UK extends coronavirus lockdown by three more weeks: Live updates

Announcement by UK gov’t comes as some countries, including the US, start easing curbs despite warnings from the WHO.

  • The UK government has said a lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus will remain in place for at least three more weeks.

  • The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Europe regional director Hans Kluge has called for solidarity as some countries ease restrictions. Cases have doubled on the continent in the last 10 days, even as the rates of infections in the worst-hit countries have levelled off, leading Kluge to warn that Europe is “in the eye of the storm”. 
  • US President Donald Trump announced guidelines on reopening the county’s economy on Thursday. Germany and other European countries have laid out the first steps to ease their lockdowns.  

  • Globally, the number of confirmed cases has surpassed 2,151,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. More than 143,000 people have died, and some 540,000 have recovered.

Here are the latest updates:

Thursday, April 16

23:20 GMT – Trump gives governors a phased plan to reopen economy

President Donald Trump gave governors a road map Thursday for recovering from the economic pain of the coronavirus pandemic, laying out “a phased and deliberate approach” to restoring normal activity in places that have strong testing and are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases.

“We’re starting our life again,” Trump said during his daily press briefing. “We’re starting rejuvenation of our economy again.”

He added, “This is a gradual process.”

20:56 GMT – US coronavirus relief bill to add $1.8 trillion to deficit

The coronavirus response bill passed by the US Congress last month will increase the federal budget deficit by about $1.8 trillion over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated.

20:50 GMT – US Republicans call for WHO chief to resign

Republican US lawmakers called on US President Donald Trump to withhold payments to the WHO until its director general resigns, backing Trump’s criticism of the UN agency’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Seventeen of Trump’s fellow Republicans on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee wrote a letter to Trump supporting his announcement this week that he was withholding funding for the WHO, and saying he should condition the resumption of contributions on the resignation of Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Why is Donald Trump criticising the WHO now?

20:45 GMT – Brazil’s Bolsonaro appoints Nelson Teich as health minister

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said that he had appointed oncologist Nelson Teich as the country’s new health minister, shortly after firing his predecessor over disagreements on measures to fight coronavirus.

Bolsonaro, who has criticised social distancing measures for hurting the country’s economy, said in a televised briefing that former minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta had never treated the question of employment as it should have been treated during the pandemic.

20:32 GMT – Trump unveils phased approach to reopening economy

New White House guidelines outline a phased approach to restoring normal commerce and services, but only for places with strong testing and seeing a decrease in coronavirus cases.

US President Donald Trump unveiled his administration’s plans to ease social distancing requirements on a call with the nation’s governors.

The guidelines aim to ease restrictions in areas with low transmission of the coronavirus, while keeping them in place in harder-hit locations.

20:30 GMT – Georgia bans private traffic until April 21

Georgia banned movement of all private vehicles from Friday until April 21, tightening the state of emergency, the government said.

“In case of violations of these restrictions, the government will be forced to declare strict quarantine,” Irakli Chikovani, the government spokesman, told a briefing.

Georgia has in place a state of emergency until May 10 entailing a 9pm to 6am curfew; closures of restaurants, cafes, shops, pharmacies, petrol stations; a ban on public transport and on gatherings of more than three people.

Grocery stores remain open.

Georgia banned entry to and exit from Tbilisi and three more major cities for 10 days from evening of April 15 Vano Shlamov/AFP]

19:40 GMT – Saudi Arabia pledges $500m to combat pandemic

Saudi Arabia, the current G20 chair, said it has pledged $500m to support efforts to combat the pandemic and urged other countries and organisations to help bridge an $8bn financing gap.

Riyadh said it would allocate $150m to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation, $150m to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations, and $200m to other health organisations and programmes.

In a statement, it called on all countries, non-governmental organisations, philanthropies and the private sector to help close a financing gap estimated at over $8bn to combat the pandemic.

Saudi King Salman chairs a video call of world leaders from the Group of 20 and other international bodies and organisations, from his office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [Saudi Press Agency via AP]

19:30 GMT – Brazil President Bolsonaro fires Health Minister Mandetta

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro fired Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, Mandetta said on Twitter, after the two had clashed for weeks about how to respond to the pandemic.

Oncologist Nelson Teich will be appointed to replace Mandetta, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro fired his health minister after disagreements on government efforts in containing the coronavirus [Andre Borges/AP]

19:07 GMT – Lebanon PM says 98 percent of depositors to be unaffected by economic rescue plan

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that 98 percent of the country’s depositors will not be affected by an economic rescue plan, the draft of which included a proposal to fund some losses with a contribution from deposits.

“I can announce today that the percentage of those who will be unaffected will be not less than 98 percent of depositors,” Diab said in a televised address.

19:00 GMT – Jordan PM says state finances under strain

Jordan Prime Minister Omar al Razzaz said spending priorities have changed with strained state finances hit by a sharp contraction in economic activity from a tight lockdown.

Razzaz said the government’s focus was now on covering immediate “current expenditure” and expanding social spending to alleviate hardship by Jordanians hit by loss of income from business closures.

Officials say the crisis has derailed the country’s $14bn budget for this year which had an ambitious plan of capital spending to boost sluggish growth and spur investments.

