As doctors are racing against the time to save patients infected with COVID-19, everyday heroes from all walks of life also step up to play supporting roles in battling against the epidemic in Wuhan, the center of the epidemic.
From medical aid, food and goods assistance and psychological support to transport and community services, thousands of volunteers respond quickly and gingerly after the megacity was locked down to curb the spread of the deadly virus.
QUICK RESPONSES FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE
On Feb. 3, the Communist Youth League of Wuhan issued the first public notice online to recruit volunteers, and over 7,000 people had signed up in less than 12 hours after the announcement.
Until now, the organization has selected and trained 19,155 people to serve as deliverymen, drivers, coordinators and community workers in grocery stores, neighborhoods, designated hospitals and makeshift hospitals to receive infected patients.
Six counseling hotlines have been set up to allow 61 professionally trained psychological consultants to help residents 24 hours a day and 74 volunteers of legal practitioners take turns to answer epidemic-related inquiries online.
On Feb. 23, another 10,000 people applied for volunteer posts within 10 hours following the city's new recruitment to ensure efficient deliveries of emergency supplies and daily necessities to residents. Over 24,000 volunteers out of the total 70,000 applicants have been recruited to meet the delivery needs of neighborhoods in the city.
Some of the volunteers have played different roles in their anti-epidemic efforts. Yang Xue, in her 20s, has driven over 800 doctors to work and back home along with her friends. They have also transported over 500 tonnes of goods for communities.
As the pressure on transport surges, donors of goods and medical supplies also hit the road to ensure timely delivery of the resources to destinations in Wuhan.
After over 30 hours of driving, a fleet of six passenger buses sponsored by a grassroots organization had sent 30 tonnes of fresh fruits and 10 tonnes of eggs to two major makeshift hospitals in Wuhan. "The food is a little token of our regard for patients as we stand together with them in fighting the disease," said Zhao Pengfei, one of the drivers.
To facilitate the customs clearance of overseas assistance, over 300 college students, medical workers and professional translators teamed up to translate documents and notices in a dozen foreign languages such as English, Japanese, Korean, Russian, German, French, Italian and Vietnamese. They also actively participate in coordinating overseas donations, as well as facilitating transport services.
Haroon Nomaan, a Pakistan engineer working for Lenovo in Wuhan, also volunteered to help coordinate overseas projects and translate custom clearance documents in English and Urdu in a team of 83. "I
hope that this crisis will be over soon, and as long as I'm needed, I'm more than happy to do this, whatever the time," he said.
Meanwhile, following a nationwide appeal of plasma donation among cured patients, Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, a major designated hospital, has seen a rising number of cured patients to donate their plasma for the treatment of infected patients in critical condition.
SUSTAINABLE, INTEGRATE SERVICES
China has seen a growing number of volunteers over the past decades along with rapid economic and social development. In Wuhan alone, the city has 1.5 million registered volunteers, or 14 percent of its permanent population, official statistics show.
A large number of professional social workers have also acted quickly to help people in need amid the epidemic, with systematic practices of helping people obtain tangible services, undertaking counseling and psychotherapy with individuals and families and supporting communities to provide and improve health services.
Yu Zhihong, a social work professor from Wuhan University, has mobilized a team of professional social workers among her colleagues, students and counterparts and majors of social work across the city. The number of her community-based "Good Companions Response Team" has grown to 200 with a talent pool of up to 500.
"The value of social workers lies in the ability to continuously serve more people in a short time," Yu said.
For now, it is a more efficient operation mode to set up a targeted and sustained service system that links social workers with psychological and medical resources and "the services can be provided to more residents at the community level," she added.
To minimize the risk of cross-infection, the team adopts a methodology of teaming up five workers in a group to coordinate and provide services using social media platforms. A group consists of two social workers based in communities, hospitals and designated zones for isolated patients and three volunteers offering logistics, medical and phycological assistance online.
Yu also turned to the China Association for Social Work Education to appeal to nationwide professionals. More experts and social work supervisors from Heilongjiang, Shanghai and Guangzhou have beefed up the team.
However, Yu said several hospitals declined their offer at the very beginning as doctors are fully occupied looking after patients rather than taking time to learn about their intentions. However, necessary guidance and consulting are in great demand among patients, and relative efforts are needed in the management and coordination of hospitals, Yu said.
