Balbir Singh: India mourns loss of hockey legend and independence hero - BBC News
Balbir Singh, who has died aged 95, helped seal hockey gold for newly independent India in 1948.
Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption Balbir Singh pictured (l) in London in 1948 with Indian High Commissioner Krishna Menon and in Melbourne in 1956, leading the team to another gold Indian sport is mourning the loss of one of its greatest heroes - hockey player Balbir Singh - who helped the newly independent country win its ever gold medal at the 1948 London Olympics. Singh died at the age of 95 in the northern city of Chandigarh after a prolonged pulmonary illness, his family said. In an illustrious career, Singh won two more Olympic gold medals. Even after retirement he coached the Indian team that won the World Cup in 1975. But it was his exploits at one of the more unusual Olympics that he first made his mark. The 1948 Olympics were held in a London still emerging from the chaos of World War Two and were known as the Austerity Games. Food was still subject to rationing and members of the British team supplemented their meagre diets with whale meat. Athletes, who were housed in RAF camps and school halls, were told to bring their own towels and medals were handed over without ribbons to save money. The Indian men's hockey team met hosts Great Britain in the final and beat them 4-0 with centre-forward Singh - then aged 23 - scoring twice in the first half. In a 2014 interview, Singh recalled the charged atmosphere in a packed Wembley Stadium and seeing Queen Elizabeth - mother of Britain's current monarch - who had been the last Empress of India until independence a year before. Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionWatch: Archive report about the opening of the 1948 Games He said British supporters shouted "well played Balbir" after the Indians clinched gold. "It's impossible to explain the feeling of joy and happiness," he said. "You have to experience it. I was so happy. I was on top of the world. The memory of my first Olympic Games in 1948 is still fresh in my mind." In another interview he told The Times of India how it had felt to see the Tiranga - the tricolour flag of the newly independent India - being raised in the medal ceremony. "The Tiranga rose up slowly. With our national anthem being played, my freedom-fighter father's words 'Our Flag, Our Country' came flooding back. I finally understood what he meant. I felt I was rising off the ground alongside the fluttering Tiranga," he said. Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionThe Hockey India League was created in 2013 The victorious Indian team received a rapturous welcome on its return home. In his autobiography, The Golden Hat-Trick - My Hockey Days, Singh recounted how huge crowds met them in Mumbai (then Bombay) where many of the players were from. "We were swept off our feet and it was here that I realised what the victory meant to our nation, starved as it was of world class accomplishments. Hockey was the only sport that gave the country a ray of golden hope, something to cheer for and celebrate." The Indian team successfully defended its title in the following two Games in Helsinki and Melbourne. In the 1952 final, Singh scored five goals in India's 6-1 victory over the Netherlands - a record that still stands. At the 1956 Games he captained his team when they scored 38 goals in five matches and conceded none. They took gold in a close 1-0 victory over Pakistan. Singh added silver medals to his collection at the Asian Games of 1958 and 1962, before beginning a successful career as a coach. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among those who paid tribute. Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption Balbir Singh pictured in 2014 in Chandigarh "He brought home lots of pride and laurels," Mr Modi tweeted. "He also made a mark as a great mentor. Pained by his demise." Hockey India president Mohammed Mushtaque Ahmad said they had not only lost their greatest hockey legend "but we have also lost our guiding light". "His achievements in the post-independent era have been well-documented," he said. "Hockey has lost its brightest star and everyone at Hockey India is pained by this news."
Amphan: Indian city of Kolkata devastated by cyclone - BBC News
Many of the city's 14 million people are without electricity and communications have been disrupted.
