US briefing: new virus rules, France lockdown and Ohio primary delayed

Tim Walker
Photograph: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Good morning, I’m Tim Walker with today’s essential stories.

US states improvising in absence of federal leadership

More than 4,600 Americans have tested positive for coronavirus, despite limited testing, and 85 people have died. States across the US have varied in their emergency responses over recent weeks, but they hold at least one thing in common, writes Tom McCarthy: “Nobody was acting on guidelines issued by the federal government, because there weren’t any.” As California ordered millions in the Bay Area to “shelter in place” on Monday, Donald Trump sparked fresh controversy by calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus”.

Beyond the US, France has imposed a near-total lockdown on its citizens, with President Emmanuel Macron describing the crisis as a “war against an invisible and elusive enemy.” The UK has introduced stricter social-distancing measures expected to last several months.

A wave of cases in south-east Asia has prompted countries across the region to impose sweeping restrictions. And Israel’s government has approved controversial emergency measures allowing the tracking of mobile phones to track those thought to be infected.

An early bounce in the European markets quickly fizzled on Tuesday morning, with worse economic news expected to follow. The US airline industry, hit hard by the pandemic, has asked for a $50bn bailout. And service workers who rely on tips are watching their livelihoods vanish overnight.

Three states set to hold primaries as 2020 election upended

People leave a polling station after casting early votes in the Ohio primary, which was halted late on Monday. Photograph: Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters

Ohio health officials have declared a health emergency, halting the state’s Tuesday primary vote and overruling a judge’s decision over concerns about the pandemic. On Monday, the governor Mike DeWine sought to delay the primary until 2 June, but his request was rejected by an Ohio county judge until the intervention of the state’s director of health, Amy Acton.

Despite coronavirus fears, Arizona, Florida and Illinois are expected to go ahead with their primary votes on Tuesday, promising another successful night for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

  • Life and death decision. “We should not force people to make a choice between their health and their constitutional rights and their duties as American citizens,” DeWine said.

  • Running mate. Biden’s pledge to name a woman as his running mate sparked widespread speculation. Kamala Harris and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams are said to be much-discussed but Biden’s former rivals Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar are also in contention.

Cheat sheet

  • Hundreds of inmates have escaped from four semi-open prisons in São Paulo, Brazil, after planned Easter prison holidays were cancelled and restrictions on visitors were tightened due to coronavirus.

  • After decades of campaigning by Holocaust charities, Amazon has banned the sale of most editions of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, as well as several other Nazi propaganda books.

  • Kenya’s lawmakers are debating whether to give women the right to safe abortions, in a country where 40% of pregnancies are unplanned and termination remains illegal in most cases.

  • The 14 contestants in Germany’s latest series of Big Brother are living in ignorance of the coronavirus crisis, after being in isolation as part of the reality TV show since 6 February.

Must-reads

Real estate for the apocalypse

Luxury accommodation for doomsday is in high demand, offering customers who can afford it a chance to sit out global pandemics and nuclear wars in comfort. Mark O’Connell travels to remote South Dakota to scope out his apocalypse survival options.

The view from Italy’s coronavirus frontline

As of Monday, 2,158 people had died as a result of Covid-19 in Italy, where the virus is spreading rapidly, in a warning of what is likely to come for other countries. Angela Giuffrida reports from Rome on a situation that seems “like a war” to those in its midst.

What to play while you’re self-isolating

As most of us face weeks stuck at home, blasting aliens or exploring oceans together online could be a great way to stay in touch. The Guardian’s writers select 25 of the best video games to play in quarantine, for beginners and veteran gamers.

An expert guide to social distancing

We asked three experts what the rules of social distancing are, and how to maintain them if you live with someone who’s throwing caution to the wind. “Right now,” says one, “mental health has to take a secondary place”.

Opinion

Trump has made it clear that he sees the pandemic primarily as a threat not to people’s lives, but to the market and to his political future. His response to the crisis is a political abomination, says Adam Gaffney.

Sooner or later, however, Trump will realize that he cannot bullshit his way past biology. Viruses are immune to propaganda: Covid-19 will advance regardless of Trump’s avarice.

Sport

With football shut down across the globe, the former Brazilian world cup star Ronaldinho is still making his mark on the game, playing for a prison team in Paraguay, where he has been incarcerated since 6 March for allegedly using a fake Paraguayan passport.

The International Olympic Committee has ruled out the possibility of staging the 2020 Tokyo Games behind closed doors in July, with a decision still pending on whether the event will be held at all.

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