WHO says coronavirus ‘natural in origin’: Live updates

Earlier, Trump had claimed he had seen evidence the virus originated in a Chinese lab.

Wuhan coronavirus
  • The WHO has reiterated that the coronavirus is believed to be “natural in origin”, responding to a claim by US President Donald Trump that he had seen evidence that indicated the virus emerged from a virology institute in Wuhan, China. 

  • Russia has registered a record number of coronavirus cases for the third day in a row, as 7,933 more people tested positive for the virus.

  • South Africa took its first steps towards rolling back one of the world’s strictest coronavirus lockdowns. 

  • A US watchdog warned Afghanistan is likely facing a “health disaster” from the pandemic.

  • The eurozone’s economy shrunk by 3.8 percent in the first quarter, the biggest hit since records began in 1995.

  • Worldwide, the number of confirmed infections stood at more than 3.26 million, with some 233,000 deaths and more than one million recoveries.

Here are the latest updates:

Friday, May 1

22:30 GMT – US health official Fauci testimony to Congress blocked 

Top United States health official Dr Anthony Fauci will not testify next week to a congressional committee examining the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the White House said on Friday, calling it “counterproductive” to have individuals involved in the response testify.

The White House issued an emailed statement after a spokesman for the Congressional committee holding the hearing said the committee had been informed by Trump administration officials that Fauci had been blocked from testifying.

Read more here

20:40 GMT – US approves Gilead’s remdesivir for emergency use: Trump     

Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir has been authorized by US regulators for emergency use on coronavirus patients, President Donald Trump has announced.     

US medical officials have announced evidence from a trial that remdesivir helped patients with serious cases of COVID-19 recover faster.

Trump has been a vocal supporter of remdesivir as a possible way to bring the novel coronavirus pandemic under control. Nearly 65,000 Americans have died in the global crisis.

The anti-viral drug remdesivir has been approved for emergency use [File: Ulrich Perrey/Pool/Reuters]

20:10 GMT – Texas, Ohio join array of US states starting to reopen economies

Texas and Ohio pushed ahead on Friday with a phased relaxation of restrictions that US states put in place weeks ago to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, as Georgia took another step towards a full restart by allowing all businesses to reopen.

With White House guidelines for reopening having expired on Thursday, half of all US states were forging ahead with a patchwork of strategies to allow businesses, from restaurants and retailers to construction and manufacturing, to emerge from a month of dormancy. 

Read more here

Texas reopening
Shoppers visit a kiosk at Ingram Park Mall in San Antonio [Eric Gay/The Associated Press]

19:40 GMT – Yemen records first case in Taiz

Yemen has reported its first coronavirus case in Taiz governorate, raising the number of diagnosed infections to seven with two deaths in the war-torn country that lacks medical care.

The United Nations says it fears the novel coronavirus could be spreading undetected among an acutely malnourished population with inadequate testing capabilities.

“A new confirmed case of coronavirus was reported, the first in (southwestern) governorate of Taiz, in a man in his 40s,” the national emergency coronavirus committee said in a Twitter post.

Yemen recorded its first case of COVID-19 in southern Hadharamout province on April 10. On Wednesday, it announced five infections in the southern port of Aden, with two deaths.

Yemen reports first coronavirus deaths, multiple cases

19:20 GMT – German May Day protesters defy social distancing rules

Hundreds of people gathered in a square in Berlin on Friday to mark May Day in defiance of a ban on public gatherings of more than 20, exposing deep frustrations with social distancing rules in place in Germany since mid-March to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Leftist groups had called for the demonstration to denounce capitalism and urge more solidarity, especially with refugees seeking to reach Europe. They had urged participants to wear masks and stay at least 1.5 metres apart.

“Saving lives is not a crime,” read a giant red banner dangled from a window, in a reference to the rescue ships saving refugees trying to reach Europe.

Germany protest
Protesters hold banners during a demonstration on May Day [Christian Mang/Reuters]

18:45 GMT – WHO says virus ‘natural in origin’     

The WHO has reiterated that the new coronavirus was of natural origin after US President Donald Trump claimed he had seen evidence it originated in a Chinese lab.     

Scientists believe the killer virus jumped from animals to humans, emerging in China late last year, possibly from a market in Wuhan selling exotic animals for meat.     

Trump claimed Thursday that he had seen evidence that gave him confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was actually the source of the outbreak, although he refused to give details. When asked about the statement, WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan stressed that the UN health agency had “listened again and again to numerous scientists who have looked at the sequences” of the virus.     

“We are assured that this virus is natural in origin,” he said, reiterating a stance the UN agency has expressed previously.

Read more here

Trump ‘confident’ coronavirus may have originated in Chinese lab

18:30 GMT – Irish PM unveils plan to slowly lift restrictions

Ireland has announced the first small steps to easing restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus and laid out a roadmap for a gradual re-opening of the economy over the coming months if the virus can be kept under control.

Acting Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told “cocooning” over 70s that they could leave their homes to go for a walk or a drive from Tuesday and extended the travel limit for exercise to 5 kilometres from 2 kilometres.

