Teachers in the UK can legally refuse to return when schools reopen unless they get the same protections against coronavirus as other frontline staff, one of the country’s leading teaching unions has warned.
There are plans for primary schools in England to start a gradual reopening from the start of next month, with the youngest children in formal schooling – four and five-year-olds in reception – among the first expected to return. However many teachers are unhappy at the plans with the UK’s death toll, the second worst in the world, still climbing.
A Rohingya man has become the first person to test positive for COVID-19 in the vast refugee camps in Bangladesh that is home to almost one million people, officials said Thursday.
Health experts have long warned that the virus could race through the cramped alleys of the camps in the Cox’s Bazar district, where the persecuted Muslim minority have been housed in canvas and bamboo shacks since they fled a military offensive in neighbouring Myanmar more than two years ago.
Local health coordinator Abu Toha Bhuiyan initially said two refugees had been put into isolation. The World Health Organisation later said one case was of a Rohingya man, and the other was of a local man who lived near the camp and was being treated at a clinic inside the area.
“One patient is from the refugee population and the other one from the surrounding host population,” WHO spokesman Catalin Bercaru told AFP.
Bercaru said “rapid investigation teams” were being deployed to follow up on the two cases. The patients’ contacts are being traced for quarantine and testing.
Doctors in northern Italy, one of the areas hardest hit by the new coronavirus, and in France have reported spikes in cases of a rare inflammatory syndrome in young children that appears similar to one reported in the United States, Britain and Spain, according to a report in The Lancet.
The condition shares symptoms with toxic shock and Kawasaki disease including fever, rashes, swollen glands and, in severe cases, heart inflammation.
Reports of cases have raised concerns that Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, could pose a greater risk to children than had been understood. It has so far taken its greatest toll on the elderly and those with chronic health conditions.
In the UK, people have come out again for their weekly “clap for carers” to celebrate the NHS and other key workers on the coronavirus frontline. They were joined by Boris Johnson and his partner, Carrie Symonds, at Downing Street.
Donald Trump toured a mask distribution centre in the political swing state of Pennsylvania on Thursday, reports Reuters, but without wearing a mask himself.
Trump, who is running for re-election in November, has resisted wearing a mask in public despite his administration’s guidance to Americans to wear them and new White House rules requiring staff to wear them at work.
Canadians should accept the world will change even if a vaccine is found and the coronavirus pandemic ends, the country’s prime minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday.
Trudeau also unveiled new measures to support hard hit sectors including the fisheries.
“We have to recognize that things will change in this world, even after the end of this pandemic, even after a vaccine,” he told reporters.
“Covid-19 will be one of the things that create changes in our society. There will be adjustments.”
Israel’s children can go back to school and nurseries full-time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, as the country presses on with easing its coronavirus curbs, Reuters reports.
Israel – population nine million – has reported 16,579 cases and 265 deaths. With the new case rate levelling out in the past few weeks, it has lifted bans on gatherings, eased travel and reopened malls and markets.
A partial reopening of schools began on 3 May, with the first three grades of elementary school and the last two grades of high school redistributed in classes capped at 15 pupils to enforce social-distancing. Kindergartens joined a week later.
In a written statement, Netanyahu said that from Sunday all children, from the age of zero, may go back to school on a voluntary basis. Those in outbreak epicentres, however, would have to stay home for now.
Global death toll passes 300,000
The global toll from Covid-19 has just passed 300,000, with nearly 4.5 million people infected.
According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, at least 300,074 people have now died as a result of the outbreak.
The institution says it has counted 4,405,688 confirmed cases worldwide.
It’s important to point out that the actual death toll is believed to be far higher than the tally compiled from government figures.
Elementary schools in Montreal, Canada will not reopen until late August, according to the Montreal Gazette.
The province’s premier François Legault announced this afternoon that schools in Greater Montreal will not reopen until late August or early September, describing the situation in the region as “fragile.”
Journalist Tracey Lindeman wrote about the situation in Montreal yesterday, which you can read here:
Hi, this is Nicola Slawson in the UK. I’m taking over the reins of the live blog now.
Please do share any thoughts, insight or news tips with me via any of the channels below. I might not have time to respond to all of you but I will certainly try and read them. Thank you.
Here are the latest headlines in our global coronavirus news coverage so far on Thursday.
- A vaccine for coronavirus must be available to all countries, the EU has insisted, after the British chief executive of French drugs company Sanofi said it was reserving the first shipments of its vaccine for the US. “The vaccine against Covid-19 should be a global public good and its access needs to be equitable and universal,” said the European commission spokesman, Stefan de Keersmaecker.
- 36 million Americans are now unemployed as another 3 million filed for benefits. The latest figures from the Department of Labor show the rate of claims is slowing but the record-breaking pace of layoffs has already pushed unemployment to levels unseen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
- The European commission has suspended the delivery of 10 million face masks from China after two countries complained about the poor quality of the batches they received, the Associated Press reports. As part of its efforts to tackle the Covid-19 crisis, this month the commission started dispatching the masks to healthcare workers in its 27 member states and the UK.
- Officials in Bangladesh have announced the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the country’s Rohingya refugee camps. Health experts and NGOs have issued warnings that the virus could race through the camps that house almost a million people forced to flee a military offensive in Myanmar almost two years ago.
- Greece will open 515 organised beaches to the public this weekend, but alcohol and music will be banned, along with sports and games. Scientists advising the government also insisted that given the dictates of social distancing there can only be 40 people per 1000 sq meters.
- Governments, health authorities and civil society groups should urgently address mental health problems sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, the UN secretary general has said. Launching a policy briefing on mental health during the outbreak, António Guterres said that “the Covid-19 pandemic is now hitting families and communities with additional mental stress.”
- Ten people in Vietnam, including a 70-year-old military veteran, have offered to donate their lungs to a British man who is the country’s most seriously ill Covid-19 patient. “We are touched by their good intentions, but current regulations don’t allow us to transplant lungs donated by most living people,” a representative of Vietnam’s organ transplant authority said.
That’s it from me, Damien Gayle, for another day of coronavirus coverage. I will be back with you tomorrow.
Ten more people in Ireland have died from Covid-19, bringing the total death toll from the outbreak to 1,506, the country’s health department reports.
In its latest update, the country’s health authority also reported that 426 more people had tested positive for coronavirus, the highest daily number since 26 April. The total number of confirmed cases in the country is now 23,827, with 19,470 people so far recovering.
Russia’s media watchdog is investigating the Financial Times and the New York Times after both papers said authorities in the country could be underestimating coronavirus deaths.
Roskomnadzor, the communications watchdog, said it was studying the reports to establish whether they had violated disinformation laws. However, when asked by AFP it did not say whether it planned to punish the papers.
The investigation comes after the foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, demanded the FT, published from London, and the NYT, based in New York, retract what she described as disinformation. Formal letters had been sent to the to editors-in-chief of both papers, she said.
Claiming that the FT and NYT stories were suspiciously similar, and pointing out that they were published on the same day, Zakharova told reporters:
We see - and there is more and more evidence - that unfortunately certain forces in the West are seeking to use the current crisis in the world to discredit government efforts in a number of states, to destabilise the situation.
There was no immediate comment from the FT, while the NYT said it stood by its report. The NYT’s vice president for communications, Danielle Rhoades Ha, said in a statement:
We’re confident in the accuracy of our story, which is based on publicly available government records and interviews with experts from government-run institutions. No facts in our story are in dispute.
South Africa has reported 665 more coronavirus infections, and 15 more deaths from Covid-19.
According to a tweet by the health minister, Zweli Mkhize, the number of confirmed cases of the virus in South Africa is now 12,739. Of those, 238 patients have died and 5,676 have recovered.
Greece to reopen beaches - but under strict rules
In what is being seen as crucial test in the battle to get its tourism season underway, Greece will open 515 organised beaches to the public this weekend, Helena Smith reports from Athens.
But in the age of Covid-19 they will not be what they once were: alcohol and music are banned along with sports and games.
The committee of scientists advising the Greek government on coronavirus also insists that given the dictates of social distancing there can only be 40 people per 1000 sq meters.
Umbrellas will also have to be at least four meters apart with only two sun loungers placed together at any one time. Only takeaway service will be available at restaurants and bars on the beaches – most of which are run by local municipalities. Staff have been strongly recommended to wear masks.
The regulations will be strictly monitored. Those found flouting them will face punishing fines, the deputy citizen protection minister Nikos Hardalias announced this evening.
“We are continuing the gradual lifting of restrictions because the virus is here and still circulating among us,” he warned saying penalties would range in the first instance between 5 and 20,000 euro and be tripled thereafter.
In a further draconian step, aimed squarely at deterring would-be law-breakers, he said businesses caught violating the measures will be closed initially for 30 days and thereafter 90 days.
“If some [businesses] aren’t ready then they shouldn’t rush and risk it,” he told reporters attending a health ministry briefing saying the fines would be heavy and supervision very strict.
Temperatures are expected to reach 42c in Athens on Sunday, a record high for this time of year.
Earlier on Thursday the Greek government spokesman, Stelios Petsas, had described the opening of the beaches as “a significant test that we have to pass with success.”
“Everyone is watching Greece,” he added, citing the country’s “exemplary” handling of the pandemic, low infection rate and death toll.
If citizens respected the rules, it would be a “passport” to rebooting tourism and opening the country to foreign visitors, he said. An estimated 25 percent of Greece’s GDP is derived from tourism.
Greek health authorities have recorded 156 fatalities and 2,770 confirmed cases of coronavirus to date.
The UN police agency has warned that measures to restrict movement to contain the spread of Covid-19 will lead to a long-term increase in human trafficking.
In its latest briefing paper, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) analysed potential scenarios of how cross-border migrant smuggling and human trafficking may be affected by the crisis.
It says that smuggling continues despite the lockdown of European countries. While numbers making journey’s along certain routes has decreased, the closure of borders is likely to increase demand for the services of smugglers to help people cross borders. The agency said:
According to the UNODC research brief what emerges from an analysis of the past on the economic impact on human trafficking is that, an asymmetric recovery from the next global economic crisis will increase the risks for people in economic need looking for better life abroad of being exploited. This may be even more dramatic if the economic downturn will be combined with more stringent mobility regulation.
The potential impact of COVID-19-related restrictions and economic downturn on smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons may be severe. These negative impacts can be mitigated by investments in economic recovery across both developed and developing countries and by providing avenues for safe and regular migration journeys for refugees and migrants, and regular immigration status in destination countries.
The Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, was criticised on Thursday after he was crowded by people during a visit to a town on the German border, AFP reports.
The visit to Kleinwalsertal in Austria’s westernmost province of Vorarlberg on Wednesday was Kurz’s first such engagement outside the capital Vienna for weeks. It came as Austria eases a strict lockdown imposed in mid-March to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
Austria reported 61 more coronavirus infections on Thursday, way down from a peak of 1,321 on 26 March, bringing its total number of confirmed cases to 16,058. Nine more people died from Covid-19, pushing the death toll to 626.
Despite the all in transmission, public gatherings of more than 10 people are still banned and people are meant to stay at least one metre away from those they don’t live with.
Nevertheless, the images from Kleinwalsertal showed Kurz surrounded by a large group of people not practising distancing, and with only a handful wearing masks.
Kurz was seen greeting people in the crowd, though he did not shake anyone’s hand.
