The French government has announced a widespread relaxation of coronavirus restrictions, with the overall risk level downgraded in many parts. Meanwhile, the US death toll has surpassed 100,000.
- France will allow restaurants, bars and cafes to reopen from June 2, but still with more restrictions in Paris than elsewhere
- English football’s Premier League is set to resume provisionally on June 17
- South Korea reported its biggest jump in cases in more than 50 days, with some social distancing curbs returning
- US fatalities top 100,000 out of over 350,000 global deaths
All times in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC/GMT)
20:45 Organizers called off the Boston Marathon for the first time in the race’s 124-year history on Thursday over social distancing concerns.
The race had already been postponed from April 20 to September 14, but will now be replaced with a virtual event where participants can receive a finisher’s medal if they verify that they ran 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers).
The Boston Marathon typically draws 30,000 runners to the US city every year, with 1 million people lined up on the sidelines to cheer runners along through the course.
“There’s no way to hold this usual race format without bringing large numbers of people into close proximity,” Mayor Marty Walsh said at a press conference. “While our goal and our hope was to make progress in containing the virus and recovering our economy, this kind of event would not be responsible or realistic on Sept. 14 or any time this year.”
20:02 The United Nations has postponed this year’s critical climate summit due to the coronavirus pandemic, pushing it back by a year to November 2021.
Glasgow, Scotland will remain the host city for the meeting, which will run from November 1 to 12. A warm-up summit will also take place in Italy prior to the main event in Scotland.
This year’s UN climate summit, known as COP26, had been billed as the most important talks since the 2015 summit that produced the Paris Agreement. World leaders were expected to deliver new pledges to slash greenhouse gas emissions as global public pressure grows to take action on climate change.
19:21 Hundreds of healthcare workers have been demonstrating outside a hospital in Paris to demand better pay and more resources for a public health sector on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.
Doctors and nurses donned facemasks, clanged bells, and banged pans in front of the Robert Debre Hospital in the north of the city. Some carried banners reading: “no medals, no tear gas but beds and money!”
The French government is currently working on a new support plan for healthcare workers who have spearheaded the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Health workers have long complained about low salaries and insufficient staffing at French hospitals, with a wave of strikes over the past year to demand more funding.
18:39 President Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey will lift restrictions on intercity travel and allow restaurants, cafes, parks and sports facilities to reopen from June 1.
However, Erdogan said that coronavirus restrictions would remain in place on the movements of those aged over 65 and under 18.
The virus has claimed more than 4,300 lives in Turkey, from nearly 160,000 infections.
18:10 English soccer’s Premier League has confirmed that its 2019-20 season will resume provisionally on June 17 after a lengthy suspension since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This date cannot be confirmed until we have met all the safety requirements needed, as the health and welfare of all participants and supporters is our priority,” said League chief executive Richard Masters in a statement.
Liverpool are on the verge of winning the league for the first time in 30 years, sitting 25 points in front with nine games remaining.
The club’s German boss says he is desperate to return to as near-to-normal as possible after the unexpected two-month break, with players initially set to train in small groups.
“Lockdown has been as good as possible it’s not exactly what I want to do but it’s what we all have to do so we try to make the best of it,” said Klopp. “We started eight weeks ago and now you feel everyone is desperate to get back to a ‘new’ normal life.”
Meanwhile, Italy’s top-flight Serie A championship has been given permission to restart on June 20, Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora said on Thursday.
17:25 Spain’s coronavirus death toll has slowed to almost a stall, rising by just one for the second day in a row as officials fine-tune a new way of logging cases and deaths.
The Spanish Health Ministry’s data show that 38 people died over the last seven days, with the overall number of fatalities now standing at 27,119.
The relatively low death tolls are down from hundreds of daily deaths reported a month ago. Meanwhile, a total of 237,906 cases have been detected since the beginning of the outbreak.
The government says the data may fluctuate in the coming days as it adjusts to a new methodology.
16:45 England is rolling back further on its coronavirus restrictions, with larger groups of people allowed to meet in public starting on Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced.