The economy will reopen in five stages between May 18 and August 10, with each stage dependent on the number of COVID-19 infections remaining under control, he said.

18:10 GMT – France reports 218 more deaths, taking total to 24,594

The number of people who have died from coronavirus infection in France has risen by 218 to 24,594, while hospitalisations for the disease and people in ICU units continued to decline, the public health chief has said.

The death toll has increased 0.9 percent compared with Thursday, a lower rate of increase than over the previous 24 hours.

The number of people in hospital with the COVID-19 infection fell further to 25,887 from 26,283 on Thursday, and the number of people in intensive care fell to 3,878 from 4,019. Both numbers have been on a downward trend for more than two weeks.

World lacking space to store unused oil amid COVID-19 crisis

17:50 GMT – Podcast: After coronavirus, young American workers may never recover

No age group will escape the economic hardships that the coronavirus pandemic has created, but the US millennial generation born in the 1980s and 1990s are being hit with a second economic downturn in just 12 years, and economists wonder if they will ever recover.

Al Jazeera’s The Take explores how this generation became so vulnerable, and what needs to happen to pull them out of this economic pit.

Deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy has climbed by 269, down from 285 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, while the daily tally of new infections stood at 1,965 against 1,872 on Thursday. 

The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on February 21 now stands at 28,236, the agency said, the second highest in the world after that of the US. 

The number of officially confirmed cases, which includes those who have died or recovered, was 207,428, the third highest global tally behind those of the US and Spain.

Capri - italy - reuters
A woman wearing a protective face mask and gloves is seen in Capri [Ciro De Luca/Reuters]

17:15 GMT – UK did not change criteria to hit 100,000 tests-per-day goal: Gov’t adviser

Britain did not change its criteria for recording coronavirus tests to meet its goal to carry out 100,000 tests per day by the end of April, the adviser in charge of the operation has said.

“There’s been no change to the ways tests are counted,” John Newton said at a news conference in Downing Street, although he confirmed that tests which were sent out in the mail were counted when they left the testing programme, not when the results of those tests were in.

Earlier the Health Service Journal reported that the criteria for reporting the number of tests performed per day had been changed to include ones that were mailed to people’s homes, before they had been processed in a laboratory.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told reporters that he did not recognise the Health Service Journal’s report.

UK coronavirus toll nears Italy’s, PM says nation ‘past the peak’

17:00 GMT – New York to keep schools closed for remainder of academic year

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said all state schools including colleges would remain closed for the remainder of the academic year due to the coronavirus pandemic and directed schools to come up with a plan to reopen safely.

Cuomo told a daily briefing that he would make a decision by the end of this month on whether there would be school in the summer and said any decision on a possible reopening in the autumn would happen at a later date.

16:45 GMT – Turkey death toll rises to 3,258

The number of people who have died from COVID-19 in Turkey has risen by 84 in the last 24 hours to 3,258, with 2,188 new cases of the virus, according to Health Ministry data.

The total number of cases rose to 122,392, the data showed, the highest total outside Western Europe or the US.

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Istanbul
A man walks past closed for prayers Suleymaniye Mosque during the first day of Ramadan and the second of a four-day curfew in Istanbul [Umit Bektas/Reuters]

16:40 GMT – UK death toll up by 739 to 27,510     

Britain’s health minister has said 739 more people had died after testing positive for COVID-19, taking the total toll to 27,711.     

Matt Hancock also announced that Britain had met its goal of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April, saying that 122,347 tests were achieved on Thursday, calling it an “incredible achievement”.

16:30 GMT – WHO has grave concerns about impact on weak systems

The pandemic of COVID-19 is clearly still a global health emergency and is of particular concern as it spreads more widely in countries with weak health systems, the WHO has said. 

Three months after the WHO’s emergency committee first advised the WHO’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to declare a public health emergency over the new coronavirus, Tedros said: “The pandemic remains a public health emergency of international concern”.

Tedros said he had “grave concerns about the potential impact” of the disease “as it starts to accelerate in countries with weaker health systems”.

“As we have done clearly from the beginning, we will continue to call on countries to implement a comprehensive package of measures to find, isolate, test and treat every case, and trace every contact,” Tedros told a briefing at the WHO’s Geneva headquarters.

Director-General of WHO Tedros attends news conference in Geneva
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned about impact on weak health systems [Christopher Black/Reuters]

16:15 GMT – Slovakia lifts quarantine on another three Roma settlements: PM 

Slovak authorities have lifted a quarantine on three Roma settlements locked down in early April to block the spread of the coronavirus, leaving one remaining village under restrictive orders, Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic has said.

Slovakia closed off five settlements on April 9 after reports of a cluster of coronavirus cases in them, highlighting difficulties faced by Europe’s largest ethnic minority during the pandemic. 

The prime minister said in a Facebook post that tests suggested the last remaining Roma settlement under quarantine needed to stay in lockdown. Authorities lifted the restriction on another settlement last week. 

