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Coronavirus Live Updates : NPR

A poultry vendor wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus prepares birds at a wet market in downtown Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in April.

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A poultry vendor wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus prepares birds at a wet market in downtown Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in April.

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A new United Nations report warns that more diseases that pass from animals to humans, such as COVID-19, are likely to emerge as habitats are ravaged by wildlife exploitation, unsustainable farming practices and climate change.

These pathogens, known as zoonotic diseases, also include Ebola, MERS, HIV/AIDS and West Nile virus. They have increasingly emerged due to stresses humans have placed on animal habitats, according to the U.N. Environment Program report Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission, released on Monday.

“We have intensified agriculture, expanded infrastructure and extracted resources at the expense of our wild spaces,” UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said. “The science is clear that if we keep exploiting wildlife and destroying our ecosystems, then we can expect to see a steady stream of these diseases jumping from animals to humans in the years ahead.”

Andersen said that investing in research of zoonotic diseases would allow the world to get “ahead of the game … preventing the type of global shutdown we’ve seen.”

The new report recommends that governments adopt a coordinated “One Health” approach pulling together public health, veterinary and environmental experts to combat these outbreaks of zoonotic diseases.

“People look back to the influenza pandemic of 1918–1919 and think that such disease outbreaks only happen once in a century,” said Maarten Kappelle, the head of scientific assessments at UNEP. “But that’s no longer true. If we don’t restore the balance between the natural world and the human one, these outbreaks will become increasingly prevalent.”

Global demand for animal meat has increased 260% in the last half century, exacerbating the problem, Andersen said.

Some animals, such as rodents, bats, carnivores and non-human primates, are most likely to harbor zoonotic diseases, with livestock acting as a bridge for transmission between the animal hosts and humans, according to the report.

Meanwhile, in some of the world’s poorest regions, endemic zoonotic diseases associated with livestock cause more than 2 million human deaths a year, the report says. However, Africa, which has successfully responded to a number of zoonotic epidemics, such as Ebola, could be a place to turn for solutions to controlling outbreaks of human-to-animal diseases in the future, it says.

“To prevent future outbreaks, countries need to conserve wild habitats, promote sustainable agriculture, strengthen food safety standards, monitor and regulate food markets, invest in technology to identify risks, and curb the illegal trade in wildlife,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said.

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Australia Closes Interstate Border Because Of Coronavirus Outbreak : NPR

New South Wales health officials interview passengers as they arrive from a Qantas flight that flew from Melbourne at Sydney Airport in July.

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New South Wales health officials interview passengers as they arrive from a Qantas flight that flew from Melbourne at Sydney Airport in July.

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The border between Australian states Victoria and New South Wales will close because of a spike in coronavirus cases, officials announced on Monday.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the closure is for an undetermined period.

Victoria, whose capital city is Melbourne, has logged 127 confirmed cases in the last 24 hours, which accounts for more than 90% of Australia’s infections during that period, according to national data.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that the border would first shut down to residents of Melbourne, where the outbreak has been concentrated, and then will extend to all residents of Victoria on Wednesday. Police and health officials will monitor 55 ground crossings — including highways, bridges and waterways — as well as airports and rail stations according to a report from ABC Australia.

“We wouldn’t have taken this step unless we absolutely had to,” Berejiklian said. “Please know this is not a decision we take lightly, but during the pandemic I have always said New South Wales will have a no-regrets policy.”

Several public housing projects have been put on lockdown because of the outbreaks around Melbourne. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that residents of nine public housing towers in the suburbs have been put on a lockdown after a spike in coronavirus cases.

Andrews promised to protect residents from financial hardship.

The decision to shut the border marks the first time since the 1919 Spanish Flu outbreak that officials have blocked movement between the two states. Victoria’s other border, with the state of South Australia, is already closed.

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Coronavirus Live Updates : NPR

Visitors wearing face masks wait to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum on Monday. The most visited museum in the world reopened to the public after closing in March.

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Visitors wearing face masks wait to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum on Monday. The most visited museum in the world reopened to the public after closing in March.

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France’s Louvre Museum reopened on Monday after closing in March due to the coronavirus. But things are far from business as usual.

The world’s most visited museum has implemented new measures, including a mask requirement and an online-only reservation system to protect art-lovers from the virus.

One unintended consequence of these restrictions has been an experience devoid of the usual crowds of tourists, which normally reach up to 50,000 people a day.

Freddie Keen, a traveler visiting from London with some friends, told NPR it was easy to take his time seeing some of the Louvre’s top attractions.

“It was definitely a much more comfortable experience seeing the Mona Lisa without having any peer pressure from hundreds of people staring at you and waiting for you to move on,” Keen said.

Floor markers in the Salle des Etats, where the Mona Lisa is held, have been put in place to ensure guests adhere to a physical distance of at least 3 feet. Visitors must also follow a one-way path through the building. A third of the museum is still closed to the public.

