China claims virus pushes US ties to the brink of “cold war”

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Beijing (AFP)

China said on Sunday that relations with the United States were “on the brink of a new cold war,” fueled in part by tensions linked to the coronavirus pandemic that killed nearly 350,000 people worldwide and plunged the global economy in a massive recession.

New tensions between Beijing and Washington have emerged as virus restrictions softened celebrations for Muslims around the world at the end of Ramadan, the month of the holy fast of Islam.

More and more European countries have moved to ease their blockages.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to defend his best assistant Dominic Cummings on Sunday, accused of breaking the government’s own lock-in rules.

Globally, more than 5.3 million people have been infected with the virus, which most scientists believe has passed from animals to humans – perhaps in a central city market. from Wuhan, China, where the pandemic started in December.

US President Donald Trump has accused Beijing of a lack of transparency about the epidemic and is pushing the theory that he may have leaked from a Chinese high-security laboratory.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Sunday that Washington had been infected with a “political virus” to continually attack China, but that Beijing would nonetheless be open to an international effort to find the source of the coronavirus.

“It has come to our attention that certain political forces in the United States are taking China-US relations hostage and pushing our two countries to the brink of a new cold war,” said Wang.

He lambasted what he called the efforts of American politicians to “fabricate rumors” about the origin of the virus and “stigmatize China”.

While the European countries initially among the hardest hit have started to ease the blockages in order to save economies and lifestyles, other countries like Brazil, where deaths have increased, are becoming new homes for pandemic.

– End of Ramadan –

Hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world celebrated the celebration of Eid al-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan, with the two most important mosques in Islam still closed to worshipers in Mecca and Medina.

At the same time, churches were reopening in some countries, the Spanish football league announced that it would restart on June 8, and thousands of people gathered on the beaches of the United States, where closures and social distancing are problems that have started to divide communities.

With the number of infections stabilizing in the West, many governments are trying to adopt lighter social distancing measures to revive the dying business and tourism sectors, while being wary of a second wave of infections.

In Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez sought to reassure potential visitors, saying that from July 1, “the entry of foreign tourists to Spain will resume under safe conditions”.

Italy is also expected to reopen its borders to foreign tourists from June 3.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday that a controversial ban on the sale of alcohol would be lifted for domestic consumption when the country moved to level three of a five-level coronavirus lockout next month.

Primary schools in England will reopen to some students from June 1, the government has announced. High school students will return later, with “some contact” between teachers and older children preparing for exams starting June 15.

The reopening of schools remains controversial in Britain, which has the highest number of coronavirus deaths in Europe.

French churches had held their first Sunday masses for more than two months after the government bowed to the court’s decision to reopen them – provided that appropriate precautions were taken.

“My cell phone sizzles with messages!” Father Pierre Amar, a priest at Versailles, on the outskirts of Paris, told AFP.

French mosques, however, called on Muslims to stay home for the Eid al-Fitr celebrations. They said they would gradually resume service from June 3.

In Saudi Arabia, Eid prayers will be held in mosques in Mecca and Medina “without worshipers,” authorities said as the kingdom began a five-day curfew after infections quadrupled since. beginning of Ramadan.

“Eid is not Eid with the coronavirus atmosphere – people feel a sense of fear,” said Palestinian Akram Taher in Gaza, where worshipers wore masks and separated prayer rugs.

For Christians in Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher briefly reopened, but with strict restrictions in place.

– British scandal –

Prime Minister Johnson in Britain has dismissed calls to fire Cummings after an argument over reports that the top official has flouted the lockdown rules.

Cummings was seen visiting his parents in Durham, 250 miles (400 km) from his London home in March, despite symptoms of the virus. The Observer and Sunday Mirror reported that it again violated the lock restrictions in April.

“He acted responsibly and lawfully and with integrity,” said Johnson of Cummings, despite criticism from members of his own party.

“You can’t advise one thing to the nation, so do the opposite,” conservative MP Craig Whittaker tweeted, echoing opposition critics.

An investigation by the British newspaper Sunday Times revealed that the match of the Champions League Liverpool-Atletico Madrid on March 11 in England would have “led to 41 additional deaths” of coronavirus.

Despite positive signs elsewhere, the disease continued to soar in large parts of South America. The death toll in Brazil now exceeds 22,000 and infections exceed 347,000, the second highest number in the world.

In the United States, where the death toll is the highest in the world, nearly 100,000, President Trump has rejected the advice of health experts and pushed for the reopening of the economy.

He sent a signal of his intentions while playing golf on Saturday – his first outing on the boards since March 8.

But the New York Times marked the grim US record Sunday with a memorial on its front page carrying one line obituaries for 1,000 victims.

The US economy has lost nearly 40 million jobs this year and many companies have collapsed. But most states have started to relax their closings, and many public beaches have reopened despite concerns over the infection.

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