Following criticism of the outing, Kurz’s spokesman on Thursday emphasised that the community had been told that it was not a public event but a “work meeting” and been reminded to respect coronavirus safety measures.
Sixty people have been detained by police in Montenegro after clashing with police at protests demanding the release of priests jailed for leading a banned religious procession.
Twenty-six officers were injured during the unrest late Wednesday in the towns of Niksic and Pljevlja, police said, according to the Associated Press. One of the injured policemen is being treated in hospital, the statement said.
Police said they intervened with pepper spray and dispersed the protesters into smaller groups after being pelted with rocks, bottles and other objects.
“Police were brutally attacked for no reason,” the statement added.
An axe and a knife were found during a search in Niksic and police property was damaged, while protesters in Pljevlja stoned the police station in the town, the statement also said.
Some of the people were detained in other towns where they tried to organize gatherings, including the capital, Podgorica.
The protests followed the arrest of four Serbian Orthodox Church priests who had led a procession Tuesday that a few thousand people attended without wearing face masks or keeping a safe distance between one another.
There were 262 new coronavirus fatalities in Italy on Thursday, 67 more than on Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 31,368, reported Angela Giuffrida, the Guardian’s Rome correspondent.
New infections rose by 992, up from 888 on Wednesday, according to the civil protection authority. Over 500 of the new cases were in the badly hit Lombardy region. The number of people in hospital and intensive care continues to fall.
Italy has 223,092 confirmed cases of Covid-19 to date, including the deaths and 115,288 survivors.
Earlier on Thursday, the head of the Italian government’s scientific committee said authorities would begin testing a representative sample of 150,000 people in 2,000 cities from next week, to gauge the true extent of coronavirus infections, according to Reuters.
Agostino Miozzo told MPs: “This testing programme will involve a significant sample of citizens and will allow us to understand the (extent of the) national spread of the virus.”
Italy was the first European country to impose a nationwide lockdown in March to curb the contagion. Last week it began relaxing some of the restrictions.
Late in April the government announced it had picked US healthcare company Abbott Laboratories to supply the blood testing kits for the sample, compiled by national statistics bureau ISTAT to represent the overall population.
Eight protesters were arrested during a rally in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Thursday at which 2,000 people protested against the lockdown and other measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, AFP reports.
The rally, organised by the radical left-wing Vazrazhdane group, was the first mass gathering of people since Bulgaria imposed restrictions on movement and other measures as part of a nationwide state of emergency on 13 March.
The state of emergency ended on Wednesday but was immediately replaced by a “health emergency situation” which has similar effects.
The interior ministry said eight demonstrators were detained for various reasons and slammed the rally as “a brutal violation of the anti-epidemic measures” that ban gatherings of large numbers of people.
There were brief skirmishes but no serious injuries as demonstrators tried to break police cordons outside parliament buildings in downtown Sofia shouting “Mafia”, “Resign” and “Killers”.
The protesters then moved on to block traffic on several downtown boulevards.
Portugal reported 187 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, with numbers remaining low almost two weeks after the country ended its state of emergency.
The country has had only a limited outbreak of Covid-19, compared to the carnage in its neighbour, Spain, recorded a total of just 28,319 confirmed cases. Nine deaths reported on Thursday brought its total death toll to 1,184.
Portugal lifted its state of emergency on 2 May.
The Saudi-backed government in war-torn Yemen on Thursday reported 15 more coronavirus infections, taking the total in areas under its control to 85 with 12 deaths, according to Reuters.
The Aden-based government’s coronavirus committee said in a Twitter post that Al Dhalea, the ninth province to record cases, had its first three infections.
The war-ravaged country is divided between the Saudi-backed government based in the south and the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that controls the capital Sanaa and most large urban centres.
Houthi authorities have reported only two cases with one death, both in Sanaa.
Armenia on Thursday extended its coronavirus state of emergency for four more weeks, with the government blaming an increase in daily infections since the end of April.
The government opened many sectors of the economy in early May to allow people to return to work as they faced financial damage from the outbreak. However, the reopening coincided with a rise in daily infections, which reached a high of 180 on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the country reported 142 new confirmed cases of coronavirus and one new death. So far, 3,860 people have tested positive for the virus, and 49 have died while 1,572 have recovered.
Despite the extension, preschools, shopping centres and gyms will reopen from 18 May, the deputy prime minister, Tigran Avinyan, said in parliament. The wearing of masks will also be mandatory in public spaces.
Public transport will also resume next week, Avinyan said.
Medical workers in Indonesia are complaining of persistent delays to an increase in coronavirus testing promised by their president, Joko Widodo, Reuters reports.
The south east Asian nation, the world’s fourth most populous, has the highest coronavirus death toll in east Asia outside China, and one of the lowest global testing rates.
Indonesia reported 568 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, taking the total to 16,006, with 1,043 deaths. It has so far conducted around 50 tests per 100,000 people, compared with 2,500 per 100,000 in neighbouring Singapore.
Widodo promised in April that 10,000 tests would be performed each day, but the goal is yet to be reached, with testing rates on average hovering at less than half that figure. Health experts have urged Jakarta to rapidly increase its testing rate to determine the true spread of the virus across the Indonesian archipelago, saying that without sufficient data the full extent of the outbreak will remain unknown.
“We can’t even get the results after two weeks,” Meneldi Rasmin, a consulting doctor at Persahabatan Hospital in Jakarta, told Reuters.
“So we cannot determine whether it’s COVID-19 or not. We can only judge them (the patients) from clinical symptoms,” he said, attributing the delay to limited equipment capacity.
In between his rounds at Persahabatan Hospital where medical staff move about in white protective gear, Rasmin called for testing capacities to be scaled up not only in the capital, but across the sprawling country.
“Early detection by rapid testing should take place in every small district. Local clinics should take control, instead of (centralized) rapid testing,” he said.
“It should be organized at the community level, working together with the district authority.”
British man on brink of becoming Vietnam's first Covid-19 victim
Ten people in Vietnam, including a 70-year-old military veteran, have offered to donate their lungs to a British man who is the country’s most seriously ill Covid-19 patient.
We first picked up on this story yesterday, after a reader sent in a report from the English-language Vietnamese paper VN Express. Reuters filed more details this morning.
The agency reports that little expense has been spared by Vietnamese authorities to try to save the life of the 43-year-old, a pilot for Vietnam Airlines, the national carrier.
Through aggressive testing and a mass, centralised quarantine programme, the Southeast Asian country has kept its tally of coronavirus cases to just 288 and, so far, has reported no deaths.
On Tuesday, the health ministry held a meeting with experts from top hospitals and decided that the only way to save the man’s life was a lung transplant. The man, designated patient 91 by officials, has just 10% of lung function left and is reliant on a life support machine.
On Thursday, state media said 10 people, including a 70-year-old military veteran, had volunteered as lung donors, but had been turned down by state doctors.
“We are touched by their good intentions, but current regulations don’t allow us to transplant lungs donated by most living people,” a representative of the Vietnam National Coordinating Centre for Human Organ Transplantation (VNHOT) told the Tuoi Tre newspaper.
The World Health Organization’s top official in Europe has warned that distrust of authorities risks undermining efforts to suppress the Covid-19 outbreak in the region, which has suffered half of global deaths from the coronavirus so far.
Hans Kluge urged Europeans to “remain vigilant and protect the gains” made in the fight against the virus, while policymakers should “keep attuned to what people are doing - listen, learn and adjust measures accordingly,”
Chinese news agency Xinhua quoted Kluge as saying:
Emergency fatigue threatens the precious gains we have made against this virus. Reports of distrust in authorities and conspiracy thinking are fuelling movements against social and physical distancing …
Others are behaving over-cautiously, which continues to limit their social interactions and access to health services
According to WHO Europe, there have been 1.78 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 160,000 deaths in Europe, accounting for 43% of global cases and 56% of deaths.
Africa has so far largely been spared a widespread outbreak of Covid-19, even as Europe and the US have been gripped by the respiratory disease. However, the World Health Organization’s regional office for the continent says transmission in Africa is now picking up steam. Yesterday, the virus was confirmed to have spread to every African country after Lesotho, a tiny kingdom in the south of the continent, reported its first confirmed case.
Donald Trump abruptly halted a press conference on Monday after being challenged by two female reporters. The US president told Weijia Jiang, an Asian American journalist who works for CBS, to ‘ask China’ in response to her question over why he sees coronavirus testing as a global competition when more than 80,000 Americans have died. Trump then refused to respond to another White House reporter, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins.
Trump has frequently clashed with journalists, but some have suggested a pattern is emerging in the way the president responds to being held to account by members of the press who are women, particularly those of colour. Here’s a look back at several key exchanges
UK reports 428 more deaths from Covid-19
The UK has reported 428 more deaths from Covid-19, as it continues to suffer Europe’s worst outbreak of coronavirus. The UK death toll of 33,614 is the second-highest in the world, after the US.
However, the total number of confirmed infections, at 233,151, is only the world’s fourth highest.
Two migrants arriving by sea to the Greek island of Lesbos tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday, leading to increased calls for evacuation of the overcrowded local camps, writes Harriet Grant.
The Moria camp in Lesbos has so far not reported cases of the virus, though two other camps and a hotel where asylum-seekers are staying were locked down in April after positive coronavirus tests were returned.
Dimitra Kalogeropoulou, International Rescue Committee (IRC) country director in Greece, told the Guardian that the results, though a sign that public health measures are working, show that more must be done about overcrowding and poor conditions.
She said: “Thanks to random testing carried out by the Greek National Public Health Organisation in the quarantine area at the north of Lesbos, two new arrivals on the island were confirmed to have the virus before they reached Moria, avoiding putting the 18,000 people who live there in danger.
“Refugees living in camps have limited ways of protecting themselves from the coronavirus; if it does reach the camps, the severe overcrowding and absence of proper sanitation mean that it will spread rapidly. It is essential that the camps are decongested … [and] those most at risk are evacuated.”
She also called for improved medical and quarantine facilities on the island.
Gordon Brown, the former UK prime minister, has warned that a second or third wave of coronavirus infection could emanate from poor countries with undeveloped health systems, saying the risks can be controlled only by coordinated international action, writes Harriet Sherwood, for the Guardian’s global development desk.
The global crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic will not end until it is “eradicated in every continent”, the former prime minister said. In the foreword to a report by the international development charity Christian Aid, he went on:
It is in all our interests to prevent a second or third wave starting in the poorest, least protected countries with the most underdeveloped health systems. So a threat to others is a threat to us, and we help ourselves by helping others. Protecting ourselves locally means we need to act globally.
Today we face a global medical emergency, and we cannot end the coronavirus pandemic unless it is eradicated in every continent.
The report, Tipping point: how the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to push the world’s poorest to the brink of survival, warns that the world’s poorest countries are ill-equipped to cope with the impact of the disease.
Officials in Bangladesh have announced the first two confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country’s vast Rohingya refugee camps, AFP reports.
Health experts and NGOs have issuing warnings that the virus could race through the camps that house almost a million people forced to flee a military offensive in Myanmar almost two years ago.
Authorities in early April imposed a complete lockdown on the surrounding Cox’s Bazar district after a number of cases, restricting traffic in and out of the camps.
The two refugees had been put into isolation, and authorities stepped up prevention measures and were scaling up testing, said Abu Toha Bhuiyan, a local health coordinator.
