- Spain’s government says will seek to extend its coronavirus state of emergency for the last time until late June as daily death toll reached a near eight-week low.
- The Italian government passed a new decree to allow travel across the country, as well as to and from other European countries starting on June 3.The daily death toll dipped to its lowest since March 9.
- Mexico and Brazil posted new daily records for coronavirus cases as Brazil’s Minister of Health Nelson Teich resigned after less than a month on the job.
- Globally, more than 4.5 million people have been infected and more than 308,000 have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. About 1.6 million people have recovered.
Saturday, May 16
23:12 GMT – Brazil registers 14,919 new coronavirus cases, 816 new deaths
Brazil confirmed 14,919 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Saturday, as well as 816 related deaths, Reuters news agency reported quoting the country’s health ministry.
Brazil has now registered 233,142 confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, the fifth highest in the world, and 15,633 deaths.
21:05 GMT – US FDA suspends Gates-backed at-home COVID-19 testing program
An at-home coronavirus testing project in Seattle backed in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said it was working with US regulators to resume the program after being suspended by the Food and Drug Administration.
The Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN), which aims to monitor the spread of the novel coronavirus in the region, had said it was suspending its testing of patient samples collected at home after the Food and Drug Administration tightened guidelines to require emergency approval first.
“The FDA has not raised any concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of SCAN’s test, but we have been asked to pause testing until we receive that additional authorization,” SCAN said.
The Gates Foundation in March said it was providing technical assistance for SCAN, which had been approved by regulators in Washington state, one of the first US states to be hit hard by the outbreak.
Bill Gates has also privately funded SCAN, according to the foundation.
20:20 GMT – Italy PM says taking calculated risk in rolling back lockdown
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Italy was taking a calculated risk in rolling back lockdown measures from next week as the daily death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic fell to its lowest since March 9.
“We’re facing a calculated risk, knowing that the epidemiological curve could rise again,” Conte said in press conference to detail measures taken by the Rome to restart most economic activities and lift restrictions on people’s movements.
With shops allowed to open from Monday, Conte said movement between European Union countries would be allowed from June 3, without a quarantine period for those entering Italy.
Gyms, swimming pools, sports centres will reopen on May 25, while theatres and cinemas will be allowed to reopen from June 15.
19:55 GMT – Migrants quarantined after Canary Islands rescue
A group of migrants rescued off the coast of Fuerteventura have been placed in mandatory quarantine as Spain moves to reduce the likelihood of imported virus cases, local officials said.
Their boat was pulled to safety by the Spanish coastguard on Friday night and all 38 migrants were taken to a port on Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands.
They were rescued on the day that Spain began imposing a new mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement on any incoming travellers arriving by sea or air in a bid to avoid any imported coronavirus cases.
The new measures will remain in force until May 24 when the state of emergency expires, although the government on Saturday signalled its intent to extend the restrictions until the end of June.
19:25 GMT – Alarm in Germany as ‘corona demos’ take off
Huge numbers of anti-lockdown protesters, conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers or extremists massed across Germany, with more than 5,000 gathering in Stuttgart, at least 1,500 in Frankfurt and around 1,000 in Munich.
“Corona is fake”, claimed one poster held aloft in Stuttgart, “Isolation, Masks, Tracking, Vaccine – that’s a no go”, cried another.
A recent poll commissioned by the Spiegel news magazine found that almost one in four Germans surveyed voiced “understanding” for the demonstrations.
19:10 GMT – Zimbabwe to maintain coronavirus lockdown
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the lockdown imposed to control the spread of coronavirus would stay in place for the moment, but would be reviewed every two weeks.
The restrictions have so far borne fruit as transmission has not been widespread and numbers remain lower than had been initial projections, he added.
From more than 25,000 tests conducted, the country has so far detected 42 cases, four of which proved fatal.
Mnangagwa said the World Health Organisation had classified coronavirus transmission in Zimbabwe as “sporadic, with one or more cases imported or locally detected.
