November 25, 2020

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Coronavirus latest: Donald Trump bans entry into the US from Brazil

The US president made the move as Brazil’s COVID-19 crisis deepens and its death toll rises sharply. The proclamation prohibits entry for anyone who has been in Brazil in the last 14 days.

  • Germany has recorded its biggest quarterly decline since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis
  • The US has put a stop to visitors from Brazil who have been there in the last 14 days
  • Many European countries are easing lockdown measures, including tourist destinations preparing for the summer
  • Domestic flights are resuming in India despite a record increase in infections
  • More than 5.4 million cases have been recorded globally and at least 344,000 people have died from COVID-19

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

22:55 Chile recorded 4,895 new coronavirus infections on Monday — its biggest daily increase since the pandemic began. The South American country also reported 43 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 761. Among those who tested positive in the last 24 hours was Public Works Minister Alfredo Moreno. 

“I have been informed that the COVID-19 test I had a few days ago was positive,” the 63-year-old said on Twitter, adding that he had no symptoms and was in quarantine.

Moreno is the first member of government to be diagnosed with the virus. Three other ministers who had been self-isolating after coming into contact with infected individuals all tested negative.

Around 90% of the country’s 74,000 cases are in the capital, Santiago, where almost 7 million people are under lockdown. Chile has the third highest number of coronavirus cases in South America, behind Brazil and Peru.

22:05 Around 15,000 Rohingya refugees being housed in Bangladeshi camps have been placed under quarantine after a rise in coronavirus infections, the AFP news agency reports. Authorities first imposed restrictions on the camps in April in an effort to stop the virus from spreading. But several cases were detected there in early May, and the number of confirmed infections rose to 29 on Monday.

“None of the infections are critical. Most hardly show any symptoms. Still we have brought them in isolation centers and quarantined their families,” Toha Bhuiyan, a local senior health official told AFP.

He said authorities had blocked off roads to three camp districts where coronavirus infections had broken out, essentially isolating around 15,000 people.

“We are trying to scale up testing as fast as possible to make sure that we can trace out all the infected people and their contacts,” he said.

The settlements at Cox’s Bazar house almost a million Rohingya Muslims who fled a 2017 military crackdown in neighboring Myanmar. A charity worker who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity said he and his colleagues were “very worried” because the area is so densely populated: “Social distancing is almost impossible in the camps,” he said. “There is very little awareness about COVID-19 disease among the refugees, despite efforts by aid agencies.”

21:45 Egypt’s top medical union is accusing the government of not doing enough to protect healthcare workers from the coronavirus, warning the country’s health system is facing “complete collapse.”

The Egyptian Medical Syndicate (EMS), which represents thousands of doctors, said the Health Ministry was “entirely responsible for the mounting deaths and infections among doctors due to its negligence … that is tantamount to death through a dereliction of duty.” 

The criticism came after a 32-year-old doctor died on the weekend after struggling to get treatment in a crowded quarantine hospital in Cairo. Health Minister Hala Zayed promised to launch an “urgent” investigation into the case, and said the government was “following up to provide the best possible care” to medical staff.

COVID-19 has killed 19 doctors in Egypt and infected more than 350 others, the EMS said. In total, the country has recorded more than 16,000 cases and 700 fatalities. 

The EMS called on the government to ensure all doctors were provided with personal equipment as well as proper training for dealing with coronavirus patients.

“The health ministry has an obligation towards doctors and all medics who are sacrificing their lives on the front lines to defend the safety of the homeland,” the EMS said. “It is imperative to provide them with the necessary protection and rapid medical intervention for those who contract the disease.”

21:10 Cafes and restaurants in Luxembourg will be able to reopen from Wednesday as the tiny European country begins easing its restrictions. 

Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told a news conference that eateries would be able to serve customers on their terraces as long as there were no more than four people at each table. Indoor dining would resume on Friday, he said, adding however that customers must wear masks when entering, and that tables must be separated by a gap of 1.5 meters (roughly 5 feet).

Events such as marriages, funerals, and sports matches are also allowed from Wednesday if attendees keep a distance of 2 meters (6.5 feet) or wear face masks. All shops, cinemas and gyms without spas would be allowed to resume business at the end of the week, Bettel said. Playgrounds would remain closed.

Luxembourg has so far recorded 3,993 COVID-19 infections, including 110 deaths. Only one new case was reported on Monday.

20:49 Syria plans to lift a night-time curfew on Tuesday and will allow more movement between governorates, according to state television.

The government imposed a night-time curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in March after announcing its first coronavirus case. It has faced allegations of underplaying or inadequately tracking the virus’ spread, given the low number of recorded cases in the war-torn country.

Since the pandemic began, Syria has officially recorded 106 coronavirus cases and four virus-related deaths, including 20 new cases on Monday.

