Medical personnel wearing personal protective equipment transport the body of a deceased patient from a refrigerated truck in New York. Photo: Getty Images

US death toll jumps 779 in a day; WTO warns global trade could drop by 13-33 percent; Trump says WHO biased towards China; WHO boss says finger-pointing just results in ‘many more body bags’

US toll surges: The United States is standing out in the Covid-19 numbers count with more than 400,000 cases and total deaths of 6,268. New York suffered its highest daily toll of 779 overnight, which is the kind of numbers the entire country of Italy has been recording. (Johns Hopkins University, The New York Times.) There’s talk of flattening curves in New York and in Spain and Italy, but the reality remains grim for most. In London, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was said to be “sitting up in bed” and “engaging positively” but still in intensive care. (The Guardian).

It’s the economy: The numbers on the global economic damage from the Covid-19 crisis swung into focus with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) forecasting trade would fall by up to a third (13 percent at the low end).

Quote du jour: “These numbers are ugly – there is no getting around that,” WTO director-general, Roberto Azevêdo, said. “But a rapid, vigorous rebound is possible. Decisions taken now will determine the future shape of the recovery and global growth prospects.” (The Guardian). That background is why the US Congress and the Trump Administration are already working on a second package of economic support. (The New York Times).

Trump blames WHO: President Donald Trump attacked the World Health Organisation for what he suggested was bias towards China, failure to detect the virus and a failure to warn the United States of the risks.

‘Finger pointing = more body bags’ The WHO itself came out swinging, with its director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, saying that politicizing the crisis was “playing with fire” and that disunity and finger-pointing would result in “many more body bags.” (The New York Times).

Trump earlier lashed out at the WHO with false claims and threatening: “We’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it and we’re going to see.” (In the same news conference, he then denied saying what he had just said.) (The New York Times). “They called it wrong. They call it wrong. They really, they missed the call.”

He was warned: Shortly before the conference, it was reported his economic adviser, Peter Navarro, had written to him twice — in early January and again in February — as the virus emerged in Wuhan, warning of the scale of the potential deaths in the United States and a dangerous lack of preparedness.

Read it and weep: “The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil,” Navarro’s memo said. “This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.” (The New York Times). His second memo suggested there could be 1.2 million deaths in the United States and 100 million infections.

Our better angels: Final word, to the WHO’s Ghebreyesus: “We will do everything we can to serve humanity. We’re not angels. We are human beings. So we make mistakes, like other human beings.”

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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