“This may suggest that despite the small numbers tested, our country might have a reduced COVID-19 trajectory,” he said in a speech broadcast on public television.
18:53 GMT – British police arrest 19 at London protest against social distancing
London police arrested 19 people for deliberately breaking social distancing guidelines in protest against the rules, on the first weekend since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a slight loosening of England’s lockdown.
The Metropolitan Police said that a group in central London’s Hyde Park had been protesting about the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and had failed to comply with repeated requests to disperse.
“It was disappointing that a relatively small group in Hyde Park came together to protest the regulations in clear breach of the guidance, putting themselves and others at risk of infection,” Laurence Taylor, Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, said in a statement.
“Officers once again, took a measured approach and tried to engage the group to disperse. They clearly had no intention of doing so, and so it did result in 19 people being arrested, and a further ten being issued with a fixed penalty notice.”
18:20 GMT – New COVID-19 cases in New York coming from people leaving home
Cuomo said the state’s new confirmed COVID-19 cases are predominantly coming from people who left their homes to go shop, exercise or socialise and not from essential workers.
“That person got infected and went to the hospital or that person got infected and went home and infected the other people at home,” he said during his daily news conference on the coronavirus.
State data showed that the number of new cases statewide has fluctuated between 2,100 and 2,500 per day.
“That was exactly wrong,” he said. “The infection rate among essential workers is lower than the general population and those new cases are coming predominantly from people who are not working and they are at home.”
18:00 GMT – France says total coronavirus death toll rises to 27,625
French health authorities reported 96 new coronavirus deaths, bringing the total to 27,625, the fourth highest in the world.
The ministry said the number of people in hospitals fell to 19,432 from 19,861 on Friday and the number of people in intensive care units dropped to 2,132 from 2,203 on Friday.
17:19 GMT – Italy’s daily coronavirus death toll dips to lowest since March 9
The daily toll from the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy fell to 153, its lowest since March 9, against 242 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, while the daily tally of new cases increased to 875 from 789 on Friday.
The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on February 21 now stands at 31,763 the agency said, the third highest in the world after those of the United States and Britain.
16:54 GMT – Singapore reports 465 new coronavirus cases, one additional death
Singapore registered 465 new coronavirus infections, its health ministry said, taking the city-state’s total to 27,356 cases.
The vast majority of the newly infected people are migrant workers living in dormitories, the health ministry said in a statement. Four are permanent residents.
Singapore also reported one more death, bringing the virus-related death toll in the island nation to 22.
16:10 GMT – Mexico reports fresh one-day coronavirus record of 2,437 new cases
Mexico’s health ministry confirmed 290 additional coronavirus deaths and 2,437 new infections in a fresh one-day record rise in cases since the start of the pandemic.
The new infections brought confirmed coronavirus cases to 45,032 and 4,767 deaths in total, according to the official tally.
Mexico’s previous highest daily confirmed cases total was a day earlier on Thursday, when authorities reported 2,409 new infections.
16:00 GMT – UK’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll rises to 34,466
A total of 34,466 people who tested positive for the new coronavirus have died in the United Kingdom, a rise of 468 in a 24-hour period, the health ministry said.
The figures are as of 5 p.m. (1600 GMT) on May 15. including deaths due to suspected cases, Britain’s toll is over 40,000.
15:45 GMT – Kenya’s president bans movement to Tanzania and Somalia over COVID-19
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered a cessation of movement between the country and neighbouring Tanzania and Somalia to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
He exempted cargo trucks but said drivers would have to be tested for the disease.
15:40 GMT – South African platinum miner Impala finds 19 coronavirus cases at mine
South Africa’s Impala Platinum said it had detected 19 positive cases of the COVID-19 disease at its Marula operation in northern Limpopo province, and that it would close the plant until it had taken necessary health measures.
“Implats has identified 19 positive cases during the week, all of them asymptomatic. Of these cases, 14 were identified as the result of proactive testing of employees returning to work.