20:45 The Republic of Ireland, which has so far had a coronavirus death toll of 1,606, announced on Monday that it had recorded no new deaths for the first time since March. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, a trained doctor who has himself helped out during the coronavirus crisis, called it a “significant milestone.” 

“This is a day of hope. We will prevail,” he wrote on Twitter.

Ireland, an EU member state, began to ease its nearly two-month lockdown a week ago. It plans to reopen the country in five steps by August. Last Monday, the first part of the plan was implemented, with outdoor employees being allowed to return to work, some shops reopening and activities such as golf and tennis being permitted once more.

Despite Monday’s encouraging news, Irish officials have expressed concern that the loosening of measures to stem the spread of the virus may still cause a new surge in infections. Chief medical officer Tony Holohan said in a statement that the effects of relaxing the lockdown would become apparent only in another week.

19:58 France has said its number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose on Monday to 145,279 from 144,921 a day previously.

The Health Ministry said the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 had fallen by 387 to 16,798 as part of a continual decline that suffered a blip on Sunday.

The numbers in intensive care also fell by 46 to 1,609, the ministry said. The death toll rose to 28,457, having gone up by 90. That figure includes only deaths in hospitals, and not those from care homes.

Nearly half of France’s coronavirus deaths have occurred among nursing home residents.

France began easing its lockdown on May 11, but health officials say there is no sign the relaxation has led to an increase in cases. President Emmanuel Macron has, however, warned that the pandemic is not over.

Parks remain off-limits to the many Parisians who live in flats

On Monday, employees from a major European group of nursing homes, Korian, held protests across France to call for more pay in the coronavirus crisis. The group runs nearly 300 care homes in France, and is facing lawsuits over the high number of deaths in its facilities.

The protests came as the government opened two months of talks with health care workers about revitalizing France’s public health sector, which has been hit by decades of cuts. Macron has promised a “massive” investment plan, while Prime Minister Edouard Philippe pledged that health workers would receive a “significant” pay rise.

19:20 At least two people have caught the coronavirus from mink in the Netherlands, in what are believed to be the first mink-to-human transmissions, Dutch health authorities say.

Mink are bred for their fur at over 150 farms across the country. The authorities discovered infected animals at four such locations, Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten said in a letter to parliament.

“This is the first time we’ve found, at least we’ve shown that it’s likely, that in two cases the infection has gone from animal to human,” he said before parliament on Monday.

Schouten added the risk of humans getting infected outside farms was “negligible.” At three out of four farms, a sick human has been shown to be the source of the infection among the animals, while the officials still investigate the cause at the fourth one, the minister said.

Humans reportedly infected several cats and dogs since the global outbreak began in early December. However, the latest mink-to-human transmission was virtually unique, said the head of the country’s health institute, Jaap van Dissel.

18:40 The outbreak could ramp up again and more quickly if anti-pandemic restrictions are lifted too soon, Word Health Organization (WHO) emergencies chief Mike Ryan has warned.

“We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now it is going to keep going down and we get a number of months to get ready for a second wave,” Ryan said. “We may get a second peak in this wave.”

With the infection rates dropping across Europe and pressure to lift restrictions growing in the US, Ryan said that European and North American countries should keep up testing, surveillance, as well as public and social measures.  The governments would need to implement a “comprehensive strategy to ensure that we continue on a downwards trajectory and we don’t have an immediate second peak,” he said.

18:30 UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that outdoor markets and car showrooms are to reopen in his country on June 1 if all goes to plan. He said the government intended to allow all other non-essential retail outlets open from June 15. Both moves will depend on whether tests for “COVID safety” were met, he said.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s closest aide Dominic Cummings refused to resign, saying he

had done nothing wrong by driving 430 kilometers (270 miles) from London to his parents’ home in northern England.

Cummings had faced calls to quit from lawmakers for apparently breaking lockdown rules he himself had a part in drawing up.

Britain has been gradually easing its lockdown, but has the highest official coronavirus death toll in Europe. That toll rose by 121 on Monday to reach 36,914.

17:24 Spain has lowered the number of coronavirus fatalities by 1,918, bringing it down to 28,752, health officials have said.

The head of the country’s emergency medical body, Fernando SImon, said that the revision was due to “various factors” including some fatalities being counted twice and others that have been attributed to COVID-19 without proper analysis.

Health officials also revised the number of total infections to 235,400 patients, lowering it by 372 cases. On Monday, they said 50 people have died and 132 were confirmed to be infected in the previous 24 hours.

Separately, the EU state said they would lift quarantine measures for foreign tourists on July 1.

Restaurants and bars in Spain’s biggest cities, including Barcelona and capital Madrid, have reopened as half the population entered stage one of the government’s lockdown easing plans.  