The team, thus, found another way to carry out their plans. With the approval of the administration office of hospitals, social workers introduced a QR code to invite patients into a social media group. Workers also drafted a map and completed the guidance of the hospital for newly accepted patients. Special needs brought up by patients are also handled carefully by Yu's team.
The professional training of social workers, oriented to help people in need, ranges from direct providing of services and the comprehensive coordination of social resources to participating in the formation or change of social policy, Yu said.
Yu's team expects to promote a social work pattern that answers the call for social, life and psychological assistance. "As a supplementary effort to support the government who gives priorities to the most significant issues, social work takes care of the needs of more individuals," Yu said.
"Most importantly, we attach great importance to humanistic care," she said.
After imposing a temporary ban on Umrah pilgrims to stop the spread of coronavirus, Saudi Arabia has now suspended all Umrah pilgrimages for its nationals and expatriates.
The Saudi government announced the suspension order on Wednesday as it reported its second case of the new coronavirus, reports Arab News.
Last week, the Kingdom imposed a ban on overseas pilgrims visiting the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
Saudi Interior Ministry said the ban now applies to Saudi nationals and expatriates to “limit the spread of the coronavirus and prevent its access to the Two Holy Mosques, which are witnessing permanent and intense crowds, which makes the issue of securing these crowds of utmost importance”.
Deputy Hajj Minister Abdulfattah Mashat said Saudis and expats may still visit Makkah and Madinah to pray provided they do not go for Umrah.
“Makkah is still open to visitors from across the Kingdom, the decision suspends only Umrah activities,” he told Al Arabiya TV.
Saudi Arabia reported its second coronavirus case on Wednesday, a companion of the first, who crossed the causeway from Bahrain without disclosing that he had visited Iran.
Authorities quarantined 70 people who had been in contact with the patient and 51 of them tested negative for the virus, the Ministry of Health said.
There are now more than 3,150 cases across the Middle East, almost all either in or linked to Iran, which has 2,922 confirmed cases and 92 deaths.
Authorities cancelled Friday prayers in all provincial capitals and banned overseas trips for officials.
Coronavirus, which originated in China’s Wuhan, has infected more than 94,250 people globally and caused 3,214 deaths.
While Super Tuesday left the Democrats with a pair of front-runners whom President Donald Trump believes he can define and defeat, there are still some private worries in the White House.
There is concern that the Democrats' messy nomination contest may end up producing an emboldened version of the very man who once worried Trump so much as a foe that it led to the president's impeachment.
That would be Joe Biden.
Still, there was plenty for Trump to like in Tuesday's 14-state round of voting that transformed the Democratic race into a delegate shootout between an avowed proponent of democratic socialism (Bernie Sanders) and a longtime Washington insider (Biden). It banished from the race former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, whose endless millions had gotten under the president's skin, and it pushed aside Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who could have proved to be a formidable rhetorical challenger against Trump.
That sets up Trump to run for reelection on familiar territory and allows him to revive some of the same lines of attack that proved successful in 2016.
The public reaction from Trump and his campaign on Wednesday was gleeful as Biden's remarkable campaign comeback reset the Democratic nomination fight into a two-candidate contest with Sanders.
Those around the president have long asserted that Sanders, with his unapologetic support for "Medicare for All," free college and other wish list items, is too liberal for most of the nation. They also believe Biden has lost a step and is saddled with a decadeslong Washington record and questions surrounding the conduct of his son Hunter.
"Truly is a 'heads we win, tails they lose' situation," said Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh.
But there are some caveats in the campaign's confidence.
Trump and his team have spent the last year trying to lump the Democratic contenders together as left-wing radicals. Biden's working-class appeal and more pragmatic policy approach aren't a ready fit with that GOP framing. Trump allies have pointed to Biden's embrace of liberal positions on gun control, but he steered clear of the more extreme positions of his rivals on health care.
Watching the results Tuesday night from the White House residence, Trump cheered the collapse of Bloomberg, who sank more than $500 million of his own money into his campaign yet performed woefully the first day his name appeared on the ballot.
The president unleashed a series of tweets the next morning that belittled the Democratic field — including Warren, who was assessing whether to move forward — and he was so eager to talk about the race that he invited reporters to ask him about it during a White House meeting with airline executives.