18:55 GMT – Why this remote town in Lebanon has become a hot spot

Oover the past two weeks, almost 10 percent of Lebanon’s total coronavirus cases have been recorded in Bsharreh – some 60 out of 663.

Roughly 1 percent of the town’s inhabitants have been infected. A two-week total lockdown came into effect on April 10 and soldiers now patrol the streets.

Read about it here.

Widespread testing in the town over the past two weeks has revealed numbers that are likely going unrecorded in other parts of the country [Nicolas Tawk/Al Jazeera]

18:40 GMT – Trump plans news conference on ‘opening up America again’

US President Donald Trump said he would hold a news conference at 22:00 GMT on Thursday to “explain guidelines for opening up America again”.

US President Donald Trump reacts to a question during the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

18:30 GMT – Poland’s borders to be closed until at least May 3

Poland’s borders will remain closed until at least May 3, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.

Morawiecki said Poland would start easing some coronavirus restrictions from April 20.

18:25 GMT – Death toll in France increases again amid positive signs

France recorded 753 more deaths, raising the total to 17,920, the fourth-highest tally in the world.

However, the number of patients in hospital has declined for a second day in the row.

Another positive sign that the lockdown implemented a month ago is working, Jerome Salomon, head of the public health authority, said the number of people in intensive care units decreased for the eighth day in a row, at 6,248, a low point since April 1.

Laboratory staff collect blood samples for serological tests on residents and employees of a retirement home in Kaysersberg, France [Christian Hartmann/Reuters]

17:14 GMT – Egypt to halt public transport on Monday

Egypt will suspend all public transportation and coach trips on Monday to limit crowds down during a major public holiday.

People in the country mark the start of spring with Sham el-Nessim celebrations on Monday, a day after Coptic Christians celebrate Easter.

Both Muslims and Christians traditionally go out in large numbers.

17:08 GMT – Turkey deaths, case rise

Turkey’s Ministry of Health said the coronavirus death toll had risen by 125, bringing the country’s total to 1,643.

The total number of registered cases jumped to 74,193 as 4,801 more people tested positive for the virus.

A total of 7,089 people have recovered and been discharged from hospitals, the ministry said, adding that 1,854 patients were being treated in intensive care units.

16:38 GMT – New York extends shutdown order

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo extended the US state’s shutdown order Thursday until May 15, citing data showing conditions were improving but adding that “we have to continue what we are doing”.

“I would like to see that infection rate get down even more,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing, reporting that 606 more people had died in the country’s coronavirus epicentre, the lowest daily toll in 10 days.

16:24 GMT – UK extends lockdown by ‘at least’ 3 weeks

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the government had decided to extend a near-lockdown by “at least” three weeks.

Relaxing the lockdown measures now would “risk a second peak in the virus … [and] undo the progress we’ve made to date,” inflicting further damage to the economy, Raab told reporters.

“The worst thing we can do now is to ease up too soon … so the current restrictions will remain in place,” he said.

Raab is deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is recovering after hospital treatment following his coronavirus infection.

UK protective gear: Government criticised over distribution (3:07)

16:19 GMT – Italy deaths rise by 525, new cases go up

The number of coronavirus deaths in Italy increased by 525, down from 578 on Wednesday, but the number of new cases accelerated sharply to 3,786 from a previous 2,667.

The total death toll in Europe’s hardest-hit country rose to 22,170, the Civil Protection Agency said, the second highest in the world after that of the United States.

The number of officially confirmed cases climbed to 168,941, the third highest global tally behind those of the United States and Spain.
There were 2,936 people in intensive care on Thursday against 3,079 on Wednesday. Of those originally infected, 40,164 were declared recovered against 38,092 a day earlier.

16:11 GMT – COVID-19 recession will hit women harder, experts warn

Women are a huge part of the workforce responding to the coronavirus pandemic, but on average, they are paid less than men and poised to lose more from the continuing economic fallout, according to an analysis by the World Economic Forum.

Part of it has to do with the jobs women fill, but the gender pay gap and the large burden of unpaid childcare and housework also play a role, said Caitlyn Collins, an assistant professor of sociology at Washington University in St Louis.

“Women’s disproportionate burden for caregiving hinders their ability to participate fully in the paid labour force. This is true in the best of times, and especially true, and dire, in times of economic crisis,” Collins told Al Jazeera.

Read Kaelyn Forde’s story here.

15:51 GMT – Eswatini records first coronavirus death

Eswatini, previously known as Swaziland, has registered its first death from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Health Minister Lizzie Nkosi said the 59-year-old man patient was admitted to a treatment facility on 13 April. The patient was diagnosed on admission with pneumonia, with diabetes as an underlying condition. He died on Wednesday after his condition suddenly worsened.

Eswatini has so far logged 17 cases of infection.

15:32 GMT – Russia postpones WWII parade

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was postponing a massive World War II parade held annually on May 9 in the capital, Moscow.

The “risks associated with the epidemic, whose peak has not passed yet, are extremely high,” Putin said. “This does not give me the right to begin preparations for the parade and other mass events now.”

15:24 GMT – US coronavirus death toll tops 31,000

The confirmed coronavirus death toll in the US exceeded 31,000 on Thursday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Its tally said 31,002 people in the US have now died from COVID-19 since the start of the health crisis.

The country has the highest death toll in the world, followed by Italy with 21,645 dead although its population is just a fifth of that of the US.

US unemployment surges by 22 million in a month

14:48 GMT – EasyJet likely to vacate middle seats on resuming flights

British low-cost airline EasyJet said it will likely keep its middle seats empty once flights resume to maintain physical distancing.

“I expect that to happen,” Johan Lundgren, chief executive., told reporters when questioned about the current financial health of the company, which has grounded all commercial flights because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“That is something that we will do because I think that is something that the customers would like to see,” he added. “Then we will work out with the authorities and listen to the customers’ views and points on what they believe is the right thing to do.”

14:31 GMT – WHO chief lists 6 conditions for easing restrictions

Countries that want to lift coronavirus restrictions must meet a series of conditions to prevent another surge of infections, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in his weekly address to Geneva-based diplomats.

“First, that transmission is controlled; Second, that health system capacities are in place to detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact; Third, that outbreak risks are minimised in special settings like health facilities and nursing homes,” he said.

“Fourth, that preventive measures are in place in workplaces, schools and other places where it’s essential for people to go; Fifth, that importation risks can be managed; And sixth, that communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the ‘new norm’.”

COVID-19 cases surge across Europe: WHO wants more testing

14:07 GMT – UK death toll rises 861 to 13,729

The number of people in the United Kingdom who have died in hospital from COVID-19 has increased by 861 to 13,729, according to the health ministry.

Following several days of decreasing numbers, the figure represents a rise of 100 on the previous day’s rate of increase. The latest numbers also showed the number of people in Britain to have tested positive exceeded 100,000.

14:00 GMT – Liberia takes classes to the airwaves

In Liberia, the same students whose entry to secondary school was delayed by the 2014-16 West African Ebola epidemic now find their final year disrupted by the pandemic. But education officials in the country say they have learned from Ebola and are now able to deliver better content, faster.

Indeed, soon after schools across Liberia closed on March 16, when the country’s first coronavirus case was confirmed, authorities launched a radio schooling initiative to bridge an education gap.

Within two weeks, the first lessons were aired on radio stations nationwide. Today, some 32 stations now broadcast several prerecorded lessons a day, each lasting half an hour, catering to different educational levels.

Read Lucinda Rouse’s report here.

Lessons cover subjects from literature to maths and science to social studies, interspersed with health tips [Courtesy: Rising Academy Network]

13:52 GMT – Switzerland announces 3-stage easing of restrictions 

The Swiss government has said it will gradually ease from April 27 the sweeping restrictions introduced last month.

Hospitals will be allowed to perform all procedures, even elective surgeries, while hair salons, massage parlours and cosmetic studies will be permitted to reopen.

This will be followed by compulsory schools, shops and markets from May 11. In a third stage, the government will reopen secondary schools, vocational schools and universities from June 8. 

13:46 GMT – Iran confirms 92 new deaths

Iran has announced 92 new coronavirus deaths, bringing its official total to 4,869.

Health ministry spokesman Kinaoush said 1,606 new infections had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, taking the overall figure to 77,995 from 310,340 tests.

Of those confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus and admitted to hospital, 52,229 had been discharged after recovering, which he described as a “rising trend”. Another 3,594 patients are in critical condition.

13:29 GMT – Court rules Germans have right to protest amid pandemic

Germany’s Constitutional Court has ruled that people in the country have the right to hold political protests if they adhere to physical distancing rules.

Activists who had petitioned the court after authorities in the western city of Giessen, Hesse, banned a protest planned for this week to denounce rules that bar public gatherings of more than two people.

They took their case to the Constitutional Court after two lower courts sided with the local authorities and maintained the ban on demonstrations even though organisers had pledged to respect distancing rules during the march.

The Constitutional Court said a general ban on demonstrations would be unconstitutional and ordered them to review their decision. It stopped short of allowing the demonstration to go ahead.

Coronavirus crisis takes huge toll on Europe’s economy

13:15 GMT – Africa CDC to distribute 1 million tests

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) will roll outa million COVID-19 test kits next week to help countries across the continent tackle a glaring shortfall in testing.

“There is a big gap on the continent on testing,” John Nkengasong, Africa CDC dirctor, said at a weekly press conference at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. “Something has to be done.”

“Maybe 15 million tests” will be required in Africa over the next three months, Nkengasong added.

Across the continent, 17,247 cases have been confirmed so far, including 911 deaths. More than 3,500 people have recovered.

Find out more here.

COVID-19 adds to DR Congo’s multiple health crises

12:55 GMT – US purged another 5.2m jobs     

Amid the worsening economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic, another 5.2 million US workers were jobless and seeking unemployment benefits last week, the government has said.      

The data through April 11 indicate the world’s largest economy has purged 22 million jobs since mid-March as the measures to contain the virus has forced companies, shops and restaurants to close their doors.

Read more here.

12:45 GMT – US Pentagon chief criticises China as misleading, opaque

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper has said he believes China’s leaders have been misleading and opaque about the coronavirus outbreak that originated in the country and does not trust that they are being truthful even now.

Continuing the Trump administration’s criticism of China’s handling of the virus outbreak, Esper told NBC’s “Today” show he finds it difficult to believe information from the Chinese Communist Party.

“They’ve been misleading us, they’ve been opaque if you will from the early days of this virus. So I don’t have much faith that they’re even being truthful with us now,” he said.

