EU wants borders opened for tourism: Coronavirus live updates

With tourism making up 10 percent of European Union’s economy, bloc urges leaders to reopen borders.

More movement is seen in the streets as the country begins slightly relaxing restrictions, as it prepares a staged end to Europes longest lockdown due to spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19),
More movement is seen in the streets as the country begins slightly relaxing restrictions, as it prepares a staged end to Europes longest lockdown due to spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Venice, Italy, May 4, 2020. REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri [Reuters]
  • The European Union unveiled its plan to help European citizens salvage their summer vacations and resurrect Europe’s heavily battered tourism industry
  • The Chinese city of Jilin has imposed travel restrictions, closed off residential areas and banned gatherings after a number of coronavirus cases were confirmed.
  • Dr Anthony Fauci, top US infectious disease expert, has warned that the country does not yet have the disease under control and that easing lockdowns too soon risks unnecessary deaths. US President Donald Trump calle his warning unacceptable. 
  • More than 4.26 million people around the world have been infected with the coronavirus to date, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 291,000 have died – 82,000 of them in the US. Nearly 1.5 million people have recovered.

Here are the latest updates.

Wednesday, May 13

23:55 GMT – Drugmaker Roche in talks with UK govt to roll out test kits

Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG said on Wednesday it was in talks with the UK government to roll out its coronavirus antibody test kits in the country after Public Health England (PHE) found them reliable, Reuters news agency reported.

PHE, which conducted an independent evaluation of Roche’s antibody test last week, said it found Roche’s assay has a specificity of 100 percent.

“This is a very positive development because such a highly specific anti-body test is a very reliable marker of past infection,” UK’s coronavirus testing programme coordinator John Newton said. 

23:12 GMT – US face mask rules grow but enforcement proves a challenge

US ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft are requiring drivers and passengers to wear masks while using their services, joining a growing list of transportation companies hoping to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as some cities emerge from lockdown.

All major US airlines have already rolled out requirements for passengers and crew to wear face coverings in response to concerns over contagion, particularly in small or confined spaces that present higher risks of infection than well-ventilated or outdoor settings.

But pilots worry that travelers could remove their masks and spark a confrontation with others during a flight. They are pressing the Federal Aviation Administration to require masks instead of leaving it up to individual airlines.

“I can’t imagine the stir on the airplane if someone takes off their mask,” said Dennis Tajer, a 737 pilot and spokesman for the pilots’ union at American Airlines. “It puts the flight crew in a precarious position.”

22:30 GMT – Brazil registers record 11,385 new coronavirus cases 

Brazil confirmed a daily record 11,385 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, as well as 749 new deaths, according to data from the country’s health ministry.

Brazil has now registered 188,974 cases since the outbreak began, passing France’s tally of 177,700 confirmed and suspected cases to become the sixth hardest-hit country in the world.

21:50 GMT – Trump to tap ex-Glaxo executive, US general to spearhead coronavirus vaccine effort

US President Donald Trump is expected to tap a former GlaxoSmithKline executive and a US general to spearhead the government’s effort at developing a coronavirus vaccine on an accelerated schedule, officially called “Operation Warp Speed”, an administration official said.

The former head of Glaxo’s vaccines division, Moncef Slaoui, will serve as chief adviser on the operation and U.S. General Gustav Perna will act as its chief operating officer. Trump has previously said he would be the top boss on the effort to develop, test and produce on a shortened timeline a vaccine against the deadly coronavirus that has caused a global pandemic.

21:20 GMT – Trump says he was surprised at Fauci’s warning on reopening economy

US President Donald Trump said he was surprised by a warning this week from top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci about the dangers of reopening the economy too quickly.

“To me it’s not an acceptable answer,” Trump told reporters at the White House about the warning Fauci presented in testimony to the US Senate on Tuesday.

US restaurants forced to get creative to survive lockdown

21:15 GMT – Trump says new Democratic stimulus proposal is dead on arrival

United States President Donald Trump said a $3 trillion-plus coronavirus relief package proposed by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives was dead on arrival.

Trump was speaking to reporters at the White House.

The Democratic proposal, which includes funding for states, businesses, food support and families, was quickly rejected by Trump’s fellow Republicans in the U.S. Senate after it was unveiled on Tuesday.

21:05 GMT – 100-year-old in Russia recovers from virus

A Moscow hospital has discharged a 100-year-old woman after she successfully recovered from the new coronavirus.

