Global coronavirus death toll crosses 150,000: Live updates

Number of fatalities from the coronavirus surges past the 150,000 mark.

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    • The number of deaths linked to the novel coronavirus reached 150,000, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. 

    • China's gross domestic produce shrunk by 6.8 percent in January-March year-on-year, official data showed. 
    • Saudi Arabia's grand mufti has said Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr prayers could take place at home amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

    • The Chinese city of Wuhan raised its number of coronavirus fatalities by 1,290 to 3,869, most of China's total. That brought the total fatalities nationwide to at least 4,642.

    Here are the latest updates:

    Friday, April 17

    23:56 GMT - Trump says some states have been 'too tough' on stay-at-home orders

    US President Donald Trump on Friday criticised the handling of some states' coronavirus mitigation measures, saying he found the stay-at-home orders of governors such as Virginia "too tough."

    Asked if certain states - Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia - should lift their stay-at-home orders, Trump said: "No, but I think elements of what they've done are too much."

    23:37 GMT - US states have enough tests to follow guidelines to reopen: VP Pence

    Experts believe states currently have enough tests to meet guidelines to begin reopening their economies after a shutdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, US Vice President Mike Pence said on Friday, despite pushback from governors.

    Pence's remarks on Friday, delivered at a White House briefing, came a day after US President Donald Trump unveiled new guidelines for U.S. states to emerge from the shutdown in a staggered, three-stage approach that relies on robust testing capabilities.

    "Our best scientists and health experts assess that states today have enough tests to implement the criteria of Phase One if they choose to do so," Pence said at a daily briefing on the administration's response to the pandemic.

    22:45 GMT - Washington governor: Trump is 'fomenting domestic rebellion'

    Washington Governor Jay Inslee accused Donald Trump of "fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies" after the United States president urged supporters to "LIBERATE" three states led by Democratic governors.

    "The president's statements this morning encourage illegal and dangerous acts. He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19," Inslee said in a series of tweets on Friday afternoon.

    "His unhinged rantings and calls for people to "liberate" states could also lead to violence. We've seen it before," Inslee added. "The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies - even while his own administration says the virus is real, it is deadly and we have a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted."

    20:45 GMT - US Navy to carry anti-body testing aboard coronavirus-hit aircraft carrier 

    The US Navy has announced it will carry anti-body testing of sailors aboard the coronavirus-hit aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt to determine whether they were exposed to the virus as it spread through the ship.

    "We have scheduled the outbreak investigation to begin Monday and we are seeking crew member volunteers to provide an additional swab sample and a routine blood draw for laboratory testing. In addition, they will answer a short survey," the Navy Surgeon General, Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham, told reporters.

    "The blood sample will undergo a new test that identifies COVID-19 antibodies in the blood. This type of testing is called a serology test. The results tell us if people have been exposed to the coronavirus and subsequently developed anti-bodies." 

    20:35 GMT - Chine economy to contract by 2 percent in 2020 

    Chile's budget office said it expects the country's economy to contract by 2 percent in 2020, while stimulus measures will deepen the nation's fiscal deficit to 8 percent, the largest gap since at least 1990.

    The agency said it expects the price of copper to average $2.36 per pound in 2020, down from a previous forecast of $2.80. 

    20:25 GMT - Malawi high court blocks coronavirus lockdown 

    A Malawi high court has temporarily barred the government from implementing a 21-day lockdown to curb coronavirus following a petition by a human rights group.

    Justice Kenyatta Nyirenda on Friday set aside the lockdown in response to a challenge by the Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), which argued that more consultation was needed to prevent harm to the poorest and most vulnerable of society.

    Small-scale traders, often young people, had been staging protests in the three major cities against the planned lockdown, initially due to begin on Saturday, carrying placards declaring that it would be better to contract the virus than die of hunger because they are unable to work.

    Most of those protesting called on the government to provide them with cash and food handouts if a lockdown went ahead.

