November 25, 2020

News and current affairs from USA and around the world | FT

TOP STORIES, World News,german news,european news,african news,Asian news,current affairs,Germany,European Union,breaking news

Coronavirus latest: Africa death toll could hit 150,000, WHO warns

A WHO modelling study projects 231 million infections in Africa. Nearly 4.5 million COVID-19 cases have been confirmed worldwide, while the number of fatalities reached another grim milestone.


  • The German economy shrinks by 2.2% in the first quarter of 2020, pushing the country into recession
  • WHO warns the virus could kill 150,000 in Africa over the next year unless “urgent action” is taken
  • Baltic nations reopen borders with each other
  • China marks one month without any new confirmed infections

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)


23:30 Brazil registered 15,305 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, a new record for a 24-hour period. The health ministry reported 824 deaths on the same day. Some experts believe the numbers could be much higher, due to insufficient testing. 

Health Minister Dr. Nelson Teich resigned less than a month after taking up the position, not citing any reason. The development came a day after President Jair Bolsonaro increased pressure on him to use the antimalarial drug chloroquine in treating patients suffering from COVID-19.

Brazilians in some major cities protested by banging pots and pans. Teich’s predecessor, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who was fired by Bolsonaro, had also rejected the use of this drug.


23:12 Italy is planning to open up its borders to travel from the European Union and Schengen free movement area from June 3, without the need to quarantine, according to Italian media reports. The local reports, citing government sources, say entry from other countries would continue to remain banned for now. So far, entry into the country was only possible in exceptional cases.

The country, which has been in lockdown since March 10, has begun slowly easing restrictions. Italy is one of the hardest-hit countries in the pandemic, with nearly 225,000 infections and more than 31,000 deaths. 

Parasols and sun lounges have started appearing along the coastline, even though reopening has been cautious. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told a local newspaper last week, “We won’t spend the summer on the balcony and the beauty of Italy will not remain in quarantine.”


21:48 German Family Minister Franziska Giffey is pushing for more financial aid for families with children to alleviate the strain caused by the coronavirus crisis. “I want a family bonus: a one-time €300 [$325] payment for every child,” Giffey told Der Spiegel news magazine, adding that the money could be used by parents and guardians in any way they see fit.

Under her plan, parents and guardians could spend the money in any way they see fit and that it could serve as a “strong economic impulse” in other sectors, she added.

There are around 8 million families in Germany with children and around half of those have at least two or more children, according to data from the Federal Statistics Office.

According to those figures, Giffey’s “family bonus” plan could end up costing around €3.5 billion. It was not immediately clear whether the plans have gained traction within the rest of the German government.


21:34 Yemen official figures show low numbers of COVID-19 cases, with 106 infections and 15 deaths in the southern region. However, more than 500 people have died in the past week from respiratory problems in the city of Aden, raising concern about the spread of coronavirus in the region.

Local health officials believe that the virus could have spread out of control in the war-ravaged nation, as its poor health system is unable to cope with it. A lack of facilities and medical staff have worsened the situation.

In northern Yemen, which is controlled by Houthi rebels, two cases were reported, one of whom died of the infection. However, these numbers are also believed to be much higher.


21:20 Here is the latest roundup on Europe:

Albania: One of the country’s biggest television stations has been shut down indefinitely and fined by state health authorities for allegedly not respecting social distancing measures. Private broadcaster Ora News said the State Health Inspectorate had fined it 2 million Albanian leks (€16,000, $17,300) and requested the television station to cease its transmission after two anchormen hosted programs with three people in the studio, instead of the maximum two people permitted under lockdown measures implemented by the government. Previously, the two news anchors had been critical of Prime Minister Edi Rama and his ruling Socialist Party. “They are not closing the business but free speech,” said Ora News editor Brahim Shima.

Germany: More than half of Germans do not support the government’s plan to ease coronavirus restrictions. According to the “Deutschlandtrend” poll, which is run by public broadcaster ARD, 56% of the respondents prefer to keep the restrictions in place. The same percentage of people said they were against Bundesliga football teams continuing the season, as Borussia Dortmund prepares to host Schalke on Saturday. The country has been gradually lifting the lockdown imposed in mid-March.

