October 30, 2020

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Coronavirus latest: US deaths surge past 50,000

The Trump administration has come under heavy criticism for touting dubious remedies to the deadly pathogen. Across Europe, countries are outlining plans to return to public life.

  • The WHO warns there is currently no evidence that those who have recovered are immunized and protected against reinfection
  • More than 51,000 people have died in the United States, making it the country with the most deaths from the pandemic
  • The number of deaths in the UK has crossed the 20,000 mark
  • European nations have outlined how they plan to ease lockdown restrictions
  • KLM and Air France are set to receive state aid; Germany to discuss a rescue package for Lufthansa next week

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

23:59 We are now closing this live updates article.

23:58 Trump says daily coronavirus briefings not worth his time

US President Donald Trump says his press briefings are “not worth the time & effort”, two days after sparking a furore by suggesting patients might be injected with disinfectant to kill an infection.

Tweeting on Saturday, Trump says: “What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately.”

21:51 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will resume his duties on Monday, said a spokeswoman for his office. Johnson had delegated his powers to Foreign Minister Dominic Raab after contracting the novel coronavirus earlier this month. Within days of receiving positive confirmation of the virus, the British prime minister was admitted to intensive care after his condition worsened. He has since spent his time recovering from the deadly pathogen.

19:50 Turkey has documented 106 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 2,706. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said there were 2,861 new confirmed cases, adding that the “rate of positive tests is decreasing.”

Turkey ranks seventh in the world for the number of confirmed infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. But experts believe the actual toll of the pandemic around the world is higher than the tally.

19:21 French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will present the government’s plan to unwind the country’s lockdown to parliament on Tuesday, his office said on Saturday.

The prime minister’s statement next week will be followed by a debate and a vote. The lockdown ordered by President Emmanuel Macron has been in place since March 17 to slow the spread of the coronavirus and is due to be lifted on May 11.

18:57 Spain says people will be allowed out to exercise from May 2 if the number of new coronavirus cases continues to fall. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in an address to the nation that residents could then leave their homes for sport or to go for a walk with a person with whom they live. But he insisted that the easing would only happen if the evolution of the pandemic “remains favorable.”

Spaniards have been living under one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns since March 14. They are allowed out for food, medicine and essential work but not to exercise.

18:35 Nearly 200,000 Italian companies have asked for permission to operate during the lockdown, either because they help essential businesses or because they deem themselves strategic for the national economy.

Most of the requests have come from three northern regions that are among Italy’s most productive, but also among those most heavily hit by coronavirus cases. So far, only a tiny percentage of the businesses that have reopened have been found not following social distancing and hygiene rules.

18:09 Here’s an update on our earlier story about protests that took place in Berlin and Stuttgart against Germany’s stay-at-home orders. More than 1,000 people broke a ban on mass gatherings during the nationwide lockdown. Local media reported that the participants included well-known far-right populists and conspiracy theorists.

18:00 Here is the major coronavirus news from the last 12 hours:

Global death toll: The number of people who have died from the novel coronavirus has passed 200,000, with more than 2.8 million confirmed cases according to the latest figures from the Johns Hopkins University. More than 50,000 of those deaths are in the US, the worst-hit country during the pandemic.

No immunity: The World Health Organization has warned that there is still no evidence people who are infected with and recover from COVID-19 are immunized against reinfection.

The news comes as some governments are beginning to ease lockdown restrictions and are weighing the idea of “immunity passports” as a way for those who have recovered from infection to get back to work.

“At this point in the pandemic, there is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an ‘immunity passport’ or ‘risk-free certificate,'” the WHO said in a statement.

United Kingdom: The UK death toll from the coronavirus has surpassed 20,000, according to Health Ministry figures released Saturday. The government is, meanwhile, facing fresh criticism of its handling of the pandemic after it emerged Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief advisor attended meetings of the main scientific group advising the government on the novel coronavirus.