Spaced out outdoor tables were populated with people as servers with masks tended to their customers for the first time in months. 

Phase one also allows for social gatherings in limited numbers and some cultural and sporting events. Spanish football clubs are also allowed to conduct training sessions with 10 people, a big step as the top-flight La Liga hopes to return on June 11. 

Meanwhile, provinces with fewer infections have relaxed restrictions a bit more, removing outdoor time limits and allowing for meetings of up to 15 people, weddings and visits to nursing homes and beaches. 

17:00 The World Health Organization (WHO) has stopped a clinical trial for hydroxychoroquine, a malaria drug US President Donald Trump said he was taking, in COVID-19 patients amid safety concerns.

A paper in The Lancet medical journal showed that people taking the drug were at higher risk of death and heart problems than those that were not.

“This concern relates to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in COVID-19,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news briefing. The WHO will pursue other treatments as part of their study, including the experimental drug remdesivir and an HIV combination therapy.

Meanwhile, Tedros said that Africa was the region with the fewest diagnosed coronavirus cases, accounting for less than 1.5% of the world’s total and just 0.1% of deaths. The director-general credited the continent’s experience with dealing with epidemics for its response to the coronavirus. However a WHO special envoy Samba Sow said the continent could face a “silent epidemic” if its leaders do not prioritize testing. “My first point for Africa, my first concern, is a lack of testing is leading to a silent epidemic in Africa. So we must continue to push leaders to prioritize testing,” Sow said.

16:30 The Czech government is set to open border crossings with Germany and Austria on Tuesday, but with restrictions still in place.

Most passengers would be required to bring a negative coronavirus test. However, instead of controlling everyone who tries to cross the border, the Czech police would be switching to random checks, said the country’s interior ministry.

Tourists are not yet allowed into the country. Violators would face steep fines, according to the officials.

Slovakia and Poland continue to operate their own systems of border control on Czech borders, the ministry added.

16:10 Citizens have been able to take ferry’s to Greece’s Aegean islands as the country kicked off its summer holiday season three weeks earlier than expected. 

Social distancing regulations and passenger limits on ferries have been imposed to prevent further COVID-19 infections.

Travel to the islands has been generally off-limits since the pandemic began. The holiday season was not expected to begin until June 15, but because of Greece’s low infection rate, the government allowed its citizens not under quarantine to resume ferry travel. Foreign travelers still aren’t expected until after June 15. 

Meanwhile, restaurants and cafes were allowed to once again welcome customers under new social distancing rules. 

15:27 Russia’s Vladimir Putin has made his first public appearance in more than two weeks at the Kremlin after weeks of working remotely from his residence outside Moscow.

Meanwhile, Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov confirmed his own release from the hospital after receiving treatment for the coronavirus. Peskov and his wife tested positive on May 12, with his wife leaving the hospital last week.

The spokesman said he would need to remain isolated at home for another two weeks. Several top-ranking officials tested positive for the coronavirus in Russia, including Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin who returned to work last week.

On Monday, he called on Russians not to travel abroad for their summer vacation. “It’s better and safer to spend the holidays in your own country,” he said in televised remarks.

Russia currently has over 353,000 coronavirus cases, making its caseload third biggest in the world behind the US and Brazil. Moscow, its most affected region, remains in lockdown.

14:55 Japan has seen an increase in online dating during the coronavirus pandemic as people look to partnership for weathering the crisis.

Companies are offering services like virtual bars, or an evening cooking together.

14:23 Danish police say people with a romantic partner in Denmark are now allowed to enter the country to visit them, after an easing of border controls.

However, the travelers would need to prove they were together with the other person for at least six months. “They can bring along a photo or a love letter,” said deputy police chief Allan Dalager Clausen.

The authorities would also acknowledge text messages or personal information as evidence. “I realize these are very intimate things, but the decision to let in the partner ultimately rests on the judgment of the individual police officer,” he told Danish broadcaster DR.

The new regulation would also allow grandparents from other countries to visit their Danish-based grandchildren. The easing of border controls applies to other Nordic countries and Germany.

14:00 Thuringia could become the first state to completely lift restrictions aiming to slow the spread of coronavirus. State premier Bodo Ramelow has triggered a heated debate on whether this is a sensible local response.

12:56 The German government aims to maintain social distancing rules until at least July 5, according to a draft policy seen by the AFP news agency.

The decision has been made in the face of a revolt by regional states, the agency reports.

A working paper from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office would extend by a month existing contact restrictions “to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres (5 feet) between people. It will also require people to wear masks in certain public areas, such as supermarkets and on public transport.

The news comes as two eastern states, Thuringia and Saxony, announced a drastic opening up in defiance of Berlin’s guidelines from June 6.