Roma communities across eastern Europe are impoverished, plagued by high unemployment and historically the target of discrimination.

16:00 GMT – Zimbabwe extends lockdown, announces $720 mn stimulus

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa extended a coronavirus lockdown by two more weeks and announced a $720 million stimulus for distressed companies, most which will be allowed to open from Monday.

The southern African nation has been on lockdown for five weeks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, shutting an economy struggling with shortages of foreign currency, food, electricity and medicines.

Zimbabwe food crisis worsens with COVID-19 lockdown extension

15:40 GMT – US airlines mandating facial coverings for all passengers 

The largest US airlines are moving rapidly to mandate facial coverings for all passengers, with Southwest Airlines Co and Alaska Airlines on Friday joining other major airlines in imposing the measure to address the spread of the coronavirus and convince reluctant passengers to resume flying. 

United Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc and American Airlines Group Inc, along with the smaller Frontier Airlines, which is owned by private equity firm Indigo Partners LLC, announced Thursday that they would require facial coverings next month following JetBlue Airways Corp. Some airlines, like Southwest, will provide masks if passengers forget to bring them on board as they announce new cleaning procedures to reassure consumers.

Florida eases some COVID-19 restrictions despite dangers

15:20 GMT – US stocks in red after Trump threatens new tariffs on China

Wall Street opened May on a downer after United States President Donald Trump threatened to slap new tariffs on China over the coronavirus pandemic, and tech behemoths Apple and Amazon became the latest companies to warn of virus-induced trouble ahead.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was 434.19 points or 1.78 percent lower in early morning trading. The S&P 500 – a proxy for the health of US retirement and college savings accounts – was down 1.89 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index was down 1.98 percent.

The S&P 500 just closed out its best month since 1987 in April, as trillions of dollars in monetary and fiscal stimulus helped lift stocks up from the lows plumed in March, as coronavirus lockdowns swept the nation.  

Read more here

Food Bronx
People line up at a food pantry, during the outbreak of the coronavirus in the Bronx, in New York City, US, where Wall Street had its best month in decades despite nearly one out of every five Americans having lost their job in the six weeks ending April 25 [File: Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

15:00 GMT – Kazakh airlines resume flights with empty middle seats 

Kazakh airlines made their first regular domestic flights in more than a month on Friday, with rows of passengers seated alongside empty middle seats, after the vast Central Asian nation eased coronavirus lockdown rules. 

Kazakhstan’s 19 million people are spread across a country the size of Western Europe and many people rely on flights to travel between family and work.

The first route to reopen was the 90-minute flight between the biggest city Almaty and the capital Nur-Sultan, three domestic carriers – Air Astana, SCAT, Qazaq Air – said, adding that other routes would follow from Monday.

Passengers were required to present certificates confirming they had tested negative for COVID-19, which are valid for a week, and undergo temperature checks at the airport.

What impact is coronavirus having on the world’s climate?

14:40 GMT – Malaysia detains hundreds of refugees and migrants during lockdown: Rights groups

Malaysia has detained hundreds of refugees and migrant workers for illegally living in the country, rights groups said, at a time of movement and travel restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. 

There has been growing public anger in recent days over the presence of migrant foreigners with some in Malaysia accusing them of spreading the coronavirus and being a burden on government resources. 

Malaysia has around 2 million registered foreign workers but authorities estimate many more are living in the Southeast Asian country without proper documents. Malaysia does not formally recognise refugees, regarding them as illegal migrants.

Human Rights Watch and the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network said over 700 migrants were taken into custody including young children. Rohingya refugees from Myanmar were among those detained, other rights groups said.

Read more here

Outside image - blog - 16 Apr - morning
Indonesian officials conduct health screening on 156 migrant workers who arrived from Malaysia at Surabaya airport in Indonesia’s East Java [File: Juni Kriswanto/AFP]

14:20 GMT –  UK: Black Africans dying at much higher rate than white Britons

Coronavirus patients from Black African backgrounds are dying in United Kingdom hospitals at more than three times the rate of white British people, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

Its report on Friday comes amid growing evidence that ethnic minority patients and front-line workers are far more likely to suffer serious consequences from the epidemic in terms of health.

“After stripping out the role of age and geography, Bangladeshi hospital fatalities are twice those of the white British group, Pakistani deaths are 2.9 times as high and black African deaths 3.7 times as high,” the IFS said.

Read more here

NHS worker
An NHS worker applauds outside St Mary’s Hospital during the Clap for our Carers campaign in support of the NHS, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in London, UK, April 30, 2020 [Dylan Martinez/Reuters]

14:00 GMT – Some US worker unions become more aggressive in light of pandemic

While Voodoo Doughnut is known for its kitschy pastry designs and lines of hungry tourists, as the COVID-19 pandemic started shutting down businesses in the state, the doughnut chain’s staff started drawing attention.

On March 20, employees from the newly formed Voodoo Doughnut Workers Union (VWU) delivered a letter to management announcing the formation of a union and demanding higher wages, safety improvements and severance packages for employees laid off because of the coronavirus and Oregon’s ongoing “shelter-in-place” order.

