Trump’s national security adviser tests positive



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Trump’s national security adviser tests positive


President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien has tested positive for COVID-19, according to people familiar with his situation.

O’Brien has been out of the office since late last week, one of the people said.

O’Brien came down with the coronavirus after a family event and has been isolating at home while still running the National Security Council, doing most of his work by phone, according to one of the people.

All the people asked not to be named to discuss information that is not yet public.

Robert O’Brien taking off a face mask during a meeting in late June. AP

The White House put out a statement saying O’Brien had “mild” symptoms.

“He has mild symptoms and has been self-isolating and working from a secure location off site. There is no risk of exposure to the President or the Vice President. The work of the National Security Council continues uninterrupted,” according to the statement.

O’Brien is the closest official to Trump to develop the novel coronavirus, as the pandemic continues to surge with infections and deaths on the rise in many US states.

O’Brien and senior staff on the NSC are tested daily for COVID-19. His office is down the hall from the Oval Office and from Vice President Mike Pence’s office.

There have been 16.2 million cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began earlier this year, with deaths passing 648,000, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. In the US, there have been more than 4.2 million cases and 146,935 deaths, according to the data.

Germany considers mandatory testing for holidaymakers


Germany came under pressure to introduce mandatory coronavirus testing for holidaymakers returning from high-risk countries to prevent driving up infections in Europe’s largest economy.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff said he was concerned about the rising number of cases, but asked for patience while officials clarified whether forcing someone was compatible with respecting people’s basic rights.

“I think that we’ll find a solution relatively quickly,” Helge Braun told reporters, adding that it was necessary to act now to help Germany get through the coronavirus crisis in good shape in autumn and winter.

Tourists enjoy the beach in Cadiz, Spain, amid a spike in coronavirus cases. AP

On Friday, Germany agreed that authorities would offer returning holidaymakers from countries designated as high risk – which currently include the United States, Brazil and Turkey – free tests on a voluntary basis.

But Bavarian state premier Markus Soeder urged the government to make these tests mandatory, saying people returning from holiday could cause “lots of mini-Ischgls” – a reference to the Austrian ski resort that was the source of some of Germany’s first coronavirus cases.

“We’re preparing everything so that when the federal government gives us the legal basis to we can press the start button immediately,” Soeder told a news conference.

Germany has recorded more than 205,000 cases and more than 9000 deaths, with the number of new daily cases jumping to a two-month high on Friday.

Soeder said there should be a review of high-risk countries to consider whether to add certain regions within European countries.

Britain has slapped a 14-day quarantine on travellers from Spain after a surge of cases in Catalonia and Murcia. Norway has imposed a 10-day quarantine.

US Republicans prepare for showdown over virus relief payments

US Senate Republicans are preparing to release a $US1 trillion coronavirus spending plan, setting up tough negotiations with Democrats just days before the expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits for millions of workers.

The late afternoon rollout will come after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows spent the weekend on Capitol Hill negotiating final language with key Senate aides. It will be the second try for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had planned to unveil the bill last Thursday. That was cancelled at the last minute amid disputes over language on unemployment insurance and other issues.

The legislation is expected to include a new round of $US1200 checks to individual Americans, an extension of unemployment benefits at a reduced level, billions of dollars for schools with some of the money aimed at helping classrooms reopen, and a five-year liability shield for businesses, health care providers and others.

The legislation also includes at least $US100 billion more for the small-business Paycheck Protection Program, and is expected to extend a limited moratorium on evictions. It does not contain any new money for state and local governments – a key Democratic demand – but instead gives state and local leaders additional flexibility in spending the $US150 billion approved in the Cares Act in March.

Democrats, who have rallied around a $US3 trillion House bill passed in May, attacked Republicans Monday over the continued delays.

“We have unemployment running out, we have renter protection running out, we have state and local governments going into new month and won’t have the money and will lay off thousands and thousands of people,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, said on MSNBC. “We’re at all these cliffs and we still at this very moment don’t have a plan from the Republicans. We want to sit down and negotiate. But you can’t negotiate with a ghost.”

Google to keep employees home until at least 2021


Google will keep its employees home until at least next July, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai made the decision himself last week after debate among an internal group of top executives that he chairs, according to the report.

Google did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Google had earlier said it would begin reopening more offices globally as early as June this year, but most Google employees would likely work from home until the end of this year.

Countries can’t ban travel indefinitely: WHO


Bans on international travel cannot stay in place indefinitely, and countries are going to have to do more to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus within their borders, the World Health Organisation said.

A surge of infections has prompted countries to reimpose some travel restrictions in recent days, with Britain throwing the reopening of Europe’s tourism industry into disarray by ordering a quarantine on travellers returning from Spain.

Only with strict adherence to health measures, from wearing masks to avoiding crowds, would the world manage to beat the COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said at a virtual news briefing.

“Where these measures are followed, cases go down. Where they are not, cases go up,” he said, praising Canada, China, Germany and South Korea for controlling outbreaks.

People kick back at a terrace bar in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.  AP

WHO emergencies programme head Mike Ryan said it was impossible for countries to keep borders shut for the foreseeable future.

“…It is going to be almost impossible for individual countries to keep their borders shut for the foreseeable future. Economies have to open up, people have to work, trade has to resume,” he said.

“What is clear is pressure on the virus pushes the numbers down. Release that pressure and cases creep back up.”

Ryan praised Japan and Australia for having had “good success in containing the disease” but said that it was to be expected that the virus would resurge in areas with active transmission if restrictions are lifted and mobility increased.

Welcome to the blog

Welcome to the blog for Tuesday 28 July. Here’s what you might have missed overnight.

Australia has 14,745 known cases and 161 reported deaths.

  • Victoria on Monday reported the country’s highest daily increase in coronavirus infections, prompting the authorities to warn a six-week lockdown may last longer if people continue to go to work while feeling unwell.

  • NSW should mandate face masks in public to avoid going down the same route as Victoria, a leading epidemiologist says.

  • The world’s biggest COVID-19 vaccine study got underway Monday with the first of 30,000 planned volunteers

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