12:29 In a bid to draw investment and boost industry in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, some Indian states have suspended most labor laws.

Many fear that the moves may lead to slave-like conditions in workplaces.

11:40 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has unveiled plans for a fresh stimulus package worth about 100 trillion yen (€850 billion, $930 billion). The new package will provide financial support to companies hit by the pandemic. 

The plan requires cabinet approval, which should come later this week. If approved, it will bring total spending up to more than 200 trillion yen.

11:13 South Korea is sending 370,000 face mask to tens of thousands of South Korea-born adoptees living in the West in order to help them though the coronavirus crisis. 

The Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic missions will work with dozens of international adoptee groups to distribute masks in 14 countries, the ministry said, the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, and Italy among them. 

Initially, the ministry planned to send only 100,000 masks, but said it had decided to expand the supplies. Most South Korean adoptees were sent abroad as infants in the 1970s and 1980s and are old enough to have children of their own.  

South Korea has been a major source of babies for Western parents seeking to adopt ever since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Official figures show around 167,000 South Korean adoptees living abroad, including 110,000 in the US. Some experts believe the real figure is closer to 200,000. 

South Korea is also sending 1 million masks to foreign veterans of the Korean War.

11:00 A coal mine in the Czech Republic has been forced to close after a major outbreak of the coronavirus. Some 212 people have tested positive for COVID-19, after about 2,400 people were tested. Most of those infected were miners from the Darkov Mine in the northeastern town of Darkov, near the border with Poland. 

This is the biggest outbreak in the country. 

Local authorities have limited public gatherings to 100, compared to 300 for the rest of the country. People are also banned from visiting nursing homes and hospitals.

Some 8,957 people have tested positive in the Czech Republic, with 315 deaths.

10:49 Italy is recruiting 60,000 volunteers to wear blue aprons and tell Italians to respect social distancing in public. There has been concern that people are flouting regulations on beaches, in bars and on public squares.

Bari Mayor and head of the Italian Mayors’ Association (ANCI) Antonio Decaro told La Repubblica newspaper the volunteers will not be “vigilantes, but spreaders of good behaviour.”

Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia said the volunteers would be called “civic assistants” and would be armed with “the strength of persuasion, reason and their smiles.”  

The scheme is open to all citizens, but priority will be given to the unemployed and recipients of welfare aid. People will soon be able to apply on the website of the Civil Protection Agency.

10:41 The agriculture ministry in the Netherlands believes it has uncovered a second instance of a human who was infected with the new coronavirus after coming in contact with an infected mink

Minister Carola Scouten said in a letter to parliament that the country’s National Institute for Health still believes the risk of animal-to-human transmission outside of the farms where the animals are kept is “negligible.”

On April 26 the Dutch government had reported that mink on a farm in the south of the country had contracted the virus. The news spurred a wider investigation of mink farms, where the animals are kept for their fur. Last week, the government announced the first suspected case of a mink-to-human transmission.

10:30 In Süderlügum, Germany, the Danish customer is king. Thousands of shoppers normally arrive on buses to take advantage of the lower sales tax in Germany. But now, since the border closed, so have many of the shops.

10:15 Japan has ended a nationwide state of emergency, after lifting the declaration in the final five areas. The order was lifted across most areas earlier this month, but Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba Saitama, and Hokkaido have now been removed. The move comes six days earlier than expected.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said this does not mean the end of the outbreak, but said the goal was to balance preventive measures and the economy until vaccines and effective drugs become available.

“We had very stringent criteria for lifting the state of emergency. We have judged that we have met this,” Abe told a nationally televised news conference. He celebrated the country’s success in flattening the curve, saying Japan “was able to show the strength of the so-called Japan model.”

Abe warned citizens would have to adapt to a “new normal” and continue to avoid the “three Cs” — closed spaces, crowded places and close contact. “If we lower our guard, the infection will spread very rapidly… we need to be vigilant,” he said. “We need to create a new lifestyle; from now on we need to change our way of thinking.”

Japan has had about 16,600 confirmed cases and about 850 deaths, avoiding the large-scale outbreaks seen in parts of Europe and the US. However, the country has fallen into recession and Abe’s support has tumbled. 

Individual prefectures can impose their own measures, with Tokyo planning to reopen in three phases starting with schools, libraries, museums, and longer service hours for restaurants. Next will come theaters, sports facilities, and other commercial establishments, followed finally by nightclubs, karaoke and live music houses.

10:00 The German government and flag carrier Lufthansa have reached a much-anticipated agreement on a state bailoutof the airline in order to help it cope with losses suffered during the coronavirus pandemic, according to initial reports from news agency dpa.  

The deal must now be approved by various bodies on the state and European level as well as within Lufthansa. 

Last week, the airline group announced that it was in the “advanced stage” of talks with German government officials regarding a bailout with worth €9 billion ($9.9 billion) that would give the federal government a 20% state in the company. 

09:45 Thuringia State Premier Bodo Ramelow has come under nationwide criticism for his plans to end the state-wide coronavirus restrictions. The Left Party politician had announced that from June 6 onwards, general coronavirus regulations would be suspended. This would mean that statewide rules on social distancing, mask-wearing and contact restrictions would no longer apply. Instead of these regulations, regional measures will be introduced depending on the level of infection on site.

“This is extremely dangerous,” the president of the Association of Municipalities and Cities of Thuringia, Michael Brychcy, told the German Press Agency on Monday. “I don’t want us to have suffered for two and a half months and now risk everything.” He said Ramelow would probably be politically forced to retract his plans. 

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn told Germany’s most-read newspaper Bild: “Under no circumstances should the impression be given that the pandemic is over,” he said. He said that while there are regions where no new infections are reported, there are local and regional outbreaks that require rapid intervention.

Bavarian State Premier Markus Söder described the announcement as a “fatal signal.” “I don’t want Bavaria to be infected again by a careless policy that is made in Thuringia,” he said.

Federal Chancellery Minister Helge Braun has indicated that states should continue to prescribe a minimum distance of 1.5 metres in public places nationwide after 5 June, and that masks should remain mandatory in certain public areas.

09:00 Europe must achieve greater independence when it comes providing its own essential economic goods, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has told the country’s ambassadors in an online conference. 

“We have as a matter of urgency to reduce our dependence in strategically vital areas: in the health sector, but equally in energy, information technology, nutrition, logistics and raw materials, such as rare earths,” Maas said..

“Where the safety and health of our population are concerned, the European Union must be able to guarantee secure supply,” he said.

His words were not meant as a rejection of free trade, he said. 

“But the balance between the international division of labor and the risks of strategic dependence must be readjusted,” he said. “And I would like Germany and Europe to be pioneers here.”

The goal is also to guarantee European influence around the globe once the pandemic has subsided, he said. 

His remarks were intended to prepare Germany’s representatives for the country’s six-month presidency of the EU Council in the second half of 2020. 

Maas said the coronavirus outbreak would have far-reaching effects on foreign and security policy that could exacerbate global imbalances. It was not yet clear which countries would come out on top, he said.

08:30 Even if there is a second wave, Belgium will not return to lockdown conditions, the country’s interior minister has said.

“The first lockdown has taken care of the situation in which we have ended up. These were exceptional circumstances, but we never had Italian or Spanish conditions,” Pieter De Crem told VTM broadcaster.

“If there was a second wave, then I think we will find ourselves in a different situation, namely with testing and tracing. But I think we can rule out that we will have to go back to the tough measures,” De Crem said.

He told the broadcaster that the country’s tough lockdown measures meant that hospitals did not have to deny people medical care.

In mid-March, the country of 11.5 million people shuttered almost everything, leaving just food shops and pharmacies operating. Since May, it has steadily been reopening.

07:56 Spain’s Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto has said that foreign tourists will be allowed to book vacations in Spain starting in July. The government expects that the two-week quarantine imposed on overseas travelers will be suspended by that time, the ministry added. 

“It is perfectly coherent to plan summer vacations to come to Spain in July,” Maroto said in an interview with local radio station Onda Cero. 

The country was one of the worst-hit nations in the coronavirus pandemic, but its economy relies heavily on the tourism sector. Ahead of a possible tourism reopening, the country began opening access to its beaches for residents starting today.

07:40 Germany’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by 2.2% in the first quarter compared to the previous quarter, the Federal Statistics Office has confirmed. It was the sharpest quarter-on-quarter decline since the 2008 global financial crisis and the second sharpest since German reunification.

This was driven primarily by a 3.2% drop in consumer spending and a 6.9% drop in company investment in plant and equipment were. Exports fell by 3.1% and imports by 1.6%. 

The German government is anticipating the worst recession since the war with the GDP expected to slump by 6.3% this year.

Meanwhile, German construction projects declined 10.5% in March, according to seasonally-adjusted figures released by the statistics office. Such declines are not unheard of, but the fall does indicate that companies have postponed planned construction projects due to the economic uncertainty, statisticians said.

The statistics office also released figures showing that traffic fatalities in Germany fell to their lowest point since reunification, with 158 killed in March, compared to 234 in the same period last year. Total accidents fell to 166,000, 23% fewer than March 2019 and the lowest figure since it started recording figures 30 years ago.

07:01 Japan will begin lifting its nationwide coronavirus state of emergency, gradually reopening the world’s third-largest economy. Japan has had a total of 16,581 COVID-19 infections, resulting in 830 deaths. 

The state of emergency had been declared for Tokyo and six other regions on April 7 and later extended to the entire country. The move was a response to a spike in cases, despite the fact that the country seemed to have the epidemic under control, in comparison with other hard-hit nations like Italy, Spain and the US. 

Schools in Tokyo and its three neighboring prefectures are set to reopen today, followed by public facilities and businesses, to be rolled out in phases in the coming weeks. 

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the most recent data showed that infections had slowed enough and that the medical systems were under less pressure, allowing for Japan to gradually resume social and economic activity.  

But Tokyo and Hokkaido, where more than a dozen new cases were reported Sunday, will still need to remain extra-cautious, he said. ”We cannot completely eliminate the coronavirus to zero,” Nishimura said. ‘ 

‘Even after the state of emergency is lifted, we must firmly take preventive measures based on our new lifestyles,” he added. 

Although the death toll has been less severe than in other parts of the world, Japan’s economy has suffered during the pandemic, plunging into its first recession since 2015. 

07:00 Armenia sees record single-day spike in Covid-19 cases, bringing total to 7,113

Armenia has reported 452 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number to 7,113.

The results of 745 tests have been negative.

According to the data of the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 81 patients have recovered, bringing the total to 3,145.

Eighty-seven deaths have been reported, 39 patients with coronavirus have died because of other diseases.

The number of active cases is 3,842.

06:45 German national train operator Deutsche Bahn is hoping commuters will be able to use its app to avoid overcrowded trains, news magazine Der Spiegel has reported.

The app will reportedly show trains that are loaded to 50% capacity, ideally allowing commuters to find alternatives that allow for social distancing. The app would also remove these trains from showing up in the search, preventing further bookings and further overloading of the trains. However, anyone who actually sees the train at the station would still be able to board. 

Previous calls for compulsory reservations have not made any headway. 

Deutsche Bahn has reduced its services due to a massive slump in passenger numbers during the crisis. Capacity should start to be restored by next week.

French rail operator SNCF had already rolled out a similar system, with the app showing a little symbol for each train a day before departure, which is more useful for regional trains, which don’t require reservations, unlike long-distance trains.

06:20 Further lockdown-easing measures are being introduced across much of Europe this week. Here’s a brief overview of the main developments:

Austria 

Public performances in Vienna are set to restart with restrictions, as cultural life in the Austrian capital gets a boost. Performances with an audience limit of 100 people will be allowed, beginning late May. Spectators are expected to keep a one-meter distance from each other. 

Denmark 

Travel will be eased in Denmark starting today. People with permanent residence in neighboring Nordic countries and Germany will be allowed to enter the country under certain conditions. Those who own a holiday home in Denmark or have a parent, grandparent, partner or fiance who reside there, will be allowed entry. 

Borders in Denmark have been closed since mid-March. The government plans to make a decision on border reopening for summer tourism by the end of this month. 

Germany 

Restriction-easing in Germany’s 16 federal states continues apace, with restaurants now set to open all across the country. Hotels in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast, will now be open to people who reside in other states.  

In Berlin, Brandenburg and Lower Saxony, hotels are set to open for the first time. Outdoor swimming pools there are also set to reopen today. 

Restaurants in Bavaria will now be able to reopen their indoor seating areas. 

Greece 

Ferry travel from the mainland to all Greek islands in the Aegean and Ionian Sea will be permitted for travelers who are not on under quarantine. 

The government will announce by the end of this week a list of countries whose tourists may travel to Greece without undergoing a two-week quarantine. 

Athens will receive the first international flights on June 15 and regional airports are set to open on July 1. 

Italy 

Gyms and pools are set to be reopened today. The country expects to welcome foreign visitors starting June 3. 

Lithuania 

By the end of this week, groups of up to 30 people will be allowed to congregate in public or private, under strict social distancing and hygiene rules. Primary school children will return to class today, with all students heading back on June 1. 

Professional sports will resume without any fans or spectators.  

Poland  

Schools for children between the ages of 7 and 9 will reopen today, but individual schools will have the choice to keep them close if they want to. 

Universities can now hold classes for final-year students and any that cannot be held online. Students in their final year of primary school and in secondary school are now allowed to meet with teachers for individual or group sessions. 

Spain 

Spain’s most affected cities, Madrid and Barcelona, will begin easing lockdown measures today. Residents in small numbers will be allowed to enter churches, museums and shops. A maximum of 10 people will be allowed to gather in private. 

But other restrictions will continue, with only two people between the ages 14 and 70 allowed to exercise together during mornings and evenings only, while parents may only take their children on walks during restricted times. 

06:15 A saliva-based coronavirus test may be on the market by mid-June after a French consortium announced that it has launched the production phase.

