September 19, 2020

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Coronavirus latest: Some US states to reopen soon

At least three US states will ease restrictions on public life amid the coronavirus outbreak. One tally has said over 150,000 people have died during the pandemic.

  • Over 154,000 people around the world have died during the ongoing pandemic and more than 2.2 million have been infected by COVID-19
  • Some US states prepare to reopen their businesses and ease restrictions on public life
  • Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court allows an appeal to overturn a ban on a protest against lockdown measures
  • Turkey now has the highest number of cases in the Middle East
  • Spain’s death toll has crossed 20,000

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

23:30 The UK has appointed the former Goldman Sachs investment banker who organized the 2012 London Olympics to scale up the domestic manufacturing of personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes medical masks, visors and gowns, for health professionals working with coronavirus patients, following criticism over significant equipment shortages.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced Sunday that he had appointed Paul Deighton, the chief executive of the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, to head the production effort.

“He will lead a singular and relentless focus on PPE as the country’s top manufacturing priority, with the full weight of the government behind him,” Hancock said.

The government has pointed to increased international demand for PPE as the main reason for the shortage. Until now, China has been the UK’s main supplier of PPE.

In the unpaid position, Deighton will be responsible for scaling up domestic production to meet the increased demand. UK brands such as Barbour and Burberry have recently switched over from producing high-end fashion to PPE.

“Countries around the world face unprecedented demand for personal protective equipment and this necessitates an equally unprecedented domestic manufacturing response,” said Deighton.

21:50 At his daily briefing, US President Donald Trump announced that certain businesses in the states of Texas and Vermont will be allowed reopen on Monday and that Montana will begin lifting restrictions on Friday. The businesses will have to take precautions against the coronavirus.

“We continue to see a number of positive signs that the virus has passed its peak,” Trump said.

Some state governors, however, have said they will not reopen their economies until more testing has been done.

With more than 718,000 confirmed infections and 37,700 fatalities as of Saturday, the United States has reported more coronavirus cases and deaths than any other country thus far.

21:00 Austria is considering whether to reopen its borders during summer to tourists from Germany and other countries that are effectively bringing the coronavirus under control.

“The freedom to travel will remain restricted in the coming months. However, if countries are well on track, like Germany, there is a real possibility for bilateral agreements,” Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger told Austrian newspaper Die Presse.

Germany is Austria’s biggest client in the Alpine nation’s tourism industry. German tourists accounted for more than 30% of Austria’s visitors during last year’s summer season.

While Austrians are likely to go on vacation within their own country due to the global coronavirus pandemic, Köstinger warned that “without foreign guests, we will have to put up with losses.”

By the end of April, the Austrian government hopes to draw up plans for gradually reopening its doors to tourism and allow restaurants to operate again.

20:50 More than 100 artists are taking part in the One World: Together At Home show, an eight-hour global event to pay tribute to the frontline workers battling the coronavirus pandemic across the world.

The event has been organized by the nonprofit group Global Citizen, in support of the World Health Organization and curated by Lady Gaga.

British actress Jameela Jamil, who kick-started the event, said it was meant to be “a moment of respite.”

The special featured Hollywood stars, musicians, and comedians who called on people to stay at home, practice social distancing, and pressure governments to introduce widespread testing.

While the event is not a public fundraiser, it’s aimed at encouraging philanthropists and companies to contribute to WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

20:36 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel can begin to relax coronavirus restrictions starting on Sunday. He said that a “responsible and gradual” easing of the lockdown could happen because of the country’s comparatively strong performance in combatting the coronavirus. 

“We have one of the lowest death rates,” Netanyahu said. “This allows us to take steps towards easing the burden.”

Instead of the previous 15%, the maximum number of employees permitted to be at selected workplaces — mainly businesses in the IT and electronic industries — will be increased to 30%. Up to two people can now play sports outdoors, but only within 500 meters (1,640 feet) of home. Up to 10 people can pray together outside, keeping a distance of at least 2 meters. Protective face masks remain obligatory.

Netanyahu said he will decide after two weeks whether to roll back further measures.

“If there is a new coronavirus eruption, we will have to cut back again,” he warned. Israel has registered 13,265 cases of the coronavirus, 164 deaths and 3,456 recoveries, according to the Ministry of Health.