Iran: President Hassan Rouhani has warned the country should prepare for a worst-case scenario that would require facing the coronavirus pandemic until at least March 2021. The news comes as the country, which reported 76 new COVID-19 deaths Saturday to bring its total to 5,650, marked the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Germany: Confirmed cases have increased by 2,055 to 152,438, according to statistics from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases. The number marks the second day of deceleration after three days of increases in new infections. A total of 5,500 people have died in Germany of COVID-19, an increase of 179 from Friday.

17:19 The daily death toll from hospitalized Covid-19 patients in France has fallen to 198. The Health Ministry figures appear to confirm that the epidemic is lessening, although weekend figures are often understated. France has now recorded 22,614 deaths, including 14,050 in hospitals and 8,564 in nursing homes. The country has been under a strict lockdown since March 17; the government plans to gradually lift the stay-at-home order starting on May 11.

16:42 Plans to restart Canada’s economy do not depend on presuming people have developed immunity to the coronavirus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on
Saturday. Two provinces, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan have announced the relaxation of lockdown measures but insist they’ll enforce social distancing and protective equipment in workplaces.

“(Immunity) is something we need to get clearer answers to and until we have those clear answers, we need to err on the side of more caution,” Trudeau added.

The World Health Organization said earlier in the day that there was “no evidence” that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.

Canada’s death toll from COVID-19 rose 7% to 2,350 from a day earlier. Cases reached more than 44,000.

16:17 Portugal’s coronavirus lockdown has put a dampener on annual celebrations marking the end of a long dictatorship. On April 25, 1974, an almost bloodless revolution ended the authoritarian regime put in place by dictator Antonio Oliveira Salazar. Every year, to pay tribute to those who fought for democracy in the “Carnation” revolution, thousands of people gather holding red flowers and shouting “Fascism, never again!”.

This year, however, the noisy street marches were replaced by virtual events and at exactly 3 p.m. local time (1300 UTC), many residents took to their balconies to sing the revolutionary anthem “Grandola Vila Morena.”

Meanwhile, Italians have celebrated the 75th anniversary of their country’s
liberation from World War II occupation forces by emerging on their balconies or rooftops to sing a folk song linked to resistance fighters.

Citizens played recordings of “Bella Ciao”‘ or sang a cappella to mark Liberation Day, which is a national holiday. The traditional marches and other memorial gatherings are banned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Rome, Italian air force jets flew overhead, trailing smoke colored with the red, white and green hues of the Italian flag.

15:58 Daily COVID-19 hospital admissions in New York State have fallen to about 1,100 per day from around 1,300, Governor Andrew Cuomo has said. The US state plans to allow independent pharmacies to conduct diagnostic coronavirus tests. Cuomo said yesterday that 422 people died from the virus on Thursday, the lowest single-day death toll since April 1.

15:50 Despite a ban on demonstrations during Germany’s lockdown, around 1,000 people have gathered in Berlin to oppose the restrictions. Many of them stood in front of the safety barriers that the police had set up at Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz to prevent the square from becoming too crowded.

Officers used loudspeakers to repeatedly asked the participants to leave, and a number of people were arrested, according to Germany’s DPA news agency. DPA said the protesters included well-known right-wing populists, AfD politicians, and conspiracy theorists. The group has held similar rallies in the German capital over the last four Saturdays.

15:16 Russia has come to the defense of the World Health Organization (WHO) following US President Donald Trump’s decision to cut contributions to the agency. “I think the WHO is living up to its role as the leading and coordinating agency,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in comments to local media. “Yes, it’s not ideal. But nobody is perfect.”

Trump has argued that too many lives had been lost because the WHO had mismanaged the health crisis and put too much faith in information from China, where the disease first transferred from animals to humans.

Lavrov, however, said he thinks the criticism had little to do with the health agency’s performance: “In my opinion, people want to use such attacks to justify one’s own
approach, which came too late and wasn’t adequate.”

14:58 The US state of Maryland says that ballots cast in person during an upcoming special Congressional election will be quarantined for 24 hours to protect poll workers from the risk of coronavirus. 

