US coronavirus death toll exceeds 50,000: Live updates

WHO and international partners accelerate work on COVID-19 vaccine as number of deaths in the US hits grim milestone.

A new COVID-19 testing lab in Glasgow
Technicians work at the new COVID-19 testing lab at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, amid the coronavirus disease pandemic in Glasgow, Britain April 22, 2020. [Andrew MilliganReuters]
  • The World Health Organisation’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the agency is teaming up with countries and partners worldwide to accelerate work on drugs and a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

  • The death toll in the United States surpassed 50,000 amid more than 890,000 cases. 

  • The number of positive cases in Qatar jumped by 761 in a 24-hour period, marking the Gulf country’s highest daily increase. The total number of cases reported in the country stands at 8,525, with 10 deaths.
  • More than 195,000 people have died due to the pandemic, with 2.7 million infected globally, out of whom almost some 781,000 have recovered.

Here are the latest updates:

Friday, April 24

23:22 GMT – As US coronavirus death toll tops 51,000, handful of states move toward reopening

With the US. coronavirus death toll topping 51,000 and nearly one in six workers out of a job, Georgia, Oklahoma and several other states took tentative steps at reopening businesses on Friday, despite disapproval from President Donald Trump and medical experts.

Fitness clubs, hair salons, tattoo parlours and some other workplaces were allowed to open their doors by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, disregarding warnings from public health officials that easing restrictions too soon could lead to more infections and deaths, Reuters news agency reported.

Georgia, one of several states in the Deep South that waited until early April to mandate restrictions imposed weeks before across much of the rest of the country to curb the outbreak, has become a flashpoint in the debate over how and when the nation should return to work.

22:00 GMT – Trump leaves news briefing without taking questions

US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence left Friday’s coronavirus taskforce briefing without taking questions from reporters. 

The president allowed just a brief question earlier in the briefing to the head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Stephen Hahn. But after the president and vice president finished their remarks they left the briefing room as reporters yelled questions. 

Trump has used the question-answer session of the briefing to regularly deride reporters and news networks when he doesn’t like what was asked. 

The lack of a question session comes a day after Trump was denounced by the scientific and medical community after he suggested disinfectant and ultraviolet light could possibly be used as a treatment for the coronavirus. 

Answering a small handful of questions from reporters earlier on Friday as he signed an economic relief package, Trump said he was being sarcastic when he made the suggestion.  

19:34 GMT – Liberia extends lockdown

Liberian President Geroge Weah extended by two weeks the country’s measures in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

Weah extended the restrictions, first introduced in April 8, adding a new measure that requires everyone to wear a face mask in public.

19:00 GMT – Lebanon extends lockdown, shortens curfew 

Lebanon announced an extension of its lockdown till May 10, but said its curfew would now be from 9pm-5am, one hour shorter than before.

It also announced a five-phase plan to reopen the country on the following days: April 28; May 4, May 11, May 25 and June 6. Physical distancing and wearing masks in public will be required throughout all stages.

A decision on alternating days between cars with odd/even license plates will remain in place till at least May 10.

Private businesses can begin working again at stage 3 but with as little staff as possible. Those 65 and over will have to remain home, unless for urgent matters, until the end of phase 3.

18:08 GMT – UN launches push to accelerate work on COVID-19 treatment 

World leaders pledged to accelerate work on tests, drugs and vaccines for COVID-19 and to share them around the globe, but the United States did not take part in the launch of the WHO initiative.

Read more here.

17:35 GMT – France reports new cases

France reported 389 new cases, bringing the total number of positive cases in the country to 22,245.

17:16 GMT – Trump says his remarks on using disinfectant were sarcastic

US President Donald Trump said that he was being sarcastic when he raised the possibility of using disinfectant inside people’s bodies to fight coronavirus.

“I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you, just to see what would happen,” he told journalists at the White House.

Trump said at his daily news briefing on Thursday that scientists should explore whether inserting light or disinfectant into the bodies of people infected with the new coronavirus might help them treat the disease.

U.S. President Trump attends daily coronavirus task force briefing in Washington
US President Donald Trump compares a swab for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing with regular cotton swabs [Reuters]

17:03 GMT – Belgium set to allow easing of restrictions 

Belgium is set to allow a gradual easing of coronavirus restriction measures during May, with shops allowed to reopen and the start of some classes in school.

Restrictions in the country, among the hardest hit by COVID-19, are set to be eased in phases starting from May 4. Currently, only shops selling food, home improvement stores, garden centres and pharmacies can open.

Non-food shops would be allowed to re-open from May 11, albeit with strict social distancing measures, Belgian broadcaster RTBF said. Schools would also reopen their doors to the first set of pupils from May 18, newspaper L’Echo said.

16:55 GMT – US warship hit with coronavirus

A US Navy destroyer was hit with a coronavirus outbreak as it carried out a counter-narcotics mission, US officials said, dealing another blow to the military as it grapples with the pandemic.

US officials, speaking to Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity, said more than a dozen sailors on board the Kidd had tested positive for the disease.

The Pentagon confirmed an outbreak on the ship, which had been carrying out its mission in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific, and declined to discuss the exact number of sailors infected.