20:02 Hundreds of people in cities across the US have protested against coronavirus-related restrictions, demanding that the stay-at-home orders be called off before the scheduled May 4 end date. 

An estimated 400 people gathered in the New Hampshire city of Concord — with many protesters on foot while others remained in their cars. Demonstrators were seen carrying signs with slogans like “The numbers lie” and “Reopen New Hampshire.” Meanwhile, in Annapolis, the capital of the eastern state of Maryland, 200 protesters held a rally while in the Texas capital of Austin, more than 250 people took to the streets.

The demonstrations took place following tweets posted by US President Donald Trump, who said he wants to see a quick return to normality.

19:49 Indigenous people in Peru’s Amazon jungle, who have not received government assistance in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, are protecting themselves with face masks made from banana leaves.

“We use what we have to protect ourselves from this disease that is all over the world. We are using banana leaves to protect ourselves from the virus,” Julio Cusurichi, leader of the federation of indigenous communities in the Madre de Dios region of Peru’s central jungle, told French news agency AFP. “So far, we have no help from the government … Food is already scarce, there is no money for oil, nor for sugar and much less for masks,” he added.

The banana leaves are first washed and then placed over a fire to soften the leaves. The initiative emerged from the El Pilar indigenous community in Madre de Dios (1,000 kilometers/621 miles east of Lima). Locals from the community, which has some 200 inhabitants, took advantage of the abundance of bananas in the region as the Peruvian government failed to deliver medical assistance to the area during the outbreak. “We have the same rights as the people in the city,” said Felix Kuaquibegue, leader of the El Pilar community.

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra acknowledged earlier this week that his government has not adequately attended to remote Amazonian and Andean communities in the face of the health emergency.

There are currently 13,489 reported cases of COVID-19 in Peru with 300 deaths. In March, the US-based NGO Amazon Watch warned that Indigenous Amazonians are among “the most vulnerable on the planet” in the coronavirus pandemic.

19:23 Spain’s PM Pedro Sanchez has said he would ask parliament for a third 15-day extension of the lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the country, taking the restrictions up to May 9. Sanchez said he wanted to relax restrictions on children, who would be allowed out of their homes after April 27, though that allowance would be “limited and subject to conditions to avoid contagion”. He did not go into further details.

Spain has begun to ease a strict lockdown imposed on March 14 and this week opened up some sectors of the economy, including manufacturing. But most people are still confined to their houses except for essential outings including shopping for food.

18:37 Some 20 staff members in Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s palace have tested positive for the coronavirus, two officials told French news agency AFP. “Twenty-odd people are infected with COVID-19 in the presidential palace. However, it is kept under wraps to ensure no panic is caused,” one government official told AFP news agency, adding that so far, there is no indication that the president himself has contracted the virus.

A second official said an additional 12 people from Ghani’s administrative office had also been infected with the coronavirus. Sediq Sediqqi, the president’s spokesman, declined to comment on the matter. Ghani resides in a palace compound in central Kabul.

The capital is currently under lockdown, which authorities have recently extended for another three weeks. All government offices are closed.  The country has officially registered 933 coronavirus cases, including 33 deaths. However, analysts fear the real numbers to be much higher.

18:18 France has reported 642 more deaths from COVID-19 in hospitals and nursing homes over the past 24 hours, bringing the total toll in the country from the pandemic to 19,323. 

However, in a continuation of a trend seen over the last days the number of coronavirus patients in hospital fell by 551 to 30,639. The numbers in intensive care meanwhile fell by 194 to 5,833. This was the fourth consecutive day there has been a fall in the numbers in hospital and the tenth day in a row there has been a fall in the numbers in intensive care.

17:57 Portugal plans to gradually ease coronavirus restrictions from May, Prime Minister Antonio Costa has announced. Costa said that new rules will be announced on April 30. The government is considering opening up certain businesses, as well as hair salons and kindergartens. The current state of emergency runs out on May 2. He confirmed that large public gatherings will remain banned for months to come.

17:45 Morocco will extend its lockdown measures until May 20, the government has confirmed. Schools, mosques and non-essential shops will remain closed. The wearing of masks in public is mandatory, and those breaching the regulations can face fines or even jail terms. The decision was made as coronavirus cases rose to 2,670 with 137 deaths.

17:15 Turkey’s Health Ministry has confirmed a surge in coronavirus cases, with an increase of 3,783 cases in the past 24 hours. With a national total of 82,329 cases, Turkey has now overtaken Iran as the country with the most coronavirus infections in the Middle East.

