Tuesday, March 9, 2021
Home WOLRD USA First Thing: Trump thinks Covid-19 is 'going to sort of just disappear'

First Thing: Trump thinks Covid-19 is ‘going to sort of just disappear’

Good morning. As the US rocketed to another daily case record on Wednesday – an unprecedented 52,000 confirmed new coronavirus infections – Donald Trump repeated his assertion that “at some point” the disease is “going to sort of just disappear”. In an interview with Fox Business, the president also said he was “all for masks”, despite his continuing refusal to be seen wearing or promoting face coverings to prevent the spread of Covid-19.


Trump hopes coronavirus will ‘just disappear’ and says he’s ‘all for masks’ – video

In the sunbelt states currently experiencing the country’s worst outbreaks, infections are soaring among younger Americans, with young people of colour said to be at particular risk. California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, on Wednesday ordered the closure of recently reopened bars and halted indoor operations at restaurants, movie theatres, museums and zoos across most of the state.

Tourists are returning to Europe – but not from the US



Tourists arrive in Crete from Hamburg on Wednesday, on one of the island’s first international flights for four months. Photograph: Harry Nakos/AP

The first tourist flights for four months arrived on the Greek island of Crete on Wednesday, carrying travellers from Germany and the Czech Republic. Greece has reopened all its airports for international flights, while Spain and Portugal also reopened their shared border. Yet while Europe is slowly preparing for a slimmed-down vacation season, US visitors remain banned from the continent because of the country’s rising coronavirus infection rate.

  • The Czech Republic has scrapped a strict face mask rule credited with containing the spread of Covid-19 in the country, as Prague residents celebrated the lifting of restrictions with a vast outdoor dinner party.

  • Amsterdam’s sex workers are back in business in the city’s red light district, but under strict new rules designed to prevent the spread of infection.

  • Oxford University is leading the race for a vaccine, British MPs have been told. The chair of the country’s vaccine taskforce said the Oxford group was the world’s best hope to develop a protection against the virus before winter.

The Russian bounties plot is breaking Trump’s bond with vets

Vladimir Putin casts his vote in the referendum that could let him rule Russia until 2036.



Vladimir Putin casts his vote in the referendum that could let him rule Russia until 2036. Photograph: Alexei Druzhinin/SPUTNIK/AFP/Getty Images

The White House is still struggling to contain the scandal over Russian bounties paid to the Taliban for targeting US troops in Afghanistan. Trump suggested on Wednesday that the allegations were no more than a “hoax by the newspapers and the Democrats”, while his national security adviser claimed the president was never told of the Russian plot, because the CIA official tasked with briefing Trump had decided not to tell him about it.


Donald Trump calls allegations of Russian bounty on US soldiers ‘a hoax’ – video

Trump’s excuses and inaction over the scandal have served to deepen a growing divide between the president and the veterans who helped sweep him to power in 2016. As Adam Gabbatt reports, military figures are now lining up to criticise him.

  • Vladimir Putin has won a controversial referendum that resets the Russian president’s term limits, potentially allowing him to remain in power until 2036.

  • Trump called Theresa May and Angela Merkel “losersand did not treat them with the deference he shows to authoritarian rulers, according to former officials and diplomats who witnessed his phone calls and meetings with foreign leaders.

Congress sanctioned China over its ‘horrific’ Hong Kong law

A woman confronts police during a banned protest in Hong Kong, where almost 400 demonstrators have been arrested.



A woman confronts police during a banned protest in Hong Kong, where almost 400 demonstrators have been arrested. Photograph: Keith Tsuji/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Almost 400 protesters were arrested in Hong Kong on Wednesday, with the implementation of a new law that gives Beijing sweeping security powers over the supposedly semi-autonomous territory. In Washington, the House and Senate approved new sanctions to rebuke China over the legislation, which Nancy Pelosi described as “horrific”.

The UK and Australia have both announced measures that would offer Hong Kong residents safe haven, but China warned the British government it would take “corresponding measures” if Hongkongers fleeing the controversial new law were offered residency in the UK.

  • US customs agents seized 13 tonnes of products made from human hair, believed to have been taken from Uighur Muslims confined to labour camps in China’s Xinjiang province.

In other news …

Pablo Picasso’s previously unseen Femme endormie is expected to fetch up to $11m.



Pablo Picasso’s previously unseen Femme endormie is expected to fetch up to $11m. Photograph: Sotheby’s London
  • A previously unseen portrait by Picasso, of his young lover and muse Marie-Thérèse Walter, is to appear at auction for the first time at Sotheby’s in London next month. The 1931 charcoal sketch has an estimated value of up to £9m ($11m).

  • The Duchess of Sussex felt “unprotected” by the royal family when she was pregnant, according to newly revealed court documents from her lawsuit against Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Daily Mail.

  • Cows are to blame for America’s shrinking lakes and rivers, according to a recent analysis by Nature, which found that cattle-feed crops account for 23% of the country’s water consumption.

Great reads

Street Riders, a Brooklyn-based crew, ride a protest route in New York.



Street Riders, a Brooklyn-based crew, ride a protest route in New York. Photograph: Shawn Pridgen/flag guy

The black-led groups biking against racism

Amid the recent protests over the police killing of George Floyd, several New York cyclists realised their bikes were helping them to evade police kenneling, and to shield fellow protesters. So they formed a crew, Street Riders NYC, and planned a “justice ride”. James Yeh reports.

How to really repay frontline health workers

Many of the medics on the frontline of America’s Covid-19 crisis are also burdened with heavy student debts from medical school. Just applauding them is not enough, write Alissa Quart, Astra Taylor And Brittany M Powell – we should also clear their debts.

How Trump and Facebook let the ‘boogaloo’ movement grow

The anti-government “boogaloo” movement has been growing for months on private and public Facebook groups, where members openly discuss preparations for civil war. Their extremist rhetoric is linked to at least five deaths – yet the White House and Facebook did nothing to stunt the groups’ growth. Lois Beckett reports.

Opinion: can all the ‘likes’ really balance out Facebook hate?

In response to the advertiser boycott over its failure to tackle hate speech, Facebook claims its platform’s moral worth outweighs its ills. As someone who’s been on the receiving end of such hate, Julia Carrie Wong wonders how many “likes” would redress the balance.


When I hear Facebook touting all the good it has supposedly done for the world, I want to know just how it’s making that accounting, because I’m not prepared to say that it’s enough.

Last Thing: MLS players enjoy a $65 quarantine sandwich

Toronto FC defender Omar Gonzalez tweeted a picture of a sandwich with a banana and a small pot of potato salad.



Toronto FC defender Omar Gonzalez tweeted a picture of a sandwich with a banana and a small pot of potato salad. Photograph: Ted S Warren/AP

MLS players are preparing for a tournament by quarantining together in a hotel at Disney World, Florida. But the Magic Kingdom’s catering leaves a little be desired. Two Toronto FC players tweeted pictures of their $65 room service, which touted options such as “house roasted prime New York strip loin”, but which turned out to be a cheese and ham sandwich, with a banana.

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