September 26, 2020

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Coronavirus latest: Africa cases surpass 100,000


The WHO says nearly 80 million children under the age of 1 are at risk from polio and cholera due to the disruption of COVID-19.


  • Over 5 million confirmed infections recorded worldwide
  • South America is “a new epicenter of COVID-19,” WHO says after Brazil’s death toll passed 20,000
  • Nine African countries had 50% rises in cases in the past week, but the mortality rate remains low
  • Billionaire George Soros warns the EU could collapse if it doesn’t support worst-hit member states

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)


23:59 We have now closed this live updates article. For the latest news, read here: Coronavirus latest: Spain anti-lockdown protest draws thousands of far-right supporters

21:16 Dominic Cummings, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief aide, broke lockdown to travel more than 400 kilometers (250 miles) from London after showing symptoms of COVID-19, two UK newspapers reported. 

Cummings travelled to Durham in northern England in late-March, when a strict lockdown was in place, the reports said. He returned to the office on April 14. 

The opposition Labour Party has demanded a response from the prime minister’s office. “The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for Dominic Cummings,” a spokesperson for the party said.


20:50 The anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which US President Donald Trump says he has been taking to protect against COVID-19, has been connected to an increased risk of death in hospitalized coronavirus patients, a large study published showed.

The study, published in the scientific journal The Lancet, looked at more than 96,000 patients with COVID-19. Those treated with hydroxychloroquine or the related chloroquine had a higher risk of dying and experiencing heart rhythm issues than patients who were not given the drugs.

The analysis showed no benefit for patients taking the drugs, which were designed to combat malaria.


20:20 Canada has announced plans to ramp up COVID-19 testing and contact tracing as it gradually lifts restrictions on public life. A new mobile phone app, being developed with Apple and Google, will help in contact tracing efforts.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government was already helping the province of Ontario, the most populous province, with contact tracing and was aiming to roll out contact tracing solutions across all of Canada.

Businesses and citizens “need to know that we have a coordinated approach to gradually reopen that is rooted in science, evidence and the ability to rapidly detect and control any future outbreaks,” Trudeau said.

Canada has over 82,000 confirmed cases and more than 6,000 people have died.


20:07 With restaurants gradually reopening across Germany, authorities in the northern state of Lower Saxony reported seven people were infected after apparently visiting a venue in the town of Leer.

“For over a week, we had no new confirmed cases at all — but now there is a new corona-outbreak” local officials said, adding that at least 50 people have been ordered to isolate at their homes as a preventive measure.

Health officials emphasize that this is not an isolated case with few contacts,” they added.

“This outbreak is making it obvious that the corona(virus) is not over, it can spread again at any time,” said country official Matthias Groote.


20:00 Here’s a wrap of the latest across Europe

France has recorded a total of zero deaths from the coronavirus for the first time since the outbreak. French health authorities said the landmark figure would be represented in the official figures to be published on Monday. Meanwhile, the total number of cases in the European country rose to 182,000, the fifth highest in Europe.

In Germany, the leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), and a potential successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel, said a spending limit of €100 billion ($109 billion) should be set in place for debts incurred due to the crisis brought about by the pandemic. “Our livelihood is threatened,” said Söder, arguing that an endless expansion of the German economy is not certain. “That’s why it’s important to negotiate things cleverly now.”

The UK announced it will impose for the first time a 14-day quarantine upon those arriving in the country from June 8. People coming from Ireland will be exempt though. The move has been met with widespread criticism for coming too late, and France has expressed its disappointment having previously been assured it would, like Ireland, also not have the same restrictions imposed upon it. Healthcare professionals traveling to work because of the crisis, seasonal agricultural workers and those working in freight and road haulage, will also be exempt from the quarantine period.

Russia should expect to see a significant increase in death rate for this month’s figures, officials said, as its death toll continues to rise. “There will be a significant mortality increase in May,” Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said at a government meeting with President Vladimir Putin. “The illness and chronic conditions don’t always have a positive ending,” Golikova said. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin also said the capital’s death toll for May would be “considerably higher than in April”. His deputy Anastasia Rakova later explained that “the peak of mortality is usually delayed by two to three weeks after the peak of hospitalisations” for COVID-19.