Slovenia: The small EU nation of Slovenia declared the end of the coronavirus epidemic within its borders, becoming the fist EU country to do so. The government said the COVID-19 spread was under control and there was no longer a need for special health measures. EU residents are free to cross into Slovenia from Austria, Italy and Hungary at predetermined checkpoints, while most non-EU nationals will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine. With its 2 million residents, the country has seen 1,465 confirmed cases and 103 deaths, but the number of new cases has stayed in single digits for the last two weeks.

Denmark: Health officials reported no new COVID-19 deaths in Denmark on Friday, with the country’s Health Minister Magnus Heunicke hailing it as a “milestone” in the fight against the outbreak.  It’s the first 24-hour period the country has had with no coronavirus-linked deaths since March 13. However, the authorities registered 78 new cases, bringing the total to 10,791 as of Friday. Earlier this week, officials said Denmark was “very unlikely” to be hit by a second wave of infections.

Hungary: Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he was “prepared to return the emergency powers at the end of May” after his government was accused of trying to use the pandemic to give itself special authority. The Hungarian parliament, dominated by Orban supporters, gave the Cabinet emergency powers allowing it to rule by decree. The move was slammed by opposition but also by EU leaders and foreign politicians. After meeting with Serbia’s Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade on Friday, Orban said that “we will give everyone the opportunity to apologize to Hungary for the false accusations they made against us in the past months.”

Russia:  A woman in Russia who was believed to have recovered from the coronavirus is now sick for a second time and receiving treatment once again, Russian doctors said. The woman had been hospitalized in the south Siberian city of Ulan-Ude and treated for the infection until her condition improved. Her test came back negative after the treatment and she was discharged. Two weeks later, however, the woman reported respiratory problems and a new test showed the virus was present.

Scientists have yet to determine if recovering from COVID-19 prevents a new coronavirus infection. No studies have shown this immunity so far, according to the World Health Organization.


20:21 The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved an emergency loan of $520 million (€481 million) to Jamaica to keep the island nation’s economy going during the coronavirus crisis. “Despite the authorities’ best efforts, the pandemic is severely impacting the Jamaican economy, as a sudden stop in tourism and falling remittances are generating a sizable balance-of-payments need,” said IMF Deputy Managing Director Tao Zhang.


20:00 Portugal is set to reopen its beaches on June 6, Prime Minister Antonio Costa has said. The country is expected to start the second reopening phase on Monday, allowing restaurants, museums and coffee shops to resume operations and returning some groups of pupils to school.

Visitors will be allowed to return to the country’s beaches in some three weeks time, but would be urged to keep a 1.5 meters (5 feet) distance between groups and refrain from sports that involve more than one person. Costa said the police would not be controlling the people’s behavior because beaches “should be places of leisure.”

“We have to be checking ourselves,” he said.

He also encouraged citizens to download an app that would tell them if a beach they are planning to visit is overcrowded.


19:15 Doctors in Vietnam want to perform a lung transplant in order to save the life of a British pilot, preventing him from becoming the Asian country’s first COVID-19 fatality.

The Vietnam Airlines pilot, 43, due to privacy rules known simply as “Patient 91,” tested positive in March and is being treated at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City.

Hospital director Nguyen Van Vinh Chau said “90% of his lung is not functional,” and he is dependent on invasive mechanical ventilation, according to newspaper Tuoi Tre.

As a result, the hospital is seeking a suitable donor.


19:00 Eighty-one people have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — at a residential home in Kyiv that caters for girls and women with physical disabilities and learning difficulties, the Ukrainian capital’s mayor announced.

In total, 53 residents and 28 staff have all contracted the novel coronavirus, according to Mayor Vitali Klitschko. Three of the staff members were hospitalised.


18:35 In Brazil, Health Minister Nelson Teich has quit after less than one month in office due to disagreements with President Jair Bolsonaro over the approach to fighting the pandemic.

His predecessor Luiz Henrique Mandetta resigned on April 16 for the same reason.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly slammed pandemic lockdown measures and claimed fears of the pandemic are overblown. The number of cases in the country has now topped 200,000 and continues to grow with nearly 14,000 new cases reported on Thursday.

Military members of the Brazilian government are now lobbying for Eduardo Pazuello, deputy health minister and an active duty general to take over as head of the health sector, according to a source cited by Reuters.


18:30 German lawmaker Elisabeth Motschmann, who serves as the CDU/CSU-parliamentary group’s spokesperson for culture and media, spoke to DW news about what restrictions on public life have meant for the arts and artists.