The Louvre said it expected 7,000 people on the first day of reopening. International tourists made up around 70% of the 9.6 million visitors in 2019.

Museum Director Jean-Luc Martinez said he was hoping to attract more French tourists this summer because of the current travel restrictions.

“We are going to be at best 20-30% down on last summer,” Martinez told AFP, adding the museum expects between 4,000 and 10,000 visitors a day.

During the four-month shutdown, the iconic art destination lost an equivalent of $45 million in ticket sales this year, the museum director was quoted as saying.

France’s tourism industry could soon get a much-needed boost. Last week, the European Union lifted travel restrictions on visitors from more than a dozen countries considered low risk for spreading the coronavirus.

Because of the rising level of virus infections among Americans, the United States was not included on the list. The EU says it would continue to reexamine the situation every two weeks.

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Coronavirus Live Updates : NPR

London’s Lyceum Theatre is wrapped in pink tape bearing the words “Missing Live Theatre,” part of a campaign by a group of British stage designers.

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London’s Lyceum Theatre is wrapped in pink tape bearing the words “Missing Live Theatre,” part of a campaign by a group of British stage designers.

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The British government will spend nearly $2 billion to help rescue the nation’s theater, museum and arts sectors. Sunday’s announcement came as more than 1,000 theaters remain shuttered across the country because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The rescue package will include grants and loans that theaters, museums, live music organizations and others can use to pay salaries and maintenance costs as they try to survive the COVID-19 recession.

“We were just extremely thankful,” said Kate Varah, executive director of the Old Vic, the famed London theater. “The government is rightly recognizing that investment in thriving sectors at a point of crisis is a good investment, and what we don’t want to do is come out of lockdown to have theaters boarded up, restaurants boarded up [and] shops unvisited wastelands.”

Oliver Dowden, Britain’s culture secretary, said the government would focus money on “crown jewels” such as the Royal Albert Hall, and emphasized that the rescue package was not a panacea for the entire culture and arts sector.

“Sadly, not everyone is going to be able to survive and not every job is going to be protected,” Dowden told the BBC.

The announcement came a day after England permitted pubs, restaurants, museums and movie theaters to reopen. Indoor live theater is not resuming for both social distancing and financial reasons. Many Victorian-era theaters in London’s West End have small seats crammed next to each other.

Theaters such as the Old Vic are public charities that in the past have not relied on government subsidies but on ticket sales and public support. Varah said if the Old Vic were to hold socially distanced performances, it could only operate at 30% capacity, while it needs to sell 70% of its seats to break even.

Netflix, meanwhile, is donating $625,000 to a fund set up by film and theater director Sam Mendes to provide relief to freelance theater workers who haven’t been able to tap government support.

Mendes has argued that companies such as Netflix, which have thrived in the lockdown entertainment economy, should help support the British theater ecosystem that has nurtured talent benefiting the American entertainment industry. For instance, Fleabag, Phoebe Waller-Bridges’ Emmy-winning series and an Amazon hit, began as a one-woman show at London’s Soho Theatre.

The $2 billion rescue package adds to the government’s enormous spending during the recession, which includes $17 billion a month to support workers’ salaries. Many expect the bill for all this will ultimately fall to British taxpayers.

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Prominent Critic Of China’s Leadership Detained In Beijing : NPR

Students walk past the central main building on campus at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. Police Monday detained a prominent legal scholar at the university who has been critical of the Communist Party and President Xi Jinping.

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Students walk past the central main building on campus at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. Police Monday detained a prominent legal scholar at the university who has been critical of the Communist Party and President Xi Jinping.

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A pre-eminent legal scholar and vocal critic of Chinese leader Xi Jinping was taken from his home early Monday by police, according to close friends, the latest public intellectual to be purged in China as the Communist Party increases its control over civil society.

Xu Zhangrun, 57, is a professor of constitutional law and jurisprudence at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University. But his outspoken criticism of China’s ruling Communist Party, his country’s growing nationalism and pointed disdain for Chinese leader Xi Jinping had made him a prominent political target as the country embraces a hardline approach to quashing public dissent.

On Monday morning, nearly two dozen police officers surrounded his home in northern Beijing and took him away, say close friends who were able to speak to Xu’s domestic cleaner, who was present during Xu’s detention. Police also seized documents from his home as well as his computer.

Xu’s whereabouts are currently unknown.

“He is one of China’s most outspoken public intellectuals who so specifically names and criticizes China’s leaders, the ruling party and their defeats,” said Geng Xiaonan, a publisher and a friend of Xu. “His detention was a matter of when. He had prepared himself mentally.”

Since Chinese leader Xi Jinping took control of China’s Communist Party in 2012, China has rapidly strengthened ideological controls over the country’s universities and schools, jailed human rights lawyers and eviscerated other civil society platforms that once enjoyed a measure of free expression.

In the last weeks leading up to his detention, Xu had been preparing to publicize his latest book, Six Chapters from the 2018 Year of the Dog, a collection of 10 essays on Chinese politics and modernity.