On Thursday, Bangladesh’s national institute of epidemiology, disease control and research (IEDCR) reported 14 more deaths from Covid-19, bringing the total death toll in the country to 283.
IEDCR has so far recorded 18,863 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 1,041 reported on Thursday.
Sweden has reported 69 more deaths from Covid-19, bringing the total death toll in the country, which has chosen not to implement a wide ranging lockdown, to 3,529.
In its latest public health update, Sweden’s public health authority said that it 673 more people had tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing its total number of infections to 28,582.
International observers are keeping a keen eye on Sweden, after it declined to shut down portions of its economy to try to contain the spread of coronavirus. Data analysis by Swedish newspaper SVT Nyheter appears to show that the country has had a similar epidemic curve to others that instituted strict lockdowns, although its death toll and infection rates have been far higher than neighbours in Scandinavia which closed down their economies quickly.
Europe suspends delivery of 10m faulty Chinese face masks
The European commission has suspended the delivery of 10 million face masks from China after two countries complained about the poor quality of the batches they received, the Associated Press reports.
As part of its efforts to tackle the Covid-19 crisis, this month the commission, the European Union’s executive arm, started dispatching the masks to health care workers in its 27 member states and the UK.
After a first batch of 1.5 million masks was shipped to 17 states, Poland’s health minister, Lukasz Szumowski, said the 600,000 items his country received did not have European certificates and failed to comply with the medical standards required for their distribution.
“We have decided to suspend future deliveries of these masks,” the commission’s health spokesman, Stefan De Keersmaecker, said. “We will then see what action needs to be taken if there is indeed a quality problem with these masks.”
According to De Keersmaecker, the Netherlands has identified similar problems.
The whole stock of masks was purchased from a Chinese provider via a EU fund.
“If necessary we will of course take any necessary legal action,” De Keersmaecker said.
Governments, health authorities and civil society groups should urgently address mental health problems sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, the UN secretary general has said.
Launching a policy briefing on mental health during the outbreak, Antonio Guterres said that “after decades of neglect and under-investment in mental health services, the COVID-19 pandemic is now hitting families and communities with additional mental stress,” the Associated Press reported.
He pointed to “grief at the loss of loved ones, shock at the loss of jobs, isolation and restrictions on movement, difficult family dynamics, and uncertainty and fear for the future.”
Those most at risk and in need of help are front-line health care workers, older people, adolescents, young people, those with preexisting mental health conditions, and those caught up in conflict and crisis, Guterres said.
“Mental health services are an essential part of all government responses to COVID-19,” he said. “They must be expanded and fully funded.”
The 17-page UN briefing stressed that “the mental health and well-being of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis and are a priority to be addressed urgently.” It goes on:
In every community, there are numerous older adults and people with preexisting health conditions who are terrified and lonely.
Emotional difficulties among children and adolescents are exacerbated by family stress, social isolation, with some facing increased abuse, disrupted education and uncertainty about their futures.
Damien Gayle here again, back from my lunch - with thanks to Jessica Murray for keeping things rolling in the meantime.
If you have any interesting news to share that you think might find a space on the blog, please drop me a line with any tips, comments or suggestions for stories, either via email to [email protected], or via Twitter direct message to @damiengayle.
The UK is one of the worst hit countries from the coronavirus pandemic, with the highest death toll in Europe so far. But it’s the country’s black, Asian and minority ethnic community that’s been hardest hit by the deadly virus.
Figures show that black people in the UK are more than four times more likely to die from coronavirus than white people.
The Guardian is keen to speak to people in the global south, particularly in Africa and South Asia, who have had loved ones in the UK die after contracting the coronavirus.
Please email [email protected] if you feel comfortable to share tributes and memories
The former British prime minister, Gordon Brown, has warned that a second or third wave of coronavirus infection could emanate from poor countries with undeveloped health systems, saying the risks can be controlled only by coordinated international action.
The global crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic will not end until it is “eradicated in every continent”, he said.
In the foreword to a report by the international development charity Christian Aid, Brown wrote:
It is in all our interests to prevent a second or third wave starting in the poorest, least protected countries with the most underdeveloped health systems.
So a threat to others is a threat to us, and we help ourselves by helping others. Protecting ourselves locally means we need to act globally.
Today we face a global medical emergency, and we cannot end the coronavirus pandemic unless it is eradicated in every continent.
The report, Tipping point: how the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to push the world’s poorest to the brink of survival, warns that the world’s poorest countries are ill-equipped to cope with the impact of the disease.
Countries already dealing with endemic poverty, protracted humanitarian crises, long-running conflict, food insecurity, economic shocks, displacement and underfunded health systems are especially at risk.
36m Americans now unemployed as another 3m file for benefits
Another three million people filed for unemployment benefits in the US last week, taking the total to 36 million in the last two months.
The latest figures from the labor department show the rate of claims is slowing but the record-breaking pace of layoffs has already pushed unemployment to levels unseen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Some states have begun to relax quarantine rules and open more businesses, a trend that is likely to help reverse some recent job losses.
But many states are still dealing with an overwhelming backlog of claims, so the true number of job losses is still underrepresented by the government figures.
The already financially vulnerable have been hit hardest by the quarantine shutdowns.
On Thursday, the Federal Reserve will release a report detailing who has been hurt by the economic meltdown. The Fed chair, Jerome Powell, said on Wednesday that the report would show 40% of households earning less than $40,000 had experienced job losses.
Poland will close schools until the end of the school year on 26 June, a deputy education minister has said, as part of its efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19, according to Polish state news agency PAP.
In recent weeks, Poland, the largest economy among the EU’s eastern states, has sought to loosen some restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus.
Restaurants and hairdressers will reopen on Monday.
Coronavirus fatalities illuminate the unique problems women face in prison, and the all-too-common ways they get there in the first place, report Cary Aspinwall, Keri Blakinger and Joseph Nef in the US.
Melissa Ann Horn’s name appeared over and over in court records and jail blotters in the rural Virginia county where she was born, and where she was arrested for crimes related to her struggles with meth and money.
When she died on 14 April of coronavirus she contracted in a state prison for women, Virginia officials wouldn’t even say her name.
Women are the less visible victims of Covid-19 behind bars – as they are so often overlooked in a criminal justice system that was not designed for them.
Though only a small number have died – at least 13 had been reported by Wednesday – their stories illuminate the unique problems women face in prison.
They also reflect the all too common ways they get there in the first place: drug addiction and violence involving the men in their lives.
Singapore Airlines has reported an annual loss of almost $150m, driven by the collapse in air travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and the latest sign of the outbreak’s devastating impact on the aviation sector.
The airline group - which includes subsidiaries SilkAir and Scoot - suffered a net loss of Sg$212m (US$148m) for the financial year that ended on 31 March, compared to a profit of Sg$683m last year.
“Fears about the spread of the virus, as well as global travel restrictions and border controls, led to a collapse in the demand for air travel during the quarter,” the airline said in its financial report.
Singapore Airlines cut passenger capacity by 96% from April to June and grounded most of its fleet as people stopped flying due to the pandemic.
The airline’s majority shareholder, state investment fund Temasek, has thrown its weight behind a rescue package to help the carrier weather the pandemic.
The International Air Transport Association estimates that airlines operating in the Asia-Pacific region stand to lose a combined $27.8bn of revenue this year.
The trade body said last month that global air traffic suffered a 52.9% in March compared with the same period last year - the “largest decline in recent history” - due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions.
American healthcare company, CVS Health, has said it will roll out more than 50 Covid-19 testing sites at select pharmacy drive-through locations in five US states, and expects to have up to 1,000 such locations across the country by the end of the month.
The company, which owns retail chain CVS Pharmacies, has been operating large-scale testing sites since early April. The new locations will be across Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
CVS and other US retailers such as Walgreens Boots Alliance, Walmart and Target have pledged at a White House conference in March to provide space for drive-through testing sites in their car parks.
The aim is ramp up testing, reduce burden on hospitals and to keep patients in cars to avoid spreading the infection.
The new sites will use self-swab tests that will be sent to an independent, third-party lab for processing and the results will be available in about three days, CVS said, adding that it currently operates large-scale rapid testing sites in coordination with five states, which can process a total of nearly 30,000 tests every week.
CVS plans to process up to 1.5m tests every month with the new sites.
Beginning 15 May, patients who wish to be tested at the sites should register first at CVS.com to book an appointment.
Public Health England say they have approved a Covid-19 antibodies test by Swiss manufacturer Roche in “record time”, but when it comes to patients being able to access antibodies test, the UK trails behind other countries in Europe, writes Philip Oltermann, the Guardian’s Berlin bureau chief.
In Germany, many GPs started offering antibody tests to patients this week, as 123 labs across the country now carry out the tests, which are said to take around 20 minutes to analyse. Patients have been told they will usually be informed of their results by the next day.
According to the Association of the Diagnostics Industry, over 300,000 antibodies tests have been carried out in Germany since the second half of April, using not just the test produced by Roche but also those of 13 other manufacturers.
Health minister Jens Spahn announced on 4 May that his government had agreed for Roche to distribute 3 million tests to German healthcare providers by the end of the month, with five million tests per month to follow in the future. The tests were developed at Roche’s biotechnology centre in Penzberg, Bavaria.
Excitement about the significance of these tests has remained limited, however, not just because many doctors and scientists still question their reliability.
Plans for “immunity passports” for those who have developed antibodies, which gained much attention when initially proposed by German scientists, have run into political opposition as opposition parties have questioned the ethics of creating a two-tiered system.
The immunity passports proposal has been crossed out of a new law being voted on in Germany’s parliament today, and will be discussed at the end of the month by the Ethics Council, an independent council of experts appointed by the Bundestag’s president.
Here is a summary of our latest coronavirus world news headlines.
- Italian doctors have found a link between Covid-19 and a rare but serious inflammatory disorder that has required some children to undergo life-saving treatment in intensive care units. The mysterious condition emerged last month when NHS bosses issued an alert to doctors.
- The number of lives lost worldwide in the coronavirus pandemic is nearing 300,000, according to Johns Hopkins University figures, with 297,197 deaths reported. There are 4,347,015 confirmed infections.
- The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has lifted the state of emergency for 39 of its 47 prefectures, but said it would remain in place in Tokyo, as well as the second-largest urban area of Osaka, until the novel coronavirus is contained. Abe also said he would begin work on a second extra budget as part of his government’s economic stimulus measures.
- A French firm’s pledge to prioritise the US with any vaccine has caused outrage. Paul Hudson, chief executive officer of Sanofi, told Bloomberg News that any vaccine invented by his firm would go to the US first since America had done the most to fund the company’s research.
- The European commission has said it is monitoring the Hungarian government over coronavirus laws that created a state of emergency with no end date. The commission, the body charged with upholding European Union law, said the absence of a clear time limit on the emergency decree raises “potential concerns as regards legal certainty”.
- Burundi expelled a four-person WHO team ahead of elections. In a letter to the WHO’s Africa office, the foreign ministry said the team “are declared persona non grata and as such, must leave the territory of Burundi” by Friday. The letter did not provide a reason for the decision.
- Afghanistan has recorded its biggest one-day rise of new coronavirus cases as health ministry warned of a second phase of transmission amid war raging with full intensity across the country. Wahid Majroh, the deputy health minister, has warned the nation that if they continue to break the lockdown there will be another phase of the virus in the war-torn country.
