‘No evidence’ recovered virus patients are immune: Live updates

WHO warning over ‘immunity passports’ comes as death toll from coronavirus pandemic reaches 200,000.

Paramedics of the LAFD Station No9 leave an unidentified man on the street, after giving him treatment in downtown Los Angeles, California. One of the busiest fire station in the country , LA Fire Station 9 is on the front lines of California''s homeless crisis e Coronavirus pandemic.
Apu GOMES / AFP [AFP]
Paramedics of the LAFD Station No9 leave an unidentified man on the street, after giving him treatment in downtown Los Angeles, California. One of the busiest fire station in the country , LA Fire Station 9 is on the front lines of California''s homeless crisis e Coronavirus pandemic. Apu GOMES / AFP [AFP]
  • The coronavirus global death toll exceeded the 200,000 threshold, according to a tally by the Johns Hopkins University.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) warned against countries issuing so-called “immunity passports” to those recovered from COVID-19, saying there is no evidence yet the previously infected cannot be reinfected.

  • In the United Kingdom, an additional 813 people died in hospital after testing positive for the disease caused by the new coronavirus, bringing the country’s total to 20,319.

  • India allowed a limited reopening of shops in neighbourhoods and residential areas, a month after the country of some 1.3 billion people went into lockdown.
  • Worldwide, the number of confirmed infections stood at more than 2.88 million people, with some 813,000 recoveries.

Here are the latest updates:

Saturday, April 25

23:58 GMT – 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.”

23:32 GMT – British PM will be back at work on Monday, office says

Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister, will be back at work on Monday after having recovered from a case of coronavirus, according to a Downing Street spokeswoman.

Johnson, 55, who showed the symptoms of COVID-19, was taken to St Thomas’ Hospital in central London on April 5. He spent April 6-9 in intensive care.

20:45 GMT – Algeria allows businesses to reopen 

Algeria took further steps to ease coronavirus-related restrictions by allowing several businesses to reopen “to reduce the economic and social impact of the health crisis” caused by the pandemic, according to the prime minister’s office.

Shops that will reopen included those for materials for building and public works, appliances, fabrics, jewellery, clothing and shoes, cosmetics and perfumes, home and office furniture, pastries and hairdressers in addition to urban transport by taxi.

The government on Thursday decided to ease confinement measures by shortening the curfew for some provinces but called on citizens to be “vigilant”. That measure came hours before the start of Ramadan on Friday.

20:25 GMT – Will global collaboration against COVID-19 succeed?

It is being called a “landmark collaboration”.

The World Health Organization, heads of government and research bodies have come together to coordinate the fight against COVID-19.

They have pledged to work together to find a vaccine and make sure everyone has equal access to treatments and diagnostic tests.

But the United States is not taking part after President Donald Trump accused the WHO of mishandling the crisis.

So how do we overcome the huge challenges ahead? Watch Inside Story below.

 

20:05 GMT – Nigeria governors seek to make masks compulsory

Nigerian state governors have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to approve the compulsory use of face masks in public, according to a letter seen by the Reuters news agency.

The 36 governors believed Buhari’s approval was needed to ensure a uniform and coordinated policy at federal and state levels to tackle the virus, the letter from the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) said.

The presidency declined to comment on whether Buhari had received the letter or would act on the advice.

Two presidency sources told Reuters the request had taken the form of a suggestion to the president’s taskforce on COVID-19. They said the taskforce would brief him on the suggestion on Sunday.

19:45 GMT – US CDC reports 895,766 cases, 50,439 deaths

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 895,766 cases of new coronavirus, an increase of 30,181 cases from its previous count, and said the number of deaths has risen by 1,623 to 50,439.

The CDC reported its tally of COVID-19 cases, as of 4pm ET (20:00 GMT) on April 24, compared with its count a day earlier. 

19:30 GMT – French PM to present plan to unwind lockdown

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

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. 

The prime minister’s statement next week will be followed by a debate and a vote at parliament [Reuters]

19:15 GMT – Restarting Canada economy do not hinge on virus ‘immunity’ levels: PM

Plans under way to restart the economies of Canadian provinces do not depend on presuming people who become infected with coronavirus develop immunity to it, said Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister.

The WHO said earlier there was “no evidence” that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.

“I don’t believe there are any plans that hinge on certain people being immune to COVID-19,” Trudeau said in his daily briefing in Ottawa, adding that provincial plans focus on preventing the spread through social distancing and protective equipment in workplaces.

18:30 GMT – Spain to allow outdoor exercise if cases continue to fall

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said people will be allowed out to exercise from May 2 if the number of new coronavirus cases continued to fall.

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.

In an address to the nation, Sanchez said people would be permitted outside for sport or to go for a walk with a person with whom they live if the evolution of the pandemic “remains favourable”.

17:55 GMT – Global coronavirus death toll exceeds 200,000

More than 200,000 people have died globally as a result of the novel coronavirus, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The global death toll stood at 200,697, the university’s data showed.

17:35 GMT – Germans protest against lockdown in Berlin

German police wearing riot gear and face masks tussled with dozens of protesters demonstrating in central Berlin against the coronavirus lockdown on public life.

Protesters shouted “I want my life back” and held up signs with slogans such as “Protect constitutional rights”, “Freedom isn’t everything but without freedom, everything is nothing”, and “Daddy, what is a kiss?”

Police said on Twitter they had arrested more than 100 people.

Police said on Twitter they had arrested more than 100 people [Anadolu] 

17:20 GMT – Turkey’s death toll rises to 2,706

Turkey recorded 2,861 coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, and 106 more people died, taking the death toll to 2,706, health ministry data showed.

The total number of cases stood at 107,773, the highest total in any country outside western Europe or the US.

A total of 25,582 people have so far recovered from the new coronavirus, which causes respiratory disease COVID-19. The number of tests carried out in the past 24 hours was 38,308.

17:00 GMT – Death toll rises to 22,614 in France

The death toll in France from the coronavirus has risen by 369 to 22,614, the health ministry said, as the government scrutinises data to see how it might ease lockdown, in place since mid-March.

The ministry said 124 patients were admitted to intensive care units over the last 24 hours although the daily death toll from COVID-19 has fallen steadily over the past two weeks.

President Emmanuel Macron is aiming to ease some lockdown measures on May 11 with schools reopening first, although the government has yet to finalise how it might work in practice.

16:27 GMT – Stamping out misinformation in Kenya

Maureen Akinyi has experienced a lot in her seven years as a front-line volunteer for Kenya Red Cross – but nothing like this.

“It’s different [now] because I’m scared. Personally, it is also difficult,” she said.

Still, the health crisis unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic is not stopping Akinyi. As one of Kenya Red Cross’s 160,000 countrywide volunteers, she has been setting out onto the streets of Nairobi to provide critical information about COVID-19.

Read Georgina Smith’s story from Nairobi here.

Red Cross Kenya volunteers raising COVID-19 awareness in [Georgina Smith/ Al Jazeera]

16:20 GMT – US airlines receive extra $9.5bn payroll support: Treasury

The US Treasury Department disbursed $9.5bn in additional funds from the Payroll Support Program to US air carriers, bringing the total amount provided to the sector hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic to $12.4bn, the department said.

“Since announcing the first Payroll Support Program payments to passenger air carriers on April 20, Treasury has disbursed an additional $9.5bn in initial payments to approved applicants, including an additional 8 major airlines and 29 smaller passenger air carriers,” it said in a statement.

A total of 93 air carriers have received funds from the programme since the first disbursements were made to passenger carriers on April 20,

15:55 GMT – Japan economy minister cancels appearances

A key government official in charge of Japan’s economic response to the coronavirus pandemic called off his public appearances to work from home after it was discovered that he had been in contact with a member of staff who tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Cabinet Office said Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura had cancelled a media briefing scheduled for 05:00 GMT and would not attend a separate meeting later in the day.

In a statement, the office said it had discovered that Nishimura had visited a university hospital last week with an office staff member who later tested positive for the virus.

15:20 GMT – Lockdown put UK nature reserves at risk

Tough restrictions have placed an enormous financial strain on the UK’s reserves dependent on visitor revenue.

The loss in revenue puts conservation work on hold and without visitor revenues, the reserves can survive not long until unless it can secure additional support.