What employees there did is significant because it breaks from generally accepted union procedures in the US and may serve as a blueprint for how employees will respond to virus-related risks in the workplace.

Instead of first going through the arduous process of a union election and contract negotiations, these workers used pressure tactics to push their bosses to meet their demands directly.

Read more here

Shane Burley Worker Unions
Workers from the Voodoo Doughnut Workers Union deliver demands of hazard pay and safety provisions amid the coronavirus pandemic [File: Courtesy VWU]

13:45 GMT – Azerbaijan extends lockdown measures until May 31

Azerbaijan has extended partial lockdown measures to tackle an outbreak of the coronavirus until May 31, the government has said.

The country of around 10 million has recorded a total of 1,804 coronavirus cases and 24 deaths from the virus. 

India farmers struggle amid COVID-19 lockdown

13:15 GMT – India extends lockdown by two weeks, but loosens measures in lower-risk areas

The Indian government has said it will extend its nationwide lockdown for another two weeks after May 4, but would allow “considerable relaxations” in lower-risk districts marked as green and orange zones under the government’s plan to fight the novel coronavirus.

Some activities will remain prohibited throughout the country, regardless of the zone, the ministry of home affairs said in a statement.

Those include travel by air, rail and metro and inter-state movement of people by road; and schools and colleges, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, cinema halls and places of worship will remain closed.

There will be no restriction on movement of goods between states and on the manufacturing and distribution of essential items, the ministry said.

Read more here


This is Joseph Stepansky in Doha taking over the live updates from my colleague Saba Aziz.


12:50 GMT – Dutch coronavirus deaths rise by 98 

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Netherlands has risen by 475 to 39,791 health authorities said, with 98 new deaths.

The country’s death toll stands at 4,893, the Netherlands’ Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said in its daily update.

12:30 GMT – Dozens of journalists have died from coronavirus: NGO

Dozens of journalists have died worldwide from the novel coronavirus in the past two months, a press freedom organisation said, lamenting that media workers often lack proper protection for covering the pandemic.

Ahead of World Press Freedom Day on Sunday, the Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) warned that many journalists were putting themselves in harm’s way to report on the global crisis, with many falling ill from COVID-19 themselves in the process.

Since March 1, the PEC said it had recorded the deaths of 55 media workers across 23 countries from the virus, although it stressed that it remained unclear if all of them had become infected on the job.

Journalists wearing protective gear wait near a quarantined hostel in Kiev
Journalists wearing protective gear wait near a quarantined hostel, which was closed after residents reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus disease in Kyiv, Ukraine [Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

12:05 GMT – India’s film industry could take two years to recover from pandemic

India’s film industry will take at least two years to recover financially from the coronavirus pandemic, which is threatening big-ticket projects and putting at risk tens of thousands of jobs.

That was the sombre assessment of about a dozen top producers, distributors and actors from Bollywood, the movie industry in India’s commercial capital of Mumbai, during a video conference this week.

Read more here

12:00 GMT – Italian PM apologises for delay in payout 

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte apologised to Italians on Friday for their economic hardships and promised a brighter future once the lockdown lifts.

Italy will begin to emerge from the world’s longest coronavirus shutdown on Monday and see whether two months of containment were enough to avoid a new contagion wave.

Conte admitted his government was late to pay out more than 50 billion euros ($55bn) assigned to struggling families and businesses.

“I apologise on behalf of the government and assure you that we will continue to press for the payments and financing to be completed as soon as possible,” Conte wrote on Facebook.

10:45 GMT – Macron tells France: Life won’t be normal after May 11

President Emmanuel Macron warned that the end of the national lockdown on May 11 would only be a first step as France looks to pull out of the crisis created by the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Traditional Labour Day protests that usually see thousands of demonstrators on streets were cancelled this year due to the virus outbreak that has killed 24,000 people across France.

“May 11 will not be the passage to normal life. There will be a recovery that will need to be reorganised,” Macron said in a speech at the presidential palace after a meeting with horticulturists.

“There will be several phases and May 11 will be one of them.”

11:30 GMT – India’s COVID-19 app raises surveillance fears

Indian authorities plan to make a contact-tracing mobile app mandatory for everything from taking public transit to going to work, raising concerns among digital rights experts about privacy and increased surveillance.

Aarogya Setu, the app launched by the Indian government earlier this month to stem the novel coronavirus outbreak, evaluates users’ risk of infection based on location, and their medical and travel history. It uses Bluetooth and location services to trace a user’s contacts.

Aarogya Setu application India
While authorities have said the app is voluntary, it has been made mandatory for food delivery workers and some other service providers, and all federal government employees [Al Jazeera] 

Read more here.

11:20 GMT – Qatar reports 687 new cases, two deaths

Qatar’s health ministry reported two new deaths and 687 confirmed coronavirus cases, taking the Gulf state’s total infections to 14,096.