It is one of a number of precautions being taken in Tuesday’s vote to fill the House seat for Representative Elijah Cummings, who died in October. The district, which features a large portion of the city of Baltimore, will only have three places for in-person voting, and those eligible to vote by mail have been urged to do so.

The unusual precautions in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic have put special attention on the race between Republican Kimberly Klacik and Democrat Kweisi Mfume. A statewide primary election in Wisconsin that was held earlier this month despite coronavirus concerns drew criticism for long lines at polling stations.

14:35 The coronavirus death toll in the United Kingdom has passed 20,000, Health Ministry data showed on Saturday. The news comes after the country registered 813 new fatalities over the past 24 hours, pushing the total number 20,319.

The figure is an increase on the 684 reported the previous day and comes after officials claimed the virus had hit its peak.

The UK government is, meanwhile, facing fresh criticism of its handling of the pandemic after it emerged Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief advisor attended meetings of the main scientific group advising the government on the novel coronavirus.

The opposition Labour party has raised concerns that Dominic Cummings may have influenced recommendations given by the independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). 

Johnson’s government has already struggled to account for its late response to the unfolding health emergency, a lack of testing and a shortage of vital protective equipment for health workers.

14։20 Slovakia has lifted a quarantine on one of five Roma settlements locked down in
early April to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The country’s closed off the settlements on April 9 after reports of a cluster of coronavirus cases.

Prime Minister Igor Matovic praised the settlement’s residents for their discipline. “Today, an ordinary Roma settlement of Bystrany becomes an example for the whole of Slovakia. The people here were responsible,” Matovic said.

Roma communities across eastern Europe are impoverished, plagued by high unemployment and historically the target of discrimination, and the coronavirus outbreak has many feeling more vulnerable.

14:08 Italy says it plans to set price limits on face masks and increase antibody testing as it nears the expiration of its current lockdown measures. Once some measures are relaxed, masks will be made mandatory in public places, while the government is taking steps to implement nationwide serological testing to find out how many people have already had the virus.

Milan’s northern Lombardy region, the Italian epicenter of the outbreak, began deploying the serological tests on a wide scale on Thursday.

Italians are awaiting a decision this weekend, on which of the measures will be lifted when the current rules expire on May 3. People will likely be able to leave their homes and parks could reopen for the first time since March 9. 

Local media reports say that restaurants will resume takeout service in early May, while almost everything else will remain shut. The government may also reopen museums on May 18, in an effort to send an  “optimistic message to the world that Italy is back,” the Corriere della Sera newspaper wrote. 

Europe’s official death toll of 25,969 is still, however, the highest in Europe and the second highest in the world.

13:50 Serbia has sent four planes carrying medical equipment including gloves, masks and protective suits to Italy, as a donation to help the hard-hit country manage the spread of coronavirus. Another four planes full of equipment will be sent within the next two days, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said.

“We will win together, be brave Italy, Serbia is with you,” Vucic wrote on one of the boxes of equipment. Last year, Italy was Serbia’s second-largest trade partner after Germany, while Italian companies employ more than 20,000 people in Serbia.

Serbia has 6,630 confirmed cases of coronavirus and a death toll of 125, while Italy has a death toll of nearly 26,000 and about 193,000 reported cases.

13:46 Spain, one of the countries worst-affected by the coronavirus worldwide, says a greater number of people have recovered from the virus than had been newly infected. This was the case for the second consecutive day, according to the Health Ministry.

Officials say more than 3,500 Covid-19 sufferers have recovered from the respiratory disease caused by the virus during the last 24 hours, while there were 3,000 new infections. In that time, 378 people died. These are almost half the level of infections and deaths seen at the height of the epidemic in Spain. 

13:37 Australia and New Zealand have marked Anzac Day with residents honoring their armed forces from their driveways after the pandemic saw parades canceled and ceremonies closed to the public. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was among those observing dawn vigils in front of their homes, while Australia’s leader Scott Morrison attended an official Canberra ceremony forced behind closed doors.
Anzac Day marks the 1915 landing of troops at Gallipoli on the Turkish peninsula in an ill-fated World War I campaign against German-backed Ottoman forces that killed about 10,000 Australian and New Zealand servicemen. 