16:30 GMT – Turkey reports new cases, deaths 

Turkey’s health ministry reported 3,122 new positive cases, bringing the total number of cases to 104,912.

The number of deaths rose by 109 in the past 24 hours, to a total of 2,600.

16:23 GMT – Sanofi CEO warns Europe on vaccine race

Sanofi’s chief executive urged stronger European co-ordination in the hunt for a vaccine against the coronavirus, criticising Europe for being too slow to act in a fiercely competitive global race.

The French drugmaker is working on two vaccine projects, including one in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline. That venture has received financial support from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

“It is quite conceivable that if they are successful the American government will ask for Americans to be vaccinated first,” Hudson told reporters.

“There has been too much of a lack of co-ordination at a European level. It is starting to move now but the level of preparedness to the pandemic is very, very low,” he said.

Doctor's note BCG vaccine/Getty Images
Sanofi is working on two vaccine projects, including one in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline [Getty Images]

16:14 GMT – Coronavirus came to New York from Europe, not China: NY governor

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that strains of the coronavirus that first infected his state’s residents came from Europe, not China, and that the ban on trave;lers from China came too late to halt its spread.

“We closed the front door with the China travel ban, which was right, but we left the back door open,” Cuomo told a daily briefing. 

15:39 GMT – France restricts sales of nicotine substitutes after study

France restricted sales of nicotine substitutes after new research suggested nicotine may offer some protection against infection by the new coronavirus.

The Health Ministry said in a decree it aimed to avoid a shortage of products such as nicotine patches for patients and to prevent the wrong use – and overuse – of substitutes used to fight nicotine dependence.

Under the decree, pharmacies are not allowed to sell more than a month’s worth of substitutes until May 11 when France is to begin easing lockdown measures and reopening schools. The decree also said that online sales were suspended.

15:13 GMT – Global leaders back WHO’s plan 

Global leaders voiced their support for a WHO initiative to speed the development of drugs and vaccines to tackle COVID-19.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the disease pandemic caused by the new coronavirus was the “biggest global threat the world has faced in a generation”, while Spain voiced strong support for the WHO’s “central role” in handling it.

15:17 GMT – US death toll tops 50,000

The total number of deaths in the United States stands at 50,031, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University, while the number of confirmed cases are 870,468.

Read more here.

funeral united states
A funeral director wears personal protective equipment due to COVID-19 concerns while collecting a body at The Brooklyn Hospital Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York [John Minchillo/AP Photo]

15:08 GMT – Portugal ramps up testing at care homes 

Portugal hopes to conduct 70,000 coronavirus tests by the end of May at care homes, among whose residents around two in five of the country’s coronavirus deaths have occurred.

Around 17,000 tests have been conducted so far at some 200 homes.

The ramp-up, due to cover about 750 homes, aims to contain the spread of the outbreak there “by testing all workers and residents with symptoms”, the labour ministry said.

Portugal has reported 22,797 coronavirus cases and 854 fatalities.

14:58 GMT – Hillary Clinton says ‘don’t poison yourself’

Hilary Clinton Tweeted to her followers “don’t poison yourself” after Trump said researchers should try putting disinfectant into coronavirus patients’ bodies.

Please don’t poison yourself because Donald Trump thinks it could be a good idea,” she said. 

14:17 GMT – Closed buildings face another risk: Legionnaires’ disease

Commercial buildings shuttered for weeks to stem the spread of the coronavirus could fuel another grisly lung infection: Legionnaires’ disease.

Public health experts are urging landlords across the globe to carefully re-open buildings to prevent outbreaks of the severe, sometimes lethal, form of pneumonia.

The sudden and sweeping closures of schools, factories, businesses and government offices have created an unprecedented decline in water use. The lack of chlorinated water flowing through pipes, combined with irregular temperature changes, have created conditions ripe for the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, they said.

14:04 GMT – Biggest health effort ‘in history’ needed: UN chief

Ridding the world of the coronavirus will require the biggest public health effort ever seen, the UN’s chief said.

“We face a global public enemy like no other,” Antonio Guterres told a virtual briefing, insisting that “a world free of COVID-19 requires the most massive public health effort in history”.

13:59 GMT – EU president says ready to respond to crisis

European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the body will launch a global pledging effort on May 4.

The aim is to raise more than $7bn for prevention, diagnostics, and treatment.

13:55 GMT – Lebanon advised to extend lockdown

Lebanon’s government was advised to extend a lockdown in place by two weeks until May 10, but the country’s higher defence council said it should gradually restore certain parts of the economy in the coming weeks.

The defence council said that the lockdown must be extended in order to “avoid a second wave from the epidemic that would constitute an unbearable catastrophe”.

With eight new cases, Lebanon has so far recorded 696 coronavirus cases and 22 deaths, according to the ministry of health.

13:36 GMT – England’s hospital toll rises by 587

The COVID-19 death toll in English hospitals rose 587 to 17,373, the health service said.

“34 of the 587 patients [aged between 50 and 102 years old] had no known underlying health condition,” it added.

13:24 GMT – WHO chief says agency is partnering with groups for vaccine 

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the agency is partnering with world leaders and the private sector to accelerate work on drugs and a vaccine for COVID-19.

