Spaniards over the age of six now have to wear masks in any indoor or outdoor public area where social distancing is impossible. Madrid is hoping the order will keep a lid on new infections.
- Turkey and Russia believe the worst is over, reporting fewer cases
- Former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tells DW that Germany’s decision to close its border with Luxembourg was an “absurdity”
- Talks continue on reopening European borders
- Brazil has issued new guidelines for the wider use of anti-malaria drugs in mild cases, despite experts’ advice
Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)
00:00 We’re closing this live updates article now. Read here for the latest.
23:10 Over 100,000 people have been infected with the new coronavirus in Peru, the country’s Health Ministry has announced, giving Peru the second-largest number of infections in Latin America after Brazil. Peru has 104,020 confirmed cases of COVID-19, resulting in 3,024 deaths, the ministry said Wednesday.
Infections have increased rapidly in the country since the first case was confirmed in early March. Peru has been plagued by medicine shortages and price gouging. Health services are on the verge of collapse.
The dean of Peru’s Medical College, Miguel Palacios, has called on President Martin Vizcarra to extend the national health emergency, due to end Sunday, which allows the government to take rapid health measures.
22:06 A group of German police officers has come under fire for violating coronavirus regulations while dining at a restaurant in the city of Mainz. The Mainz police department confirmed Wednesday that a “small number” of officers had met at a restaurant on Monday evening. They had followed current coronavirus guidelines by reserving a table in advance.
As the night progressed, more and more people, including more police officers, joined the gathering, until around 40 individuals were present.
The group reportedly did not keep a proper distance between each other nor did they wear face masks. “This behavior is far from a trivial offence and will be met with all consequences,” the Mainz police said in a statement.
The violators would be punished and proper disciplinary measures considered, it said. “The police leadership finds it unacceptable that a small group of officers has harmed the good reputation of the Mainz police with this intolerable behavior,” the statement said.
21:47 US President Donald Trump has said he is considering hosting the G7 summit in the US after all, after canceling the summertime meeting as the coronavirus outbreak disrupted life around the globe.
In a Wednesday tweet, the president said holding the summit would be a “great sign” that life was returning to normal during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Now that our Country is ‘Transitioning back to Greatness’, I am considering rescheduling the G-7, on the same or similar date, in Washington, D.C., at the legendary Camp David,” Trump tweeted. “The other members are also beginning their COMEBACK. It would be a great sign to all – normalization!”
Trump had originally planned to host leaders of the world’s major economies in June at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. But in March he announced the summit had been canceled, saying world leaders would instead meet via a video conference.
Quarantine and travel restrictions currently remain in effect in the US for travelers from Europe, where four of the G-7 nations are located. Other G-7 countries continue to struggle with the realities of the virus in their own countries, though some easing of restrictions to public life has begun.
According to a senior White House official, Trump is seriously considering rescheduling the summit to take place late June, at either the White House or Camp David. The source said Trump had discussed the topic with French President Emmanuel Macron in a call on Wednesday.
“Given the importance of the G7 in the response to the crisis, the President is willing to go to Camp David, if the health conditions allow it,” the French leader’s office said in a statement.
21:20 Here’s a summary of the latest developments in Europe:
Croatia has set its parliamentary election for July 5. The conservative-led government is aiming to ride a wave of popularity over its handling of the country’s coronavirus epidemic. Croatia, whose population is 4.2 million, has only 96 confirmed fatalities.
Estonia has begun testing a digital immunity passport. The first of its kind, the passport collects testing data and enables people to share their immunity status. The service was created by a team that included founders of tech startups Transferwise and Bolt.
In France, Health Minister Oliver Veran said there is no sign yet of increased infections after the country relaxed lockdown measures on May 11. Veran warned it was too early to assess the impact of the easing, saying it takes at least “10 to 15 days for us to know if there is an impact on the epidemic.” French President Emmanuel Macron also said he intends to attend the June’s G7 summit in the United States should the pandemic allow.