Image copyrightReutersImage caption The Kolkata airport has been flooded after the storm The eastern Indian city of Kolkata has been devastated by a powerful cyclone. Cyclone Amphan made landfall in eastern India and Bangladesh on Wednesday, killing at least 15 people as it lashed coastal areas with ferocious wind and rain. Many of Kolkata's 14 million people are without electricity and communications have been disrupted. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said the devastation was "a bigger disaster than Covid-19". Kolkata is the capital of West Bengal state which has seen 3,103 confirmed cases of the infection. "Area after area has been ruined. I have experienced a war-like situation today," Ms Banerjee was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency. She said the storm had killed 10-12 people In West Bengal. The three districts of South and North 24 Parganas and East Midnapore were the worst affected. BBC Bengali's Amitabha Bhattasali who is based in Kolkata, said much of the city and its neighbouring districts have been without electricity for 17 hours. Mobile phone networks are not working in some of the worst hit areas, our correspondent adds. Dramatic visuals recorded by residents and shared on social media showed electricity transformers exploding in busy neighbourhoods as the storm swept the city. "Thank God, we are safe," remarked another resident, sharing visuals of tiled roofs being blown away. Image copyrightReutersImage caption Trees have fallen on stationary vehicles in the city Local news networks showed visuals of uprooted trees, lampposts and traffic lights. Images of water logged streets, vehicles crushed under fallen trees and broken river jetties were also all over local media. Journalists on the field wore face masks to protect against Covid-19 and were struggling to report in the middle of the raging storm. "It is like the vault of hell outside," wrote Kajal Basu, on Facebook after the storm began. Mr Basu, who lives on the 12th floor of a high-rise building in the city, said his building seemed to be "swaying from side to side, mimicking an earthquake". "Sounds of tortured metal, glass breaking. Palm trees uprooted. Power lines came crackling and spitting at three places nearby," he wrote. Most people were home when the storm struck. The city is in lockdown because of the pandemic, and officials had also been preparing for the cyclone for days. Media captionCyclone Amphan causes havoc in India and Bangladesh "Trees uprooted, power supply snapped, lamp posts unhinged, glass panes in the locality shattered, Internet connections flickered. Children screamed," Shamik Bag, a resident, told the BBC. "Even with all doors and windows tightly shut, my house groaned under the pressure of the howling wind outside. Within 45 minutes, the streets outside got flooded, even as flood waters rushed into the ground floor of homes." "When the power lines were restored after the storm, neighbourhood children, much like our own childhood when power-cuts were rampant, burst out in a spontaneous, cheerful chorus." Image copyrightGetty Images The Telegraph newspaper said Calcutta's waterlogged roads "looked like a dark and slithering reptile on Wednesday night as howling winds continued to haunt the city's deserted, Amphan-ravaged corridors". Coronavirus restrictions have been hampering emergency and relief efforts. Covid-19 and social-distancing measures have made mass evacuations more difficult for authorities, with shelters unable to be used to full capacity. The storm is the first super cyclone to form in the Bay of Bengal since 1999. Though its winds have now weakened, it is still classified as a very severe cyclone.
Sajid Hussain: Swedish police find body of missing Pakistani journalist - BBC News
Sajid Hussain fled Pakistan for Sweden in 2012 after receiving death threats connected to his work.