“This is a landmark collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics for COVID-19,” Ghebreyesus told a virtual briefing.

“Our shared commitment is to ensure all people have access to all the tools to defeat COVID-19,” he said.

“The world needs these tools and needs them fast,” he added. “We are facing a common threat which we can only defeat with a common approach.”      

Hello, this is Farah Najjar taking over from my colleague Joseph Stepansky.

12:55 GMT – US says will not take part in WHO global drugs, vaccine initiative launch

The US will not take part in the launching of a global initiative on Friday to speed the development, production and distribution of drugs and vaccines against COVID-19, a spokesman for the US mission in Geneva told Reuters news agency.

“There will be no U.S. official participation”, he said in an email reply to a query. “We look forward to learning more about this initiative in support of international cooperation to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 as soon as possible.”

US President Donald Trump has announced a suspension of funding to the WHO, where it is the largest donor. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will help launch the global initiative on Friday.

12:50 GMT – Lebanon defence council urges extending lockdown two weeks, easing restrictions

Lebanon’s higher defence council has advised the government to extend a coronavirus lockdown by two weeks until May 10, but to begin gradually easing restrictions in the coming weeks.

The cabinet is expected to take the decision in a session on Friday. During the lockdown, Lebanon has ordered most businesses closed, shut the airport and imposed an overnight curfew

12:40 GMT – Spain: Was coronavirus already spreading a month before lockdown?

Recent scientific research suggests that Spain, the country that currently has the most coronavirus cases in Europe, was hit by COVID-19 much earlier than previously thought.

The study by researchers from the Instituto de Salud Carlos III in Madrid indicates that one clade – a virus “family” derived from a single ancestor – of coronavirus was present in mainland Spain as early as February 14.

That was a full month before the country went into lockdown, and a time when officials worldwide were still trying to understand the scale of the virus.

Read more here

spain coronavirus
A healthcare worker acknowledges applause outside the Gregorio Maranon Hospital in Madrid on April 12, 2020 during a national lockdown to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 disease [Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP]

12:20 GMT – Pandemic leaves Delhi riots victims twice displaced

On February 23, Jameela Begum’s neighbourhood in northeast Delhi was ravaged by the worst violence the Indian capital had witnessed in decades, which left at least 53 people dead.

The violence took place amid protests over a controversial new citizenship law, which critics said violated India’s secular constitution and was aimed at further marginalising its Muslim minority. Dozens of people, including a large number of Muslims, have been arrested for the violence.

Following the riots, Jameela’s family of eight was forced to move to a relief camp set up in an Eidgah (grounds where Eid prayers are held), along with 600 others.

On March 24, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown and urged people to stay home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. As soon as the announcement came into effect the next day, the Eidgah relief camp was cleared and its residents forcibly evicted.

Read more here

Muslims sit inside a relief camp in Mustafabad in the riot-affected northeast of New Delhi
Victims of the violence have also complained of delay by the government in disbursing their compensation [File: Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

12:10 GMT – Dutch cases rise by 806 to 36,535

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Netherlands rose by 806 to 36,535, health authorities have said, with 112 new deaths.

The country’s overall death toll is now 4,289, the Netherlands’ Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said in its daily update. The RIVM emphasised it reports only confirmed cases, and actual numbers are higher.

12:00 GMT – Czech gov’t backs plan to seek state of emergency extension: Report

 The Czech government has approved plans to ask the lower house of parliament to extend a state of emergency until May 25 to help fight the new coronavirus epidemic, CTK news agency reported, citing Interior Minister Jan Hamacek.

The plan should go to lawmakers on Tuesday, CTK said. The current state of emergency is in place until April 30 and gives the government powers to limit people’s movement or close businesses.

11:45 GMT – Vietnam reports two new cases, bringing total to 270

Vietnam has reported two new COVID-19 cases, taking the tally to 270, its health ministry said, after the nation’s lockdown order was lifted a day earlier.

Both of the new cases are Vietnamese citizens, who returned from Japan on April 22 and were under quarantine upon arrival, the health ministry said in a statement. The country had stayed clear of the virus for seven days and has reported no deaths.

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]

11:35 GMT – East Timor has first medical worker infected

East Timor has announced that a nurse at a centre caring for patients with COVID-19 had been infected by the coronavirus, the first medical worker in the tiny Southeast Asian country to contract the disease.

The nurse had been working at an isolation centre as well as a hospital. A positive test result was confirmed by a laboratory in Darwin, Australia, said a spokesman for East Timor’s Integrated Crisis Management Center.

East Timor reported its first case on March 21 and now has 24 confirmed infections, while two people have recovered, Lobo told a news conference.

East Timor’s prime minister, Taur Matan Ruak, withdrew his resignation this month, saying he would stay in power to oversee the battle against the pandemic as the government approved a $250 million fund to fight it.

11:25 GMT – Qatar records 761 new cases, highest daily increase

Qatar has reported 761 new cases of the coronavirus, the largest daily increase since the outbreak began, according to the health ministry. 

A total of 8,525 cases have been reported in the country, with 10 deaths. 