Pelageya Poyarkova was admitted to a hospital for treatment after being diagnosed with the virus at an early stage.

“Despite a certain number of complications in her cardiovascular system, she turned out to be a tough grandma,” said Vsevolod Belousov, a doctor at the hospital where Poyarkova was treated.

Moscow extends lockdown until May 31 as COVID-19 infections soar

20:50 GMT – South Africa’s Ramaphosa to discuss easing COVID-19 restrictions further by end-May

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said that his government would start talks on moving most of the country to “alert level 3” COVID-19 restrictions by the end of May, from the current “alert level 4”.

Ramaphosa added in an address to the nation that parts of the country with the highest rates of infection would remain at alert level 4 and that changes to that level of restrictions would be announced in the coming days.

20:45 GMT – UK’s health agency approves Roche’s antibody test – The Telegraph

Public Health England (PHE) has given approval to Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG’s coronavirus antibody test kit, The Telegraph reported, making it the first such kit approved by Britain’s public health agency.

The accuracy of the test was given approval by experts at PHE’s Porton Down facility last Thursday, the newspaper said.

Senegal trials begin for $1 COVID-19 test kit

20:30 GMT – US says China trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine research

United States authorities warned that Chinese hackers were attempting to steal coronavirus data on treatments and vaccines, adding fuel to Washington’s war with Beijing over the pandemic.

The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said organizations researching COVID-19 were at risk of “targeting and network compromise” by China.

They warned that Chinese government-affiliated groups and others were attempting to obtain “valuable intellectual property and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing.”

20:10 GMT – Coronavirus may never go away: WHO

The new coronavirus may never go away and populations around the world will have to learn to live with it, the World Health Organization warned.

As some countries around the world begin gradually easing lockdown restrictions imposed in a bid to stop the novel coronavirus from spreading, the WHO said it may never be wiped out entirely.

Read more here.

‘Dengue kills too’: Latin America faces two epidemics at once

19:57 GMT – Ousted US official predicts ‘darkest winter’ if virus response lags

An ousted US health official will warn Congress on Thursday that Americans face their “darkest winter” in decades if the country fails to deploy a coordinated response against the coronavirus pandemic.

Rick Bright is expected to sound the alarm about inadequate countermeasures when he testifies at a congressional hearing.

“Our window of opportunity is closing,” Bright will tell a House health subcommittee, according to his testimony that was released.

19:45 GMT – Study hints 5 per cent of Spain’s population could be infected

Up to 5 percent of Spain’s population – 2.3 million people – could be infected with the novel coronavirus based on the results of a new study, according to the Health Ministry.

The antibody study included about 90,000 people in 36,000 households and was designed to give an idea of the true extent of the viral outbreak. That would far surpass the official count of 229,000 known

19:36 GMT – Portugal’s Fatima shrine holds celebration without pilgrims

Without the hundreds of thousands of worshippers it welcomes every May 13, the vast esplanade of Portugal’s Catholic Fatima shrine was nearly empty for its annual celebration for the first time in its century-long history.

Closed to the public because of the new coronavirus pandemic, only about 30 employees attended the mass in the small town where three poor shepherd children reported visions of the Virgin Mary in 1917.

Last year, 6.3 million people visited the shrine, the country’s most renowned pilgrimage site.

People carry the statue of Our Lady of Fatima during the 102nd anniversary of the appearance of the Virgin Mary to three shepherd children at the Catholic shrine of Fatima
Last year, 6.3 million people visited the shrine, the country’s most renowned pilgrimage site [File: Pedro Nunes/Reuters]

19:12 GMT – UK’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll rises by 494 to 33,186

A total of 33,186 people who tested positive for the new coronavirus have died in the United Kingdom, a rise of 494 in a 24-hour period, the health ministry said.

The figures are as of 5 p.m. (1600 GMT) on May 12. Including deaths due to suspected cases, Britain’s toll is over 40,000.

Should European countries open borders to boost tourism?

18:49 GMT – Uber to require face masks for drivers, riders

Ride-hailing giant Uber said it was making face masks mandatory for drivers and passengers, as part of new health and safety protocols aiming to instill confidence in the ride-hailing service as people emerge from coronavirus lockdowns.

The new policy to be effective Monday, and will require drivers in many markets to use selfie pictures to certify they are wearing masks before going online, and will allow riders and drivers an option to cancel a booking if the other party is not using a face covering.