- Lloyd’s of London, the world’s biggest insurance market, expects to pay out between $3bn (£2.4bn) and $4.3bn (£3.5bn) due to the coronavirus pandemic, as it warned of a $203bn hit for the entire industry. The Lloyd’s of London chief executive, John Neal, said the pandemic was an unparalleled event.
- Federal agents have seized the phone of Republican senator Richard Burr over stock transactions in the early days of the coronavirus crisis. Burr has denied any wrongdoing and said he relied solely on news reports to guide decisions on stock sales.
- US-Mexico border factories were pressed to stay open despite the Covid-19 risk. But official efforts to keep the factories shut and contain the spread of Covid-19 have come under intense pressure from companies and US government officials.
- Spain’s daily coronavirus death toll report rose above 200 on Thursday for the first time since 8 May, the health ministry reported. The overall death toll from the disease rose to 27,321 on Thursday from 27,104 as 217 people reportedly died overnight, the ministry said, according to Reuters.
The European Union has insisted that any coronavirus vaccine must be available fairly to all countries, after the British chief executive of French drugs company Sanofi said it was reserving the first shipments of its vaccine for the US.
“The vaccine against COVID-19 should be a global public good and its access needs to be equitable and universal,” European commission spokesman Stefan de Keersmaecker was reported as saying by Reuters.
His comments came after Paul Hudson, chief executive officer of Sanofi, told Bloomberg News that any vaccine invented by his firm would go to the US first since America had done the most to fund the company’s research. He said:
The US government has the right to the largest pre-order because it’s invested in taking the risk. That’s how it will be because they’ve invested to try and protect their population, to restart their economy. I’ve been campaigning in Europe to say the US will get vaccines first.
Ministers in President Emmanuel Macron’s government slammed the move by Sanofi - a French company - as “unacceptable”.
“For us in one word it is very important that, as the virus is a global virus, that we work on this globally,” de Keersmaecker said.
Iran reported 71 more deaths from Covid-19 on Thursday, bringing the country’s total death toll from the coronavirus outbreak to 6,854.
In his daily televised statement, Kianoush Jahanpour, the health ministry spokesman, said that 114,533 people had tested positive for the Sars-CoV-2 virus in Iran, of whom 90,539 have since recovered.
He added that 2,758 patients with the virus remained in a critical condition in hospital.
The US embassy has said that hospitals in Tanzania are being overwhelmed by an “exponential growth” of Covid-19 cases, writes Emmanuel Akinwotu, the Guardian’s West Africa correspondent.
In a strikingly critical statement released yesterday night, the embassy warned that risk of contracting Covid-19 was “extremely high” in the capital Dar es Salaam and beyond. The statement said:
Despite limited official reports, all evidence points to exponential growth of the epidemic in Dar and other locations in Tanzania ...
Many hospitals in Dar es Salaam have been overwhelmed in recent weeks. Limited hospital capacity throughout Tanzania could result in life-threatening delays for medical care, including for those with Covid-19.
The statement gave no evidence yet adds to rising criticism that Tanzanian authorities have not been transparent about the nature of the outbreak in the east African country.
On 29 April, after a sharp rise, Tanzanian authorities recorded 480 cases of Covid-19 and 21 deaths. Since then no figures have been released.
The president John Magufuli has been a vocal sceptic of the pandemic, accusing health officials of exaggerating the crisis. Places of worship, restaurants and bars have been open without restrictions.
Earlier this month Magufuli said Covid-19 test kits were not reliable, claiming that he had submitted secret samples from a goat, a bird and a papaya to the national health laboratory that came back as “positive”. He then closed the lab and suspended its head.
Last week, the Africa Centre for Disease Control director, Dr. John Nkengasong responded to criticism of the test kits by Magufuli, saying, “The tests that Tanzania is using we know they are working very well.” In a briefing to journalists this morning he urged Tanzania to provide “timely” updates on the outbreak.
In a move that brings Britain in line with much of the rest of the world, the UK government has told the public to wear ‘cloth face coverings’ in crowded places where it’s not possible to comply with physical-distancing measures.
But what does this mean? Why not face masks? Outside too? Should anyone avoid wearing a face covering? In this video, the Guardian’s health editor, Sarah Boseley, answers these and other questions.
Ten more deaths from Covid-19 were reported in Romania on Thursday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 1,046 as the government warned people to continue following social distancing rules to head of a second wave of pandemic.
A day before the easing of coronavirus restrictions, Raed Arafat, the head of the Emergency Situations Department (DSU), told local TV station Digi24 that people should not expect to resume normal life.
Romania Insider quoted Arafat as saying:
So far, we introduced firm measures. Bit by bit, the responsibility is transferred to the citizens. If people understand that getting out of the house comes with rules, even if they no longer need that declaration inside localities, that wearing a mask is compulsory, then we stand a chance to go through the second wave easier.
Romania has so far recorded 16,247 cases of coronavirus, with 245 more reported on Thursday. So far, 9,053 patients have recovered.
Another case of coronavirus has been detected in Cyprus’s sovereign British base areas, it was announced today, writes Helena Smith, the Guardian’s Athens correspondent.
A statement released this morning confirmed “one further member of the British forces Cyprus community” had tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday. The individual was in self-isolation after displaying what were described as “only mild symptoms.”
“This brings the total number of positive tests within the British bases to 12,” the announcement said.
It was unclear if the person had travelled recently from the UK. Despite commercial air traffic being suspended since 21 March by Greek Cypriot authorities in the war-split Mediterranean island, the UK military is believed to have continued airlifting personnel on transport planes from Britain. The republic’s lockdown regulations are however adhered to on the overseas territories with arrivals from the UK screened for the virus and ordered to self-isolate for two weeks.
The bases – a legacy of Cyprus’ past as a former crown colony – are home to nearly 6,000 British military personnel and their dependents.
Meanwhile, the EU pledged to step up support for the island’s breakaway Turkish-run north. Commission president Ursula Von Der Leyen, responding to a request for aid from the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci, said the bloc would provide 2.5 million euro for the immediate purchase of medical equipment. Further assistance will also be sent for the support of 25 health workers over the next three months with additional aid earmarked for farmers, she wrote in a letter to Akinci.
“The pandemic has forced humanity to deal with an unprecedented situation so we must all do our part and work together throughout these difficult times,” the EU chief was quoted as saying in the letter.
A moderate, whose five-year term was due to end in April before the coronavirus caused presidential elections to be postponed, Akinci had requested the support at the end of March.
The leader had been slammed by the self-styled state’s hawkish prime minister and other hardline nationalist politicians for previously accepting aid from Greek Cypriots. One MP described it as a backhanded attempt to “make the Greek side look nice.”
Akinci has said he will be competing for a second term when the polls take place October 11th.
After implementing strict lockdown measures, Cyprus, the EU’s easternmost member, has managed to keep a tight lid on the pandemic reporting 905 confirmed cases in the internationally recognised Greek south and some 108 in the north. To date there have been 24 Covid-related deaths in the south and four in the north.
Spain’s daily coronavirus death toll report rose above 200 on Thursday for the first time since 8 May 8, the health ministry reported.
The overall death toll from the disease rose to 27,321 on Thursday from 27,104 as 217 people reportedly died overnight, the ministry said, according to Reuters.
The overall number of diagnosed cases rose to 229,540 on Thursday.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany rose 933 on Thursday, a similar number to Wednesday, to stand at 172,239, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed, Reuters reports.
The reported death toll rose by 89 to 7,723, the tally showed.
This is Damien Gayle taking on the blog for the next eight hours or so, with the latest news from around the world on the coronavirus pandemic. If you have any tips, comments or suggestions for coverage, please do drop me a line, either via email to [email protected], or via Twitter direct message to @damiengayle.
A coronavirus cluster has emerged in the southern Italian region of Molise, which until Tuesday had recorded the lowest number of cases in the country.
The region, which has a population of 305,000, registered zero or few cases during the first few days of May, before the rate shot up by 22 on 8 May. There have been 85 new cases over the past week, infections that are believed to have derived from a funeral procession that took place on 30 April in the regional capital of Campobasso.
The mayor, Roberto Gravina, said no funeral or procession had been authorised. Funerals were banned during the lockdown but were allowed to resume on 4 May with no more than 15 people.
Police said around 30 mourners from the Roma community had gathered for the procession.
“It is probable that the increase of infections in this city is linked to that event,” Gravina told TGCom24 on Wednesday, adding that an investigation is underway.
The rise of infections has raised alarm in the region as well as hate towards the Roma community, according to Christian Sarachello, the president of Opera Nomadi Molise, a Roma association, for the town of Isernia.
“A scandalous campaign has broken out towards Roma communities who have lived in Molise for 600 years and who have been integrated into the fabric of our region and two provincial capitals,” he said.
Sarachello said a person from the Roma community in Isernia had been stopped from entering a supermarket. “Mud has been slung against the Roma community, we have no ties to Campobasso,” he said. “We cancelled a funeral, yet one of our young people was not allowed to enter a supermarket. This is social hatred.”
Molise has had 401 confirmed cases of coronavirus since the start of Italy’s outbreak and 22 deaths.
Japan lifts state of emergency in 39 of 47 prefectures
In a widely-trailed move, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has lifted a state of emergency in large parts of the country, but said it would remain in place in Tokyo until the novel coronavirus is contained.
Abe lifted the emergency in 39 of Japan’s 47 prefectures but left it in force in the capital and in the second-largest urban area of Osaka, as he tries to cushion the economic blow while stopping the virus.
Abe said he would begin work on a second extra budget and as part of the economic stimulus, the government would take more steps to ease corporate funding strains, if needed. “While controlling the spread of the virus as much as possible by acting on the premise that the virus is all around us, we will restore ordinary work and daily life,” Abe told a news conference.
The world’s third-largest economy declared the nationwide state of emergency a month ago, urging citizens to reduce person-to-person contact by 80% to slow the spread of the virus and ease pressure on medical services.
The British chief executive of a French pharmaceutical company is facing fury after saying any vaccine discovered by his firm will be reserved for the United States in the first instance.
The row underlines the national rivalries between countries in the search for a vaccine, and the hurdles facing those arguing any vaccine must be equitably distributed around the world, including poorer countries.
Paul Hudson, chief executive officer of Sanofi, told Bloomberg News that any vaccine invented by his firm would go to the US first since America had done the most to fund the company’s research. “The US government has the right to the largest pre-order because it’s invested in taking the risk,” Hudson said. “That’s how it will be because they’ve invested to try and protect their population, to restart their economy. I’ve been campaigning in Europe to say the US will get vaccines first.”
His comments drew outrage from officials and health experts, who noted that Paris-headquartered Sanofi has benefited from tens of millions of euros in research credits from the French state in recent years. The French government said his remarks were unacceptable, and they also drew ire from the German press, where the company was painted as a soulless, disloyal multinational willing to blackmail governments to extract research subsidies from the highest bidder.
As many as 100 forms of vaccine are being tested, with seven or so seen as the front runners by the World Health Organisation.
France’s higher education minister, Frédérique Vidal, said Sanofi’s plan to give the United States priority access would be “incomprehensible and disgraceful” since a successful vaccine must be “a public good for the world”.
Sanofi’s chief in France, Olivier Bogillot, tried to backtrack on his British boss’s comments on Thursday, saying: “The goal is to have this vaccine available to the US as well as France and Europe at the same time.”