“None of these employees had started work at the mine,” the firm said in a statement.
15:35 GMT – Germany mulls 57 bln euros emergency aid for virus-hit municipalities
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is working on an aid package worth 57 billion euros ($61.65 billion) to help municipalities cope with a plunge in tax revenues caused by the coronavirus crisis, a finance ministry document showed.
The package should help towns stabilise their public finances and include extra relief for some heavily indebted municipalities, according to the finance ministry document seen by Reuters.
15:28 GMT – China’s Wuhan conducted 113,609 COVID-19 tests on May 15
The city of Wuhan, the original epicentre of the new coronavirus outbreak in China, conducted 113,609 nucleic acid tests on May 15, the local health authority said.
Wuhan has launched a city-wide testing campaign after confirming last weekend its first cluster of COVID-19 infections since its release from a virtual lockdown on April 8 to contain the spread of the pathogen.
The number of tests administered on May 15 in the city of 11 million residents was more than 50 percent higher than the 72,791 tests conducted a day earlier, and was also the highest since the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission started publishing the data on February 21.
15:22 GMT – Hungary to gradually lift COVID-19 lockdown in Budapest from Monday
Hungary’s government will gradually lift lockdown restrictions in Budapest from Monday, two weeks after it ended the lockdown in the rest of the country, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on his official Facebook page.
“It has become clear that we have managed to curb the epidemic in Budapest as well,” Orban said in a video.
“Therefore, we can shift to the second phase of defence in Budapest as well, cautiously … and thus we lift the lockdown.”
15:10 GMT – Mumbai’s hospitals close to collapse in war on virus
Packed morgues, bodies in wards, patients forced to share beds and medical workers run ragged: Mumbai’s war against coronavirus has pushed the Indian city’s hospitals to breaking point.
The huge Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, better known as Sion, has become a byword for the stunning failure of Mumbai – home to billionaires, Bollywood and slums – to cope with the pandemic.
With space at a premium, and relatives too afraid or unable to claim their dead because they are themselves in quarantine, disposal of coronavirus corpses is not easy, doctors say. But dealing with the sick is much harder.
15:00 GMT – Saudi Arabia’s coronavirus cases top 50,000
The number of coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia topped 50,000 on Saturday, the health ministry said.
A ministry official reported 2,840 new cases, taking the cumulative total to 51,980. That was up from an average of around 1,500 new cases a day over the past week.
The death toll in the kingdom increased by 10 to 302, the official said on state TV.
Saudi Arabia recorded its first COVID-19 infection on March 2, several weeks after the initial outbreak in Asia.
14:50 GMT – Trump says considering restoration of some funding to WHO
US President Donald Trump said his administration was considering numerous proposals about the World Health Organization, including one in which Washington would pay about 10 percent of its former level.
In a posting on Twitter, Trump underscored that no final decision had been made and that US funding for the global health agency remained frozen.
Trump suspended US contributions to the WHO on April 14, accusing it of promoting China’s “disinformation” about the coronavirus outbreak and saying his administration would launch a review of the organization.
WHO officials denied the claims and China has insisted it was transparent and open.
13:10 GMT – Coronavirus in the most vulnerable communities
Who is most at risk as the coronavirus hits worldwide? A new episode of Start Here explores what’s been done to help the most vulnerable people to stay safe.
13:00 GMT – Austria to reopen borders with eastern neighbours
12:45 GMT – Kenya locks border with Somalia, Tanzania
The government’s announcement followed a previously coordinated step to fully remove barriers on travel between Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein from June 15 onwards and ease restrictions on who is allowed transit in the meantime.
Restrictions remain in place for transit from Italy.
Kenya’s president has ordered the closure of the country’s borders with Somalia and Tanzania for the next 30 days. The measure announced by Uhuru Kenyatta does not cover cargo trucks.
Kenya has reported so far 780 infections and 45 deaths.