Image copyrightRSFImage caption Sajid Hussain (family photo) Police in Sweden say they have found the body of Pakistani journalist, two months after he went missing. Sajid Hussain, the editor of an ethnic Baloch news website, fled Pakistan in 2012 after getting death threats and was granted political asylum in Sweden. A press freedom charity had suggested Pakistani intelligence was behind Hussain's disappearance in early March. But a Swedish police spokesman told the BBC their initial investigation did not suggest any foul play in the death. Hussain, who was 39, was last seen boarding a train in Stockholm on his way to the city of Uppsala on 2 March, according to the press freedom charity Reporters Without Borders (RSF). He was to collect the keys to a new flat but he did not get off the train in Uppsala, RSF said, quoting police. The charity said it was possible he had been abducted "at the behest of a Pakistani intelligence agency". In Pakistan, Hussain had been writing about enforced disappearances and organised crime in the country's Balochistan province, which has witnessed a long-running nationalist insurgency. Hussain's wife, Shehnaz told the Pakistan newspaper Dawn that before fleeing for Sweden, her husband had sensed he was being followed. As well as writing about forced disappearances, he had exposed a drug kingpin in Pakistan. Then some people broke into his house in Quetta when he was out investigating a story," she said. "They took away his laptop and other papers too. After that he left Pakistan in September 2012 and never came back. Pakistan is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. It ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in the 2019 RSF Press Freedom Index. Balochistan, in the west of Pakistan, has been the scene of a long-running nationalist insurgency. The Pakistani military has been accused of torturing and "disappearing" dissidents. Insurgent groups have also killed members of non-Baloch ethnic groups. Online newspaper the Balochistan Times, for which Hussain was chief editor, reported his disappearance to Swedish police on 3 March. Relatives told Dawn they had waited two weeks before expressing their fears, in case he had gone into isolation because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Coronavirus: India lockdown extended for two more weeks - BBC News
The country's major cities will remain under strict restrictions, with some relaxation elsewhere.
Image copyrightAFPImage caption There are fears for vulnerable members of communities amid severe economic disruption The national coronavirus lockdown in India has been extended beyond 4 May for another two weeks. New guidelines, outlined on Friday, update the country's designated red, green and orange zoning system. Red zones are considered hotspots, while considerable relaxations will be permitted in areas considered less dangerous. India has been under lockdown measures since 24 March, with more than 35,000 cases confirmed nationally. A new home ministry statement, outlining the extension until 18 May, said there had been "significant gains in the Covid-19 situation". But Friday saw a record number of new cases added to the nation's official tally. At least 1,100 are known to have died from the virus in India, but many believe the true number of infections and deaths is far higher than what has been reported. The outbreak has caused large economic disruption across the country, with many labourers deprived of income and millions of migrant workers left stranded in economic hardship. Media captionAs cases of coronavirus rise and the virus hits India's congested slums, will the country cope? Areas will be classified as green zones if they have had no confirmed cases for 21 days, according to the guidelines. All of India's major metropolitan areas remain classified as red zones and will stay under strict lockdown measures. All of the zone classifications have been described as "dynamic" and will be updated weekly, officials say. India's lockdown is the largest of its kind in the world, impacting a population of 1.3 billion people. All travel by air and rail will still be prohibited under the extension, with schools, restaurants and places of worship also remaining shut nationally. The sudden lockdown, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March, prompted millions to be stranded across the country. On Friday some migrant labourers began to travel back to their home states on specially organised train transport.
India coronavirus: The 'mystery' of low Covid-19 death rates - BBC News
The fatality rate remains among the lowest in the world, prompting both optimism and bafflement.
Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption More than 800 people have died of Covid-19 in India The global media reports are a mixture of relief and bafflement. They talk about the "mystery behind India's lower death rates" from the Covid-19 infection, and say that India is "bucking the coronavirus trend". One talks about the "Indian exception as death rates in major Indian cities are lower compared to global coronavirus hotspots". Nearly two months after its first recorded case, Covid-19 infections in the world's second most populous country have passed 27,000, with more than 800 deaths. One way to understand the death rate is to track how many days it takes for total deaths to double. In India, this is currently at nine days - there were 825 confirmed deaths on 25 April; compared to about half or so of that number on 16 April. Experts say that's good news. The doubling time for deaths in New York at the same stage of the pandemic was only two or three days, they say. Many public health professionals and doctors say India's grinding lockdown, which lasted more than a month, could have kept infection and deaths in check. The medical journal Lancet says the "lockdown is already having the desired effect of flattening the epidemic curve". Others believe that India's predominantly young population is helping keep fatalities low - elderly people have an elevated risk of death from the infection. Yet others talk about the possibilities of the presence of a less virulent strain of the virus in India, along with the possibility that its hot weather was diminishing the contagion. Both these claims are not backed by any evidence. In fact, doctors treating critical Covid-19 patients have told me that the contagion is as virulent here as has been reported elsewhere in the world. So is India an outlier when it comes to novel coronavirus fatalities? "To be totally frank, I don't know and the world doesn't know the answer," Indian-American physician and oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee told journalist Barkha Dutt recently. "It's a mystery, I'd say and part of the mystery is we are not doing enough testing. If we tested more then we'd know the answer." He is alluding to both diagnostic tests which determine those who are currently infected and antibody tests to find out whether someone was previously infected and recovered. Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption More than 27,000 infections have been reported in India The other question is whether India is "missing" Covid-19 deaths. Most affected countries have inadvertently under-reported deaths. Studying mortality data in 12 countries, The New York Times found that in March at least 40,000 more people died during the coronavirus pandemic than the official death counts. These include deaths from the contagion as well as those from other likely causes. And a Financial Times analysis of overall fatalities during the pandemic in 14 countries found that the death toll from coronavirus may be almost 60% higher than reported in official counts. None of the two studies feature India. Prabhat Jha of the University of Toronto, who led India's ambitious Million Death Study, believes that to "do this right, missing deaths have to be considered". "Since most deaths occur at home - and will be for the foreseeable future - in India, other systems are needed," Dr Jha told me. Around 80% of deaths in India still happen at home. This includes deaths from infections like malaria and pneumonia. Maternal deaths, and deaths from sudden coronary attacks and accidents are more often reported from hospitals. "A lot of people get some medical attention over time, return and die at home in India," says Dr Jha. Clearly, counting hospital deaths alone is not going to be sufficient enough to get an accurate number of Covid-19 fatalities. Trying to get a count from funerals at crematoria and burial grounds would be equally tricky. Many of India's dead are cremated in the open in large swathes of the countryside. Funeral services cater only to a small sliver of the population. Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption A Covid-19 isolation ward in India At the same, there are no reports yet of a massive surge in hospital deaths, which would surely have not gone unnoticed, K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, told me. (For example, a sharp rise in deaths of children in single hospitals in northern India in recent years has been faithfully reported.) Similarly, Prof Reddy believes a sharp spike in home deaths over a long period is also not likely to go unnoticed. In the absence of a robust public health surveillance system, experts say mobile phones could be used to find out whether there was an unusual surge in influenza-related deaths which could be linked to Covid-19. More than 850 million Indians use mobile phones and they could be persuaded to report any unusual death in their villages on a toll-free number. Authorities could then follow up the deaths by visiting the families and conducting "verbal autopsies". Counting deaths has always been an inexact science in India. Some 10 million people die in India every year. The Million Death Study found that some deaths were overestimated (India had only 100,000 premature HIV deaths in 2005, about a quarter of the total estimated by WHO) and some were underestimated (five times as many malaria deaths as the WHO had estimated.) Also, according to the government's own admission, only 22% of deaths in India are medically certified. Then there's the question of how to define a Covid-19 death. Some Indian doctors have reported that many people were dying of Covid-19 symptoms without getting tested or "treated". Then there's the question of wrong diagnosis in a country where doctors often misdiagnose the cause of death. Jean-Louis Vincent, a professor of Intensive Care Medicine at Belgium's Erasme University Hospital, told me there was under-reporting of Covid-19 deaths "in many countries, including India". "When you are told the person had some fever and some respiratory problems before death, you may suspect Covid-19. But it may be something else," he said. Image caption A hospital in Indore has reported a surge of cases "Death is often preceded by an infection, sometimes minor. If you do not test, you may attribute many deaths to Covid-19 or deny its role altogether. That is why the mortality rates from 1918 Spanish flu varied so much." Dr Vincent is not sure whether the death counts tell the whole story about the infection. "Recording the number of deaths due to Covid-19 is not very meaningful to evaluate the severity of the disease. The number of hospital admissions is somewhat better, but it does not include all deaths outside the hospital," he says. It is also true, as experts say, that most governments are naturally concerned about reporting deaths to avoid scaring people. "But nobody is trying to hide deaths intentionally. You can't hide mass deaths," says Dr Jha. "Tracking deaths is far more reliable than cases, which are heavily affected by testing biases. But the key is to make sure all deaths or a good random sample or snapshot of deaths is captured." India might be missing some deaths and not diagnosing every patient correctly for Covid-19. But the fatalities are unarguably low. Yet, it's too early to say that the country has bucked the trend. "Let's be frank," one expert told me. "We don't know yet." Follow Soutik on Twitter
Air pollution linked to raised Covid-19 death risk - BBC News
The World Health Organization warns high air pollution could be a risk factor for severe Covid-19 cases.