"No questions about the election?" Trump asked before registering several hot takes that would not be out of place on the morning cable news shows he frequently watches.
Before Bloomberg dropped out Wednesday morning, Trump goaded the billionaire, who has promised to continue his free-spending anti-Trump effort on behalf of the eventual Democratic nominee.
"You can't buy an election," Trump said. "It's a beautiful thing."
Trump took particular delight in Bloomberg's implosion, having long resented the former mayor's significantly greater wealth and ease in moving around Manhattan's elite social circles. He told confidants that Bloomberg's political downfall, beginning with a widely panned debate performance last month, should forever silence those in the media who claimed that he was jealous of Bloomberg or that the "wrong" New York billionaire was sitting in the Oval Office, according to a Republican close to the White House who was not authorized to discuss private conversations and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The president has long publicly pined for Sanders as a general election foe, his campaign making the case that the Vermont senator's liberal views would turn off voters in potential Democratic pickup states like Arizona and Georgia even though that may be offset with some strength in the Rust Belt.
Eager to put his thumb on the scale in the opposing party's primary process, Trump tried to stoke divisions among Democrats by continuing to claim that the party was trying to steal the election from Sanders. The president has attempted to sow doubt about the fairness of the contest with hopes of persuading some of the Vermont senator's aggrieved, hardcore followers to stay home in November.
But Biden remained the main focus for Trump and his advisers.
The former vice president has long been viewed as the candidate who could best revive the winning coalition that twice propelled his former boss, Barack Obama, into office, and the one who could siphon away support from the white working class voters who, particularly in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, propelled Trump to victory.
Trump and his aides long fanned controversy about Biden's younger son, Hunter, and his work for a troubled Ukrainian gas company, Burisma. But it was their efforts to pressure the Ukrainians to investigate Biden that led to the congressional inquiry that resulted in Trump's eventual impeachment in December.
The president's reelection campaign signaled confidence in defeating Biden, who has been prone to gaffes and misstatements and struggled to raise money and, until the last few days, to generate enthusiasm among Democrats. They also made clear that they would reintroduce corruption allegations against his son.
Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, is looking into Hunter Biden's ties with Burisma. And Trump, in a interview Wednesday with Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity, said: "That will be a major issue in the campaign. I will bring that up all the time."
But some in Trump's orbit questioned the bullishness with which the campaign professed to view Biden, believing the former vice president's universal name ID and likability would make it more difficult to brand him as a socialist. Biden has proved resilient — his resurgence was rivaled by few in modern campaign history — and has consolidated moderate support while showcasing his strength among African American voters, a segment of the electorate the president's campaign hopes to win over.
"This looks very much like Biden's race to lose at this point," said Chris Wilson, a GOP consultant. "He's clearly strong not just with African Americans, but also with white Democrats outside of the socialist left. The field on the establishment/progressive side of the ballot has cleared for him to run head-to-head with Bernie in the remaining states."
Biden's comeback also coincided with the unforeseen crisis of the coronavirus, which the Trump campaign recognizes will be a test of the administration's competence. Already, concerns about the spread of the virus have roiled the stock market, which Trump has often used as a measure of his successful handling of the economy.
But despite the growing worry, Trump couldn't help but admire Biden's resurgence. On Wednesday, he called it an "incredible comeback, when you think about it."
Climate change raised the chances of Australia's extreme fire season by at least 30%, according to a study released Wednesday by climate scientists at the World Weather Attribution group.
Scientists from Australia, Europe and North America calculated just how much human-caused global warming elevated the likelihood of Australia's record-setting fire season by comparing high-resolution computer models of the continent facing varying levels of climate change.
The scientists took into account differences in climate conditions in about 1900 compared to current conditions — tabulating both measured and observed changes in temperature, drought and fire intensity.
Last year was both the hottest and driest year on record in Australia since measurements began a century ago.
"There is evidence that Australian fire seasons have lengthened and become more intense — and extreme temperatures have played a role in this," said Sophie Lewis, a climate scientist at the University of New South Wales in Canberra, Australia, and a co-author of the study.
"Climate change is now part of Australia's landscape – extreme heat is clearly influenced by human-caused climate change, which can influence fire conditions," she said.
Australia's 2019-2020 wildfire season burned a record 19 million hectares (47 million acres), displacing thousands of people and killing at least 34. The fires also razed rare habitats and killed more than a billion animals, say researchers.