12:10 GMT – Football makes comeback in Germany
After a two-month break due to the pandemic, professional football resumed in Germany with four games in the second division taking place behind closed doors.
Goal celebrations were marked by fist bumps and elbow-to-elbow touching, as players had been warned to keep their emotions in check, and to desist from spitting, handshakes and hugging.
All players and team staff who were not on the pitch wore masks. Substitutes took their positions in the stands, rather than beside the fields as customary.
11:37 GMT – Spain daily death toll lowest in 2 months
The number of daily deaths from coronavirus in Spain dropped to its lowest level in two months.
The health ministry announced 102 more COVID-19 fatalities raising the overall toll to 27,563. The tally of confirmed infections reached 230,698 after the country counted 539 new infections.
Despite the slowdown in the spread of the virus, Madrid, Barcelona and parts of Castille and Leon will not be joining the rest of the country in a more relaxed lockdown, officials said.
11:05 GMT – Cases in Qatar top 30,000
Qatar reported 1,547 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, bringing its total to 30,972.
The health ministry also announced the death of a 74-year-old patient who became the 15th person to die in the country due to the virus.
10:15 GMT – Tanzania lowers 2020 growth projection
Tanzania’s government has lowered its 2020 economic outlook due to the impact of the coronavirus, with Finance Minister Philip Mpango forecasting growth of 4 percent compared to an earlier projection of 6.9 percent.
The pandemic has particularly hit the country’s tourism industry, a major source of revenues and employment.
Tanzania has not imposed a widespread lockdown, reporting so far 509 infections and 21 related deaths.
09:37 GMT – Greeks return to beaches, but keep umbrellas apart
As the summer season kicks in, Greeks flocked to the seaside with the opening of more than 500 beaches.
However, sun-seekers must respect a series of rules issued by the government, including a four-metre distance between umbrella poles and an entry allowance of maximum 40 people per 1,000 square metres.
The country is gradually lifting restricting measures hoping to strike a balance between granting health security and resurrecting its austerity-hit economy.
08:55 GMT – Countries report new total figures:
Philippines: 12,305 cases ( 214), 817 deaths ( 11)
Malaysia: 6,872 cases ( 17), 113 death ( 1)
Indonesia: 1,7025 cases ( 529), 1,089 deaths ( 13)
08:22 GMT – Fears over coronavirus spread in Yemen
Across war-torn Yemen, the official figures for coronavirus infections and related deaths stand at 106 and 15, respectively.
However, local health authorities told The Associated Press newsagency that the numbers are likely much higher as hundreds of people in the southern city of Aden have died with symptoms of what appears to be the coronavirus.
Despite five years of bloody war, a gravedigger in the port town told AP the constant flow of dead was unprecedented.
Experts fear a severe outbreak would have devastating consequences in Yemen, a country with a gutted health system and limited testing capacity.
07:45 GMT – Latest figures for Singapore, Russia
Singapore’s number of infections increased by 465 to 27,356, according to the health ministry. Most newly infected people are migrant workers living in dormitories, while four are permanent residents.
Meanwhile Russia, which has become one of the pandemic’s hotspots, reported more than 9,000 new infections, down from 10,598 the previous day.
The country’s coronavirus taskforce said the overall number of cases stood at 272,043. It added that 119 people had died over the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll from the virus to 2,537
06:55 GMT – Slovakia lifts last Roma settlement quarantine
After more than a month in isolation, residents of the last of Slovakia’s five Roma settlements under quarantine were freed from restrictions.
“I would like to thank you for enduring this and for being patient and responsible. Stay careful,” a member of the European Parliament Peter Pollak, who is himself a Roma, told residents of the Zehra settlement.
The move came after all inhabitants were tested and the remaining 16 infected people and their families were moved to a temporary quarantine centre.
With 1,480 cases and 27 deaths, Slovakia has recorded the lowest death toll per capita in Europe as the government moved quickly to impose tough restrictions in the early days of the outbreak in Europe.
06:30 GMT – Thailand, Cambodia report no new cases
As business activity gradually returns in Thailand, the country reported zero new coronavirus infections and deaths.
“Today there are two zeros … thank you all Thais who have given their cooperation,” said Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration.
From Sunday, shopping centres and department stores will reopen and a nighttime curfew will be shortened by one hour.
Meanwhile in Cambodia, all 122 confirmed patients have now recovered after authorities said the last infected person had been discharged from hospital. The country, though, will not be easing restrictions as the health ministry urged continued vigilance.
I’m handing over the blog now to my colleague, Virginia Pietromarchi, in Doha, Qatar. Here’s a summary of this morning’s key developments:
- At least 23 migrant workers killed as India’s cases exceed that of China’s.
- Italy will allow international travel starting on June 3
- Top health official says coronavirus deaths in the US likely to exceed 100,000 by June 1
05:49 GMT – Truck collision on Indian highway kills 23 migrant workers
At least 23 migrant workers were killed in India when a truck they were travelling in crashed into a stationary truck on a highway in northern Uttar Pradesh state.
Another 20 were injured in the accident, magistrate Abhishek Singh told The Associated Press news agency. The workers were on the way from India’s capital, New Delhi, to their villages in Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal states, he added.
Tens of thousands of migrant labourers have been returning from big cities to their villages after losing jobs because of the countrywide lockdown.
05:36 GMT – Vigilance urged as Australia eases lockdown
The president of the Australian Medical Association urged people to remain vigilant as Australia began relaxing a two-month lockdown with restaurants, cafes and bars reopening in most parts of the country.
“If we do the wrong things, we risk undoing all the gains that we’ve made,” Tony Bartone said. “So, the message is, yes, appreciate all the efforts, appreciate the opportunity to release some of those measures, but let’s not have a party, let’s not go to town.”
New South Wales and Queensland states eased restrictions this weekend but Victoria, which is still struggling to curb the virus’s spread, retained most of its lockdown measures.
Australia has recorded just over 7,000 cases and 98 deaths.
05:18 GMT – Italy to lift travel restrictions
The Italian government is easing travel restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing people to move freely inside the region where they live as of Monday, and between regions starting June 3.
The government decree also permits international travel to and from Italy from June 3.
Social distancing rules are being implemented in the sectors of the economy that have reopened, including factories and some businesses. Schools remain closed and crowds are not permitted, though people will be allowed to attend Mass in churches with some restrictions starting from next week.
04:43 GMT – India surpasses China in coronavirus cases
India’s coronavirus cases surpassed China’s with the health ministry reporting 85,940 infections and 2,752 deaths.
In total, China has reported 82,933 cases and 4,633 deaths.
The worst-hit Indian states are Maharashtra with 29,100 cases, Tamil Nadu 10,108, Gujarat 9,931 and New Delhi, 8,895.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is due to announce this weekend a decision on whether to extend the country’s 54-day-old lockdown.
04:31 GMT – South Korea hopeful of containing nightclub cluster
South Korean officials confirmed 162 coronavirus cases linked to club-goers in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, but also expressed cautious hope that infections are beginning to wane.
Authorities have so far tested 46,000 people after health workers detected a slew of infections linked to clubs and other nightspots in Seoul’s Itaewon entertainment district.
“Despite massive testing, there seems to be no trend of the rapid virus spread tied to the Itaewon outbreak,” said Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health ministry official. “If we pass this weekend well, we expect the Itaewon-linked spread to come under the control of quarantine authorities.”
South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 19 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday. Nine were linked to Itaewon and the rest involved passengers arriving from abroad.
03:23 GMT – Trump to restore partial funding to WHO, says Fox News
US President Donald Trump’s administration is set to restore partial funding to the World Health Organization, Fox News reports, citing a draft letter.
The Trump administration will “agree to pay up to what China pays in assessed contributions” to the WHO, Fox News says, quoting from the letter.