“As cities begin to reopen and people start moving again, Uber is proceeding with caution and safety top of mind,” chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said.

18:27 GMT – France reports drop in coronavirus deaths, toll tops 27,000

France reported a drop in coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours compared with previous days, as its overall toll passed the 27,000 mark.

The new deaths brought the total toll in hospitals and nursing homes from the pandemic in France to 27,074, the health ministry said.

But the ministry also acknowledged a counting error has revised down the toll in nursing homes by 15 people from the day earlier, adding it did not yet have a toll from nursing homes for Wednesday.

18:05 GMT – Lebanon starts talks with IMF for financial aid

Lebanon has begun talks with the International Monetary Fund to secure financial aid desperately needed to save a crumbling economy, the finance ministry said.

Lebanon is battling its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, now compounded by a coronavirus lockdown.

The Mediterranean country, which was hit last autumn by unprecedented protests, asked the IMF for financial assistance on May 1 after laying out a much-awaited financial rescue plan.

Lebanon announces total shutdown after coronavirus spike

17:45 GMT – Wall Street sinks again as worries about economy weigh

Wall Street is falling toward a second straight day of sharp losses Wednesday, weighed down by worries about a slow recovery for the economy.

The S&P 500 was down 1.8 percent, as of 1:30 pm Eastern time, with the sharpest losses hitting stocks that most need a healthy economy for their profits to grow. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 472 points, or 2 percent, at 23,292, and the Nasdaq composite was down 2 percent.

Wall Street
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 472 points, or 2 percent, at 23,292, and the Nasdaq composite was down 2 percent [File: Mike Segar/Reuters]

17:25 GMT – Spokesman for Mexican foreign minister has coronavirus

The chief spokesman for Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard has tested positive for coronavirus and an official in the president’s office has died of the disease, bringing the pandemic closer to the inner circle of government.

The spokesman, Roberto Velasco, a close aide to Ebrard, said late on Tuesday he had COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

“I will remain at home, coordinating work at a distance,” he wrote on Twitter.

17:05 GMT – Spain’s airport traffic in April below 1 percent of year-ago amid lockdown

Passenger traffic at Spanish airports tanked more than 99 percent in April as the government imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe in a bid to curb the coronavirus pandemic, state-controlled operator Aena said.

The airports operated by Aena received 141,014 passengers during the month, down 99.4 percent from the same period a year ago, the company said. Freight volumes plummeted 60 percent, it added.

The number of flights landing and taking off in Spanish airports fell 94 percent in the month compared to April in 2019.

16:43 GMT – UN chief warns psychological suffering will outlast pandemic

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on warned that psychological suffering will outlast the
coronavirus crisis.

“Even when the pandemic is brought under control, grief, anxiety and depression will continue to affect people and communities,” he said in a video message.

The UN chief launched a policy brief urging governments, civil society and health authorities to address the mental health dimension of the crisis. 

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi address a joint news conference in Islamabad

16:20 GMT – EU unveils plan to help salvage summer holidays

The European Union unveiled Wednesday its plan to help European citizens salvage their summer vacations and resurrect Europe’s damaged tourism industry after months of coronavirus lockdown.

Around 150,000 people have died across Europe and Britain since the virus surfaced in northern Italy in February, but with the spread of the disease tapering off, people in many countries are cautiously venturing out of confinement to return to work and some schools are reopening.

With regards to vacations, the Commission’s over-arching advice is that EU countries with similar rates of coronavirus infections and comparably strong health care systems should begin lifting border measures between each other. Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner of Health, said at a news conference on Wednesday it would be a not be a summer “like all the others”.

EU urges end to lockdown as tourism industry collapse

15:57 GMT – Lesotho becomes last country in Africa to record COVID-19 case

Lesotho recorded its first case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, the health ministry said, becoming the last country in Africa to be afflicted by the virus.

The ministry said it had conducted 81 tests for COVID-19 from travellers from South Africa and Saudi Arabia, of which one was positive.

Read more here.

General view of homestead at Ha Motjatji Village outside the capital Maseru
Lesotho became the last country in Africa to register a COVID-19 case, with the continent now registering over 70,000 cases to date [Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters]

15:38 GMT – ‘Lockdown made everything gloomy’: Ramadan in Nigeria’s Kano

Kano, the commercial hub of northern Nigeria with an estimated population of some 13 million, was placed on lockdown by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 27 following the “unexplained deaths” of 640 people within two weeks.

The state government denied claims the deaths were related to the coronavirus pandemic, while the federal government deployed a fact-finding team to Kano to investigate the “rapid increase in mortality” as authorities enforced the lockdown.

Read more here.

15:16 GMT – China willing to further cooperate with South Korea on COVID prevention and control

Chinese President Xi Jinping told South Korean President Moon Jae-in on that China is willing to further cooperate with South Korea on coronavirus prevention and control, state television CCTV reported.

The neighbouring countries are effectively cooperating with each other against the coronavirus pandemic and ensured smooth operation of regional supply chain as shown in the “fast-track” entry system for business travelers, the report quoted Xi as saying.

China braces for second wave of COVID-19

14:52 GMT – Ex-Trump campaign chair Manafort released from prison

President Donald Trump’s one-time 2016 election campaign chairman Paul Manafort was released from prison to protect him from the coronavirus threat, his lawyer said.

The longtime Republican political consultant, 71, was sentenced last year to seven and a half years in jail for tax crimes, bank fraud and conspiracy charges, mostly relating to his business dealings in Ukraine with Russia-allied politicians and tycoons.

He had been in a minimum security prison in Pennsylvania, where his lawyers said he suffered from high blood pressure and respiratory problems, making him more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Read more here.

Paul Manafort
Manafort (c) had been in a minimum security prison in Pennsylvania, where his lawyers said he suffered from high blood pressure and respiratory problems, making him more vulnerable to COVID-19 [File: Lucas Jackson/Reuters] 

14:29 GMT – Merkel: will change meat industry rules after deaths

Chancellor Angela Merkel told lawmakers in Berlin Wednesday that the government plans to make necessary changes to rules for the meat industry, after at least 260 workers at Westfleisch’s slaughterhouse in northwestern Germany tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days.

As authorities scrambled to contain the growing outbreak over the weekend, it emerged that many of those infected were Eastern European migrants working for subcontractors who also provide them with accommodation and shuttle buses to work.

14:10 GMT – France to thank health workers on Bastille day

French President Emmanuel Macron wants Bastille day to show the nation’s gratitude toward health workers and others who help fight the spread of the coronavirus.

Government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye says the tribute was announced during a Cabinet meeting at the Elysee palace on Wednesday. Details about July 14 celebrations will be disclosed later depending on the evolution of the epidemic.

France’s national holiday is traditionally marked by a military parade on Paris’ Champs-Elysees avenue.

People return to work after eight weeks of lockdown in France

13:50 GMT – Powell warns of a possible sustained recession from pandemic

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned of the threat of a prolonged recession resulting from the viral outbreak and urged Congress and the White House to act further to prevent long-lasting economic damage.

The Fed and Congress have taken far-reaching steps to try to counter what is likely to be a severe downturn resulting from the widespread shutdown of the US economy.

But Powell cautioned that widespread bankruptcies among small businesses and extended unemployment for many people remain a serious risk.

“We ought to do what we can to avoid these outcomes,” Powell said.

Jerome Powell
 [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

13:30 GMT –  Clerics in Montenegro for ignoring COVID-19 rules

Montenegrin police used tear gas as they forcibly dispersed a crowd blocking a road to protest the arrest
of Serbian Orthodox Church clerics who staged a ceremony in violation of coronavirus control guidelines, the daily Vijesti reported online.

Protesters used their cars to block a road after eight clerics, including Joanikije, the bishop of Niksic diocese, had been given 72 hours of detention. Several protesters were arrested, Vijesti reported.

Hello, this is Usaid Siddiqui in Doha taking over from my colleague Farah Najjar.

 13:10 GMT – Sweden boosts healthcare personnel in wake of coronavirus

Swedish authorities and labour unions announced plans to permanently hire up to an additional 10,000 nursing assistants and care workers to address shortcomings in elderly care exposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The boost in staff is the result of a deal between the government, Sweden’s largest labour union Kommunal, and the country’s municipalities which are tasked with managing elderly care.

“The virus outbreak has shown that elderly care is vulnerable, and that has structural explanations,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren told reporters. “It’s basically about staff’s conditions.”

Where are we with a coronavirus vaccine? | Start Here

12:55 GMT – Remote Lesotho becomes last country in region to record COVID-19 case

Lesotho recorded its first case of COVID-19, the health ministry said, becoming the last country in southern and East Africa to be afflicted by the virus.