Image copyrightCLAUDIO REYESImage caption The Harvard research suggests Covid-19 death rates in the US rose where there was a high concentration of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) High levels of air pollution could raise the risk of dying from Covid-19, two studies suggest. Dr Maria Neira, of the World Health Organization (WHO), told BBC News countries with high pollution levels, many in Latin America, Africa and Asia, should ramp up their preparations. Those with underlying pollution-related conditions have developed severe Covid-19 in countries with high levels. But medical professionals say it is too early to prove a direct relationship. "We will be doing a map of most polluted cities based on our database to support national authorities in these regions so that they can prepare their epidemic response plan accordingly," Dr Neira said. Image copyrightEduardo Munoz AlvarezImage caption The Harvard study suggests lower pollution levels in the years before the pandemic could have resulted in a significant decrease in Covid-19 death rates A US study suggests Covid-19 death rates rise by about 15% in areas with even a small increase in fine-particle pollution levels in the years before the pandemic. "Patterns in Covid-19 death rates generally mimic patterns in both high population density and high [particulate matter] PM2.5 exposure areas," the Harvard University report says. These particles, one-30th the diameter of a human hair, have previously been linked to health issues including respiratory infections and lung cancer. The Harvard study has not yet been peer reviewed but Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich chair of epidemiology Air pollution linked to raised Covid-19 death riskProf Annette Peters told BBC News its findings "are in line with earlier reports on hospitalisation and mortality due to pneumonia". "It is one of the first studies substantiating our suspicion and the hypothesis that severity of the Covid-19 infection may be augmented by particulate matter air pollution," she said. Report author Prof Francesca Dominici said: "We hope it will help stop the air quality from getting worse, particularly when we are hearing about authorities trying to relax pollution rules amid this pandemic." Image copyrightMARCO BERTORELLOImage caption Another study suggests a possible link between high levels of air pollution and Covid-19 deaths in northern Italy Another study, at the University of Siena, in Italy, and Arhus University, in Denmark, suggests a possible link between high levels of air pollution and Covid-19 deaths in northern Italy. The Lombardy and Emilia Romagna regions had death rates of about 12%, compared with 4.5% in the rest of Italy. The study, published in Science Direct, says: "The high level of pollution in northern Italy should be considered an additional co-factor of the high level of lethality recorded in that area." Population, age, differing health systems, and a variation in prevention policies across regions should also be taken into account. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Cesar Bugaoisan, of the Association for Respiratory Care Practitioners, said: "In our preliminary data, almost all of the dead individuals in the country due to coronavirus had pre-existing conditions, most of them linked to air pollution." Air pollution already kills about seven million people every year, the WHO says. And more than 90% of the world's population live in places where air pollution exceeds its guideline limits, mostly in poor countries. Many of the affected countries are in South Asia, the Middle East, sub-Saharan and North Africa, according to a World Bank report last year. Cities in Chile, Brazil, Mexico and Peru also have dangerous levels of air pollution, according to several WHO and United Nations reports. Image copyrightHindustan TimesImage caption India has the most cities with high air pollution levels, the World Air Quality Report says But the World Air Quality Report 2019 suggests India has the most cities with high air pollution levels. India has recorded 521 Covid-19 deaths so far. Dr S K Chhabra, pulmonary department head at Primus Super Speciality Hospital, in Delhi, said: "If we see a significant rise in the spread of the virus, people with underlying conditions because of air pollution will definitely be the worst affected." And Public Health Foundation India president Prof Srinath Reddy said: "If air pollution has already damaged the airways and lung tissue, there is reduced reserve to cope with the onslaught of coronavirus." But Dr Rajni Kant Srivastava, of the Indian Council for Medical Research, said: "There is not enough evidence and we have also not carried out any such study." Image copyrightMario TamaImage caption Cities in Chile, Brazil, Mexico and Peru also have dangerous levels of air pollution The 2002 severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak, caused by a different strain of coronavirus, infected more than 8,000 people, in 26 countries, and killed almost 800. And a 2003 University of California, Los Angeles study suggested people from areas of high air pollution were more than twice as likely to die from the disease.
India coronavirus lockdown: What stays open and what stays shut - BBC News
Most of the new measures are targeted at easing pressure on the farming sector.
Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption An empty stretch of the road and Delhi Police barricades to screen commuters during lockdown, at Delhi Gate on April 16, 2020 in New Delhi, India. India has eased some restrictions imposed as part of a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Most of the new measures are targeted at easing pressure on farming, which employs more than half the nation's workforce. Allowing farms to operate again has been seen as essential to avoid food shortages. But some other measures announced last week, will not be implemented. This includes the delivery of non-essential items such as mobile phones, computers, and refrigerators by e-commerce firms - the government reversed its decision on that on Sunday. And none of the restrictions will be lifted in areas that are still considered "hotspots" for the virus - this includes all major Indian cities. Domestic and international flights and inter-state travel will also remain suspended. So what restrictions are being eased? Most of the new measures target agricultural businesses - farming, fisheries and plantations. This will allow crops to be harvested and daily-wagers and others working in these sectors to continue earning. To restore the supply chain in these industries, cargo trucks will also be allowed to operate across state borders to transport produce from villages to the cities. Essential public works programmes - such as building roads and water lines in rural areas - will also reopen, but under strict instructions to follow social distancing norms. These are a huge source of employment for hundreds of thousands of daily-wage earners, and farmers looking to supplement their income. Banks, ATMs, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and government offices will remain open. And the self-employed - such as plumbers, electricians and carpenters - will also be allowed to work. Some public and even private workplaces have been permitted to open in areas that are not considered hotspots. But all businesses and services that reopen are expected to follow social distancing norms. Who decides what to reopen? State governments will decide where restrictions can be eased. And several state chief ministers, including Delhi's Arvind Kejriwal, have said that none of the restrictions will be lifted in their regions. Mr Kejriwal said the situation in the national capital was still serious and the decision would be reviewed after one week. India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, will also see all restrictions in place, as will the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka. The southern state of Kerala, which has been widely acknowledged for its success in dealing with the virus, has announced a significant easing of the lockdown in areas that it has demarcated as "green" zones. This includes allowing private vehicular movement and dine-in services at restaurants, with social distancing norms in place. However, it's implementing what is known as an "odd-even" scheme - private cars with even and odd number plates will be allowed only on alternate days, to limit the number of people on the road.
India coronavirus: Navy says 21 sailors test positive at key Mumbai base - BBC News
Twenty-one personnel at one of India's key naval bases have tested positive for coronavirus.