Cyprus wants European travel into the country next month. Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos said flights will begin in two stages, from June 9 and June 20. The two groups of countries has been selected by medical experts. The first group is comprised of Greece, Malta, Bulgaria, Norway, Austria, Finland, Slovenia, Hungary, Israel, Denmark, Germany, Slovakia and Lithuania. The second group is made up of Switzerland, Poland, Romania, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic. The list excludes the Cyprus’ two main tourism markets, Britain and Russia. Karousos said when passengers are allowed into the country they must have a health certificate confirming that they don’t have COVID-19, obtained three days prior to departure.


19:22 The sequel to James Cameron 2009 blockbuster “Avatar” is set to go back into production next week after New Zealand officials approved guidelines for the country’s film industry.

“Our Avatar sets are ready — and we couldn’t be more excited to be headed back to New Zealand next week,” producer Jon Landau said on Twitter.

The production was halted in mid-March over coronavirus fears, but the island nation has seen a relatively minor outbreak with some 1,500 cases and 21 deaths.

Hollywood veteran Cameron shot the original movie in New Zealand and Los Angeles in the late 2000s. “Avatar” went to make $2.79 billion (€2.56 billion) at the box office and become the most financially successful movie ever made without accounting for inflation. It lost the title last year to Disney’s “Avengers: Endgame.”

Cameron has been working on four more sequels for Avatar, although their release has been delayed multiple times. The first one set to debut in December next year.


19:01 France’s local elections will take place on June 28, in a postponed second round, under the proviso that there isn’t a spike in infections in the meantime, the government has announced.

The vote was supposed to take place on March 22 but was called off due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country that has so far reported 182,000 cases.

“After weighing the pros and cons, we believe that our democratic life must resume,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said at a press conference. Masks will be compulsory, and citizens visiting the polls will also be urged to come with their own pens for signing registries.


18:54 Mexico has canceled its top-tier football season with no winner. Liga MX officials said they were ending Clausura, one of the country’s two annual championships, to ensure that “nobody in the football family, players, coaches, directors, referees, fans of media, get hurt.”

The competition was first suspended in mid-March after 10 of the season’s 17 rounds. Some teams had been eying a return to pitch, but hopes were dashed after 12 players from the northern team of Santos tested positive for the coronavirus.

The league representatives did not declare when the games would resume.

“Guidelines from the Health Ministry will establish the date,” they said in a statement.


18:45 English Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said he is “confident” the top-flight season will resume next month.

Clubs returned to socially distanced training in small groups on Tuesday and the league hope to play the remaining 92 matches from June 12 or 19. The Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’ is now on the way to emulating the Bundesliga, which began in earnest last weekend.

Some 748 players and staff from Premier League clubs have been tested, with six people positive results coming back, including Watford defender Adrian Mariappa, who expressed shock at the outcome having shown no symptoms.


18:25 US President Donald Trump called for churches and other places of worship to open this weekend.

“Today I’m identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services,” Trump said. 

The president urged on state governors to comply with his request “right now.”

“If they don’t do it, I will override the governors,” Trump said, although the extent of his authority on the issue was not immediately clear.

Many countries around the world suspended religious services to reduce infection risk. With the pandemic receding in Europe, Germany has reopened its places of worship under strict social distancing rules.


18:12 The leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU) in Germany has called for an “upper limit” of €100 billion ($109 billion) for further debts incurred due to the crisis brought about by the pandemic. The new levels of debt should be “rather less” than this figure for the year 2020, said Markus Söder, a potential successor as Chancellor to Angela Merkel.


18:07 A possible vaccine against SARS-COV-2, the strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19, has been shown to be at least partially effective, according to a new Chinese study.

The study showed that a particular active substance triggered an immune response to the SARS-COV-2 virus in the human body. Further experiments are necessary to find out if the reaction would also prevent infection with the virus in the first place.

“These results represent an important milestone,” said Professor Wei Chen who was responsible for the study at the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology.

However, he also warned “cautious” interpretation of the results, saying “we are still a long way from a vaccine that is accessible to all.”


17:59 The US video game industry has seen its best April ever as schools and businesses halted operations across the country due to the pandemic.

Americans spent about $1.5 billion (€1.38 billion) on video games and related hardware, accessories and vouchers. The figure includes $662 million spent on games alone. Before last month, the most successful April for the industry was the one in 2008, when the total climbed to $1.2 billion.

The best-selling April release was the Japanese role-playing game “Final Fantasy VII: Remake,” followed by military shooter “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” and Nintendo’s slow-paced “Animal Crossing,” according to the data released by the American market research firm The NPD group.

The three most popular gaming consoles – PlayStation 4, XBox One, and Nintendo Switch all saw a massive rise in sales, despite both Sony and Microsoft planing to release next generation systems later this year.