Up to six people will now be allowed to meet up outside in public or in private gardens, provided they stay 2 meters away from each other.
“These changes mean that friends and family can start to meet their loved ones, perhaps seeing both parents at once or grandparents at once,” Johnson said at a press conference.
He cautioned people against entering the homes of friends and family and that they should avoid meeting with too many new households in quick succession.
More students will be allowed to return to school on Monday and outdoor retailers and car showrooms will also be permitted to reopen.
Johnson warned that restrictions would be re-imposed in local areas if cases spike. The UK as a whole has logged over 268,000 COVID-19 cases and over 37,500 deaths.
16:21 France will allow most bars, restaurants and cafes to reopen on June 2 and will also lift travel restrictions within the country, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.
“Freedom will become the rule, bans the exception,” Philippe said in a televised address.
Paris is no longer considered a “red” coronavirus danger zone and the hard-hit city’s risk level has been lowered to “orange.” Parks and public gardens in the French capital will reopen for visitors starting on June 2. Unlike in other areas of the country, restaurants and cafes will only be allowed to serve customers on terraces.
Beaches will also be allowed to reopen starting on Tuesday, while the government’s contact-tracing app, “StopCovid” will also be available to download next week as well.
Philippe urged France’s 67 million people to “remain cautious” as the restrictions are eased and said that the government is working to speed up reopening high schools and junior high schools. Primary schools have reopened in most areas.
Major sporting events will remain suspended until June 21, the prime minister added.
The COVID-19 outbreak has killed over 28,500 people in France, but the daily death tolls have remained under 100 for a week.
15:40 Scotland will begin easing its lockdown restrictions for the first time on Friday, two weeks after the rules were relaxed in England.
“You will also be able to, from tomorrow, sit or sunbathe in parks and open areas,” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told reporters at her daily press conference. “I’m sure that will be welcomed by many — but especially by those who do not have gardens.”
The changes will primarily focus on “outdoor activities” since it is believed that the risk of the virus spreading is lower outside. People will be allowed to meet up with members of one other household and can stay outside their homes for an unlimited amount of time.
Drive-through restaurants will be allowed to reopen, but other non-essential shops that don’t offer takeaway options must remain closed.
On Twitter, Sturgeon encouraged people to “enjoy” their long-awaited meet-ups this weekend, but urged the public to keep their distance and review the government’s social distancing guidelines.
14:51 Romania will allow international road and rail travel starting on June 1 as the country moves to relax its two-month lockdown.
President Klaus Iohannis announced the changes on Thursday, adding that domestic travel restrictions will also be lifted, meaning Romanians will be able to freely travel between cities.
Outdoor events with up to 500 people will once again be allowed and non-contact sporting events will be allowed to take place outside but without an audience. Outdoor cafes and restaurants will also be allowed to reopen, with a maximum of four people per table.
With 18,791 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,229 deaths, Romania has logged more cases than neighboring Hungary and more deaths than Ukraine.
14:20 British police said Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s adviser likely breached coronavirus regulations rules by traveling during the lockdown, but no action will be taken against him.
Dominic Cummings admitted to driving hundreds of miles with his wife and child to his parent’s home in Durham in northeast England at the end of March. He later took a second drive to a castle 30 miles away. Both Cummings and his wife were exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms at the time.
Durham police said that he did not violate lockdown restrictions by driving to his parent’s property, but that the trip to a local castle might have been “a minor breach” of lockdown rules “that would have warranted police intervention.” Police added that they “will take no further action in this matter.”
The news sparked outrage across the UK, with police fining 14,000 people for violating a ban on non-essential travel, while many others adhered to the government’s regulations.
Cummings, who was the architect of the Conservative Party’s December election win and helped deliver the 2016 Brexit referendum win, has defended his actions.
Despite mounting pressure, Johnson has declined to fire him, with a statement from Downing Street saying the prime minister “regards this issue as closed.”
