Trump U-turns on ending US shutdown before Easter; says may go to end of April; US Covid-19 death toll rises above Italy’s; Tokyo Olympics set for late July 2021

Victory is clearly not ours: Donald Trump reversed himself on what he called “aspirations” to end social distancing rules by Easter as US officials warned of a death toll that could top 200,000. Trump suggested the measures may be toughened and go on to the end of April. He spoke against the background of mounting urban crises in New York and Detroit. 

Quote du jour: “Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won,” Trump said at an evening news conference in the White House Rose Garden. “That would be the greatest loss of all.” (The Washington Post).

Toll climbs, the crisis in topline figures: In pure, bald, nasty and potentially misleading numbers, total recorded cases of Covid-19 are now 755,591 as of early in the morning New Zealand time. It was half a million this time yesterday and you know how it’s forecast to go. Hence our lockdown here. Total deaths are 36,211 and more than 158,000 have had it and recovered — potentially but not certainly, conferring a level of immunity.

US more than Italy: The US (population 327 million) now has the most cases in total with 148,000, followed by Italy (population 60.4 million). Figures, apart from population, are all from the Johns Hopkins University Covid-19 dashboard.

How democracy dies: As previewed last week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has won sweeping new powers — tantamount to dictatorship — to rule by decree and punish those spreading alleged misinformation, which usually means the remnants of independent media in Hungary. (The Guardian).

Expo postponed, new Olympic dates set: In the cavalcade of global events moved or closed by novel coronavirus, add the 2020 World Expo in Dubai which the emirate has postponed, according to an AFP report in The Guardian. In Tokyo, the International Olympic Committee has set the postponed Olympics for July 23 to August 8 next year. (The Guardian). Japan recorded a sudden spike in Covid-19 cases after the Olympics were delayed last week and the government is reported to be close to declaring a state of emergency. (Time and NPR).

Peter Bale is a London-based journalist and media consultant who has worked for the Wellington Evening Post, Reuters, the FT Group, The Times of London, and CNN Europe.

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