A total of 1,436 people have so far recovered from the virus and 12 have died, the ministry added.

11:15 GMT – China’s Hubei province eases lockdown

China’s central province of Hubei, where the novel coronavirus behind the pandemic was first detected, will lower its emergency response level from Saturday in the latest relaxation of lockdowns put in place to contain the virus.

Hubei will lower the level from the highest to the second-highest from May 2, the province’s health commission said in a post on its public WeChat account. 

Hubei is the last province to lower its provincial emergency response level, a major milestone in China’s fight against the pandemic. The virus is believed to have originated in a wet market in the province’s capital Wuhan in December.

Medical workers collect swabs from high school teachers for nucleic acid tests at a school in Yichang
Medical workers collect swabs from high school teachers for nucleic acid tests at a school in Yichang, Hubei province [China Daily via Reuters]

11:00 GMT – Philippines relaxes virus restrictions 

The Philippines has begun to ease coronavirus restrictions in the country, even as the number of infections and deaths continues to rise nearly two months since a lockdown was imposed on the most populous island.

The government placed areas with few cases of COVID-19 under a more relaxed form of quarantine starting from Friday, allowing work, public transportation and commercial establishments, including shopping malls, to resume operations at a reduced capacity.

The health ministry reported 284 new coronavirus infections and 11 more deaths, bringing its total number of cases to 8,772 and deaths to 579.

10:30 GMT – Special train ferries stranded Indian migrants

India ran the first train service for migrant workers desperate to return home since it imposed a nationwide lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Relieved and smiling, 1,200 people clapped as they boarded the train at Lingampally in southern Telangana state for Hatia in the eastern state of Jharkhand – a 19-hour journey.

However, railroad authorities said Friday’s service was only a one-off special train and a decision on running more trains will be taken soon.

Read more here

10:00 GMT – Videos show huge medical equipment backlog in China

Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit has obtained exclusive video revealing a huge backlog of goods at China’s biggest export hub that is slowing the supply of medical equipment urgently needed to protect hundreds of thousands of health workers as they fight the global coronavirus pandemic.

Read more here.

09:45 GMT – Iran’s virus death toll rises to 6,091

Iran’s death toll from the outbreak of the new coronavirus increased by 63 in the past 24 hours to 6,091, Ministry of Health spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said in a statement on state TV.

The total number of diagnosed cases in the country, one of the hardest hit by the outbreak in the Middle East, has reached 95,646, including 2,899 in critical condition, he added.

09:40 GMT – Hungarian F1 Grand Prix to be held without spectators 

The Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix scheduled for August can only go ahead without spectators, organisers said in a statement. 

The race at the Hungaroring is due to take place on August 2, but Hungary on Thursday said events with more than 500 participants cannot be held until August 15.

“It is now evident that any F1 race in Hungary can now only be held behind closed doors,” organisers said.

F1 Grand Prix of Hungary
Formula One plans to start its stalled season without spectators in Austria in July followed by the British Grand Prix at Silverstone under similar conditions [File: Mark Thompson/Getty Images]

09:30 GMT – WHO wants China invite for probe into virus origins

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was hoping China would invite it to take part in its investigations into the animal origins of the novel coronavirus.

“WHO would be keen to work with international partners and at the invitation of the Chinese government to participate in investigation around the animal origins,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told AFP news agency in an email.

He said the UN health agency understood there were a number of investigations under way in China “to better understand the source of the outbreak”, but added that “WHO is not currently involved in the studies in China.”

09:25 GMT – Spain’s coronavirus death toll nears 25,000 

Spain’s coronavirus death toll rose to 24,824 as 281 more people died from causes related to the disease overnight, the health ministry said.

The ministry also reported 1,781 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total infections to 215,216.

The previous day’s death toll was 268. Spain has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases worldwide after the US. 

09:10 GMT – The ‘forgotten’ care home victims of coronavirus

Doctor's note elderly care home/Getty Images
Residents of the Amberwood Care Home enjoy a game of picture bingo with carer Sue in Leicester, UK [Tim Keeton/EPA-EFE] 

Vulnerable elderly residents of care homes in the United Kingdom are being neglected amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Read Dr Amir Khan’s note here

09:00 GMT – Indonesia reports 433 new coronavirus cases

Indonesia confirmed 433 new coronavirus infections, taking the total number of cases to 10,551, health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said.

Yurianto reported eight new deaths, taking the total number of deaths to 800, while 1,591 people have recovered.

Indonesia has tested more than 76,500 people for the virus.

08:50 GMT – Swiss soldiers pick up smartphones to fight COVID-19

Swiss soldiers are using smartphones to test a new contact tracing application that could prevent coronavirus infections while also protecting users’ privacy.

Switzerland hopes to launch the app on May 11 based on a standard, developed by researchers in Lausanne and Zurich, that uses Bluetooth communication between devices to assess the risk of catching COVID-19.

Swiss soldiers in Chamblon sit in a classroom as they install the contact tracking application created by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) [Denis Balibouse/Reuters]

A hundred soldiers from the Chamblon army base near Lausanne volunteered to download the app and then go about their regular routines for 24 hours.

