While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, March 23

Top US Senate Democrat Schumer says coronavirus Bill has ‘many problems’

US lawmakers clashed on Sunday over the details of a US$1 trillion-plus (S$1.45 trillion) Bill to help stem the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic, as senators prepared to cast votes on advancing the legislation.

The Bill is Congress’ third effort to blunt the economic toll of a disease that has killed at least 400 in the United States and sickened more than 33,000, leading governors to order nearly a third of the nation’s population to shelter in place and putting much business activity on hold.

The measure envisages financial aid for average Americans, small businesses and critically affected industries, including airlines.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said the bill would be at risk if they did not quickly strike a deal as a 6pm (2200 GMT) procedural vote loomed, after earlier pronouncing the two parties “very close” on a deal.


Stay apart or face tougher coronavirus measures: British PM Johnson

Britain may need to impose curfews and travel restrictions to halt the spread of the coronavirus if people do not heed the government’s advice on social distancing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Sunday.

Pubs, clubs and gyms have already closed, but social media on Sunday was awash with pictures of people congregating in parks and food markets, apparently ignoring advice to stay two metres apart.

Parks in London are already closing down as authorities struggle to slow the advance of coronavirus through the population, the biggest public health crisis since the influenza pandemic of 1918.


French Parliament declares emergency over coronavirus spread as death toll jumps to 674

 France’s two-chamber Parliament on Sunday declared a health emergency in the country to counter the spread of the coronavirus, giving the government greater powers to fight the pandemic.

The text, first agreed by the upper house Senate, passed its final legislative hurdle later in the evening when it was adopted by the lower house National Assembly dominated by President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party.

The law also allows the government to take measures to support companies and backs up its decision to delay a second round of municipal elections, to June at the latest.


SilkAir flight to Nepal held up over European passenger

A SilkAir flight from Singapore ran into trouble upon landing in Nepal over the weekend, with passengers not allowed to get off the plane as authorities deliberated over whether the presence of a passenger from Europe contravened coronavirus-related flight bans.

The flight, which landed at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu on Saturday, had a passenger from the Netherlands onboard among 84 others, nearly all of them Nepalese nationals.

Nepal, which has reported one coronavirus case so far, had banned transit passengers from Europe as well as all flights from Europe as part of efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.


Facebook, Instagram to reduce video streaming quality in Europe 

Facebook will downgrade video streaming quality on its platform and on Instagram in Europe, the latest US tech giant to respond to an EU call to stave off Internet gridlock as thousands work from home due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Earlier this week, Netflix, Alphabet Inc’s YouTube, Amazon and Disney said they would downgrade their video quality.

EU industry chief Thierry Breton has urged streaming platforms to free up bandwidth for healthcare and distance learning for thousands of children sent home by closing schools.


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