In April, Sanofi teamed up with Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline to work on a vaccine, though trials have not yet started, and any successful treatment would be available toward the end of next year at the earliest. Sanofi says its project is being primarily funded in part by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
An interesting thread on immigration controls in Hong Kong, a particularly marked contrast to Britain’s recently-announced plans for quarantine “soon”:
In France, president Emmanuel Macron says it is too early to “shout victory” against the coronavirus but that France is “going in the right direction”.
The French leader sounded an optimistic note during a videoconference with prefects and regional authorities on Wednesday, two days after the country’s strict lockdown ended. Macron told them things were “generally going well”.
“Depending on the evolution of the epidemic, we will be able to continue with a new phase of lifting the lockdown,” said Macron, adding that he and the government were continually assessing the situation and “correcting” measures “if difficulties arise”. This included the grim prospect of reimposing a lockdown if there is a sudden worsening of the coronavirus crisis.
France has been divided into two colours, “red” where the virus is still circulating and some restrictions remain in place, in the east and the Paris region, and “green” where it is not and more restrictions have been lifted.
A few hours later, it was revealed that the number of patients in intensive care with Covid-19 had dropped to fewer than 2,500, the lowest number since March. The number of deaths in France attributed to Covid-19 in hospitals and care homes rose by 83 on Wednesday to a total of 27,074.
On Monday, France ended its strict lockdown allowing shops to reopen and some children to return to school. Everyone was allowed out of their home without having to carry a sworn declaration that their sortie was necessary. After initial blips, which saw police break up crowds in popular areas and a sudden alcohol ban in public places after Parisians celebrated their freedom after eight weeks in lockdown, one rule was relaxed on Wednesday: from now more than 10 people can gather in a private home, but only if its primary use is as a residence. The interior ministry called on people to still exercise caution and “hygienic measures”.
Your daily update on the latest coronavirus news from Australia:
Here’s Charles Grant, the director of the Centre for European Reform, on six negative trends for Europe that had emerged before the virus struck but are now accelerating:
Malaysia’s health ministry has today reported 40 new coronavirus cases with one additional death. The country has so far recorded a total of 6,819 infections, with 112 fatalities.
The European commission has said it is monitoring the Hungarian government every day over coronavirus laws that created a state of emergency with no end date.
The commission, the body charged with upholding European Union law, said the absence of a clear time limit on the emergency decree raises “potential concerns as regards legal certainty”, while a media law criminalising the spreading of misinformation about the pandemic “may have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Hungary”.
“On a daily basis we are assessing whether we can take legal action,” European commission vice president Vĕra Jourová told MEPs in Brussels, adding that she was “very well informed about the people who were detained about the spread of so-called fake news”.
Independent journalists have criticised a law in late March that introduced jail terms of up to five years for people intentionally spreading misinformation about the pandemic. This week a member of an opposition party was detained and questioned over a critical Facebook page that claimed beds had been emptied in his local hospital to prepare for coronavirus patients. Hungarian media reported he was released pending further investigation and had electronic devices seized.
The commission came under fire from several MEPs for not using its legal powers to take the Hungarian government to the European court of justice for breaches of EU law.
“Where were you when democracy in Hungary was put in lockdown,” centre-right MEP Christophe Hansen said. “Why is the commission, guardian of the treaties, so reluctant to act on the defence of European values.”
Socialist group leader Iratxe García said the EU had “done nothing” to punish Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán for his actions, as she urged turning off the tap of EU funds to his government.
No Hungarian government representative took part in the debate, after Orbán snubbed an invitation to speak. An MEP from his Fidesz party, Andor Deli, criticised the European parliament for going ahead with the debate, when very few MEPs could take part due to coronavirus restrictions. “This debate is just a repetition of all of the old condemnation of Hungary and I don’t think it is of interest to anyone.”
Matt Damon says his quarantine in Ireland feels like a “fairytale”, that the taoiseach Leo Varadkar is a “badass” and that he worries about returning to the United States because of inadequate testing for coronavirus.
The actor has been staying with his family in Dalkey, a seaside village in south Dublin, since March after filming in Ireland for The Last Duel, directed by Ridley Scott, was shut down.
Local radio station Spin 1038 scooped Irish media by nabbing an interview that must have brought smiles to Ireland’s tourism agency.
“It feels like a fairytale. When I first came in, people were saying well, ‘Bono lives over there, Enya lives over there’,” said Damon. “It’s been incredible. This is one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been. Obviously what’s going on in the world is horrible but I’ve got my whole family; I’m with my kids and we have teachers with us because we were planning on missing school for about eight weeks.
“We’ve got what nobody else has, which is live human beings teaching our kids so we feel guilty. We’ve got this set-up in this incredible place. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Even in the 2km lockdown, we’ve got trees, and woods and ocean. I can’t think of any place you’d rather be in a 2km radius of.”
Damon called Varadkar “a badass” for returning to medical work during the pandemic. He said he was a “little worried” about returning to the US: “We don’t have adequate testing so there’s going to be another surge it looks like back home.”
One of Australia’s largest brewers is tipping 90,000 kegs of beer down the drain.
Lion, which manufactures Tooheys, James Boag, XXXX and other well-known Australian beers, collected the untapped kegs from pubs and clubs in March, after the Australian government declared pubs and restaurants had to shut to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The beer has now passed its shelf life and will be tipped into the wastewater treatment plants at the Tooheys and XXXX breweries, which will produce biogas to offset the breweries’ natural gas use and be used to brew fresh beer.
The amount to be emptied is equal to 7.8m pints, 10.5m schooners, 11.8m stubbies, or 1.8 Olympic swimming pools.
Calla Wahlquist reports here:
More on the expulsion of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) team from Burundi, days before the country’s presidential election, has come from AFP:
The foreign ministry, in a letter to WHO Africa headquarters and seen by AFP, said the UN agency’s representative in Burundi and his three colleagues “are declared persona non grata and as such, must leave the territory of Burundi” by Friday.
The directive, dated May 12, expels WHO’s top official in Burundi, Doctor Walter Kazadi Mulombo, the country’s coronavirus coordinator Dr Jean Pierre Mulunda Nkata, communicable diseases head Dr Ruhana Mirindi Bisimwa, and a laboratory expert in the testing for Covid-19, Professor Daniel Tarzy.
“It is the whole WHO team responsible for supporting Burundi in its response against COVID-19,” a Burundian official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They are expelled and the health minister has totally excluded WHO, accusing it of unacceptable interference in its management of the coronavirus.”
The letter does not provide a reason for the decision. Diplomatic and administrative sources told AFP the foreign ministry aborted a similar attempt to expel the same four officials a month ago.
The landlocked country of some 11 million has officially recorded 27 cases and one death from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. But it has taken few precautions against the disease and testing is low, fuelling concern that the true extent of the outbreak is not known.
Rights groups say the government is pressing ahead with the vote no matter the cost, and accuses the ruling party and its youth wing of crushing dissent and threatening those taking their own measures against coronavirus. Officials in Burundi earlier cited “God’s protection” for the country’s ostensibly low infection rate and urged citizens to go about their daily lives without fear.
Afghanistan has recorded its biggest one-day rise of new coronavirus cases as health ministry warned of a second phase of transmission amid war raging with full intensity across the country.
Wahid Majroh, the deputy health minister, has warned the nation that if they continue to break the lockdown there will be another phase of the virus in the war-torn country.
The health ministry has recorded 413 new transmissions over the past day, the biggest one-day rise of new cases, and four new deaths, raising the total number of infections to 5,639 and the death toll to 136. There have so far been 691 recoveries.
Capital Kabul has recorded it’s another worst day after 188 tests out of 441 went back positive. Kabul is the country’s worst affected area with 1,556 confirmed cases of Covid-19.
One doctor died of Covid-19 in the western province of Herat yesterday. Majroh said 402 health workers have so far been infected, with eight deaths.
Majroh said the country is waiting to receive more testing kits from the World Health Organisation to increase daily testing capacity to around 2,500 in the first phase, with plans to increase this number to 10,000. The health ministry has tested 1,008 suspected patients over past 24 hours.
Meanwhile the Taliban claimed responsibility for a attack on the defence ministry facility in eastern Paktia province on Thursday morning which killed 5 civilians and wounded 15 others, according to the ministry.
The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, in response to an attack on a maternity hospital in Kabul has ordered a resumption of a full offensive against the Taliban and other militant groups, ending a period of reduced military activity ahead of US-brokered peace talks that had been expected to start this year.
Russia has reported 9,974 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, its lowest daily rise since 2 May, bringing its nationwide tally to 252,245. Russia’s coronavirus response centre said 93 people died overnight, bringing the official death toll to 2,305.
Armenia has extended a state of emergency in the country over the coronavirus outbreak until 13 June, the government said, after the number of new daily infections began rising at the end of April.
In early May the government opened almost all sectors of the economy to allow people to return to work. The South Caucasus country of three million people has registered 3,860 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 49 deaths as of Thursday.
Burundi has expelled the national head of the World Health Organisation, according to a letter written by the country’s foreign minister, which gave no reason for the decision. Despite the coronavirus outbreak, Burundi is in the middle of campaigns for a presidential election next week, with politicians holding large rallies regardless of health risks.
More restaurant empty-seat-filling antics, courtesy of Reuters. This time it’s Maison Saigon in Bangkok, Thailand, and toy pandas.
“Earlier we had only one chair for the tables where the customer came alone. But for me, it felt strange, so I thought I’d give them some company,” said Natthwut Rodchanapanthkul, the restaurant’s owner.
Sitting opposite one of the panda dolls, diner Sawit Chaiphuek said he was happy to have some company as he stepped out to eat for the first time in months. “The doll makes me feel less lonely eating by myself,” said Sawit, 25.
Siriporn Assavakarint, another customer, said the new seating rules often bamboozled diners, and the army of plush pandas made things much clearer.
“It’s a lot easier to understand compared to other restaurants where people always get confused about where to sit and end up sitting too close to each other.”
Thailand reported one new coronavirus case on Thursday and no new deaths, bringing the total to 3,018 cases and 56 deaths since the outbreak started in January. On Wednesday, it reported zero new cases for the first time since early March, before the lockdown began.
On 20 January, KK Shailaja phoned one of her medically trained deputies. She had read online about a dangerous new virus spreading in China. “Will it come to us?” she asked. “Definitely, Madam,” he replied. And so the health minister of the Indian state of Kerala began her preparations.
Four months later, Kerala has reported only 524 cases of Covid-19, four deaths and – according to Shailaja – no community transmission. The state has a population of about 35 million and a GDP per capita of only £2,200. By contrast, the UK (double the population, GDP per capita of £40,400) has reported more than 40,000 deaths, while the US (10 times the population, GDP per capita of £51,000) has reported more than 82,000 deaths; both countries have rampant community transmission.
As such, Shailaja Teacher, as the 63-year-old minister is affectionately known, has attracted some new nicknames in recent weeks – Coronavirus Slayer and Rockstar Health Minister among them. The names sit oddly with the merry, bespectacled former secondary school science teacher, but they reflect the widespread admiration she has drawn for demonstrating that effective disease containment is possible not only in a democracy, but in a poor one.
Much more here:
There has been a development in the investigation into the Republican senator Richard Burr, who has faced demands to resign after selling millions of dollars’ worth of stocks just before the market dropped amid fears of the coronavirus pandemic.