Trump says virus curbs to be lifted in some states as cases peak

12:35 GMT – India hospital segregates Muslim and Hindu virus patients 

In what many are calling a case of “apartheid” during a global pandemic, a government-run hospital in Ahmedabad, the main city in the western Indian state of Gujarat, has segregated coronavirus patients based on their religion, claiming the order came from the government.

“Generally, there are separate wards for male and female patients. But here, we have made separate wards for Hindu and Muslim patients. It is a decision of the government and you can ask them,” Dr Gunvant H Rathod, the medical superintendent of Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, told  The Indian Express newspaper in its report on Wednesday.

Read more here

A doctor wearing protective gear takes a swab from a woman to test for coronavirus at a residential area in Ahmedabad, India [Amit Dave/Reuters]

12:30 GMT – Dutch cases rise by 1,061 to 29,214

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Netherlands rose by 1,061 to 29,214, health authorities have said, with 181 new deaths.

The total death toll in the country is 3,315, the Netherlands’ Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said in its daily update. 

12:20 GMT – UK must not move too soon on easing measures: PM’s spokesman

Britain must not undo all the progress it has made in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak by easing social distancing measures too soon, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

Asked when the government expected to ease restrictions, the spokesman told reporters: “We’ll be guided by scientific and expert advice … We must not undo all of the progress which has been made so far by releasing the social distancing measures too soon.” 

He also repeated the government’s pledge to reach 100,000 tests by the end of the month.

“Testing is going to be hugely important in finding … the key to unlocking a way out of this pandemic and we need to keep working hard at it,” he said. 

12:15 GMT – Nairobi governor gives out cognac to ‘kill’ virus

The flamboyant governor of Kenya’s capital Nairobi has distributed bottles of cognac to the poor, saying it protects against the new coronavirus, though the drink maker and national government chided him for propagating a myth.

Mike Mbuvi Sonko, known for his chunky gold jewellery, impromptu raps and arrest last year, posted images of Hennessey bottles tucked inside food packages with flour and other staples on social media this week.

“We are giving some small bottles of Hennessey in the food packs that we are giving to our people,” Sonko said in a video, wearing a face mask and shield.

LVMH, the world’s biggest luxury goods group which makes Hennessey cognac, said Sonko was wrong and warned that “our brand or any other alcoholic beverage does not protect against the virus”.

Nairobi’s Governor Mike Sonko has been criticised for saying people should use cognac to kill the coronavirus [Thomas Mukoya/Reuters]

12:10 GMT – South Africa to allow mines to operate at 50 percent capacity

South Africa will allow mines to operate at a capacity of 50 percent during a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, speaking notes for a briefing by ministers on planned amendments to government regulations show.

Mines minister Gwede Mantashe said during the briefing that the government would allow the phased recall of workers to some mines and that there were risks if some deep-level mines were left alone for a long time.

Coronavirus fallout: IMF says Nigeria economy to shrink by 3.4 %

12:00 GMT – Austria plans to test all retirement home residents

Austria, one of the more successful countries in Europe at flattening the curve of coronavirus infections, plans to test every retirement home resident as it expands efforts to measure the pandemic’s spread, its health minister has said.

The Alpine republic acted early in its outbreak to shut schools, bars, restaurants, non-essential shops and other gathering places roughly four weeks ago. It has told the public to stay at home and work from there if possible.

“The very strong focus in the coming weeks will be the testing of all staff and all residents of retirement and care homes. We are talking, ladies and gentlemen, about 130,000 people,” Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said.

11:45 GMT – Japan PM Abe expands state of emergency nationwide     

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has extended a state of emergency due to the coronavirus to cover the whole country to stem the spread of the disease.     

“Areas where a state of emergency should be carried out will be expanded from the seven prefectures to all prefectures,” Abe told a special meeting of medical experts called to discuss the disease.     

Abe had already declared a month-long state of emergency in seven regions, including Tokyo, where a recent spike in cases has prompted warnings that emergency medical facilities could collapse.

Asia Pacific countries react: IMF warn of economic depression

11:40 GMT – Gulf Arab states to create food supply safety network: Kuwait News Agency

The Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) six Arab monarchies have approved Kuwait’s proposal for a common network for food supply safety, the state-run Kuwait News Agency has reported.

The decision was taken after a virtual meeting of GCC trade and industry ministers to discuss the COVID-19 outbreak’s impact on food supply safety.

11:35 GMT – India says Zoom ‘not a safe platform’ for video conferencing

India said has video conferencing software Zoom is “not a safe platform”, joining other countries that have expressed concern about the security of an application that has become hugely popular worldwide during the coronavirus lockdown.

US-based Zoom Video Communications Inc has apologised for security flaws and says it is working to fix them. Problems have included “Zoombombing”, when uninvited users gatecrash a video conference.

Taiwan and Germany have already curbed the use of Zoom, while Google banned the desktop version from corporate laptops this month.

A student takes online classes at home, with his companions, using the Zoom App during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in El Masnou, north of Barcelona, Spain [Albert Gea/Reuters]

11:20 GMT – 18 killed by Nigeria security forces over lockdown: Rights body     

Nigerian security agents have killed 18 people in their enforcement of measures to curb coronavirus, a toll higher than that inflicted by the disease itself, the country’s human rights body said.     

The National Human Rights Commission said in a report late on Wednesday “there were 8 documented incidents of extrajudicial killings leading to 18 deaths.”

11:10 GMT – Russia to spell out stance on UN Security Council truce plea 

Russia will spell out its stance on the UN’s call for a global truce, so the world can focus on the coronavirus epidemic, in the coming days after consultations are completed, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said he has secured the agreement of three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, to back the call and hopes Russia, which is also a member, will support it.

Migrants wearing protective face masks walk in front of Russian flag graffiti in Moscow, Russia [Maxim Shipenkov/EPA]

11:00 GMT – EU says virus-tracking apps must not use personal location data 

European Union (EU) countries using mobile apps to contain the spread of the coronavirus should ensure such apps comply with the bloc’s privacy rules and avoid using personalised location data, the bloc’s executive Commission has said.

The recommendations are part of a unified European approach on using technology to combat COVID-19 and come after several EU countries rolled out a variety of apps, triggering criticism from data privacy activists.

10:40 GMT – Wife of Japan’s Abe criticised for group shrine visit

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife is facing criticism on social media over a report she visited a shrine last month with about 50 people, adding to public disapproval of how the premier has handled the coronavirus crisis.

The prime minister’s support has been hurt by what critics say is a timid and sluggish response to the outbreak, and by widespread criticism that he has appeared tone deaf to the severity of the crisis in his own social media posts.

Abe’s wife, Akie, was trending topic on Japanese Twitter on Thursday, with her name gaining more than 17,000 retweets by mid-morning after a weekly magazine said she had visited a shrine in southwest Japan on March 15.

The Japanese PM announced the restriction will take effect on April 29 [File: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Reuters]

10:15 GMT – Spain sees 551 new deaths as toll passes 19,000

The total number of people who have died from the new coronavirus in Spain rose to 19,130, the Spanish health ministry has said.

Over the past 24 hours, 551 people died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, up from 523 the previous day, according to the ministry.

The overall number of cases of those infected in the country rose to 182,816, from 177,633 on Wednesday.

10:05 GMT – Pandemic could cause upheaval across Middle East: Red Cross

Coronavirus outbreaks across the Middle East threaten to shatter the lives of millions of already destitute people in conflict zones, and could fuel socio-economic upheaval, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said.

Curfews and lockdowns imposed as public health measures to stem spread of the virus are already making it difficult or impossible for many to provide for their families, the organisation says.

“The Middle East is today facing the twin threats of potential mass virus outbreaks in conflict zones and looming socio-economic upheaval. Both crises could have severe humanitarian consequences,” Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC director for the Near and Middle East, said in statement naming in a statement naming Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Gaza, Lebanon and Jordan.

The ICRC statement did not refer to Iran, which has the region’s biggest outbreak, but a spokeswoman said it was supporting the Iranian Red Crescent society.

Yemen: Displaced people at higher risk of COVID-19 in camps

09:45 GMT – Europe cases almost at 1 million, coming weeks ‘critical’

Europe is currently in eye of the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the number of cases nearing a million, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) European regional director says.

“Case numbers across the region continue to climb. In the past 10 days, the number of cases reported in Europe has nearly doubled to close to 1 million,” the WHO’s Hans Kluge told reporters in an online briefing.

This meant that about 50 percent of the global burden of COVID-19 was in Europe, Kluge said. More than 84,000 people in Europe had died in the epidemic, he said.

“The storm clouds of this pandemic still hang heavily over the European region,” Kluge said. While some countries were entering a period where they may be able to ease restrictions gradually, “there is no fast track back to normal”.

UK protective gear: Government criticised over distribution

09:30 GMT – Chilean author Luis Sepulveda dies in Spain

Best-selling Chilean writer Luis Sepulveda has died at a hospital in northern Spain some six weeks after testing positive for coronavirus, his publishing house says. He was 70.     

“The writer Luis Sepúlveda has died in Oviedo,” a statement by Barcelona-based Tusquets says, adding it “deeply regretted his loss”.

09:20 GMT – Hungary extends national lockdown to contain spread of coronavirus

Hungary is extending lockdown measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus by one week from Saturday, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said at a media conference.

The government would review the need to maintain the lockdown each Wednesday, Gergely Gulyas said.

Municipal governments would be allowed to impose special restrictions at the weekend again to ensure local communities are protected, he said. 

09:05 GMT – Indonesia reports 380 new infections, 27 deaths

Indonesia has confirmed 380 new coronavirus infections, taking the total in the Southeast Asian country to 5,516, according to a health ministry official Achmad Yurianto.

Yurianto reports 27 new deaths, taking the total to 496, while 548 have recovered. Almost 40,000 tests have been performed, while patients suspected of carrying the virus symptoms reached more than 11,800 people.

Indonesian prisoners approaching the end of their sentences are released to avoid the possibility of a surge in coronavirus infection in overcrowded prisons in Depok, near Jakarta, Indonesia [Reuters]

09:00 GMT – Dutch study suggests 3 percent of population may have antibodies

A study of Dutch blood donors has found that around 3 percent have developed antibodies against the new coronavirus, health authorities have said, an indication of what percentage of the Dutch population may have already had the disease.

The head of the National Institute for Health (RIVM), Jaap van Dissel, disclosed the results during a debate with parliament.

“This study shows that about 3 percent of Dutch people have developed antibodies against the coronavirus,” Van Dissel said. “You can calculate from that, it’s several hundred thousand people” in a country of 17 million.

There are 28,158 confirmed coronavirus cases in the Netherlands, but only the very ill and healthcare workers are currently being tested.

08:40 GMT – UK street Artist Banksy posts lockdown art

The anonymous UK artist Banksy, known for politically charged imagery usually posted in public places, is displaying the art he’s created while in lockdown. 

“My wife hates it when I work from home,” he wrote in an Instagram post showing one new piece of art that depicts several mice causing havoc in a bathroom.

View this post on Instagram

. . My wife hates it when I work from home.

A post shared by Banksy (@banksy) on

08:30 GMT – How an anti-malarial drug has become a tool of India’s diplomacy

Days after India banned the export of pharmaceuticals amid the coronavirus pandemic, it reversed its decision after US President Donald Trump last week demanded New Delhi ship anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to the United States.

Foreign policy experts in India expressed shock at Trump’s threat of retaliation against India – a close trade and security ally of the US. But New Delhi’s decision to export HCQ seems to have changed the US president’s tune immediately.

“Extraordinary times require even closer cooperation between friends. Thank you India and the Indian people for the decision on HCQ. Will not be forgotten! Thank you Prime Minister @NarendraModi for your strong leadership in helping not just India, but humanity, in this fight!” tweeted Trump.

Read more about India’s anti-malarial drug diplomacy here

A chemist displays hydroxychloroquine tablets in New Delhi, India [File: Manish Swarup/The Associated Press]

08:20 GMT – Philippines reports 13 new deaths, 207 more infections

The Philippine health ministry is reporting 13 new coronavirus deaths and 207 additional infections.

In a bulletin, the health ministry says total deaths have reached 362 while infections have increased to 5,660, with the Philippines recording the most cases in Southeast Asian nations. But 82 patients have recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 435, it added.

08:10 GMT – Japan to convene experts meeting about expanding emergency

The Japanese government will hold a meeting with a panel of experts to consult about whether to expand the country’s partial state of emergency, chief spokesman Yoshihide Suga says.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is preparing to expand the state of emergency that he has declared for seven of Japan’s 47 prefectures to the rest of the nation in a bid to contain the coronavirus, local media reported earlier on Thursday. 

08:05 GMT – China says WHO has said no evidence virus was made in a lab

China’s foreign ministry says the WHO has said there is no evidence that the coronavirus that has infected more than 2 million people globally was made in a lab.

Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian made the remark in response to a question about accusations the coronavirus originated in a lab in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the epidemic first emerged in late 2019.

Who’s to blame, Trump or the WHO?

08:00 GMT – Russia reports nearly 28,000 total cases after new record daily rise

Russia is reporting 3,448 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, up from 3,388 the day earlier, the highest daily increase to date. 

The overall number of cases in Russia has reached 27,938. Thirty-four people died in the last 24 hours, which took the national coronavirus death toll to 232, the Russian coronavirus crisis response centre said.

07:50 GMT – UK pregnant nurse dies after contracting virus, baby saved

A pregnant nurse has died after contracting the coronavirus but her baby, a girl, was delivered successfully and is doing well, according to the British hospital where she worked. 

Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong, 28, who had worked as a nurse on a general ward at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, to the north of London, died on Sunday. It was not clear if the baby had tested positive for the disease. The Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust says that Ms Agyapong tested positive on April 5 and was admitted to the hospital she worked at on April 7.

“It is with great sadness that I can confirm the death of one of our nurses, Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong, who passed away on Sunday,” said David Carter, chief executive of the trust, in a statement. 

“Mary worked here for five years and was a highly valued and loved member of our team, a fantastic nurse and a great example of what we stand for in this trust,” he said. “Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with Mary’s family and friends at this sad time.”

COVID-19: The devastating effect on health workers

07:40 GMT – UK to keep some social distancing until vaccine available: Epidemiologist

The UK will probably have to maintain some level of social distancing until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is available, says Neil Ferguson, a professor who has helped shape the government’s response to the pandemic.

“We will have to maintain some level of social distancing, a significant level of social distancing, probably indefinitely until we have a vaccine available,” Ferguson told BBC radio on Thursday. 

07:25 GMT – Japan to expand state of emergency to rest of country: Report

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is preparing to expand the state of emergency that Japan has declared for seven of its 47 prefectures so far to the rest of the nation in a bid to contain the coronavirus, the Yomiuri newspaper is reporting.

Abe declared the state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures accounting for about 44 percent of Japan’s population on April 7, to last through May 6. The nationwide emergency would last for the same duration, the newspaper reports.<

07:15 GMT – East Timor says cases more than double to 18

East Timor has confirmed 10 more cases of coronavirus, taking its tally to 18, says Odete Maria Viegas, an official of the country’s crisis management centre.

The southeast Asian nation reported its first case on March 21 but has not recorded any deaths among its population of less than 1.3 million. One person has recovered.

A Timorese policeman wearing a face mask asks motorists to only be one person per bike to ensure social distancing amid the coronavirus outbreak in Dili [Valentino Dariell de Sousa/AFP]

07:10 GMT – ‘Too early’ to lift UK lockdown but outbreak peaking: Minister says

The United Kingdom’s novel coronavirus outbreak is starting to peak but it is too early to lift the lockdown because the virus would “run rampant” if the government eased social distancing measures, Health Minister Matt Hancock says.

“We think it is too early to make a change,” Hancock said. “While we’ve seen a flattening of the number of cases, and thankfully a flattening of the number of deaths, that hasn’t started to come down yet.”

The United Kingdom’s hospital death toll from COVID-19 rose by 761 to 12,868 as of 1600 on April 14, the health ministry says, though broader statistics suggest the total toll is much larger.

“If we just released all the measures now then this virus would run rampant once again and we can’t let that happen,” Hancock said.

Denmark eases restrictions to halt virus for schools

07:00 GMT – Trump steps up pressure on China as US deaths mount

The US is stepping up its pressure on China over the coronavirus pandemic, with President Donald Trump saying that his administration was trying to determine where the deadly disease originated from, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling on Beijing “to come clean” on what it knows.

At a White House news conference on Wednesday, Trump was asked about the reports of the virus escaping from a laboratory in Wuhan, where the coronavirus first appeared.

“We are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation that happened,” he said.

Read more here

Critics say that US President Donald Trump is trying to shift the blame as the deaths linked to the coronavirus pandemic continue to rise in the United States [Leah Millis/Reuters]

06:45 GMT – Dutch new unemployment claims soar 42 percent

The number of people filing for unemployment benefits in the Netherlands soared 42 percent in March as many businesses were shut down in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

The Dutch federal employment agency on Thursday says it had paid benefits to 37,800 new unemployed in March, an increase of 11,200 from the month before. The strongest increases were among people who used to work in restaurants and bars and among people under 25 years of age, the agency said.

The Dutch government on March 15 ordered all restaurants, bars, museums, sport facilities and other public places in the Netherlands to shut down in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

06:30 GMT – Poland to reopen parks and forests on Monday as it starts easing curbs

Poland will reopen parks and forests on Monday and then revise the rules on the number of customers allowed in shops, as the country starts to loosen its coronavirus lockdown, State Assets Minister Jacek Sasin says.

Poland’s prime minister is expected to announce on Thursday details of the government’s plan for easing restrictions on public life, which were launched to curb the spread of the virus.

“Final decisions will be taken today. I think that first, starting from Monday we can expect opening of forests, green areas,” Sasin told private radio RMF. He added that Poland will also revise the rules on the number of customers allowed in shops at a time, but did not say when they would come into effect.

Women applaud on their balconies as they join the action #BrawaDlaWas (#ApplaudingYou) to appreciate all healthcare professionals, during the outbreak of the coronavirus in Gdynia, Poland [Matej Leskovsek/Reuters]

06:15 GMT – Twenty sailors remain in hospital after French navy outbreak

Around 20 French sailors remain in hospital following a large outbreak of the coronavirus in the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle’s naval group, a spokesman for the French navy says.

“There are about 20 at the moment in hospital. Out of the 20, one is in the re-animation ward and in a stable case,” spokesman Eric Lavault told RMC radio.

On Wednesday, the French armed forces ministry said 1,767 marines – nearly all from the Charles de Gaulle carrier itself – had been evaluated and at least 668 had tested positive for the virus.

European Commission: Members should coordinate on virus curbs

06:00 GMT – World War II Captain Tom, 99, raises $15 million for UK health service

Tom Moore, a 99-year-old British war veteran walking his garden for the UK National Health Service, has raised more than $15 million.

The Retired army captain, who has has used a walker move around since breaking his hip, has set himself the target of walking the 25 metres around his garden 100 times before his 100th birthday later this month.

Moore is due to turn 100 on April 30.

05:45 GMT – IMF boss says UK should seek longer Brexit transition

Britain should ask for an extension to its post-Brexit transition period to ease uncertainty at a time when the world economy is being hammered by the coronavirus pandemic, the head of the International Monetary Fund says.

“It is tough as it is. Let’s not make it any tougher,” Kristalina Georgieva, the IMF’s managing director, told BBC radio in comments broadcast on Thursday.

“My advice would be to seek ways in which this element of uncertainty is reduced in the interests of everybody, of the UK, of the EU, the whole world.”

05:30 GMT – Germany cases rise by 2,866, deaths by 315

Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases have risen by 2,866 to 130,450, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases shows, meaning the number of new infections rose for a second consecutive day.

The reported death toll has risen by 315 to 3,569, the tally shows.

How is coronavirus impacting prisoners? | The Stream

05:15 GMT – Australia says restrictions to continue for at least four more weeks

Australia will keep in place restrictions implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus for at least four more weeks, says Prime Minister Scott Morrison, despite signs that Canberra has been successful in slowing infection rates.

Morrison says Australia will over the next month expand testing, improve its capacity to trace contacts of known coronavirus cases, and plan a response to any further local outbreaks.

Morrison says these three steps will be finished within four weeks, and Australia will then review the restrictions that include curtailing the movements of residents, and the closures of schools, restaurants and pubs.

05:00 GMT – Thailand reports 29 new cases, 3 new deaths

Thailand is reporting 29 new coronavirus cases and 3 new deaths, bringing it to a total of 2,672 cases and 46 fatalities since the outbreak there escalated in January.