11:15 GMT – Lysol maker says don’t inject disinfectant after Trump remarks

Lysol and Dettol maker Reckitt Benckiser has said its disinfectants should not be administered to humans, after US President Donald Trump said researchers should try putting disinfectant into coronavirus patients’ bodies.

“Under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route),” the company said.

11:00 GMT – Switzerland death toll rises to 1,309

The Swiss death toll from the new coronavirus has reached 1,309, the country’s public health agency has said, rising from 1,268 people on Thursday.

The number of positive tests also increased to 28,677 from 28,496 on Thursday, it said. Switzerland is due to start the first phase of its relaxation of the coronavirus restrictions on April 27 with the reopening of hairdressers, florists, and garden centres.

10:50 GMT – India must be self-reliant against virus: PM Modi

India’s prime minister says the country’s 1.3 billion people are bravely fighting the coronavirus epidemic with limited resources and the lesson they have learned so far is that the country has to be self-sufficient for meeting its needs.

Addressing the country’s village council heads through video conferencing on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says the country can’t afford to look outward to meet a crisis of this dimension in future.

Self-reliance is the biggest lesson taught by the epidemic, Modi said.

India has so far reported 22,358 positive novel coronavirus cases and 718 deaths. India has been importing critical medical supplies, including protective gears, masks and ventilators from China.

10:40 GMT – Poland extends school lockdown until May 24

Poland’s government is to extend the closure of schools, and pre-schools by a month, until May 24, Education Minister Dariusz Piatkowski has said.

Piatkowski also told a news conference that he was considering whether it would be possible to allow some educational establishments to offer day care for children, but gave no further details.

Previously the education system lockdown had been planned to last until April 26.

10:35 GMT – Iran death toll rises by 93 to 5,574: Health official 

Iran’s death toll from the new coronavirus has risen by 93, to reach a total of 5,574, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on state TV.

The total number of people diagnosed with the disease is 88,194, of whom 3,121 are in critical condition, he added.

Iran mosque coronavirus Qom
A couple wearing protective face masks, following the outbreak of coronavirus walk on the street in Qom, Iran in March [Reuters]

10:30 GMT – Spain records lowest number of daily deaths in over a month

Spain has reported 367 new deaths from coronavirus, the lowest daily toll in over a month.

A total of 22,524 people have died from COVID-19 in Spain, amid 219,764 cases.

10:25 GMT – Transport for London to furlough 7,000 staff, access UK job retention scheme

Transport for London (TFL) has said it would place 7,000 staff on furlough and access the British government’s job retention scheme, saving nearly $19.72 million a month in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

“TfL is to place 7,000 staff whose work has been reduced or paused as a result of the coronavirus pandemic on furlough from Monday. This will allow TfL to access funding from the Government’s Job Retention Scheme, saving the organisation an estimated 15.8 million pounds every four weeks,” TfL, which runs the city’s Underground subway system and bus network, said in a statement.

“This will partly reduce the huge financial impact of coronavirus whilst constructive discussions continue with Government on the wider revenue support that TfL will need to continue the effective operation of London’s transport network.”

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]

10:20 GMT – Pandemic not changing EU priorities on Brexit: French minister

The new coronavirus outbreak crisis does not change European priorities in the Brexit negotiations, French European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin has said.

She also told a French Senate meeting that a no-deal Brexit would be an extra shock on top of the COVID-19 crisis but Britain would suffer the most.

10:15 GMT – Russia to open 1,000-bed hospital in exhibition centre by end of the week

A temporary hospital in St Petersburg with just over 1,000 beds for coronavirus patients will open in the city’s Lenexpo exhibition centre by the end of the week, RIA news agency reported.

St Petersburg, Russia’s second biggest city, had reported 2,700 coronavirus cases and 20 deaths as of Friday. Russia as a whole had nearly 70,000 confirmed cases and 615 deaths.

To help Russia’s health system cope with the outbreak, hospitals across the country, including private ones, are being asked to turn their focus on the coronavirus outbreak.

The defence ministry is also building 16 brand new hospitals across the country, including the central regions of Moscow and St Petersburg to the south and Volga river areas, as well as in Siberia and far east. The ministry expects the new hospitals to be fully ready by mid-May.

10:10 GMT – UK submariners reprimanded lockdown party

A British Royal Navy submarine commander has been put on leave after ignoring social distancing rules and throwing a party for his crew on their arrival back home.

Footage on social media showed two DJs playing dance music to the crew of the HMS Trenchant, who were sitting at tables eating a barbecue after the vessel docked for repairs at its base near Plymouth, southwest England, following three months at sea.

“An investigation is under way. It would be inappropriate to comment further,” said a Royal Navy spokesman.
The BBC reported the captain of the nuclear-powered submarine had been sent home on leave following the party.

10:00 GMT – Surges in Djibouti cases as population ignores measures  

Djibouti has seen a rapid spike in coronavirus cases, with the Horn of Africa nation now recording the highest prevalence on the continent as the population largely ignores measures imposed by authorities.

The tiny but strategically important country that hosts major US and French military bases has recorded 985 positive cases – small on a global scale, but the highest in East Africa. Two people have died.

This is largely due to testing. Djibouti, with a population of around one million, has conducted just over 10,000 tests – a similar number to neighbouring Ethiopia, which has more than 100 million people.

But more alarming than the figure itself is the runaway rate of multiplication: in just two weeks, Djibouti has recorded a seven-fold increase in cases. The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday said that with 98.6 cases per 100,000 people, Djibouti has the highest prevalence on the continent.

09:40 GMT – Hong Kong reports no new cases or deaths

Hong Kong has reported no new coronavirus cases or deaths for the second time in a week.

The total cases in the country stand 1,036, according to the health ministry. On Monday, the semi-autonomous region also reported no new cases. 

09:20 GMT – UK Labour Party announces review of impact on black, Asian and minority ethnic groups

The UK’s main opposition Labour Party has announced a review into the impact of coronavirus on Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

The development comes amid rising fears that frontline NHS workers from ethnic backgrounds are disproportionately affected, as well as non-white Britons overall.

The Conservative led-UK government earlier promised a formal review into why BME communities appear to be more vulnerable.

“Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities have long been disadvantaged by the social and economic injustice which still exists in our country. There is a clear and tragic pattern emerging of the pandemic’s impact on those communities which must be better understood,” said Doreen Lawrence, who has been appointed race relations advisor, in a statement on Friday. 

Read our analysis here.

09:10 GMT – Pompeo urges Egypt to keep US prisoners safe

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed to his Egyptian counterpart that Americans detained in Egypt should be kept safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

The State Department on Thursday did not give any details about US prisoners, but three Americans held in Egypt were mentioned in a letter by a bipartisan group of US senators sent to Pompeo this month, asking him to call for the release of Americans detained in several countries, citing the risk from the virus.

Pompeo, in his call with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, “emphasised that detained US citizens be kept safe and provided consular access during the COVID-19 pandemic”, the State Department said in a statement.

Read more here

Mike Pompeo
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday there was ‘enormous evidence’ to show the new coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab [File: Andrew Harnik/ Reuters]

09:00 GMT – Indonesia reports 436 new cases, biggest daily jump

Indonesia reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus infections after identifying 436 new cases, taking the total to 8,211, data provided by health ministry official Achmad Yurianto showed on Friday.

Forty-two more people who had tested positive for the virus died, taking the total number of deaths to 689, according to the data.

08:55 GMT – Malaysia reports 88 new cases and one new death

Malaysian health authorities have reported 88 new coronavirus cases and one more death.

That brought the cumulative total to 5,691 cases in Malaysia, with the daily rise remaining in double digits for the eighth straight day.

The country has now reported 96 fatalities due to COVID-19 since the outbreak began.

08:45 GMT – Pakistan using intelligence services to track cases

Pakistan is using a contact tracing system – developed by its intelligence services to combat terrorism – to fight the coronavirus, the country’s prime minister has said, as COVID-19 cases continue to spike in the South Asian country.

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) service is supporting the government in tracing and tracking people who may have been in contact in with those who test positive for the virus.

“The ISI has given us a great system for track and trace,” said Pakistani PM Imran Khan on a live telecast of a telethon on Thursday. “It was originally used against terrorism, but now it is has come in useful against coronavirus.”

Read more here

FILE PHOTO: Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a joint news conference with Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (not pictured) in Putrajaya
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday held a telethon to help fund the government’s welfare programme for low-income families [File: Lim Huey Teng/Reuters]

08:30 GMT – US reports 3,332 deaths in 24 hours: Johns Hopkins tally

The US suffered one of the deadliest days of the pandemic with 3,332 fatalities in 24 hours.

The overall death toll in the US now sits at to 49,963, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

The US, the worst-hit country in the world, now has 868,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, up 27,000 from the previous day. Because of a lack of testing, the actual number of infections is likely to be much higher.

08:15 GMT – Philippines’ infections top 7,000

The Philippines’ Health Ministry has reported that confirmed cases of the new coronavirus have risen to more than 7,000.

In a bulletin, the ministry recorded 211 new infections, 15 additional deaths and 40 more recoveries. It brought the total cases to 7,192, deaths to 477 and recoveries to 762.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday extended a strict lockdown in the capital Manila until May 15 to try to contain coronavirus infections, but will ease restrictions in lower-risk regions.

07:55 GMT – China: cyber attacks on anti-pandemic institutions should be condemned

China has said that cyber attacks against institutions fighting the coronavirus pandemic should be condemned around the world.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang made the remarks in response to a question about a report by the U.S. cybersecurity firm FireEye that Vietnamese government-linked hackers had attempted to break into the personal and professional email accounts of staff at China’s Ministry of Emergency Management and the government of Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus emerged last year.

Vietnam’s foreign ministry called the report “baseless” on Thursday. Geng did not directly comment on whether such attacks against Chinese officials had occurred.

07:45 GMT – Experts react with horror to Trump disinfectant idea

Doctors and epidemiologists have reacted with alarm to comments from US President Donald Trump that injecting disinfectant and exposure to ultraviolet rays could help people with the coronavirus.