The ministry said it conducted 81 coronavirus tests from travellers from South Africa and Saudi Arabia, of which one was positive.

The remote, high-altitude kingdom, nestled in a South African mountain range, had previously been spared the coronavirus, although its bigger, more industrialised neighbour has recorded more than 10,000 cases.

The disease has struck at a time of political uncertainty in Lesotho, with embattled Prime Minister Thomas Thabane due to step down by the end of next week after his coalition collapsed in parliament.

12:50 GMT – Morocco hopes to boost domestic tourism to save key sector

Morocco’s government and tourism industry hope to encourage more Moroccans to explore the ancient souks of Marrakech and the beaches of Agadir this year, to make up for the collapse in foreign visitors due to the global pandemic.

A TV advertising campaign, launched by the government, reminds citizens of the country’s many attractions with the slogan “until we meet”.

Tourism represents seven percent of Moroccan economic activity, employing more than half a million people and generating $8bn in foreign currency inflows last year, when 13 million foreigners flew into the North African kingdom.

“We know foreign tourists are not coming this summer,” said Tourism Minister Nadia Fettah Alaoui, adding encouraging domestic tourism was the starting point for reopening the sector.

12:35 GMT – Europe seeks to save the summer holidays

The EU set out plans for a phased restart of travel this summer, hoping to save millions of tourism jobs threatened by the coronavirus pandemic across Europe, the world’s top holiday destination.

Travel restrictions to combat the virus have already had a devastating impact on the sector, with airlines around the continent forced to shed tens of thousands of jobs.

Under new guidelines from Brussels, holidaymakers could be asked to wear facemasks on planes, respect social distancing on the beach and even book slots to use hotel pools. Tourism is vital to the EU as a whole, accounting for 10 percent of GDP and supporting 23 million jobs. It is especially important to southern countries already struggling with debt and the impact of COVID-19 – notably Greece, Italy and Spain.

UK gov’t criticised for neglect of coronavirus in care homes

 12:28 GMT – Turkish pandemic package reaches $34bn, Albayrak says 

The Turkish government’s steps to support the economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic have reached a value of 240bn lira ($34.4bn), state-owned Anadolu agency quoted Finance Minister Berat Albayrak as saying.

Albayrak said the amount was the equivalent of 5 percent of gross domestic product.

The government has stepped in to top up income or pay daily stipends as the pandemic forced businesses to shut and furlough staff. Businesses and consumers are also being given access to fresh loans.

11:38 GMT – Rising infection rates abroad are a warning for Britain: PM

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that increasing rates of infection in other countries which have relaxed some rules to tackle the outbreak was a warning to Britain not to move too fast.

“We are watching intently what is happening in other countries and it is very notable that in some other countries where relaxations have been introduced there are signs of the R (reproduction number) going up again, and that is a very clear warning to us not to proceed too fast or too recklessly,” Johnson told Parliament.

11:08 GMT – Poland to reopen restaurants, hairdressers 

Poland will reopen restaurants and hairdressers on May 18 as it begins easing coronavirus-linked restrictions, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.

“At least to some extent we have contained the epidemic, therefore we can gradually unfreeze the economy,” Morawiecki told a news conference, a day after Poland saw its largest spike in coronavirus cases in a single day.

Morawiecki also said that schools would partially reopen to provide day care for children in the first three years of primary school.

Poland blog entry
Warsaw residents crowdly gather on the bank of the Vistula River to enjoy the warm weather, despite the still uncontrolled pandemic of the coronavirus and the restrictions and recommendations of social distancing [Wojtek Radwanski//AFP]

10:51 GMT – Spain’s daily death toll at 184

Spain’s daily death toll from the coronavirus inched up to 184 fatalities from 176 on Tuesday, the country’s health ministry said.

The overall death toll from the disease rose to 27,104, while the overall number of diagnosed cases rose to 228,691 from 228,030 the previous day.

09:29 GMT – Emirates Airline plans scheduled flights from May 21 to nine cities

Emirates Airline from May 21 plans to operate scheduled flight services from Dubai to London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Paris, Milan, Madrid, Chicago, Toronto, Sydney and Melbourne, it said in a statement.

It will also offer connections in Dubai for travellers between Britain and Australia, it said.