14:05 The head of the World Health Organization in Europe is urging countries to not make health budget cuts as they try to salvage their economies in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“At WHO we are concerned that countries will respond to this crisis in the same way they did to the recession 10 years ago,” Hans Kluge of the Copenhagen-based agency said.
“Between 2008 and 2013, public spending on health per person fell in around half of the countries in our region,” he said, which is comprised of 53 nations. Likewise, unmet health needs increased during that period in 19 of the 28 EU countries, the organization said.
The WHO European region has accounted for 2 million cases, 38% of global cases. Europe also had half of global Covid-19 deaths, translating into over 175,000 fatalities, Kluge said.
Within Europe, Spain, Italy, Britain and France accounted for 72 per cent of all Covid-19 deaths.
13:20 The World Health Organization has said that countries such as Germany, Switzerland and Austria, among others, who have begun easing lockdown restrictions, need to put in place robust mechanisms to prevent the spread of the virus or risk another surge in infections.
The reopening of bars, discos and restaurants has been occurring across Europe recently as a way of restarting the economy but, according to Katie Smallwood, a WHO emergency official, a disease detection, testing and tracing system needs to be in place to prevent a “second wave.”
“Opening businesses, or clubs (and) bars, where people do come together will absolutely have to depend on a very strong ability of the health system to know how the virus is transmitting, where it is transmitting…and ensure that targeted interventions to prevent and break any transmission of the virus can be put in place,” Smallwood said.
13:00 During the coronavirus pandemic, Poland’s automotive sector has been the country’s worst-hit domestic sector. Given that exports drive manufacturing, it’s hardly surprising.
11:55 Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche has announced it is planning to trial a mix of its arthritis drug tocilizumab and US firm Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir. It is hoped the potential remedy could be a beneficial treatment for severe cases of the novel coronavirus.
Roche released a statement saying that it would work together with the biopharmaceutical company headquartered in California for a clinical trial evaluating the usefulness of tocilizumab, sold under the brand names Actemra and RoAcemtra, combined with remdesivir, in hospitalized patients with severe cases of coronavirus pneumonia.
The trial is set to get underway in early June with roughly 450 patients participating in the United States, Canada and Europe.
10:50 Britain has the highest death rate among the hardest-hit countries with comparable tracking data, according to analysis conducted by newspaper the Financial Times (FT).
Official data released earlier this week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed Britain had recorded almost 60,000 more fatalities than usual since the middle of March.
Subsequent analysis of the numbers by the FT, which looked at data from 19 of the hardest-hit countries from the novel coronavirus, indicated COVID-19 had directly or indirectly killed 891 people per million in Britain, a figure higher than the US, Italy, Spain and Belgium, to name but a few.
Many experts believe analyzing death averages give a better indication of the true impact of the novel virus due to a lack of uniformity in the way countries collect data.
10:47 With Australia’s A-League set to resume in mid-July, the German Bundesliga already having returned to action two weeks ago and the English Premier League meeting today to discuss a possible return, global football is slowly returning to a new normal, featuring face masks on the bench, social distancing celebrations and empty stadiums meaning even the striking of the ball can be clearly heard by the armchair viewer.
The Belgian Cup final between Club Brugge and Antwerp will take place behind closed doors on August 1, the country’s football association confirmed, despite the league season having been canceled. The match will take place in Brussels’ King Baudouin Stadium.
Meanwhile, Premier League striker and Watford captain Troy Deeney has revealed the abuse he and his family have suffered over his stance not to return to training due to the coronavirus.
Deeney, 31, said it was a personal choice to protect his five-month old son, who has breathing difficulties, and statistics that show BAME (black, asian and minority ethnic) groups are more at risk to contract the virus.
“I saw some comments in regards to my son, people saying: ‘I hope your son gets corona’,” Deeney told CNN Sport. “In a time where it’s all about mental health and everyone says ‘speak up, speak out, please speak’, Danny Rose spoke out and I spoke out and we just get absolutely hammered and battered for it.” Deeney added that people have told him in public to “go back to work.”
08:47 Finland has seen no evidence of COVID-19 spreading faster since schools gradually began reopening in the middle of May, according to the Scandinavian country’s top health official, though he admitted it is still too early to draw any definitive conclusions.
“The time has been short, but so far we have seen no evidence,” Mika Salminen, director of health security at the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare, said at a press conference.
Finland started to reopen schools and daycare centres from May 14 after almost two months and nationwide closures.
08:45 Millions of women around the world are facing problems in acquiring perioud products as increasing prices and worsened stigma become more evident due to the pandemic, a global charity has warned.
Roughly three-quarters of health professionals in 30 countries interviewed by Plan International, from Kenya to Australia, reported a lack of sanitary products due to supply issues, while 58% objected to prohibitive prices. About half highlighted less access to clean water to help manage periods, and a quarter expressed anxiety due to greater stigma or discriminative cultural practices linked to menstruation.
“Periods don’t stop during a pandemic, but managing them safely and with dignity has become a whole lot harder,” Susanne Legena, chief executive officer of Plan International Australia, said via a statement to observe Menstrual Hygiene Day.
“In many countries, period products have become scarce and vulnerable girls and young women, in particular, are going without,” she said. Legena also stressed the need for governments to include menstrual hygiene in virus response proposals while urging greater investment in water and sanitation services.
The research carried out by Plan International comes after a study published last week by the Menstrual Health Alliance of India which showed nearly a quarter of women there, and in parts of Africa, had no access to any sanitary products during the coronavirus outbreak.
07:42 South Korea has re-imposed a number of social distancing measures as it hopes to combat a series of outbreaks threatening its success in containing the epidemic.
Museums, parks and art galleries in the Seoul metropolitan area will all be shut down once more for two weeks, as of Friday, said health minister Park Neung-hoo. In addition, companies have been urged to re-adopt flexible working practices.
“We have decided to strengthen all quarantine measures in the metropolitan area for two weeks from tomorrow to June 14,” he said.
Earlier, South Korea recorded its biggest daily increase in infections in 53 days. The Korean Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 79 new cases, with 67 of them occurring in the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s population of 51.6 million.
Officials confirmed health authorities have been struggling to track the transmission routes for new infections and urged citizens to remain vigilant.
07:33 Employers should continue to pay staff if they have been instructed to stay at home by the UK’s coronavirus test and trace service, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
The idea behind the system is to allow people who are not infected to return to their workplace. However, starting from today, contacts of those who test positive for COVID-19 will be told by the National Health Service (NHS) to isolate for 14 days, even if they are not displaying symptoms. And when asked if employers were being asked to continue paying people’s salaries while they isolate, Hancock said: “Yes.”
“If you are instructed by the NHS, for public health reasons, to stay at home then that is the equivalent in employment law to being ill and it is very important that employers are flexible about this,” Hancock said, while adding that an accompanying tracing app, that is seen as vital in finding anonymous contacts, is ready for use but is not being implemented yet.
06:27 Budget airline easyJet will axe up to 30% of its staff. The airline, which was recently subjected to a cyber attack where millions of passengers had their details hacked, said it would also cut its fleet.
EasyJet said it would begin a consultation process with its employees in the next few days, joining many other air carriers in announcing job cuts.
An easyJet statement said: “To effect the restructure of our business, easyJet will shortly launch an employee consultation process on proposals to reduce staff numbers by up to 30 percent, reflecting the reduced fleet, the optimisation of our network and bases, improved productivity as well as the promotion of more efficient ways of working.”
A spokesman said that the cuts would affect up to 4,500 of the company’s 15,000 employees.
05:41 The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 353, to 179,717, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases has revealed. This is a slight drop on yesterday’s figure of 362.
The death toll has risen by 62 to 8,411, which is 15 more than in the previous 24-hour period.