The sub-1-hour test is designed to be performed by healthcare professionals, and requires just 1 millimetre (0.03 fluid ounces) of saliva. This sample is heated and screens the patient for the coronavirus.

The test is called EasyCov, and is developed by French companies Vogo , SKILLCELL and the CNRS SYS2DIAG laboratory.

Last week, a London hospital announced it was piloting a separate saliva/swab test, developed by a professor at Imperial College London. That DNA-based test, called DnaNudge, requires no laboratory and takes less than an hour. It has a sensitivity of more than 98% and a specificity of 100%.

Current testing regimes require samples be sent to laboratories and take several days. Faster testing could allow more people to return to work much quicker and allow wider-spread testing.

05:20 The Council of Europe’s counter-terrorism committee has warned that that coronavirus pandemic may have increased the risk of bioterrorism. 

Bioterrorism or bio-attacks are acts of terrorism in which a biological agent, such as bacteria or a virus, is intentionally released, with the aim of sickening people, livestock, or crops. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how vulnerable modern society is to viral infections and their reverberations,” the committee said in a statement, reported Monday by the newspapers of German publisher Funke media. It said there was no reason to believe terrorist would not have learned from the coronavirus outbreak. 

“The damage would be quick and potentially global,” it said, adding that the harm to people and economies could be much greater than that of a “traditional” act of terror. 

The council called on the 47 Council of Europe member states to engage in a coordinated effort to fight bioterrorism that includes preparing through training exercises.

04:25 The number of confirmed  cases in Germany has increased by 289 to 178,570, according to the latest data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases. The reported death toll rose by 10 to 8,257.

04:02 China’s foreign minister has rejected suggestions that Beijing is taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to expand its footprint in the South China Sea, describing the accusations as “sheer nonsense.”

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a press conference that China was working closely on anti-virus endeavors with numerous Southeast Asian countries, many of whom have overlapping territorial claims with China in the strategically vital stretch in the Pacific Ocean.

While Beijing has long been increasing its presence in the marginal sea, Wang said other countries, implying the United States and its allies, have been causing instability in the region with military flights and sea patrols.

Wang told reporters: “Their ill-intentioned and despicable moves are meant to sow discord between China and (Southeast Asian countries) and undermine the hard-won stability in the region.”

03:30 A total of 147 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at a slaughterhouse in the Dutch town of Groenlo, authorities revealed. Among the infected, 79 reside in neighboring Germany while the other 68 live in the Netherlands, according to the local newspaper De Gelderlander.

There still 25 more employees awaiting testing among the entire workforce of 657 at the slaughterhouse, owned by Vion Food Group.

This is not the first instance of an outbreak occurring at a Vion slaughterhouse after dozens of workers had already been infected in other German branches.

03:27 Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen has apologized after staying at a restaurant past the 11 p.m. curfew implemented by the government. Owners face fines of up to €30,000 ($32,700) if they break the rules.

“I went out for the first time since the lockdown with two friends and my wife,” Van der Bellen tweeted, adding: “We then lost track of time while chatting. I’m sincerely sorry. It was a mistake.”

France recorded its lowest daily increase in confirmed new infections since the country went into lockdown on March 17.

As a further illustration of the country opening up, families have been heading for the Grande Motte beach on the Mediterranean coast, swimming and sunbathing in areas specially marked to keep a safe distance from each other. Cordoned off areas and wooden stakes were carefully spaced out across the beach, giving each visitor or group an eight-square-meter (85-square-foot) space of their own. Online reservations are required, though at no cost, and there is already a two-day waiting list.

Elsewhere, beaches have also reopened, but only for individual sports or walks, and people weren’t permitted to sit or sunbathe.

In Germany, the state premier of Thuringia has called for an end to all restrictions for the region. Bodo Ramelow said that he hopes to lift the remaining statewide rules on June 6 and replace them with “a concept of recommendations and fighting COVID-19 locally if infection figures rise.”

All 16 states currently have regulations in place, such as social distancing and an instruction to wear face masks on public transport and in shops.

Ramelow was heavily criticized by the chief of staff of neighboring Bavaria’s premier, saying his government was “appalled” at Ramelow’s suggestion. “Thuringia’s plans are a highly dangerous experiment for everyone in this country,” Florian Herrmann told German newspaper Bild. “Lifting all protective measures comes too soon and isn’t appropriate in the current situation, because the virus hasn’t yet been defeated.”

Restriction measures are still in place in the mostly-Muslim Balkan countries of Albania, Bosnia and Kosovo. Mosques have reopened in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo but visitors must wear face masks and maintain physical distancing, while older citizens were urged to pray from home.

Turkey’s health minister announced 32 new COVID-19 fatalities, taking the country’s death toll to 4,340.

Fahrettin Koca also tweeted there were 1,141 new cases. The total number of infections currently stands at 156,827, making it the ninth highest in the world, though some experts believe it could be much higher than reported.

03:06 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is standing by his top aide Dominic Cummings regarding allegations he breached the government’s own lockdown rules.

Pressure is building from within the ruling Conservative party, however, to get rid of Cummings but so far Johnson is resisting those calls.

02:46 Japan is set to drop the state of emergency currently in place in Tokyo, and four other remaining prefectures, later Monday, ending the measure first implemented on April 7 for the capital.

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura has asked experts on a government-commissioned panel to evaluate a plan to remove the state of emergency. “It appears the measure is no longer needed in all of the prefectures,” Nishimura said.

An official announcement is expected later today by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, confirming the decision.

Unlike many strict lockdowns across the globe, Japan’s state of emergency is lenient and largely a request for people to stay at home and for non-essential companies to shut down or work less hours.

02:10 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has held discussions with the CEOs of the country’s six biggest banks in order to gauge their opinions on the current state of the economy in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, newspaper The Globe and Mail reported, citing multiple sources.

This was Trudeau’s first direct dialogue with the banking heads since the pandemic first emerged in Canada, according to the report, which added that the calls occurred last weekend.

The topics they spoke about included adjustments required in relief efforts rolled out by the government, the need for additional support and pressures faced by clients of the financial institutions, the newspaper said.

01:16 China has recorded 11 new cases in the mainland, up from three in the previous day’s figures, the National Health Commission reported.

The commission said in a statement that all of the new cases were travelers coming from abroad. Ten of the new infections of COVID-19 were reported in Inner Mongolia region, with one in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

00:54 The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) has deployed hundreds of crowd control staff to implement physical distancing on public transport amid an expected commuter surge as schools opened their gates and offices reopened for business.

Australia has registered just over 7,100 cases, including 102 deaths, and with fewer than 20 new infections recorded most days, states are pursuing a three-stage plan to remove most restrictions by July.

Many parents in NSW are now able to go back to the office with children back at school. But officials warned residents to expect delays, with buses and trains operating at significantly reduced capacity due to the social distancing regulations.

“We’ve got 1.2 million kids on the move,” NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance told Australia’s Channel 9. “We just need everyone to be patient.”

00:32 An advisor to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has played down the significance of the travel ban imposed on people coming into the United States from Brazil, saying it is merely a case of previously established protocol.

President Donald Trump earlier announced citizens who have been in Brazil in the last 14 days will not be allowed entry into the US, but Filipe Martins, an advisor on international affairs to the Brazilian president, said on Twitter: “By temporarily banning the entry of Brazilians into the USA, the American government is following previously established quantitative parameters, which naturally reach a country as populous as ours. There is nothing specific against Brazil. Ignore the press hysteria.”

00:27 Berlin Mayor Michael Müller has offered to take in patients from Moscow in light of the Russian capital’s continuing struggles with the pandemic.

“Together with the Charite hospital, we made an offer to Italy, which they did not need to take us up on. Instead, our university clinic took in patients from France, which President Emmanuel Macron thanked us for a few days ago in a letter,” Müller said in an interview with The Tagesspiegel.

“We would like to help more if our clinics see the possibility to do so. I have also offered help to Moscow, our twin city,” Müller added.

00:12 President Donald Trump has banned entry into the US for any individual who has been in Brazil within the last 14 days, with the Latin American country struggling to control the pandemic.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the decision was an example of “decisive action to protect our country.”

“Today’s action will help ensure foreign nationals who have been in Brazil do not become a source of additional infections in our country,” McEnany continued. “These new restrictions do not apply to the flow of commerce between the United States and Brazil.”

Bolsonaro has been criticized for mishandling COVID-19 in Brazil

00:08 Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that COVID-19 could result in the loss of roughly a million jobs as numerous industries regarded as not essential remain shutdown.

The Mexican economy was already in recession prior to the emergence of the novel coronavirus and various investment banks have forecast contractions as large as 9% for 2020.

“My prediction is that with coronavirus, a million jobs will be lost,” Lopez Obrador said in a televised speech. “But we will create two million new jobs,” he pledged.

00:05 Domestic flights will resume in India today after “hard negotiations” brokered the arrangement, the federal civil aviation ministry said.

The internal trips will resume as restrictions become more relaxed in the country home to some 1.3 billion people, though the number of new coronavirus infections rose by a record 24-hour amount on Sunday. The 6,767 new cases took the overall figure to more than 131,000.

Airlines are preparing to restart about a third of their domestic operations as of Monday, though quarantine rules have yet to be clarified.

00:00 Catch up on yesterday’s coronavirus news here: China tells US to stop blame game

jsi/shs (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters) (DW)