14:50 GMT – UK coronavirus hospital deaths crosses 20,000

The death toll from the new coronavirus in hospitals across the UK crossed 20,000 after hospitals recorded 711 deaths in 24 hours, taking the previous day’s UK death toll of 19,506 over the grim milestone.

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, as of 5pm on April 24, 20,319 of the coronavirus patients hospitalised in the UK have died.

In mid-March, the government’s chief scientific adviser had said that keeping the death toll below 20,000 would be a “good outcome”.

The country has the fifth-highest official coronavirus death toll in the world, after the US, Italy, Spain and France.

14:35 GMT – Civilian shot dead in Somalia during coronavirus enforcement

A police officer in Somalia’s capital has been arrested in the fatal shooting of at least one civilian while enforcing coronavirus restrictions, officer Ahmed Muse said.

The shooting on Friday evening sparked protests in Mogadishu that continued the next day with crowds of angry young men burning tyres and demanding justice.

There has been growing anger among some residents over alleged abuses by security forces, including beatings, while enforcing virus-related restrictions.

The country’s police chief fired the commissioner in charge of security in Bondhere district where the shooting occurred.

Read more here.

14:00 GMT – Air France-KLM: Voluntary redundancies first step in cost-cutting 

Air France-KLM Chief Executive Ben Smith was quoted as saying that voluntary redundancies would be part of the airline’s initial cost-cutting plans, and that costs at its ‘HOP’ arm were not viable as things stood.

Smith made his remarks in an interview with Les Echos newspaper just hours after Air France KLM secured 7 billion euros ($7.6bn) in French government aid, as the airline industry struggles to survive the coronavirus crisis that has all but halted passenger traffic across much of the world.

Smith also told Les Echos that it could take two years, or possibly “even a bit longer”, before things returned to normal in the aviation industry.

13:45 GMT – South Africa to reopen agriculture sector

South Africa plans to reopen its agriculture sector and allow some manufacturing and retail to resume as the country balances the need to restart economic output and curb the spread of the new coronavirus, Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel said.

South Africa has spent a month under restrictions requiring most of the population to stay at home apart from essential trips, leaving many businesses and individuals struggling without income in the recession-hit economy.

The country is expected to move onto the fourth stage of the lockdown on Friday.

 South Africa is under restrictions requiring most of the population to stay at home apart from essential trips [Reuters]

13:20 GMT – Etihad extends suspension of scheduled flights

Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways said it would extend the suspension of scheduled passenger flights until at least May 16 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The airline, which had aimed to partially resume passenger flights from May 1, said in a statement all scheduled services would remain grounded until May 16 at the earliest. Earlier in the day, it had said the suspension would last until May 15.

Etihad and other UAE airlines have been operating outbound-only flights for foreigners who want to leave the Gulf Arab state, which has banned the entry of people from abroad due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

12:30 GMT – Poland to reopen playgrounds as it eases sport curbs

Poland plans to reopen outdoor sport areas on May 4 and will allow top league football matches to be played at the end of next month, as part of an easing of restrictions put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Poland started relaxing some of the curbs earlier in April, saying they were costly for the economy. It has reopened forests and parks and eased rules on the number of customers in shops.

By Saturday, the European Union member state of 38 million had reported 11,067 cases and 499 deaths.

“Sport is an important part of the national economy, which contributes to improving health and we are aware how important it is to restore normality,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference on Saturday.

12:10 GMT – Dutch cases rise above 37,000, with 120 new deaths

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Netherlands has risen by 655 to 37,190, health authorities said, with 120 new deaths.

The country’s death toll stands at 4,409, the Netherlands Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said in its daily update. The actual numbers are likely higher, as not all suspected cases are tested, the RIVM said.

11:40 GMT – Low-cost airline Wizz to restart some flights from UK’s Luton airport

Low-cost airline Wizz Air has said it would restart some flights from London’s Luton Airport on May 1, becoming one of the first European carriers to begin to restore services which have been grounded during the coronavirus pandemic.

Wizz said in a statement on Saturday that cabin crew would wear masks and gloves throughout flights and distribute sanitising wipes to each passenger. Its aircraft would be disinfected overnight, it added.

Flights to several destinations in Romania, plus Budapest in Hungary, Lisbon in Portugal, and Tenerife in Spain would be among those to restart, said Wizz.

11:20 GMT – Spain’s death toll rises to 22,902

Spain’s coronavirus death toll has risen to 22,902 up from 22,524 the day before, media reports said.

The number of daily deaths was 378, a slight increase on Friday’s 367, which was the lowest figure recorded in the past month.

The overall number of coronavirus cases rose to 223,759 from 219,764 the day before.

11:00 GMT – Russia reports 5,966 new cases in 24 hours

The number of new coronavirus cases in Russia has risen by 5,966 over the past 24 hours, bringing its nationwide tally to 74,588, the country’s coronavirus crisis response centre said.

It also reported 66 new deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, bringing the total death toll in Russia to 681.

The number of coronavirus cases in Russia began rising sharply this month, although it had reported far fewer infections than many western European countries in the early stages of the outbreak.

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

10:45 GMT – Sri Lanka reimposes lockdown after jump in cases

Sri Lanka has reimposed a countrywide 24-hour curfew after a surge in the number of coronavirus cases, most of them navy sailors who were searching for those evading quarantine.  

The 60 new infections on Friday were the highest in a day. The Indian Ocean island nation has confirmed 420 cases of the virus, including seven deaths. Sri Lanka partially lifted a month-long curfew on Monday during daytime hours in more than two-thirds of the country. The new curfew remains in effect until Monday. Police have arrested more than 30,000 violators.

Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez said there are security checkpoints around the country to enforce the measure. 

“There are more than 55,000 police personnel in the field, conducting random checks, along with the three armed forces to enforce this lockdown,” she said. 

10:30 GMT – From quake to coronavirus, knee-jerk response from Nepal leadership

Five years ago, 11-year-old Reshma Shrestha from Sindupalchowk district in Nepal stood outside her collapsed house, waiting for the body of her mother and infant brother to be dug out of the rubble. A powerful magnitude 7.8 earthquake had brought down thousands of houses in her district and made many more unlivable.

Five years on, with the country on lockdown as a response to COVID-19, the 16-year-old is afraid of losing loved ones, once again, Al Jazeera’s Subina Shrestha reports. 

Read more here

The first case of infection in Nepal was detected in early January [Sunil Pradha/Anadolu]

10:20 GMT – Iran death toll rises by 76 to 5,650

Iran’s death toll from the new coronavirus has risen by 76 to reach a total of 5,650, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on state TV.

The total number of people diagnosed with the disease is 89,328, of whom 3,096 are in a critical condition, he added

10:10 GMT – Outbreak hits Belarus home for disabled children

Several people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in an orphanage for 170 children with developmental disabilities in Belarus, the local authorities have said, without disclosing the exact number of cases. 

The first case of the virus had been found in one of the employees at the orphanage, according to the local authorities of the Mogilev region, where the institution is located. After that, tests were conducted with all employees and residents.

“Some have received positive test results. At present, most of them have no symptoms of the disease,” said a statement from the Executive Committee of the Mogilev region.

President Alexander Lukashenko has dismissed fears about the coronavirus outbreak as a “psychosis” and has not closed borders or imposed strict lockdown measures in the eastern European country. There were 8,773 confirmed coronavirus cases in Belarus as of Friday, of which 396 are in the Mogilev region in the east, and 63 deaths in total.

A general view of Nemiga Street is seen amid the coronavirus pandemic n Minsk, Belarus [Anadolu]

09:55 GMT – ‘No evidence’ yet that recovered COVID-19 patients cannot be reinfected: WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that there was currently “no evidence” that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second coronavirus infection.

In a statement, the United Nations agency warned against issuing “immunity passports” or “risk-free certificates” to people who have been infected, saying the practice may actually increase the risk of spread as they may ignore standard advice.

Chile said last week it would begin handing out “health passports” to people deemed to have recovered from the illness. Once screened to determine if they have developed antibodies to make them immune to the virus, they could immediately rejoin the workforce. Several other countries have made similar suggestions. 

09:40 GMT – Indonesia reports 396 new cases, 31 more deaths

Indonesia has reported 396 new coronavirus cases, taking the total number to 8,607, data provided by health ministry official Achmad Yurianto showed.

Thirty one more people who had tested positive for the virus died, taking the total number of deaths to 720, according to the data.

The world’s fourth most populous country has been hit hard by the virus, with the highest numbers of deaths in Asia outside of China.

US President Donald Trump announced on Friday he would be sending ventilators and unspecified help to Indonesia at the request of President Joko Widodo.

US nursing homes: Advocates say more coronavirus testing needed

09:20 GMT – Hundreds protest against lockdown at Polish-German border

Hundreds of people who live in Poland and work in Germany protested on Friday evening in the southwestern Polish border town of Zgorzelec against a mandatory coronavirus quarantine for those who cross the border.

The protest was staged on a footbridge connecting Zgorzelec and the German town of Gorlitz, which functioned as one town before the borders were closed starting March 15.

“I’ve been trapped at home for six weeks, can’t cross the border, go to work. I can’t go back to my students,” Mirella Binkiewicz, a teacher living in Zgorzelec and working in Gorlitz, told Reuters news agency.

Around 300 people gathered at the Polish side and some 100 at the German side, some wearing face masks. The two groups were separated by a provisional metal fence that has been erected in the middle of the bridge to prevent people from crossing the border.

Cross-border workers stage a protest at Polish-German border demanding to be exempt from the mandatory quarantine [Reuters]

09:10 GMT – Abu Dhabi’s Etihad extends suspension of scheduled flights to May 15

Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways has said it will extend its suspension of scheduled passenger flights until May 15.

The airline had previously said it would partially resume passenger flights from May 1.

Etihad and other UAE airlines have been operating outbound-only flights for foreigners wishing to leave the Gulf Arab state, which has banned the entry of foreigners due to the global coronavirus outbreak.

09:00 GMT – Tokyo confirms 103 new cases 

Tokyo has reported 103 new cases of coronavirus infections, Kyodo news reported, amid concerns that the start of a holiday season could lead to an increase in infections.

The latest figures bring total coronavirus infections in Japan’s capital city to 3,836 cases, Kyodo reported. Saturday’s daily increase was less than 161 new infections on Friday, and was the lowest since April 20.

On Saturday, the total number of coronavirus infections in Japan had reached nearly 13,000 cases, with 345 deaths, NHK said. The government has encouraged residents to stay indoors as much as possible during the Golden Week holiday period, which begins next week.

A cleaner pushes a cart past Tokyo 2020 Olympics adverts at Narita Airport amid lockdown [Carl Court/Getty Images]

08:40 GMT – Britain nears grim milestone of 20,000 deaths 

Britain could hit the grim milestone of 20,000 COVID-19 deaths later on Saturday, when the daily count is added to the current toll of 19,506 people who tested positive for the new coronavirus and died in hospital.

The death toll from COVID-19 in hospitals across the UK increased on Friday by 684 in 24 hours to 19,506.

Passing the 20,000 mark will be an uncomfortable moment for the government, whose Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said on March 17 that keeping the toll under that number would be “a good outcome in terms of where we would hope to get.” 

Britain has the fifth-highest official coronavirus death toll in the world, after the United States, Italy, Spain and France. Scientists have said that the death rate will start to decline quickly only in another couple of weeks.

London charity: Virus layoffs force families into poverty

08:25 GMT – Malaysia reports 51 new cases, 2 deaths

Malaysia has reported 51 new coronavirus infections and two deaths.

The total number of recorded cases is 5,742, with 98 fatalities, the health ministry said in a news conference.

08:20 GMT – Philippines records 17 new deaths, 102 more infections

The Philippines’ health ministry has reported 17 new coronavirus deaths and 102 additional infections.

In a bulletin, the health ministry said total infections have risen to 7,294 while deaths have increased to 494. Thirty more patients have recovered, bringing total recoveries to 792.

Should ‘wet markets’ be banned?

08:15 GMT – India, Pakistan ease restrictions for some small businesses 

The Indian government allowed a limited reopening of shops in neighbourhoods and residential areas from Saturday, more than a month after the nation went into lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, officials said. 

Late on Friday, the federal home ministry said retail shops could start operations with the staff number reduced by 50 percent, while also requiring appropriate social distancing, wearing of masks and gloves during work.

The sale of liquor and other non-essential items will continue to be prohibited, and no shops in large market places, multi-brand and single-brand malls will be allowed to open for business till May 3.

In neighbouring Pakistan, the government extended the nationwide lockdown till May 9, however, it is switching to a so-called “smart lockdown” from Saturday for targeted tracking and tracing of cases while allowing some industrial and commercial activities to begin under safety guidelines.

Read more here

People attend evening prayers while maintaining a level of social distancing to help avoid the spread of the coronavirus at a mosque in Karachi, Pakistan [Fareed Khan/The Associated Press]

08:00 GMT – Germany’s confirmed cases rise by 2,055 to 152,438

Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 2,055 to 152,438, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases has shown – a second day of deceleration after three days of acceleration in new infections.

On Friday confirmed coronavirus cases had increased by 2,337. The reported death toll rose by 179 to 5,500, the tally showed on Saturday. 

07:40 GMT – Singapore reports 618 new cases, taking total to 12,693 

Singapore has registered 618 new coronavirus infections, its health ministry has said, taking the city-state’s total number of COVID-19 cases to 12,693.

The vast majority of the new cases are migrant workers living in dormitories, the health ministry said in a statement. Seven are permanent residents.

The island of 5.7 million people now has one of the highest infection rates in Asia, according to official figures.

People wearing face masks as a prevention measure against the spread of the coronavirus show their identification card as they queue to enter a wet market in Singapore [Roslan Rahman/AFP]

07:30 GMT – Attention turns to China’s north as no new deaths reported for 10 days

China has reported no new deaths from the coronavirus in the last ten days, as attention has turned to northern provinces bordering Russia. 

The vast majority of new cases in the country have been imported, according to health authorities. 

Attention has now turned to Chinese nationals returning through the border with Russia in Heilongjiang province, Al Jazeera’s Sarah Clarke reported. 

“The main cluster, the main focus, is the north of the country. This is where we’re seeing the largest number of imported cases,” she said. “There were 12 new cases reported by the national health commission on Saturday and 11 of those were imported.”

07:15 GMT – Shopping robots come into their own in locked-down English town

A fleet of robots on wheels that deliver shopping in the English town of Milton Keynes have seen their popularity surge as residents are stuck indoors due to the coronavirus lockdown.

The robots, which come up roughly to an adult’s knee height and look like smooth white plastic boxes mounted on six black wheels, are a familiar sight in the town, where they have been delivering groceries for over two years.

But since the government imposed strict social distancing measures on March 23, the devices have been busier than ever, delivering for free to National Health Service (NHS) staff and facing increased demand from the general public.

“Right now we are offering free delivery to all NHS workers within the community. We want to make life a little bit easier for these people in these very, very stressful times,” said Henry Harris-Burland, of Starship, the company that makes the robots. “Lots of them are doing … 80-hour weeks and they don’t have time to go to the local grocery store, so they use our robots for their shopping.”

European countries considering when to lift lockdowns

07:00 GMT – New York City fields spike in disinfectant ingestion after Trump comments: Report

An unusually high number of New York City residents contacted city health authorities over fears that they had ingested bleach or other household cleaners in the 18 hours after President Donald Trump’s suggested that injecting such products could cure coronavirus, the New York Daily News reported. 

The Poison Control Center, a subagency of the city’s Health Department, managed a total of 30 cases of possible exposure to disinfectants during the period, a spokesman told the newspaper. During the same period last year, the agency handled only 13 similar cases. 

Of the cases reported between Thursday and Friday, nine were specifically about possible exposure to Lysol, while ten were in regards to bleach and 11 about household cleaners in general, the spokesman said. 

During the same period last year, there were no cases reported of Lysol exposure. 

06:45 GMT – Argentina prisoners riot demanding health measures

Dozens of prisoners at a jail in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires have rioted in a demand for urgent health measures after confirmation of a coronavirus case inside the facility.
     
Police surrounded the prison, which holds around 2,200 inmates, as explosions were heard during the incident on Friday, an AFP news agency reporters at the scene said.
     
A group of prisoners managed to climb onto a roof, burn mattresses and throw objects at security guards trying to quell the uprising. Authorities have yet to comment on the riot or whether there are any injuries.
     