While the death toll in the country currently stands at 1,890, a total of 1,822 people have so far recovered from COVID-19, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

The Interior Ministry also said it was extending restrictions on travel between 31 cities for a further 15 days starting at midnight on Saturday.

17:01 Italy’s Civil Protection Agency has reported the country’s lowest daily increase of deaths from COVID-19 since April 12. Deaths from the coronavirus rose by 482 on Saturday while the number of new cases was stable at 3,491. Saturday’s number of deaths marked the lowest daily increase since last Sunday, when it stood at 431.

Italy’s daily death tally and infections rate have been stable over the last 13 days. The plateau is down considerably from peaks reached near the end of March, but the downward trend has not gone as fast as was hoped in a country that has been in lockdown for nearly six weeks.

16:25 The state of New York reported 540 deaths on Friday, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. This is the lowest reported figure since April 1. Cuomo acknowledged that this is positive news, but described the dead as a “soul-crushing loss.” He urged citizens in the US’ worst-hit state to continue to follow social distancing guidelines to help flatten the curve of infections.

16:16 Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has announced that the US-Canadian border will stay closed for another 30 days to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

Both Canada and the US agreed on the continued closure, said Trudeau. “The agreement is the same terms. It’s just extended for another 30 days. It will ensure we continue to get essential goods and services back and forth across the border,” the Canadian leader said. “This is an important decision, and one that will keep people on both sides of the border safe,” he added.

The US-Canada border is the world’s longest between two countries.  Almost 200,000 people cross the border every day in normal times. Much of Canada’s food supply comes from or via the US. Cross-border workers deemed “essential” including healthcare workers, airline crews and truck drivers will still be allowed to cross. Canadians who live in the US for part of the year and are returning to Canada are among those exempted from the ban.

16:06 Algeria will extend its lockdown by 10 days until April 29, the prime minister’s office announced. The northern African country had imposed a full lockdown in Blida, south of the capital Algiers, as well as a night curfew in 47 other provinces, until April 19. 

Other coronavirus preventative measures, including the suspension of flights and public transport as well as closure of universities, schools, restaurants and cafes, will remain in place. Algeria has registered 2,418 infections and 364 deaths so far.

Cases of the coronavirus have surpassed 20,000 throughout the African continent, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

15:40 Here is a roundup of the latest from Asia:

In Bangladeshtens of thousands of people have defied a nationwide lockdown to attend the funeral of a top Islamic preacher.

Police had agreed with the family of well-respected imam Jubayar Ahmad Ansari that only 50 people would attend the funeral in the town of Sarail. However, organizers say that over 100,000 people showed up to pay their respects, despite a ban on large gatherings.

Flouting physical distancing rules, hundreds of garment workers have also taken to the streets in the port city of Chittagong to demand work and wages during the shutdown.

Bangladesh has 2,144 confirmed cases and 84 people have died.

Malaysia: Human Rights Watch has criticized the country for turning away overloaded boats carrying Muslim Rohingya, using the coronavirus pandemic as the reason.

The rights group says that Malaysia’s partial lockdown, which prevents foreigners from entering the country, is no excuse for a blanket policy of turning away boats of people in distress. At least two boatloads of Rohingya have been turned away in recent weeks.

Malaysia has 5,305 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 88 people have died.

The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu is struggling to rebuild the country under lockdown following a pummeling by Tropical Cyclone Harold.

Foreign aid distribution has been hampered by strict quarantine requirements. Vanuatu, one of the few countries in the world with no confirmed cases of COVID-19, has essentially closed its borders.

Around one-third of the country’s 300,000 residents are in need of emergency shelter. Many newly homeless families are still sleeping out in the open nearly two weeks after the cyclone hit.

Thailand: An appeal to the nation’s 20 richest tycoons to help ease the impact of the pandemic has been mocked by social media users, describing the premier as running a “beggar government.” Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has asked Thailand’s richest billionaires to “play a key role in helping the country,” in televised remarks.

Thailand has 2,733 confirmed cases and 47 people have died.

North Korea says it has released all foreign nationals from coronavirus quarantine. Those entering the country were placed under a 30-day quarantine to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The politically isolated nation claims to have no cases of COVID-19 and was one of the first countries to close its borders when the outbreak began. However, the claim has been disputed by experts.

A report by Radio Free Asia says that North Korean authorities told citizens in a series of public lectures that there were confirmed cases of the virus as early as March. The existence of the lectures has not been verified by authorities.

14:55 Hospitals throughout Brazil are reaching their limits due to the rising number of coronavirus cases, according to Brazilian news agency G1. In the city of Sao Paulo, intensive care units across five hospitals are operating at full capacity. Meanwhile, the four main hospitals of Rio de Janeiro no longer have any free beds in their intensive care units.

A hospital in the northwestern city of Manaus has installed a refrigerated container for storing the corpses of dead patients due to lack of space. In the northern city of Sao Luis, patients are already occupying 90% of hospital beds designated exclusively for COVID-19 patients while in Fortaleza, in the northeast of the country, hospitals have seen a doubling of the number of patients on artificial ventilators.

According to Johns Hopkins University, Brazil has so far registered 34,221 coronavirus cases and 2,181 deaths.  

14:38 The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has introduced a fine of up to 20,000 dirhams ($5,445, €5,007) for spreading false health information.

The UAE government has made the Health Ministry responsible for distributing “true” health information and the guidelines. The move makes it illegal to circulate or republish any “false, misleading or officially unannounced” health information, according to the state news agency WAM. The UAE has so far recorded 6,302 coronavirus cases and 47 people have died.

14:25 Croatian Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic announced that the country will extend its lockdown until May 4. The Croatian government is also considering whether to ease restrictions to help the economy while at the same time safeguarding people’s health.

A month ago, the government shut down all shops, bars, restaurants, schools and public transport, leaving open only food shops, pharmacies and petrol stations. People have been permitted to leave their homes only to buy essentials, seek medical care or for exercise. Croatia has so far registered 1,832 cases of the virus and 39 deaths.

13:48 The number of people in the UK who have died in hospital from the coronavirus has risen by 888 to 15,464 on Saturday, up from 14,576 on Friday, according to the Health Ministry. “As of 5pm on 17 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 15,464 have sadly died,” the ministry announced. “357,023 people have been tested, of which 114,217 tested positive,” it added.

12:05 Switzerland reports 52 new deaths, bringing the total death toll in the country up to 1,111. The Swiss health agency also says there are 326 new cases of the virus, pushing the total number of infections to 27,404, up from 27,078 the day before.

11:55 Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court has allowed an emergency appeal to overturn a ban on a planned protest against lockdown measures, set to take place in Stuttgart. 

The city banned the demonstration, but the top court ruled that the decision violated the plaintiff’s rights to freedom of association. 

Although the number of cases has been on the rise in Stuttgart, this did not prevent the city from cooperating with the organizer to find a mutual solution, the court said. The man had planned to hold a demonstration for up to 50 people on Saturday afternoon.

11:30 The health ministry of Spain has reported 565 new deaths, bringing the total death toll in the country above 20,000. A total of 20,043 people have now died in the country, which is one of the hardest hit in the world by the pandemic. Saturday’s figure is just slightly lower than the 585 deaths reported on Friday.

11:14 Churchgoers and the state have clashed in Russia, where a handful of members of the Russian Orthodox Church believe that houses of worship should remain open, even amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

In defiance of social distancing measures, some churches have chosen to remain open for Easter. Local religious leaders have called the church closures unconstitutional and discriminatory. 

“If there is such a humiliating attitude toward the church and its congregation, then that’s nothing new for us,” Father Superior Vladimir Vigilyansky, a Moscow-based priest, told Sherwin. “We have suffered worse persecution in the 20th century, when at least 100,000 clergymen were killed. Killed, shot, put in gulags,” he said.  About 60% of Russia’s 144-million-person population identifies as Orthodox Christian.

11:10 Iran has reported 73 new deaths, bringing the total death toll to 5,031. The health ministry also listed their official number of reported cases as 80,868. 

A parliamentary report released earlier this week said Iran’s death toll could, however, be almost double the figures announced by the health ministry, while the number of infections could be as much as 10 times higher. 

The new figures were announced as small businesses in the capital, Tehran, and surrounding towns, began opening up again after weeks of lockdown. However, gyms, restaurants, mosques and malls will remain shuttered. Iran is the Middle Eastern country most affected by COVID-19, with both the highest recorded death toll and highest case count in the region.

10.20 Britain’s Queen Elizabeth is reported to have asked that there be no gun salutes to mark her 94th birthday on Tuesday.

ITV news reporter Chris Ship said the monarch did not feel that the salute was appropriate in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The request would be the first such appeal she has made during her 68-year reign.
 
Gun salutes, which are marked by shots of blank rounds around London, are typically used by the royal family to mark special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries.

10:10 Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron have called for the construction of more liveable cities and more humane hospital environments amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We should rethink our cities!” Herzog told Swiss Newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, in an interview to mark the pair’s 70th birthdays.

“We should bring the countryside into the city, and not the other way around. The future does not lie in expanding the city into the countryside, but to preserve nature,” he added. 

Herzog and de Meuron are also planning three clinics, including a spinal injury rehabilitation center in Basel, designed so that patients can see through skylights above their heads, and a paediatric hospital in Zurich. 
“A hospital is no longer a closed-off institution, but is turned into an open, inviting space for everyone,” de Meuron told Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung.

The two are known for projects that include theElbe Philharmonic Hall in Hamburg and the Allianz Arena in Munich.

09:40 Russia is reporting 40 new deaths, bringing its death toll to 313, while at the same time posting its biggest daily jump in new cases. Health authorities reported 4,785 new cases over 24 hours, bringing the total figure to 36,793. 

Russia is not carrying out mass-testing of its population. However, private testing results in Moscow suggest that the number of cases in Russia could be much higher than the number reflected in official data.

Moscow, the city hardest hit by the virus, also recorded 2,649 new cases and 21 new deaths. The updated figures follow deputy mayor Anastasia Rakova’s comments on Friday, warning that the city “will face difficult weeks” ahead. 

“The peak in morbidity should arrive in the next two to three weeks,” Rakova told Muscovites in a video posted to social media. 

Meanwhile, Russia is again trying to win UN General Assembly approval for a resolution on the pandemic, abandoning its call to end unilateral sanctions without UN Security Council approval, but maintaining its demands to end protectionist practices.
 
The UN has until Wednesday to decide on the revised draft resolution. The first version was rejected on April 2 over objections from the European Union, United Kingdom, United States and Ukraine.

09:00 Africa has recorded more than 1,000 deaths due to coronavirus, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fifty-two of the continent’s 54 countries have reported cases, with over 19,800 confirmed infections.
 
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday said that the continent saw a 51% increase in known cases, and a 60% increase in deaths over the past week. However, the WHO noted that the real numbers are likely much higher than what has been reported, due to a shortage in testing. 

Africa’s CDC says it is preparing to ramp up testing and deploy more than one million test kits starting from next week.

08:40 Compliance with social distancing measures in the United States could result in 12% fewer deaths than previously feared, according to data from the University of Washington. 

Researchers with the university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) project that around 60,000 people will die by the beginning of August, down from the initially forecasted figure of 69,000. 

Additionally, some states with low death rates, including Vermont, Hawaii, Montana and West Virginia may be able to safely begin easing restrictions as early as May 4, the institute said. 

“We are seeing the numbers decline because some state and local governments, and, equally important, individuals around the country, have stepped up to protect their families, their neighbors, and friends and co-workers by reducing physical contact,” said Christopher Murray, director of the IHME.

The United States has almost 707,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus with a death toll of over 37,000.

08:20 The coach of English Premier League Club Liverpool, Jürgen Klopp, has revealed that he’s in charge of washing the dishes at home during his coronavirus lockdown.

The 52-year-old German said in a video interview for Liverpool FC’s own website that he also made scrambled eggs for the first time, is binge watching television shows and is learning how to tie a tie. 

“After this week, I will know how to tie a tie,” he said. “It will probably take a full week.”

In addition to improving his domestic skillset, the former Borussia Dortmund boss has been working with his players to ensure that they are still training and maintaining their fitness. He’s also been watching old footage of Liverpool matches and forwarding them to the team’s WhatsApp group.

08:10 In Singapore, the health ministry confirmed 942 new coronavirus cases, in the island city-state’s highest daily jump, bringing the total number of cases to 5,992.

The majority of the new cases are in “work permit” holders living in foreign worker dormitories, according to a health ministry statement. Eleven people have died due to the virus so far, according to Johns Hopkins University.

07:45 The number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Japan has risen to 10,000 on Saturday,  the public broadcaster NHK reports.

The figure comes just days after a state of emergency was extended to the entire nation in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday appealed to citizens to stay indoors as new cases hit a record in the capital, Tokyo. There are fears that medical services could fail in rural areas, which are home to many elderly people.

Just over 200 people have died from the virus in Japan, with Tokyo the hardest-hit area.

07:15 With no recorded cases of coronavirus and all outstanding tests returning as negative, the Cook Islands government has declared the archipelago a “Covid-19” free zone. The South Pacific island chain with a population of 17,000, is one of the first nations to declare itself such a zone. 

The government said that churches across the country will open from Saturday, while schools will reopen on Monday. People can also travel to the main island of Rarotonga again, as well as the outer islands. However, all international travel is still restricted and meetings of more than 10 people outside of schools and churches are still banned. 

“We welcome this good news but must remain cautious knowing that Covid-19 continues to circulate outside our borders,” said Prime Minister Henry Puna.

06:35 China has ordered that anyone in Wuhan working in jobs that require a high level of interaction with the public must take a coronavirus test before leaving the city. 

People working in education, nursing, security and other industries with a high exposure to the public must take a nucleic acid test before leaving, the National Health Commission said in a statement. The government of Hubei province will pay for the tests, according to the statement.

Wuhan is also encouraging people working in other sectors to take voluntary tests before leaving the city. 

The new requirement comes after the city, China’s epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, lifted its 70-day lockdown. Many companies in Wuhan have also been asking workers to undergo tests before returning to work. 

The city accounts for 60% of all infections in China, and 84% of the country’s death toll. Wuhan revised its death toll on Friday by 1,290, bringing the city’s total count to 3,869.

06:05 The American supermarket chain Walmart says it plans to hire another 50,000 workers to manage a spike in demand, after meeting its goal of adding 150,000 new workers six weeks ahead of schedule. Walmart says it has received more than one million applicants for the primarily temporary and part-time jobs, and intends to complete its next round of hiring by the end of May.

05:35 The number of coronavirus infections in Germany has risen by 3,609 to 137,439, according to data released by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Saturday.

That increase marks the fourth straight day that the number of infections has continued to rise. The death toll also rose by 242 to 4,110, while more than 85,000 people have recovered so far.

05:05 US President Donald Trump discussed a phased-in return to in-person worship in a phone call with faith leaders on Friday. 

During the call, Trump said that “while he has enjoyed watching services online from the White House, he told the faith leaders it is important for people to soon be able to once again come together, pray, and worship” according to a statement distributed by the White House.

The call included Christian, Jewish and Islamic leaders, and came one day after the White House included houses of worship among “large venues” that could be reopened while observing “strict physical distancing protocols.”

04:42 In Germany, the military now has more than 37,000 soldiers available to support states and municipalities in their management of the coronavirus pandemic. That figure includes 17,000 people from the medical branch of the armed forces, according to the Ministry of Defense.

“Due to the uncertainty over how quickly the virus will spread, the Bundeswehr has worked to create as much capacity as possible to treat patients with severe coronavirus symptoms,” said Free Democratic Party defense politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann. “That is the good news.”

The even better news, she added, is that the current demand for treatment is not as high as initially feared.

03:45 China reported 27 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Friday, 17 of which were individuals arriving from overseas.

The country’s National Health Commission revised its data on Friday, reporting a total number of confirmed cases in China were 82,719, an increase of 300 over what was reported the previous day.

The Chinese Health Ministry on Friday also revised the death toll in the ground-zero city of Wuhan by 50%, reporting a total of 4,632 fatalities as of April 17.

US President Donald Trump has said China’s death toll is “far higher” than that given by the authorities.

03:35 Asylum applications in Mexico have dropped due to the coronavirus outbreak, the country’s national refugee care agency said.

“Only 548 people asked for asylum in the first fortnight of April, and we estimate at most it will be around 1,000 in the whole month,” Andres Ramirez Silva, the general coordinator of the Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid, told the dpa news agency. “In March we had 5,300 requests.”

Processing asylum applications, with the exception of new asylum requests, has been suspended in Mexico along with all “non-essential” tasks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many Central American countries have also closed their borders in an attempt to contain the spread of the disease.

“Once this coronavirus issue is over, we estimate that there will again be a noticeable rebound in the number of applications we will receive,” Ramirez Silva said.

