Here’s the full story on Robert O’Brien, Donald Trump’s national security adviser, accusing China of a cover-up that will “go down in history along with Chernobyl”, and ramping up efforts to deflect attention from a Covid-19 death toll in the US fast closing on 100,000.
White House official likens China’s handling of coronavirus to Chernobyl cover-up
A top White House official on Sunday likened China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak to the Soviet Union’s cover-up of the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986.
National security adviser Robert O’Brien said Beijing knew what was happening with the virus, which originated in Wuhan, from November but lied to the World Health Organization and prevented outside experts from accessing information.
“They unleashed a virus on the world that’s destroyed trillions of dollars in American economic wealth that we’re having to spend to keep our economy alive, to keep Americans afloat during this virus,” O’Brien said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“The cover-up that they did of the virus is going to go down in history, along with Chernobyl. We’ll see an HBO special about it ten or 15 years from now,” he added, referring to a television miniseries.
The disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, released radioactive nuclear material that killed dozens of people within weeks and forced tens of thousands to flee. Moscow delayed revealing the extent of what is regarded as the worst nuclear accident in history.
“This is a real problem and it cost many, many thousands of lives in America and around the world because the real information was not allowed to get out,” O’Brien said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “It was a cover-up. And we’ll get to the bottom of it eventually.”
More on the US travel ban from Brazil:
The White House on Sunday broadened its travel ban against countries hard-hit by the coronavirus by denying admission to foreigners who have been in Brazil during the two-week period before they hoped to enter the US.
President Donald Trump had already banned travel from the United Kingdom, Europe and China. He said last week that he was considering similar restrictions for Brazil.
The ban on travel from Brazil takes effect late Thursday. As with the other bans, it does not apply to legal permanent residents. A spouse, parent or child of a US citizen or legal permanent resident also would be allowed to enter the country.
US bars travellers who have been in Brazil in last two weeks
The White House has announced it is prohibiting foreigners from traveling to the US if they had been in Brazil in the last two weeks, two days after the South American nation became the world No. 2 hot spot for coronavirus cases.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the new restrictions would help ensure foreign nationals do not bring additional infections to the US, but would not apply to the flow of commerce between the new countries.
Brazil became the No. 2 hot spot for cases on Friday, second only to the US. Brazil has recorded over 347,000 infections, while the US has over 1.6 million.
The decision follows comments by the national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, to CBS.“We hope that’ll be temporary, but because of the situation in Brazil, we’re going to take every step necessary to protect the American people,” O’Brien said.
Hello and welcome to today’s live global coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.
I’ll be bringing you the very latest news for the next few hours – as always, it would be great to hear from you via Twitter @helenrsullivan or email: helen.sullivan[at]theguardian.com. Tips, questions, feedback or fun are welcome.
British PM Boris Johnson has doubled down on his defence of chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, who breached lockdown rules to drive his wife, who who was suffering coronavirus symptoms, and son 425km (264 miles) to his parents’ farm in Durham.
Cummings is facing a possible police investigation after retired chemistry teacher Robin Lees made a complaint to the police over the breach.
Meanwhile in the US, the Trump administration has barred travel from Brazil, which now has the second-highest number of confirmed cases worldwide. The White House announced it is prohibiting foreigners from traveling to the US if they had been in Brazil in the last two weeks.
Here are the main developments from the last few hours:
- Global toll passes 340,000 The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at 5,344,539, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. There have been 342,695 deaths officially linked to coronavirus around the world.
- Dominic Cummings reported to police over lockdown breach. Boris Johnson’s chief advisor is facing a possible police investigation under health laws over a claim that he breached self-isolation rules in north-east England, after a weekend of mounting pressure on the prime minister to sack his chief adviser. Boris Johnson described Cummings as acting “responsibly, legally and with integrity”.
- US bars travellers who have been in Brazil in last two weeks. The White House has announced it is prohibiting foreigners from traveling to the US if they had been in Brazil in the last two weeks, two days after the South American nation became the world’s second-worst affected country in terms of coronavirus cases.
- France has lowest daily rise in new coronavirus cases and deaths since lockdown. French authorities reported the smallest daily rise in new coronavirus cases and deaths on Sunday since before a lockdown began on 17 March, raising hopes that the worst of the epidemic is over in France.
- The French government has discouraged citizens from travelling abroad this summer, recommending they holiday in France, the environment minister Elisabeth Borne has said. This follows Emmanuel Macron saying it was unlikely that French people would be able to undertake major foreign trips this summer.
- South Africa announces further easing of lockdown. South Africa will further relax coronavirus lockdown restrictions from 1 June, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced, allowing large areas of the economy to fully reopen. “Cabinet has determined that the alert level for the whole country should be lowered from level four to level three,” he said in an address broadcast on television, describing the move as a significant shift in approach to the pandemic.
- South Africa’s AngloGold Ashanti has suspended operations at its Mponeng mine after at least 164 employees tested positive for coronavirus. The mining company said it had tested 650 workers at the gold mining site in Merafong, Gauteng province, after a first case was detected last week. Contact tracing and sanitisation processes are under way.
- India resumes domestic flights despite record spike in new cases. Domestic flights will resume across India on Monday, the federal civil aviation minister has said, despite a 24-hour record increase in new cases on Sunday. The announcement follows a day of “hard negotiations”, the minister said, after some states sought to limit the number of flights.
- The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Canada has risen to 84,081 from 82,892. There have been 103 more deaths, bringing the country’s toll up to 6,380.
- German authorities are trying to trace the people who attended a church service in Frankfurt after 107 tested positive for the coronavirus. The service took place at a Baptist church on 10 May, and it is not clear whether all the 107 attended the service, or whether the figure includes those who were infected by those who did.
- China’s top diplomat Wang Yi has said the US should stop wasting time in its fight against the coronavirus and work with China to combat it, instead of smearing the country. State councillor Wang’s comments came as he expressed his sympathy to the US for the pandemic, where the death toll is approaching 100,000.
- Thousands of pro-democracy protesters assembled in Hong Kong against a controversial security law proposed by China, defying a coronavirus measure banning gatherings of more than eight people. The planned legislation is expected to ban treason, subversion and sedition, and the clashes between police and demonstrators were the most intense seen in months.
- Italy has recorded 50 new deaths – but worst-hit Lombardy’s figures are missing due to late reporting. The number of new infections rose by 531, down from 669 on Saturday. There have been 32, 785 deaths and 140,479 people have recovered.