    Read more here

    20:00 GMT - How is the pandemic changing the way we work?

    The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we live in just the last few months. Governments trying to halt the spread of the virus, have imposed strict lockdowns.

    That means, hundreds of millions of people are now working from home, away from the office. Video conferencing services, for example, have experienced a huge boom.

    But working remotely has created immense challenges for businesses and employees alike. What are the benefits and challenges? And will this permanently change the way we work?

    Watch Inside Story below.

    How is the coronavirus pandemic changing the way we work? (25:00)

    19:40 GMT - Tunisia's president extends coronavirus lockdown 

    Tunisia's President Kais Saied has extended a coronavirus lockdown, with the government expected to announce later in the day the extention period, a presidency statement said.

    This is the second extension of the lockdown which started March 20. The North African country is struggling to curb the spread of the highly infectious virus with more than 822 infections and 37 deaths declared.

    Domestic abuse surges in UK amid lockdown (2:36)

    19:20 GMT - Global coronavirus death toll surpasses 150,000 

    The number of deaths linked to the novel coronavirus reached 150,000, according a Johns Hopkins University tally.

    It took 83 days for the first 50,000 deaths to be recorded and just eight more for the toll to climb to 100,000. It took another eight days to go from 100,000 to 150,000.

    19:00 GMT - British war veteran raises 20 million pounds for the NHS

    Captain Tom Moore, a British war veteran, has raised more than 20 pounds million for the NHS by completing 100 laps around his back yard. 

    Moore's initial target was 1,000 pounds. 

    18:25 GMT - Africa can still contain COVID-19: WHO 

    Africa can still turn things around and contain the spread of the coronavirus, said Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization's chief emergency expert. 

    "I believe that African countries can achieve a lot more than maybe people outside expect," Ryan told a virtual news briefing.

    "We don't believe the disease has passed the capacity to be contained," he said in comments made after the UN Economic Commission for Africa said the pandemic will likely kill at least 300,000 Africans and risks pushing 29 million into extreme poverty. 

    17:50 GMT - France reports 761 coronavirus deaths 

    France has reported 761 new deaths from the coronavirus, taking the total number of fatalities to18,681. 

    Jerome Salomon, the head of the public health authority, however told reporters that the country's month-long lockdown was "start to bear fruit," with the total number of hospitalised patients falling for the third consecutive day with 115 few patients.

    Salomon added that the number of patients in intensive care was in decline for the ninth consecutive at 6,027. 

    17:03 GMT - First death confirmed in Syria's northeast

    The Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria said it had recorded its first coronavirus death, according to a statement in which it cited the WHO.

    The administration said in the statement that a 53-year-old man had died at a hospital in Qamishli on April 2 and that a sample sent to Damascus for testing was later confirmed as positive

    16:50 GMT - Rolling Stones to perform at 'One World: Together at Home'

    The Rolling Stones have said they will join a star-studded global television broadcast on Saturday to honour healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic.

    The two-hour "One World: Together at Home" event, a combination of music, comedy and stories from doctors, nurses and grocery workers, will be broadcast across multiple North American and international television networks.

    "We are honoured to be invited to be part of the 'One World: Together at Home' broadcast - from our homes in isolation," the group said in a statement released by Global Citizen, the nonprofit group that spearheaded the event with the WHO.

    Other artists due perform include Celine Dion, Billie Eilish, John Legend, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Chris Martin, Andrea Bocelli and Michael Buble.

    COVID-19: Canadians volunteer to help those in need (2:29)

    16:44 GMT - Trump sends provocative tweets

    Trump has posted a series of provocative messages on Twitter, calling on US states currently under stay-at-home orders to be "liberated".

    In another tweet, the US president said China's real death toll from coronavirus was "far higher".

    China has just announced a doubling in the number of their deaths from the Invisible Enemy. It is far higher than that and far higher than the U.S., not even close!" Trump tweeted.

    He appeared to be referring to Wuhan's abrupt increase in the death toll by 50 percent, though not "doubling" as Trump claimed.

    16:30 GMT - Italy's daily death toll rises

    Coronavirus deaths in Italy rose rose by 575, up from 525 the day before, while the number of new cases declined slightly to 3,493 from a previous 3,786.

    The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on February 21 rose to 22,745, 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 172,434 the third highest global tally behind those of the US and Spain.

    15:25 GMT - Open letter from African intellectuals to leaders

    Dozens of prominent intellectuals, writers and academics from across Africa have co-signed an open letter addressed to the continent's leaders, asking them to use the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to spur "radical change" in direction.

    "In the call, we urge African leaders to also think beyond the current crisis as a symptom of deep structural problems Africa has to confront if it is to become one day sovereign and an actor that contributes to the new global order," Amy Niang, one of the academics behind the initiative, told Al Jazeera. "We are calling for a second independence."

    Read the open letter here

    Palestinians mark Prisoners Day as many languish in Israeli jails (2:47)

    15:15 GMT - Dow surges 500 points as hope rise on Gilead virus treatment

    United States stock indexes soared in early morning trading on Wall Street on Friday after President Donald Trump outlined plans to reopen the economy and a media report said COVID-19 patients were responding positively to an experimental drug made by US pharma giant Gilead Sciences. 

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up more than 500 points or 2.2 percent in early morning trading in New York. The widely used gauge of US retirement and education savings accounts, the S&P 500, was 2 percent higher, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index was just more than 1 percent higher. 

    Shares of Gilead Sciences Inc surged 9.5 percent after a report from medical media outlet Stat said patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19 had responded positively to the company's experimental drug, remdesivir.

    Read more here

    15:50 GMT - Dubai extended 24-hour curfew by one week 

    Dubai has extended by one week a 24-hour curfew imposed as part of the emirate's efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the government's media office said in a Twitter post.

    The United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is part, declared night-time curfew on March 26 but the city government expanded it to a 24-hour lockdown for 2 weeks.  

    So far, 5,825 cases of the highly infectious disease have been detected while 35 people have died.

    15:00 GMT - Turkey coronavirus cases rise by 4,353 to 78,546, total deaths 1,769

    Turkey's coronavirus cases have risen by 4,353 to 78,546 in the past 24 hours, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca  said. 

    Fatalities reached 1,769 while a total of 8,631 people have recovered. 

    14:15 GMT - Almost half of French aircraft carrier crew test positive for coronavirus 

    Roughly half of the 2,300-strong crew aboard France's sole aircraft carrier test positive for the coronavirus, the Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said. 

    Parly told lawmakers that of the 2,010 test carried out, 1,081 came out as positive. She added that 545 sailors had shown symptoms and 24 were in hospital.

    14:05 GMT - Can the IMF overcome roadblocks to give aid to Iran? 

    Iran entered the coronavirus crisis with a crippled economy that has left it ill-equipped to battle the disease and poorly positioned to eventually rebound from the pandemic's myriad ravages.

    Deprived of financial resources due to relentless rounds of US economic sanctions, Tehran did something in March it had not done in over a half a century: go cap in hand to the International Monetary Fund to request a $5bn emergency loan to fight COVID-19.

    But asking is not getting. And even if the IMF is inclined to step up with an aid package, there is a massive obstacle to overcome. The US is the Fund's biggest shareholder and can use its heft to obstruct financial assistance to Iran.

    Read more here

    China's GDP shrinks for first time in recorded history (3:30)

    14:00 GMT - 'Life now is so difficult': Food prices rocket amid DRC lockdown 

    Swarms of black flies cover a festering slab of meat on Patrick Bwira's stall in Goma's sprawling Virunga market. Business for the 21-year-old butcher has dried up dramatically as a lockdown imposed in the city due to the coronavirus pandemic has ramped up pressure on the economy and seen food prices rocket.

    "It's very difficult," said Bwira. "For now, I only just scrape enough money to eat. But no more than that - I can't afford to do anything else in my life."

    For Bwira, the wholesale price for a small cut of beef has risen by a third, up to 8,000 Congolese francs ($4.66), all but wiping out his meagre daily earnings.

    "I can't go on like this," he said.

    Read more here

    13:50 GMT - Netherlands coronavirus cases rise to 30,449 

    The Netherlands has reported 1,235 new coronavirus cases, bringing its total number of infections to 30,449, the Dutch Institute for Public Health said. 

    Meanwhile, the death toll rose by 144 to 3,459. 

    13:40 GMT - UK's coronavirus death toll reaches 14,576, total cases 108,692 

    Britain's death toll from the coronavirus has reached 14,576, up from 13,729 the previous day, the health ministry said. 

    "341,551 people have been tested of which 108,692 tested positive," it added. 


    Hi, this is Ramy Allahoum in Doha taking over the live blog from my colleague Usaid Sidiqqui.


     

    12:45 GMT - Qatar reports 560 coronavirus cases in past 24 hours

    Qatar has reported 560 new COVID-19 cases, taking its total number to 4663, with 49 people recovering in one day.

    No new deaths were reported.

    Qatar stats
    Qatar has 4663 coronavirus cases to date [MoPH]

    12:30 GMT - Pakistanis gather for Friday prayers defying coronavirus advisory

    A lack of consensus between religious leaders and the Pakistani government has seen Friday congregational prayers still being held at some mosques across the country, in defiance of government guidelines on social distancing amidst the coronavirus outbreak.

    In the capital, Islamabad, hundreds gathered at the Red Mosque, led by hardline religious leader Abdul Aziz, to offer prayers, standing shoulder-to-shoulder and filling the mosque's main hall to capacity.

    Read more here.

    12:12 GMT - The Scottish Muslim couple winning hearts amid coronavirus crisis

    A Muslim couple, who own a grocery store in Falkirk, Scotland, has donated 3,000 masks and delivered more than 1,000 food parcels to people vulnerable to the coronavirus, winning praise from their community.

    Dozens of NHS workers have died of COVID-19 and although the UK government downplays any correlation between the shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the deaths, healthcare workers across the country are struggling to cope

    Read more here.

    12:00 GMT - Papua New Guinea premier tested for coronavirus

    Papua New Guinea's prime minister is in self-isolation and has been tested for COVID-19 after possibly coming into contact with an infected person.

    The precautions were taken after a staffer at the country's main coronavirus emergency center, which premier James Marape recently visited, tested positive for COVID-19, according to ABC News.

    The report said all workers at the National Operations Center, as well as people who visited the facility over the past week, including Marape, the country's police minister and several journalists, are being tested for COVID-19.

    11:45 GMT - Saudi grand mufti: Ramadan night, Eid prayers to be done at home amid coronavirus

    Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, the highest religious authority in the country, said that Muslim prayers during Ramadan and for the subsequent Eid al-Fitr feast should be performed at home if the coronavirus outbreak continues, Saudi's Okaz newspaper reported.

    "Ramadan's Taraweeh (evening) prayer can be performed at home if it cannot be performed at mosques due to the preventive measures taken to fight the spread of coronavirus," he said in response to a question, adding that same applies for Eid prayers, according to the paper.

    10:35 GMT - Spain's daily death toll from coronavirus rises to 585 on Friday

    Spain's overnight death toll from coronavirus rose to 585, up from 551 on Thursday but still far off figures of over 900 registered during the peak of the outbreak in early April.

    It was unclear why the difference in the government's death toll from Thursday and Friday did not reflect the overnight death rate.

    The number of overall coronavirus cases rose to 188,068 on Friday from 182,816 on Thursday, a 2.9 percent increase.

    10:06 GMT - Virus outbreak at Philippine jail fuels calls for prisoner releases

    Eighteen guards and inmates at a jam-packed Philippine prison have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said Friday, heightening fears of a rapid spread of the illness inside the country's jails.

    Another 30 prisoners were showing symptoms inside the Quezon City Jail in the capital Manila - a facility so crowded that inmates take turns sleeping on staircases and in open-air basketball courts.

    The outbreak has fuelled calls from rights groups for the early release of prisoners charged with non-violent offences as well as the sick and elderly in an effort to ease congestion and lower the risk of transmission.

    The Philippines has a steadily rising number of confirmed coronavirus cases, with 5,878 infections and 387 deaths to date.

    09:45 GMT - Eastern Europeans flown in for 'vital' jobs on UK, German farms

    Seasonal workers from Romania were flown into the United Kingdom on a special charter flight on Thursday evening to help fill a shortage of workers to pick fruits and vegetables on the country's farms.

    A flight from Bucharest, operated by Air Charter Service (ACS), touched down at Stansted Airport near London at around 5pm, carrying 150 people from Romania, Glenn Phillips from ACS tells Al Jazeera. Workers were then taken by bus to farms in the Midlands and the South East.

    Read more here.

    09:10 GMT - Africa coronavirus cases could hit 10 million in six months: WHO

    Coronavirus cases in Africa could surge from just thousands now to 10 million within three to six months, according to provisional modelling, a regional World Health Organization (WHO) official said.

    But Michel Yao, head of emergency operations for WHO Africa, said on Thursday it was a tentative projection that could change. He noted worst-case predictions for the Ebola outbreak had not come true because people changed their behaviour in time.

    Read more here.

    More:

    08:50 GMT - Russia registers new record number of COVID-19 cases

    Russia announced a new record number of coronavirus cases as well as deaths caused by the infection.

    A total of 4,069 new cases were confirmed, bringing the tally to 32,007, the country's emergency team said in a statement.

    The death toll rose to 273, as 41 people died over the last 24 hours, the statement said.

    08:30 GMT - China's economy dragged to historic low

    China's economy shrank for the first time since at least 1992 in the first quarter, as the coronavirus outbreak paralysed production and spending, raising pressure on authorities to do more to stop mounting job losses.

    Gross domestic product (GDP) fell 6.8 percent in January-March year-on-year, official data showed on Friday, larger than the 6.5-percent decline forecast by analysts in a Reuters news agency poll and reversing a 6 percent expansion in the fourth quarter of last year.

    The contraction is also the first in the world's second-largest economy since at least 1992 when official quarterly GDP records started.

    Read more here

    08:20 GMT - Germany's coronavirus outbreak 'manageable again' - health minister

    The coronavirus outbreak in Germany has become manageable again as the number of patients who have made a recovery has been higher than the number of new infections every day this week, Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

    Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday Germany would take small steps out of lockdown with the partial reopening of shops next week and schools from May 4.

    "The outbreak has - as of today - become controllable and manageable again," Spahn told a news conference, adding that the health care system had "at no time been overwhelmed so far".

    Coronavirus precautions in Germany
    Earlier, Spahn said a coronavirus contact-tracing app will be ready for Germans to download and use on their smartphones in three to four weeks [File: Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu]

    07:40 GMT - Pope prays for pregnant women during pandemic

    Pope Francis asked the faithful to pray for pregnant women as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

    Speaking to an audience of a few priests and nuns at morning mass in his residence at the Vatican, the pope said "I would like us to pray for women who are expecting a baby", to give them "courage to carry these children" in a world that "will certainly be a different world".

    The pope has been conducting all his events within the Vatican walls as the pandemic continues to spread around the globe.

    06:45 GMT - London mayor calls for compulsory face masks on transport

    London Mayor Sadiq Khan called on the British government to make face masks compulsory for people travelling around the capital or shopping.

    The mayor said evidence from around the world showed that face coverings help stop the spread of the virus.

    New York has ordered residents to wear masks or substitute face coverings when in any public situation that may not allow them to be at least six feet away from others.