Trump suspended US contributions to the WHO on April 14, accusing it of promoting China’s “disinformation” about the coronavirus outbreak. The agency denies the claim.
The US was the WHO’s biggest donor. If the US matches China’s contribution, as the Fox report adds, its new funding level will be about one-tenth of its previous funding amount of about $400m per year.
02:49 GMT – Virus spreading to Brazil’s Indigenous territories at ‘frightening speed’
A Brazilian rights group says the coronavirus has hit 38 indigenous groups in the country and is spreading to Indigenous territories “with frightening speed”.
A survey by the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples’ Association (APIB) finds 446 cases of the new coronavirus and 92 deaths among the affected groups, mainly in the Brazilian Amazon.
The grim news came a day after the Indigenous community of Parque das Tribos, outside the northern city of Manaus, held a funeral for its chief, Messias Kokama, who died of COVID-19.
02:05 GMT – US House passes $3 trillion coronavirus aid bill
The United States House of Representatives narrowly passed a $3 trillion bill aimed at salving the heavy human and economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill, crafted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats, passed mostly along party lines in a 208-199 vote.
The enormous measure would cost more than the prior four coronavirus bills combined. It would deliver almost $1 trillion for state and local governments, another round of $1,200 direct payments to individuals and help for the unemployed, renters and homeowners, college debt holders and the struggling US Postal Service.
But Republicans, who control the Senate, have promised it will be “dead on arrival” in their chamber.
01:53 GMT – US deaths projected to exceed 100,000 by June 1
Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says forecasting models indicate the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the US will increase in the coming weeks.
The total death toll is projected to surpass 100,000 by June 1, he added in a tweet.
01:34 GMT – Air Canada to lay off more than 20,000 people
Canada’s largest airline said it plans to lay off at least 20,000 employees because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Air Canada said the pandemic has forced it to reduce scheduled flights by 95 percent, and it does not expect normal traffic to return any time soon.
“We therefore took the extremely difficult decision today to significantly downsize our operation to align with forecasts, which regrettably means reducing our workforce by 50 to 60 percent,” the airline said in a statement.
01:09 GMT – LATAM Airlines to cut 1,400 jobs
“The effects of COVID-19 are profound and make reducing the size of the LATAM group inevitable to protect its sustainability in the medium term,” said Roberto Alvo, executive director of the Chilean-Brazilian carrier.
The jobs will be cut from operations in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
00:39 GMT – ‘Most difficult moment’ as Mexico reports record daily cases
Mexico’s health ministry reported 2,437 new coronavirus infections on Friday in a fresh one-day record rise in cases.
The new infections brought confirmed coronavirus cases in the country to 45,032. The death toll rose by 290 to 4,767. Mexico’s highest daily toll was on Tuesday, when health authorities reported 353 fatalities.
“We are at the moment of the fastest growth in new cases,” said Assistant Health Secretary Hugo Lopez-Gatell. “This is the most difficult moment.”
00:28 GMT – Brazil reports 15,305 new infections
Brazil’s health ministry confirmed 15,305 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday in a record for a 24-hour period.
It also reported 824 related deaths. Brazil has registered 218,223 confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic and 14,817 deaths.
00:04 GMT – US House allows proxy voting
The US House of Representatives approved a historic change to its rules allowing legislators to vote by “proxy” from remote locations temporarily.
The change, proposed by Democrats and passed in a 217-189 vote, upends more than 200 years of precedent in Congress. Proxy voting has been allowed before within committees but not for votes in the full House or Senate.
Under the new rules, House legislators will no longer be required to travel to Washington, DC to participate in floor votes. They will be allowed to vote by proxy – assigning their vote to another legislator who will be at the Capitol to cast it for them. Eventually, a provision allows for direct remote voting, once the technology is approved.
Just as importantly, the House committees – the bread and butter of legislative work – will be able to fully function remotely.
The new rule will remain in place only for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.
Hello and welcome to FN News continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES