(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Pushing for probe

The World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, starts a two-day virtual annual meeting today, its first since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Global attention will be focused on calls for a review of the international response to the pandemic, supported by the European Union, and a push for a probe into the coronavirus’ origins, which has been backed by Australia.

The calls have come amid rising criticism of China’s handling of the outbreak by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has said that Beijing should face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the pandemic. The United States has also withdrawn funding for the WHO.

Pop-up carparks

Australia’s most populous state New South Wales was encouraging its residents to avoid peak-hour public transport as it began its first full week of loosened lockdown measures, which saw people heading back to offices.

To aid with maintaining social distancing, extra bicycle lanes and pop-up car parking lots would be made available, officials said.

“We normally encourage people to catch public transport but given the constraints in the peak … we want people to consider different ways to get to work,” state premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

Furloughs no cure-all

Temporary unemployment schemes have spread far wider and faster than during the last major shock, the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, but are not likely to save jobs in sectors which face a tougher recovery post-pandemic, such as the leisure and tourism industries.

These schemes, which typically provide at least 80% of pay for workers for whom there is no work now, mean companies do not face firing and potential re-hiring costs. Workers are more inclined to keep spending and less preoccupied by saving, propping up the economy.

“If it’s more than a year, you need other solutions and will need other policies like retraining,” said Gregory Claeys, senior fellow at economic think-tank Bruegel. “It’s good in a lockdown, but if there is more social change, you need alternatives.”

Story continues

Angling for return

The phones haven’t stopped ringing for Will Barnard, fisheries manager at Thames Water, which runs a 400-acre site for anglers, since fishing was permitted to restart in Britain on May 13.

His team have been working flat out to set up a system that allows anglers to return safely to what, for many of them, is much more than just a hobby.

“Today is just a lovely thing to be able to do just given the current state of everything,” said Patrick Quelch, a 52-year old part-time primary schoolteacher, who rang up two days in advance to claim one of 50 available tickets.

After nearly two months without seeing a hook, the trout are plentiful and easy to catch and within minutes of the first line hitting the water, a distant splash signifies one has taken the bait – the first of more than 800 caught in a single day.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh; editing by Richard Pullin)



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