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Moscow extends coronavirus lockdown until May 1; Putin prolongs paid leave period

Moscow
© Reuters/Maxim Shemetov
Red Square, Moscow, Russia
Moscow, Russia's worst affected city during the current Covid-19 pandemic, has extended its strict home isolation regime until the end of April following President Vladimir Putin's decision to extend nationwide paid leave. All restrictions imposed in the Russian capital will stay in force until May 1, Mayor Sergey Sobyanin announced on his official blog, as the city struggles to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Nevertheless, the Mayor feels there is no reason for the introduction of an electronic QR-code system. The measures were previously actively discussed in the local media and on social networks. The QR-codes that Moscow residents should have received through a special mobile app were designed to better control compliance with the home isolation regime.

Airplane

Americans stuck: Last flight out of Russia halted on tarmac due to coronavirus lockdown extension

MacKay brothers
© @julianmackay/Instagram
Julian MacKay, left, and his brother Nicholas are seen in this screen grab from a video posted to Instagram.Julian MacKay, left, and his brother Nicholas are seen in this screen grab from a video posted to Instagram.
Hundreds of Americans are stuck in Russia after the country abruptly suspended international air traffic on Friday in response to the coronavirus epidemic, forcing the last flight bound for the U.S. to cancel its takeoff even as it was waiting on the runway.

Julian MacKay, a ballet dancer, and his younger brother, Nicholas, had been frantically trying to get out of Russia for two weeks to reach their father, who is dying of cancer in Montana. The brothers on Friday thought they had managed to do so as they fastened themselves into their seats on the last flight out of Moscow to New York, which was run by the Russian state airline Aeroflot.

The plane's doors were already closed as the plane prepared to leave Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport. They were messaging their mother to tell her they were on their way when a cockpit announcement in Russian suddenly informed passengers the flight was canceled. Pandemonium followed, as desperate and angry passengers demanded answers from the crew.


Smoking

Russian smokers face COLD TURKEY withdrawal - tobacco deemed non-essential item in Covid-19 crisis

no smoking russian shopping mall
© Sputnik / Evgenya Novozhenina
Exit plan and No Smoking sign at Serebryany Dom shopping mall, Moscow.
As coronavirus attacks the respiratory systems of people all around the world, perhaps there will be one less thing destroying the lungs of Russians - cigarettes.

With the designation of tobacco as a non-essential product, half of the country's production will grind to a halt. Before President Putin's Thursday confirmation of an extended self-isolation period, experts suggested that any extension could lead to a shortage. Now, it's very likely.

Despite Russia seeing a steep drop off in the volume of sales in the 2010s, the country is still the 4th largest cigarette market in the world. According to numbers from market research firm Euromonitor International, Russia sits only behind China, Indonesia, and the US. In 2015, the World Health Organization estimated that 59 percent of Russian males over the age of 15 smoke, although Rosstat figures suggest those numbers have fallen significantly since then, amid major public health campaigns in Russia.

Comment: According to these studies, Russia and the rest of the world may be on the wrong track:

Preliminary Estimates of the Prevalence of Selected Underlying Health Conditions Among Patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019
Some outcomes might be underestimated, and long-term outcomes cannot be assessed in this analysis. Third, because of the limited availability of testing in many jurisdictions during this period, this analysis is likely biased toward more severe cases, and findings might change as testing becomes more widespread. Fourth, because of the descriptive nature of these data, attack rates among persons with and without underlying health conditions could not be compared, and thus the risk difference of severe disease with COVID-19 between these groups could not be estimated. Fifth, no conclusions could be drawn about underlying conditions that were not included in the case report form or about different conditions that were reported in a single, umbrella category. For example, asthma and COPD were included in a chronic lung disease category. Finally, for some underlying health conditions and risk factors, including neurologic disorders, chronic liver disease, being a current smoker, and pregnancy, few severe outcomes were reported; therefore, conclusions cannot be drawn about the risk for severe COVID-19 among persons in these groups.
And:

Clinical characteristics of 140 patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 in Wuhan, China.
An approximately 1:1 ratio of male (50.7%) and female COVID-19 patients was found, with an overall median age of 57.0 years. All patients were community-acquired cases. Fever (91.7%), cough (75.0%), fatigue (75.0%), and gastrointestinal symptoms (39.6%) were the most common clinical manifestations, whereas hypertension (30.0%) and diabetes mellitus (12.1%) were the most common comorbidities. Drug hypersensitivity (11.4%) and urticaria (1.4%) were self-reported by several patients. Asthma or other allergic diseases were not reported by any of the patients. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, 1.4%) patients and current smokers (1.4%) were rare. Bilateral ground-glass or patchy opacity (89.6%) was the most common sign of radiological finding. Lymphopenia (75.4%) and eosinopenia (52.9%) were observed in most patients. Blood eosinophil counts correlate positively with lymphocyte counts in severe (r = .486, P < .001) and nonsevere (r = .469, P < .001) patients after hospital admission. Significantly higher levels of D-dimer, C-reactive protein, and procalcitonin were associated with severe patients compared to nonsevere patients (all P < .001).