Last month was “by far, the wildest month I think I’ve ever seen” NPD analyst Matt Piscatella said on Twitter.


17:36 In the German capital Berlin, people have been venturing outside as the government continues to roll back lockdown restrictions to curb the coronavirus. However, there’s still an abundance of caution as the country inches back to normality.


17:24 El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukela called on the citizens to collectively pray for the end of the pandemic.

On Sunday afternoon, the nation should ask God to “heal our land and allow us to defeat the pandemic which battering the whole world,” the president said.

He added that the National Prayer Day was imposed by presidential decree, but the prayer was “voluntary.” 

Bukela had responded harshly to the coronavirus outbreak, closing the country’s borders in March, declaring strict quarantine rules, and deploying security forces to ensure obedience. However, on Friday Bukela said the country was “still far from containing the virus.”

“The curve is not flattening as we had hoped for,” he wrote on Twitter. 


The Central American country of 6.4 million people has so far seen 1,725 confirmed cases and 33 deaths.


16:59 Bulgaria has lifted the entry ban for EU citizens and residents of non-EU countries in the Schengen area, such as Switzerland, Monaco, Vatican City, San Marino, and Andorra. While the mandatory 14-day quarantine order remains in effect, it would not apply to bus and truck drivers, people travelling for humanitarian reasons, people involved in trade and investment activities, as well as several other groups.

Medical workers, foreign officials, and people who play a role in supplying medical equipment would also be able to enter the country without going into quarantine. This applies “regardless of their citizenship,” the authorities said.


16:41 Africa has registered more than 100,000 infections, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

More than 3,100 people have died from the novel coronavirus, as the continent of some 1.3 billion people struggles to curb the outbreak, despite lockdown measures such as border closures being implemented.

Nevertheless, CDC director John Nkengasong reported that the number of cases this week was similar to the figure from last week and “we hope that trend continues,” as opposed to a rapid increase.

While early lockdowns in a number of countries has helped, Nkengasong said “that doesn’t mean Africa has been spared.” But the director said health officials are not reporting a lot of community deaths or “massive flooding of our hospitals” from the novel virus.


16:31 The global pandemic is causing severe disruption to the process of immunization against diseases such as measles, polio and cholera. As a result, some 80 million lives of children under the age of 1 are at risk, according to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners.

The report, which was compiled by UNICEF, the Sabin Vaccine Institute and GAVI, showed that more than half of the 129 countries where vaccination data was available, reported moderate, severe or total suspensions of services during the months of March and April.

“Disruption to immunization programs from the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to unwind decades of progress against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

UNICEF stated there had been major delays in vaccine deliveries due to the global lockdown and the significant reduction in flights that came with it.

In excess of 40 of Africa’s 54 nations have closed their borders, though some allow cargo and emergency transport. Officials added that 46 campaigns to immunize children against polio had been put on hold in 38 countries, most of which were in Africa. Measles campaigns, meanwhile, had been brought to a temporary halt in 27 countries.


16:19 People arriving in the UK from June 8 would need to self-isolate for two weeks, said the country’s Home Secretary Priti Patel. She added that the new arrivals would be asked to provide addresses and phone numbers, and that the authorities would conduct spot checks to make sure they were self-isolating.

Those found violating the quarantine could face a 1,000 pound ($1,218, €1,118) fine, Patel added.

However, the quarantine order would not apply across the board, with groups such as medical professionals and freight workers being exempt, border authorities said. Passengers arriving from Ireland would also not be subjected to quarantine.


15:58 South America is a new epicenter of COVID-19, with Brazil so far being the most affected, said WHO’s Emergencies Program chief Michael Ryan.

Brazil has so far reported over 20,000 deaths and is currently third most affected country in the world with over 310,000 cases.


15:51 A Long Island man stabbed his father to death while the father was video-conferencing with multiple people, according to US police.

Around 20 people were on the call with the 72-year-old victim, which was conducted on the increasingly popular online platform Zoom. The 32-year-old attacker apparently stabbed his father off screen, but the other participants in the call decided he was in danger based on the audio, police spokesman Kevin Beyrer told the local “Newsday.” Several of the people in the call alerted the police.

The suspect attempted to flee the scene by jumping through the window, but was quickly captured, the police said.

Companies around the world are using video-chat platforms as a way to continue work while employees are isolated due to the coronavirus pandemic.