It is now being reported that Burr has had his cellphone seized by federal agents as part of the Justice Department’s probe of the stock transactions. Burr has denied any wrongdoing and said he relied solely on news reports to guide decisions on stock sales, amid reports that he and other senators sold off shares after being briefed on the risks of the coronavirus crisis.
Burr, the Republican intelligence committee chairman, turned over his phone to agents after they served a search warrant on him at his Washington residence, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing an unnamed law enforcement official.
A separate law enforcement official told the LA Times that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also served a warrant recently to iPhone maker Apple Inc to get information from Burr’s iCloud account. Law enforcement agents used data received from the company as part of the evidence used to obtain the warrant for the senator’s phone, the report added.
The Five Dock Dining restaurant in Sydney is preparing for the reopening of cafes and restaurants in New South Wales tomorrow by positioning lifesize cardboard cutouts of humans around their dining room to give it the appearance of being full. Actual humans must have at least four square metres of space apiece.
Morning/evening/whatever-it-is-where-you-are everyone. This is Simon Burnton taking on the live blog for the next few hours. If you have seen any stories that deserve our attention, or if you have any tips, comments or suggestions for our coverage then please let me know by sending me a message either to @Simon_Burnton on Twitter or via email. Thanks!
That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan for today.
Today I leave you with something a little different – a Ghanaian pallbearer and his band of merry, morbid men, who have become the unofficial mascots of the pandemic in countries around the world:
Here are the main developments from the last few hours:
- Deaths worldwide near 300,000. The number of lives lost worldwide in the coronavirus pandemic is nearing 300,000, according to Johns Hopkins University figures, with 297,220 deaths reported. There are 4,348,246 confirmed infections.The true figure is likely to be significantly higher as a result of underreporting or differing definitions of what constitutes a death from coronavirus.
- Moscow ascribes over 60% of coronavirus deaths in April to other causes. The city of Moscow said on Wednesday it had ascribed the deaths of more than 60% of coronavirus patients in April to other causes as it defended what it said was the superior way it counted the number of people killed by the novel virus. At 242,271, Russia has the second-highest number of confirmed cases in the world after the United States, but with 2,212 coronavirus deaths, it also has one of the world’s lowest reported mortality rates.
- Trump criticises Fauci’s warnings over reopening. US President Donald Trump on Wednesday has criticised a warning given by top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci this week about the dangers of reopening the economy too quickly. “To me it’s not an acceptable answer especially when it comes to schools,” Trump told reporters at the White House, noting he was surprised by the response Fauci gave to lawmakers in testimony to the US Senate on Tuesday.
- Italian doctors find link between Covid-19 and inflammatory disorder. Doctors in Italy have reported the first clear evidence of a link between Covid-19 and a rare but serious inflammatory disorder that has required some children to undergo life-saving treatment in intensive care units. The mysterious condition emerged last month when NHS bosses issued an alert to doctors after hospitals admitted a number of children with a mix of toxic shock and symptoms seen in an inflammatory disorder known as Kawasaki disease.
- China begins testing every resident in Wuhan. Chinese authorities have plans to test every resident in Wuhan, after a small outbreak was reported this week. The city in Hubei province, where the virus is believed to have originated with the first recorded cases, had reported few daily cases since early March and none since early April, until a cluster of six was confirmed at the weekend. There is serious concern over the outbreak in Wuhan, despite the small size. He Qinghua from the bureau of disease prevention and control, told a press conference disease control was generally stable across the nation, but there were still challenges.
- Hong Kong to test hundreds of families. Hong Kong authorities are going to screen hundreds of families, local media is reporting, after its 23-day run of no local infections was broken with the diagnosis of Covid-19 in a 66-year-old woman with no recent travel history, and her five-year-old granddaughter.
- Japan is expected to lift the state of emergency for 39 of 47 prefectures. Japan is expected to lift the state of emergency for 39 of its 47 prefectures on Thursday, local media reported. The world’s third-largest economy declared a nationwide state of emergency a month ago, urging citizens to reduce person-to-person contact by 80% in an effort to slow the pace of new infections and ease the strain on medical services.
- Japan suicides decline as lockdown causes shift in stress factors. Suicide in Japan fell by 20% in April compared to 2019, the biggest drop in five years, despite fears of the coronavirus pandemic causing increased stress and many prevention helplines either not operating or being short-staffed. People spending more time at home with their families, fewer people commuting to work and the start of the school year being delayed are seen as factors in the fall.
- New Zealand announces NZ$50bn fund. Finance minister Grant Robertson has unveiled an unprecedented NZ$50bn fund to save jobs and reduce unemployment to pre-coronavirus levels within two years. The huge figure, announced alongside the annual Budget on Thursday, equates to about 17% of the nation’s GDP and 17 times more than what a New Zealand government usually allocates to new spending in its budgets. Underscoring the massive challenges facing the economy as it emerges from lockdown, Robertson said the fund was “the most significant financial commitment in modern history”.
- Virus may never be eradicated – WHO. The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 could become endemic like HIV, the World Health Organization has said, warning against any attempt to predict how long it would keep circulating and calling for a “massive effort” to counter it. “It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” said Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief. WHO mental health experts have warned of a global mental health crisis.
The rise of mutual aid under coronavirus
One of the biggest cliches about disasters is that they reveal civilisation as a thin veneer, beneath which lies brutal human nature. From this perspective, the best we can hope for from most people under crisis is selfish indifference; at worst, they will swiftly turn to violence. Our worst instincts must be repressed. This becomes a justification for authoritarianism and heavy-handed policing.
But studies of historical disasters have shown that this is not how most people actually behave. There are nearly always selfish and destructive people, and they are often in power, because we have created systems that reward that kind of personality and those principles. But the great majority of people in ordinary disasters behave in ways that are anything but selfish, and if we’re stuck with veneer as a metaphor, then it peels off to reveal a lot of creative and generous altruism and brilliant grassroots organising. With the global pandemic, these empathic urges and actions are wider and deeper and more consequential than ever.
UK front pages, Thursday 14 May:
New Zealand budget: NZ$1bn for ‘nature jobs’ but dismay at lack of climate action
More than a billion dollars will be spent by the New Zealand government creating “nature jobs” as part of its a pandemic recovery, including environmental work in regions, but critics expressed dismay there wasn’t more emphasis on climate change.
On Thursday the finance minister Grant Robertson unveiled more than NZ$50bn in recovery funding to get the economy back on track following a seven-week lockdown. Tens of thousands of people have lost work during the crisis, with further lay-offs expected.
Some 11,000 new jobs will be created in environmental work in the regions, conservation minister Eugenie Sage said, with people employed in pest and weed control operations, biodiversity projects and Department of Conservation nature ambassador roles.
Nursing home carers tell their stories: ‘You don’t understand the stress we’re going through’
As many as 1.5 million seniors live in nursing homes across the country. More than 28,000 of those seniors and their caregivers have died from coronavirus; combined with nursing home workers, they make up 35% of all Covid-19 deaths in the US. Beyond other determinants – region, age, frailty, underlying conditions – one factor could have the greatest impact on elders’ mortality: their caretaker’s ability to effectively do their jobs.
While media attention has focused on the service of doctors and nurses in US hospitals, nursing home workers have remained largely invisible, perhaps because the workforce is made up of America’s most neglected – the majority are women, more than one third are black, almost 20% are immigrants.
Here are the most important developments from the last few hours:
- Deaths worldwide near 300,000. The number of lives lost worldwide in the coronavirus pandemic is nearing 300,000, according to Johns Hopkins University figures, with 297,197 deaths reported. There are 4,347,015 confirmed infections.The true fatalities figure is likely to be significantly higher as a result of underreporting or differing definitions of what constitutes a death from coronavirus.
- Moscow ascribed over 60% of coronavirus deaths in April to other causesThe city of Moscow said on Wednesday it had ascribed the deaths of more than 60% of coronavirus patients in April to other causes as it defended what it said was the superior way it and Russia counted the number of people killed by the novel virus. At 242,271, Russia has the second-highest number of confirmed cases in the world after the United States, but with 2,212 coronavirus deaths, Russia also has one of the world’s lowest mortality rates.
- Trump says Fauci’s warning over reopening the economy too soon as “not an acceptable answer”US President Donald Trump on Wednesday described as not acceptable a warning given by top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci this week about the dangers of reopening the economy too quickly. “To me it’s not an acceptable answer especially when it comes to schools,” Trump told reporters at the White House, noting he was surprised by the response Fauci gave to lawmakers in testimony to the US Senate on Tuesday.
- Italian doctors find link between Covid-19 and inflammatory disorderDoctors in Italy have reported the first clear evidence of a link between Covid-19 and a rare but serious inflammatory disorder that has required some children to undergo life-saving treatment in intensive care units. The mysterious condition emerged last month when NHS bosses issued an alert to doctors after hospitals admitted a number of children with a mix of toxic shock and symptoms seen in an inflammatory disorder known as Kawasaki disease.
- China begins testing every resident in WuhanChinese authorities have plans to test every resident in Wuhan, after a small outbreak was reported this week. The city in Hubei province, where the virus is believed to have originated with the first recorded cases, had reported few daily cases since early March and none since early April, until a cluster of six was confirmed at the weekend. There is serious concern over the outbreak in Wuhan, despite the small size. He Qinghua from the bureau of disease prevention and control, told a press conference disease control was generally stable across the nation, but there were still challenges.
- Hong Kong to test hundreds of familiesHong Kong authorities are going to screen hundreds of families, local media is reporting, after its 23-day run of no local infections was broken with the diagnosis of Covid-19 in a 66-year-old woman with no recent travel history, and her five-year-old granddaughter.
- Japan is expected to lift the state of emergency for 39 of 47 prefectures Japan is expected to lift the state of emergency for 39 of its 47 prefectures on Thursday, local media reported. The world’s third-largest economy declared a nationwide state of emergency a month ago, urging citizens to reduce person-to-person contact by 80% in an effort to slow the pace of new infections and ease the strain on medical services.
- Japan suicides fall sharply as Covid-19 lockdown causes shift in stress factorsSuicide in Japan fell by 20% in April compared to 2019, the biggest drop in five years, despite fears of the coronavirus pandemic causing increased stress and many prevention helplines either not operating or being short-staffed. People spending more time at home with their families, fewer people commuting to work and the start of the school year being delayed are seen as factors in the fall.
- New Zealand announces NZ$50bn fundNew Zealand’s finance minister Grant Robertson has unveiled an unprecedented NZ$50bn fund to save jobs and reduce unemployment to pre-coronavirus levels within two years. The huge figure, announced alongside the annual Budget on Thursday, equates to about 17% of the nation’s GDP and 17 times more than what a New Zealand government usually allocates to new spending in its budgets. Underscoring the massive challenges facing the economy as it emerges from lockdown, Robertson said the fund was “the most significant financial commitment in modern history”.
- Virus may never be eradicated – WHO. The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 could become endemic like HIV, the World Health Organization has said, warning against any attempt to predict how long it would keep circulating and calling for a “massive effort” to counter it. “It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” said Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief.
- Every African country is now affected by the outbreak, after Lesotho announced its first case. The virus was detected in one of 81 people tested after arriving last week from Saudi Arabia and neighbouring South Africa, Lesotho’s health ministry said.
Global report: WHO says Covid-19 ‘may never go’ and warns of mental health crisis
The World Health Organisation has warned that coronavirus “may never go away” as its experts predicted that a global mental health crisis caused by the pandemic was looming.
The global health body on Wednesday cautioned against trying to predict how long coronavirus would keep circulating, and called for a “massive effort” to overcome it.
“It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” said Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief.
A report by the WHO’s mental health department to the UN warned of another looming crisis: “The isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil – they all cause or could cause psychological distress,” said the department’s director, Devora Kestel. She said the world could expect to see an upsurge in the severity of mental illness, including amongst children, young people and healthcare workers.
Trump dismisses Dr Fauci's warnings on reopening the economy as 'not acceptable'
In case you missed it, US President Donald Trump on Wednesday evening dismissed comments by Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key member of the coronavirus task force, in testimony at the US senate regarding the dangers of reopening the economy too soon.
Trump told reporters at the White House, “to me it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools.”
Yesterday, the top public health official contradicted Trump, who urged schools and businesses to reopen and said the White House has set a target of having 100m vaccine doses by the autumn.
Fauci disputed that timeline, indicating that neither a vaccine nor treatment could be developed and distributed in time to facilitate the reopening of schools in the fall.
“I think they should open the schools, absolutely,” the president said on Wednesday.
“I think they should. It’s had very little impact on young people. And I think that if you’re an instructor, if you’re a teacher, a professor over a certain age like let’s say 65 or maybe even if you want to be conservative, 60, perhaps you want to stay out for a little while longer. But I think you should absolutely open the schools. Our country has got to get back and it’s got to get back as soon as possible, and I don’t consider our country coming back if the schools are closed.”
‘Why should you cry?’ Ghana’s dancing pallbearers find new fame during Covid-19
The Nana Otafrija pallbearers might look slick, but they are not afraid to get dirty. Their signature moves, carried out with a coffin in tow, include dropping to all-fours and crawling in unison; or lying on their backs, the coffin balanced on top of them, legs moving in time to the music – as though they have been crushed by the casket.
The dancing pallbearers first became famous in 2017 when their so-called “coffin dance” featured in a BBC documentary. Then, someone added an EDM track and a meme was born: footage of the dancers was spliced with botched feats of strength and other accidents and posted all over the internet.
Now, the coronavirus pandemic has transformed their performance into a way to warn people of the dangers of ignoring social distancing:
China begins testing every resident in Wuhan
Yesterday we reported on plans by Chinese authorities to test every resident in Wuhan, after a small outbreak was reported this week.
State media, People’s Daily, has said the program began yesterday, prioritising high risk populations.
It appears the intention is still to test everyone, although a health official told CGTN testing should be selective.
Dr Wu Zunyou, an epidemiologist at the Chinese center for disease control and prevention, said he didn’t believe there would be a “second peak” of the virus epidemic in China.
“We have gathered experience in curbing the spread of the coronavirus vin the past three months,” he said. “We won’t let some sporadic cases become another outbreak.”
There is serious concern over the outbreak in Wuhan, despite the small size. He Qinghua from the bureau of disease prevention and control, told a press conference disease control was generally stable across the nation, but there were still challenges.
He said Chinese authorities were still investigating the origins of the Shulan outbreak inthe northeasternJilin province, and he vowed to “make [results] public immediately”.Outbreaks in northeastern provinces near the borders with Russia and North Korea, drew a visit from Chinese vice premier Sun Chunlan this week.
According to Xinhua News, Sun, who is also a member of the CCP central committee’s Political Bureau, toured Heilongjiang province and demanded increased efforts in testing, tracing and treatment.
Suicide in Japan falls by 20% in April compared to 2019, biggest drop in five years
Gavin Blair reports for the Guardian:
Suicide in Japan fell by 20% in April compared to 2019, the biggest drop in five years, despite fears of the coronavirus pandemic causing increased stress and many prevention helplines either not operating or being short-staffed. People spending more time at home with their families, fewer people commuting to work and the start of the school year being delayed are seen as factors in the fall.
Deaths worldwide near 300,000
The number of lives lost worldwide in the coronavirus pandemic is nearing 300,000, according to Johns Hopkins University figures, with 297,197 confirmed deaths.
There are 4,347,015 confirmed infections.
The true fatalities figure is likely to be significantly higher as a result of underreporting or differing definitions.
China is no longer among the ten worst-affected countries in terms of the official number of confirmed infections.
- US cases: 1,390,406 (deaths: 84,119)
- Russia cases: 242,271 (deaths: 2,212)
- United Kingdom cases: 230,986 (deaths: 33,264)
- Spain cases: 228,691 (deaths: 27,104)
- Italy cases: 222,104 (deaths: 31,106)
- Brazil cases: 190,137 (deaths: 13,240)
- France cases: 178,184 (deaths: 27,077)
- Germany cases: 174,098 (deaths: 7,861)
- Turkey cases: 143,114 (deaths: 3,952)
- Iran cases: 112,725 (deaths: 6,783)
The full story on the China hacking warnings now:
Organisations conducting research into Covid-19 may be targeted by computer hackers linked to the Chinese government, according to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
Neither agency cited any specific examples, but warned on Wednesday that institutions and companies involved in vaccines, treatments and testing for the coronavirus should take additional security measures to protect data and be aware of the potential threat.
“China’s efforts to target these sectors pose a significant threat to our nation’s response to Covid-19,” the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in a statement. “This announcement is intended to raise awareness for research institutions and the American public and provide resources and guidance for those who may be targeted.”
China has defended its response to the virus, and foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian denied the government was involved in any attempt to steal virus-related data on Monday, after some media reported on the warning in advance.
“We are leading the world in Covid-19 treatment and vaccine research,” Zhao told reporters. “It is immoral to target China with rumours and slanders in the absence of any evidence.”
Cats can spread the new coronavirus to other cats without any of them ever having symptoms, a lab experiment suggests.
Scientists who led the work, reported on Wednesday, say it shows the need for more research into whether the virus can spread from people to cats to people again, Reuters reports.
Health experts have downplayed that possibility. The American Veterinary Medical Association said in a new statement that just because an animal can be deliberately infected in a lab does not mean that it will easily be infected with that same virus under natural conditions.
Researchers took coronavirus from a human patient and infected three cats with it. Each cat then was housed with another cat that was free of infection. Within five days, coronavirus was found in all three of the newly exposed animals.
None of the six cats ever showed any symptoms.
Last month, two domestic cats in different parts of New York state tested positive for the coronavirus after mild respiratory illnesses. They were thought to have picked it up from people in their homes or neighbourhoods.
Some tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo also have tested positive for the virus, as have a small number of other animals around the world.
Guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that based on the limited information available so far, the risk of pets spreading coronavirus to people is considered to be low.
Get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan.
Here is the full story on New Zealand’s budget:
Hong Kong to test hundreds of families
Hong Kong authorities are going to screen hundreds of families, local media is reporting, after its 23-day run of no local infections was broken with the diagnosis of Covid-19 in a 66-year-old woman with no recent travel history, and her five-year-old granddaughter. Several other members of the family are reportedly also showing symptoms.
Health authorities told media on Wednesday afternoon the woman developed a fever on 8 May, and had been visiting her son and his family in a nearby building every day.
Authorities are now testing hundreds of people in the area of Tsuen Wan, including all residents of about 860 households in the two buildings, worker at a market the woman visited, and the employees and fellow pupils of a tutorial centre where the child visited.
“This test result will indicate the epidemic situation in the local community. It does not mean that the patient acquired the disease from these two blocks, because she also participated in a bit of community activities,” said communicable Disease Branch Head Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan.
“She travelled daily, from Lei Muk Shue Estate to Tsuen Wan by minibus, and also visited some markets. Her household contacts may also be a source.
We are also investigating the people who are in contact with her household to see whether there are other possible sources.”
Hong Kong recently began easing restrictions on gatherings and venues in the city, but government authorities said there was no need to re-up them at this stage.
Under secretary for food and health, Dr Chui Tak-yi urged vigilance, saying sporadic new cases were unavoidable.
Hong Kong has reported 1,050 cases of Covid-19, four of them fatal.
Australia’s unemployment rate of 6.2% – an increase from has come in lower than expected, but are still “terribly shocking,” the Prime Minister said.
That press conference is now over.
Most experts had predicted unemployment of around 7% or as high as 10%.
The ABC’s analysis notes that the participation rate has jumped from 63.5% to 66%, however, which means many more people are no longer looking for work. Most of Australia’s jobs were lost in the retail, hospitality and tourism sectors.
If you’d like more Australia-specific Covid-19 and politics news,
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the plan is to get people back to work:
And I would urge people to not underestimate the scale of that task – it’s one thing to close things down. It’s entirely another to open them up again.
And to do so in a Covid-safe way. And that’s why we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves here.
The task we have now is to reopen these businesses to get employees back into their jobs and to do so in a Covid-safe way, so that it’s sustainable.
For many years, potentially, if that is what is required. And so the task and the message I have for those young people is that’s why I have been so forward leaning, whether it has been the reopening of schools which has been on Treasury’s advice.
Returning to Australia’s unemployment rate – Greg Jericho, who writes on economics for Guardian Australia:
Back to Australia, where Prime Minister Scott Morrison is asked what it says about Australia’s relationship with China that both the trade and agriculture ministers are unable to get a phone call with their Chinese counterparts.
“The great thing about sovereignty is we always respect the sovereignty of other nations and we expect the same in return,” he says. “And I think that’s a pretty good deal.
Here is an earlier story for context:
New Zealand announces NZ$50bn fund for the country’s recovery from Covid-19
Cutting away from Australia for second to nearby New Zealand, where the finance minister, Grant Robertson, said his government could reduce unemployment to pre-coronavirus levels within two years as he announced a NZ$50bn fund for the country’s recovery from Covid-19 alongside his annual Budget on Thursday.
The figure, which is about 17% of New Zealand’s GDP and 17 times more than what a New Zealand government usually allocates to new spending in its budgets, was “the most significant financial commitment” the country’s leaders had made “in modern history”, Robertson said.
The spending, which includes an extension to the government’s Covid-19 wage subsidy as well as spending on training and apprenticeships, public housing and infrastructure – will be funded by steep long-term borrowing, and could save 138,000 jobs according to Treasury models provided by the government.
The announcement came as New Zealand recovered a third consecutive day of no new cases of Covid-19 and the government’s lockdown restrictions on the country loosened further, with eateries and shops permitted to open and people allowed to socialise outside their homes for the first time, in groups of no more than 10.
Australia’s treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, is speaking now.
The youth unemployment rate has risen to more than 13% he says.
“The economic figures will get worse before they get better,” he says.
1.6m Australians are now on JobSeeker – an unemployment benefit – and 6 million Australians, working for more than 860,000 businesses, are on JobKeeper, a wage subsidy to keep Australians in work.
Both are designed to end in September.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is addressing the media now, as the country’s unemployment reaches 6.2%.
“This is a tough day for Australia,” he says.
This is a tough day for Australia. A very tough day. Almost 600,000 jobs have been lost. Every one of them devastating for those Australians, for their families, for their communities. A very tough day. Terribly shocking, although not unexpected.”
Los Angeles beaches reopened on Wednesday after weeks of coronavirus closure, drawing Californians out for a glimpse of the sun one day after learning that sweeping stay-at-home orders could remain in place all summer.
The new rules imposed by county health officials allow residents back to the shore as long as they wear masks when not in the water and stay “active” by surfing, swimming or running. Sitting on the sand is still prohibited, Reuters reports.
The closure of California’s beaches by Newsom or local officials has been a point of contention as US states slowly lift unprecedented clampdowns imposed on residents and businesses in March to control the spread of the virus.
Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said on Tuesday that stay-at-home rules for some 10 million residents, including the city of Los Angeles, would likely remain in force through the summer, although some restrictions would be eased.
Many state governors, concerned about the economic fallout from prolonged lockdowns, have said they would lift restrictions carefully and gradually, requiring businesses to maintain physical distance from customers and clean surfaces frequently.
South Korea has tested over 24,000 people since the outbreak in Seoul’s Itaewon neighbourhood, Yonhap News Agency reports:
More than 24,000 people connected with the recent new coronavirus outbreak in Seoul’s popular multicultural neighborhood of Itaewon have been tested for Covid-19, thanks to the adoption of free and anonymous tests, the city mayor said Thursday.
Cases linked to bars and nightclubs in Itaewon hit 120 on Wednesday as secondary infections surfaced across the country. Infections in Seoul accounted for more than half of the cases at 70.
China reported 3 new coronavirus cases for May 13, down from 7 cases a day earlier, the country’s health commission said.
All of the new cases were locally transmitted - two in the northeastern Liaoning province and one in Jilin province that borders Liaoning, the National Health Commission said in a statement on Thursday.
The number of new asymptomatic cases rose to 12 from 8 a day earlier.
The total number of cases now stands at 82,929 while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,633.
Wisconsin supreme court strikes down governor’s stay-at-home order
Wisconsin’s supreme court struck down the state’s stay-at-home order on Thursday, ruling that Governor Tony Evers overstepped his authority by extending the order through the end of May.
The ruling reopens the state, lifting caps on the size of gatherings, allowing people to travel as they please and allowing shuttered businesses to reopen, including bars and restaurants. The Tavern League of Wisconsin swiftly posted the news on its website, telling members, “You can OPEN IMMEDIATELY!”
The 4-3 decision, written by the court’s conservative justices, also chips away at Evers’ authority to slow the spread of coronavirus and will force the Democratic governor to work with the Republican legislature as the state continues to grapple with the outbreak.
Trump has just tweeted:
So it seems a good time to repost Guardian Washington Correspondent David Smith’s piece on why Trump might be doing this:
“Donald Trump has ratcheted up his “Obamagate” conspiracy theory to implicate Joe Biden and other former White House officials in what critics say is a desperate attempt to distract from the coronavirus pandemic”:
It is regularly cited as the most hated word in the English language and even Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has visibly struggled while using it. But now the word “moist” is being deployed for good – in a song written by a New Zealand school principal that aims to helps children observe social distancing guidelines.
Shirley Șerban of Lake Brunner school in the South Island penned the song Moist Breath Zone as a health and safety message for students returning to school after the Covid-19 lockdown.
“I’ll share my news, but my food’s for me alone. If I smell your breath, I will go sit on my own. Always wash your hands – make them soapy, full of foam,” she sings.
“And stay out of my moist breath zone!”
A moist breath zone is the area in which you can feel or smell someone else’s breath.
The song has been welcomed by New Zealand’s Ministry of Education, which called Șerban’s effort “fantastic”.
Japan is expected to lift the state of emergency for 39 of 47 prefectures
Japan is expected to lift the state of emergency for 39 of its 47 prefectures on Thursday, local media reported, while the capital Tokyo is set to keep restrictions in place until it sees a convincing containment of the coronavirus, Reuters reports.
The world’s third-largest economy declared a nationwide state of emergency a month ago, urging citizens to reduce person-to-person contact by 80% in an effort to slow the pace of new infections and ease the strain on medical services. The government had said it would reassess the situation in mid-May.
The declaration gives governors added authority to tell people to stay home and close schools and businesses, but there is no penalty for non-compliance. Some non-essential businesses even in hard-hit areas have gradually started to reopen ahead of the government’s review.
Japan has reported 16,100 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, excluding those from a cruise ship previously quarantined in Yokohama, and 696 deaths to date from the disease it causes, Covid-19, according to public broadcaster NHK.
While Japan has avoided the kind of explosive growth seen in the United States and elsewhere, its testing has also been among the lowest, at 188 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests per 100,000 people, versus 3,159 in Italy and 3,044 in Germany.
Italian doctors find link between Covid-19 and inflammatory disorder
Doctors in Italy have reported the first clear evidence of a link between Covid-19 and a rare but serious inflammatory disorder that has required some children to undergo life-saving treatment in intensive care units.
The mysterious condition emerged last month when NHS bosses issued an alert to doctors after hospitals admitted a number of children with a mix of toxic shock and symptoms seen in an inflammatory disorder known as Kawasaki disease.
On Tuesday, medics at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital announced the death of a 14-year-old boy, the first known fatality from the condition in Britain. Between 75 and 100 children are now receiving treatment across the country. Typical symptoms include a fever, skin rashes, red eyes, cracked lips and abdominal pain.
Doctors suspected early on that coronavirus played a role in the new disorder by triggering an excessive immune reaction in the children, but there was no proof that the two were linked.
Organizations conducting research into Covid-19 may be targeted by computer hackers linked to the Chinese government, according to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
Neither agency cited any specific examples Wednesday, AP reports, but they warned that institutions and companies involved in work on vaccines, treatments and testing for the novel coronavirus should take additional security measures to protect data and be aware of the potential threat.
“China’s efforts to target these sectors pose a significant threat to our nations response to Covid-19,” said a statement from the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. “This announcement is intended to raise awareness for research institutions and the American public and provide resources and guidance for those who may be targeted.”
It comes amid heightened tensions between the two countries over the source of the outbreak and Trump administration complaints that China did not adequately alert the world to the danger posed by the new coronavirus.
The warning also echoes long-standing US complaints that China has engaged in the wholesale theft of technology and trade secrets to build its economy.
In the US, coronavirus could sweep through camps where firefighting crews are stationed, ready to fight wildfires, according to a federal document obtained by The Associated Press.
The US Forest Service’s draft risk assessment predicts that even in a best-case scenario — with social distancing followed and plenty of tests and protective equipment available — nearly two dozen firefighters could be infected with COVID-19 at a camp with hundreds of people who come in to combat a fire that burns for months.
The worst-case scenario? More than 1,000 infections.
Forest Service officials have declined to answer questions about the document other than saying it’s outdated and being redone. They didn’t immediately respond to additional questions Wednesday.
“The report is being reviewed and updated with the most current data and is not ready to share,” the agency said Monday in an email.
The Forest Service declined to release a copy of the draft or say what changes are being made. The AP obtained the document from an official who has access to it and didn’t want to be named.
Moscow says it ascribed over 60% of coronavirus deaths in April to other causes
The city of Moscow said on Wednesday it had ascribed the deaths of more than 60% of coronavirus patients in April to other causes as it defended what it said was the superior way it and Russia counted the number of people killed by the novel virus, Reuters reports.
At 242,271, Russia has the second-highest number of confirmed cases in the world after the United States, something it attributes to a massive testing programme which it says has seen almost 6 million tests conducted.
But with 2,212 coronavirus deaths, Russia also has one of the world’s lowest mortality rates. Moscow, the epicentre of the country’s outbreak, accounts for 1,232 of those deaths.
The disparity between the high number of cases and the relatively low number of deaths has prompted Kremlin critics and various Western and Russian media outlets to question the veracity of Russia’s official death statistics.
Data published at the weekend showing that the total number of deaths registered in Moscow rose sharply in April compared with the same month last year and was also significantly higher than the number officially confirmed as having been caused by the new virus raised further suspicions.
Moscow’s Department of Health acknowledged in a statement on Wednesday that the number of deaths in April, 11,846, had been 1,841 higher than the same month last year and almost triple the number of people registered as having died of the virus.
But it flatly denied it had been dishonestly lowering the Russian capital’s coronavirus death toll. Tatyana Golikova, Russia’s health minister, has also denied any falsification of the statistics.
Hello and welcome to today’s coverage of pandemic news from around the world.
I’m Helen Sullivan, with you for the next few hours. Get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan.
Coronavirus could become endemic like HIV, the World Health Organization has said, warning against any attempt to predict how long it would keep circulating and calling for a “massive effort” to counter it.
Meanwhile Trump has dismissed Dr Anthony Fauci’s comments in testimony at the US senate regarding the dangers of reopening the economy too soon, telling reporters at the White House, “to me it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools.”
Meanwhile Russia, with the second-highest number of infections worldwide, has one of the lowest official death tolls.
The city of Moscow said on Wednesday it had ascribed the deaths of more than 60% of coronavirus patients in April to other causes as it defended what it said was the superior way it and Russia counted the number of people killed by the novel virus. More on this shortly.
Here are the key recent developments:
- At least 4.3 million people are known to have been infected with the coronavirus worldwide, while at least 295,671 people have died. The figures collected by Johns Hopkins University are likely to be a great underestimate of the true scale of the pandemic.
- Trump says Fauci’s warning over reopening the economy too soon as “not an acceptable answer”. US President Donald Trump on Wednesday described as not acceptable a warning given by top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci this week about the dangers of reopening the economy too quickly. “To me it’s not an acceptable answer especially when it comes to schools,” Trump told reporters at the White House, noting he was surprised by the response Fauci gave to lawmakers in testimony to the US Senate on Tuesday.
- Virus may never be eradicated – WHO. The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 could become endemic like HIV, the World Health Organization has said, warning against any attempt to predict how long it would keep circulating and calling for a “massive effort” to counter it.
- Every African country is now affected by the outbreak, after Lesotho announced its first case. The virus was detected in one of 81 people tested after arriving last week from Saudi Arabia and neighbouring South Africa, Lesotho’s health ministry said.
- Former UK spy chief dismisses Wuhan lab conspiracy theory. In the UK, the former director general of the domestic intelligence service has poured cold water on White House speculation that Covid-19 may have emerged via a leak from a coronavirus research laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
- Public Health England approves antibody test – report. Public Health England (PHE) has reportedly approved an antibody test kit, the first to receive such an endorsement. The kit is made by the Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG, the Daily Telegraph has reported. The newspaper added that it understands the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care is in negotiations with Roche to buy millions of the kits.
- Afghanistan reached 5,000 confirmed cases, as the country’s health ministry warned that easing lockdowns would bring a “catastrophe”. Out of 619 suspected patients tested in the last 24 hours, 259 came back positive, pushing the total number of infections to 5,226. The death toll reached 132, after five more patients died overnight. The number of recoveries is 648.
- Sweden announced it would hire up to 10,000 more care workers to address shortcomings in elderly care exposed by the pandemic. About half of the Sweden’s 3,460 coronavirus-related deaths have been among nursing home residents, and another quarter among those receiving care at home.
- Mexico said it would reopen parts of economythe economy after 51 days of lockdown, despite the country reporting its highest number of daily deaths so far. Mexico has confirmed 1,992 new cases and 353 deaths, bringing the total death toll to 3,926 and the total number of cases to 38,324.
- Hotels and restaurants across Europe have been asked to enforce physical distancing between guests to allow Europeans to take their annual summer holiday. The EU executive called for a “gradual and careful easing of lockdown restrictions across the continent”.
- The car manufacturer Ford announced plans to restart production, including at two factories in the UK. Work will resume on 18 May at the company’s engine plants in Dagenham in Essex and Bridgend in south Wales. The move, along with the reopening of the Valencia engine plant in Spain, will open all of Ford’s European manufacturing facilities.