“If a person eventually gets positively tested, they can upload their ID to the system and then all the other apps can check whether they have been close to that person and can then call the health authorities,” Marcel Salathe, director of the digital epidemiology lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), told Reuters news agency. 

08:40 GMT – Spain’s GDP will contract 9.2 percent in 2020

Spain’s gross domestic product (GDP) will contract 9.2 percent this year, Economy Minister Nadia Calvino said, as the coronavirus pandemic battered the economy.

The GDP is expected to grow 6.8 percent in 2021, she said.

The Bank of Spain expected an “asymetric V-shape recovery, with the deepest decrease in the second quarter and then a strong and gradual recovery in the second half of the year,” Calvino said.

08:30 GMT – Philippines reports 11 new coronavirus deaths

The Philippines reported 284 new coronavirus infections and 11 more deaths, bringing its total number of cases to 8,772 and fatalities to 579.

It also said 41 more individuals had recovered, bringing total recoveries to 1,084.

07:55 GMT – Pakistan’s parliament speaker tests positive 

The speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly, Asad Qaiser, said he had tested positive for COVID-19, after hosting an iftar dinner to celebrate Ramadan, and meeting Prime Minister Imran Khan and other high officials earlier in the week.

It is not immediately known if Khan will be tested again. He was checked in April, and tested negative, after meeting with the head of Pakistan’s biggest charity organisation, Faisal Edhi, who was subsequently confirmed to have caught the disease.

“I have quarantined myself at home,” Qaiser, who is also a close aide to Khan, said on Twitter.

Qaiser, a close aide to Khan, had hosted an iftar dinner attended by politicians and dignitaries on Monday [File: National Assembly, via AP]

07:50 GMT – Australian PM: No evidence virus originated in China lab

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has angered Beijing by calling for a global inquiry into the coronavirus outbreak, said he had no evidence to suggest the disease originated in a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he was confident the coronavirus may have originated in a Chinese virology lab, but declined to describe the evidence he said he had seen.

National Cabinet Meets To Discuss Relaxation Of Coronavirus Restrictions
Morrison says he is not ruling ‘anything out’ over the origin of the virus [File: Rohan Thomson/Getty Images] 

Morrison said Australia had no information to support that theory and said the confusion supported his push for an inquiry to understand how the outbreak started and then spread rapidly around the world.

“What we have before us doesn’t suggest that that is the likely source,” Morrison told a news conference in Canberra when asked about Trump’s comments.

“There’s nothing we have that would indicate that was the likely source, though you can’t rule anything out in these environments,” he said.

07:45 GMT – Russia reports record daily rise in cases

Russia reported 7,933 new cases of the coronavirus, a record daily rise, bringing its nationwide tally to 114,431.

The official nationwide death toll rose to 1,169 after 96 people infected with the virus died in the last 24 hours, Russia’s coronavirus crisis response centre said.

07:15 GMT – South Africa eases lockdown

South Africa has begun to gradually loosen its strict coronavirus, allowing some industries to reopen after five weeks of restrictions that plunged its struggling economy deeper into turmoil.

Winter clothing, textile and packaging manufacturing are among the industries permitted to reopen factories. Restaurants will also open, but only for takeaway deliveries.

Some outside activities such as cycling, walking and running will be allowed – but for just three hours in the morning.

Controversial bans on the sale of cigarettes and alcohol will remain in effect.

06:55 GMT – Germany’s confirmed cases rise by 1,639

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,639 to 160,758, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The death toll rose by 193 to 6,481.

German authorities have agreed to reopen playgrounds, churches and cultural institutions such as museums and zoos as part of the gradual loosening of the country’s pandemic lockdown.

06:50 GMT – Irish airline Ryanair plans 3,000 job cuts 

Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair said it plans to axe up to 3,000 pilot and cabin crew jobs, with air transport paralysed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Dublin-based Ryanair added in a statement that most of its flights will remain grounded until at least July and predicted it would take until summer 2022 before passenger demand recovers.

06:40 GMT – Turkey evacuates over 300 nationals from Iraq

More than 300 Turkish nationals were evacuated to Turkey from the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and several southern provinces, upon their repatriation requests due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The Turkish citizens were returned to their homeland through the land route with the support of Turkish ministries and the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad.

The Turkish government has repatriated around 60,000 of its nationals from various countries since the start of the pandemic.

Turkey to deliver medical aid supplies to Palestine
Turkey prepares to deliver medical equipment to Palestine [Esra Bilgin/Anadolu]

06:30 GMT – May Day marks pain for workers hit by virus

The first of May usually brings both protest rallies and celebration rallies marking International Workers’ Day.

Among the ten of millions of people left idle or thrown out of work by the coronavirus crisis, garment workers have been among the hardest hit as orders dry up and shutdowns leave factories shuttered, giving workers plenty to protest at a time when lockdowns are keeping them at home.