13:30 Spain has released guidelines on allowing children to go outside, after six weeks of living under strict lockdown. From Sunday, children under 14 will be allowed up to one hour of supervised outdoor activity per day, within one kilometer of their home, between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Adults can accompany up to three children, who will not be allowed to use playgrounds. Kids must also adhere to social distancing guidelines and remain at least two meters away from other people. 

Authorities have not offered any information on when confinement measures will be eased for older children and adults. Spain, one of the hardest-hit countries in the world, has been under lockdown since March 14. The country has almost 220,000 reported cases of the virus and a death toll of 22,524.

13:09 Nepal has marked the fifth anniversary of an earthquake that devastated the country and left thousands dead, amid a nationwide coronavirus lockdown. The 7.8-magnitude quake, which Nepal is still recovering from, killed almost 9,000 people, injured nearly 22,000 and left millions homeless.

Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli offered condolences to the families on Friday, but commemorative events such as the inauguration of a refurbished sacred pond in Kathmandu were canceled. Oli added that the coronavirus outbreak has halted Nepal’s reconstruction efforts.

12:54 The Polish football season could restart behind closed doors by the end of May, said Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. “We have a specific plan to get to the first match of the Ekstraklasa [first division], which could take place towards the end of May,” said Morawiecki, adding that the decision was the result of discussions between sports and health ministers, as well as sporting organizations. 
 
Polish players have been in isolation since the season was suspended last month, and will be able to resume training shortly, under strict health guidelines. 
 
Morawiecki’s announcement comes a day after the Netherlands became the first country in Europe to call an end to its 2019-20 soccer season. The Dutch football association (KNVB) said there would be no champions, promotion or relegation. The Dutch government says no professional football can take place before September 1 because of the pandemic.

12:37 The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Netherlands has risen by 655 to 37,190, while the death toll is up by 120, bringing the total to 4,409. The actual number of cases is likely higher, as not all suspected cases are tested, the Netherlands Institute for Public Health said.

11:41 The coronavirus death toll in Iran has increased by 76 over the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of fatalities to 5,650, a Health Ministry spokesman announced on state TV.

The total number of cases has climbed by 1,134 — meaning a total of 89,328 people had been infected since the first case was reported on February 19. There are currently 3,096 patients who are deemed to be in a critical condition, Kianush Jahanpur said.

Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said Iran’s daily death tally had dropped roughly 70% from its peak, while the number of patients who had been hospitalized by the disease had fallen by about half.

Iran is the hardest-hit country in the Middle East and has one of the world’s highest death tolls.

11:20 In Germany, the Green Party has called for a €250 ($270) voucher to be issued to citizens for use in small, local shops and gastronomy-related businesses.

The Greens released a paper, as reported by German news magazine Der Spiegel, saying the proposed voucher could only be used in places affected by the current lockdown measures, thus would not be valid at supermarkets or drugstores. The proposal also prohibits using the voucher for online shops.

Some small shops have now reopened after strict measures were recently relaxed, and the voucher would be available to use in these shops as they had been previously affected by the crisis.

The voucher should be used within a year and would have to be redeemed in person.

10:15 Climate change policy won’t be left out of the EU agenda even amid the coronavirus pandemic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her weekly video podcast.

“[Germany’s EU Council presidency] will be clearly dominated by the issue of combating the pandemic and its consequences,” Merkel said

But climate issues will be “just as much on the agenda as health issues,” she added.

While Germany will focus on the “economic revitalization of Europe,” the country also has to “think about the future” – which includes focusing on climate and environmental issues.

Germany will take over the EU’s rotating presidency from Croatia for six months, starting from July 1.

Another major focus of the EU presidency will be to establish an “efficient European health care system in all member states.” Merkel also touted the use of shared funds between EU member states, saying Germany cannot be industrially and economically strong if other countries’ economies are collapsing.