Image copyrightGetty Images Indian defence officials have reported a coronavirus outbreak at a key naval base in the western city of Mumbai. Twenty-one personnel have tested positive for Covid-19 at INS Angre, which is the seat of the force's western command, the navy said in a statement on Saturday. It added that there are no infections aboard any ships or submarines. India has 11,906 active infections and 480 deaths, according to the latest data from the ministry of health. The Navy said that they had tested a number of personnel who had come into contact with a soldier who had tested positive earlier this month. Many of those who had tested positive for the virus, the statement added, were asymptomatic. They are all currently undergoing treatment. All 21 personnel live in the same residential block, which has been declared a containment zone and has been placed under lockdown. In a video message to personnel last week, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh stressed the importance of keeping ships and submarines free of the virus. "The coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented and it has never been seen before. Its impact has been extraordinary across the globe, including India," he said. The navy has been playing an active role in India's response to the Covid-19 outbreak. It has set up isolation facilities to treat patients at one of its premier hospital units and is also running quarantine camps. The outbreak aboard the Indian naval base follows reports of outbreaks aboard vessels belonging to other nations. More than 500 sailors on the USS Roosevelt have tested positive for the virus and one of them died earlier this week. And nearly a third of the sailors serving with France's aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle - 668 out of nearly 2,000 - have been infected with coronavirus.
China's virus-hit economy shrinks for first time in decades - BBC News
Its economy shrank 6.8% in the first three months of 2020 as it battled the virus and lockdowns
Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption A worker connects two parts of a steam vat filled with fermented grain in Chengdu, China China's economy shrank for the first time in decades in the first quarter of the year, as the virus forced factories and businesses to close. The world's second biggest economy contracted 6.8% according to official data released on Friday. The financial toll the coronavirus is having on the Chinese economy will be a huge concern to other countries. China is an economic powerhouse as a major consumer and producer of goods and services. This is the first time China has seen its economy shrink in the first three months of the year since it started recording quarterly figures in 1992. "The GDP contraction in January-March will translate into permanent income losses, reflected in bankruptcies across small companies and job losses," said Yue Su at the Economist Intelligence Unit. Last year, China saw healthy economic growth of 6.4% in the first quarter, a period when it was locked in a trade war with the US. In the last two decades, China has seen average economic growth of around 9% a year, although experts have regularly questioned the accuracy of its economic data. Its economy had ground to a halt during the first three months of the year as it introduced large-scale shutdowns and quarantines to prevent the virus spread in late January. As a result, economists had expected bleak figures, but the official data comes in slightly worse than expected. Among other key figures released in Friday's report:
- Factory output was down 1.1% for March as China slowly starts manufacturing again.
- Retail sales plummeted 15.8% last month as many of shoppers stayed at home.
- Unemployment hit 5.9% in March, slightly better than February's all-time high of 6.2%.
India coronavirus: Tablighi Jamaat leader on manslaughter charge over Covid-19 - BBC News
The head of Tablighi Jamaat faces arrest after a gathering spawned Covid-19 clusters across India.
Image copyrightHindustan TimesImage caption Tablighi Jamaat's Markaz has been linked to 1,023 cases across 17 states in India Tablighi Jamaat leader Muhammad Saad Khandalvi has been charged with manslaughter after a meeting the organisation held in Delhi spawned Covid-19 clusters across India. Police say the gathering, which began on 3 March, was not ended even when India announced a lockdown on 24 March. The event has been linked to 1,023 cases across 17 states - believed to be spread by infected foreign attendees. Mr Saad and the Tablighi Jamaat have denied any wrongdoing. The Delhi police said that Mr Saad had been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, which means he will not be able to apply for bail. The charges were brought against him while he was in self-isolation. Police say he ignored two notices to end the event at a mosque in Delhi's Nizamuddin area. However, the organisation says they had suspended the event and asked everyone to leave as soon as Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that there would be a day-long national curfew on 22 March. While many were able to leave, they say, others were stranded because states began to seal their borders the following day, and two days later, India went into lockdown, suspending buses and trains. The mosque's premises include dormitories that can house hundreds of people. The organisers say they informed the local police about all of this and continued to co-operate with medical officers who came to inspect the premises.