15:26 Over 80 inmates in a high-security Istanbul prison have tested positive for coronavirus, with 10 of them hospitalized, Turkish prosecutors said. They added that one person, who also suffered from tuberculosis in addition to testing positive for the virus, died on Thursday.

The rest of the infected inmates were “in a good state of health” and are receiving treatment. Most of them are isolated inside the Silivri prison.

Last month, Turkey reported outbreaks at four of its correctional facilities, but did not name the prisons. The authorities have also launched a massive amnesty program that would see a total of 90,000 people released early in order to reduce overcrowding.


15:06 The world’s top-ranked tennis player, Novak Djokovic, is preparing a charity tournament amid anti-pandemic restrictions, It was not immediately clear if spectators will be allowed to attend.

The “Adria Tour” will include events in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Croatia, with the Serbian tennis star set to perform in all four countries. Australian Dominic Thiem, currently ranked third between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, is also set to participate, alongside other several tennis players from the Balkan region.

Organizers said they were aiming to raise money for humanitarian projects across the Balkans, and help the athletes return to full fitness after major tournaments, such as the French Open and Wimbledon, were put on hold or canceled.

The “Adria Tour” is set to start in Belgrade in mid-June.


14:41 German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed discussion on the government’s anti-pandemic policy but warned against “poisoned ideas” used to attack democracy.

“Criticism is not reserved for corona-free times,” he wrote in a guest article published by the Süddeutsche Zeitung. At the same time, he warned against using “the insecurity and displeasure to turn the mood against ‘those above’,”  and discredit elected leaders, serious reporting, democratic process and scientific knowledge.

“No matter how insane some conspiracy theories may appear, let us not forget there are hard political goals behind it that should not be ignored,” he said,

For several weeks, protesters rallies in Germany and other European countries demanding the outbreak-related measures to be lifted, with many of them using conspiracy theories to dismiss the risks. Earlier this month, the German president was slammed by anti-lockdown protesters after recommending face masks over “tin foil hats.”


16:24 Germany saw a slight increase in the average number of deaths in April, the Federal Statistics Office has reported. April’s death rate was around 5% more than the average number of deaths in April between 2016 and 2019.

As flu season is over, the statisticians place the blame on the coronavirus pandemic, which has left more than 8,200 people in Germany dead since February.

The statistics office compiles deaths per week. In Week 17, the final full week in April, 17,974 people died in Germany, an increase of 567 or 3% compared to the average of the three previous years.


14:12 Russian authorities said that mortality figures would likely show a spike this month but that they were optimistic about the future.

“Our analysis… tells us that a serious increase will be recorded in May,” said Russia’s deputy prime minister, Tatyana Golikova. “This is borne out by operational data of the [last] three weeks.”

Russia has the second-largest caseload in the world with over 326,000 reported cases. However, official data shows an usually low mortality rate, prompting accusations that the government is attempting to manipulate the figures.

Golikova said the mortality was expected to sink even lower. “We have, in general, never hid the mortality situation in Russia, but even what we see now allows us… to view indicators in Russia in an optimistic light,” she said.


13:45 German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier thanked Muslims for their conduct during the holy month of Ramadan in helping to contain the coronavirus. In a message at the end of the month of fasting and reflection, Steinmeier said in a video message that many Muslims would experience the restrictions in religious life as a depressing experience. “I would like to thank all of you who adhered to these strict rules and contributed to our first success in the fight against the virus.”


13:30 The completion of Brazil’s third nuclear reactor will be delayed due to the pandemic, authorities said, after the crisis drove down electricity demand in the country and caused the currency to drop in value.

“It is a small delay we are talking about, from November 2026 to [the year after],” the head of the country’s nuclear power company Eletronuclear, Leonam Guimaraes, told the Reuters news agency.

However, he reported a “brutal” drop in power consumption of some 15 to 20% due to the pandemic. Also, a key meeting of Brazil’s Private Public Investment council, originally set for March 25, was suspended amid the outbreak, meaning that the project’s business model has yet to be approved.

Construction of the reactor originally started in 2010, but was delayed due to financial issues and corruption investigations.


13:26 A one-time “family bonus” payment will be included in the German federal economic stimulus package, news magazine Der Spiegel has reported. The bonus will give each family €300 ($326) per child, according to Finance Minister Olaf Scholz.

In Germany’s most-populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia the payment will be double. State premier Armin Laschet announced a provisional plan to give each family in the state €600 per child on Friday.

Families have been especially hard-hit by school and kindergarten closures, with some parents forced to limit their work by childcare responsibilities.

A family bonus like the one introduced by Scholz is estimated to cost over €6 million. The economic stimulus package will cost the federal government around €150 billion in total.


13:11 Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has tested negative for coronavirus but would still go into self-isolation for two weeks, his aides said in a statement.

On Wednesday, the 73-year-old leader attended a meeting with an official who later tested positive for COVID-19. His office said Muhyiddin was “required to undergo a quarantine at home.”

In March, the prime minister’s predecessor Mahathir Mohamad also went into self-isolation after posing for photos with a lawmakers who later tested positive. The 94-year-old Mahathir tested negative and has since resumed his campaign to retake the seat from Muhyiddin.


13:01 The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says it has reached an agreement with Ukraine to deliver $5 billion (€4.56 billion) in aid to help the country deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus.

“This will ensure that Ukraine is well-poised to return to growth and resume broader reform efforts when the crisis ends. The arrangement is also expected to catalyze additional bilateral and multilateral financial support,” IMF official Ivanna Vladkova Hollar said. The deal, which is valid for 18 months, is still subject to approval from the IMF board.

Earlier this year, Ukraine implemented reforms that had been listed by the IMF as conditions for providing aid — among them lifting a ban on the sale of farmland and barring former owners of nationalized or liquidated banks from regaining ownership or receiving state compensation.

Ukraine has reported more than 20,000 COVID-19 cases and 573 deaths. A nationwide lockdown, in place since early March, has taken a toll on the economy. The government began easing restrictions in late April.


12:57 Germany should treat Russia’s coronavirus patients, said Michael Kretschmer, the premier of the German state of Saxony. Previously, Germany has taken in cases from other EU countries, such as Italy and France, in order to reduce the burden on their health systems.

“It would be a strong signal from the European Union, if we would also have patients from Russia treated over here,” Kretschmer told the news magazine Der Spiegel.

“We are trying to help all over Europe,” he added. “And I believe we should also show solidarity with Russia.”

Russia has reported over 326,000 cases, with its caseload second only to some 1,58 million in the US: The official mortality rate in Russia has remained low with 3,249 deaths, but government critics accuse the Kremlin of underreporting fatalities.


12:36 Buckingham Palace will cut 380 short-term jobs this year due to the pandemic, a spokeswoman for the Royal Collection Trust told the DPA news agency. All of the laid off workers will be offered jobs next year, she added.

The London residence of British monarchs is usually open to visitors for three months during summer. The Trust employs hundreds of workers to run the venue while Queen Elizabeth stays in the summer residence Balmoral in Scotland.

While hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the palace every season, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has prompted authorities to keep it closed.


11:55 Researchers at Britain’s Oxford University say they are recruiting 10,000 more volunteers for an advanced clinical trial of their experimental coronavirus vaccine

More than 1,000 people aged 18-55 were injected with the potential vaccine during the first phase of testing last month. The scientists said Friday that things were “progressing very well,” and that they now planned to give the shot to 10,260 more people across Britain, including those aged 56 and older, and children between the ages of 5 and 12. 

“If the vaccine is shown to work in the months ahead and it’s possible that if there’s enough transmission, that could happen in a relatively short period of time,” Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said. “It’s possible as early as the autumn or towards the end of the year, you could have results that allowed use of the vaccine on a wider scale.”

According to the World Health Organization, the university’s potential vaccine is one of only eight globally to have started human trials. Earlier this week, pharma giant AstraZeneca said it had finalized agreements for at least 400 million doses of the Oxford-developed vaccine, and secured manufacturing capacity for 1 billion doses, with the first deliveries set to begin in September.


11:18 Thailand is planning to keep its state of emergency in place until the end of June in order to stop the coronavirus from spreading, its COVID-19 taskforce said.

The decree, which gives the prime minister sweeping powers to enforce regulations, was first enacted on March 26. The extension is expected to be approved by Cabinet on Tuesday. Critics have questioned whether the military-aligned government is using the measure to prevent opposition protests.

Thailand has gradually started easing lockdown measures, with restaurants, markets and parks allowed to open at the beginning of May. Shopping malls and museums reopened on Sunday, but bars, nightclubs, playgrounds and cinemas are still closed. 

The southeast Asian country has 3,037 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 56 deaths. The number of reported daily infections has remained below 10 for much of the past month. No new cases were reported on Friday.


10:51 The United Nations warned that the spread of the coronavirus throughout Yemen could be catastrophic in the war-torn country where the health care system “has in effect collapsed.”

Jens Laerke, the spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told a Geneva briefing that aid groups based in Yemen have called the health situation in the country as “extremely alarming.”

“We hear from many of them (aid groups) that Yemen is
really on the brink right now … ” Laerke said. “They are talking about having to turn people away because they do not have enough (medical) oxygen, they do not have enough personal protective equipment,” he added.

The OCHA spokesperson appealed for urgent funding to help keep aid programs in the country afloat. The UN estimates that it will seek $2 billion (€1.84 billion) for Yemen to maintain aid programs till the end of the year.

While Yemeni authorities have reported a total of 184 cases of the virus with 30 deaths to the World Health Organization, Laerke said: “The actual incidence is almost certainly much higher.”


09:31 Billionaire philanthropist and businessman George Soros has warned that the EU could collapse if it does not more strongly support its members that have been significantly weakened by the strain of the pandemic. Soros encouraged the EU to give countries such as Italy perpetual bonds instead of loans with many strings attached.

“If the EU is unable to consider it now, it may not be able to survive the challenges it currently confronts,” Soros told reporters via email. “This is not a theoretical possibility; it may be the tragic reality.”

Soros also voiced concern that feeling ignored by fellow member states could lead to a Brexit-style referendum in Italy, where evidence suggests anti-EU sentiment has been growing at a rapid rate, as has poverty, since the country’s outbreak began in February.

Some northern European countries have framed the debate about a financial rescue package as one of nations with good financial housekeeping bailing out those without. However, Soros pointed out, there are a number of regulations in place that privilege northern European economies over southern ones.

“The relaxation of state aid rules, which favor Germany, has been particularly unfair to Italy, which was already the sick man of Europe and then the hardest hit by COVID-19,” Soros said.


08:15 UK retail sales slumped by record levels in April due to the pandemic, with revenues falling 18.1% month on month. This is the largest drop since surveys began in 1988 and was more pronounced than analysts feared. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) data showed the fall was more pronounced than the 5.2% drop between February and March.

Compared to the corresponding month of the previous year, sales in April fell by 22.6%. 

Despite a slight easing of restrictions, many stores in Britain remain closed and James Smith, an economist with ING, said there might not be a quick bounce-back for retailers when the lockdown is lifted. 

“Recent surveying from YouGov showed that just under half of people would be uncomfortable with returning to a clothing shop, although the jury is out on whether the public will become more relaxed by the time retailers do reopen next month,” he said.


08:00 China says it will strengthen its disease control system and improve the deployment of resources to resolve shortcomings exposed by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The state planning agency said on Friday that great progress had been made in the “people’s war” against the coronavirus, but it had “also exposed a large number of shortcomings and systemic problems in the prevention and control of major epidemics.”

National- and provincial-level Centres for Disease Control (CDCs) would focus on building up their capacity to detect epidemics, and would also be entrusted to draw up rapid response plans to tackle outbreaks, the commission said.

The novel coronavirus emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. It has infected more than 5 million people globally and killed more than 332,000.

Much blame for the pandemic has been put on the slow response of authorities in Wuhan. One study estimated infections could have been cut by 95% if authorities had locked down the city three weeks earlier.


07:16 More than 660,000 people have been displaced in conflict zones since March, despite a United Nations call for a global ceasefire during the coronavirus pandemic. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said Friday its figures showed that war had continued during the health emergency, even as much of the globe went into lockdown.

The NRC said people were forced to flee their homes in 19 countries, with the highest number by far in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where clashes between armed groups and the country’s military displaced 482,000 residents.

Fighting has continued in Yemen despite pledges to implement a ceasefire by Saudi authorities, resulting in the displacement of 24,000 people since March 23. Chad, Niger, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Syria, Somalia and Myanmar all saw thousands of people displaced in the same period, the group added.


06:37 India has registered 6,000 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours — the country’s biggest daily jump since the pandemic began. The record comes as New Delhi seeks to ease a nationwide lockdown, with plans to restart domestic air travel on Monday. 

The country of 1.3 billion people now has more than 118,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 3,583 deaths. The government has extended its lockdown to May 31, but rules in some areas with lower numbers of infections have been relaxed.

“This surge in cases has happened after the movement of people has been partially allowed. But if you see overall, this is a much lower exponential trajectory as compared to the rest of the world,” Giridhar Babu, a professor of epidemiology with the Public Health Foundation of India told Reuters.

Parts of India have been dealing with the devastation caused by cyclone Amphan as well as the virus lockdown

06:28 A senior international Olympic official says soaring coronavirus infections mean there are “real problems” for Tokyo Games organizers planning to stage the Olympics next year, even if a vaccine is developed.

“We can’t postpone it again and we have to assume that there won’t be a vaccine or, if there is a vaccine, it won’t be sufficient to share around the world,” John Coates, the head of the International Olympic Committee’s inspectorate for Tokyo, told a roundtable organized by Australian media giant News Corp.

He said organizers would start planning in October for what could be a “very different Olympics” if there were no signs of the pandemic ending.

“We’ve got real problems because we’ve got athletes having to come from 206 different nations,” he said. “Do we quarantine the Olympic Village? Do all athletes when they get there go into quarantine? Do we restrict having spectators at the venues? Do we separate the athletes from the mixed zone where the media are?”

The Tokyo Games, initially scheduled to take place in July 2020, was postponed by a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.


05:59 For the first time in its history, Germany’s conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) — the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) — will hold its party conference online as a result of coronavirus restrictions. At the virtual meeting on Friday afternoon, around 250 delegates are expected to discuss the party’s proposals for dealing with and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to German press agency DPA, the seven-page plan includes tax cuts for citizens and businesses to boost the economy, the creation of new jobs, labor law reforms to allow for more flexible work practices, digitalization in schools and higher pay for nurses, among a number of other measures.

COVID-19 will long put the health system, the welfare state, the economic order and “our way of life” to new tests, DPA quotes the document as saying. “We must be prepared to live with the virus, but we will not let it dictate our lives.”

CSU leader and Bavaria state premier Markus Söder is to give the keynote speech from his office. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is also expected to join the debate.


05:34 Tax revenues of the German government and the 16 federal states declined by 23.5% in April from a year earlier to around €39 billion ($43 billion) due to the pandemic. The finance ministry’s monthly report showed the revenue decline, which began in March, was most severe for income, corporate and air traffic taxes.

Early indicators show that the situation will likely remain difficult over the next months, the ministry said.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said earlier this month that the plunge in tax revenues will not stop the government from presenting a stimulus package next month to help companies recover from the coronavirus crisis. This is in addition to a €750 billion aid package for businesses and individuals affected by the health emergency.

Europe’s largest economy is facing its most severe recession since World War Two due to a strict nationwide lockdown which is now being eased.


05:23 Bulgaria has scrapped an entry ban on visitors from the European Union and Schengen visa zone countries. The health ministry said in a statement that the move also covers San Marino, Andorra, Monaco and Vatican City.

However, the ministry said that those arriving in the country must still spend 14 days in quarantine unless they are traveling for humanitarian reasons or are “representatives of the trade, economic and investment activities.”

On Tuesday, Bulgaria said it had agreed with neighboring Greece and Serbia to ease some travel restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus from June 1.

The tourism-dependent Black Sea state began to ease its lockdown as the number of new infections has decreased. As of Thursday, Bulgaria had 2,331 confirmed coronavirus cases and 120 deaths, a relatively low number in Europe.


04:46 Guatemala’s president has hit out at the United States for sending back migrants infected with the novel coronavirus to his Central American country and straining its weak health system. Of the deportees, 119 have tested positive for the virus, 5% of the country’s 2,512 cases.

“We understand that the United States wants to deport people, but what we do not understand is why they send us flights full of infection,” Alejandro Giammattei said during an online talk.

The retired doctor who walks with crutches because of multiple sclerosis, also said the US had sent not “even a mask” during the pandemic.

The US Embassy issued a statement giving details of the economic aid it has designated recently for Guatemala, including supplies, training and assistance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and $2.4 million in aid committed last month through USAID.


03:15 The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 460 on Thursday, bringing the national total to 177,212 infections, the Robert Koch Institute said. The death toll rose by 27 to 8,174. 

This is a significant drop from Wednesday, when 797 new cases were reported and 83 people died.

Here are the German figures for recent days:

Thursday, May 21: 460 new cases; 27 new deaths
Wednesday, May 20: 797 new cases; 83 new deaths
Tuesday, May 19: 513 new cases; 72 new deaths
Monday, May 18: 342 new cases; 21 new deaths
Sunday, May 17: 583 new cases, 33 new deaths
Saturday, May 16: 620 new cases; 57 new deaths
Friday, May 15: 913 new cases; 101 new deaths
Thursday, May 14: 933 new cases; 89 new deaths
Wednesday, May 13: 798 new cases; 101 new deaths
Tuesday, May 12: 933 new cases; 116 new deaths


02:49 China’s top economic official announced that Beijing will spend more to revive a national economy battered by the coronavirus, and that the country will set no growth target this year in order to focus on fighting the outbreak. 

In his annual report to China’s ceremonial legislature, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the battle against the coronavirus “has not yet come to an end” and called on his country to “redouble our efforts” to revive slowing economic growth. 

The government will add 1 trillion yuan ($140 billion, €128 billion) to its deficit in order to meet goals including creating 9 million new urban jobs. Forecasters predict that over 20 million jobs could be lost in China this year. 

The promised spending is in line with expectations but pales in comparison to the $1-trillion-plus stimulus packages promised or discussed in the US, Japan, and Europe. 

Li said China’s government was not announcing a growth target this year, normally a highly anticipated feature of the annual report, because of the “great uncertainty” surrounding the epidemic. 

The coronavirus outbreak began in China in December of last year. The country was one of the first economies to reopen following the outbreak, but has since struggled to revive economic activity.


02:11 US President Donald Trump has said the nation would not shut down again should a second wave of the new coronavirus strike. 

“We are going to put out the fires, we’re not going to close the country, we’re going to put out the fire,” Trump said, speaking about a potential second wave.”Whether it’s an ember or it’s a flame we’re going to put it out,” he added. 

The president made the remarks while on a tour of an auto manufacturing plant in the midwestern state of Michigan. All 50 US states have now eased lockdown restrictions to some degree. In general, Republican-led states are pushing for a quicker return to normalcy than Democratic-led ones. 

Despite the president’s statement, most of the country’s economic shutdowns were decided on by state and local authorities. Decisions about a second shutdown would be theirs as well.


01:48 Australia is seeking an exemption from quarantine requirements set up by the UK government, citing its success in controlling the coronavirus outbreak.

“Australia has led the world in the successful containment of COVID-19, which clearly means that travelers coming from Australia would pose a low risk to the rest of the world,” Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said in a statement.

The UK is planning to enforce a 14-day quarantine for incoming travelers to prevent another coronavirus peak. Details are yet to be finalized. In Australia, the borders are still closed to all non-citizens. All locals are required to quarantine for two weeks when they return. With just over 7,000 confirmed cases, Australia has recorded less than 20 new cases each day.


00:30 US President Donald Trump has said that the US flag will be flown at half-staff over the next three days as the country’s virus-related death toll crosses 95,000.

“On Monday, the flags will be at half-staff in honor of the men and women in our Military who have made the Ultimate Sacrifice for our Nation,” he further tweeted, referring to Memorial Day. 

The president’s announcement comes soon after Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, requested that the US flag be flown at half-staff to recognize a “sad day of reckoning when we reach 100,000 deaths.”

It would ”serve as a national expression of grief so needed by everyone in our country,” they added.


00:06 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is looking for plans to end the UK’s reliance on Chinese imports as the world struggles to deal with the virus, The Times newspaper has reported.

Codenamed “Project Defend”, the plans will identify the UK’s economic vulnerabilities to foreign governments as a part of the country’s new approach to national security, which is being led by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.


00:02 Brazil’s death toll from the virus crossed the 20,000-mark with 1,188 deaths registered on Thursday. The country has the third-largest number of coronavirus cases in the world, after the United States and Russia.

With 310,087 confirmed cases, Brazil has recorded 20,047 deaths related to the coronavirus.


00:01 Italy’s virus-related death toll in the months of March and April could be almost 19,000 deaths over the current official figure of 32,486, the country’s social security agency has found.

According to the Istituto Nazionale della Previdenza Sociale (INPS), a new study has found that the original death figures may not be reliable as a total of 156,429 deaths were recorded in March and April. This figure is 46,909 higher than the average number of fatalities recorded between 2015 and 2019 for the same months.

However, only 27,938 coronavirus-related deaths were reported during that period by Italy’s Civil Protection Agency. National statistics are based on this toll, INPS said. The latter is the largest social security and welfare institute in the country.

This is 18,971 more than what is considered normal during this period.

“Given the fact that the number of deaths is quite stable in these times, we can — with necessary caution — attribute a large portion of these deaths during these past two months to the epidemic,” the INPS said.

The institute also mentioned that it was possible that the spike in deaths was not just because of the virus, but also because many people suffering from other illnesses could not get the right healthcare as the systems were overwhelmed.


00:00 Catch up on yesterday’s coronavirus news here: 5 million cases worldwide


see/aw (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters) (DW)