A decade ago, while scientists often discussed how climate change increased the likelihood of extreme weather patterns, researchers were still reluctant to explicitly connect any specific weather event with climate change.
Today, more precise computer models allow scientists to pinpoint the degree to which an altered climate influences the chances of individual extreme wildfires, floods, droughts and heatwaves.
Technology Review magazine – published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – recently named climate change attribution models as one of the "Breakthrough Technologies" of 2020.
"It's one thing to paint a broad statistical picture of how climate change is loading the dice for extreme weather events. But it's quite another to really dig into the climate data and specific numbers around an individual disaster, like the Australian wildfires," said Kim Cobb, a climate scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, who was not involved in the study.
"Reducing emissions remains the most important way to limit our climate risks," she said.
Elizabeth Warren huddled with her campaign advisers on Wednesday to determine if there was a reason to stay in the Democratic presidential race after a dismal Super Tuesday that saw her finishing no higher than third in any state — including her own.
An aide to the Massachusetts senator said she was speaking to staffers and assessing the path forward. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal campaign moves.
The disappointing results in Massachusetts — and a decidedly underwhelming showing in other Super Tuesday contests — marked a striking collapse for the onetime favorite of progressives who was known for having a plan for nearly everything. Warren had built an impressive campaign infrastructure stretching across much of the country, but it didn't help her much in the 14 states that went to the polls on the biggest day on the Democratic primary calendar.
On top of mediocre showings in the first four contests — she never finished higher than third place there, either — Warren trailed significantly in the delegate count. Tuesday's results could speed her exit from the race.
Warren finished well behind former Vice President Joe Biden, who won the Massachusetts primary, and fellow progressive Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who attracted 10,000-plus people to a rally last weekend on Boston Common — mere miles from Warren's home near Harvard University.
Sanders said Wednesday afternoon that he had spoken to Warren earlier in the day, though it was unclear whether she would endorse him — or anyone else — should she leave the race.
On Super Tuesday, as results were starting to come in, Warren appeared set on remaining in the race. Speaking to supporters in Detroit ahead of next week's Michigan primary, she introduced herself as "the woman who's going to beat Donald Trump." The senator encouraged supporters to tune out the results and vote for the person they believed would be the best president, saying: "Prediction has been a terrible business and the pundits have gotten it wrong over and over."
"You don't get what you don't fight for. I am in this fight," she added.
Warren's campaign had all the early markers of success — robust poll numbers, impressive fundraising and a national organization -- but she was squeezed out by Sanders, who had an immovable base of support among progressives she needed to win over. Ahead of Tuesday's vote, Warren's campaign said it was betting on a contested convention — though with a quickly consolidating field, that was no sure bet, and she appeared set to enter that convention trailing at least two candidates significantly in the delegate count.
Trump, who follows the Democratic nomination fight closely and enjoys stoking divisions within the party, sought to blame Warren for Sanders' lackluster Super Tuesday showing.
"Wow! If Elizabeth Warren wasn't in the race, Bernie Sanders would have EASILY won Massachusetts, Minnesota and Texas, not to mention various other states," he tweeted. He added: "She may very well go down as the all time great SPOILER!
He weighed in on the Democratic field again during a meeting at the White House later Wednesday, calling Warren "selfish" for staying in the race.
Warren's lagging performance threatened to force out from the race its last top female contender — only Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard remains, and she has earned just one delegate, from her native American Samoa.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar dropped out Monday, joining Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, to endorse Biden's surging candidacy. It marked an unexpected twist in a party that had used the votes and energy of women to retake control of the House, primarily with female candidates, just two years ago.
Warren's campaign began with enormous promise that she could carry that momentum into the presidential race. Last summer, she drew tens of thousands of supporters to Manhattan's Washington Square Park, a scene that was repeated in places like Washington state and Minnesota.
She appeared to hit her stride as she hammered the idea that more moderate Democratic candidates, including Biden, weren't ambitious enough to roll back Trump's policies and were too reliant on political consultants and fickle polling.
But Warren has been unable to consolidate the support of the Democratic Party's most liberal wing against the race's other top progressive, Sanders. Both support universal, government-sponsored health care, tuition-free public college and aggressive climate change fighting measures while forgoing big fundraisers in favor of small donations fueled by the internet.