Millions of jobs have vanished in countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, Cambodia and Myanmar that rely heavily on garment manufacturing as fashion brands cancelled or suspended billions of dollars worth of orders.

06:15 GMT – Heathrow sees April passenger numbers down 97%

London’s Heathrow Airport, traditionally the busiest in Europe, said passenger numbers were expected to be down by around 97 percent in April and they were likely to remain weak until governments fighting the coronavirus outbreak deem it safe to travel.

For the first quarter, revenue fell 12.7 percent to 593 million pounds ($745m).

Heathrow said it had 3.2 billion pounds in liquidity, sufficient to maintain the business at least over the next 12 months, even with no passengers.

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London
A lady wearing a mask is seen at Heathrow airport, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain [Henry Nicholls/Reuters]

06:00 GMT – Hungary PM warns of potential second wave in Oct-Nov

Hungary needs to prepare for a potential second wave of the coronavirus outbreak in October to November, even though the spreading of the virus will likely slow in the summer, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio.

Orban also said if authorities manage to reduce the death rate from the pandemic in Budapest, where 80 percent of deaths have been recorded, only then will current restrictions be eased in the capital city.

Hungary will lift a large part of restrictions in the countryside from Monday.

Hungarian ballet dancer Kovacs performs a choreographic piece he has designed for the 'coronavirus melody' during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Budapest
Hungarian ballet dancer Zsolt Kovacs performs a choreographic piece he has designed for the ‘coronavirus melody’, a musical composition created by MIT scientists from a model of the protein structure of SARS-CoV-2 in Budapest, Hungary [Bernadett Szabo/Reuters]

05:45 GMT – Australia says relationship with China ‘mutually beneficial’

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the country’s relationship with China “mutually beneficial” amid an intensifying row with Beijing over a proposed international inquiry into the coronavirus outbreak.

China, Australia’s top trading partner, has accused Canberra of “petty tricks” in the dispute that could affect diplomatic and economic ties between the countries.

Hello, this is Saba Aziz in Doha, taking over from my colleague Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur.

05:03 GMT – Thailand reports six new coronavirus cases

Thailand reported six new coronavirus cases and no new death on Friday, taking its tally to 2,960 infections while fatalities remained at 54 since the outbreak began in January.

New daily infections have stayed in the single digits for five consecutive days. The six cases also marked the lowest new daily infections since early March, according to Reuters News Agency.

King of Thailand
Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida produce a face mask during a visit to an exhibition at a Royal Guard regiment in Bangkok [Royal Household Bureau via Reuters]

04:39 GMT – Australia to consider easing of containment measures

Australia will consider next Friday whether to relax coronavirus-related mobility restrictions, as the growth rate of new infections slows, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday following a national cabinet meeting.

Morrison urged Australians to download an app aimed at tracing contacts of COVID-19 patients, saying it was a pre-condition to relaxing the containment measures.

Australia has reported about 6,700 COVID-19 cases and 93 deaths.

04:24 GMT – Japan’s Naruhito performs ritual

Japan’s Emperor Naruhito marked the first anniversary of his enthronement on Friday with a prayer at palace shrines for the people’s peace and happiness amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Naruhito, wearing a white surgical mask, greeted well-wishers on the sidewalk from a royal car on the way to the palace for the ritual.

Naruhito, 60, ascended to the Chrysanthemum throne on May 1 last year, the day after his father, Akihito, abdicated. In Friday’s closing ritual, Naruhito was to change to traditional outfit to pray for the peace and happiness for the people and the gods of Shinto.

04:24 GMT – Protesters stage May Day rally in Taiwan

Labour union groups gather for a May Day rally while wearing surgical masks to protect themselves from the coronavirus disease in Taipei on Friday [Ann Wang/Reuters]

04:12 GMT – Afghanistan likely facing coronavirus ‘health disaster’

Afghanistan, beset by a poor healthcare system, malnutrition, war and other vulnerabilities, likely is facing a “health disaster” from the coronavirus, a watchdog report to the US Congress warns.

The report by Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) could heighten concerns among US officials that the pandemic threatens to derail stalled US-led peace efforts.

“Afghanistan’s numerous and, in some cases, unique vulnerabilities – a weak health-care system, widespread malnutrition, porous borders, massive internal displacement, contiguity with Iran, and ongoing conflict – make it likely the country will confront a health disaster in the coming months,” the report said.

Read more here

03:19 GMT – Malaysia to allow most businesses to reopen starting on May 4

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced on Friday that most businesses will be allowed to reopen starting on Monday, May 4, subject to some conditions.

Economic sectors that involve large gatherings of people such as cinema and bazaars, however, will not be allowed to reopen, he said in a televised address.

Muhyiddin made the announcement as he acknowledged that the government has lost an estimated 63 billion Malaysian ringgit ($14.66bn) due to the lockdown following the coronavirus pandemic.

02:44 GMT – South Korean exports plunge due to coronavirus

The coronavirus crisis sent South Korean exports plunging in April at their sharpest pace since the global financial crisis, signalling a bleak outlook for international trade as the pandemic paralyses the world economy and shatters demand, according to Reuters news agency.

Exports dived 24.3 percent year-on-year in April, trade ministry data showed on Friday, the worst contraction since May 2009. It slid 0.7 percent in the previous month.

The average exports per working day, excluding the calendar effect, also tumbled 17.4 percent, far worse than the 6.9 percent fall seen in March.

South Korea, is Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

02:25 GMT – South Korea reports nine new cases

South Korea reported nine more cases of the new coronavirus Friday, bringing the nation’s total infections to 10,774, out of whom 9,072 have recovered, the Yonhap news agency reported. 

Of the nine new cases, eight cases are believed to come from people who came from overseas, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said in a statement.

The nation’s death toll from the coronavirus rose by one to 248 total.

01:55 GMT – Funeral home in New York ‘overflowing’ with bodies

New York state officials have warned that funeral home could face fines and licence suspensions after police found that one such facility in Brooklyn had resorted to storing dozens of bodies on ice in rented trucks.

Authorities found that the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home had rented four trucks to hold about 50 corpses, Health Commissioner Dr Howard Zucker said Thursday.

A neighbouring business owner called 911 to report that fluids were leaking from one of the trucks, police said.

Health officials issued guidance to all funeral homes that they would not tolerate “any of that kind of behaviour”, Zucker said at the daily coronavirus briefing by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Almost 63,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the US, the majority of which were from New York.

New York
Workers move bodies to a refrigerated truck from the offending funeral home in New York City [Craig Ruttle/AP]

01:25 GMT – Japan to decide whether to extend state of emergency

Japan will formally decide as early as Monday whether to extend its nationwide state of emergency, according to the public broadcaster NHK, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned citizens to prepare for a “drawn-out battle” against the coronavirus.

The nationwide state of emergency is set to expire on May 6 and the government is planning to extend the emergency for about a month, sources have told Reuters news agency.

Some countries are restarting business activity after closures and social distancing measures to contain the spread of the virus, even as Japan has seen far fewer infections and deaths than hot spots in the United States and Europe.

Japan - Tokyo
The government is planning to extend the emergency for about a month, sources have told Reuters news agency [Eugene Hoshiko/AP]

01:00 GMT – China reports 12 new cases of coronavirus

China’s National Health Commission reported on Friday 12 new coronavirus infections as of the end of Thursday, with 6 being imported cases.

There were almost 84,000 people infected with the virus in China, but about 94 percent of the patients have already recovered. At least 4,637 were officially reported as deaths.

Meanwhile, China announced that it will reopen the Palace Museum in Beijing to the public starting on Friday, May 1.

01:00 GMT – Top US doctor expresses hope for coronavirus drug

News that an experimental drug seems to be the first effective treatment for the new coronavirus has unleashed a flurry of interest.

Talk turned Thursday to how quickly the federal Food and Drug Administration might act on Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir, after preliminary results from a major study found it shortened the recovery time by an average of four days for people hospitalised with the disease, also known as COVID-19.

“You do now have a drug that you have proven can actually work on the virus,” the National Institutes of Health’s Dr Anthony Fauci told the Associated Press news agency.

“Will it be an overwhelming cure? No, of course not. But with its use, “you will free up hospital beds, you will take less stress on the health care system,” he added.

00:40 GMT – Australia plots return of sport as spread of coronavirus slows

The Australian government will meet on Friday to discuss how sport can restart as the number of new coronavirus cases dwindles and states begin to relax restrictions on social gatherings, two sources familiar with the details told Reuters news agency.

Australia has reported about 6,700 cases of the new coronavirus and 93 deaths, significantly below the levels reported in the United States, Britain and Europe. Growth in new infections has slowed to less 0.5 percent a day, compared to 25 percent a month ago.

“The agenda includes the principles for sport and other recreational activities,” one source familiar with the cabinet agenda told Reuters.

00:30 GMT – Mexico reports 1,425 new coronavirus cases, 127 deaths

Mexican health officials have reported 1,425 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 127 new deaths in the country, bringing the total to 19,224 cases and 1,859 deaths in the country.

00:01 GMT – Trump says US can never declare ‘total victory’ over virus

President Donald Trump said Thursday that he believes the US can never declare “total victory” over the coronavirus because too many people have died. But he added that he will count it a win when the virus is gone and the economy fully reopened.

With almost 63,000 Americans fallen to the virus, Trump pointed out that the death rate in the US was lower than in many other countries and he offered the optimistic prediction that the battered economy would be vastly improved in a matter of months and “spectacular” by 2021.


Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. You can find all the key developments from yesterday, April 30, here.

Dutch coronavirus cases rise to 39,791 with 98 new deaths – health authorities


The Netherlands’ number of confirmed coronavirus cases has risen by 475 to 39,791 health authorities said on Friday, with 98 new deaths.

The country’s death toll stands at 4,893, the Netherlands’ Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said in its daily update.

The RIVM cautioned it only reports confirmed cases, and actual numbers are higher. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies