Coronavirus deaths surged past 100,000 in hardest-hit Europe on Saturday as hundreds of Americans frustrated by lockdown orders and egged on by President Donald Trump staged protests in several US cities.

Europe’s virus toll tops 100,000 as protests spread in US

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by Chris Lefkow with AFP bureaus

Coronavirus deaths surged past 100,000 in hardest-hit Europe on Saturday as hundreds of Americans frustrated by lockdown orders and egged on by President Donald Trump staged protests in several US cities.

As the latest grim data emerged, performers from around the world kicked off an hours-long live-streamed concert aimed at supporting health care workers, and cultivating a sense of community in a time of crisis.

The six-hour event, which includes A-listers ranging from cellist Yo-Yo Ma to award-winning teen singer Billie Eilish to the Rolling Stones, was brought together by the advocacy group Global Citizen with the World Health Organization.

Worldwide, more than 2,289,500 people have tested positive for the highly contagious virus.

Europe accounts for a total of 100,510 deaths — nearly two-thirds of the 157,539 fatalities worldwide, according to an AFP tally, while nearly a quarter of deaths have come in the United States.

The United States has the highest caseload of any country, with more than 734,000 confirmed infections, and by Saturday had lost 38,664 people to the virus, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

Progress was marked in some places, with New York state reporting the lowest number of deaths in weeks, which Governor Andrew Cuomo attributed largely to social distancing.

But as Americans and others around the world chafe after weeks under shelter-at-home orders, rising resentment erupted this week.

Demonstrations Saturday at the capitols of states including Texas, Maryland, New Hampshire and Ohio drew hundreds of people, many waving American flags and some carrying arms, demanding a quick end to state-ordered confinement.

– ‘Carried away’ –
The spreading anti-lockdown movement drew encouragement Friday from Trump, who tweeted that three states should be “liberated” from the stay-home orders.

Trump has called for a rapid return to normality to limit the devastating damage to the US economy — while largely leaving the final decision on easing lockdowns to state officials.

The US leader told reporters on Saturday that some state governors had gotten “carried away” and imposed “unreasonable” restrictions.

But Americans, by two-to-one, disagree with the protesters. A new Pew survey found that most were more concerned about ending home confinement too soon rather than too late.

At a White House briefing, Trump also warned that China could face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the coronavirus outbreak which began in the city of Wuhan in December.

“It could have been stopped in China before it started and it wasn’t,” Trump said. “And now the whole world is suffering.”

“If it was a mistake, a mistake is a mistake,” he said. “But if they were knowingly responsible, yeah, then there should be consequences.”

Trump also cast doubt on official Chinese figures showing the country has suffered just 0.33 deaths per 100,000 people.

“The number’s impossible,” he said.

The United States, according to a chart displayed at the briefing, has had 11.24 deaths per 100,000 people while France has had 27.92 and Spain 42.81.

China’s death toll jumped to 4,632 on Friday after it raised by 50 percent the number of fatalities for Wuhan.

– ‘Under control’ –
Mounting evidence suggests that social distancing slowed the pandemic after more than half of humanity — 4.5 billion people — were confined to their homes.

Many countries are testing only the most serious cases and the number of confirmed infections is likely to be a fraction of the true total.

Stay-at-home orders have been enforced in Italy and Spain, still the hardest-hit countries in Europe, with 23,227 and 20,043 fatalities respectively, followed by France with 19,323 deaths. Britain’s overall death toll is officially 15,464.

As governments around the world grapple with when and how to ease lockdowns that have crippled the global economy, Spain on Saturday extended its nationwide lockdown to May 9.

Japan, Britain and Mexico have all expanded their movement restrictions.

Yet elsewhere, signs that the outbreak could be easing prompted Switzerland, Denmark and Finland to begin reopening shops and schools this week.

Germany has declared the virus “under control” after 3,400 deaths, and is beginning the delicate task of lifting some restrictions without triggering a secondary outbreak — with some shops allowed to reopen Monday, and some children returning to school within weeks.

Parts of Italy began emerging from lockdown too, with Venice residents strolling around quiet canals.

Iran also allowed some Tehran businesses to reopen Saturday despite the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak.

“How can I keep staying home? My family is hungry,” said Hamdollah Mahmoudi, 45, a shopworker in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar.

– 1,000 deaths in Africa –
Virtually no corner of the world has been left untouched, with deaths in Africa passing 1,000.

Nigeria announced the death of a top aide to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Meanwhile, many of the world’s 260 million Orthodox Christians are preparing to mark Easter without attending church services.

