China urges citizens to shun Australia as dispute simmers

People wearing face masks to protect against the new coronavirus ride past the Australian Embassy in Beijing, Saturday, June 6, 2020. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 06 June 2020

China urges citizens to shun Australia as dispute simmers

  • China has already effectively ended imports of Australian barley
  • China banned beef imports from Australia’s four largest abattoirs over labeling issue

BEIJING: China is advising its citizens not to visit Australia, citing racial discrimination and violence against Asians, in what appears to be Beijing’s latest attempt to punish the country for advocating an investigation into the coronavirus pandemic.
A notice issued by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism late Friday said there has “been an increase in words and deeds of racial discrimination and acts of violence against Chinese and Asians in Australia, due to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The ministry advises Chinese tourists to raise their safety awareness and avoid traveling to Australia,” the notice said.
As part of its perceived retaliation, China has already effectively ended imports of Australian barley by putting tariffs of more than 80 percent on the crop, accusing Australia of breaching World Trade Organization rules by subsidizing barley production and selling the crop in China at below production costs. That came a week after China banned beef imports from Australia’s four largest abattoirs over labeling issues.
Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham on Tuesday said the country did not want a trade war, but said China “has made errors of both fact and law” in applying WTO rules, adding that there was no evidence that Australia was engaged in dumping of products.
Australian has been among countries pushing for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and responses to it. Beijing has denied its measures against Australian beef and barley were related to those calls.
The World Health Organization has bowed to calls from most of its member states to launch an independent probe into how it managed the international response to the virus, which was first found in China late last year. The evaluation would stop short of looking into contentious issues such as the origins of the virus.
Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye’s has told Australian media that the country might face a Chinese boycott of its tourism and exports of wine, beef and other goods if the government pressed for a coronavirus inquiry.
China is the No. 1 market for Australian beef, accounting for about 30 percent of exports. It’s also the biggest foreign buyer of Australian barley.
Beijing has regularly used access to its huge market to punish governments from Norway to Canada in political disputes. Chinese officials routinely refuse to confirm a trade disruption is related to a political clash but make it clear Beijing wants concessions.


New record number of COVID-19 cases overshadows US Independence Day festivities

Updated 28 min 2 sec ago

New record number of COVID-19 cases overshadows US Independence Day festivities

  • More than 57,000 infections recorded in 24 hours; COVID-19 has claimed 130,000 lives in the US
  • Trump dismisses deluge of new cases as "great news", says "our testing is so massive and so good"

WASHINGTON: Another record number of coronavirus cases overshadowed the start of America’s Independence Day weekend Friday as the surge in infections prompted Britain to blacklist travelers from the US, intensifying its isolation.

With beaches closed from coast to coast and officials urging Americans to stay home, the somber mood heading into what is usually a weekend of barbecues and sunshine underscored the struggle to extinguish COVID-19 at the epicenter of the global pandemic.

“It is an unbelievable trajectory,” said Faisal Masud, director of critical care at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas, which officials say is dangerously close to being overwhelmed.

Touching almost every country on Earth since it emerged in China late last year, the coronavirus has infected at least 10.9 million and killed 522,000 globally, shattering previously buoyant economies and bringing public life to a standstill.

But while Europe and much of Asia have largely managed to bring the virus under control — so much so that England was preparing to reopen pubs, restaurants and cinemas — in the US it has claimed nearly 130,000 lives amid a sharp resurgence of cases which top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said “puts the entire country at risk.”

The world’s largest economy broke its record for new cases for the third day in a row Friday, with more than 57,000 infections in 24 hours. It’s expected to record its three millionth infection next week, with cases rising the south and west particularly.

US President Donald Trump — at Mount Rushmore for a fireworks celebration with thousands of attendees in close quarters and masks not required — has so far dismissed the deluge of new cases.

In a tweet late Thursday he said the rise was because “our testing is so massive and so good, far bigger and better than any other country,” calling that “great news.”

He added: “Even better news is that death, and the death rate, is DOWN.”

But his predecessor Barack Obama called for Americans to be “safe and smart.”

“It’s going to take all of us to beat this virus. So wear a mask. Wash your hands. And listen to the experts, not the folks trying to divide us,” he tweeted Friday.

The World Health Organization called on countries hit by serious outbreaks to “wake up” to the realities.

“People need to wake up. The data is not lying,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan told journalists in Geneva.

“It is never too late in an epidemic to take control.”

At least 14 states are seeing their weekly averages hit record highs heading into the holiday weekend, the Washington Post reported.

In Florida, where new cases are hovering at around 10,000 daily, Miami’s usually-crowded South Pointe Beach was closed Friday save for patrolling police and a wandering cat.

Beaches in Los Angeles will also be closed over the weekend, and Major League Baseball officially canceled its 2020 All-Star Game on Friday, the first time since World War II that the mid-season showcase — which had been set for July 14 — has been scrapped.

The US closures stand in stark contrast to Britain and Europe, once the epicenter of the virus but now restarting businesses and lifting travel restrictions, trying salvage the summer tourist season.

Pubs in England reopen on Saturday for the first time since late March — as restaurants, cinemas, galleries, museums and hotels also prepare to welcome back customers.

Travelers arriving into England from more than 50 nations — but not the US or mainland China — will from July 10 no longer be required to undergo 14 days of self-isolation.

The decision follows the European Union, which earlier this week left the US, Brazil and Russia off its final list of nations safe enough to allow their residents to enter its borders.

The European Union meanwhile authorized the use of the anti-viral drug remdesivir for COVID-19 — the first treatment approved to deal with the disease — although the United States has bought most of the global stock.

Europe is also beginning a reckoning on its virus response. French prosecutors said they were launching an inquiry into former prime minister Edouard Philippe’s handling of the virus crisis, following his resignation Friday.

But despite optimism the economic fallout is still unfolding: Air France said Friday it planned to eliminate 7,580 jobs at the airline and its regional unit Hop! by the end of 2022 because of the coronavirus crisis.

Cases have been skyrocketing across Latin America.

The region now has the second most cases in the world with 2.73 million, ahead of Europe on 2.71 million but behind North America.

Brazil, the region’s largest economy, has 1.5 million confirmed cases and 63,000 deaths, second only to the United States.

Nevertheless, popular tourist city Rio de Janeiro authorized bars, restaurants and cafes to reopen at 50 percent capacity, while President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday watered down a law requiring the wearing of face masks in public places.

Cases also continue to surge in the Middle East, where worst-hit Saudi Arabia passed 200,000 infections. Countries across Africa meanwhile forged ahead with plans to reopen, despite steadily rising cases.

In Asia, however, swift lockdowns have largely made progress — including in Beijing, which said Friday it was lifting most travel restrictions after successfully containing a new outbreak.

China also vowed to gradually phase out the slaughter and sale of live poultry at food markets.

The virus is believed to have emerged at a market that sold live animals in the central city of Wuhan late last year.