Last year, some 70,600 people applied for asylum in Mexico, an annual increase of 138% over 2018. The rise followed the tightening of immigration policies in the United States and the signing of an agreement to contain migration with Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

02:45 In a small clinical trial, the antiviral drug remdesivir significantly improved monkeys infected with COVID-19, US scientists from the National Institutes of Health have said.

In a small study that mimicked treatment procedures currently being used in a large human trial conducted on hospitalized coronavirus patients, 12 rhesus macaques were intentionally infected with COVID-19. Six of the animals were then treated with remdesivir over a week-long period, while the others were left untreated.

At the end of the experiment, just one of the treated animals displayed mild difficulty breathing, while all six of the untreated animals displayed fast, difficult breathing. The treated animals also had significantly lower levels of the virus in their lungs and less lung damage.

The preliminary study has yet to be peer-reviewed, but remdesvir has also been regarded as effective on coronavirus patients in Chicago.

02:40 About two-thirds of the sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier who tested positive for coronavirus were asymptomatic.

The US Navy is testing the entire crew for COVID-19. About 94% have been tested, with 660 positive cases, and 3,920 negatives. One crew member has died.

The outbreak on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier has also given researchers a case study on how the virus spreads asymptomatically in a confined environment among young and healthy adults.

“We haven’t really tested a whole population, and we learn things from the Roosevelt about asymptomatic versus symptomatic,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman General John Hyten said.

While asymptomatic patients are around 20% to 50% of the confirmed cases according to studies, “you look at our number. It’s almost 60, 70% asymptomatic,” Hyten said.

00:30 The Nigerian president’s influential chief of staff, Abba Kyari died on Friday after contracting coronavirus last month, a spokesman for the president said.

Kyari, who was in his 70s, tested positive for COVID-19 in late March, days after he led a delegation to Germany. He had underlying health issues, including diabetes. 

Kyari was seen as a gatekeeper to President Muhammadu Buhari. His death has serious implications for the functioning of Nigeria’s highly centralized government.

00:10 New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is being sued by two men who claim the country’s coronavirus lockdown amounts to illegal detention.

The Auckland High Court heard the claims on Friday in a virtual meeting room. The men, not identified for legal reasons, have asked for a writ of habeas corpus, a legal order requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a court.

One of them told the court that the United Nations should have been consulted before enforcing the lockdown, local media outlet Stuff reported.

Government lawyer Austin Powell, representing Ardern in court, argued the lockdown could not be considered detention.

00:05 Experts in the United States said they believe health officials in the country’s 50 states currently have enough tests to meet guidelines to begin reopening their economies after a shutdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, US Vice President Mike Pence said on Friday, despite pushback from state governors.

Federal guidelines call for states to have “robust testing” procedures in place before reopening.

US President Donald Trump, who has faced criticism over a shortfall in coronavirus testing capacity, said on Friday that individual states were responsible for developing testing capabilities.

“The states have local points where they can go and the governor can call the mayors and the mayors can call representatives and everything is perfect and that’s the way it should work and always should work,” Trump said at White House press briefing.

Earlier on Friday, Trump and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo argued over who bore responsibility for COVID-19 testing.

“The federal government cannot wipe its hands of this and say, ‘Oh, the states are responsible for testing.’ We cannot do it. We cannot do it without federal help,” Cuomo said.

Trump, soon after, tweeted his reply, writing, “Governor Cuomo should spend more time ‘doing’ and less time ‘complaining.’ Get out there and get the job done. Stop talking!”

Led by Republican governors, Florida said municipalities could reopen beaches and parks if they could do so safely; and Texas said stores could begin selling curbside, nonessential surgery could resume and state parks could reopen.

Minnesota’s governor said outdoor activities would be permitted starting on Saturday. In the northeastern state of Vermont, restrictions will be eased for construction and outdoor businesses.

Trump has repeatedly expressed his desire to see businesses reopen quickly and claimed earlier this week that he had total authority over the matter, even though the lockdowns and other social-distancing measures have been imposed by state and local leaders, not Washington.

“We may be opening but we’re putting safety first,” Trump said.

Over 36,700 people have died of COVID-119 and over 700,000 people have been infected in the United States, making the US the country worst-affected by the pandemic.

adt/sms (DW, AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)