Over the last three years, Xu, a prolific writer, has penned a series of scathing commentaries characterized as much by their candor as for their literary elegance.

“The last seven decades [of the People’s Republic] have taught the people repeated lessons about the hazards of totalitarian government,” Xu wrote of Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic in China in an essay published this February. “They stood by blithely as the crucial window of opportunity that was available to deal with the outbreak snapped shut in their faces.”

Xu’s broadsides were quickly met with political retribution. Tsinghua University stripped him of his teaching responsibilities, denied him access to his office and forbade him from taking on graduate students last year. Publishers were told not to accept his work and his social media accounts were deleted.

In September 2018, Xu was suddenly taken by public security officials to a rural Beijing facility for several days of questioning after returning from Japan. Friends said he had been under another period of house arrest for the last few weeks as China celebrated July 1, the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party and the date Beijing chose to impose a sweeping national security law over Hong Kong this year.

“It is necessary to call for an end to the ever-increasing censorship and to give freedom of expression back to the intelligentsia,” Xu wrote in a widely circulated essay published in July 2018. “Whenever there’s been an outbreak of anything approaching normalcy, it has been crushed.”

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Mexico’s President Weathers A Torrent Of Criticism Over Meeting With Trump : NPR

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, seen here last month in Mexico City, visits President Trump at the White House this week.

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Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, seen here last month in Mexico City, visits President Trump at the White House this week.

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Near downtown Mexico City, Cristian Corte sells tacos and gorditas at a makeshift stand outside a metro stop. He pulls down his thin paper mask anxious to vent his anger about the Mexican president’s upcoming trip to Washington.

“I want him to tell Trump to stop stepping all over us and to treat everyone as equals,” says Corte.

On Friday, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador appeared to be talking to Mexicans like Corte, skeptical of his visit on Wednesday and Thursday to the White House.

“We are going … with our heads high, as representatives of this great people of this great country,” said Lopez Obrador.

His critics don’t see it that way. Former diplomats, columnists and political pundits have taken to social media and the airwaves daily to decry the visit. Many say Lopez Obrador is making a huge mistake by going, that he is once again giving in to Trump’s whims and that he’s helping the U.S. president politically during a tough reelection campaign.

“It is a very risky move,’ said Denise Dresser, a professor and political commentator in Mexico City. “Forever the Mexican president will be captured in a photograph standing next to someone who Mexicans view as xenophobic, as racist, as a leader who has humiliated Mexicans … By standing next to him, Lopez Obrador validates those positions,” she said.

Others say Lopez Obrador is using the trip as a distraction from domestic troubles, especially the rising rate of infections from the coronavirus. Last week, Mexico surpassed Spain in the number of COVID-19 deaths.

Like Trump, Lopez Obrador does not wear a mask in public and has opted for opening the economy over onerous lockdown measures. Lopez Obrador has also said he has no need to get tested for the virus, even though several officials near him, including his treasury secretary, have tested positive.

Adding to Lopez Obrador’s risk, he will be flying on a commercial airline to Washington, D.C. He refuses to use the presidential plane, calling it too extravagant for a country as poor as Mexico. Without a direct flight from Mexico City to D.C., Lopez Obrador will have to make a stop in a major U.S. city and arrive the night before his meeting with Trump. And he’ll have to get tested in the U.S. too.

White House spokesman Judd Deere says everyone in the Mexican traveling delegation will be tested for COVID-19.

Despite all the health and political risks, Roberto Valesco, head of North American relations in Mexico’s Foreign Ministry, says the trip is a vital trade and commercial mission. Lopez Obrador wants to celebrate the start of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, that went into effect last week, said Valesco.

“We do not get to pick and choose which governments we work with and which we don’t, when there are citizens of ours and commercial interests and such important bilateral affairs to attend as is the case with the U.S.,” he added.

For many Mexicans though the visit isn’t such bad timing. Saul Hernandez, a construction worker on the site of a new apartment high rise near downtown Mexico City, says maybe the presidents’ meeting can help the bad economy.

“I hope they do something good and get investment to come here because jobs are hard to come by these days in Mexico,” he said. Mexico has lost more than a million formal jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic and is slipping further into recession.

A recent poll showed that a majority of Mexicans are in favor of Lopez Obrador meeting with Trump, even though the Mexican president’s own popularity is slipping.

Carlos Bravo Regidor, a professor at the Mexico City University CIDE says Lopez Obrador isn’t going to lose too much support over the Trump visit.

“For Mexican standards Lopez Obrador is still quite a positive president, his base sticks with him. It’s chipping away but it is chipping away slowly,” he said.

Bravo, who opposes Lopez Obrador’s visit, is a bit conciliatory considering, he says, how tough it is to be president of Mexico with Donald Trump in the White House.

“It’s not like the President of Mexico can get in a fight with Trump. … One way or the other we have to reckon with the fact that we have such an anti-Mexican president in the White House and find a way to work with him,” he said.