“Trump is absolutely wrong and irresponsible,” Dr Eugene Gu, whose laboratory is involved in coronavirus testing, wrote on Twitter, adding “Clorox, Tide Pods and Lysol will kill coronavirus. No question about it. But if you are infected then the coronavirus is inside your cells. If you use any of those disinfectants to kill the coronavirus in your own cells then you’ll die right along with the coronavirus.” 

Read more here.

President Donald Trump leads a daily briefing on the coronavirus and has often touted unproven treatments [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

07:30 GMT – UN virtual meeting accompanied by technical problems

The coronavirus pandemic is making global diplomacy more complicated.

For the first time in its history, the United Nations Security Council has been meeting remotely.

But those sessions have been plagued by technical difficulties.

07:25 GMT – Singapore records 897 new infections

Singapore has registered 897 new coronavirus infections, taking its total number of cases to 12,075.

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.

The island of 5.7 million people now has one of the highest infection rates in Asia, according to official figures, behind only China, India and Japan

07:15 GMT – Hundreds of doctors in Bangladesh infected

As coronavirus cases mount in Bangladesh, its government struggles to keep its front-line healthcare workers free from getting infected, which has further strained the country’s medical facilities.

At least 251 doctors had tested positive for coronavirus by Thursday, according to the Bangladesh Doctors Foundation (BDF), as the group blamed a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and infections from patients for the outbreak among the doctors.

Nearly 200 doctors are infected in the capital, Dhaka. So far, Bangladesh has reported 3,772 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 120 deaths.

Read more here

Bangladesh doctor's on duty during coronavirus [Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera]
Bangladesh doctor’s on duty during coronavirus [Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera]

07:00 GMT – Airlines in Philippines extend flight suspensions to mid-May

The Philippines’ major airlines have said their domestic and international flights will remain suspended until mid-May following the extension of coronavirus lockdown measures in the capital and affected cities and provinces.

Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and the Philippine unit of Malaysia’s Airasia Group Bhd said passenger flights, which were halted in March, will remain suspended. Cargo and special recovery flights will continue, the airlines told Reuters.

06:50 GMT – Britain not asking doctors to compromise on protective gear, minister says

Guidance for personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals is based on clinical advice and does not ask doctors to compromise on safety, British health minister Matt Hancock has said, after two doctors launched legal action against the government.

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.

“The guidelines for what PPE is used are supported by and entirely based on clinical advice of what is the most effective use of this precious equipment,” Hancock told ITV.

Asked if doctors were being asked to compromise on equipment, Hancock said: “I don’t recognise that.”

06:40 GMT – UK PM Johnson in good shape, says minister

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in good shape and recovering after falling gravely ill with COVID-19, health minister Matt Hancock has said.

“I’m sure he’ll come back as soon as his doctors recommend it,” he told Sky News.

“That decision is for the prime minister in consultation with his doctors. I spoke to him yesterday, he’s on very good form and is clearly recovering.”

06:30 GMT – Sunlight, heat and humidity weaken coronavirus, US official says

The coronavirus appears to weaken more quickly when exposed to sunlight, heat and humidity, a US official has said, in a potential sign that the pandemic could become less contagious in summer months.

US government researchers have determined that the virus survives best indoors and in dry conditions, and loses potency when temperatures and humidity rise – and especially when it is exposed to sunlight, said William Bryan, acting head of the US Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate.

“The virus dies quickest in the presence of direct sunlight,” he told a White House news briefing.

However, the virus proven lethal in several countries with warm climates, raising questions about how much impact seasonal change in the US will have. 

Read more here

06:20 GMT – Surge in cases in India’s Maharashtra state

A surge in cases of the coronavirus in the central Indian state of Maharashtra has propelled the country to a record 24-hour high.

Health authorities said Friday that Maharashtra recorded 778 new cases on Thursday, bringing India’s total of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, to 22,930.

India’s 1,680 new cases Thursday marked its biggest single-day jump since April 19, a day before India relaxed some restrictions for industry in a bid to help employ some of the millions of migrant workers who fled cities for their homes villages when the ongoing lockdown was announced March 24.

Fearing rampant spread of the disease in the city’s crowded slums, officials in India’s financial capital of Mumbai, the state capital of Maharashtra, are developing a plan to administer doses of the Donald Trump-backed anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic against COVID-19 among some slumdwellers.

06:00 GMT – India lockdown worsens access to mental healthcare

One of Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s most-lauded achievements has been the passage of the Mental Healthcare Act in 2017, which guarantees Indians the right to mental healthcare.

The law also discourages the earlier emphasis on institutionalising or incarcerating such patients, arguing instead for integrating patients within their communities.

However, by not making arrangements for patients during the coronavirus lockdown, the government may be violating its own law.

Read more here

India Islamophobia
A doctor wearing a protective gear prepares to take a swab from a girl to test for the coronavirus in Ahmedabad, India [Amit Dave/Reuters]

05:45 GMT – UK retail sales fall by most on record

British retail sales fell by the most on record in March, official figures have shown, reflecting the hit from the coronavirus shutdown which closed many businesses in the second half of the month.

Sales volumes fell 5.1 percent in March from February, a bigger fall than a median forecast for a drop of 4.0 percent in a Reuters news agency poll of economists. 

05:15 GMT – Hungary to scrap curfew, refocus anti-coronavirus defense: PM

Hungary plans to replace the current lockdown that imposes a blanket curfew over the population with a more fine-tuned version from early May, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday.

Orban said the new rules will focus on the elderly, the sick and those living in big cities, as those people are exposed to a disproportionate measure of risk. 

05:00 GMT – Australia PM says will be illegal for non-health officials to get data from tracking app

People other than authorised health officials will be banned by law from accessing data collected in government smartphone software to trace the contacts of people with the coronavirus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said.

“It will be illegal for information to go out of that data store to any other person other than that for whom the whole thing is designed, and that is to support the health worker in the state to be able to undertake the contact tracing,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

Morrison also confirmed the data would be stored by on servers managed by AWS, a unit of US internet giant Inc, but added that “it’s a nationally encrypted data store”.


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


04:45 GMT – Indonesia to ban air, sea travel until the end of May – officials

Indonesia will temporarily ban domestic and international air and sea travel, with some exceptions, starting this week to prevent a further spread of the coronavirus, the transport ministry said in a statement on Friday.

The announcement came as the holy month of Ramadan began in the world’s largest Muslim majority country, and the government has already banned citizens’ traditional annual exodus from the cities to the provinces during the holiday period..

The ban on sea travel took immediate effect, but the ban on air travel will start on Saturday. The ban will apply across-the-board until May 31.

04:35 GMT – El Salvador parliament evacuated for suspicion of COVID-19

The El Salvador Legislative Assembly suddenly ended its session Thursday evening after news of a suspected Covid-19 contamination in the building, which was quickly evacuated, was announced.

“The Interdisciplinary Epidemiological Control Team in El Salvador has detected a serious suspicion of Covid-19 in the blue living room of the Assembly,” Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele wrote on Twitter.

“We recommend closing the session and self-confining all MPs and staff, while dismissing or confirming suspect cases and their contacts,” said Bukele.

04:18 GMT – Thailand reports 15 new cases, no new deaths

Thailand reported on Friday a total of 15 new coronavirus cases and no new deaths, bringing the overall number of cases since its outbreak in January to 2,854 cases and 50 deaths.

Of the new cases, nine were linked to previous cases and two had no known links.

Four other new cases were reported from the southern province of Yala where the authorities are aggressively testing the population because of high infection rates there, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a government spokesman. Since the outbreak 2,490 patients have recovered and gone home.

04:12 GMT – Hundreds gather in Indonesia’s Aceh to mark start of Ramadan 

Hundreds of worshippers gathered at a mosque in Indonesia’s ultra-conservative Aceh province for prayers marking the start of the holy month of Ramadan, despite fears over the spread of the coronavirus.

People were seen standing shoulder to shoulder during the evening prayer, known as Taraweeh on Thursday at the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque. Only a few had face masks on.

“With us praying together we hope God Allah will bless the world and that this pandemic will be over soon, because we believe if we are praying together (in mosques) Allah will answer our prayers,” said Siti Ramadan, one of those who attended the prayers.

Coronavirus - Aceh
Indonesian worshippers perform an evening prayer marking the first evening of Ramadan despite concerns of the new coronavirus outbreak in Aceh on Thursday night [Zik Maulana/AP]

03:42 GMT – US deaths top 50,000 

US coronavirus deaths hit another grim milestone on Friday topping 50,000, as the number of lives lost in April rises by an average of 2,000 a day, according to the Worldometers website, which tracks the pandemic.

The Johns Hopkins website also showed the death toll inching closer to 50,000.

The total number of US cases hit 868,000 with many states yet to report early on Friday.

US deaths
The total number of US cases hit 868,000 with many states yet to report early on Friday [Seth Wenig/AP]

03:17 GMT – Deadly protest in Venezuela amid the coronavirus pandemic 

A man has been shot dead in southern Venezuela during a protest against rising food prices, the military said amid the coronavirus crisis.

Protesters in Venezuela’s provincial cities took to the streets for a second day on Thursday. Dozens of people demonstrated in Upata, a town of about 100,000 in the southern state of Bolivar, protesting against “rising prices for food and essentials,” according to a report by the Venezuelan army seen by the AFP news agency. 

As of Thursday, Venezuela reported an estimated 311 infections with at least 10 fatalities.

03:05 GMT – Saudi G20 presidency urges more donations to fund COVID-19 response

The Saudi presidency of the Group of 20 leading economies has called for further immediate donations to fund the emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic and develop needed vaccines.

The G20 secretariat said $1.9bn had been donated by countries, philanthropic organisations and the private sector towards an $8bn target set by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, but more funds were needed.

“Global challenges demand global solutions and this is our time to stand and support the race for a vaccine and other therapeutic measures to combat COVID-19,” Saudi G20 Fahad Almubarak said in a statement.

02:34 GMT – Trump suggests injecting disinfectant to fight coronavirus

US President Donald Trump has suggested that disinfectants could be injected into human beings as part of an experiment to fight the coronavirus.

During his latest news conference on Thursday, Trump also said that ultraviolet rays could be introduced through the skin to test whether it would work in curing the deadly disease.

Read more here

02:20 GMT – Infection tally rises to 91 on Italian cruise ship in Japan

As many as 91 crew of an Italian cruise ship docked in Japan’s southwestern port of Nagasaki are infected with coronavirus, officials said on Friday, as questions persist over how and when they will return to their home countries.

Authorities are racing to complete tests on about 290 of the 623 crew after one of them was found infected this week, Reuters news agency reported.

Those who have tested negative will be repatriated, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said on Friday, according to Kyodo news agency, a decision welcomed by officials in Nagasaki prefecture.

02:11 GMT – Haiti receives more deportees from US despite fears

Haiti has received 129 of its nationals, including minors on a deportation flight from the United States, days after three deportees who arrived on the previous flight tested positive for the new coronavirus, Reuters news agency reported.

Haiti Foreign Ministry senior official Israel Jacky Cantave told Reuters that Haiti had asked for all the deportees to be tested, but the US government had only agreed to test those with symptoms – a problem given many carriers are asymptomatic.

The poorest country in the Americas, which has limited testing capacity, is placing all deportees in a quarantine facility for two weeks upon arrival.

Haitians - coronavirus
Haitians who were deported from the United States line up as they arrive at a hotel where they will be quarantined as a measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, in Tabarre, Haiti on Thursday [Dieu Nalio Chery/AP]

01:57 GMT – Poll: Few trust Trump’s information

President Donald Trump has made himself the daily spokesman for the nation’s coronavirus response. Yet few Americans regularly look to or trust Trump as a source of information on the pandemic, according to a new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Just 28 percent of Americans say they are regularly getting information from Trump about the coronavirus and only 23 percent say they have high levels of trust in what the president is telling the public. Another 21 percent only place a moderate amount of trust in him.

But even as many Republicans question Trump’s credibility during the pandemic, the overwhelming majority of 82 percent say they still approve of how he is doing, helping him keep his overall approval rating steady at 42 percent.

01:42 GMT – Belgian port to test virus bracelets amid tech-tracing fears

The Belgian city of Antwerp, Europe’s second-biggest port, is getting ready to test a device aimed at helping thousands of people employed there to respect social distancing.

At Antwerp in Belgium, where some 900 companies operate in an area the size of a small town, two teams of port workers will be wearing a bracelet originally designed to find tugboat crew members that have fallen overboard but now modified to help stop the spread of the disease next month, the Associated Press news agency reported.

The bracelets are worn like a watch. Coated in black plastic, they vibrate when they move to within three meters (about 10 feet) of each other. The vibration strength, similar to that of a mobile telephone but more obvious when attached to a wrist, increases the closer the bracelets get and warning lights flash.

01:28 GMT – China reports six new cases

Mainland China has reported six new coronavirus cases as of end-April 23, down from 10 reported the previous day, putting the total number of COVID-19 infections at 82,804.

China’s National Health Commission said in a statement on Friday that two of the new cases involved travellers from overseas. There were six such imported cases reported a day earlier.

The number of new asymptomatic patients, those infected with the virus but not exhibiting symptoms, rose to 34 from 27 reported a day earlier. The COVID-19 death toll for mainland China remained unchanged at 4,632.

China - coronavirus
The COVID-19 death toll for mainland China remains unchanged at 4,632 on Friday [Mark Schiefelbein/AP]

01:11 GMT – Gilead’s remdesivir showing significant side effects

Researchers studying Gilead Sciences Inc’s experimental coronavirus drug have found that it failed its first randomised clinical trial, with some showing significant side effects.

The Chinese trial showed the antiviral drug remdesivir did not improve patients’ condition or reduce the pathogen’s presence in the bloodstream, according to a Financial Times report, which cited draft documents published accidentally by the World Health Organization.

Remdesivir also previously failed as a treatment for Ebola.

00:55 GMT – US CDC releasing $631m more in response to health emergency

The US Department of Health and Human Services has announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be releasing $631m to state and local governments in response to the COVID-19 health emergency.

Health Secretary Alex Azar said that the money will be awarded to 64 local governments to help states with their efforts to reopen, a controversial policy that has drawn criticism by the opposition and many health experts.

00:11 GMT – Duterte extends lockdown of Metro Manila to May 15

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has extended the lockdown of Metro Manila to May 15.

The extended lockdown announced on Friday also covers several provinces of Luzon, slightly easing the restrictions that previously covered the entire northern island, affecting more than 57 million people.

Duterte was scheduled to make the announcement on Thursday, but cancelled it at the last minute. 

Philippines - coronavirus
The lockdown in Manila has been extended until May 15 affecting more than 12 million people [Aaron Favila/AP]

00:01 GMT – Cruise ship linked to Australia’s biggest virus outbreak sets sail

A cruise ship linked to a third of Australia’s coronavirus deaths has left the country after a month docked in local waters, the authorities said on Friday, as an emergency cabinet meeting was expected to ease some social-distancing measures.

The Ruby Princess, owned by Carnival Corp, has become a flashpoint of public anger after being allowed to unload thousands of passengers in Sydney without health checks on March 19.

Hundreds of its passengers later tested positive to COVID-19, about 10 percent of the country’s roughly 6,600 infections and a third of the country’s 77 coronavirus deaths have been traced to the ship.


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 23, here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies