Record 26m jobless in US since coronavirus hit: Live updates

About one in six American workers have lost their jobs in past five weeks, the worst string of layoffs on record.

People who lost their jobs wait in line to file for unemployment following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at an Arkansas Workforce Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas, U.S. April 6, 2
  • 26 million people have sought US jobless aid in the past five weeks since the coronavirus hit. About one in six American workers have lost their jobs, by far the worst string of layoffs on record.

  • The head of the US agency in charge of developing a vaccine against the coronavirus says he was removed from his job for opposing the chloroquine treatment promoted by US President Donald Trump.

  • The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) says there are “worrying upward trends” in early epidemics in parts of Africa and Central and South America, warning that the “virus will be with us for a long time”.

  • More than 2.6 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

  • The United Nations is warning global hunger could double as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, putting 265 million people at risk.

Here are the latest updates:

Thursday, April 23

23:13 GMT – US immigration agency to test 2,000 detainees before deportation

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the country’s immigration agency, has announced on Thursday that it will conduct 2,000 coronavirus tests on detainees before processing their deportation. 

Dozens of people deported by the US to their homes countries, including Guatemala and Mexico have been found to have contracted the disease after arriving in their homeland.

22:50 GMT – US Congress gives final approval on $484bn relief package

The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a $484bn coronavirus relief bill, funding small businesses and hospitals and pushing the total spending response to the crisis to an unprecedented near $3 trillion.

The measure passed the Democratic-led House by a vote of 388-5, with one member voting present.

It now heads to the White House, where Trump said he would “probably” sign it later on Thursday.

22:10 GMT – UK PM Boris Johnson to be back at work as soon as Monday: Telegraph

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to return to work as early as Monday, the Telegraph reported.

Johnson has told aides to schedule meetings with cabinet ministers next week to catch up and get up to speed, according to the report on Thursday. 

20:52 GMT – US House creates panel to probe federal response

The Democratic-controlled US House of Representatives approved the creation of a special investigative panel to examine the federal government’s response to the pandemic.

By a partisan vote, with Republicans opposing the measure, the House signed off on the panel, which will have broad powers to investigate how federal dollars are being spent, US preparedness and Trump administration deliberations.

It will be able to issue subpoenas as it conducts its probes.

20:45 GMT – 80 countries limiting exports of face masks, other goods: WTO report

Eighty countries and customs territories have banned or limited the export of face masks, protective gear, gloves and other goods to mitigate shortages since the outbreak began, the World Trade Organization (WTO) reported.

It said the bans were imposed by 72 WTO members and eight non-WTO member countries, but only 13 WTO members had notified the global trade body as required by its regulations.

US essential workers risk their health to keep economy running

20:28 GMT – Lawyers for ousted US health official say he will file whistleblower’s complaint

Lawyers for Rick Bright, the ousted director of a US agency responsible for the development of drugs to fight the coronavirus, said he will file a whistleblower’s complaint with two government offices over his reassignment.

“In our filing we will make clear that Dr. Bright was sidelined for one reason only – because he resisted efforts to provide unfettered access to potentially dangerous drugs, including chloroquine, a drug promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which is untested and possibly deadly when used improperly,” his lawyers said in a statement.

20:12 GMT – Bezos, Musk among billionaires gaining net worth in pandemic: report

The combined wealth of America’s billionaires, including Inc founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla Inc chief Elon Musk, increased nearly 10 percent during the ongoing pandemic, according to a report published by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).

Even as the broader economy faced a recession, tech and stay-at-home stocks like Zoom have rallied in recent weeks, due to a surge in usage of video conferencing and remote work technology, thus boosting the net worth of billionaire founders with holdings in those companies.

During the period between January 1 to April 10 this year, 34 of the nation’s wealthiest billionaires have seen their net worth increase by tens of millions of dollars, the report said.

20:03 GMT – Women bear brunt of US job losses

Women have lost the lion’s share of US jobs, researchers said, as family responsibilities and the industries they dominate make them especially vulnerable.

Two out of every three new jobless claims in the 17 US states studied were from women, said The Fuller Project, a US-based nonprofit journalism organisation.

A man speaks with a library worker after receiving an unemployment form, as the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Hialeah, Florida, U.S., April 8, 2020. REUTERS/Marco BelloA man
A man speaks with a library worker after receiving an unemployment form in Hialeah, Florida [Marco Bello/Reuters]

19:45 GMT – Czech government seeks state of emergency extension

The Czech government will ask the lower house of parliament to extend the state of emergency until May 25, news agency CTK reported.

The state of emergency, set to expire on April 30, gives the government the power to limit people’s movement or close businesses.

The government said earlier on Thursday it planned relaxing most restrictions between now and May 25.

19:34 GMT – WHO warns malaria deaths in Africa could double amid pandemic

The WHO has warned that the number of deaths caused by malaria in sub-Saharan Africa could double to 769,000, as efforts to tackle the disease face disruptions by the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more here.

19:28 GMT – South Africa to begin phased easing of lockdown on May 1

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government will allow a partial reopening of the economy on May 1, with travel restrictions eased and some industries allowed to operate under a five-level risk system.

Ramaphosa said the National Coronavirus Command Council decided restrictions will be lowered from level 5 to level 4 from next Friday.

International borders will remain closed while travel will be only allowed for essential services.

A man wearing a t-shirt with the face of South Africa's president, Cyril Ramaphosa leaves as people distribute food parcels prepared by the local government to vulnerable residents during a 21-day loc
 South Africa is under restrictions requiring most of the population to stay at home apart from essential trips [Reuters]

19:26 GMT – California suffers state’s deadliest day

California recorded 115 deaths over the past 24 hours, the state’s deadliest day of the pandemic, Governor Gavin Newsom said.

Newsom said the deaths came as the number of hospitalisations and intensive care unit patients suffering from COVID-19 dropped slightly.

19:00 GMT – Dubai opens restaurants, shopping malls; resumes public transportation

Dubai allowed cafes and restaurants to resume business, and shopping malls to be opened partially from 12 pm until 10 pm, but with a maximum capacity of 30 percent, Dubai’s media office announced in a statement.

According to the statement, public transportation services including the metro will resume from April 26.

People shop at The Dubai Mall in Dubai
People shop at The Dubai Mall in Dubai, UAE on March 12 [File: Satish Kumar/Reuters]

18:22 GMT – Italy PM hails ‘great progress’ by EU on economic response

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that EU leaders had made “great progress” towards an acceptable economic response.

In a Facebook post after an EU leaders video conference, Conte said a “Recovery Fund” to be set up by the European Commission must be large enough to allow the countries worst hit by the epidemic “to protect their social and economic fabric”.

“We have made great progress, unthinkable until a few weeks ago,” Conte said.

18:04 GMT – WHO to launch initiative to share drugs, tests and vaccines

The WHO said it would announce a “landmark collaboration” to speed development, production and the use of safe, effective drugs, tests and vaccines to prevent, diagnose and treat COVID-19.

In a brief statement, the Geneva-based agency said the initiative being announced with partners aims to make technologies against the disease “accessible to everyone who needs them, worldwide”.

17:46 GMT – Doctors launch legal action against UK government

Two doctors are launching legal action against the British government’s guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals, their lawyers said.

The two doctors, a husband and wife who are expecting a child, have been exposed to patients with COVID-19 and are concerned that current PPE guidance and availability are inadequate to protect them from infection.

“We are incredibly concerned at the ever-growing numbers of healthcare workers who are becoming seriously unwell and dying due to COVID-19,” said the doctors, Meenal Viz and Nishant Joshi, in a statement issued by Bindmans, a law firm.

“It is the government’s duty to protect its healthcare workers, and there is great anxiety amongst staff with regards to safety protocols that seem to change without rhyme or reason,” they said.

A medical worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) at the back of an ambulance outside Lewisham hospital as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain, April
A medical worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) at the back of an ambulance outside Lewisham hospital in London [Hannah McKay/Reuters]

17:42 GMT – Death toll in France close to 22,000

The number of people who have died from the coronavirus in France rose by 516 to 21,856, the health ministry said in a statement.

The 2.4 percent increase is well below the more than four percent rate seen last week.

17:40 GMT – Turkey’s death toll rises by 115 to 2,491

Turkey’s confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease increased by 3,116 in the past 24 hours, and 115 more people have died, taking the death toll to 2,491, according to Health Ministry data.

The total number of cases in the country now stands at 101,790, the highest total for any country outside Europe or the US.

Turkey imposes COVID-19 movement curbs before Ramadan begins

17:25 GMT – Testing programme can open way to lesser measures

A mass testing and tracking programme to keep coronavirus transmission rates low in the UK can open the way to having less strict social distancing rules, health minister Matt Hancock said at a news conference.

The UK is working on launching a programme to test and trace any new coronavirus cases.

“Test, track and trace, done effectively, can help to suppress the transmission in a way that allows you then to have lesser social distancing rules,” Hancock said.

17:23 GMT – UK deaths to decline faster in couple of weeks

The death rate in Britain will only start to decline quickly in another couple of weeks, the country’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, said.

“Although the number of patients in intensive care units is coming down slowly, the deaths remain at a plateau, coming down slightly, not coming down fast,” he said.

“I would expect that to continue for another couple of weeks and we will then see a faster decline,” he added during a news conference.

17:17 GMT – UK to expand testing to cover all key workers

Britain’s health minister Matt Hancock promised to expand coronavirus testing to all those considered key workers after the government faced criticism for failing to roll out mass checks.

Previously only healthcare employees and those working in nursing homes have been able to get tests.

The government classifies as key workers people working in jobs such as teachers, government employees and delivery drivers.

