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U.S. Tops 5Million Confirmed COVID-19 Cases, to Europe’s Alarm

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The U.S. has so far more than five million COVID-19 infections and over 165,000 deaths – both totals are the highest of any country in the world. The failure of the U.S. to contain the scourge has been met with astonishment and alarm in Europe.

Perhaps nowhere outside the U.S. is America’s bungled virus response viewed with more consternation than in Italy, which was unprepared when the outbreak exploded in February. But after a strict nationwide, 10-week lockdown, vigilant tracing of new clusters and general acceptance of mask mandates and social distancing, Italy has become a model of virus containment.

General view of empty Saint Mark’s Square as the spread of COVID-19 continues, Venice, Italy, April 16, 2020. /Reuters

“Don’t they care about their health?” a mask-clad Patrizia Antonini asked about people in the United States as she walked with friends along the banks of Lake Bracciano, north of Rome. “They need to take our precautions. They need a real lockdown.”

However, U.S. President Donald Trump, who is seeking a second term in the White House in the November 3 election, has pushed states to allow students to physically return to classrooms, but health officials have expressed caution about doing so in areas where cases have been rising sharply.

People participate in a caravan protest during a national day of resistance to demand a safe, scientific, racially just and fully funded approach to reopening schools during the outbreak of COVID-19, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., August 3, 2020. /Reuters

Much of the incredulity in Europe stems from the fact that the U.S. had the benefit of time, European experience and medical know-how to treat the virus that the continent itself didn’t have when the first COVID-19 patients started filling intensive care units.

Massimo Franco, a columnist with daily Corriere della Sera, said the virus has shown the U.S. is “very fragile, with bad infrastructure and a public health system that is nonexistent.”

Although European nations have lifted travel restrictions for visitors from 15 countries, they have barred U.S. tourists and visitors from other countries with growing cases from freely traveling to the bloc.

France and Germany are now imposing tests on arrival for travelers from “at risk” countries, the U.S. included.

Hard-hit Spain, France, Britain and Germany have seen infection rebounds with new cases topping 1,000 a day, and Italy’s cases went over 500 on Friday. Some scientists say Britain’s beloved pubs might have to close again if schools are to reopen in September.

In the U.S., new cases are running at about 54,000 a day — an immensely high number even when taking into account the country’s large population. And while that’s down from a peak of well over 70,000 last month, cases are rising in nearly 20 states, and deaths are climbing in most.

In contrast, at least for now Europe appears to have the virus somewhat under control.

A worker sprays disinfectant to sanitize Duomo square in Milan, Italy, March 31, 2020. /AP

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Trump has been at loggerheads with scientists over the country’s coronavirus containment policies, publicly refusing to wear face mask and urging people to get back to work as soon as possible. Trump’s frequent complaints about Dr. Anthony Fauci have regularly made headlines.

Health officials watched with alarm as thousands of bikers gathered Friday in the small South Dakota city of Sturgis for an annual 10-day motorcycle rally. The state has no mask mandates, and many bikers expressed defiance of measures meant to prevent the virus’s spread.

Dr. David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, who is leading a team seeking treatments for COVID-19, decried such behavior, as well as the country’s handling of the virus.

“There’s no national strategy, no national leadership, and there’s no urging for the public to act in unison and carry out the measures together,” he said. “That’s what it takes, and we have completely abandoned that as a nation.”

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Key Quotes From Xi Jinping’s Speech at UNGA’s General Debate

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The General Debate of the 75th session the United Nations General Assembly was held on Tuesday under the theme of “The future we want, the United Nations we need: Reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism – confronting COVID-19 through effective multilateral action.” The meeting invited world leaders to deliver statements on global issues.

Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed the meeting via video link. Here are some key quotes from his speech.

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Xi Jinping Says China Firmly Supports UN’s Central Role in Int’l Affairs

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Chinese President Xi Jinping told UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday that China has no intention to upset the status quo in relation to the international system but to improve UN-led global governance.

Xi made the remarks during a video meeting with the UN chief on the sideline of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly.

Earlier at the UNGA, Xi announced a series of measures to support the UN in playing the core role in international affairs.

The Chinese president called for a global response to the virus and giving the World Health Organization a leading role, adding that China will provide additional financial support of 50 million U.S. dollars to the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan of the UN.

China will establish a third-phase South-South Cooperation Trust Fund with the Food and Agriculture Organization totaling 50 million U.S. dollars and will offer a five-year extension to the China-UN Peace and Development Fund, which had been due to expire in 2025. China will also set up a UN Global Geospatial Knowledge and Innovation Center and an International Research Center of Big Data for Sustainable Development Goals, which will facilitate the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Xi said.

Speaking to the UN chief, Xi reiterated that China is committed to defending world peace and international order and to being a contributor to global development.

The COVID-19 pandemic shows just how much the world needs the UN-centered international system, Xi pointed out, while calling on global efforts to think beyond national and ideological boundaries so as to build a better future for all mankind.

The pandemic has magnified global governance problems, and relevant parties should think about how to improve the system instead of overthrowing and rebuilding one, Xi said.

“In the world, there is only one system, namely the UN-centered international system, and only one set of rules – the basic norms of international relations based on the UN Charter.”

“China opposes ideological confrontation, decoupling and hegemony.”

Xi said what concerns Chinese leaders most is how to improve the livelihood of Chinese people.

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But he told Guterres that China will not compromise when it comes to national sovereignty, dignity and development, saying China will firmly defend its own rights as well as international fairness and justice.

Xi said all countries should strengthen connectivity and think beyond national, ethnical, cultural, and ideological boundaries so as to work together to build a community of shared future for all mankind.

Guterres echoed Xi, saying that the world needs multilateralism and cooperation now more than ever in the face of the pandemic, climate change, and other challenges.

The world needs a more effective United Nations, he said.

Guterres also thanked China’s firm support to the multilateralism and the UN.

China plays a constructive role in maintaining peace and promoting development globally, and with China’s support, the UN is able to function more effectively, Guterres said.

Guterres hailed Xi’s proposals for the UN’s role in the post-pandemic era, saying that the UN hopes to strengthen cooperation with China in different areas and looks forward to seeing China to play a leading role.

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The Frontline: China’s Fight Against COVID-19

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