Of the new cases, 14 patients are linked to previous cases, five have no links to old cases, and 10 who tested positive are awaiting investigation into how they were infected, says Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government’s Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration.

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Hello, this is Joseph Stepansky in Doha taking over from my colleague Zaheena Rasheed .

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04:46 GMT – New Zealand outlines plan to ease coronavirus curbs

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, says most restrictions on movement and social contact will remain in place even if the country eases a strict nationwide lockdown.

Legislators in New Zealand will decide whether to ease the level four lockdown on Monday.

Under Ardern’s level three plan, some businesses can reopen if they comply with health and safety requirements and contactless engagement with customers. Restaurants and some shops can open, but only for online and phone purchases and contactless delivery.

Primary schools will reopen but attendance will be voluntary. Funerals and weddings can take place, but are limited to 10 people.

“By design, Level 3 is a progression, not a rush to normality. It carries forward many of the restrictions in place at Level 4, including the requirement to mainly be at home in your bubble and to limit contact with others,” she says.

04:20 GMT – South Korea goes back to school, but classrooms remain empty

Schools began to open in South Korea last week, with teachers at government schools conducting classes virtually for middle and high school students in their final year.

The remaining students at middle and high schools and some elementary school students will begin remote learning today.

The move to online classes is triggering mixed emotions, however, with many teachers lamenting lack of training in the use of digital tools.

Read more on this from Kelly Kasulis in Seoul.

Teacher Chung Ha-eun gives an online class amid the new coronavirus outbreak at Seoul girls’ high school in Seoul on April 9, 2020 [Ahn Young-joon/ AP]

03:43 GMT – Singapore quarantines ninth worker dormitory as cases hit daily high

Gan Kim Yong, Singapore’s health minister, is placing a ninth foreign-worker dormitory under lockdown following the detection of a new cluster at Mandai Lodge 1.

The move comes as Singapore reported a record 447 new cases on Wednesday, of which 404 involved migrant workers residing in dormitories.

The figure brings the city state’s total confirmed cases to 3,699. Ten people have died from the coronavirus in Singapore.

03:28 GMT – Breweries in Japan shift from sake to sanitiser

Sake breweries across Japan are producing high-alcohol content liquids for use in place of the alcohol-based sanitisers amid a shortage of disinfectants, Kyodo news agency reports.

Kazuki Haruta, president of Kikisui Sake Co in Kochi prefecture, tells Kyodo he received more than 10,000 orders and inquiries after producing a disinfecting spirit with 77 percent alcohol.

“I was surprised by how many inquiries we received from hospitals and medical staff as well,” he says.

Breweries in Ibaraki, Toyama and Okinawa prefectures have also released similar products, Kyodo reports.

On April 10, Japan’s health ministry approved the use of alcoholic drinks as hand sanitisers due to dire shortages of the product in Japan. 

02:21 GMT – Residents of New York and Maryland told to wear face masks 

The governors of the US states of New York and Maryland and Pennsylvania are ordering residents to wear face masks in public spaces.

“I am issuing an Executive Order today that all people MUST wear a mask or face covering in public in situations where social distancing is not possible,” says Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York. The order takes effect on Friday. 

Larry Hogan, the governor of Maryland, says masks and face coverings will be required “when inside any retail establishments, including grocery stores and pharmacies, or when riding any form of public transportation in Maryland”. The order is effective from Saturday onwards.

The governors of Connecticut and Pennsylvania are also recommending residents of their states wear masks in public. 

01:38 GMT – South Korea’s governing party set to win landslide victory

South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party (DP) is set for a landslide victory in parliamentary elections, according to preliminary results in a win local media say shows high support for President Moon Jae-in’s efforts to fight the coronavirus.

The DP and its ally are likely to secure 180 seats in the 330-member assembly, the Yonhap news agency reports citing electoral authorities. The main opposition United Future Party is likely to win 103 seats, it adds.

The preliminary voter turnout stands at 66.2 percent, the highest in 28 years.

South Korea has recorded a total of 10,613 confirmed infections and 229 deaths from the coronavirus so far. In February, it had the largest outbreak outside of China, but brought the virus under control with a programme of mass testing and meticulous contact tracing. 

01:26 GMT – China reports new cases of local transmission in Beijing

Health authorities in China are reporting 46 new cases of confirmed coronavirus infections, of which 34 are imported and 12 are domestic transmissions. 

Of the 12 local cases, three are in China’s capital, Beijing, five in Guangdong province and four in Heilongjiang province. 

There are no new cases in Hubei, the province formerly at the epicentre of China’s outbreak. 

00:10 GMT – Asia’s economic growth ‘to drop to zero for first time in 60 years’

The IMF says the coronavirus pandemic is likely to bring Asia’s economic growth to a standstill for the first time in 60 years.

“These are highly uncertain and challenging times for the global economy. The Asia-Pacific region is no exception. The impact of the coronavirus on the region will be severe, across the board, and unprecedented,” says Changyong Rhee, director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department.

Governments must offer targeted support to hardest-hit households and firms, he says, adding that the crisis requires “a comprehensive and coordinated policy response”. 

The zero growth projection for Asia is worse than the 4.7 percent average growth rates recorded in the region during the global financial crisis of 2008. 


Hello, I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives, with Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. You can find all the updates from yesterday, April 15, here

Source : Al Jazeera

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