    "In those circumstances where its not possible for us to keep our social distance, think of public transport usage, think of when you're in a shop, we should be using non-medical facial coverings like bandandas, like scarves, like reusable masks," Khan told the BBC.

    London Mayor Sadiq Khan
    The UK's distancing guidelines do not mention face masks, but Khan said that should change [File: Jack Taylor/Getty]

    06:23 GMT - Saudi faces crisis from position of strength: Minister

    Saudi Arabia is facing the current global crisis from a position of strength, given its strong financial position and reserves, and relatively low government debt, its finance minister said.

    Mohammed al-Jadaan said in the virtual meeting of the International Monetary and Financial Committee, held on Thursday, that the Saudi government's priorities are necessary resources for its healthcare system, as well as financial and economic support to those affected while taking into account the re-prioritisation of spending under the current circumstances, Saudi state news agency SPA reported.

    US state governors to decide on easing lockdowns

    Hello, this is Usaid Siddiqui taking over from my colleague Ted Regencia.


     

    05:32 GMT - Pakistan gets $1.5bn loan from IMF

    The International Monetary Fund has given Pakistan $1.5bn in emergency financing to help absorb some of the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

    The government has been handing out roughly $70 to more than 10 million families hit hardest by the lockdown.

    Pakistan has 7,025 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 135 deaths, an increase of 11 in the last 24 hours.

    Pakistan
    The government of Pakistan has been handing out roughly $70 to more than 10 million hardest-hit families [BK Bangash/AP]

    05:01 GMT - New cases in South Korea down for fifth day

    South Korea has reported 22 new cases of the coronavirus, the fifth day in a row its daily jump was in the 20s, with no fresh cases reported in the hardest-hit city of Daegu, where infections have waned in past weeks.

    South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said on Friday that its national totals have reached 10,635 cases, with 230 reported deaths.

    04:28 GMT - Myanmar to release 25,000 prisoners

    Myanmar will release almost 25,000 prisoners in an amnesty to mark the traditional New Year, the president's office said on Friday, as the government also grapples with the spread of the coronavirus.

    President Win Myint said 24,896 people jailed across the country, including 87 foreigners, would be freed unconditionally "to bring delights to the citizens of Myanmar and taking into consideration humanitarian concerns"

    Concerns have been raised about the spread of the virus among prisoners in Myanmar jails.

    04:00 GMT - China arrests hoarders of face masks

    Chinese police have arrested 42 people for hoarding and driving up the price of the cloth material used to make face masks, as well as illegally producing shoddy and inferior material for resale.

    The Ministry of Public Security said in a statement Friday that a nationwide taskforce had been formed to crack down on crimes related to the production of masks.

    The statement said raids in the southern industrial hub of Guangdong and three other provinces in early and mid-March resulted in the breaking of 20 cases and the seizure of material worth almost $5m.

    China has become a major exporter of masks and the raw material for making them, and sought to tighten quality standards following complaints from some countries about inferior products.

    Masks - China
    China's Ministry of Public Security said a nationwide taskforce had formed to crack down on crimes related to the production of masks [Andy Wong/AP]

    03:50 GMT - Singapore reports 728 new coronavirus cases

    Singapore has reported 728 new coronavirus cases, a record daily high for a second straight day that was broadly expected amid increased testing in dormitories housing foreign workers.

    The health ministry said foreign workers accounted for 90 percent of the new cases, with five new clusters reported in the crowded dormitories housing up to 20 men in each room with shared facilities. It said the sharp rise in cases pushed total infections past the 4,000 mark to 4,427.

    03:05 GMT - UN warns coronavirus putting children in jeopardy

    UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning that coronavirus is putting many of the world's children "in jeopardy", is urging families everywhere and leaders at all levels to "protect our children".

    Guterres said "children have so far been largely spared from the most severe symptoms of the disease."

    But with a global recession gathering pace, he said: "There could be hundreds of thousands additional child deaths in 2020."

    Coronavirus - Brazil
    Manicurist Leticia Machado, 31, poses for a photo with 4 of her 7 children at her home in Rio de Janeiro during the coronavirus lockdown [Silvia Izquierdo/AP]

    02:55 GMT - China reports more imported coronavirus cases

    China's National Health Commission reported 26 new coronavirus cases on Friday, including 15 coming from abroad.

    Beijing made the announcement as the country's bureau of statistics said the COVID-19 pandemic has been the most difficult public health emergency since the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

    The news also comes as the government announced that the country's economy has shrunk 6.8 percent during the first quarter of 2020 - the first ever economic contraction since 1976.

    02:40 GMT - Australia may keep some coronavirus restrictions for a year

    Australian public life could be constrained for another year because of the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned on Friday, as the country's most populous state mulled sending children to school in shifts.

    Morrison said some measures, like a rule requiring people to stand at least 1.5 metres apart, would likely remain for several months, given there was no guarantee a vaccine would be developed in that time.

    "Social distancing is something we should get very used to," Morrison told radio station 3AW. "It could be a year, but I'm not speculating about that."

    02:06 GMT - Japanese cabinet official tests positive for coronavirus

    Japan's cabinet announced on Friday that another official had tested positive for the coronavirus, the third case among officials at the cabinet office.

    The infected cabinet official, who is in his 50s, works at the cabinet's council for science, technology and innovation, but had no close contact with ministers around when he developed symptoms from April 10, an official at the cabinet office said. He was confirmed with the virus on April 16.

    Two officials who worked with the man, and were within two metres, are staying at home but have not yet been tested, based on cabinet policy, according to the cabinet office.

    As of Thursday, there were an estimated 9,000 infections in Japan and nearly 200 deaths.

    More:

    01:40 GMT - Xi, Putin discuss coronavirus response of China and Russia

    Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, have spoken over the phone to discuss their countries' latest response to the pandemic, state-own Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.

    According to the report, Xi and Putin rejected the "politicisation of the pandemic", which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

    Xi was quoted as saying that Beijing is "confident" that under Putin's leadership, Russia will "stem the spread" of the disease. It has been reported in recent days that several Chinese nationals who returned to their country through the Russian border had tested positive for the coronavirus.

    01:28 GMT - Guatemala: 44 deportees from US positive of coronavirus

    At least 44 of the 76 Guatemalans deported on one flight from the US this week have tested positive for coronavirus, a Guatemalan government official with knowledge of the situation said, amid rising rejection of deportees due to virus fears.

    Later, Guatemala Minister of Foreign Affairs Pedro Brolo told AP news agency that the government had again suspended deportation flights. He did not explain why, but said the move was temporary.

    Guatemala - coronavirus
    At least 76 Guatemalan citizens who were deported from the US arrived in the capital on Monday [Moises Castillo/AP]

    00:32 GMT - Trudeau says Canada's restrictions with US to remain

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that the country's border restrictions with the US will remain in place "for a significant amount of time" as the two countries fight the coronavirus outbreak.

    Washington and Ottawa agreed last month to clamp down on non-essential travel while allowing trade to continue across their lengthy shared frontier.

    "As we move forward, there will be special thought given to this relationship. But at the same time we know that there is a significant amount of time, still, before we can talk about loosening such restrictions," Trudeau told a daily briefing.

    00:21 GMT - Balkan states agree to coordinate coronavirus response

    Health ministers of the Western Balkan countries have agreed to facilitate any joint action in the fight against the coronavirus, according to the Kosovo Health Ministry.

    A statement on Thursday said Kosovar Health Minister Arben Vitia had telephone calls with his colleagues in the region in which they agreed that "transport routes for goods, health personnel and medical equipment remain free."

    All countries are in lockdown, with only goods able to cross borders.

    COVID-19 has infected 8,801 people and killed 233 in the six Western Balkan countries.

    _____________________________________________________________________________________

    Hello, I'm Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with Al Jazeera's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. You can find all the updates from yesterday, April 16, here.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies