5 things to know for April 21: Coronavirus, immigration, oil, North Korea, Israel


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1. Coronavirus

Several US states, including Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina, are preparing to reopen despite warnings from medical experts. In Georgia, the decision was greeted with disbelief by some mayors, who said the death toll and the rate of cases in the state had not dropped significantly. Such a reference is one of the indicators set out in the Trump administration’s guidelines for the reopening of local economies. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease doctor, warned that relaxing the restrictions too soon not only endangered lives, but could also seriously affect demand for medical supplies, which are already severely lacking. Deaths in the United States almost doubled last week. Other countries are also experiencing the friction of social isolation. Ghana reopens, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro participated in an anti-lockout protest outside the country’s capital, Brasilia. Follow here for the latest updates.

2. Immigration

President Trump has announced that he will sign an executive order temporarily suspending immigration to the United States as the country battles the medical and economic effects of Covid-19. Immigration procedures have already been frozen during the crisis: refugee resettlement has been suspended, visa offices are largely closed, and citizenship ceremonies are not taking place. The president’s announcement came in a tweet, and it is unclear what mechanism he will use to suspend immigration, how long it would last or what effect it will have on US border crossing operations and on current holders of green cards. So far, the White House and the Department of Homeland Security have remained silent on the details.

3. Oil

Oil prices collapsed completely yesterday, plummeting and falling into negative territory. It was easily the worst day for the oil market in modern history, and US oil companies could be threatened with bankruptcy due to the dire recession. Demand for oil is so low that the world is literally short of places to store unused barrels – and remember, just before the coronavirus crisis, Russia and Saudi Arabia flooded the world with excess supply in a price war. Oil prices and world markets have recovered slightly after the decline and are expected to continue to rise, but oil prices for May and June are still at historically and dangerously low levels around the world.

4. North Korea

The United States is monitoring reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is in very poor health after an operation in mid-April. Suspicions of Kim’s well-being began to surface after the leader missed his grandfather’s birthday celebration on April 15. Kim would have had cardiovascular surgery a few days earlier. US officials say the reports of his poor health are credible but could not confirm the details. The story of the North Korean leader in smoking and weight problems is well documented.

5. Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival, the leader of the blue and white party Benny Gantz, have agreed to form a national emergency government in light of the current coronavirus crisis. The deal appears to end more than a year of political stalemate in the country, during which no leader has been able to form a majority government. However, Gantz’s surrender went against his campaign promises and invited contempt from fellow blue and white members. Meanwhile, thousands of Israelis have gathered to protest against Netanyahu, claiming that he is corrupt and trying to erode the country’s democratic systems. And yes, the protesters respected the rules of social distancing – standing, signs in hand, 6 feet apart.


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