Germany will expand the EU budget and invest “much more” than previously planned in climate protection, digitization and “strategic capabilities” as part of a stimulus package that will likely be introduced as the crisis comes to an end.

It will also be important “to show in the coming weeks and months that we belong together,” said Merkel.

10:00 Medical authorities have shown concern that some people may be ignoring other health conditions if they focus only on the symptoms of COVID-19. The move comes as fears grow that cancer and other illnesses are being neglected.

Wolfgang Kölfen, chairman of the Association of Senior Pediatricians and Adolescent Physicians, told local newspaper Rheinische Post: “If a child is sick, he or she should be taken to a doctor or hospital. Do not wait too long. The danger that a child gets COVID-19 is minimal.”

There were similar fears among health officials in the UK. Public Health England revealed visits to hospital emergency departments dropped by almost 50% in April in comparison with the same month last year. The charity Cancer Research UK has estimated that 2,250 new cases of the disease could be going undetected each week during the pandemic, partly because people are reluctant to go to hospitals for fear of catching the novel virus or overburdening the health care system.

09:30 German Health Minister Jens Spahn said in the event that a coronavirus vaccine is developed, medical staff and risk groups should be given preferential treatment. A vaccine isn’t likely to be ready in the near future, but once it is ready, the treatment will be produced in Europe, Spahn told the Funke Mediengruppe.

He also called for a further easing of lockdown measures. Parties and festivals pose an extremely high risk, he said, but anyone who wants to shop in a store or exercise in a gym while maintaining the necessary distance from others should be able to do so.

Spahn also touted a new care concept for hospitals, to ensure that medical facilities have enough capacity to treat all patients, and not just those with coronavirus.

“The next step should be to make 75% of clinic operations available to treat non-coronavirus patients, while 25% [of hospital capacity] should continue to be available for coronavirus patents,” he said.

Spahn was referring to research indicating that the number of patients who have been hospitalized for stroke or heart attacks in emergency rooms has decreased – a sign, he said, that despite severe illness, some patients are not seeking medical care due to fears of infection.

 The same also applies to the chronically ill, who are not seeing their specialists, or patients who are opting out of preventive medical examinations, he added.

09:21 The nation of Vanuatu, made up of roughly 80 islands in the South Pacific, has become the location of a rare event during these troubled times — a live sporting event.

With almost all sports across the globe ground to a halt, Vanuatu was able to bring some much-needed sunshine to what are otherwise dark days in the sporting calendar.

Vanuatu Cricket Association chief executive Shane Deitz invited anyone missing live action to watch online via a live Facebook stream that included commentary. More than 3,000 tuned in at various points during the men’s 10-over exhibition match and the women’s Twenty20 final won by the Mele Bulls. The matches were played in the capital, Port Vila, on the island of Efate.

The commentators even joined in with the amusement the occasion provided when they suggested alcohol had caused some of those in attendance to become rowdy “now that the red wine has kicked in.” Play was delayed briefly when a few children ran on the field, and the sportscasters apologized for not having many security people at the ground.

Vanuatu went into lockdown towards the end of March before being struck by a destructive cyclone on April 6. Spectators who came to the ground on Saturday were asked to bring food or clothing donations for those affected by the cyclone.

With its borders closed, Vanuatu has yet to record any instances of COVID-19.

08:14 The World Health Organization (WHO) remains unconvinced by the concept of “immunity passports” as it says there is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from the virus are not prone to reinfection.

The use of the so-called “immunity passports” or “risk-free certificates” has been suggested as a way of allowing people to go back to work as they have already been infected, and therefore have antibodies.

But the UN health agency says in a scientific brief that it cannot support the notion as more research is required.

“At this point in the pandemic, there is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an ‘immunity passport’ or ‘risk-free certificate,'” the WHO said.

The WHO said people who assume they are immune to reinfection may ignore public health advice due to complacency, thus heightening the risk of further transmissions.

The scientific brief adds that tests for antibodies of the virus also “need further validation to determine their accuracy and reliability.”

07:40 Confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Germany increased by 2,055 to 152,438, statistics from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. The number marks the second day of deceleration after three days of increases in new infections.

A total of 5,500 people have died in Germany of COVID-19, an increase of 179 from Friday.

RKI figures rely on data from state and local health officials and are updated around once a day, which can lead to deviation from other published statistics, such as those from the Johns Hopkins University.

07:01 Armenia has reported 81 more cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number to 1,677.
The results of 709 tests have been negative.
According to the data of the National Center for Disease Control, 75 patients have recovered; a total of 3 people have now been discharged from hospital.
Twenty-eight deaths have been reported.
The number of active cases is 846.

06:45 An Australian celebrity chef was handed a hefty fine after promoting a “light machine” that he said could help treat COVID-19.

Pete Evans, who judges the popular competitive cooking show  “My Kitchen Rules,” was fined AU$25,200 ($16,000; €14,900) on Friday over his claims that a “Biocharger” machine could be used to beat the “Wuhan coronavirus.” He was selling the device on his website for AU$14,900.

“It’s programmed with about a thousand different recipes, there’s a couple on there for Wuhan coronavirus,” Evans said in a Facebook live video earlier this month.

Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) said the claim that the machine, which looks like a colorfully illuminated blender, could cure coronavirus has “no apparent foundation.”

“Any claim that references Covid-19 is of significant concern to the TGA given the heightened public concern about the pandemic,” it said.

The World Health Organization has also called on people and institutions not to name the novel coronavirus by the region where it is assumed to have originated to potential discrimination.

06:09 A 99-year-old World War II veteran who rose to fame raising millions for Britain’s health care workers has become the oldest artist ever to reach No. 1 in the UK music singles charts.

Tom Moore, who became an internet sensation after his 100-lap walk of his own garden raised 12 million pounds ($15 million, €13.8 million) for the NHS, hit the top of the charts with his rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” He described the experience as “out of this world, truly amazing!”

05:47 Sri Lanka has reimposed a nationwide 24-hour curfew after the country reported its highest number of confirmed new cases on Friday.

The curfew will remain in place until Monday as the police reported they had made more than 30,000 arrests due to violations of the restrictions.

Among the 46 new infections, 30 were sailors from a camp on the outskirts of the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo. So far, 60 sailors have been infected and the camp isolated. The virus is believed to have entered the camp through sailors who were deployed to search for people evading quarantine.

Sri Lanka, which has so far registered 420 cases and seven deaths, partially lifted a monthlong curfew on Monday in more than two-thirds of the country.

05:14 There have been 57 new coronavirus cases reported among crew members of an Italian cruise ship docked in Japan, according to domestic media.

The new infections bring the total number of cases on board the Costa Atlantica to about 150, according to public broadcaster NHK. All 623 crew members have now been tested.

Of those infected onboard the vessel docked in Nagasaki, only one crew member has been admitted to hospital, NHK said, adding that while others remain on board, they have so far shown slight or no symptoms.

The infection cluster on board the Costa Atlantica comes as the Japanese health care system begins to feel the strain. Many hospitals are running out of beds in some parts of the country, where the national tally of coronavirus cases is well over 12,000, of which 328 have died.

04:51 China has reported no new deaths from COVID-19 for the 10th consecutive day.

Twelve new cases infections were reported in the country’s daily update, with 11 of them coming into China from overseas. The National Health Commission confirmed the one local transmission occurred in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang bordering Russia.

Just 838 people remain in hospital with the novel virus while another 1,000 people are undergoing isolation and monitoring for being either suspected cases or having tested positive without showing symptoms.

China, widely believed to be the source of the global pandemic that first emerged at the turn of the year, has so far reported a total of 4,632 deaths among a total of 82,816 cases.

04:35 India has started easing its stringent nationwide lockdown by opening up neighborhood and standalone shops. However, certain restrictions will remain in place, such as 50% of workers with face masks and social distancing.

A Home Ministry statement revealed that shops in shopping malls, no matter how small, would remain closed.

The relaxation of the rules would not be applicable in some of the hardest-hit regions. India has so far registered almost 25,000 infections and 780 deaths from the virus. The worst-hit states are Maharashtra with 6,817 cases, Gujarat which has 3,815 cases, New Delhi 2,514 and Rajasthan 2,034 cases.

03:51 The European Commission has rejected German demands to suspend EU-wide consumer rights concerning travel cancellations, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told the Funke Media Group.

Under current EU law, consumers have the right to receive a full refund from an airline in the event a flight is canceled. The German government has reportedly lobbied the Commission for a voucher-only solution to stop the further collapse of airlines and travel companies.

03:45 German Health Minister Jens Spahn has said he is in favor of further relaxing restrictions on public life. 

“Anyone who goes shopping in a store with the necessary distance from others or stays fit by working out at a gym should be able to do so,” Spahn told the Funke Media Group.

European countries have started to unveil their plans to return to public life over the past week. But German officials had previously signaled caution, saying further easing restrictions could trigger a second wave of infections.

“The more transparent the regulations are, the sooner they will be accepted and practiced,” Spahn said.

02:30 The number of new US deaths nosedived over the past 24 hours. According to figures published by Johns Hopkins University, the US recorded 1,258 deaths on Friday, down from 3,176 the day before. 

The US is the hardest-hit country in the world, with more than 51,000 deaths and nearly 900,000 confirmed cases. Critics have accused the Trump administration of failing to acknowledge the severity of the deadly pathogen at the onset of the outbreak, which contributed to its unbridled transmission.

However, Trump has signaled a drop in the number of positive cases across the country.

“Nationwide, the percentage of coronavirus tests that come back positive has declined very significantly,” Trump said. “In New York, new cases are down 50%, and fatalities are down 40%.”

01:12 Icelandic whaling company Hvalur said it would not hunt whales this summer due to pandemic restrictions. 

Hvalur chief executive Kristjan Loftsson told local media that social distancing restrictions made it “almost impossible” to continue operations. He said his employees need to work “very closely together” in order to process the whale meat.

Iceland allows 200 fin whales and 200 mink whales to be legally killed during the hunting season. More than 1,700 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Iceland. Authorities have reported 10 deaths.

01:09 The Belgian government announced plans to relax measures aimed at curbing the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Starting May 4, authorities will permit hospitals to conduct non-essential tasks. A week later, most commercial activities will be allowed to open. By May 18, travel to the coast or wooded areas, considered prime vacation spots, will be permitted. 

On June 8, restaurants and bars will be allowed to open to the general public. However, people wishing to use public transportation will be required to wear protective masks. 

00:28 The Canadian government said one million masks meant for frontline workers could not be distributed after they were deemed “non-compliant with specifications for healthcare settings.”

“These items were not distributed to provinces and territories for frontline healthcare response, and are being subsequently assess for us in non-healthcare settings,” a government spokesman told Agence France-Presse.

Although Canada shares its southern border with the US, it has managed to keep the virus from spiraling out of control. Canada has reported more than 44,000 confirmed cases and 2,300 coronavirus-related deaths.

00:10 The Italian government urged parliament to approve a revised budget that would raise the amount of debt for this fiscal year to €55 billion ($60 billion). 

Italy, considered one of the hardest hit countries in the world, has struggled to contain the virus despite being the first European country to enact a nationwide lockdown.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the new debt would go towards bolstering the country’s healthcare system and beefing up law enforcement to ensure public order.

00:01 More than 50,000 people have died in the US from complications caused by the novel coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins figures. Nearly 900,000 people have tested positive, making the US the hardest hit country in the world.

Despite the staggering death toll, a handful of states — including Georgia, Alaska and Oklahoma — permitted some retailers to open, including tattoo parlors and fitness gyms.

Critics have accused US President Donald Trump of undermining efforts to contain the outbreak by touting irresponsible measures, including the possibility of injecting patients with disinfectant. Trump later claimed he was being sarcastic.

00:00 Welcome to Saturday’s live updates article on the coronavirus pandemic.

ls/aw (DW, AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)