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'Dark day' in Prague: Czech authorities use Covid-19 lockdown to tear down monument to Soviet liberator

Ivan Konev
© Sputnik / Alexei Danichev
A monument to Soviet World War II commander, Ivan Konev, in Prague.
A monument to Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev, who commanded the forces that liberated Prague from the Nazis in 1945, has been removed and mocked for 'not having a mask' by one local official, in what Russia has condemned as an insult.

Konev is one of the most celebrated Red Army generals, who commanded the 1st Ukrainian Front (army group) that liberated the Auschwitz death camp in January 1945 and the Czech capital several months later, putting an end to six years of Nazi occupation.

Yet on Friday, the authorities in Prague's District Six dismantled his statue, using the fact that stay-at-home orders imposed to combat the spread of Covid-19 prevented any protesters from showing up.

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Amazon had strategy to smear Staten Island strike organizer according to leaked memo - UPDATE

amazon protests staten island
Amazon had a strategy to smear the organizer of a worker walkout at the online retailing giant's Staten Island, New York, fulfillment center on Monday, according to leaked notes from a company meeting.

The notes, circulated as a memo within Amazon, and acquired by Vice News, addressed many issues about the company's planned actions during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Amazon fired Chris Smalls, the organizer of the workplace walkout several hours after the event Monday.

In response to any regulatory or media query about Smalls, "we should spend the first part of our response strongly laying out the case for why the organizer's conduct was immoral, unacceptable, and arguably illegal, in detail, and only then follow with our usual talking points about worker safety," according to the memo, reportedly forwarded within Amazon by the company's general counsel David Zapolsky.

Comment:
UPDATE April 3: Bernie Sanders along with other media figures and politicians have condemned the firing, so of course Amazon executives regurgitated Zapolsky's talking points. Employees have told RT journalists that they are afraid to go to work, noting that Amazon refused to disinfect the warehouse even after as many as a dozen people tested positive for the coronavirus. Others have brought up the issue of racism:
The entire episode also had a political undertone. As journalist Jeremy Scahill of the Intercept pointed out, Zapolsky is a fundraiser for Joe Biden, Barack Obama's former vice president and the current favorite of the Democratic establishment to win the 2020 presidential nomination. Carney was Obama's spokesman from 2011 to 2014, and Biden's prior to that.

Way back in 2007, Biden had described Obama as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean," touching off a firestorm of accusations that such descriptions were thinly veiled racism.

"Racial coding" is how journalist Malaika Jabali also described Zapolsky's notes, adding that "many warehouse workers are [people of color]. This is a class AND race fight."

Contrary to Zapolsky's claims, Smalls did not appear to have any trouble expressing his views to RT, or penning a Guardian op-ed after his firing.
See also:


Biohazard

Coronavirus has signs of being man-made - Czech Geneticist

coronavirus
© Fort Russ
The well-known Czech molecular geneticist and virologist Sonia Pekova says that one cannot exclude the possibility that the coronavirus that caused the global pandemic was created artificially.

"I believe that this cannot be ruled out. It behaves very unusual. There are a finite number of viruses that infect humans in the world. We can usually guess by the symptoms of the disease which virus causes it. Of course, not 100%, but we can say: if the symptoms look like this, then this is most likely some kind of flu virus, when diarrhea is another type of virus, when a rash is one where we are looking for herpes viruses.

Therefore, when we know that the disease is caused by a coronavirus, it will have a certain course. But this coronavirus has a completely different picture, it's like a new type of disease," she said.

Comment: Much more information has come to light which provide some clues as to just where this virus may have originated:


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Coronavirus scare will wipe out more than $4 Trillion from global economy - Asian Development Bank

Masked people in Shanghai
© Reuters / Aly Song
People wearing protective face masks in Shanghai, China March 10, 2020
The global economy will see a much bigger hit from the coronavirus pandemic than previously expected, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has warned in its annual report.

According to the gloomiest scenario presented by the bank, the impact of the "worst pandemic in a century" will be as high as $4.1 trillion, or 4.8 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP). However, even this forecast could turn out worse given the impact of the outbreak on global supply chains and how long it will take to contain the virus.

"The estimated impact could be an underestimate, as additional channels such as supply disruptions, interrupted remittances, possible social and financial crises, and long-term effects on health care and education are excluded from the analysis," reads the Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2020, the ADB's annual economic report.

Comment:
Nationwide lockdown could cost Indian economy over $4 BILLION A DAY

The 21-day complete shutdown across India which was triggered by the rapid spread of the coronavirus outbreak will result in a gross domestic product (GDP) loss of almost $98 billion, according to Acuite Ratings & Research.

"While the countrywide shutdown is scheduled to be lifted from April 15, 2020, the risks of prolonged disruption in economic activities exist depending on the intensity of the outbreak," the credit rating agency said, adding that the ongoing disruption will have significant economic consequences across the world as well as in India.

Acuite Ratings has warned there is a risk of a contraction of April-June (2020-21 fiscal) GDP to the extent of between five and six percent, with Q2 (July-September) likely to post modest growth in a best-case scenario.

According to the agency's estimates, "every single day of the nationwide lockdown will cost the Indian economy almost $4.64 billion," said Sankar Chakraborti, CEO of Acuite Ratings & Research.

Transport, hotel, restaurant, and real estate activities were named among the most severely impacted sectors. "In our opinion, there would be at around 50 percent GVA (gross value added) loss in these sectors, which account for around 22 percent in overall GVA, in Q1 of FY21," the rating agency said.

On the other hand, communications, broadcasting, and healthcare are expected to see boosted activities during the crisis. However, with a 3.5 percent share, their contribution to the overall GVA will be small. The impact of the lockdown is projected to be severe on some industrial activities, while the agricultural sector - which accounts for 15 percent of GVA - is "nonetheless expected to see continuing activity even in the lockdown period."
See also:


Eye 1

London's Met police to buy military-style vehicles for riot control

Armoured police
© AFP via Getty Images
Armoured police personnel carriers
Scotland Yard wants to buy a new fleet of military-style armoured vehicles to help tackle public disorder, firearms incidents and riots in London.

Last week the force put out a notice stating it was looking for suppliers for armoured personnel carriers, armoured military vehicles, armoured combat vehicles and weapon carriers.

It also wants security, fire-fighting and defence equipment and armour plating.

It wishes to buy "tactical intervention and public order and firearm patrol vehicles" that can carry up to eight personnel and have a gross vehicle weight over 10 tonnes, according to the notice.

Comment: Quality of life in the West has been deteriorating for well over a decade - life expectancy figures in the UK prove as much - and in turn there has been an upsurge in protest movements - the Yellow Vests began protesting in the hundreds of thousands in December 2018 - so it's clear to anyone paying attention that more serious unrest would be up ahead. And now, with the manufactured coronavirus crisis, a financial depression, the laws rushed through Parliament limiting citizens rights while giving unprecedented power to the authorities, mass unemployment, much of the planet on lock down, as well as the looming threat of food shortages, it's no surprise the establishment are arming themselves: Political Ponerology: A Science on The Nature of Evil adjusted for Political Purposes

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Attention

BBC licence fee could be replaced with internet tax

BBC sign
© Reuters / Andrew Winning
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) said that it is considering scrapping its court-enforced licence fee funding mechanism, in favour of attaching a tax on citizens' broadband connections.

The United Kingdom's TV tax-funded news outlet said that although it still favours the licence fee, it will consider having its funding "linked directly to an existing common household bill" like broadband, council tax, or other utility bills.

"This would be a significant change for the UK and we are not, at this stage, advocating it," the corporation said in its submission, the BBC said per The Guardian.

"It does, however, raise an interesting question as to whether the current system could be made much simpler, more efficient, and more automated. We are open to exploring this further," the broadcaster added.

Currently, the BBC receives the majority of its funding from a mandatory £154.50 licence fee on anyone who watches colour television or live programming in the UK, regardless of whether or not they consume media from the broadcaster. Those who refuse to pay the fee face fines and possible jail time.

Dollars

Some people may not get stimulus checks until August

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin
© AP
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin
The federal government expects to begin making payments to millions of Americans under the new stimulus law in mid-April, but some people without direct deposit information may not get checks until mid-August or later, according to a memo obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

The document from the House Ways and Means Committee says the IRS will make about 60 million payments to Americans through direct deposit in mid-April, likely the week of April 13. The IRS has direct deposit information for these individuals from their 2018 or 2019 tax returns.

Then, starting the week of May 4, the IRS will begin issuing paper checks to individuals, the memo says. The paper checks will be issued at a rate of about 5 million per week, which means it could take up to 20 weeks to get all the checks out. That timeline would delay some checks until the week of Aug. 17.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that while he initially pledged to get payments started within three weeks of the law's adoption, "I'm now committing to two weeks. We're delivering on our commitments."

The IRS, which he oversees, will ensure that "within two weeks the first money will be in people's accounts," Mnuchin said during a White House briefing.