Virus delays New Zealand election as Japanese economy collapses


Wellington (AFP)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern postponed national elections on Monday to focus on tackling a second wave of coronavirus, with data showing the Japanese economy had suffered a historic contraction.

With more than 21.5 million cases worldwide, a second wave of infections also threatens further disruption in Europe, where summer vacationers are helping fuel a resurgence of COVID-19.

The disease has killed more than 766,000 people worldwide, and the death toll has reached 50,000 in India, which is still struggling with its first wave with 2.5 million infections – the third highest in the world.

The postponement of New Zealand’s elections to October 17 came after the shocking discovery of COVID-19 in Auckland last week, ending the country’s 102-day streak without community transmission.

“This decision gives all parties time over the next nine weeks to campaign and the Election Commission enough time to ensure the elections go ahead,” Ardern said.

She said the return of the virus – which locked up New Zealand’s largest city – had shaken Kiwis and may have discouraged some from voting in the September election.

In South Korea, another country that had largely brought its initial outbreak under control, thousands of Protestant church members have been urged to self-quarantine as authorities tackle clusters of viruses linked to religious groups.

The largest of these current groups centers on the Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul, led by controversial conservative pastor Jun Kwang-hun.

South Korean authorities have filed two separate complaints against him for deliberately obstructing efforts to contain the virus.

– Economic devastation –

In the Pacific, less than three months away from the US presidential election, the surge in the number of cases in the United States – the worst in the world with more than 5.4 million with 170,000 dead – has forced the convention season online .

Disparate factions of Democrats project a united front behind Joe Biden as their virtual four-day rally begins Monday, as they seek to oust President Donald Trump – who has been widely criticized for his handling of the pandemic.

The Trump administration and Congress are under increasing pressure to ease the economic pain triggered by the virus, with tens of millions unemployed and the global economy facing a historic recession.

Many countries have plunged into recession since the coronavirus first emerged in China late last year.

The latest evidence of economic destruction has emerged in Japan, which saw its economy shrink a record 7.8% in the April-June quarter – the worst contraction in the country’s modern history.

– ‘We Dance’ –

Italy – once the global epicenter of the coronavirus – has ordered all dance halls closed for three weeks after a surge in infections over the weekend attributable in part to young revelers.

Wearing a face mask is also compulsory in public areas from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

“The contagion is on the rise but we are dancing,” proclaimed the newspaper Corriere Della Sera, which described Sardinia’s clubs as “happy contagion machines”.

But the government’s attempts to curb the spread of the virus in parts of Spain and Brussels have been met with skepticism and protests.

“They make us use a mask, they want us to stay home practically locked up,” Pilar Martin, 58, said at a rally in Madrid that drew a variety of people, many promoting conspiracy theories widely denied on the coronavirus being a hoax.

It came after Britain removed France, the Netherlands, Malta and three other countries from its list of places exempt from self-isolation rules due to the continent’s second wave of the virus.

Wary of a similar resurgence, authorities in Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales have banned children from playing recorders and singing in choirs to stem the spread of the virus after detection of infections in several schools in Sydney.

Dancing is also banned as Australia battles to contain a number of outbreaks after months of near zero local transmission.

burs-amj / qan


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