Greece will restart its tourism season in mid-June. Seasonal hotels will be able to reopen on June 15, and direct international flights to tourism destinations will resume on July 1. Greece received 33 million visitors last year, and tourism revenue reached €19 billion ($21 billion), according to the country’s Tourism Ministry.
Slovakia’s government has agreed to extend border checks with neighboring countries until June 26. However, the government has lifted a requirement to wear a face mask outdoors, though mouths and noses still need to be covered inside. Shopping centers, theaters and movie theaters were also allowed to reopen under strict conditions.
Sweden’s public health agency said just 7.3% of people in Stockholm have developed antibodies for the new coronavirus. The Swedish capital is one of the country’s worst-hit regions of its epidemic. The country has taken a softer approach to the crisis, leaving most schools, restaurants, bars and businesses open.
Ukraine has further relaxed lockdown restrictions in place since mid-March. The easing includes the resumption of public transportation in cities and towns, the reopening of hotels, the lifting of a ban on public church services and the return of sports competitions with no more than 50 participants.
21:03 Brazil’s Health Ministry has announced new advice regarding the wider use of anti-malaria drugs in mild cases of the novel coronavirus, with the endorsement of President Jair Bolsonaro, despite medical experts’ warnings over health risks when using the medication.
Interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, an active duty army general, authorized the new guidelines after two trained doctors left the ministry’s top job in quick succession as they were under pressure to promote the premature usage of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.
“We are at war. Worse than defeat would be the shame of not putting up a fight,” Bolsonaro, a former army captain himself, posted on Twitter.
Medical experts, including Marcos Espinal, director for communicable diseases at the Pan American Health Organization, have warned that studies show the drugs are potentially dangerous in the fight against COVID-19. “Our recommendations are crystal clear that they should not be used yet and in fact studies are suggesting a higher rate of secondary effects and cardiological problems in people who use it,” Espinal said.
US President Donald Trump told reporters earlier this week that he was taking hydroxychloroquine preventively, despite a warning from the US Food and Drug Administration.
The World Health Organization also reiterated that hydroxychloroquine has potential side effects and the anti-malaria drug should be used for diseases it is known to be effective against, such as malaria.
20:09 The World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned by the rising number of cases in poor countries.
The UN health body said 106,000 new infections had been registered over the last 24 hours, the most in a single day worldwide since the virus first became public knowledge almost five months ago.
“We still have a long way to go in this pandemic,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference. “We are very concerned about rising cases in low and middle income countries.”
Dr. Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies program, said: “We will soon reach the tragic milestone of 5 million cases.”
19:25 Former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has criticized Germany’s handling of border closures in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
In an interview with DW, Juncker said the closure of the border between Germany and Luxembourg had been an “absurdity.”
“This was no elevated form of statecraft,” said the former Luxembourg prime minister. “The borders were closed without any thought to citizens who became the victims of such arbitrariness from Berlin.”
Juncker’s comments echo those of Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, who complained that the border closures were unnecessary, with the virus spreading from person to person, rather than from country to country.
Juncker said that, while there had been examples of European Union member states isolating themselves in a unilateral way, there had also been reassuring examples of solidarity. The treatment of French COVID-19 patients in hospitals in Germany and Luxembourg was one example. “Maybe we will be better Europeans after the crisis,” said Juncker.
In response to the economic challenges that the coronavirus pandemic presents for the bloc, Juncker said he was backing a Franco-German plan for a joint reconstruction fund worth some €500 billion ($550 billion).
“I think it’s the right solution,” said Juncker. “It allows the EU to formulate an altogether more fraternal response, especially when it comes to southern Europe.”
“There will be a desirable communitization of future borrowing,” says Juncker.
18:39 Bolivia’s Health Minister Marcelo Navajas has been arrested on suspicion of corruption related to the over-priced purchase of 179 Spanish ventilators, the South American country’s police chief said.