UK faces criticism over COVID-19 testing strategy

17:00 GMT – New York test of 3,000 people finds 14 percent with antibodies

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said a random screening of 3,000 residents found that 13.9 percent tested positive for antibodies for the coronavirus, suggesting that some 2.7 million people across the state may have been infected.

This means that more than one in five New Yorkers may already have had the coronavirus, suggesting infections are much higher than confirmed cases suggest.

Cuomo said that the survey was preliminary and limited by other factors. He said the testing targeted people who were out in society shopping, meaning that they may be more likely to be infected than people isolating at home.

A medical worker walks past people lined up at Gotham Health East New York, a COVID-19 testing center Thursday, April 23, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
A medical worker walks past people lined up at Gotham Health East New York, a COVID-19 testing center in the Brooklyn borough of New York [Frank Franklin II/AP]

16:25 GMT – 26 million have sought US jobless aid

More than 4.4 million laid-off workers applied for US unemployment benefits last week as job cuts escalated across an economy that remains all but shut down, the government said.

About 26 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the five weeks since the outbreak began forcing millions of employers to close their doors.

About one in six American workers have lost their jobs in the past five weeks, by far the worst string of layoffs on record.

Economists have forecast that the unemployment rate for April could go as high as 20 percent.

More than 26 million Americans apply for unemployment benefits in 5 weeks

16:20 GMT – Italy’s daily death toll edges up, but new cases fall

Deaths from COVID-19 in Italy climbed by 464, against 437 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, but the daily tally of new infections declined to 2,646 from 3,370.

The total death toll is now at 25,549, the agency said, the second highest in the world after the US.

The are 189,973 confirmed cases, the third highest global tally behind the US and Spain.

16:11 GMT – Hospital admissions in Ireland fall 60 percent in three weeks

Hospital admissions in Ireland have fallen from an average of around 100 per day at the start of April to around 40 now, Health Minister Simon Harris told parliament.

The reproductive rate, or the number of people who become infected from each positive case of COVID-19, has fallen to a range of between 0.5 and one from a range of 0.7 and one a week ago, Harris said.

16:02 GMT – Calls grow to reopen parts of Zimbabwe’s crisis-ridden economy

With an economic crisis characterised by foreign currency shortages, deeply eroded disposable incomes, dwindling exports, high unemployment, low manufacturing output and a currency that is rapidly losing value, some economists say Zimbabwe simply cannot afford to idle some of its money-making industries, despite the health risks from the coronavirus.

Read about it here.

Zimbabwe coronavirus 2
Zimbabwe’s lockdown could have ‘disastrous consequences’ for the economy, say experts, but others warn against the potential human toll of reopening the economy too soon [File: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters]

16:00 GMT – Wall Street up again despite dreadful jobless data

Major United States stock indexes sailed to the upside for a second consecutive day despite dreadful data showing another 4.43 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, all but confirming economists’ predictions that the US economy is experiencing its worst recession since the Great Depression.

Read more here.

15:54 GMT – Algeria rights groups say government cracking down on critics

Prisoner rights group says dozens, including students and activists, were summoned by police amid coronavirus measures.

Read about it here.

Demonstrators wave the Algerian flag as thousands gather for a rally in Algiers, Friday April 5, 2019, chanting, singing and cheering after their movement forced out longtime President Abdelaziz Boute
Demonstrators wave the Algerian flag as thousands gather for a rally in Algiers [File: Toufik Doudou/AP Photo]

15:07 GMT – Developing world needs $1 trillion debt write-off: UN agency

Around $1 trillion of debt owed by developing countries should be cancelled under a global deal to help them overcome the economic fallout, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said.

“This is a world where defaults by developing nations on their debt is inevitable,” said Richard Kozul-Wright, director of UNCTAD’s Division on Globalization and Development Strategies.

14:50 GMT – ECB’s Lagarde warns EU leaders of ‘doing too little, too late’

European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde warned EU leaders against doing “too little, too late” to shield the economy from the effects of the pandemic, a source told AFP.

Lagarde also said during a videolink summit of the leaders that the ECB’s worst-case scenario was that the eurozone could lose 15 percent of GDP because of the impact of measures to slow the virus, the source said.

European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde gestures during a news conference on the outcome of the meeting of the Governing Council, in Frankfurt
ECB President Christine Lagarde warned EU leaders of ‘doing too little, too late’ to shield the economy from the effects of the pandemic [Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters]

14:25 GMT – US new home sales plunge 15.4 percent in March

Sales of new single-family houses collapsed in March as the lockdowns to contain the coronavirus outbreak took effect, dropping 15.4 percent compared to February, according to released government data.

Sales fell to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 627,000, 9.5 percent below the March 2019 pace, with the deepest decline seen in the Northeast and West. Median sales price fell to $321,400 from $330,100, according to the report.

14:20 GMT – South Africa’s Dis-Chem found to have increased face mask prices by 261 percent

South African pharmaceutical group Dis-Chem has been referred to the Competition Tribunal after an investigation following complaints from consumers about its pricing of dust and surgical masks, the commission said.

“This referral [to the Competition Tribunal] follows an investigation by the Commission which found that Dis-Chem has charged excessive prices on essential hygienic goods to the detriment of customers and consumers,” the commission said in a statement.

The competition body said the average price increases between February and March on the products ranged between 43 percent and 261 percent.

14:15 GMT – UK death toll rises to 18,738

Britain’s COVID-19 death toll in hospitals rose by 616 to 18,738 in the 24 hours to 16:00 GMT on April 22, the health ministry said.

“As of 9 am 23 April, 583,496 tests have concluded, with 23,560 tests on 22 April. 425,821 people have been tested of which 138,078 tested positive,” the ministry said.

“As of 5 pm on 22 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 18,738 have sadly died.”

UK faces criticism over COVID-19 testing strategy

13:45 GMT – Egypt keeps night curfew for Ramadan

Egypt will keep a night-time curfew for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan to curb the coronavirus spread but will allow one extra hour of movement, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said.

The curfew will start at 9 pm instead of the previous 8 pm and run until 6 am, he told a televised news conference.

13:30 GMT – England’s hospital death rises to 16,786: health service

The number of COVID-19 deaths in England’s hospitals rose by 514 to 16,786, the National Health Service (NHS) said.

NHS England said that the people were aged between 31 and 100 years old, and that 16 of the patients, who were aged between 37 and 92 years old, had no known underlying health condition.


Hi, this is Mersiha Gadzo in Doha taking over the live updates from my colleague Usaid Siddiqui.


12:59 GMT – Epidemics, war have impacted Muslim worship throughout history

The coronavirus pandemic has forced drastic changes across the world – many people face unemployment, travel plans have been cancelled and public places are empty as some work from home, practise social distancing and self isolate.

As most countries enforced restrictions on movement to curb the spread of the novel virus, at one point it was estimated 3 billion people were under some form of lockdown.

Religous groups have adjusted to the new realities, including Muslims. 

Read more here.

Crowds gathered on a pilgrimage at the Kaaba, the birthplace of Prophet Mohammed, Mecca, July 1889 [Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

12:55 GMT – European firms step up COVID-19 vaccines work, UK team starts human trials

Scientists in Britain began clinical trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine as other developers across Europe also stepped up work on their own experimental shots against the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

A team at Britain’s Oxford University dosed the first volunteers in a trial of their vaccine – called “ChAdOx1 nCoV-19” – while Italy’s ReiThera, Germany’s Leukocare and Belgium’s Univercells said they were working together on another potential shot and aimed to start trials in a few months.

Britain’s GSK and France’s Sanofi last week announced a similar agreement to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, with trials starting in the second half of the year.

12:40 GMT – Half of all coronavirus deaths in Europe in nursing homes – WHO

The World Health Organization said Thursday that up to half of all coronavirus deaths across Europe have been in nursing homes, calling it an “unimaginable tragedy”.

Speaking at a briefing in Denmark, WHO Europe director Dr. Hans Kluge said a “deeply concerning picture” was emerging of the impact of COVID-19 on long-term homes for the elderly, where care had “often been notoriously neglected”.

He went on to say that health workers in such facilities were often overworked and underpaid and called for them to be given more protective gear and support, describing them as the “unsung heroes” of the pandemic.

Open Arms
Volunteers from the NGO Proactiva Open Arms prepare to carry out emergency tests to determine if there is a possible outbreak of COVID-19 among patients in a nursing home in Barcelona, northeast Spain, April 2020 [Jose Colon/Al Jazeera]

12:20 GMT – Indonesia to ban all domestic air, sea travel to early June – officials

Indonesia will temporarily ban domestic air and sea travel starting Friday, barring a few exceptions, to prevent further spread of coronavirus, Transport Ministry officials said.

The ban on air travel will be in place until June 1, Novie Riyanto Rahardjo, Transport Ministry’s director general of aviation said. The ban on travel by sea will be in place until June 8, sea trasportation director general Agus Purnomo said.

Cargo transportation is exempted from the ban, the officials said.

12:05 GMT – Sweden to limit online betting during coronavirus outbreak

Sweden said it would introduce a limit on how much punters could gamble in online casinos for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak as isolated individuals increasingly turn to such sites for entertainment.

With football and other organised sports shut down by restrictions in place to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, and many Swedes spending more time at home, the use of online slot machines and casino games has rocketed, government officials said.

The government said it planned to limit the amount gamblers can transfer into online casino accounts to 5,000 Swedish crowns ($495) a week. A similar limit would apply to losses on online slot machines.

11:45 GMT – Greece extends lockdown to May 4, delays migrant transfers

Greece is extending coronavirus lockdown measures by a week to May 4, the government said, a move that will delay the planned removal of hundreds of migrants from congested camps.

The country has managed to keep fatalities at a low level after registering its first virus death on March 12, despite a decade of cuts imposed on its public health system during the post-2010 debt crisis.

Supermarkets, banks and food delivery restaurants are among the few businesses still operating, and Greeks must inform authorities when leaving their homes for necessities, or risk fines.

Greece digital revolution
Greek government implemented strict precautionary measures against spread of the coronavirus disease [File: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]

11:30 GMT – Women’s Euro 2021 tournament moved to July 2022 – UEFA

UEFA’s Euro 2021 Women’s Championship, to be held in England, will be played one year later in July 2022, European soccer’s governing body decided at an executive committee meeting.

The tournament was moved after UEFA’s Euro 2020 men’s competition had to be postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The opening match will be held on July 6 with the final on July 31.

11:10 GMT – British PM was like ‘any other patient’, say nurses who treated him for coronavirus

Two nurses who were singled out for praise by Boris Johnson for their care while he was in hospital with the coronavirus said the British prime minister was treated like any other patient.

New Zealand nurse Jenny McGee said she was unfazed by the task of caring for Johnson, who “absolutely needed to be there”, while Luis Pitarma, from Portugal, said the responsibility “was quite overwhelming”.

“There was a lot of media interest about him being in hospital and, to be honest, that was the toughest,” McGee told TVNZ in an interview that aired on Thursday, her first public remarks since the episode.

10:30 GMT – Tokyo deploys Marie Kondo in virus fight

Worried about getting bored while stuck at home during holidays amid the coronavirus pandemic? The Tokyo governor has a solution: Decluttering with Marie Kondo.

Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters the metropolitan government will share fun videos – including those of the decluttering guru – to keep Tokyo residents entertained at home during the forthcoming “Golden Week” holidays.

“I think there are people who want to declutter during the holidays,” Koike said.

“With help of KonMari, we will upload videos in which she teaches us secrets of tidying up,” she said, referring to the now world-famous decluttering guru.

A Tokyo official added that other entertainment videos would be available for those who do not wish to spend their holidays clearing out their cupboards.

Al Jazeera questions Trump on Iran’s military satellite launch

10:14 GMT – German-funded mobile virus testing labs land in East Africa

Uganda and Rwanda have taken delivery of two mobile diagnostic labs to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, the first in a network of German-funded units for East Africa, public investment bank KfW said.

While the project to procure the labs and train staff has been underway since 2018, “they’re arriving at exactly the right moment to help with fighting,” the virus, KfW board member Joachim Nagel said in a statement.

More of the mobile units “for speedy and modern diagnosis of infectious disease” will arrive in the six countries of the East African Community (EAC) region in the coming days, KfW said, for a total of nine in the first phase.

09:55 GMT – China President Xi says to boost investments, employment

China will step up investment in various sectors including 5G, artificial intelligence, transport and energy and boost employment, President Xi Jinping said, as the world’s second-largest economy reels from the coronavirus epidemic.

The official Xinhua news agency reported that Xi, speaking during a visit to northwestern Shaanxi province, said the long-term trend of improvement in the Chinese economy has not changed but said Beijing will take steps to boost the real economy, especially the manufacturing sector.

Xi said Beijing will focus on the employment of college graduates, migrant workers and retired veterans and boost employment and entrepreneurship via multiple channels.

President Xi blog entry
In this April 21, 2020 photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping wears a face mask as he inspects a factory production line in Laoxian township in Ankang city in northwestern China’s Shaanxi Province [Ju Peng/Xinhua/AP

09:40 GMT – Spain’s death toll from coronavirus rises to 22,157

The Spanish health ministry said 440 people died from the coronavirus in the previous 24 hours, which brought total fatalities to 22,157.

That was slightly higher than the previous day when 435 people died. The number of diagnosed cases rose to 213,024 from 208,389 the day before.

Europe pandemic: Coronavirus restrictions eased in some countries

09:20 GMT – French economy ‘under anesthesia’ as virus lockdown takes toll

France’s coronavirus lockdown has eroded economic activity to a bare minimum, the national statistics office said Thursday, as officials weigh the risks of trying to reopen businesses even as infections remain high.

“Like a person placed under anaesthesia, the French economy can now ensure only its vital functions,” INSEE said, estimating that activity in the private sector, which makes up around three-fourths of total GDP, had plunged 41 percent overall.

Some industries, like construction, restaurants and tourism, have effectively been at a standstill since the business closures and stay-at-home orders were announced in mid-March.

France’s coronavirus lockdown has eroded economic activity to a bare minimum, the national statistics office said Thursday, as officials weigh the risks of trying to reopen businesses even as infections remain high.

09:00 GMT – The UK activists creating multilingual coronavirus content

A large number of people who have contracted the coronavirus in the United Kingdom have ancestry in other regions, and according to research, many who have died since the start of the epidemic were from ethnic minority backgrounds.

While a nationwide campaign about the benefits of social distancing and proper hand-washing attempts to inform people how to limit the spread of the coronavirus, much of this information has been in English, meaning large sections of British society are unable to access important messaging and even services.

Read more here.

British ethnic minority communities
British Pakistani Saima Mohsin decided to create her own coronavirus resources in Punjabi and post them on her Twitter feed, followed by more than 225,000 people [Courtesy: Saima Mohsin]

08:40 GMT – Unilever sees pandemic changing consumer demand

Anglo-Dutch consumer giant Unilever reported Thursday a slight rise in first quarter sales and said the coronavirus has caused hygiene product sales to rocket while those of ice cream melted.

The firm, which produces Magnum ice cream, Domestos household cleaner and Lipton tea among other things, said sales edged up by 0.2 percent to 12.4 billion euros ($13.3 billion) from the same period a year earlier.

Unilever withdrew its outlook for the year however, and its shares fell sharply in Amsterdam.

08:10 GMT – Pakistani doctors warn of catastrophic consequences of easing lockdowns.

Pakistani doctors have warned the government of the possibly catastrophic consequences of easing a countrywide lockdown, asking that restrictions be enforced for several more weeks to avoid a collapse of the country’s healthcare system.

The appeal comes as Pakistan registered its highest single-day rise in cases for the second time in three days, with 765 new cases taking the country’s tally to 10,513. The pace of the spread of the virus has increased in the last five days, with more than 500 new cases registered each day, according to government data.

Addressing a press conference in the southern city of Karachi, senior doctors called for a continuing ban on all public gatherings, including those at shopping malls and at mosques.

In a letter addressed to the government, a number of prominent epidemiologists and other doctors made special mention of the government’s decision to reopen mosques this week, saying those gatherings could prove a significant vector for the spread of the virus.

Pakistan mosque
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]

07:50 GMT- Singapore confirms 1,037 new COVID-19 cases

Singapore’s health ministry said it had preliminarily confirmed 1,037 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, taking the Southeast Asian city-state’s total infections to 11,178.

The health ministry said the vast majority of the new cases were migrant workers residing in dormitories, many of which are under government-ordered quarantine due to mass outbreaks.

singapore blog entry
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]

07:35 GMT – China to donate additional $30 million to WHO for COVID-19

China is to donate an additional $30 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) to support the global fight against COVID-19, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

Hua said on Twitter the donation was aimed in particular at strengthening developing countries’ health systems and added that China had already donated $20 million to the WHO in March.

07:18 GMT – Malaysia coronavirus cases reach 5,532, over 3000 recovered – foreign minister

Malaysia now has 5,532 recorded cases, with 3,452 people recovered, Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in a virutal meeting with other ASEAN foreign ministers and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The morbidity rate was at 1.6 percent, the minister told ASEAN leaders.

“Just one month ago on 26 March, we were faced with a peak of 235 new cases recorded in a single day, the highest Malaysia has ever experienced. Today, I am proud that we have recorded only
double-digit new cases for 5 days in a row,” Hishammuddin said.

“I admit, these numbers look promising, but a full victory goes beyond just focusing on the statistics,” he added.

The Malaysian foreign minister went on to brief his counterparts about measures the country was taking, on the political, economic and social front to combat COVID-19.

malaysia leaders ASEAN meeting
Malysian foreign minister in a virutal meeting with his ASEAN counterpart [Screenshot]

07:05 GMT – US offers to Pakistan on fighting COVID-19

The United States has offered its support to Pakistan in aiding the fight against the country’s coronavirus outbreak, promising to provide ventilators and unspecified help “in the economic arena”, a Pakistani statement released after a telephone conversation between US President Donald Trump and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan says.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan also highlighted Pakistan’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus. He emphasized that Pakistan was facing a dual challenge of overcoming the pandemic and saving people, particularly the most vulnerable segments of the population, from hunger due to lockdown,” said the statement from Khan’s office.

Khan, alongside other leaders from the developing world, has been calling for developed nations to offer debt relief to developing countries in the wake of a global economic slowdown due to the coronavirus.

On Thursday, he will launch a $595 million appeal to fund Pakistan’s Preparedness and Response plan to COVID-19, mainly targeting international financial institutions and world powers.

Journalists in Pakistan fear lack of protective equipment

07:00 GMT – In shadow of coronavirus, China steps up manoeuvres near Taiwan

Beijing has escalated the number and intensity of military drills around Taiwan in recent weeks, making risky manoeuvres that appear set to test the political waters in Taipei and Washington while signalling the mainland’s continuing animosity towards Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen, who was re-elected in a landslide in January.

While China has long held military exercises in Taiwanese territorial waters and airspace, this month the People’s Liberation Army Airforce conducted a 36-hour endurance exercise.

Read more here.

06:45 GMT – French clashes this week unlikely to lead to scenes like 2005 riots – minister

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that he did not think that this week’s outbreak of violent clashes in French housing estates would result in scenes similar to the 2005 riots that broke out throughout the country.

“We are not in this sort of scenario,” Castaner told BFM TV.

06:25 GMT – Migrants in Greece shot after apparently breaking quarantine

Two asylum-seekers on the Greek island of Lesbos were shot and injured after apparently violating coronavirus quarantine rules, officials said.

The two men, an Iranian and an Afghan, reported to the camp’s infirmary with buckshot wounds late Wednesday, sources at the Moria camp said.

They were taken to the local hospital but their condition was not deemed serious.

06:10 GMT – Digital video game spending hits record high under virus lockdown

Spending on digital video games hit a record high $10 billion in March as people stuck at home under coronavirus lockdowns turned to gaming, market tracker SuperData reported.

Money spent on major console games leapt to $1.5 billion in March from $883 million in February, while spending on games played on high-performance personal computers climbed 56 percent to $567 million in the same comparison.

Console and PC games tend to be popular in Europe and North America where restrictions on going out were ramped up in March due to the pandemic.

05:52 GMT – Vietnam relaxes virus restrictions as cases plateau

Communist Vietnam eased social distancing measures Thursday, with experts pointing to a decisive response involving mass quarantines and expansive contact tracing for the apparent success in containing the coronavirus.

Despite a long and porous border with China, the Southeast Asian nation has recorded just 268 virus cases and zero deaths, according to official tallies.

Although numbers tested for COVID-19 are relatively low and experts caution the authoritarian government’s health ministry is the sole source for the figures, they also say there is little reason to distrust them.

Vietnam Conduct COVID-19 Tests To Contain Spread Of The Coronavirus
Market staff wear face shields while taking information from vendors and labourers at Long Bien market in Hanoi, Vietnam [Linh Pham/Getty Images]

05:35 GMT – US sees 1,738 new coronavirus deaths in 24 hours: Johns Hopkins

The United States recorded 1,738 deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, a lower toll than the day before, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The new deaths bring the total number of COVID-19 fatalities in the US to 46,583 since the outbreak began there, by far the highest figures recorded by any country caught in the global pandemic.

05:20 GMT – Half of German firms using shortened working hours due to coronavirus – Ifo

Half of German companies are using the government’s short-time work facility as most see a decline in revenues due to the coronavirus outbreak, a survey published by the Ifo economic institute showed.

Short-time work is a form of state aid that allows employers to switch employees to shorter working hours during an economic downturn to keep them on the payroll. It has been widely used by industry, including Germany’s car sector.

Hello, this is Usaid Siddiqui in Doha taking over from my colleague Zaheen Rashid.


04:45 GMT – Using pandemic to erode human rights is ‘unacceptable’

Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, has warned that the coronavirus pandemic risks becoming a human rights crisis with some governments using the outbreak as an excuse to adopt repressive measures for unrelated reasons.

“This is unacceptable,” he says, unveiling a report on how human rights should guide the response and recovery to the health, social and economic crisis gripping the world.

“We see the disproportionate effects on certain communities, the rise of hate speech, the targeting of vulnerable groups, and the risks of heavy-handed security responses undermining the health response,” he adds.

04:20 GMT – Philippines’s Duterte to decide whether to continue lockdown

Little more than a week remains before the scheduled end of the Philippines’s strict community quarantine measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus and the country is expected to find out how the government plans to transition out of the lockdown later on Thursday.

But has the Philippines flattened its curve?

Find out in this report from Ana P Santos in Manila.

04:09 GMT – Australia says all WHO members should support virus inquiry

Scott Morrison, the prime minister of Australia, said all WHO member nations should support a proposed independent review into the origins of the coronavirus and its spread.

“If you’re going to be a member of a club like the World Health Organization, there should be responsibilities and obligations attached to that,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

“We’d like the world to be safer when it comes to viruses … I would hope that any other nation, be it China or anyone else, would share that objective.”

Beijing has fiercely rejected calls for an inquiry, describing the efforts as US-led propaganda against China.

03:38 GMT – Red Cross calls for proper planning to handle dead bodies

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has urged governments across the world to prepare and plan for mass casualties from the coronavirus, warning the number of deaths caused by the new coronavirus could overwhelm local capacity to handle dead bodies properly.

Failure to plan ahead risks people being buried in mass graves, with few records and little understanding of who died and where the body was taken.

“Mass fatality planning doesn’t mean there will be mass fatalities. But it’s imperative that plans are made and, if needed, carried out to help lower the pain that families and broader society feel in the face of a high death toll,” said Oran Finnegan, the head of the forensics unit at the ICRC.

Cemetery area for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) victims in Jakarta
Relatives wearing face masks stand next to graves of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) victims at a cemetery area provided by the government in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 3, 2020 [Willy Kurniawan/ Reuters]

03:24 GMT – Top UK adviser says social distancing may last until year-end

Professor Chris Whitty, the British government’s chief medical adviser, has warned that social distancing measures in the United Kingdom may have to stay in place for the rest of the year.

“In the long run, the exit from this is going to be one of two things, ideally. One of which is a highly effective vaccine … or highly effective drugs so that people stop dying of this disease even if they catch it,” he says.

“Until we have those, and the probability of having those any time in the next calendar year are incredibly small and I think we should be realistic about that. We’re going to have to rely on other social measures, which of course are very socially disruptive as everyone is finding at the moment.”

Ministers will have to decide what mix of measures will have to remain in place once the UK goes through the peak of the coronavirus and beyond, he adds.

01:50 GMT – Italian cruise ship docked in Japan has 14 more coronavirus cases

Japan’s NHK broadcaster reported that 14 more cases of coronavirus infections have been confirmed on an Italian cruise ship docked for repairs at Japan’s Nagasaki prefecture.

The figure brings the total number of cases on the Costa Atlantica to at least 48.

The Italian cruise ship is carrying 623 crew members and no passengers, officials say.

An aerial view shows Italian cruise ship Costa Atlantica in Nagasaki, Japan
An aerial view shows Italian cruise ship Costa Atlantica in Nagasaki, southern Japan April 21, 2020 [Kyodo/via Reuters]

01:25 GMT – South Korea posts biggest GDP fall since 2008 financial crisis

South Korea said its economy shrank 1.4 percent during the first three months of the year, the worst contraction since late-2008, reflecting the enormous shock unleashed by the coronavirus on domestic demand and trade.

The Bank of Korea said domestic consumption decreased 6.4 percent from the previous quarter as people, while staying at home to avoid virus transmissions, spent less on restaurants, leisure activities, clothing and cars.

Amid worldwide lockdowns, exports shrank 2 percent despite a seasonal rebound in shipments of semiconductors, one of the country’s major export items.

01:12 GMT – China reports 10 new coronavirus cases in mainland

Health authorities have reported 10 new coronavirus cases in mainland China, down from 30 a day earlier as the number of so-called imported cases involving travellers from overseas declined.

The National Health Commission said six of the new COVID-19 cases confirmed on Wednesday were imported, down from 23 a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases for mainland China now stands at 82,798. No new COVID-19 deaths were reported, leaving the toll unchanged at 4,632.

00:49 GMT – Trump downplays threat of coronavirus returning

Trump has played down the possibility that the coronavirus could be worse this winter in the northern hemisphere despite medical experts’ warnings that COVID-19 could combine with the flu to make a more complicated return to the US.

“It’s not going to be what we’ve gone through, in any way, shape or form,” Trump said.

“If it comes back, though, it won’t be coming back in the form that it was. It will be coming back in smaller doses that we can contain,” he continued. “You could have some embers of corona … (but) we will not go through what we went through for the last two months.”

00:45 GMT – Trump ‘disagrees strongly’ with Georgia’s plan to reopen economy

Trump said he told Georgia Governor Brian Kemp that he “disagreed strongly” with Kemp’s decision to begin allowing some nonessential businesses to soon reopen.

“The people of Georgia … have been strong, resolute, but at the same time he must do what he thinks is right,” Trump said of Kemp, a Republican.

“I want him to do what he thinks is right. But I disagree with him on what he’s doing… But I think (opening) spas and beauty salons and tattoo parlours and barbershops in phase one … it’s just too soon.”

In addition to pushback from Trump, Kemp’s plan to begin cracking open the Georgia economy faces two key hurdles – the state is struggling to increase testing for new coronavirus infections and boost tracking of those in contact with infected people.

00:19 GMT – US vaccine expert ‘removed for opposing Trump-backed chloroquine’

Dr Rick Bright, the head of the US agency in charge of developing a vaccine against coronavirus, said he was removed from his job for opposing the chloroquine treatment promoted by Trump.

The director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) was moved to a lesser position in the National Institutes of Health on Tuesday.

“I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit,” he said in a statement.

Bright said he will be asking the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the Trump administration’s politicisation of BARDA and its pressuring of scientists to favour companies with political connections.

00:13 GMT – Canada provinces seek military help to combat pandemic

Canada’s Ontario and Quebec provinces have asked the military to help overwhelmed staff at elderly care homes hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The requests came as Canada surpassed 2,000 COVID-19 deaths – half of them at long-term care facilities.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said soldiers are needed at five of the most affected care homes in the province, saying the coronavirus in these places is spreading like a “raging wildfire”.

Francois Legault, Quebec Premier, told reporters he asked Ottawa to send 1,000 troops, saying “it will help us a lot to have lots of extra hands to do tasks that are less medical and help the staff”.

Hello, I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives, with Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. You can find updates from yesterday, April 22, here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies