workers have unfortunately been affected by the virus and many have died, and this highlights how the virus can affect anyone, and just how many healthcare workers in the NHS come from ethnic minority backgrounds.”

As the impact of the coronavirus is felt across the country, communities have been stepping up to help each other.

One Somali organisation, Coffee Afrik, which is based in London, has been assisting Somalis with food and medicine deliveries. Abdi Hassan told BuzzFeed News: “At the moment we have delivered 126 packages of food and 60 of that is medicine, so collecting medicine and of the 30 have serious mental health, and half of the 30 are people who have no contact with anybody the whole week.”

Coffee Afrik CIC
@CoffeeAfrique

We collected 5 meds today, called 12 vulnerable Somali women. Food deliveries on Monday. NW/West London are seeing #covid impact on Somali lives. Urge our brethren to check in on this & community orgs to question these leaders. We pray for these lives, May Allah help us all.

02:09 PM – 03 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

In Blackburn, in Lancashire, a team of volunteers are on hand to help out families who lose loved ones to the virus.

Members of the town’s Muslim community fear the impact that the virus will have there. In the north-west, numbers of cases are behind London and the West Midlands — but they are increasing.

“We had the first Muslim burial on Saturday, three burials yesterday from COVID-19, and we’ve got another one potentially tomorrow,” Imran Patel from the Blackburn Muslim Burial Society told BuzzFeed News. “So this is now starting to happen, all of our fears are starting to take place.”

Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Blackburn, England

The emergency service, run by volunteers, allows for bodies to be buried as soon as they can after death, in line with religious practices. Patel and his team have been kitted out with full PPE including hazmat suits, donated by community members, and they are taking care of burials while families must stay away.

It is difficult for many, not to be able to see their loved one before they are buried, Patel said, but they are doing what they can: “What we try and do, is try and do a FaceTime, a WhatsApp video call, so that they can actually see the deceased just before,” he said.

Patel fears that as the impact of the virus will soon be felt more deeply in Blackburn than it has been so far.

“The fear is,” he said, “I always say that Ramandan’s here and from last Ramadan to this, who have we got left? And next year it’s going to be devastation to be honest, to think how many people we’ve lost within our community, and who’s left from our community, and that’s the fear.”

One big issue for minority groups has been the lack of reliable information about the coronavirus in community languages — and this is another area where volunteers are coming forward to fill the gap.

Last week, the government published copies of publicity in some community languages. However, critics said this had come too late, and that the messages had not filtered through to communities. Some key languages — such as Arabic and Mandarin — appear to be missing.

Jama, the general surgery trainee, told BuzzFeed News that the lack of information in Somali had led to confusion, with some people believing misinformation from WhatsApp.

She said: “The main updates via official channels are all in English, there is very little verifiable information in Somali available. Furthermore there is lots of ‘fake news’ circulating on WhatsApp which is very counterproductive if you also don’t have full access to the official channels or understanding from official channels.”

The British Somali Medical Association has translated COVID-19 information and created videos on best practices that have since gone viral within the community.


View this photo on Instagram

Instagram: @askbsma

Mahmood told BuzzFeed News that she hadn’t seen any government literature in different languages reach her communities — but that people were stepping up to produce their own.

“There is a bit of tailored advice from within the community,” she said, “I’ve seen some faith groups and others put out messages in different languages, Syeeda Warsi did a message in Urdu for example, so people are trying to get the message out.”

Shikta Das said misinformation was a huge problem, especially on WhatsApp.

“I am part of my own South Asian community WhatsApp group for all women,” she said. “There’s a lot of misinformation around us. And being an epidemiologist, I just had to take this challenge on myself to pretty much remove the fake news and misinformation.

“I think a good example is drinking hot water. A lot of people started drinking hot water because somebody from India sent a WhatsApp saying, oh, drinking hot water will kill the virus. So literally you have, as an epidemiologist, to take a stand and tell them that actually, it’s not been proven, there is no relation with hot water and the virus.”

Isabel Infantes / EMPICS Entertainment

Northwick Park Hospital

Also bridging the information gap, with translations in 43 languages and counting is the organisation Doctors of the World.

Ellen Waters, the director of development at Doctors of the World, said it all came together after they had spoken to the Department of Health and were told there would be no official translations from the government about the coronavirus.

Her organisation, along with the British Red Cross, Clearvoice, and Migrant Help, started with what was then their first batch of 20 languages and shared the leaflets on a Google Drive. Now the translation documents have been downloaded by more than 30,000 people.

She said: “We even did the work on the English language, obviously there’s a lot of information there and quite complex.

“We’ve had comments back from various different health care practitioners saying that even the English one is getting highly used because it’s easier to read than the information that is currently available through the NHS website and so on.”

Back in Tower Hamlets, Rakib said helping other people in his community was helping him to deal with his grief when so many people close to him were being affected by the virus.

“At this time of such unimaginable loss and suffering, it’s hard to think straight and to be able to know what to do with all this grief, worry and anger,” he told BuzzFeed News.

“We must all find a way to use it to refocus our efforts into helping others and being useful or else we allow this thing to consume us.”

More on this

Hannah Al-Othman is a political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Hannah Al-Othman at hannah.al-othman@buzzfeed.com.

Ikran is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Ikran Dahir at ikran.dahir@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

Scientists Advising The UK Government On The Coronavirus Fear Boris Johnson’s Team Is Using Them As “Human Shields”

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 22, 2020, 18:03 GMT

Alex Wickham

Political Editor

Katie J.M. Baker

BuzzFeed News Investigative Reporter

Share This Article

Leon Neal / Getty Images

Some of the scientists advising the UK government on its handling of the coronavirus pandemic fear they will be used by ministers as “human shields” at a future public inquiry, and they have privately discussed how to protect themselves from any attempted blame game, BuzzFeed News can reveal.

Members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), and other experts who advise them, have become nervous about senior ministers, including first secretary Dominic Raab and chancellor Rishi Sunak, deflecting criticism this week by saying they had been “guided by the scientific and medical advice”.

Some SAGE advisers are worried that they and their chair, chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance, as well as the chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and his deputy, Jenny Harries, will be held responsible by Boris Johnson’s political team for the UK taking longer than other European countries to enforce social distancing in March, if this decision is found to have led to excess deaths in Britain.

Ministers’ claims to be “guided by the science” were also problematic — because in reality the science of this crisis had been “riddled with doubt, uncertainty, and debate”, according to Professor Robert Dingwall, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, which advises SAGE.

At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Raab responded to accusations by Labour leader Keir Starmer that the government had been “slow” to act on lockdown, testing, and protective equipment by insisting: “We have been guided by the scientific advice, the chief scientific adviser, the chief medical officer, every step along the way.”

At Monday’s daily press conference, Sunak answered a similar question by saying ministers had taken “the right decisions at the right time, according to the scientific advice we received”.

Following a Sunday Times story lambasting Johnson’s handling of the crisis, a senior Whitehall source told BuzzFeed News that the prime minister and his political team had only acted in accordance with what they were being told by Whitty, Vallance, and SAGE, and that it would have been irresponsible for Number 10 to overrule them.

On the key task of ensuring NHS capacity was not breached, the advice from Whitty, Vallance, and SAGE was a success, they said, stressing that the experts retained the full support of the government and that the measures implemented by the UK had likely prevented tens of thousands of more deaths.

But it was right that genuine questions would be asked of the experts at a later date over areas where the UK may have fallen short, they said, such as the speed with which the government introduced social distancing, and the controversial advice from Harries that mass testing was “not appropriate” for Britain.

This emerging line of defence has concerned members of SAGE in recent days, with morale on the committee becoming “low” as government scientists began to suspect that ministers and Johnson’s aides were using them as “human shields” to insulate themselves from blame, a SAGE adviser told BuzzFeed News on the condition of anonymity.

Stressing the advisory nature of the group, they said that decisions were ultimately for ministers, a point repeated several times by Whitty at Wednesday evening’s Downing Street press conference.

Delegating decision-making to scientific experts was bad government because the ultimate decision on the UK’s overarching strategy — whether to introduce draconian lockdown measures or pursue a looser plan based on herd immunity — was inherently political, they argued.

Dingwall told BuzzFeed News that the public should be sceptical of any claim by ministers to have “followed the science”.

“The real world of science is riddled with doubt, uncertainty, and debate rather than a neat and compelling logic that points in a single direction,” Dingwall said.

He argued that the job of SAGE was to provide ministers with a set of options and a cost-benefit analysis, and then it was up for ministers to make decisions regarding which scientists and scientific arguments to endorse.

In March, BuzzFeed News reported concerns that Johnson’s chief aide, Dominic Cummings, had effectively “outsourced” the government’s decision-making process to a small group of experts.

“The million-dollar question you have to answer is: Was the role of SAGE as a group of advisers respected or over-relied upon?” the first SAGE adviser said.

In response to the claim that experts were being used as human shields, a Number 10 source said the government would protect them from “unfair criticism”.

“Government scientists are playing a critical role in the fight against coronavirus. Protecting them from unfair criticism and worse is one of the reasons we have resisted pressure to name all the members of SAGE,” they said.

Alex Wickham is a senior reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Alex Wickham at alex.wickham@buzzfeed.com.

Katie Baker is an investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Katie J.M. Baker at katie.baker@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

A Welsh Politician Has Accidentally Revealed The Dangers Of Failing To Mute On A Zoom Meeting

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 22, 2020, 17:38 GMT

Alan White

BuzzFeed News Reporter

Share This Article

This is Vaughan Gething, the health minister for Wales.

Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

This is a shocked Welsh politician, taking part in a Zoom call.

Rob Osborne
@robosborneitv

My favourite one…

03:37 PM – 22 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

And another one…

Rob Osborne
@robosborneitv

03:37 PM – 22 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

…and another one.

Rob Osborne
@robosborneitv

03:37 PM – 22 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

And this is why they’re shocked.

Paul Brand
@PaulBrandITV

“What the **** is the matter with her?!”

Welsh Health Minister illustrates the dangers of not muting the mic as he slags off his Labour colleague on Welsh Assembly video conference 😳

04:24 PM – 22 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

Yes, Gething did the one thing all of us who are working from home are frankly petrified of doing. He forgot to leave his mic on mute during a virtual session of the Welsh Assembly and was caught swearing about one of his Labour colleagues, Jenny Rathbone, the member for Cardiff Central.

Cue the inevitable calls for his resignation from opposition politicians.

Adrian Masters
@adrianmasters84

1/3 Plaid Cymru isn’t amused by Health minister’s zoom blooper, calling for him to resign: ‘he has not only failed over the last month several times, he has failed to acknowledge that he has failed and aggressively attacks even those witjin his own party who question him.

03:39 PM – 22 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

And the inevitable awkward apology.

Vaughan Gething AM
@vaughangething

I’m obviously embarrassed about my comments at the end of questions today. I’ve sent a message apologising and offered to speak to @JennyRathbone if she wishes to do so. It is an unwelcome distraction at a time of unprecedented challenge.

04:33 PM – 22 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

In summary:

Alain Tolhurst
@Alain_Tolhurst

@vaughangething

03:50 PM – 22 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

More on this

Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Alan White at alan.white@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

This Photographer Captured Sydney’s Most Iconic Beaches Completely Deserted And The Shots Are Eerily Beautiful

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 21, 2020, 04:58 GMT

Julia Willing

BuzzFeed Staff

Share This Article

As a Sydneysider myself, I think it’s fair to say that our dear city has struggled with the concept of social distancing.

James D. Morgan / Getty Images

Particularly the Eastern Suburbs, of which I am also a resident. 🤦🤦🤦

However, after pictures of Bondi Beach absolutely covered in visitors went viral in March, local councils reacted swiftly — shutting all major beaches in the Eastern Suburbs and in regions across Sydney.

Jenny Evans / Getty Images, Peter Parks / Getty Images

Fast-forward four weeks and the beaches now tell a very different story.

Salty Wings | North Bondi, Bronte, Bondi Beach. / Via saltywings.com.au

Co-founder and photographer of Salty Wings, Jampal Williamson, took to the skies to capture Sydney’s most iconic and popular Eastern Suburb beaches in the wake of the government’s lockdown.

Salty Wings | Bondi Beach, before and after. / Via saltywings.com.au

The collection is juxtaposed with photos taken prior to self-isolation — to demonstrate the stark difference between these beaches before and after Sydneysiders were encouraged to stay home.

“The entire flight felt like a dream,” Jampal told BuzzFeed Australia. “To see Sydney’s beaches deserted like this was surreal and not something I have ever seen before. I was photographing them in their natural habitat. It was beautiful.”

Salty Wings | Icebergs, before and after. / Via saltywings.com.au

“Social distancing has been an interesting time for all of us…But to be honest, seeing what others are going through around the world, I feel so grateful to be in a safe country like Australia.”

Salty Wings | Tamarama Beach, before and after. / Via saltywings.com.au

“And I can handle the social distancing if it’s saving lives.”

“Although I have marvelled at seeing these beaches bare, I’m also yearning for them to reopen and for everyone to enjoy them again.”

Salty Wings | Coogee Beach / Via saltywings.com.au

“I hope this time comes soon and when it does, I look forward to photographing the moment!”

As it stands, major beaches in the Eastern Suburbs and across the Sydney region remain closed in an effort to minimise the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Salty Wings | Tamarama Beach / Via saltywings.com.au

So please, as much as you might miss the beach, stay home, stay safe and support your local communities.

You can keep up-to-date with all of our most recent coverage of the coronavirus here.

Revealed: The UK’s “Three Stage” Exit Strategy To Ease The Coronavirus Lockdown

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 18, 2020, 07:46 GMT

Alex Wickham

Political Editor

Share This Article

Chris J Ratcliffe / Getty Images

Ministers and government scientists are drawing up what they hope will be a “three stage” approach to easing the coronavirus lockdown restrictions in the UK in phases between May and July, sources with direct knowledge of the plan told BuzzFeed News.

The strategy will depend heavily on significant improvements in infection rate data over the next three weeks, Britain dramatically increasing its testing and contact tracing capacity, tens of millions of people downloading a new NHS app, the efficacy of antiviral drugs at reducing symptoms of COVID-19, and strict measures remaining in place for elderly and vulnerable people until a vaccine is found.

As ministers publicly remained tight-lipped about a so-called exit strategy for lockdown — and some in cabinet complained they were being kept out of the loop on Downing Street’s plans — BuzzFeed News can reveal:

  • A “best-case scenario” being worked on by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) hopes to end lockdown restrictions for certain nonessential shops and industries in the short term, from early to mid-May.

  • Some social distancing measures could then gradually be relaxed in the medium term, in June and July, eventually leading to the reopening of pubs and restaurants towards the end of summer.

  • Long-term “shielding” for elderly and vulnerable people could mean limits on people seeing their parents or grandparents over 70 for as long as 12 to 18 months until a vaccine is found.

  • The timeline relies on SAGE scientists calculating how many new COVID-19 infections per day the UK’s test and trace capabilities can manage and an “impossible” political decision for Downing Street on how many deaths per day they are willing to accept in order to be able to lift some restrictions before there is a vaccine.

This week, health secretary Matt Hancock and other senior ministers insisted that it was too early to talk about an exit strategy from the lockdown, partly because government aides think that doing so will discourage people from following the rules in the meantime.

The phrase “exit strategy” itself is also disliked by some Downing Street aides because it creates the impression we are close to a return to normality — when in reality some social distancing measures will have to stay in place indefinitely until a vaccine is found.

Privately, though, work on an exit plan is taking place at pace. There is increasing optimism in Whitehall that, although the UK death rate is still higher than those of many other countries across Europe, and the NHS faces continuing problems over the supply of protective equipment for frontline staff, the peak of the coronavirus crisis in this country will not be as devastating as feared by modellers a month ago.

Forecasts by government scientists had envisaged the NHS facing a monumental task to not breach capacity at the peak, with the possibility of the health service running out of intensive care beds and ventilators, leading to tens of thousands of extra deaths.

As Britain approaches the peak, ministers are now quietly confident that this disaster scenario will not happen. Part of the reason is that it is now believed fewer people have contracted the virus than the experts expected and that the nature of the virus itself is different from their initial understanding, with fewer patients requiring ventilation.

Jacob King / Getty Images

“The NHS has done it,” one minister told BuzzFeed News. “This has been an appalling few weeks, but we appear to have got through it without the worst happening.”

No exact plan to relax the lockdown has been finalised, government sources told BuzzFeed News, because it was too early to take decisions without knowing if the transmission rate of the virus, “the R number”, was coming down to a manageable level, and whether proposals to test and trace potential cases were viable. If either of these did not go to plan, restrictions would have to be extended again or reintroduced at a later date, they warned.

There are also a range of different options for how the UK could lift the restrictions, affecting different industries and age groups in different ways, based on as yet unavailable data. One source said the permutations at this stage were so varied and dependent on nonexistent data that they could not give a definitive picture of what life will look like in the months ahead.

However, ministers and government scientists are working on a broader three-stage strategy to ease some restrictions over the next three months, multiple sources familiar with the plan told BuzzFeed News.

The first stage, in what one minister said was a “best-case scenario”, would begin with schools and some businesses reopening in early to mid-May in order to get the economy moving again. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is determined to allow nonessential retail shops to reopen as soon as possible, as well as warehouses for businesses such as Next, which closed its operations last month.

The Treasury also wants to let as much of the manufacturing and construction industries get back to work as possible while encouraging proper hygiene and social distancing in the workplace.

People would be allowed out of their homes for nonessential shopping in this scenario, but most social distancing measures would remain in place. Some ministers are lobbying Downing Street to partially relax some other of the harshest rules in this first stage, such as those stopping people from sitting in parks or taking more than one form of exercise a day.

Commuters could be encouraged to wear masks on public transport if an ongoing review of scientific advice finds them to be effective at preventing the spread of the disease.

There are concerns in government that this is another area Britain has been slower to get on top of than other countries. The Department of Health told BuzzFeed News that no procurement of masks for the general public was yet taking place, and that it was still focusing on buying masks for NHS and care workers.

The second stage would see more businesses reopening and further social distancing measures lifted, and ministers hope this can start to take place by the end of May or beginning of June. This would mean most people returning to work and small gatherings being permitted. Later in the summer, the government hopes to be able to open pubs and restaurants.

SAGE scientists are also looking at lifting restrictions by age, raising the prospect that people under a certain age threshold could be able to go back to their offices sooner, organise social gatherings, or go to the pub — but those above the limit cannot.

Ministers and aides believe the development of new treatments for COVID-19 and the repurposing of existing antiviral drugs could have an important role in allowing the UK to move to stage two. Aides have been optimistically sharing news in their WhatsApp groups this week that a drug called remdesivir has shown signs of alleviating symptoms in patients in the US. There is now increasing optimism in Whitehall that by summer antiviral drugs could be used in Britain to give coronavirus patients a better chance of recovery and reduce death rates.

The third stage is the long-term final “exit” from the coronavirus crisis, when it is defeated once and for all and life returns to normal for the whole nation.

Government scientists have told ministers that there are only two routes to fully beating the virus: developing a vaccine, or the controversial “herd immunity” approach whereby a majority of the population get the disease, recover and can return to normal life.

Neither is a realistic prospect any time soon, with a vaccine thought to be a year to 18 months away — although scientists at the University of Oxford claim they could produce one by September — and doubts about how long immunity lasts. Until one of those two outcomes is achieved, the elderly and vulnerable must continue to be “shielded” with as many of the social distancing measures remaining in place as possible, a minister told BuzzFeed News.

Government figures are concerned that the public has not fully grasped the prospect of an effective indefinite lockdown for those over 70 and vulnerable groups. “‘You can’t see granny for 18 months’ is going to be an extremely unpopular and difficult policy to enforce,” the minister said.

Anthony Devlin / Getty Images

How and when the UK can move through the three exit stages depends on various factors, the most crucial being whether the government can successfully increase its (currently extremely limited) capacity to test for the virus and trace people who may have come into contact with it. Privately, some Whitehall colleagues expect Hancock to miss his target of 100,000 tests per day by “a week or two”.

Whitehall insiders point to several areas of concern. Hancock is prioritising an NHS app that would use Bluetooth technology to flag up on people’s phones if they have been in contact with someone with coronavirus symptoms and tell them to get tested. But government aides believe that in order for the app to be effective, it needs to be downloaded by 60% of the population, a task that some fear will be extremely difficult to pull off.

Officials are looking at how to enforce use of the app, potentially even requiring people by law to have it on their phones if they want any lifting of lockdown restrictions to apply to them.

There are also worries that the UK has again been too slow to hire an army of contact tracers that will be necessary to complement the app. This week, BuzzFeed News reported on concerns that the app will not work unless it is accompanied by mass testing and human-led contact tracing, areas where Britain is currently falling short.

The efficacy of test and trace as an exit strategy is also dependent on the rate of new COVID-19 infections, the government’s scientists have told ministers. Put simply, test and trace is not viable if more people are being infected each day than the health system has capacity to test and trace.

The government’s target of 100,000 tests per day means the rate of new infections would likely have to be in the low thousands for sufficient testing and tracing to be able to take place. On Friday, there were 5,559 confirmed new coronavirus cases in the UK, with many more likely getting the virus but untested. If the rate of new infections surpasses the capacity to test and trace, the government would be unable to lift lockdown restrictions for fear the virus would again become untestable, untraceable and uncontrollable.

The hardest decision for Downing Street is that it has to ultimately look at the data gathered by scientists on the rate of new infections, divide it by a hundred to come up with an estimate for likely new deaths, then take a political decision on whether that number is low enough for them to justify relaxing some of the lockdown measures.

For example, if there are 1,000 new infections taking place per day, at a mortality rate of around 1%, that is likely to mean around 10 new deaths from COVID-19 over the following two weeks.

Regardless of how well set up the UK is on testing and tracing, Number 10 will have to make a judgment call on whether keeping the British economy alive justifies lifting some restrictions and tolerating those deaths. This decision was described to BuzzFeed News by one minister as “impossible”.

More on this

Alex Wickham is a senior reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Alex Wickham at alex.wickham@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

The Health Secretary Has Said Official Statistics Don’t Show The True Number Of People Who’ve Died In The UK’s Care Homes

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 17, 2020, 13:16 GMT

Hannah Al-Othman

BuzzFeed News Reporter

Share This Article

parliament.tv

The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.

The health secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed that the number of deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in care homes is likely to be higher than those reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

At a virtual meeting of Parliament’s health and social care committee on Friday, committee chair Jeremy Hunt said the ONS statistics show there have been 217 care home deaths to date.

“Scotland thinks it’s a quarter of all its COVID deaths are in care homes,” he said, “France, Italy, Spain think it’s about half of their COVID deaths are in care homes. Does it really seem likely to you that less than 2% of our COVID deaths are in care homes?”

In response, Hancock said the ONS figures were a couple of weeks behind, but added: “I’m absolutely sure that both the number and the proportion, I can say with a high degree of confidence that the number and the proportion are higher than what you say.”

He then faced criticism from Hunt for the government’s failure to reveal care home deaths along with hospital statistics on a daily basis.

Hancock said the government was working to improve reporting on deaths in residential care.

“I have asked the CQC to make sure we record the deaths of those who are residents of care homes,” he said. “They started to collect that data yesterday and it will start to be published shortly.”

Hancock also defended the government’s record on testing after it emerged only 18,000 tests were carried out yesterday, well short of the 100,000 tests-a-day target he has set for the end of April.

Hancock described drive-through testing centres as a “big policy success,” but MPs grilled him on his failure to improve on numbers with just two weeks for the government to meet its pledge of 100,000 tests a day.

Hancock said around 18,000 tests had been carried out yesterday, with the majority in NHS laboratories, and said testing capacity was now at around 30,000. He insisted the government was still on course to hit its target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of the month — which means it will have to more than double testing capacity in less than a fortnight.

The health secretary also announced that testing would be rolled out to other public service workers, including firefighters, police, the judiciary and prison officers, and critical local authority and Department for Work and Pensions staff from today.

In response, Conservative backbencher Laura Trott asked: “We have capacity for 30,000 tests, and we’re carrying out 18,000. I know my local CCG has said they’ve got capacity for huge amounts of more tests than are actually being carried out.

“I know from today, from the expansion, which is very welcome, to local government, firefighters, etc, that will take up some of that excess capacity, but what is being done centrally to make sure we’re using resources where they’re needed?”

Hancock said using the capacity was a “real challenge”, and suggested that one reason the government was falling behind was a lack of uptake from health workers, adding that the Easter bank holiday could have limited the numbers of people coming forward.

“Within the NHS, the number of staff coming forward for testing is lower than was anticipated,” he said.

“You’ll understand why we had a priority order for the use of the test where it was patients first, then NHS staff. Frankly, the number of NHS staff coming forward wasn’t as high as expected and therefore we extended it very quickly both to residents and staff in social care.”

Hancock added that the Department of Health staff were also working to ensure that supply and demand were adequately matched at centres around the country.

Labour MP Rosie Cooper told the health secretary that NHS staff were struggling to access the drive-through testing centres that the government had set up.

“The testing centres that have been set up in out-of-town areas,” she said, “it could only have come from the centre — somebody who’s got no idea locally how people are supposed to travel miles and miles and miles to get tested — they might as well be on the moon frankly.”

In response, Hancock said: “We’ve now got 22, we’re going to have 50 right across the country, that’s precisely to get the testing capabilities out into the community, and then once we’ve got those established, we’re going to have mobile units, and then when the technology is good enough we will have home testing kits as well.”

The health secretary also admitted that he did not know how many NHS workers had contracted the virus so far.

“What I have is an estimate of the proportion who are off work because they either have suspected COVID-19 or a household member does, which is a little over 8%. And obviously with the expansion of testing, we hope to be able to get that figure down.”

Hancock told MPs that there were still ongoing problems with PPE supply. “We are tight on gowns,” he said. “That is the pressure point at the moment. We have another 55,000 gowns arriving today and we’re working on the acquisition internationally of more gowns, but it is a challenge.

“And this follows changing the guidance 10 days ago which increased the advice on the use of gowns but also said that they should be used for sessional use rather than for individual patient use. And it is a big challenge delivering against that new guidance and we’re doing everything we possibly can.”

More on this

Hannah Al-Othman is a political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Hannah Al-Othman at hannah.al-othman@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

London Police Officers Have Been Criticised For Failing To Enforce Social Distancing During The “Clap For Carers”

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 17, 2020, 15:42 GMT

Hannah Al-Othman

BuzzFeed News Reporter

Share This Article

Twitter

The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.

Metropolitan Police officers have been criticised for failing to observe or enforce social distancing measures as a crowd of people gathered on London’s Westminster Bridge during the weekly “Clap for Carers” on Thursday evening.

Several UK police forces have been criticised for taking a heavy-handed approach to enforcing social distancing, for example by moving on people who were sunbathing alone or having picnics 2 metres away from others, and by suggesting they may search supermarket trolleys to ensure that shoppers were only buying essential items.

But a video posted to Twitter on Thursday night showed police officers and members of the public standing close together while showing their support for NHS and care staff as part of the weekly national round of applause.

The footage also shows two paramedics on the scene, although they were standing away from the majority of the crowd.

The footage was shared on twitter by Damir Rafi, a doctor at St Thomas’ Hospital, which stands at the foot of the bridge across the Thames from Parliament.

Damir Rafi
@d_rafi1

The scene from Westminster bridge #ClapForCarers

07:12 PM – 16 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

“I’m a doctor working at the hospital that’s right there,” he said. “And yes, I was also somewhat perplexed by the lack of social distancing.”

Responding to Rafi’s tweet, one nurse described the incident as “really infuriating” and said it made her “sick”.

“It’s more appreciated if social distancing was practise[d] here than the clapping itself,” she tweeted.

Maribie
@maribiemarco28

@d_rafi1 This is just really infuriating!!!!
I’m a Nurse & this scene made me sick!!! It’s more appreciated if social distancing was practise here than the clapping itself!
Do we really CARE???
Expect for more weeks of torture, more casualties because of this!!!
#TotalLockdown

10:11 PM – 16 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

On Twitter, barrister Matthew Scott questioned why the police had not taken action to impose social distancing with the people on Westminster Bridge, describing it as “worse than sitting on a park bench, worse even than sunbathing”.

Matthew Scott
@Barristerblog

This is worse than sitting on a park bench. Worse even than sunbathing. Why aren't the police arresting these people? https://t.co/f2oyLdmHBs

07:19 AM – 17 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

When asked about the footage on LBC radio on Friday morning, London mayor Sadiq Khan said he suspected police and the ambulance service will be asking “questions in relation to this”.

“Clearly the advice does not appear to have been followed,” he told host James O’Brien. “A number of people were not 2 metres apart, and these rules are there for all of our wellbeing and health, and we have to be cognisant of the facts that when this goes into social media people can get the wrong impression but also risk personal health so I am sure there will be questions.”

He added: “I suspect and I have no confirmation that the Met and London Ambulance Service will be asking these kind of questions in relation to this. The police have a difficult job to make sure the rules are observed and I think they will both be asking questions.”

But in a statement, Scotland Yard said only that it would remind officers about the importance of social distancing.

A Met spokesperson said: “Officers, along with other emergency service workers, came together last night on Westminster Bridge to celebrate the work of all key workers.

“A large number of members of the public also gathered to express their gratitude. While many people adhered to social distancing guidance, it appears that some did not.

“We regularly remind our officers of the importance of social distancing where practical, and will continue do so.”

BuzzFeed News approached the Home Office for comment on the way the officers on the bridge had handled the incident, but a government spokesperson did not address that question.

In a statement, they said: “The government asks that everyone takes responsibility and adheres to social distancing rules so that we can safely show our appreciation for those who are working so hard to fight coronavirus.”

Police have been given new powers by Parliament to enforce social distancing measures introduced during lockdown, as the government aims to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. More than 3,200 fines have been handed out by officers to people found to be breaching the rules.

Last week, the chief constable of Northamptonshire, Nick Adderley, was forced to backtrack after suggesting his officers would be searching supermarket trollies and baskets to make sure people weren’t buying nonessential items.

Home secretary Priti Patel said his comments were “not appropriate”.

The National Police Chiefs Council issued new guidelines this week to officers on what is and what isn’t allowed. These state, for example, that stopping to rest while doing exercise is fine, but prolonged sitting on a park bench after short exercise is not.

More on this

Hannah Al-Othman is a political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Hannah Al-Othman at hannah.al-othman@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

Conservative Leaders Have Suddenly Funded Huge Social Policy Changes In The Pandemic. Now People Are Joking They’re Socialists.

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 17, 2020, 04:19 GMT

Gina Rushton

BuzzFeed News Reporter, Australia

Share This Article

Lukas Coch / AAP

Prime minister Scott Morrison in the House of Representatives on April 8, 2020.

The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.

The coronavirus pandemic has Australians joking that prime minister Scott Morrison is an unlikely new comrade in the march toward socialism. In a matter of weeks, the once surplus obsessed “ScoMo” has doubled the rate of welfare payments, scrapped childcare fees for essential workers, announced a nationwide moratorium on rental evictions and handed $150 million extra dollars to domestic violence services.

People tweeted in jest, welcoming “Comrade Morrison”, a “socialist leader”, to the resistance, while political pundits say Morrison is an “accidental socialist” or a temporary “whatever-it-takes Keynesian”. But the editor-at-large of the nation’s conservative broadsheet reminded readers the prime minister is “not a radical” who will be manipulated by “revolutionaries”.

“He’s definitely not a socialist,” says Ariadne Vromen, a professor of political sociology at the University of Sydney. Rather, she thinks, the government is realising the role it plays in protecting people from the inequalities of the market.

“We are being forced to think about that, the role of the state, I guess that is what this moment is doing,” Vromen told BuzzFeed News. “[The response from the government] is social democracy.”

Emeritus professor Frank Stilwell from Sydney University’s political economy department said Morrison and his cabinet are implementing policy so unaligned with their own ideological beliefs that he thinks some MPs would be regretting even winning the election.

“These guys must hate every minute of having to do this,” he told BuzzFeed News. “Tenant rights, free childcare, doubling Newstart — this is more than Keynesian economic stimulus, it really is a major change in social policy.

“It must go against every instinct of Morrison and the Liberal cabinet but the circumstances absolutely require it.”

Associate professor Tim Lynch from the University of Melbourne’s school of social and political sciences said Morrison, Donald Trump in the United States and Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom weren’t currently trying to transform a capitalist system — they were trying to salvage it.

“You’ve got conservative leaders who are in many important respects indulging in big government left-wing Labor-style behaviours at a surface level,” he told BuzzFeed News. “Ideology is taking a backseat to the emergency… [Leaders are thinking] ‘how do we protect what we’ve got?’ Not ‘how do I have some Damascene conversion to a new political ideology?’”

Lynch said even former British prime minister Winston Churchill — “the biggest small and big C conservative of the 20th century” — thought in the short-term that centralised government power was needed to fight “a larger evil”: World War II.

“Morrison, Trump and Johnson are doing the same,” he said.

Morrison has been clear the multi-billion dollar spending spree is temporary, repeatedly reminding Australians about what he calls “the snapback” — the moment when the crisis ends and the new spending is cut.

The question for those who have fought inequality for decades is not whether Morrison is suddenly a socialist — he’s not — but how these seismic shifts in funding, policy and rhetoric produced by the crisis can be sustained when life returns to “normal”.

Supplied

Jeremy Poxon (left) at an action outside Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s office.

Jeremy Poxon broke down in tears when the government announced it would double the rate of welfare payments for six months as part of an economic stimulus package.

“It seemed like a human, collective, unified moment,” Poxon, an organiser with the Australian Unemployed Workers Union (AUWU), told BuzzFeed News.

Poxon has campaigned to increase the single rate of Newstart, Australia’s unemployment payment, which hasn’t increased in real terms since 1994, by at least $95 a week.

When the pandemic hit, Poxon said he thought the government might raise the rate by $50, and described the $275 per week increase as “mind blowing”.

Supplied

Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union members.

“We didn’t expect a Liberal government to outflank Labor, the Greens and the left,” he said. “They managed to immediately lift like 800,000 people out of poverty. Over the next six months people who have been skipping meals every day will be able to afford three square meals.”

Nations around the world have introduced welfare-as-stimulus measures. In the US, Trump has signed off — literally — on a $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package through which adults making less than USD$75,000 a year can access an emergency universal income payment of $1,200, plus $500 per child. Those who earn more than $75,000 will receive a smaller payment and the checks are capped for anyone who earns over $99,000.

The UK is expanding welfare payments in a multi-billion dollar package, covering 80% of wages for workers whose jobs are at risk and offering renters a billion pounds in support. Johnson has lifted the UK’s Universal Credit, a consolidated monthly social security payment, by about £80 a month for a year in response to the pandemic.

Poxon’s jubilation is tempered by the fact the huge raise only happened because hundreds of thousands more Australians are applying, or will need to apply, for welfare. Lines to Centrelink, the welfare agency, stretched around the block last month in scenes that were likened to the Great Depression.

Poxon said AUWU members are saying things like “Oh, well now that this unemployment crisis is affecting the middle class it’s a real crisis now” and “Oh goodness gracious me, a rich person is having to access entitlements” — as if their suffering is only now seen as “legitimate”.

“We have been fighting for you all along,” he said.

Poxon knows the government is determined to repeal these changes once the pandemic is over but thinks it will be “incredibly difficult” as many people won’t be “merrily waltzing back into secure employment”.

Dean Lewins / AAP

Early childhood educator Josephine wipes down tables and bench tops with disinfectant at the Robertson Street Kindy Childcare Centre in Helensburgh south of Sydney, Friday, April 3, 2020.

Earlier this month Morrison announced childcare would be free for parents still using it during the pandemic, describing it as “critical” and saying essential workers must have access to childcare.

Marie Coleman first became involved in Australia’s childcare policy in the 1960s, and in 1976 was appointed the Director of the Office of Childcare under the Fraser Coalition government. She has been campaigning for affordable childcare for decades.

Twitter

Marie Coleman in 1993.

“This is the first time I can recall a prime minister of any complexion actually describing childcare as an essential service and that in itself is interesting,” the 87-year-old told BuzzFeed News. “The moment you say in all seriousness that it is an essential service then you begin to think about this model we have, which is predicated on immense profit taking corporations, and in which we can’t really control what is being charged to parents.”

Throwing money at the system would not change the structure, she said, suggesting Australia’s newly “quasi-socialist” government should take this opportunity to rethink how the sector works.

“The structure of childcare at the moment means that developing an organised, unionised workforce is not tremendously easy,” she said. “The inefficiency of the system and its burgeoning costs and public dissatisfaction is still going to be there.”

Late last month Morrison announced a six-month “eviction ban” for those unable to make rent due to financial distress. He then said the ban was for states and territories to enforce. Fewer than half have so far passed the necessary legislation to make it law but the NSW government followed through last week and allocated $220 million to residential renters and landlords. Renters who have lost a quarter of their household’s income due to the new coronavirus will be protected from eviction for half a year if they have “negotiated in good faith” with their landlord.

In the US there are pandemic-induced moratoriums on evictions in more than 30 states and in the UK the government announced a three-month ban on evictions.

NSW Tenants’ Union / Via Facebook

The NSW Tenants’ Union chief executive Leo Patterson Ross said while many European countries have annual moratoriums on evictions, especially over winter, the announcement was a “fundamental shift” in tenancy rights in Australia.

“It is hard to express how hard [that change] was going to be without the pandemic,” Patterson Ross told BuzzFeed News. “If you talk about this kind of thing ordinarily you would just get landlords saying ‘this is my property and I need to be able to recover it’.

“[Europe’s] human rights framework is much more developed and their relationship to housing as an essential need is much further on.”

In the past few months Australian landlords have suggested those facing pay cuts should still cover rent, told those on visas to vacate properties immediately and threatened victions for those who can’t pay rent. One landlord responded to a tenant who asked to negotiate a rent freeze by asking how much they spent on food and entertainment.

“You can be a landlord and have zero knowledge of what that means and your obligations and responsibilities,” Patterson Ross said.

“I think it is weird that we don’t have registration and education for landlords, or make sure they have some cash reserve to be able to fulfil their obligations.”

Patterson Ross said the pandemic is likely to put renters’ rights on the table in upcoming state and federal elections.

According to Vromen, the policies might change, but the lasting legacy of the coronavirus pandemic will be the inequality it has laid bare in Australia. Who does and doesn’t get to work from home is one part of that.

“The people working still in essential services like nursing, care work and grocery stores and so on, they are overwhelmingly women and they are overwhelmingly women of colour,” she said. “It is really forcing us to think about the inequalities that we don’t see and we don’t see them because they’re part of people’s everyday private lives.”

Stilwell said not everyone will be in favour of turning Australia into “one of those Nordic states with a higher level of taxation”, but that this period will show voters the need and benefit of a more robust social security net. In the meantime, Stilwell says the government abandons austerity and spends more than it did in response to the Global Financial Crisis.

“Hopefully we will now see the end of this always stupid rhetoric about the need for a surplus budget,” he said. “Governments are not like households — they can manage higher social priorities by using economic instruments like deficit budgeting.”

Lynch said people were letting their political views colour how they saw the actions of conservative governments, seeing them as “validation” of their own ideologies.

“If you’re a conservative, the response is about saving capitalism and if you’re on the left the extension of government power is validation that the government should be acting in defence of claims of equality and justice,” he said. “These actions aren’t being undertaken because of a newfound love of the poor… they are being done because [equality and justice] are rendered [further] beyond reach in an economy which is broken, [as opposed to] one which is capable of being salvaged.”

So will Morrison be able to “snap back” the reforms when this crisis is over?

“They will try but I don’t think they can,” said Stilwell. “This is a classic example of when material conditions triumph over ideology.”

Lynch vehemently disagreed. He thinks if there is no snapback, the public will ask: “Why are you continuing to take taxation from us for reasons which have now passed?”

More on this

Gina Rushton is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Gina Rushton at gina.rushton@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

The Coronavirus Has Led To War Between Runners, Walkers And Cyclists

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 17, 2020, 07:08 GMT

Hannah Ryan

BuzzFeed News Reporter, Australia

Share This Article

bhagavan 420
@ayeshakhalifa69

every man and his dad bod out at the bay run today

05:14 AM – 06 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

The coronavirus pandemic has put immense pressure on our health systems and the global economy, but you already knew that.

Less discussed is the strain on the already delicate relations between walkers, runners and cyclists.

Leichhardt resident Scott Rhodie was riding along Sydney’s Bay Run track the other day when a guy who had been running in the cycle lane peeled off to the right to overtake two other bikes that had briefly stopped.

“I shouted at him, ‘on your right’, to let him know I was coming up,” Rhodie told BuzzFeed News. “And he turned around and he was like, ‘fuck you, I’ll do what I want’. I was like, ‘this is the cycling area’. He said, ‘get off your fucking bike and I’ll fight you’.

“And I was like, ‘mate, don’t be a fucking fanny’, because I’m from Scotland and I don’t really mess about with that shit. All the pedestrians kind of laughed. As if it was his right to be wherever the fuck he wanted!”

For weeks now, Australians have been told to stay at least 1.5 metres away from each other and to leave the house only when essential, like to exercise. But with gyms and group exercises classes out of the picture, the pickings are slim.

It means that, ironically, just as we’re all meant to be staying home and staying away from each other, parks are filling up with runners, walkers and cyclists competing for space.

Supplied.

Walkers: three abreast.

In Sydney, the Bay Run — a 7km loop around the Parramatta River in the inner west — is ground zero for this clash. Normally, it’s *kisses fingers*: no traffic lights, mainly flat, the chance to see fish jumping out of the water. But now, it’s a battlefield.

(Full disclosure: I am a runner and I have been known to run the Bay Run.)

As well as in altercations down by the bay, the fight is piping hot online — in community Facebook groups, comments on the local mayor’s Facebook posts, on Twitter and Reddit. Everyone agrees: the run is overcrowded and some people aren’t respecting social distancing. But who you blame mostly depends on your tribe: runner, walker or cyclist?

This cyclist, for example, has had enough of people casually strolling as they talk shit while sipping coffees.

Twitter: @mj98760

Rhodie has encountered irresponsible walkers too. As he cycled down a hilly part of the path recently he had to slam on the brakes, leaving skid marks, when a guy strolled in front of him.

“I said, ‘ah mate, this is a cycling area’,” Rhodie said. “He went, ‘oh, coronavirus mate, I’ve got to be a metre away from everyone. I might die.’ You might die by being hit by my bike at 25 kilometres an hour.”

Walkers walking up to four abreast have also copped it. Is it even “exercise”? This person in an inner west Facebook group has their doubts.

Facebook

Similarly:

Zoran Brankovic
@Zoran_Brankovic

It’s called bay run not walk you lazy cunt hahahaha

04:01 AM – 04 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

Twitter

Haberfield local Jane Nicholls likes to take her schnoodle Jack for a walk along part of the Bay Run, to a beach area where he can have a swim. While acknowledging not all fellow walkers are innocent — she takes issue with “wide walkers”, a phrase she adopted eagerly after seeing it in a tweet — she told BuzzFeed News the number of runners taking up space has increased in recent weeks.

“All these joggers are just running straight at you, not trying to get out of your way,” she said. “My dog is like, why are we stopping and pulling over all the time?”

Many online also lay the blame on runners, who stand accused of huffing and puffing — or “breathing their soul” onto others, as one Redditor put it.

Reddit

Runners are “spitting out germs” when they run past others, according to this person (who has “walker” written all over them).

Facebook

Runners and cyclists have sustained even more reputational damage in the last week, because of a widely reported study that suggested their droplets can spread the virus even if social distancing is observed. The study’s lead researcher has since said he was not discouraging people from doing these kinds of exercise.

Gus McCubbing, a Lewisham resident, is a Bay Run runner, doing the track every second day at the moment.

“It’s definitely more chockers than normal. It’s no-one’s fault, everyone’s just got to figure out a way to co-exist,” he told BuzzFeed News. He’s been making a concerted effort to run around others on the path, leaving a wide berth. But it’s not always straightforward.

“There are some times when you’re running straight at a group of people and you have to decide who’s going to move,” he said. “If it’s a middle-aged white dude you know they’re just not going to move.”

McCubbing has taken to running in the left side of the cycle lane, which he thinks is the safest thing to do — leaving the pedestrian lane to slower walkers but keeping him visible to cyclists coming up behind him.

But it leaves him vulnerable to cyclists sweating and breathing on him, if what this Twitter user says is true:

Felicity "The Muscle" Ward
@felicityward

@apiotrowski9 The joggers and cyclists on the bay run did. my. head. in. No social distancing. Would sweat and breathe all over you. Sneak up from behind, and brush past. Infuriating.

10:07 PM – 11 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

Cyclists have never been that popular in Sydney. But now people want them out of the Bay Run completely.

Facebook

Facebook

Other more generous souls have suggested banning bikes only on the weekend or enforcing a speed limit so cyclists don’t treat the run as their own personal training track.

Sometimes the distinctions people draw in the debate seem arbitrary.

Facebook

It’s all getting so heated, some are even calling for the police to come and sort the mess out — which they kind of are.

Cyclist Tom
@Cyclist_Tom

@nswpolice Please stop fining people eating kebabs alone on benches and do more to enforce social distancing in places like the Bay Run. Too many people are putting on activewear and going for their walk/jog the scenic way in this pandemic:
https://t.co/IPcb41EhgC

05:09 AM – 15 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

Facebook

Should the Bay Run area be closed to cars? Should all traffic be clockwise?

City of Canada Bay mayor Angelo Tsirekas says the Bay Run may have to close completely, and has encouraged people to stay away. “We have said consistently that if users cannot abide by social distancing protocols or other relevant directives from NSW Police and health authorities we would be forced to restrict access to the Bay Run,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I would hate to see the Bay Run closed for the first time but it’s not out of the question.”

Everyone BuzzFeed News spoke to for this story agreed that the run should stay open.

“It’s such a precious part of the world and it would drive me nuts if they closed it,” Nicholls said, though admitting she found it stressful at the moment and is approaching the path only with trepidation.

She has taken to walking other routes, and it’s not all bad. “I saw superb fairy wrens on [another local path] this morning,” she said. “That was the absolute highlight of my day.”

Hannah Ryan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Hannah Ryan at hannah.ryan@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

A War Veteran Has Raised £15 Million For NHS Charities To Mark His 100th Birthday

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Originally posted on

April 16, 2020, 11:17 GMT

Updated on

April 17, 2020, 09:55 GMT

Hannah Al-Othman

BuzzFeed News Reporter

Share This Article

The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.

This is Capt Tom Moore, a 99-year-old war veteran from Bedfordshire in south-east England.

Joe Giddens / PA

He set himself the challenge of walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday at the end of the month. He wanted to raise money for NHS staff who are caring for patients being treated for COVID-19.

His daughter Hannah said he wanted to take up the challenge to thank the NHS for the “incredible care” he had received over the past 18 months.

Moore has been walking 10 laps of his garden every day.





View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

He was born and brought up in Keighley, West Yorkshire, and enlisted in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment at the beginning of the Second World War, where was selected for officer training. He went on to serve in India and Burma.

He now lives in Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire, where he has, with the aid of a walking frame, been walking 10 laps of his garden — which is 25 metres long — every single day.

“I can get about slowly,” he told the BBC. “So long as people don’t want me to run about too fast I can manage and will continue to manage as long as I possibly can.”

He set out to raise a modest £1,000 — and absolutely smashed it.

Joe Giddens / PA

Moore set his initial target at a modest £1,000, but his fundraising page has been absolutely flooded with donations. He has already raised more than £13million.

After news of his challenge spread, he hit his first target in just 24 hours. He upped it to £100,000, then £250,000, and then a huge £500,000 — but he has blown all of them out of the water.

When he first passed the £1 million mark, his family said in a statement: “We are so thrilled, and so glad to be able to unite our country at such a sad time and all for our incredible NHS. Tom would like to thank all of you, from the bottom of his heart.”

He completed the final laps live on television, with a Guard of Honour.

BBC Breakfast
@BBCBreakfast

He's done it! 👏
#CaptainTomMoore has completed his 100 laps before his 100th birthday live on #BBCBreakfast! 🙌
He's raised over £12 million for the #NHS
Well done @captaintommoore from everyone at the @BBC 💕

07:39 AM – 16 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

On Thursday morning, Moore completed the final laps of his garden wearing his army medals, with the 1st Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment forming a Guard of Honour.

Maj Ian Atkins, the officer commanding the troops in the Guard of Honour, said: “The soldiers, standing apart and yet together in support of Captain Tom, couldn’t be prouder to count him as one of their own, and we thank him from the bottom of our hearts for his service to the country, and now his achievements in the name of the NHS.

“The British Army, the NHS and the whole nation has been behind him every step of the way.”

Television cameras from the BBC were there to capture the moment he completed his challenge.

He told reporters he felt “fine” after made his final steps. “I’m surrounded by the right sort of people, so yes, I feel fine,” he said. “I hope you’re all feeling fine too!”

He told the BBC that the donations from the public amounted to “an absolutely fantastic sum of money”.

“I never dreamt I would be involved in such an occasion as this,” he said.

Moore has received messages and support and congratulations from across the country.

Frances Haycock / PA

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, whose constituency is in Yorkshire, said: “What you’ve done is extraordinary, and the millions of pounds you’ve raised for the NHS will be put to good use as we continue to tackle this virus together.

“As an adopted Yorkshireman, I’ve come to recognise true Yorkshire grit, and your story is an inspiration to us all, it just goes to show that British spirit is as strong as it’s ever been.”

England cricketer Ben Stokes said: “What you’ve managed to achieve is absolutely fantastic. The funds you have raised for the real heroes today [are] just sensational.

“I hope I’m moving just as well as you at 50, never mind 100. Keep up the good work.”

And NHS Charities Together, which will receive the money he has raised, said it was “truly inspired and humbled.”

Chair Ian Lush said: “It’s extraordinary to see the amount of money and the outpouring of goodwill towards the NHS and towards all the NHS charities who will take good care with the money that he’s raising.”

More on this

Hannah Al-Othman is a political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Hannah Al-Othman at hannah.al-othman@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

The New NHS Coronavirus App Won’t Work Without A Huge Increase In Testing And People To Do Contact Tracing

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 15, 2020, 17:14 GMT

Alberto Nardelli

BuzzFeed News Europe Editor

Share This Article

The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.

Tolga Akmen / Getty Images

A widely publicised NHS contact tracing app announced by health secretary Matt Hancock will prove ineffective if it relies on technology alone, according to leading experts from other countries running similar schemes.

Hancock confirmed plans on Sunday for an app that will warn users if they have been in close proximity to someone who has reported coronavirus symptoms — but officials in nations such as Singapore have warned that such apps only work as a complement to mass testing and human-led contact tracing, not a replacement. The UK has fallen well short in these areas in recent weeks.

Several media reports, including from the BBC, reported that anyone diagnosed with the coronavirus would be able to flag their status through the app, automatically alerting other users with whom they’d been in close contact.

To determine who these contacts are, the app — which is being developed by NHSX, the health service’s technology arm — would use Bluetooth to identify mobile phones that have recently come in close proximity to each other, recording that information through the app.

Whitehall sources told the Sunday Times that the technology, combined with a massive scaling-up of testing, was a central plank of the government’s thinking on how to lift the current lockdown measures.

But experts with experience of deploying contact tracing apps in other countries, such as Singapore, have warned the technology needs to be coupled with human-led contact tracing to be effective.

The UK moved away from contact tracing when the government shifted from a strategy to contain the virus to one aimed at delaying it. Other countries have continued to trace contacts even as the virus spread and lockdowns were put in place.

Contact tracing is a process designed to slow the transmission of a disease by finding those who have been in close contact with someone who is sick as quickly as possible. Once contact is made, that person can be provided with relevant advice, and public health professionals can follow up and keep in contact as needed.

Combined with mass testing, it is seen as a crucial component of any strategy to gradually lift the lockdowns, thereby limiting the economic and social damage. Taken together, at scale, testing and contact tracing help identify, track, and isolate cases and the further spread of the virus, stopping the chain of transmission.

Roslan Rahman / Getty Images

Medical staff wearing personal protective equipment wait for patients to be transferred to a temporary hospital as a preventive measure against the spread of the novel coronavirus in Singapore.

In a blog post published earlier this week, a government official behind Singapore’s contact tracing app wrote: “If you ask me whether any Bluetooth contact tracing system deployed or under development, anywhere in the world, is ready to replace manual contact tracing, I will say without qualification that the answer is, ‘No’.”

Jason Bay, the senior director of the Singapore government’s digital services agency, added: “You cannot ‘big data’ your way out of a ‘no data’ situation. Period.”

In the post, titled “Automated Contact Tracing Is Not a Coronavirus Panacea”, Bay went on to say: “We use TraceTogether to supplement contact tracing — not replace it.”

Singapore’s TraceTogether app was launched in mid-March. Previously, contact tracing relied on the memory of interviewees who tested positive for the coronavirus and were asked to recall all their recent contacts and movements in detail.

The app works by exchanging short-distance Bluetooth signals between phones to detect other app users in close proximity, recording those encounters over time so that when someone tests positive for the virus, that information can be more easily shared with contact tracers.

However, Bluetooth-based contact tracing solutions do not, by themselves, record location and environment data — that means it can’t tell where contact between mobile phones actually took place, whether, for example, it occurred in a park or in adjacent rooms of the same building.

As a result, any automated mechanism will necessarily generate both false negatives and false positives.

Further, the technology does not automatically reveal the identity of the user behind a mobile phone and number. All this information still needs to be gathered by a human-led process of interviews.

A partnership between Google and Apple announced earlier this month will help with mass user adoption — which is a prerequisite to any solution functioning effectively — and to overcome technical challenges such as gathering data while an app is in the background and not being actively used.

But the solution would still be reliant on Bluetooth, according to the specifications released by Apple: “The Contact Tracing Bluetooth Specification does not use location for proximity detection. It strictly uses Bluetooth beaconing to detect proximity.”

The technology behind the NHSX app is understood to work in a similar way to Singapore’s app. Once installed, the app will log the distance between a user’s phone and other phones nearby that also have the app installed. It uses a low-energy form of Bluetooth to calculate the distance between users by measuring the signal strength of their respective devices. A log of anonymous proximity information is stored securely on a user’s phone.

The decision of precisely which other app users should be notified will be determined by a “contact risk model” within the app — which will be continuously updated to make it as accurate as possible, an NHS source told BuzzFeed News.

Singapore’s TraceTogether app has some 1 million users — about a sixth of the population — and the island nation has open-sourced the code and made the underlying protocol available to governments and organisations in other countries.

A white paper that accompanied the release underlines the need to use an app in conjunction with human-led contact tracing. The paper says: “A human-out-of-the-loop system will certainly yield better results than having no system at all, but where a competent human-in-the-loop system with sufficient capacity exists, we caution against an over-reliance on technology.”

It concludes: “The experience of Singapore’s contact tracers suggest that contact tracing should remain a human-fronted process. Contact tracing involves an intensive sequence of difficult and anxiety-laden conversations, and it is the role of a contact tracer to explain how a close contact might have been exposed — while respecting patient privacy — and provide assurance and guidance on next steps.”

Asked about the number of people involved in contact tracing, a Singaporean government spokesperson referred BuzzFeed News to a statement made by the health minister to the country’s Parliament in March. The minister said that up to 4,000 contacts could be traced each day and that contact tracing capacity had grown from 3 to 20 teams and would continue to scale up as needed.

Up until mid-March, Public Health England had traced some 3,500 people in total, including on flights and cruises, with 3% of contacts found to be positive during the containment phase of the outbreak and advised to self-isolate. According to a report in the Guardian, PHE’s contact tracing response team consisted of just under 300 staffers at the time.

But contact tracing was scaled back in the UK when the number of cases started growing exponentially and the government strategy changed from containing the virus to delaying its spread.

A key factor in this decision was the limited testing resources the UK had put in place. While Singapore has been testing at a rate of about 12,800 per million people, the UK has managed only about 6,044 tests per million people.

After coming under widespread criticism, the government has pledged to increase testing capacity to 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month, but it’s still well short — on Tuesday, it conducted fewer than 16,000 tests.

When the UK recorded its first COVID-19 cases at the end of January, PHE said it was tracing people who had been in contact with the infected.

After tracing was scaled back, a PHE spokesperson told the Guardian that contact tracing was no longer useful because “with such a level of sustained community transmission there is limited value in doing so”.

The official PHE blog charts this shift in strategy.

On Feb. 13, Nick Phin, deputy director at PHE’s National Infection Service, wrote: “At the moment we undertake contact tracing to prevent the infection spreading further. Contact tracing is a fundamental part of outbreak control that’s used by public health professionals around the world.”

The updated coronavirus information page now reads: “In the contain phase of the outbreak, we were identifying all cases, tracing their contacts and following up with them to determine their level of risk and giving them advice and information on what to do should they become unwell.

“Now, because the virus is more widespread, we will not necessarily be able to determine where someone has contracted the virus and we will have a more targeted approach to contact tracing.

“The targeted approach will likely include tracing close contacts of vulnerable people. For example, those in care homes or other institutions.”

A PHE source told BuzzFeed News that contact tracing would have a role in preventing a resurgence of the virus. Using the experience gained during the contain phase, PHE has carefully designed plans to scale up contact tracing rapidly if needed, they said. PHE was also strengthening surveillance activities to monitor the impact of outbreaks to support local contact tracing.

Frank Rumpenhorst / Getty Images

German health minister Jens Spahn (right) during a visit to a hospital in Wiesbaden, April 14.

Other countries with comparable population sizes to the UK have also continued to aggressively trace contacts even as they went into lockdown.

Nearly three months since recording its first coronavirus cases, Germany has conducted more than 1.3 million tests. Contact tracing remains central to its strategy and is regarded as one of the most important tools to slow the spread of the virus, the government’s central scientific institute, the Robert Koch Institute, told BuzzFeed News last week.

German media reported in March that the RKI received 11,000 applications for “containment scouts” to support its contact tracing efforts. The RKI told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday that 500 people will be hired centrally, but the institute has no national overview of how many more will have been hired to work on contact tracing in the country’s 400 different local health departments.

Germany is among a number of European countries that are also in the process of developing an app that works with Bluetooth. Virologists advising the government say the app would need mass adoption among the population and for users to comply with any quarantine measures to be effective.

The Department of Health and Social Care, NHSX, and PHE declined to provide on-the-record comments for this story.

Alberto Nardelli is Europe editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Alberto Nardelli at alberto.nardelli@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

The Woman Who Baked This Jacinda Ardern Cake Is Very Sorry, For Obvious Reasons

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 15, 2020, 07:06 GMT

Cameron Wilson

BuzzFeed News Reporter

Share This Article

Laura Daniel is a New Zealand television host, comedian and amateur baker. She’s previously impersonated the country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern.

Laura Daniel

Laura Daniel as Jacinda Ardern.

Daniel recently went up against fellow television host Hilary Barry in a baking competition on Barry’s television show Seven Sharp.

The challenge: make a cake, without flour, in two hours depicting a Kiwi icon.

In an episode that aired on Tuesday night, Barry produced a pavlova — a delicious meringue concoction, usually served with cream and fruit, that is popular in New Zealand and Australia — in the shape of Aoraki (Mount Cook).

Isn’t it nice!

Laura Daniel

Daniel chose a trickier target. She told BuzzFeed News that she decided to make a cake in the likeness of Jacinda Ardern as a tribute.

“I genuinely love her and think she’s been doing a great job,” Daniel said. “And what better way to honour her than a stunning cake?”

At the end of the allotted time, Daniel produced … this.


View this photo on Instagram

Instagram: @lauradaniel25

She later apologised for her cake, which incorporated an actual set of prosthetic teeth used by Daniel in her impersonations.

“They say don’t bake your heroes. But I wanted to try anyway. I’m deeply sorry @jacindaardern I truly tried my best with what I had available,” Daniel wrote on Instagram.

People poked fun at the cake on social media. One user commented on Daniel’s post: “That will visit my dreams.” Another said: “And I thought Covid19 was bad.”

Laura Daniel

Even Ardern weighed in with a comment: “😳😳”.

Despite her muse’s response to the cake, Daniel still stans her prime minister.

“I guess you could say Jacinda Ardern is a better prime minister than I am a baker,” she said.

Cameron Wilson is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Cameron Wilson at cameron.wilson@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

This Man Has Come By Boat To Two Countries Without A Visa, And Now He’s Facing The Coronavirus In An Overcrowded Prison

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 15, 2020, 06:09 GMT

Hannah Ryan

BuzzFeed News Reporter, Australia

Share This Article

Supplied: Helal Uddin.

Helal Uddin with his wife Alice and their son.

Social distancing is pretty much impossible for Helal Uddin.

The Bangladeshi man — whose nickname “Spicy” is a nod to his training as a chef — shares a prison room with 50 other men, one of whom has tuberculosis. The room is full of bunk beds (without mattresses), but Uddin has only a spot on the floor to sleep on. There are over 600 men in the prison, he said.

“I’m scared,” the 30-year-old Bangladeshi man told BuzzFeed News in a recent telephone interview. “We don’t have any hygiene, we don’t have sanitiser, we don’t have soap, we don’t have anything.”

Uddin has been a prisoner at Papua New Guinea’s Bomana Correctional Facility, just outside Port Moresby, for the last 11 months.

But his journey to the facility started years earlier, in 2013, when he boarded a boat to Australia.

Since then he has experienced a long stint in Australian immigration detention, found love, had a son, been deported from Papua New Guinea, got right back on another boat across the seas to PNG, been arrested and imprisoned again, and converted to Seventh-day Adventism.

Supplied: Helal Uddin.

Uddin’s cell.

Uddin remains chatty, despite his current struggles. But every conversation and exchange of messages make clear his singular focus: being reunited with his wife, Alice, and their son Muhamed. In a pandemic, this already difficult task now feels insurmountable.

Uddin was transferred to PNG from Australia’s Christmas Island in 2013, but he wasn’t free to leave the compound where he and hundreds of other asylum seekers were held until 2016. In April that year, PNG’s Supreme Court ruled that indefinite detention was unconstitutional.

He met Alice, a Manus local, who was working at a local Chinese supermarket. They married in a village ceremony in 2016, and welcomed a “beautiful boy” the following year, Muhamed Ali. Uddin started a small food canteen and named it Muhali after his son.

Supplied: Helal Uddin.

Uddin stands with a fellow prisoner, a Papua New Guinean man who has tuberculosis.

Uddin’s refugee claim, based on his support for a political party, was rejected in 2017. He said the Australian government offered him $25,000 to go back to Bangladesh but he refused, not wanting to leave Alice and Muhamed. In March 2018 he was arrested and then deported to Bangladesh. His son was two days shy of turning one.

While other refugees and asylum seekers have fought hard to leave PNG, Uddin was desperate to return to Alice and Muhamed. He tried to get an entry visa for PNG after he was deported, even travelling to the embassy in India. But his efforts, and Alice’s in PNG, were unsuccessful.

After seven months Uddin decided he had to take another path. He took a six-week boat journey, travelling from Bangladesh to Thailand, on to Malaysia and then Indonesia. Without a passport or a visa, he crossed over from Jayapura in Indonesia to Vanimo in PNG in November 2018.

His father-in-law collected him in a dinghy and took him to Manus, he said, where he lived with his wife and son for four months, but he was arrested and jailed when he applied for an identity card to register his business. He pleaded guilty to illegally entering the country, and his wife paid his fine last July, roughly $900 AUD.

“They said I didn’t have a passport or visa. It doesn’t matter. I have my wife and son,” he said.

Supplied: Helal Uddin.

The toilet shared by over 50 men in Uddin’s room, and a bucket for showering.

In June 2019 he was baptised and became part of the Seventh-day Adventist church. His conversion was the result of witnessing the murder of three of his boat-mates on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, he said, when he told God that if he survived and made it to the Christian country PNG he would convert. He says that now he is Christian, he cannot be returned because his Muslim family will kill him. He won a temporary injunction on his deportation in July 2019.

He is willing to leave the country temporarily if the government agrees to issue him a partner visa quickly, an advocate told PNG’s Immigration and Citizenship Service on his behalf in October 2019. He has not received a response.

His case was heard in February. On Wednesday he was told the court would hand down a judgement on Thursday morning.

In the meantime, a pandemic has overtaken the globe. There have been two confirmed cases in PNG, and the Pacific country has been in lockdown since late March to prevent the spread of the virus.

Supplied: Helal Uddin.

The hand sanitiser shared by Uddin and his cellmates.

In Bomana, medical treatment is lacklustre, Uddin told BuzzFeed News (he is friendly with the guards, who allow him to keep his phone). Visits have been banned. The prisoners at Bomana have been told to stay in their rooms, wash their hands, and drink hot water — an unsubstantiated myth to stop the spread of the virus — Uddin said.

Uddin’s fellow inmates have taunted him and the other asylum seeker in the prison, an Afghani man, that they will die from the virus because their skin is paler. The Chinese government made the virus to kill white men, they have told him.

The prison’s toilets are not cleaned properly and are shared by many people, Uddin said. After he first spoke with BuzzFeed News about the situation in prison, the men did not have hand soap or hand sanitiser, only laundry detergent. The men in his room have since received a small bottle of hand sanitiser to share between them, he said.

Papua New Guinea’s Immigration and Citizenship Authority did not respond to questions from BuzzFeed News.

Uddin said his life is a struggle and that he is growing tired, but he remains focused on his wife.

“I love her,” he said. “My love brought me my struggles and brought me to Papua New Guinea. If I didn’t love her, I wouldn’t have come [back].”

More on this

Hannah Ryan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Hannah Ryan at hannah.ryan@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

Right Wing Politicians And Media Are Calling For China To Pay “Reparations” For The Coronavirus

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 14, 2020, 00:28 GMT

Cameron Wilson

BuzzFeed News Reporter

Share This Article

The biggest story about China and the coronavirus across Facebook, Twitter and Reddit last week, according to online engagement data from analytics site BuzzSumo, was a wonky report released by a small British right wing think tank.

The Henry Jackson Society report, released on April 5, argues China could be sued for USD $4 trillion in damages over its handling of the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Henry Jackson Society / Via henryjacksonsociety.org

The report’s authors suggest 10 possible legal avenues for seeking compensation (ranging from filing in domestic courts to action in the International Court of Justice). The most circulated article about the report, published by Australian newspaper the Sydney Morning Herald, had more than 754,000 social media engagements.

It’s not often that a paper about alleged breaches of international law goes viral. But this report gave a shape and legitimacy to the growing calls to hold China financially accountable for the pandemic.

The idea that China should pay has taken several shapes — an international lawsuit, reparations, the waiving of debt — and spread from the fringes of the internet to some of Trump’s biggest supporters, as well as politicians and media around the world. (While he’s had no qualms blaming China for the coronavirus, Trump is yet to call for China to pay for COVID-19 damages.)

An early version of the idea has been circulating on the fringes of the internet for at least a month. Well-known conservative Twitter account @ComfortablySmug, previously revealed as belonging to Shashank Tripathi, tweeted on March 8: “China should pay for costs associated with Coronavirus testing, treatment and containment.” (He didn’t respond to interview requests.)

Comfortably Smug
@ComfortablySmug

China should pay for costs associated with Coronavirus testing, treatment, and containment.

02:08 PM – 07 Mar 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

Two days later, a graphic demanding China pay COVID-19 “reparations” went viral. It was branded with the logo of small, UK-based organisation Stop Eating Dogs, which rallies against Asia’s dog meat trade, and was shared more than 9,600 times from the personal Facebook profile of Stop Eating Dogs founder Guy Wrench. The account did not respond to messages from BuzzFeed News.

Wrench Guy / Via Facebook: WrenchGuy

The notion of nations paying reparations is not new — among other examples, Germany agreed to pay reparations following WWI, and there have been (unheeded) calls for the US to pay reparations to African Americans for slavery.

On March 13, US Republican senator Tom Cotton quote-tweeted a post from @ComfortablySmug asserting China will pay for the coronavirus, adding one word: “Correct.”

Tom Cotton
@SenTomCotton

Correct. https://t.co/Kmjv3j0g2K

03:24 PM – 12 Mar 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

On March 16, Republican congressman Jim Banks appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show and called for Trump to force China to forgive US debt, or introduce tariffs to create a relief fund for American victims of the coronavirus. “When we talk about future trade deals, there’s an opportunity, an avenue, and I believe an appetite to go after China to make them pay further costs,” Banks said.

The interview propelled the idea into the mainstream and was covered in conservative publications like Breitbart and the Washington Examiner. The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., shared a video of the interview on March 20 with his two million Facebook followers.

Other large American right wing personalities began to throw their support behind the idea of China paying up. A March 17 article on radio host Dan Bongino’s website covered a survey by conservative pollster Rasmussen Reports that found a plurality of voters supported China paying reparations. Conservative radio host Michael Savage spoke about it on a March 19 episode of his podcast The Savage Nation. Ben Shapiro shared a Daily Wire article quoting a US Naval College professor’s call for reparations due to violations of the WHO’s International Health Regulations on March 27.

Ben Shapiro / Via Facebook: BenShapiro

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo declined to answer whether the Trump administration was going ask China to pay damages, when asked at a March 25 press conference. “After we’ve managed to address this crisis, after we’ve managed to get these economies back on their feet,” Pompeo said to reporters, “there’ll be time for the world to evaluate responsibility for what took place.”

Right wing politicians and media from other countries affected by COVID-19 began to pick up on the idea. Australian politician George Christensen posted a widely-shared article from security blog WarOnTheRocks.com, adding “there may be a case for Australia and other nations to sue China for its negligence (or worse) that lead to the global Wuhan coronavirus pandemic”.

Italian journalist Francesca Marino’s article “Why We, Italians, Are Angry With China – And Want ‘War Damages'”, published in Indian online news outlet The Quint, has received nearly 400,000 social media engagements since it was published on March 27.

Recently, Trump’s closest allies have begun to circle around the idea of China waiving US debt as compensation. Senator Marsha Blackburn spoke about the need for China to waive America’s debt in a radio interview on April 2.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn
@MarshaBlackburn

China owns over $1 trillion in US debt.

The US has been forced to spend over $2 trillion to combat the Chinese Coronavirus.

Do the math.

China needs to waive our debt.

06:04 PM – 08 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

Then senator Lindsey Graham appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show on April 6 in support of the plan, which was soon echoed by Trump surrogate and evangelical pastor Mark Burns.

Sean Hannity / Via Facebook: SeanHannity

When Hannity — sometimes called the “shadow” chief of staff to the president — asked whether China should forgive loans, Graham responded enthusiastically. “Makes sense to me,” he said. “If it were up to me, the whole world would send China a bill for the pandemic.”

And how does China feel about the demand? The editor of the Chinese Communist Party-aligned publication Global Times, Hu Xijin, defiantly responded to the idea on Twitter.

“Too timid. How much money you can collect if you just play such petty tricks in the US? You should call for direct robbery in China where there is huge amount of wealth. Dare you? Do you have the strength? Coward!” he tweeted.

Hu Xijin 胡锡进
@HuXijin_GT

Too timid. How much money you can collect if you just play such petty tricks in the US? You should call for direct robbery in China where there is huge amount of wealth. Dare you? Do you have the strength? Coward!

12:38 PM – 10 Apr 2020

Reply
Retweet
Favorite

Cameron Wilson is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Cameron Wilson at cameron.wilson@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

The Human Rights Commission Asked For “Urgent Action” To Protect The Biloela Family

class=”buzz-timestamp js-timestamp js-unsupported-fallback
text-gray-lightest

xs-text-6 nowrap xs-mb1

“>

Posted on

April 16, 2020, 01:17 GMT

Hannah Ryan

BuzzFeed News Reporter, Australia

Share This Article

Supplied: Home To Bilo.

The Biloela family: Priya, Kopika, Tharunicaa and Nades.

Two human rights commissioners accused immigration minister David Coleman of violating international human rights law with the prolonged detention of the “Biloela family”, BuzzFeed News can reveal.

But the government did not reply to the letter, sent in September 2019 by human rights commissioner Edward Santow and national children’s commissioner Megan Mitchell.

The Sri Lankan family — mum and dad Priya and Nades, and daughters Tharunicaa and Kopika — have been held on Christmas Island for over seven months, after a last-minute injunction halted the government’s attempt to deport them.

They will learn this Friday if their legal fight to stay in Australia has succeeded, when a Federal Court judge rules on Tharunicaa’s protection claim.

“We request urgent action to protect the human rights of this family,” Santow and Mitchell wrote in the letter, obtained by BuzzFeed News through a freedom of information request.

The pair wrote that the Australian Human Rights Commission, an independent government agency, considers the government’s treatment of the family and in particular their detention does “not comply with Australia’s international human rights obligations to uphold the best interests of the child”.

“We are deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of four-year-old Kopika and two-year-old Tharunicaa, who were both born in Australia and have spent their formative years here,” they wrote, adding that children should not be held in prolonged, closed immigration detention.

The minister’s so-called “God powers” allow Coleman to issue a visa to anyone in detention if it is in the public interest. Santow and Mitchell said it was “necessary and appropriate” for him to intervene to ensure a “compassionate resolution” for the family.

Before being taken to Christmas Island, the family had spent a year and a half in a detention centre in Melbourne after their protection claims were rejected. In March 2018, they were seized in a dawn raid in the regional Queensland town of Biloela, where they had lived for years and where the two girls were born. Several members of the Biloela community, and others around Australia, have since campaigned for the family to return and live in the town.

The commission had raised concerns about the family and their ongoing immigration detention at a meeting with the home affairs department on June 21, 2019, the letter said.

The government has spent over $4 million so far in its attempt to deport the family.

Coleman has taken indefinite personal leave for the past four months, with Alan Tudge acting into the position. Tudge was recently criticised for keeping a man in detention despite a tribunal decision to grant him a visa, in a scathing judgement by the Federal Court.

More on this

Hannah Ryan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Hannah Ryan at hannah.ryan@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

Lady Gaga – Candy in Control Lyrics

Play this song

[Spoken Intro]
I really don’t remember when
But it was quick
And then was… dead
Before I knew the thing inside
I felt something was gone
I cried
He ate my heart
He a-a-ate my heart
Pop ate my heart
And I became a slave to what?
To his LoveGame?
(I can do it now)

[Intro]
He ate my heart
He ate my heart
He ate my heart
He a-a-ate my heart
He a-a-ate my heart
Yes (yes), No (no)
I (I), Won’t (won’t)
Stop (stop), Don’t get it (don’t)
Yes (yes), Let’s go

[Verse 1]
Baby you got me with your touch
You got this thing about you I don’t understand
You’re so in tune with me tonight
You got me thinking that you just might try

[Chorus]
See that bitch on the floor
Wait ’til she can’t handle more
In my head, on the beat
Candy In Control my babe
So let’s do it in the car
Come to me, come for more!

[Verse 2]
Baby you got me with your touch
You got this thing about you I don’t understand
You’re so in tune with me tonight
You got me thinking that you just might try

[Chorus]
See that bitch on the floor
Wait ’til she can’t handle more
In my head, on the beat
Candy In Control my babe
So let’s do it in the car
Come to me, come for more!

[Outtro]
Yes (yes), No (no)
I (I), Won’t (won’t)
Stop (stop), Don’t get it (don’t)
Yes (yes), Let’s go

Sia – Tsunami Lyrics

Play this song

[Verse 1]
ABC by the Jackson, baby
Swear I’m beginin’, in your music plans
You got up to dance
The way you move, got me lookin’ at my shoes
Forever etched in my heart
Where will you go if you should fall in love
If you should fall in love
Please say my name if you fall in love
See, I was hopin’ you would fall in love
’Cause I’m fallin in the ether with you

[Pre-Chorus]
Tell me, do you feel the same?
Tell me, do you feel this way? (Is your heart on flames?)
Tell me, is your heart on flames?
Tell me, do you feel this way?

[Chorus]
‘Cause when we’re over the sea, a tsunami, a tsunami
‘Cause we’re over the sea when you look at me, when you look at me
No way that we can’t believe
‘Cause see, I can barely breathe
Oh, I can’t get enough of you
Oh, baby, tsunami

[Verse 2]
Run-D.M.C. and Whitney and [?]
That’s where it all began
And where hits would clash
You got up to dance
The way you move got me lookin’ at my shoes
Forever etched in my heart
What will I do if I can’t get enough, if I can’t get enough?
Please say my name if you need me, whoa
See how I open up, I will be enough
‘Cause baby, you are the [?] to me

[Pre-Chorus]
Tell me, do you feel the same?
Tell me, do you feel this way? (Is your heart on flames?)
Tell me, is your heart on flames?
Tell me, do you feel this way?

[Chorus]
‘Cause when we’re over the sea, a tsunami, a tsunami
‘Cause we’re over the sea when you look at me, when you look at me
No way that we can’t believe
‘Cause see, I can barely breathe
But I can’t get enough of you
Oh, baby, tsunami

[Instrumental Break]

[Pre-Chorus]
Tell me, do you feel the same?
Tell me, do you feel this way? (Is your heart on flames?)
Tell me, is your heart on flames?
Tell me, do you feel this way?

[Chorus]
‘Cause when we’re over the sea, a tsunami, a tsunami
‘Cause we’re over the sea when you look at me, when you look at me
No way that we can’t believe
‘Cause see, I can barely breathe
But I can’t get enough of you
Oh, baby, tsunami
Oh, I can’t get enough of you
Oh, baby
Tsunami

Gerry Cinnamon – Head in the Clouds Lyrics

Play this song

[Verse 1]
Head in the clouds or under the weather
[?] to the same old shite and you care to remember
Rough as a stone or light as a feather
You’re on top of the world and you smile looking down on side with the lava
They tell you ”Nothing is free, only thing guaranteed is a load of [?]”

[Verse 2]
Head in the clouds or under the weather
Having your fun with two weeks in the sun then the rest is December
But somethings appearing, it’s blurring your vision
And it’s cutting a shape like a hot razor blade with your deadly precision
Now you’re caught in a game, you don’t know how to play but you win by decision

[Verse 3]
The bonniest burning, the craziest feeling
Down in your guards where you hide all the things you don’t want to be hearing
Your feeling is burning, you try not to fight it
So you try to be cool but then act like a fool, you don’t how to hide it
God, it feels like dream [?] final [?]

[Verse 4]
[?], though you’re no very clever
You’re still stupid enough to know that you can’t run forever
On your mind every day, gives the pain goes away every time you’re together

[Verse 5]
Take a trip to the jungle, become a magician
Find an army of wise old [?] men and hope they kill your condition
No more satellite navigation to reach your position
I don’t know if your really in love but I have my suspicions

PROUD Lyrics and Video Song – Raftaar

Yeah Mr. Nair, #Raa
1988 se bonfire

Go!
Sab bole mujhe that I’m proud of you
Rab bole mujhe that I’m proud of you
Mera dil bole mujhe that I’m proud of you
Ghar wale bole we never doubt at you

Sab bole mujhe that I’m proud of you
Rab bole mujhe that I’m proud of you
Mera dil bole mujhe that I’m proud of you
Ghar wale bole we never doubt at you

Jo tera dil bole wo bann
Aage leke jayegi ye teri lagan
Tere sapno ke liye abhi paise nahin
Aur maang ke laye hum waise nahin

Tu karle jo karna hai karke jatan
Aaj ghutan seh le tod badan
Jod rakam jod le dhan sona chod de
Haath na failana jeena chaud se son

Ye Nair’o ki shaan ke khilaaf
Murkho se ladna ye gyaan ke khilaaf
Samjhenge nahin ye dil tera saaf
Insaan ke nahin tu apmaan ke khilaaf.. Aye!

Haq ki ladayi hai to ladd
Haq ki kamayi hai to
Kabhi chhodiyo na ek paisa
Tune abhi dekhi kam duniya
Tu jaana nahin har koi hota nahi ek jaisa

Tu kabil hai to mauke milenge
Par mauke dene walon se bhi dhokhe milenge
Beta ruk ke kariyo na naam badnaam mera
Keh diyo ab seedha show pe milenge

To yeh locker wali baat dafan par
Par ghar se nikla sar baandh kafan
Jaise marke nikla phir aag se banke
Woh baaz jo karta na haar pasand

Sab bole mujhe that I’m proud of you
Rab bole mujhe that I’m proud of you
Mera dil bole mujhe that I’m proud of you
Ghar wale bole we never doubt at you

Sab bole mujhe that I’m proud of you
Rab bole mujhe that I’m proud of you
Mera dil bole mujhe that I’m proud of you
Ghar wale bole we never doubt at you..
Naa

Kar kabhi bhi mujhpe shaq na
Maa ne bola meri izzat tu rakhna
Papa bole sahi raah pe chalna
Chhote mein bade mein kabhi karna farak na

Jag raha tha ki kaali raat saath chhode
Meri * ke bhai mere saath daude
Kare bhool beta kisi pe bhi hath chhode
Dil roya jab maa ne school aake hath jode

Par maa ko bhi tha yeh pata
Ki kapdon pe haste bada the raheesjade
Papa dekhe ghar kare maa ka kaam
Maa bani papa poori tankhwah se meri fees daale

Beta ab gaadi mein na keys daale
Sadkon pe cruise highway pe kheech daale
Sabke ghar walon se meri yeh ghuzarish
Inhe sapne jeene do inke gale mein na lease daale

DILIN bana MAX phir bana RAFTAAR
Sabar maare meri bhookh jaise Iftaar
Kalamkaar pariwaar naya sapna
Kalakaar se bhi zyada har koi apna

Kabhi ab feeling loon
Seedha 20 foot uchi ceiling loon
Khanna bhai kar lena dealing tu
Tum saath ho to baant lo ye bill in two

Daawat hai, dawat hai
Aaj mere apno ki dawat hai dawat hai
Yeh meri chaahat hai
Sabko khilane ki chhoti si chahat hai

Aadat hai, aadat hai
Lad bhid ke chalne ki bachpan se aadat hai
Raahat hai, raahat hai
Mere apno ki khushi mein bohat zyada taakat hai

Sab bole mujhe that I’m proud of you
Rab bole mujhe that I’m proud of you
Mera dil bole mujhe that I’m proud of you
Ghar wale bole we never doubt at you.. (x4)

Iss safar mein jisne bhi saath diya hai
Sabka shukriya!
Ab kahaani aage leke jayegi kalamkaar pariwar
Aur its your boy raftaar nahin
Aur its your bhai raftaar, #Raa

MERA BHAI Lyrics and Video Song – Bhavin Bhanushali, Vishal Pandey | Vikas Naidu

Hmm o..

Soch na zyada kya hai iraada
Mujhko bol de.. (hmm..)
Kyu hai kafa tu raaz jo dil ke
Mujhpe khol de.. (o..)

Tu udaas toh chehre pe
Mere udaasi chaayi hai

Pagle tu mera bhai hai
Pagle tu mera bhai hai
Pagle tu mera bhai hai
Pagle tu mera bhai hai

Tu mera chehra main tera aaina
Tujhse hi duniya bin tere koi na
Tu mera chehra main tera aaina
Tujhse hi duniya bin tere koi na

Main tera hi aks hoon
Aur tu meri parchaai hai

Pagle tu mera bhai hai
Pagle tu mera bhai hai
Pagle tu mera bhai hai
Pagle tu mera bhai hai

Baat vo bachpan ki
Mujhe yaad hamesha hai
Chaahe rootha tu
Mera saath hamesha hai

Baat vo bachpan ki
Mujhe yaad hamesha hai
Chaahe rootha tu
Mera saath hamesha hai

Bhai tu meri zindagi
Tere bina tanhaai hai

Pagle tu mera bhai hai
Pagle tu mera bhai hai
Pagle tu mera bhai hai
Pagle tu mera bhai hai

CHANN MAKHNA Lyrics and Video Song – G Khan

Ho mere chann makhna
Ve main tainu kehni aan
(Ve main tainu kehni aan
Ve main tainu kehni aan)

Mere chann makhna
Ve main tainu kehni aan
Jadon kol tu hove
Ve main peppy rehni aan

Dil hichkole khanda
Naale peppy rehni aan
Dil hichkole khanda
Naale peppy rehni aan
Ho mere chann makhna haaye

Ho zindagi mein aaye hain ji
Thoda aish kar lo
Nasha hai jawani meri
Do ghoont bhar lo
(Do ghoont bhar lo)

Ho zindagi mein aaye hain ji
Thoda aish kar lo
Nasha hai jawani meri
Do ghoont bhar lo

Ho roz ki tarah yeh shaam dhal jaayegi
Ek baari gayi phir laut na aayegi
Ek baari gayi phir laut na aayegi

Ho taiyon tere naal Garry’aa ve
Cheppi rehni aan
Tere naal Garry’aa ve cheppi rehni aan

Dil hichkole khanda
Naale pappy rehni aan
Dil hichkole khanda
Naale pappy rehni aan
Ho mere chann makhna

Tere naal pyar sadda
Aate vich loon ae
Sohna mukh takk assaan
Milda sukoon ae

Chhad ke na jaavi’n Sandhu
Jind thari payi ae
Maagh da maheena
Mainu lagda ae June ae

Je tera pind Rurka
Ve main Tappy rehni aan
Pind Rurka ve main tappy rehni aan

Dil hichkole khanda
Naale peppy rehni aan
Dil hichkole khanda
Naale peppy rehni aan
Ho mere chann makhna haaye

EHNA CHAUNI AA Lyrics and Video Song – Jassie Gill

Main ehna tainu, ehna tainu chauni aa
Taanhi pichhe pichhe pichhe tere aauni aa
Ehna tainu, ehna tainu chauni aa
Taanhi pichhe pichhe pichhe tere aauni aa

Ve main Allah ton duaawan mangdi
Har din shuru hove tere ton
Tainu bas door naa kare
Chaahe sab kho le mere ton

Baaki saare rang phikke phikke lagde
Tainu jo pasand ohi pauni aa

Ve main ehna tainu, ehna tainu chauni aa
Taanhi pichhe tere, pichhe tere auni aa
Ehna tainu, ehna tainu chauni aa
Taanhi pichhe pichhe pichhe tere auni aa
(Pichhe pichhe pichhe tere auni aa)

Tere saare dukh yaara main
Apne sir te le loon
Tu kahe saah nahi laine
Chal saaha bin vi reh loon

Tere saare dukh yaara main
Apne sir te le loon
Tu kahe saah nahi laine
Chal saahan bin vi reh loon

Apne layi kujh mangeya ni main
Tere layi peer manauni aa

Ve main ehna tainu, ehna tainu chauni aa
Taanhi pichhe tere, pichhe tere auni aa
Ehna tainu, ehna tainu chauni aa
Taanhi pichhe pichhe pichhe tere auni aa

Tere chehra enna dekh leya
Koi hor mainu hun dissda nai
Dil nu kinna samjhawan main
Bin tere rehna sikhda nai

Tere chehra enna dekh leya
Koyi hor mainu hun dissda nai
Dil nu kinna samjhaawan main
Bin tere rehna sikhda nai

Hoju Romaana ik din mera
Ehi dil nu samjhauni aan

Ve main ehna tainu, ehna tainu chauni aa
Taanhi pichhe tere, pichhe tere auni aa
Ehna tainu, ehna tainu chauni aa
Taanhi pichhe pichhe pichhe tere auni aa

(Ve main ehna tainu, ehna tainu
Pichhe tere, pichhe tere
Ve main ehna tainu, ehna tainu
Pichhe tere, pichhe tere)

POPULAR Lyrics and Video Song – Raftaar | Mr. Nair

Popular popular popular
Ni hona popular ae..
Popular popular popular
Na isse jyada popular ae..

Popular popular popular
Ni hona popular ae..
Popular popular popular
Na isse jyada popular..

Chapplon mein ghoomna main chahu poore mall mein
Din ko chahun dekhhna cinema movie hall mein
Kya kiya hai kab kiya hai kisko maine kya kaha hai
Saans lena chahta hun main khule mahaul mein..

Mera mann kare ki main bhi khus rahun
Khabbe na bane main chahe kuch karun
Yeh saari chauk chand se main upar hun
Jo bhi hun muh par hun..

To main kya daru kya meri image
Ghar pe baithe waqt katu itni bhi na age
Duniya walo se daru yeh duniya kaafi tej
Kisi ko na fikar kisi ke dil pe lagti thhes..

Hey! Hey..
Sawaal jaise saare hai cid mein
Mujhko nahin baithna v.I.P mein
Dekhhte hai like dekhhda mushyari mein
Warna kabki kar deta delete apni id mein..

Popular popular popular
Ni hona popular ae..
Popular popular popular
Na isse jyada popular ae..

Popular popular popular
Ni hona popular ae..
Popular popular popular
Na isse jyada popular..

Jyadatar mile jo bole naam aapka suna
Kam mile jo pahle bole kaam aapka suna
Kuch ko na pata main
Kaun hun main karta kya hun..
Par main dun khushi se photo
Kyuki meri naam bhi ek din naam tha

Kahana khana bhi gunaah khane jana bhi gunaah
Kisi jagah baithu chain se toh pahle sochna
Door se le video ya sidhe muh pe camera
Yeh na samjh samjhte nahin jaroori pahle puchhna..

Ghar pe papa raji hai peeche papa raji hai
Jo maange jawab jaise mera paper aaj hi hai
Pahle thhe door mujhse badle unke kyu color
Kaam ka inaam ho bas itna ho na popular..

Popular popular popular
Ni hona popular ae..
Popular popular popular
Na isse jyada popular ae..

Popular popular popular
Ni hona popular ae..
Popular popular popular
Na isse jyada popular ae..!