Inmates could be heard shouting demands for a judge to hear their case and for better protection against the pandemic, just a few days after a warden at the Villa Devoto prison was confirmed to have contracted the novel coronavirus.
     
“COVID-19 in Devoto, genocidal judges,” read a banner hung from the prison roof. “We refuse to die in prison,” read another.

Inmates from Villa Devoto prison burn mattresses during a riot demanding measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus [Juan Mabromata/AFP]

06:20 GMT – Japan economy minister cancels appearances after contact with infected staffer 

A key government official in charge of Japan’s economic response to the coronavirus outbreak has called off his public appearances on Saturday to work from home after it was discovered that he had been in contact with a staffer who was infected with the virus.

In a statement, the office said that it had discovered that Nishimura had visited a university hospital last week with an office staff person who later tested positive for the virus.

In past weeks, the minister has become the face of Japan’s economic efforts to deal with the coronavirus.

“Neither the minister nor the staffer who tested positive for the virus has shown any symptoms, but as a precaution, the minister will remain at home until he receives further notice on his condition from health authorities,” the office said in a statement.

Trump ends COVID-19 briefing abruptly after ‘inject disinfectant’

05:45 GMT – Maryland sends out emergency alert after Trump disinfectant comments

The US state of Maryland has sent out an alert telling residents “that under no circumstances should any disinfectant product be administered into the body through injection, ingestion or any other route.”

The message, posted on Twitter on Friday, comes after President Donald Trump in a Thursday press conference asked his administration’s medical experts to look into injecting disinfectants into the body to kill the coronavirus or exposing the body to ultra-violet light. 

Experts have said the statements were dangerous and should be not be tried under any circumstances. 

Trump later claimed he was being sarcastic and falsely said that only made the comments in response to a reporters question. The president had made the comments without solicitation while looking at his coronavirus response coordinator Dr Deborah Birx and Department of Homeland Security science official Bill Bryan.

Maryland had reportedly received over 100 calls to its coronavirus hotline asking about the president’s comments. 

05:00 GMT – Thailand reports 53 new cases, one new death

Thailand has reported 53 new coronavirus cases and the death of a 48-year-old Thai man who was infected with the virus along with four other family members.

Of the new cases, three were linked to previous cases, one had no known links, and 42 are migrant workers who have been under quarantine at an immigration detention centre in the southern province of Songkhla.

Seven other new cases were reported from the southern province of Yala, where authorities are aggressively testing the population because of high infection rates there, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government’s Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration.

Since the outbreak escalated in January, Thailand has reported a total of 2,907 cases and 51 deaths, while 2,547 patients have recovered and gone home.

_____________________________________________________________  

This is Joseph Stepansky in Doha taking over the live updates from my colleague Ted Regencia.

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04:30 GMT – UN special rapporteur sounds alarm on response to COVID-19

The United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression has sounded the alarm over some of the response to the global health emergency following the coronavirus pandemic.

In a social media post on Saturday, David Kaye showed a summary of his report to the UN Human Rights Council, which concluded that some policies carried out to help contain the deadly disease “may be failing to meet the standards of legality, necessity and proportionality”.

He wrote in the summary that access to information, independent media and other free expression rights “are critical to meeting the challenges of the pandemic.”

03:24 GMT – Nearly 60 new cases confirmed on cruise ship in Japan

Nearly 60 new cases of coronavirus infections were confirmed among crew members of an Italian cruise ship docked in Japan, domestic media reported on Saturday.

With the testing of all crew members now complete, the new number, reported by public broadcaster NHK, brings the total infections on board the Costa Atlantica to around 150, roughly one quarter of the vessel’s 623 crew members. TV Asahi said 57 crew members tested positive.

The infection cluster onboard the vessel docked in Nagasaki comes as hospitals are running out of beds in some parts of Japan, where the national tally of virus cases has risen above 12,800. Some 345 people have died, according to Reuters news agency.

With the testing of all crew members now complete, the new number, reported by public broadcaster NHK, brings the total infections on board the Costa Atlantica to around 150 [Kyodo via Reuters]

02:33 GMT – Vanuatu defies shutdown with women’s cricket final

The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu is defying the coronavirus-led shutdown of global sport by scheduling their Women’s Super League cricket final and streaming it on social media on Saturday, Reuters news agency reported.

Most sport around the world, including all international cricket, has been brought to a halt because of the social-distancing measures put in place to control the pandemic.

Vanuatu, some 2,000 kilometres (1,242 miles) off the east coast of Australia, has a population of 300,000 but has not yet recorded a single case of COVID-19.

“We’re lucky here in Vanuatu and life is returning to normal so we thought it was our duty to provide the world with some live sport,” Shane Deitz, chief executive of Vanuatu Cricket, said in a video posted on Twitter.

02:01 GMT – Senior official cited by Trump is subject of investigation

The senior Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official who was thrust into the spotlight by US President Donald Trump to describe the effects of temperature on COVID-19 has been the subject of misconduct allegations for his previous government work.

A Department of Energy Inspector General investigation was still pending on Friday based on evidence submitted by a whistle-blower that William Bryan abused his government position with energy-consulting work in Ukraine.

It is unclear if Trump was aware of that investigation when he called on Bryan at his daily briefing Thursday to explain DHS research that prompted a presidential riff on the potential to cure the virus with disinfectant and kill it with sunlight.

Bryan has been acting under-secretary for the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, since May 2017. Before that, he was president of a consulting firm in Virginia, following previous work with the Department of Energy.

01:35 GMT – China reports 12 new cases, no new deaths

China reported 12 new coronavirus cases on April 24 compared with six new cases on the previous day, National Health Commission data showed on Saturday. Of the new cases, 11 were imported.

The commission also reported 29 new asymptomatic cases, slightly down from the previous day’s tally of 34. Four of these cases were imported.

The total number of confirmed cases in China is now 82,816. The death toll remained the same at 4,632, with no new deaths reported on April 24.

China reported no new virus deaths for the ninth-straight day and just six new cases on Friday [Mark Schiefelbein/AP]

01:29 GMT – Polish health minister says safest to delay May election

Poland’s health minister, who is also a cardiologist, has said that delaying the country’s presidential election until 2022 would be “the only safe option” given the coronavirus pandemic.

“One option would be to put this whole issue on hold for two years and really deal with the epidemic. I think that’s the best option and I recommend it,” Minister Dr Lukasz Szumowski told Poland’s Polsat commercial television.

Despite pressure from the opposition, medical workers, the majority of the public and even members and allies of the ruling conservative party, the government has refused to postpone the May 10 ballot.

President Andrzej Duda is running for reelection in the polls.

01:15 GMT – IMF approves $309m in aid for Mozambique

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has announced the payment of emergency aid of $309m to Mozambique to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“The pandemic should have a significant impact on the economy of Mozambique, halting an emerging recovery after two powerful tropical cyclones that struck in 2019,” the institution said in a statement.

00:27 GMT – US Navy wants to reinstate fired captain of aircraft carrier: Report

In an extraordinary reversal, the US Navy has recommended reinstating the fired captain of the coronavirus-hit aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, whose crew hailed him as their hero for risking his job to safeguard their lives, officials told Reuters news agency.

The Navy’s leadership made the recommendation to reinstate Captain Brett Crozier to Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday, just three weeks after Crozier was relieved of command after the leak of a letter he wrote calling on the Navy for stronger measures to protect the crew, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Pentagon issued a statement acknowledging Esper received the results of the Navy’s preliminary inquiry into the Roosevelt incident. But it added that Esper wanted to review a written copy of the completed inquiry.

00:17 GMT – Mexico cases, deaths continue to rise

Mexico’s health ministry has confirmed a total of 12,872 coronavirus cases across the country. 

The ministry also said the number of deaths has reached 1,221.

00:05 GMT – Britain starts plasma trial

Britain is to start trials to see whether plasma collected from donors who have recovered from COVID-19 could be an effective treatment for patients who are severely unwell with the disease, Reuters news agency reported.

Up to 5,000 severely ill patients with COVID-19 could soon be treated each week with plasma as part of a new approach to treating the virus, the health department said on Saturday.

Plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients can be transfused to patients who are struggling to produce their own antibodies against the virus.

_______________________________________________________________

Hello, I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. You can find updates from yesterday, April 24, here.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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