Navajas “is being held by the FELCC [special police agency] in the city of La Paz,” said the unit’s commander, Colonel Ivan Rojas, a day after Bolivian President Jeanine Anez ordered an investigation into “possible corruption” acquiring the ventilators.
Two other health officials have also been detained by police as part of their inquiries.
18:25 German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is hopeful of easing travel restrictions after talks with colleagues from nine neighboring countries.
“We hope we can drop the global travel warning, at least for the European Union, after June 14, and can then replace this with travel advice,” he said.
Germany’s border with Luxembourg fully reopened on May 15. Its border with Denmark is expected to do the same in the coming days, while checks at the borders with France, Switzerland and Austria are likely to be lifted from June 15. The borders to Belgium and the Netherlands never closed completely.
Wednesday’s talks came two days after similar discussions between Maas and his counterparts from nine other EU members earlier in the week.
Meanwhile, many Germans are planning to avoid traveling abroad this summer due to COVID-19. According to a survey commissioned by German broadcaster ARD, more than half of those respondents who said they were already certain about their travel plans also said they would stay at home. Around one third of participants were planning holidays within Germany.
17:40 The number of new cases in Turkey recorded in the last 24 hours has dropped below 1,000, which Health Minister Fahrettin Koca described as a landmark for the country. Health Ministry data showed 972 new patients had been infected in the last 24 hours.
“We will fight more freely with the virus by changing the conditions,” Koca posted on Twitter, adding that people should still wear face masks and keep to social distancing.
The number of people who have died from COIVD-19 rose by 23 in the last 24 hours, bringing the country’s death toll to 4,222.
Turkey’s daily number of new infections has fallen from a high of around 4,500 last month. Turkey has so far recorded more than 152,000 cases in total.
17:30 German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that an announcement is likely “soon” on a potential rescue program for airline giant Lufthansa as it struggles to cope with the effects of the novel coronavirus epidemic.
The carrier is seeking to tap Germany’s economic stabilization fund to help it through the coronavirus pandemic, with a protracted travel slump expected even as lockdowns are relaxed across Europe.
“You should expect a decision soon, but it has to be ready first,” Merkel said in Berlin, declining to comment on reports that the federal government had made a new offer to Lufthansa bosses.
Earlier on Wednesday, the news magazine Der Spiegel reported that ministers in charge of any decision had put the finishing touches on the bailout package. A government official was said to be on his way to Frankfurt to seal the deal with airline managers, the magazine said.
The airline said on May 7 that it was negotiating a €9 billion ($9.7 billion) bailout with the German government.
At the time, Lufthansa said the package included a non-voting capital component, known as a so-called silent participation, a secured loan, and a capital increase that would leave the government with a shareholding of up to 25% plus one share. That amount of ownership would protect the airline, Germany’s national carrier, from any hostile takeover.
Embattled shares in the airline climbed sharply late on Wednesday following the reports.
17:15 The British government will require lawmakers to attend parliamentary sessions in person starting on June 2, ending a temporary arrangement which permitted MPs to question ministers from their homes.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the government’s leader in the House of Commons, said the system was too slow and hindered parliament’s ability to perform its functions.
“We have to recognize that if we persist with the present arrangement it will become harder to make progress in a timely fashion,” Rees-Mogg told parliament.
A majority MPs voted in favor of government plans to return to parliament. Nonetheless, opposition lawmakers condemned the decision, saying that reinstating in-person sessions presented a public health risk and might set the wrong example.
The temporary setup, dubbed a “hybrid parliament,” was put in place after calls for the government to continue during the coronavirus crisis. Only a few lawmakers and ministers are currently allowed to attend in person, with the rest having their questions broadcast via flat-screen televisions spread across the chamber.
The House of Commons began its two-week Whitsun recess on Wednesday, named for a Christian holiday, and will return on June 2.
17:10 Air France’s Airbus A380 superjumbos will not be used again, the Air France-KLM group said, after the pandemic forced the airline to ground the wide-bodied aircraft.
The fleet of nine that belonged to the French carrier were set to be phased out by the end of 2022, but it has now been decided the A380s will not return to service at all.
16:02 Italy had asymptomatic carriers of the new coronavirus before the first transmission case was reported on February 21, a new study by a Milan hospital has found. It is yet to face peer review but a preliminary version was released on medRxiv, a website that distributes unpublished manuscripts about health science.
The study of 789 random blood donor samples collected between February 24 and April 24 at the Policlinico di Milano found that 4.6% contained antibodies against the virus at the start of Italy’s epidemic. That percentage rose to 7.1% at the beginning of April, when Italy was under lockdown.
Longer-term immunity was more prevalent among younger donors as the country’s lockdown wore on. Researchers said that showed that “Social distancing may have been more effective in younger individuals.”
However, the study’s authors said that the low proportion of people demonstrating a degree of immunity indicated that “herd immunity remains a long way off.”
15:00 Switzerland is set to allow religious services to resume, starting May 28, as part of its relaxation of COVID-19 lockdown measures.
Religious communities will be required to develop systems to ensure that people who attend can be traced, in case there is an outbreak of the new coronavirus.
14:15 Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin believes the hard-hit country is over the peak, enabling authorities to “cautiously remove” quarantine restrictions.
Mishustin, who himself tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of last month, told a meeting of senior officials: “Today is the first day that the number of those who have recovered is exceeding the number of those falling ill,” according to comments carried by the Russian news agency Interfax.
“It is possible that our health care system has begun to pass the peak of its workload,” Mishustin said. “This shows that the situation is gradually stabilizing, especially in Moscow, which was the first to struggle with new infections.”
Russia’s capital and largest city accounts for about half of the country’s total number of known cases, which exceeds 300,000.
13:45 Rolls-Royce is planning to cut at least 9,000 jobs in the UK, more than a sixth of its workforce, the company has announced.
Though perhaps best known for the cars now manufactured by a separate BMW-owned company, Rolls-Royce’s primary source of income over the years has always been jet engine manufacture, making engines for planes like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350. CEO Warren East said they could also expect to close factories in order to shrink and better fit the smaller market it expects will following the coronavirus.
“We have to reduce our costs base and adapt to a new world, matching our capacity with expected demand,” East told reporters. The new cuts are the biggest since privatization in 1987.
Airlines have been among the hardest hit industries. Most of those jobs cut will come from the aerospace business, which generates around half of the company’s profits.
12:50 The Indian government says domestic flights will be allowed to resume from May 25, some two months after they were stopped as part of a nationwide lockdown.
“All airports and air carriers are being informed to be ready for operations from 25th May,” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri wrote on Twitter. It was not clear when international travel would resume.
The country’s railway network is also planning to double the number of services for migrant workers to allow tens of thousands of people to return to their villages from cities. India has reported more than 100,000 coronavirus cases and almost 4,000 deaths.
11:46 A worker on a mink farm in the Netherlands has caught the coronavirus from animals bred at the site, according to the Dutch agriculture minister.
In a letter to parliament on Wednesday, Minister Carola Schrouten said it was the country’s first reported instance of animal-to-human transmission.
Researchers began studying the case after reports the virus had spread among the mammals at two fur farms near the southern city of Eindhoven. Their study concluded “that it is plausible that one employee of an infected mink farm was infected by mink,” Schrouten said.
The government has since introduced mandatory virus screening tests at mink farms and halted visits to the infected properties. Schrouten said it was unlikely the virus would jump from the animals to a person again because air and dust samples outside the mink pens showed no sign of COVID-19. In 2013, the Dutch government banned new mink farms, and gave existing ones until 2024 to shut down.
11:25 Public swimming pools around Germany began opening today, under assurances from doctors and experts that the levels of chlorine used will kill off the virus.
“There is no higher risk of infection in swimming pools than in other establishments,” said the German Bathing Society.