In Zimbabwe, mass rallies and military parades to mark the country’s 40th anniversary of independence from British colonial rule were cancelled.

And Buckingham Palace announced that Queen Elizabeth II will not mark her birthday on Tuesday with a traditional gun salute.

Signs of the global economic carnage wrought by the pandemic are accumulating, with China reporting its first GDP contraction since at least the early 1990s.

Agence France-Presse

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Rule of law prevailed: Trillanes hails CA ruling junking revival of rebellion raps

Former senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Tuesday (March 2) hailed the favorable ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) concerning his rebellion case.

“Today, the rule of law prevailed,” Trillanes declared.

With this, the former lawmaker also expressed gratitude to the appellate court for the favorable ruling.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa mga CA justices na gumawa ng desisyong ito,” he stated.

“Sana all na judges and justices ay may ganitong sense of justice to check the prevailing authoritarianism in the country,” he added,

Trillanes’s petition before the CA assailed the 2018 orders of Makati City Judge Elmo Alameda to issue a hold departure order (HDO) and arrest warrant against the former lawmaker even though the same magistrate dismissed back in 2011 the rebellion case against him.

The case was dismissed by the judge in 2011 after Trillanes was granted amnesty by then President Benigno Aquino III.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) sought to revive the case before the Makati court after President Rodrigo Duterte revoked the amnesty.

Sinong guilty? Lord Velasco’s allies gang up on Alan Cayetano after ally exposes P20-B budget cut

By Billy Begas

Allies of House Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco slammed the camp of Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano for his supporters’ attempt to drag the Marinduque lawmaker in the issue involving the P20 billion pension and gratuity fund of uniformed government personnel that was diverted to infrastructure projects.

Senior Deputy Speaker Salvador Leachon said it was clear based on the explanation of House Committee on Appropriations chairperson Eric Yap that the slashed P20 billion will not be used this year to pay the pension and gratuity of uniformed personnel.

“Based on Congressman Yap’s accounts, which I find to be accurate, the current problems involving the pension of uniformed retirees was due to the P70-billion cut in their budget for the year 2020, during Cayetano’s term,” Leachon said.

Yap said that the House then led by Cayetano slashed P70 billion from the 2020 national budget.

Earlier, Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor said that he did not know what happened then. “Hindi ko ho alam kung nag-usap sila (House-led Cayetano and Department of Budget and Management) pero ang sigurado ko ho nagrereklamo ngayon ang DBM dahil binawasan ang pension fund.”

Yap claimed that the DBM knows the reduction of budget.

“Their unfounded allegations against Speaker Velasco boomeranged to them when it turned out the current problems faced by uniformed retirees was brought about by the more than P70 billion deducted from the 2020 PGF budget during Cayetano’s time,” said Leachon.

Defensor contradicted Leachon’s claim in a text message. “How can it have boomeranged when Chair Eric Yap admitted that they slashed the Pension and Gratuity Fund by 20 billion. They should not over complicate and over think- return the 20 billion to our military, police and uniformed personnel pension and gratuity fund.”

Defensor also challenged the camp of Velasco to show to the public that they did not use it as pork barrel fiund.

Deputy Speaker and Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves said Defensor’s accusations were “part of an obvious attempt to antagonize Speaker Velasco.”

“It was obviously premeditated with some members of the so-called ‘BTS sa Kongreso’ present to interpellate Defensor and tried but failed to amplify the allegations against Speaker Velasco,” Teves said referring to Back To Service sa Kongreso formed by Cayetano in January.

Teves added that the game plan of Cayetano’s camp was to make Velasco “look bad in the eyes of President Duterte by attacking the Speaker on an issue very close to the Chief Executive’s heart—the pension and gratuity pay of police and military retirees.”

Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza, meanwhile, blasted Cayetano’s group for hypocrisy following the revelation of Deputy Speaker Isidro Ungab that the Cayetano-led House manipulated the 2020 national budget, which resulted in budget cuts totaling P209 billion, including the P70 billion slashed from pension and gratuity fund.

“Umaalma sila sa binawas na P20 billion na napunta naman sa COVID-19 response ng gobyerno pero ‘yung P70 bilyon at kabuuang P209 bilyon na tinapyas nila sa 2020 national budget e okay lang sa kanila,” said Atienza.

Defensor said it is not true that the P20 billion went to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.

He said that based on the copy of the General Appropriations Act, the budget for vaccines remained at P2.5 billion.

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