Here are the figures from the previous 9 days:
Wednesday, May 27: 362 new cases, 47 new deaths
Tuesday, May 26: 432 new cases; 45 new deaths
Monday, May 25: 289 new cases; 10 new deaths
Sunday, May 24: 431 new cases; 31 new deaths
Saturday, May 23: 638 new cases; 42 new deaths
Friday, May 22: 460 new cases; 57 new deaths
Thursday, May 21: 745 new cases; 27 new deaths
Wednesday, May 20: 797 new cases; 83 new deaths
Tuesday, May 19: 513 new cases; 72 new deaths
05:32 The coronavirus crisis has put German society at risk of experiencing a polarization similar to what took place in 2015 and 2016 when over a million refugees came to Germany, the country’s health minister Jens Spahn has warned.
At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, “we experienced a sense of unity,” the health minister told the newspaper Augsburger Allgemeinen on Thursday. “Now we have to take care.”
All people in Germany need pay attention that the debate over the restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the virus “don’t become as polarizing as the discussion over migration can be,” he said.
Spahn called for people to listen to each other and to “understand why someone has a different position that you do.”
For weeks now, demonstrations against the coronavirus restrictions have taken place in Germany, despite restrictions being slowing lifted. German security forces say these protests are attracting a growing number of political extremists, particularly from the right wing.
03:55 About 14 million people in Latin America could face food insecurity as a result of the pandemic, according to latest estimates by the UN’s food-assistance branch, the World Food Program (WFP). This is a rise of almost four times as compared to last year, when 3.4 million people experienced food insecurity in the region. “It is what we are calling a hunger pandemic,” said Miguel Barreto, the WFP’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
However, the number could be higher as the WFP projection only takes into account the countries where it operates. In recession-hit Venezuela, where the agency doesn’t operate, one in three people were already facing food insecurity in 2019.
The WFP also predicted a contraction of 5.3% of the region’s economy, with some 30 million people pushed into poverty owing to the pandemic.
03:48 With 463 new coronavirus deaths reported in Mexico, the Latin American country now has a higher death toll than Germany. Mexico is now the eight heaviest-hit country by fatalities, losing 8,597 lives to the pandemic compared to Germany’s 8,428 deaths. Early on Thursday, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute reported 47 people dying from COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours.
This week, Health Undersecretary Hugo Lopez-Gatell said that Mexico was reaching the crest of the outbreak, but added that the epidemic might drag into October in some areas of the country.
The government has not imposed a mandatory quarantine but recommended residents to stay at home. Caseloads in several countries in Central and Latin America have been rising sharply of late, most notably in Brazil.
03:25 Late NBA superstar Kobe Bryant was set to be inducted into Basketball Hall of Fame in August, but the ceremony has now been postponed due to the coronavirus, officials said.
“We are definitely canceling,” Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo told US broadcaster ESPN. “It’s going to have to be the first quarter of next year.”
“We’ll meet in a couple of weeks and look at the options,” he added.
Bryant, who lost his life in a helicopter crash this January, would be enshrined along Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, and five other athletes and coaches. The ceremony was due to be heldin Springfield, Massachusetts, home to the Hall of Fame.
Colangelo also told ESPN that the event might move from Springfield’s 2,611-seat venue to 8,319-seat MassMutual Center to facilitate social distancing.
01:59 South Korea reported 79 new coronavirus infections — the biggest daily jump in over 50 days.The news comes after millions of children came returned to school on Wednesday. The latest increase is nearly double of 40 new cases registered on Wednesday, which itself was the largest daily rise in weeks.
Authorities have contemplated reimposing social distancing measures.
“We will do our best to trace contacts and implement preventive measures, but there’s a limit to such efforts,” said the country’s top infectious disease expert, Jeong Eun-kyeong, on Wednesday.
South Korea is often hailed as a positive example for containing the epidemic with aggressive tracking and testing. The country of nearly 52 million people has recorded a total of 11,344 cases and 269 fatalities. By contrast, Spain has a population around 46 million, roughly 236,000 cases, and just over 27,000 deaths. The apparent success has allowed South Korean authorities to ease some of the social distancing measures.
However, Seoul and nearby cities have been reimposing some of the the lockdown controls by closing bards, karaoke rooms and other popular venues in order to slow down the infection rate.
01:33 UK diplomats have left North Korea in response to the “travel retrictions” imposed by Pyongyang amid the pandemic, the UK Foreign Office said on Thursday.
Ambassador Colin Crooks said the British embassy was “closed temporarily” and that “all diplomatic staff have left the [North Korea] for the time being.” The move was made because “restrictions on entry to the country have made it impossible to rotate our staff and sustain the operation of the Embassy,” said the Foreign Office.
North Korea has not confirmed any coronavirus cases. However, the government of the isolated country has banned nearly all cross-border travel and imposed mandatory quarantine for newcomers.
Several countries, including Germany and France, closed their Pyongyang missions in March.
On Thursday, the UK said it was still maintaining diplomatic ties to North Korea and was hoping to reestablish its presence in Pyongyang as soon as possible.
01:20 Here’s a quick recap on the biggest development in Europe on Wednesday.
The European Commission announced a €750 billion ($821 billion) rescue plan to mitigate the economic fallout of the pandemic. The program would include a new recovery instrument, called Next Generation EU.
“I think that as we have a completely new situation, it is worth to go new ways,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told DW in Brussels.
She stressed the importance of repairing the bloc’s common market, which has been shaken by coronavirus restrictions.
“No member state is able to to that on its own, they are all integrated and dependent on each other, which is good,” said von der Leyen. “And therefore is in its our common interest to get the economy back on its feet.”
In the proposed plan, the EU will borrow €750 billion for the recovery fund on the financial markets, which would be repaid through future EU budgets.
The much-anticipated proposal follows a €500 billion plan put forward last week by France and Germany — often seen as the motor of the European Union. Their plan also called for the EU to borrow money in financial markets and to distribute it to industries and countries hard hit by the pandemic in the form of grants.
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the proposal, hailing a “crucial day for Europe.”
“We should all move quickly and adopt an ambitious agreement with all of our European partners,” Macron tweeted.
All 27 EU members would need to agree on the plan before it can take effect.
00:34 Ireland is facing its deepest recession on record, according to experts working for the country’s Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
The think-tank projected a 12.4% decline in the country’s GDP by the end of the year. The contraction was the “most likely” scenario, ESRI said. A more optimistic estimate would see a contraction of 8.6%, while a second wave of coronavirus infections would shrink the economy by 17.1%.
“Regardless of he scenario, the Irish economy is set to experience the largest annual decline in its history,” researchers said in a statement.
The nation’s unemployment has hit 28% in April, nearly double than what it was after the 2008 financial crisis.
The think-tank also predicts that government measures to combat the crisis would bring the public deficit for 2020 to over €27 billion ($30 billion), or some 9% of GDP.
The ESRI warned in its paper that “hard choices will have to be made” when financing such large deficits.
00:18 Brazil reported 20,599 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, bringing its total to 411,821. The South American country has the second biggest caseload in the world, after the US. With 1,086 people dying in the past 24 hours, Brazil’s death toll has reached 25,598.
The country’s right-wing leader, Jair Bolsonaro, has repeatedly dismissed fears of the virus and pressured governors to lift lockdown measures. He also joined several public protests against restrictions imposed to control the spread.
Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, a well-known Brazil researcher, described the pandemic as “the worst war Brazil has ever faced.”
“We never lost 25,000 people in a span of three months,” he told the AFP news agency. He said the virus “came like an invading army, and it’s invading the whole of the country.”
00:00 After the US reported over 100,000 coronavirus deaths, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden said the milestone “could have been avoided” and expressed his condolences to those who lost friends and relatives.
Biden, who is set to run as the Democratic candidate against Donald Trump in November, cited a recent Columbia University study that said 36,000 lives could have been saved if the government had imposed social distancing and lockdown measures just a week earlier than March 13.
00:00 You can catch up on our rolling updates from May 27 here.
jsi, dj/aw (Reuters, AP, dpa, AFP)