However, strict new hygiene rules will be enforced. In Berlin, bathers have been told to arrive in their swimming gear as changing rooms and showers remain closed in order to enforce physical distancing. In Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where hundreds of pools were reopening on Wednesday, swimmers are required to book a timeslot in advance so that facility managers could adhere to a maximum number of visitors allowed in at once.
09:14 Germany’s government has given itself powers to block hostile foreign takeover bids for healthcare companies. The measure, adopted during a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, aims to ensure a continuous supply of vital products during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The current corona crisis shows how important medical know-how and production capacities in Germany and Europe can be in crisis situations,” Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said.
The regulation would allow the government to veto an attempt by US or Chinese investors, for example, to take over firms that manufacture vaccines, protective equipment, ventilators, medicines or other supplies.
In future, Berlin will be able to scrutinize a bid from outside the EU if the buyer holds over 10% of the healthcare company’s shares. The threshold until now has been 25%. Trade associations have criticised such measures, saying they could close off the market and generally make foreign investment less attractive.
“During a crisis it is more important than ever to stand for open markets,” the Federation of German Industry’s board member Stefan Mair said in a statement.
08:40 Russia’s health authorities have reported 135 deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours — the highest daily toll so far. At the same time, the country registered 8,764 new cases, the lowest daily increase since May 1.
Russia has 2,972 fatalities and more than 300,000 COVID-19 cases, the second-highest number of infections in the world behind the US.
08:30 Berlin’s Tegel Airport has been given the green light to close from June 15 — a temporary measure aimed to save costs at a time when the coronavirus has grounded most flights.
The federal government and the states of Berlin and Brandenburg announced the decision during a video conference with shareholders on Wednesday. Airport operator FBB is planning to close Tegel for about two months, with the German capital’s Schönefeld Airport handling remaining air traffic. The move is intended to save around €200,000 ($220,000) a day.
The long-delayed Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) — built to replace the smaller hubs at Tegel and Schönefeld — is set to open on October 31 this year, nine years after it was initially scheduled to be up and running. For that reason, FBB boss Engelbert Lütke Daldrup has not ruled out the possibility that Tegel’s shutdown could be permanent.
08:15 The German government says it will extend financial support for parents who have had to stay home from their jobs to look after their kids because of kindergarten and school closures. Family Ministry Franziska Giffey told public broadcaster ZDF that salary compensation payments would be offered for 10 weeks per parent — up from the current six weeks — or 20 weeks in the case of a single parent.
“That’s an important step to provide financial security,” Giffey said, adding that the Cabinet was expected to approve the extension on Wednesday.
07:35 Spain’s government has made it mandatory for people to wear masks in any indoor or outdoor public spaces where they cannot keep two meters apart from others. The measure to contain the spread of the coronavirus applies from Thursday to “persons aged six years or over,” the order from Madrid said. However, there are exceptions. For example, some groups, including those with respiratory difficulties or other health problems that prevent them from using a mask, will be exempt from the rule.
Almost 28,000 people have died from the coronavirus in Spain. The country is still under a state of emergency, but is gradually transitioning out of its strict lockdown after a steady decline in new infections.
07:00 Germany’s hospitality industry has suffered its worst losses in more than 25 years as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Federal Statistical Office, hotel and restaurant revenues fell by around 45% in March, compared to earnings in February and the same month the previous year. It marks the biggest decline in sales since the analysis period began in 1994.
The government closed hotels and guesthouses to tourists on March 18. Restaurants were closed on March 22, although delivery and take-away services were allowed to continue. Restrictions have been gradually easing since mid-May.
06:46 The eastern Australian state of New South Wales has announced plans to restart local tourism in a bid to boost the economy. NSW will lift restrictions on recreational travel from June 1, allowing visitors from “all across the country,” state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said. Museums, galleries and libraries will also reopen.
All nonessential travel had been banned as part of coronavirus measures, but Berejiklian said opening internal borders would help tourism sectors that were devastated by the recent bushfires. Other states have resisted calls from NSW to follow suit.
“It might inconvenience the NSW premier and some people from the eastern states, but frankly, I don’t give a damn,” Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said.
The Australian government is also in talks with universities about allowing the return of some international students, who contribute billions to the economy each year.
06:42 Schools in Poland will probably stay closed until the end of term to stop the coronavirus from spreading, a government spokesman told public radio. That means children may only return to class in late August — after the European summer holidays.
Polish schools shut down in March soon after the country detected its first COVID-19 case. Families with young children will have the option of day care at schools from May 25, but lessons for other pupils will be conducted online until the school year ends on June 26.
06:07 A judge in Singapore has sentenced a man to death via a Zoom video call to keep in line with the city-state’s strict lockdown rules, Reuters reports. The 37-year-old Malaysian defendant was on trial for his role in a 2011 heroin deal, court documents showed.
It was Singapore’s first criminal case where capital punishment was delivered using video conferencing. Many court hearings have been postponed because of coronavirus restrictions that went into place in early April, but cases considered to be essential are still going ahead remotely.
Rights groups have criticised the use of Zoom in such instances. But the defendant’s lawyer, Peter Fernando, said he did not object to the technology because it was only used to communicate the verdict, not hear legal arguments.
“Singapore’s use of the death penalty is inherently cruel and inhumane, and the use of remote technology like Zoom to sentence a man to death makes it even more so,” Phil Watson of Human Rights Watch said.
05:13 The International Energy Agency is urging governments to make clean energy the focus of their post-coronavirus economic recovery plans, warning the lockdown measures had had “far-reaching” consequences for energy demand.
The IEA had expected green energy to surge in 2020. But its adjusted forecast now predicts the first slowdown in new renewable power installations in two decades. The agency said in a report that disruptions to supply chains, construction delays, financing challenges and social distancing rules were all taking a toll on the sector, but added that solar, wind and hydropower would likely recover. The market for biofuels, on the other hand, would be “radically” impacted by the freeze on global travel, it said.
“To regain and exceed the growth rates seen in the years before the pandemic, policy makers need to put clean energy — including renewables and energy efficiency — at the center of recovery efforts,” the report said.
05:09 The German cyclists’ association ADFC says the growing volume of people going back to work could result in a “super traffic jam” in big cities.
“Even before the crisis, traffic was deadlocked during rush hour,” the group’s managing director, Burkhard Stork, told German news agency dpa. “This will come to a head if we do not motivate more people to travel on foot or by bike.”
Coronavirus restrictions are easing, but many commuters are staying away from public transport for fear of infection, and social distancing measures mean it will be some time before buses and trains can run at full capacity. The ADFC says hundreds of thousands of people are expected to start getting behind the wheel to get to their jobs.
Authorities could curb the problem by expanding bike path networks to make cycling a viable option for the public, Stork says. German cycling shops have reported a spike in sales since the pandemic began, and many cities have installed “pop-up cycle lanes” and new pedestrian zones. But it remains to be seen whether this will lead to any long-term changes in mobility.
04:04 South Korean students are returning to schools for the first time in 2020, as authorities reopen high schools across the country.
“Schools have been anxiously waiting for all you students for the past three months,” Cho Hee-yeon, superintendent of Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, told students at a high school entrance. “From now on, we are entering an important phase where we need to succeed in both studies and (coronavirus) prevention.”
The spring semester for schools in the country was postponed multiple times as South Korea dealt with one of the earliest coronavirus outbreaks in the world. Classes were moved online.
With students — starting with seniors — back in classrooms on Wednesday, strict measures have been taken to ensure their safety. Everyone has to wear masks, except at mealtimes. Desks are placed at least a meter apart and teachers are armed with thermometers and sanitizers. Windows must be kept open to allow better airflow.
Between May 20 and June 1, schools will also reopen for elementary, middle and other high school students in phases. South Korea reported 32 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, taking the total number of infections to 11,110. The country has reported 263 deaths.
03:52 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has praised the efforts of African countries in handling the coronavirus pandemic, saying the developed world could learn lessons from the preventative measures they have taken.
“COVID-19 has made much slower progress (in Africa) than the predictions that were made at the beginning” of the crisis, Guterres said in an interview with RFL radio in France.
The UN chief noted the fact that “most African governments and organizations took in time very brave prevention measures which provide a lesson for some developed nations that did not.” Throughout the African continent, fewer than 3,000 COVID-19 deaths from 88,000 cases of the coronavirus have been registered.
03:40 Colombian President Ivan Duque has announced an extension of the country’s mandatory quarantine until May 31. This is the fourth time that the lockdown, which began at the end of March, has been extended.
“The obligatory preventative isolation, exactly as we are having it now, will be extended until May 31,” Duque said during a television broadcast. “We will have an additional week, which is really important because in that week we will also be taking fundamental measures.”
Colombia has registered close to 17,000 cases of the virus with 613 deaths. “Everyone who doesn’t have to leave home should stay home,” Duque said, adding that the country’s health emergency will be extended until August 31.
03:08 The Venezuelan government announced new curfews in several towns along its borders with Colombia and Brazil, due to a rise in coronavirus cases. Authorities attributed the jump mostly to returning migrants and will now require those migrants to undergo quarantine at the border for 14 days.
Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said Venezuela had registered 131 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the most in a single day, bringing the total to 749, with 10 deaths nationwide.
As a result of the economic fallout in neighboring Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, due to coronavirus lockdowns, thousands of Venezuelan migrants have returned home. The government fears that these returnees could be bringing the virus with them.
Venezuela has so far registered far fewer coronavirus cases than most major Latin American countries, but the country’s Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences published a report last week, saying that there could be at least 63% more infected people than official statistics show.
The academy has expressed concern about alleged government threats against it, as a result of its findings. “We were told someone said on television that we deserved to receive visits from the security forces,” daily El Nacional quoted the academy’s president, Mireya Goldwasser, as saying.
“I believe there is an intention to create fear, but we’ll stay calm and keep working,” she added.
Venezuela is currently suffering from an unprecedented economic crisis. Experts warn that a rapid increase in the number of coronavirus infections would deal a major blow to its health system, which is already on the verge of collapse prior to the pandemic.
02:47 The US state of Missouri has executed a death row inmate in what marks the first execution in the US since coronavirus-related restrictions were put in place.
Convicted in 2006 for the murder of 81-year-old Gladys Kuehler, Walter Barton was executed by lethal injection in Missouri’s Bonne Terre prison. He maintained his innocence in the 1991 case till the end.
Critics have slammed the state for proceeding with his execution even as the world attempts to deal with the pandemic. “The fact that the state of Missouri carried out the execution of Walter Barton tonight, as we face a deadly pandemic, is unconscionable,” American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Cassandra Stubbs said.
“By moving forward, the state not only put the health of the prison staff at risk and forced them to defy public health guidance, it also refused to consider new, persuasive evidence that Barton may be innocent,” the Director of ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project added.
02:20 The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York said it hopes to open its doors to visitors by mid-August after closing on March 13 amid virus fears. “As we endure these challenging and uncertain times, we are encouraged by looking forward to the day when we can once again welcome all to enjoy The Met’s collection and exhibitions,” museum president Daniel Weiss said.
The New York museum will implement measures like reduced visiting hours and no guided tours to encourage physical distancing when it finally reopens. The Met will also not offer any lectures or concerts until late 2020.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to reopen the state involves four distinct phases. Cultural activities will only resume in the fourth phase. The state, however, has not undertaken even phase one at the moment.
01:45 Costa Rica has announced the resumption of its professional football league, under coronavirus rules that include playing behind closed doors and substitutes sitting in the stands to ensure their distance from others.
The football league was suspended on March 15, when the country began implementing coronavirus measures.
Costa Rica’s top 12 clubs returned to training on May 15 and the league is now set to kick off again with hygiene rules such as a ban on hugging, the deep cleaning of dressing rooms and a provision for five substitutes instead of three.
The Central American nation is the first in the region to restart a sports league. Costa Rica has been an outlier in the region, recording just 866 cases of COVID-19 and only 10 fatalities.
Some clubs have sold “virtual tickets” to fans whose face is printed on a poster and placed on stadium seats. Others hope to create a live atmosphere with recordings of chants and songs.
01:11 Chile’s government has deployed soldiers to a working-class neighborhood in the nation’s capital Santiago, where discontent about effects of the coronavirus lockdown has sparked rioting.
The unrest comes as Chile recorded 3,520 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, its biggest daily increase. The total number of infections in the country is approaching the 50,000 mark and the overall COVID-19 death toll now stands at over 500.
Rioters looted a neighborhood gas station, while a mob downtown set a bus ablaze. Residents in both poor and middle-class neighborhoods banged pots and pans in protest. Demonstrators are angry about food shortages and job losses.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit Santiago hard, filling up 90% of the intensive care hospital beds, which has forced authorities to send patients to other cities. The city went into total lockdown last Friday. “We’re in a complicated moment, very difficult, with a lot of worried citizens,” said Health Minister Jaime Manalich. “We’re seeing what we call a social pandemic,” said Manalich. “It produces job losses, a lack of resources and the worst, it produces hunger.”
Manalich said President Sebastian Pinera was working to solve the lack of food problem. “The health and social crisis we’re going through has no precedent in Chile,” Manalich said.
Pinera has promised that the government will deliver bags with food staples to the poorest people but has not yet explained when or how distribution would take place. The Chilean president has been criticized for not delivering on a promise of government aid to 4.5 million vulnerable families, which had been announced in April.
00:30 Brazil tallied some 1,179 coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, the nation’s Health Ministry said. It was the worst daily toll yet in the hardest-hit Latin American country.
While Brazil’s overall death toll hit 17,971, the country recorded 17,408 new infections in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 271,628. Public health experts have said that official figures may grossly understate the real death and infection toll, pointing to the country’s low coronavirus testing rate.
President Jair Bolsonaro has clashed with most of the country’s 27 state governors as he has sought to downplay the virus and end lockdown measures to rescue Latin America’s largest economy, now forecast to enter a deep recession.
Bolsonaro announced that the country’s Health Ministry will issue new guidelines recommending the use of chloroquine for treating COVID-19. The Brazilian president said he kept a box of the anti-malarial drug in case his 93-year-old mother needed it, adding that US President Donald Trump said he was taking it preventively.
00:15 The US extended border closures to non-essential travel until June 21 with both Mexico and Canada, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The restrictions had been set in place on March 18 and were extended in April.
Mexico’s Foreign Ministry and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau both confirmed the border closure extension.
The US said it would extend pandemic-related rules that permit rapid deportations of illegal migrants caught at the US border, according to a health emergency order by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Trudeau said the border is a source of vulnerability, adding that the country’s provincial leaders backed the continuation of the measures. “This will keep people in both of our countries safe.” Trudeau said.
US President Donald Trump confirmed the extension saying he hoped things could get back to normal soon. “We love Canada, so we’re going to be talking, and at the right time, we’ll open that up very quickly. That will go very easily,” Trump added.
Currently, essential cross-border workers like healthcare professionals, airline crews and truck drivers are still permitted to cross. US citizens who are returning to the US and Canadians who are returning to Canada are also exempted from the border closure.
00:05 US President Donald Trump said he was considering imposing a ban on travel from Brazil, which has the world’s third highest coronavirus infections.
“We are considering it,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I don’t want people coming over here and infecting our people. I don’t want people over there sick either. We’re helping Brazil with ventilators. … Brazil is having some trouble, no question about it,” he added.
Brazil is currently only behind the US and Russia in terms of the total number of coronavirus infections. The country has so far recorded 271,628 cases and 17,971 deaths, while 100,459 have already recovered.
00:00 Catch up on yesterday’s coronavirus news here: Germany ‘underestimated risk to public health’
nm,jcg/aw (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)