“It’s incredibly important to fight for the arts right now, said Motschmann, “cultural institutions were the first to shut down and will perhaps be the last, or certainly the big venues will be the last, to start up again.”

Saying she was glad to hear German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz declare that arts and culture will be included in a major financial package to stabilize the economy, Motschmann said “We have to keep the structures alive: no stage, no pay. Cinemas, theaters, concert halls — we have to ensure they don’t face insolvency. And on the other side are the independent artists who have lost all their bookings, their earnings. I’m very glad something is being done for them.” 


18:12 French medical workers confronted President Emmanuel Macron during his visit to the leading Paris hospital Pitie-Salpetriere.

“We are desperate,” a nurse told Macron, complaining she was using a long-expired surgical mask and describing France as “the shame of Europe.”

“We no longer believe in you,” she told the president.

Macron acknowledged his team “made a mistake” in the strategy to reform France’s hospital system, which has been struggling with shortages of staff, masks, and breathing machines. The president also pledged to launch a new investment plan, without offering details.

“Trust will only come if we move fast,” Macron added.

The president’s office did not allow a single reporter to cover the visit. Macron met with the hospital’s top doctors, and then with union representatives who demanded wage hikes. As he was heading to the exit, a group of nurses blocked his way. The nurse who engaged with the president said the promised salary bonus for health workers was not enough.

“That’s nice, the bonus… but what we want is a raise,” she said.


17:35 So far, Germany’s health system has not been overstretched by the coronavirus pandemic despite the fact that the country has had around 175,000 confirmed cases.

An app is now helping more nurses who left the profession to return.


17:30 The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, said she hoped big tech companies would see the pandemic as a chance to engage in responsible capitalism. The pandemic has “thrown cold water” on trends towards more equality, she said.

Georgieva also said that the crisis will bring benefits to digital economy, e-commerce, as well as digital governance and learning.

The fund’s message to governments was to spend money and focus on helping doctors, nurses, and the vulnerable segments of society.

Commenting on the economic fallout of the pandemic, she said that recovery 2021 would be “partial” even in a best-case scenario.


17:20 woman in Russia who was believed to have recovered from the coronavirus is now sick for a second time and receiving treatment once again, Russian doctors said.

The woman had been hospitalized in the south Siberian city of Ulan-Ude and treated for the infection until her condition improved. Her test came back negative after the treatment and she was discharged.

Two weeks later, however, the woman reported respiratory problems and a new test showed the virus was present.

“The question is whether it’s a re-infection, because 15-16 days passed between her being discharged and respiratory symptoms appearing, or the disease she had earlier coming back,” said the chief doctor of the Ulan-Ude hospital, Tatyana Symbelova. “It is not entirely clear for us at this point.”

Scientists have yet to determine if recovering from COVID-19 prevents a new coronavirus infection. No studies have shown this immunity so far, according to the World Health Organization.


16:50 Stephan Mayer, the Parliamentary State Secretary in the German Interior Ministry spoke to DW News about the government’s plans to reopen Germany’s borders.

“We are very confident and satisfied that all our measures and our vast restrictions of the last weeks are successful,” said Mayer. “We are successful in our containment policy with regard to the pandemic.”

“We will end the border controls to Luxembourg this night, and we are open for further lifting of the restrictions to France, to Austria, to Switzerland. I am deeply convinced this is a very important signal, especially for those citizens who live next to the borders.”

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced on Wednesday that the border with Luxemburg would open on Saturday and restrictions on the frontiers with France, Austria and Switzerland would be loosened. They are to be lifted altogether on 15 June, if the coronavirus pandemic does not spread significantly in these countries before then.


16:13 Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who had been given special authority by his parliament to fight the pandemic, said he was “prepared to return the emergency powers at the end of May.”

The parliamentary vote has allowed Orban’s government to rule by decree and drew strong criticism from his rivals and other EU nations. With the pandemic slowing down, Orban said that his administration “successfully defended our homeland.” 

After meeting with Serbia’s Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade, Orban said that “we will give everyone the opportunity to apologize to Hungary for the false accusations they made against us in the past months.”

Also on Friday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas expressed “great concern” about the pandemic boosting authoritarian rulers.

“Right here in Europe we are seeing how emergency measures are being used to cut back the rule of law,” Maas said in the German parliament.


16:03 The unexplained inflammation syndrome that seems to be targeting children must be investigated “urgently and carefully,” said the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

” I call on clinicians worldwide to work with you national authorities and WHO to be on alert and better understand this syndrome in children,” he said.

Hundreds of cases of the rare syndrome have been reported in the US and Europe, with several deaths. Its apparent connection with COVID-19 was not immediately clear.


15:51 No new COVID-19 deaths were reported in Denmark on Friday. While announcing the latest figures, based on the data for the previous 24 hours, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said that the country has hit a “milestone.” “Thank you everyone for helping us to break the infection curve,” he added on Twitter.

It’s the first 24-hour period the country has had with no coronavirus-linked deaths since March 13. The virus has killed 537 people in the Scandinavian country. Health authorities also registered 78 new cases, bringing the total to 10,791 as of Friday.

Earlier this week, officials said Denmark was “very unlikely” to be hit by a second wave of infections. Despite entering the second reopening phase, allowing schools, shopping malls and restaurants to resume work, the virus’ reproduction rate fell to 0.7 compared to 0.9 in the first week of May.


15:30 Most Germans are against resuming Bundesliga games, according to surveys published on Friday, day before football season was scheduled to resume.

Fans would not be allowed to attend the games set to start on Saturday, and special distancing rules have been imposed on the players that would keep them from hugging in celebration or spitting on the ground during matches.

The reputable “Deutchlandtrend” survey by the public broadcaster ARD showed less than one third of participants fully in favor of resuming the matches. In turn, 56% are against the resumption. Another poll published by public broadcaster ZDF showed 62% against and only 27% in favor of the restart.

However, Germany’s top-tier clubs are eager to complete the season after a two-month break and claim some  €300 million ($324 million) in advertising and rights fees.

Borussia Dortmund is set to host Schalke on Saturday with Bayern Munich traveling to the capital to face Union Berlin on Sunday.


15:22 The German department store chain Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof is set toclose up to 80 of its 170 branches due to the ensuing crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak, German media reported on Friday.

Headquartered in Cologne, the chain has made the move after drastic sales losses, and is part of an overall restructuring of the firm, according to Der Spiegel and Wirtschaftswoche.

It is believed the closures of the branches will result in the loss of up to 5,000 jobs for full-time members of staff.


14:45 Here are some of the latest coronavirus stories from Asia:

BangladeshWith the first coronavirus case reported in the biggest refugee settlement in the world, the Kutupalong camp in southern  Germany’s Development Minister Gerd Müller said his country would boost its aid.

“We will increase our February pledge of €15 million to €25 million for 2020 in the next stage,” Müller said. “This is first and foremost about easing the situation for over 400,000 children, together with UNICEF.”

The camp houses more than 850,000 Rohingya refugees, who mostly fled from the neighboring Myanmar. Müller visited the site in mid-February.

The German minister said that Berlin would equip its local partners and “do everything” to prevent the virus from spreading any further.

More than a million people live in the overcrowded camps. Experts have warned that the squalid conditions in the camp would make it difficult to stop a devastating outbreak. UN officials said emergency measures have been taken, including contact tracing and extended access to healthcare.

China: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned foreign officials who have “insisted on politicizing the epidemic, labeling the virus and smearing the World Health Organization,” in an apparent jab at US President Donald Trump. The White House has accused Beijing of covering up the initial outbreak and influencing the UN health agency. Wang said efforts to delegitimize China and the WHO represented “a serious violation of international moral principles and undermine international anti-epidemic efforts.”

JapanTokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said restrictions could be eased in the world’s most populous city when the number of new daily cases would drop below 20. Tokyo is one of eight prefectures in Japan that remain under state of emergency measures imposed by the government to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to meet with experts next week to decide on whether state of emergency restrictions can be fully withdrawn.

ThailandThai authorities announced plans to ease restrictions on public life starting this weekend. On Sunday, shopping malls, museums and art galleries are allowed to resume operations. However, certain measures remain in place, such as keeping cinemas closed and restricting pool use to an hour per person. Public health authorities have managed to reduce the number of new daily infections to less than ten since the end of April. Thailand is hoping to avert a devastating blow to its prized tourism industry.


14:30 Parents across the European Union are facing “unprecedented challenges” when trying to juggle remote work and taking care of their children, an EU agency says.

Eurofound, which is tasked with improving living and working conditions across the bloc, found that 37% of all people working in the EU has switched to “telework” due to the pandemic.

More than a quarter of those who now work remotely have children younger than 12 in their household. Another 10% live with children aged 12 to 17. Out of people who live with younger children, 22% say they have difficulties focusing on their job most of the time or all of the time.

For those sharing their homes with youths between 12 and 17, the percentage drops to just 7%, and only 5% of people who live without children report such problems.


14:00 The pandemic has had serious consequences when it come to human rights, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has told fellow lawmakers in the German parliament.

“We are observing with great concern how the crisis is boosting authoritarians,” the Social Democrat (SPD) politician said in the Bundestag in Berlin.

Maas welcomed moves by the European Commission to launch a systematic observation of emergency measures across the bloc, with a particular focus on Hungary.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has secured far-reaching powers from parliament without a time limit, ostensibly to deal with the pandemic.


13:40 New York City will stay in lockdown until June 13, but measures will be eased in at least five sparsely populated regions across wider New York state.

Other regions, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo, will also have restrictions loosened “the moment their hit their benchmarks.”

“New Yorkers be proud,” he wrote on Twitter. “Your actions bent the curve.”

The state has born the brunt of the coronavirus outbreak in the US, with over 20,000 killed in New York City alone, In recent weeks, however, the state has seen a gradual drop in new cases and hospitalizations.


13:25 Thousands of Shiite Muslims in Pakistan have ignored public health warnings and attended rallies in the southern city of Karachi, according to police official Ahmed Gul.

The Shiites have been gathering for an annual event, mourning the anniversary of the death of the most revered figure of their faith, Islam’s fourth Caliph, Ali Ibn e Abi Talib.

More rallies were expected in a number of other cities, including Lahore, a metropolitan area with a population of 10 million where doctors said the infection rate was alarmingly high.

Previously, the government warned against holding commemorations this year as the number of infections rose above 37,000, with an expected peak still weeks away. The official death toll in Pakistan currently stands at 803.


12:42 Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has agreed with Switzerland and Lichtenstein to fully reopen borders shared between the countries from June 15.

Kurz addedg that talks were under way with Austria’s eastern
European neighbours.


11:35 Bars and restaurants in five more German states have been allowed to reopen after weeks of closed doors due to COVID-19. Both diners and the establishments must follow special hygiene restrictions.  


11:25 Iran reported its highest rise of coronavirus infections in over a month as clusters of outbreaks hit new regions.  Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 2,102 new cases were confirmed across the country in the past 24 hours from Thursday, bringing the overall number to 116,635. This is the highest figure announced by Iran for a single day since April 6.


10:52 Governments are offering financial help at an unprecedented peacetime level due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But many recipients face delays in receiving their cash, while needless bureaucracy leaves others with nothing.


10:41 Italy is set to allow free travel across the country from June 3, reported news agency Reuters citing a draft decree. It states all movement within separate regions would be allowed from May 18, with inter-regional travel bans due to be lifted on June 3. The draft decree is expected to be passed later on Friday but could still be changed ahead of time.

Italy was the first country in Europe to impose tight restrictions on travel after its north became the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe. But the country is slowly easing out of its lockdown — factories were allowed to start up on May 4 and shops are set to reopen on Monday.


10:30 Germany is planning to loosen restrictions for travelers from the EU, the Schengen passport-free zone and the UK, the Interior Ministry announced. A quarantine period will only be advised for those coming from places with high rates of infection. Details on how to regulate this still need to be worked out, but until then an imposed quarantine will only be for travelers outside of the EU bloc.


10:00 Some more bad news for the economy now, after Germany fell into recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic:

Portugal’s economy has contracted by 3.9% in the first quarter this year, according to official data. Its National Statistics Institute (INE) also estimated that gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 2.4% compared to the same period a year earlier. Prior to the pandemic, the country’s economy was growing and in the last quarter of 2019 achieved its first budget surplus in 45 years of its democratic history.

Coronavirus measures were also not entirely to blame for the poor economic statistics. “Even before [restrictive measures], there were disturbances to the normal functioning of some activities and demand, namely in restaurants and hotels, affecting economic activity since practically the beginning of March,” the INE statement said.

The pandemic has also negatively impacted the Asian economy. Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn — which manufactures gadgets and smart phones including Apple products — reported a huge first quarter on-year profit slump of nearly 89%, as a result of disrupted operations and dampened demand caused by the pandemic.

The group’s total work hours also dropped by over 20% due to the outbreak, causing estimated NT$10 billion ($334 million, €308 million) in additional costs, said chief financial officer David Huang.


09:30 China and the US should “continue to strengthen cooperation in combating the epidemic,” said Chinese officials, responding after US President Donald Trump said he was considering severing ties with China.

Maintaining stable China-US relations is in the interest of both countries and conducive to peace and stability, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Treating patients as well as restoring the economy and production “requires that the US and China move towards each other,” reported state-run tabloid Global Times, citing Zhao.

On Thursday, Trump said he could “cut off the whole relationship” with China, in comments to US broadcaster Fox News. Tensions have been simmering between the two countries for weeks over the origin of the virus.


09:00 Up to 5,000 people will be able to attend a rally taking place in the German city of Stuttgart on Saturday, said officials clarifying rules under which the event can go ahead. Demonstrators are protesting against coronavirus restrictions.

Further conditions state that 500 event stewards must wear a protective face mask as it is thought they will come into close contact with protesters. Access to and from the demonstration must also be organized so that contact between participants is minimized.

“It was about weighing up infection risks with the right to freedom of assembly,” said Martin Schairer, Mayor of the City of Hamburg.

Transport to and from the rally has also been considered – anyone travelling in buses and trains without a prescribed mask will be fined €300 ($324).


08:15 German economic output shrank by 2.2% in the first quarter of 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The contraction is “the worst since the financial crisis” in 2008, said federal statistics office Destatis. This is an early indication of the impact of the lockdown measures from mid-March, added the office, warning that the second quarter will likely show an even bigger downturn.


07:57 Chinese officials have claimed any resurgence from so-called “imported cases” is controllable. China has banned most foreigners from entering its borders since late March as the pandemic spread globally but has largely claimed that many of the new cases confirmed in the country are imported.

China reported four new coronavirus cases on the mainland on May 14 – all of them locally transmitted.


07:55 Russia has reported 10,598 new cases of COVID-19, taking its nationwide tally up to 262,843. The official death toll from the virus now stands at 2,418, after 113 people had died over the last 24 hours, according to the country’s pandemic taskforce.


07:45 Slovenia has become the first European country to proclaim an end to the coronavirus epidemic at home. The EU state has said the COVID-19 spread is under control and there is no longer a need for extraordinary health measures. EU residents are free to cross into Slovenia from Austria, Italy and Hungary at predetermined checkpoints, while most non-EU nationals will have to undergo a  andatory 14-day quarantine.


07:30 Several countries are taking further steps to return to a new normal, after weeks of widespread restrictions on civil life. Here’s a summary:

After more than eight weeks, Austrian restaurants, pubs and bars have been allowed to open their doors. Guests and workers will have to abide by new social distancing and hygiene guidelines.

New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state that includes the city of Sydney, allowed restaurants, cafes and bars to reopen, ending almost two months of coronavirus lockdown closures.

Several states in Germany have lifted further restrictions. Restaurants have opened again in 10 of Germany’s 16 federal states, with the rest set to follow next week.

The Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia opened their borders at midnight creating a “travel bubble” inside the EU where people will be able to travel freely. Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis described the bubble as an “opportunity for businesses to reopen, and a glimmer of hope for the people that life is getting back to normal.” Anyone entering from outside the bubble, even if they are EU citizens, will still have to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Slovenia also opened its borders again for all EU citizens, following a decision by lawmakers in the capital Ljubljana late on Thursday evening. But travel restrictions are set to continue for neighbouring countries Austria, Hungary and Italy.


07:05 Armenia has reported 184 more cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number to 4,044.

The results of 1,276 tests have been negative.

According to the data of the National Center for Disease Control, 94 patients have recovered; a total of 1,666 people have now been discharged from hospital.

Fifty-two deaths have been reported, 22 patients with coronavirus have died because of other diseases.

The number of active cases is 2,304.


07:00 UK health officials have given US-based Abbott Laboratories the go-ahead to produce a COVID-19 antibody test, shortly after giving the same approval to Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding.

Abbott Laboratories said it “stood ready to ship 5 million tests to the UK each month with immediate effect,” reported London-based business newspaper the Financial Times.

Governments hope that mass antibody testing will assist a speedier reopening of economies, allowing for more tailored social distancing measures to be introduced.


06:37 Schools in Germany have not been able to contact all their students digitally to ensure they are keeping up with schoolwork during the coronavirus pandemic.  

Just 36% of school staff said they had been able to reach all their pupils via online learning platforms, according to “school barometer” carried out by the Switzerland-based Institute for Education Management and the Education Economy. This was the lowest percentage, compared with neighboring German-speaking countries Austria and Switzerland.

Germany shut all schools in March but lessons were supposed to continue virtually. The country’s 16 states have been carrying out a staggered reopening of schools from May 4.


06:15 The first case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in a Rohingya refugee camp in southern Bangladesh. There are more than 1 million refugees living in camps in overcrowded conditions.

The person from the Rohingya community has been isolated, said Mahbub Alam Talukder, the country’s refugee commissioner. A local person who lives in the Cox’s Bazar — the same district as the camp — also tested positive and has been quarantined.

Health services are attempting to carry out contact tracing, as well as treating the individuals, according to Louise Donovan, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency.

Aid workers have been warning that the COVID-19 virus could cause serious problems if it reaches the refugee camps. About 40,000 people are housed per 1 square kilometer (103,600 per square mile) — 40 times the average population density of Bangladesh. Housing quality is poor with up to 12 people living in shacks that measure barely 10 square meters (107 square feet).


05:39 EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has called for an independent scientific investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus in a guest column in German national daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Borrell called on China, where the virus broke out in Wuhan in December, to act to protect the world from future pandemics. China should also play “its role and responsibilities according to its weight” in combating the coronavirus pandemic, finding vaccines and boosting the global economy.

China has increasingly come under fire from the EU and the US for lack of transparency about the coronavirus pandemic that originated in the country. There has been growing calls around the world for China to step up its contribution to the coronavirus relief effort.


05:30 A total of 2.4 million elective surgeries could be canceled or postponed worldwide because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study published in the British Journal of Surgery.

“Patients’ conditions may deteriorate, worsening their quality of life as they wait for rescheduled surgery,” said Aneel Bhangu, one of a group of doctors and academics across 11 countries who authored the report.

This could also have potentially life-threatening consequences for cancer patients, added Bhangu.

The study was prompted by the UK’s taxpayer-funded National Health System  announcing in March that “non-urgent” surgeries would be canceled for a period of 12 weeks, in order for hospitals to have enough resources and space to cope with a surge in COVID-19 patients.

The researchers gathered data from 359 hospitals in 71 countries, examining the potential impact of three months of “peak disruption to hospital services.” They then scaled up their projections, examining the potential impact across almost 200 countries.

Almost three-quarters of all surgeries could be postponed, and it could take up to two years to clear the backlog, said the report. While orthopedic procedures are the most likely to be shelved, a further 2 million cancer operations could be affected by the redirection of resources to fighting the pandemic.


05:00 More than half of Germans want their country’s current coronavirus restrictions to remain in place, according to a poll.

A total of 56% of those responding to the “Deutschlandtrend” poll, which is run by public broadcaster ARD, said they did not support plans to lift the measures.

The country’s current coronavirus measures were introduced in mid-March. Initially they saw most non-essential businesses closed and limited group gatherings and non-essential activities. But in recent weeks, certain areas of public life have gradually reopened, leading to a small rise in coronavirus transmission rates.

Those who wanted to see the guidelines loosened tended to say they support Germany’s pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) or the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The poll also found that a majority of those surveyed (56%) are also against resuming the Bundesliga football season at this time. Germany’s top flight is set to restart at the weekend.


04:32 Global economic losses from the coronavirus pandemic could reach up to $8.8 trillion (€8.1 trillion) or nearly 10% of gross domestic output (GDP), according to the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB).

This forecast was based on the economic impact of a long-containment period scenario of six months. It represents a greater economic impact than previous projections by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The ADB also modeled the impact of a short containment period of three months. In this scenario, the pandemic could wipe $5.8 trillion from the global economy, representing a 6.4% decline in GDP.

In the Asia-Pacific region alone, economic losses could range between $1.7 trillion under a three-month containment period and $2.5 trillion under a six-month scenario, the report said.

“These losses will be difficult to recoup,” the report said.

“Furthermore, we cannot discount the possibility of a financial crisis, if the pandemic could not be contained in time to prevent large defaults and bankruptcies.”

Policy interventions by governments around the world, such as fiscal and monetary easing, increased health spending and direct support to cover loses in incomes and revenues, could help soften the impact of the virus by as much as 30% to 40%, the report noted.

The ADB urged governments to double their stabilization packages, noting that “the current size of macroeconomic stimulus for some countries in the region is still small relative to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.”


03:36 A new WHO modelling study says the novel coronavirus could infect around 231 million people in Africa and kill 150,000 over the next year unless “urgent action” is taken. The study modeled likely rates of exposure to the virus in 47 African countries based on factors including population density and containment measures.

Although researchers said many African nations have swiftly taken containment measures, poor health systems could quickly be overwhelmed if containment fails. They called for countries to rapidly increase healthcare capacity, particularly in primary hospitals.

The impact of COVID-19 on health care systems is also exacerbated in developing countries by the prevalence of other major health issues like HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and malnutrition, the study said.


03:26 Germany has confirmed 913 new coronavirus cases, and 101 new deaths were reported, according to the latest figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). The total number of cases is now at 173,152, and the death toll is 7,824.

This is how Friday’s figures compare to previous days:
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  
Monday, May 11: 357 new cases; 22 new deaths  
Sunday, May 10: 667 new cases; 13 new deaths  


03:09 Virologists and biochemists at Frankfurt’s Goethe University say they have identified a potential starting point for developing a drug to treat COVID-19.

In a study published in the international science journal Nature, the researchers said they were able to identify how SARS-CoV-2 infects cells. They also identified “small molecule inhibitors” that disrupt viral replication in cells by targeting cellular pathways the virus uses.

“Our results reveal the cellular infection profile of SARS-CoV-2 and led to the identification of drugs inhibiting viral replication,” said an abstract of the study.

Most of the substances tested in the study are parts of already existing drugs, and the researchers hope their work will expedite the search for viable medicines.

However, the efficacy of these substances in treating COVID-19 patients still needs to be determined in clinical trials.


02:51 China marks one month since it last reported a coronavirus death. The country’s National Health Commission reported four new cases on Friday. In total, China confirmed 82,933 cases and 4,633 deaths since the virus emerged in Wuhan. Only 91 people remain in treatment for COVID-19 in the country. While China has increasingly opened up its economy, authorities have maintained social distancing rules and a ban on foreigners entering the country.


02:12 COVID-19 patients who were given hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, did not get better significantly faster than those not treated with the drug, two new studies published in the medical journal BMJ found.

The drug had been touted by US President Donald Trump as a game-changer in its potential to cure COVID-19, which boosted demand for it in early April.

While the drug is still widely being used in the US, and in other countries as a potential treatment for the coronavirus disease, the US Food and Drug Administration has warned against its use outside of hospitals and clinical trials due to the risk of side effects, including heart problems.


01:53 Mexico has confirmed 2,409 new coronavirus cases, the country’s health ministry said, marking the biggest one-day rise since the pandemic began.

Mexico also reported 257 new deaths, taking the official tally to 42,595 infections and 4,477 fatalities. The latest figures come as the government appeared to push back by two weeks the date to reopen its auto industry after the lockdown.


00:39 The US added 1,754 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, according to Johns Hopkins University, bringing the total to 85,813. The US is the hardest hit in terms of the number of COVID-19 deaths and infections. 

The US has 1,416,528 confirmed cases.


00:02 US President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida will partially reopen to members this weekend as the state slowly begins to ease the coronavirus lockdown. The resort’s Beach Club restaurant, its pool, and its whirlpool will reopen on Saturday after two months, the club said in an email sent to members. It also said that members will have to practice social distancing and lounge chairs will be set 6 feet apart.

Trump’s private residence and the resort’s main building, which includes hotel rooms, will remain closed.


00:01 Brazil’s health ministry announced 13,944 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday — a new daily record for the second day in a row. On Wednesday, Brazil added over 11,000 cases in 24 hours. Brazil’s total number of cases is now at over 202,000. The death toll also rose by 844 to a total of 13,933.

Despite the skyrocketing number of cases, Brazil’s populist President Jair Bolsonaro is urging regional governments to open up the economy and remove movement restrictions, arguing a bankrupt economy will cost more lives than the virus.

“Many more will die if the economy continues to be destroyed,” Bolsonaro told Brazilian media, while warning of famine and “chaos” and saying lockdowns were “not the way.”


00:00 Catch up on yesterday’s coronavirus news here: Coronavirus latest: Pandemic slowing in Europe, WHO says


kmm, wmr/rt (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)

(DW)