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Coronavirus live news: Nearly 70 dead at Massachusetts veterans’ home as US cases pass 1 million | World news

1.14am EDT 01:14 China bristles at call by Australia to investigate Covid-19 origin The Guardian’s Paul Karp and Helen Davidson report: The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has defied China and defended the “entirely reasonable and sensible” call for an investigation into the origins of Covid-19, as the international political fallout over the pandemic deepened.




Kim Jong-un could be sheltering from Covid-19 pandemic, say US and Seoul

Kim Jong-un is not ill and could be sheltering from the coronavirus pandemic, according to South Korean and US officials, in the latest possible explanation for the North Korean leader’s recent absence from public life.

North Korea insists it has yet to identify a single case of Covid-19, despite sharing a border with China, where the outbreak is believed to have started.

Despite recent reports claiming that Kim had missed a key anniversary event after undergoing heart surgery, the South Korean unification minister, Kim Yeon-chul, said it was reasonable to assume that he had decided not to attend as a precaution.

Kim was absent from a 15 April ceremony to mark the anniversary of the birth of his grandfather – and North Korea’s founder – Kim Il-sung.

“We have intelligence capacity that allows us to say confidently that there are no unusual signs [in North Korea],” Kim Yeon-chul told a parliamentary hearing.

New Zealand looks on Australia’s loose lockdown with envy – and horror

Looking across the Tasman at their nearest neighbour’s Covid-19 elimination measures during their own strict lockdown of the past month, New Zealanders were torn: some complained that Australians were allowed to buy takeaway coffees and get haircuts under some more permissive lockdown measures. Others shuddered at pictures on social media of Sydney beachfronts thronged with people, saying the images made them “stressed” and “anxious”.

Either way, the topic of Australia’s more relaxed lockdown – and whether it would prove an economic saviour or a breeding ground for the virus – has never been far from the lips of opposition politicians, commentators, or New Zealanders stuck at home.

Both countries have been lauded internationally for their efforts to squash the coronarvirus curve, with a similar number of cases per capita – Australia’s is very slightly lower, with higher hospitalisation rates. New Zealand’s death toll from the virus is 19 compared with Australia’s 88, but it has a fifth of its neighbour’s population of 25m.

Coronavirus could cause ‘unprecedented’ backlog of court cases in the UK

The coronavirus outbreak could lead to court case delays of up to six months and record prisoner numbers once the lockdown has been lifted, according to a leading Whitehall thinktank.

Pressure on the criminal justice system from the pandemic combined with an anticipated rise in suspects facing charges could cause an “unprecedented” backlog of court proceedings in England and Wales, the Institute for Government (IfG) said.

Working alongside the Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa), researchers said waiting times to hear cases could increase by more than 70% after a six-month lockdown, with many defendants and victims forced to wait more than half a year for crown court trials.

This could result in the highest average waiting time ever recorded, the IfG said.

A recap of recent news from Australia:

A national mental health program will be rolled out to ensure any gaps in access are closed. Some 800,000 people have had their claims for unemployment benefits processed.

So far 2.8 million people have downloaded the Australian government’s Covid-19 tracing app.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has linked the app’s take-up to restrictions being relaxed.

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern* received a phone call from the Queen. Scott Morrison has heard from Prince Charles.

*favoured child

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, 29 April 2020.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, 29 April 2020. Photograph: Lukas Coch/EPA



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Susan E. Lopez

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