09:19 GMT – Hong Kong reports first locally transmitted cases in weeks

For the first time in three weeks, Hong Kong has reported two coronavirus cases not linked to anyone who travelled overseas, with authorities scrambling to trace the origin of the infections.

The Asian financial hub has been one of the most successful cities in the world at containing the pandemic, with most cases found among incoming travellers and quarantined immediately. 

The city reopened bars, gyms and cinemas last week and announced tentative plans to bring some students back to school at the end of the month, but a ban on groups larger than eight remains in place.

The latest government health report, including two local cases – a 66-year-old housewife and her five-year-old granddaughter – and one imported, brings the total in the city to 1,051, four of whom have died. Only a few dozen have yet to fully recover.

Hong Kong eases coronavirus measures
People enjoy their afternoon at Central harbourfront, Hong Kong [File: Anadolu agency]

08:58 GMT – Malaysia reports new cases, deaths

Malaysia reported 37 new cases, taking its cumulative total to 6,779 infections.

The health ministry also reported two new deaths, raising the total number of fatalities from the outbreak to 111.

08:56 GMT – Ireland may introduce compulsory quarantine for travellers – PM 

Ireland may introduce a legally enforceable 14-day quarantine for people arriving in the country to replace the current system in which it is merely advised, says Taoiseach, or Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar.

“We may need to tighten it up a bit,” Varadkar told Today FM radio, speaking days after the United Kingdom announced plans for a quarantine.

Restrictions on entering Ireland, part of a Common Travel Area with the United Kingdom but not a member of the European Union’s Schengen free-travel area, would need to be in place “at least until we have some kind of international agreement” on air travel, Varadkar said.

08:16 GMT – Philippines records 21 new deaths, 268 more infections

The Philippines’ health ministry recorded 21 more coronavirus deaths and 268 additional infections.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total deaths from the coronavirus have reached 772 while confirmed cases have risen to 11,618. But 145 more patients have recovered, increasing total recoveries to 2,251. 

Health workers wait at a COVID-19 testing center at the Palacio de Manila during an enhanced community quarantine to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus on Monday, May 11, 2020 in Manila, Philip
A COVID-19 testing center at the Palacio de Manila during an enhanced community quarantine [Aaron Favila/AP Photo]

08:05 GMT – Russia suspends use of ventilator type after hospital fires 

Russia has suspended the use of Russian-made medical ventilators of a certain model manufactured after April 1, a state healthcare regulator said, following two hospital fires reported to involve two such machines.

The Aventa-M ventilator was used at the Saint George’s Hospital in St Petersburg where five people died in a fire on Tuesday, and also in a hospital in Moscow where a fire killed one person on Saturday.

Roszdravnadzor, the regulator, said on Tuesday it was checking the quality and safety of the ventilators in the two hospitals. 

07:55 GMT – Saudi Arabia to enforce lockdown over Eid

Saudi Arabia will enforce a countrywide 24-hour curfew during the five-day Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday later this month. 

A full lockdown will be imposed from May 23 to 27 following the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, the interior ministry said in a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Read more here.

07:36 GMT – Russia reports more than 10,000 new cases

Russia reported 10,028 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, pushing its nationwide tally to 242,271.

Russia’s coronavirus response centre said 96 people died overnight, bringing the official death toll to 2,212.

russia blog entry
Medics transport a person outside a COVID-19 hospital on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia [Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters]

07:24 GMT – Chinese city of Jilin under partial lockdown

A northeastern Chinese city has partially shut its borders and cut off transport links after the emergence of a local coronavirus cluster that has fueled growing fears of a second wave of infections in China.

Jilin, with a population of more than four million, suspended bus services and said it will only allow residents to leave the city if they have tested negative for COVID-19 in the past 48 hours and complete an unspecified period of “strict self-isolation”.

Cinemas, indoor gyms, internet cafes and other enclosed entertainment venues must shut immediately, and pharmacies must report all sales of fever and antiviral medicines, the local government said in a statement.

A cluster of infections was reported in the suburb of Shulan over the weekend, with Jilin’s vice mayor warning Wednesday that the situation was “extremely severe and complicated” and “there is major risk of further spread”.

The city reported six new cases, all linked to the Shulan cluster, bringing the total number of cases linked to a local laundry worker to 21.

07:22 GMT – Dubai reopens parks, hotel beaches

The United Arab Emirates business and tourism hub Dubai has allowed public parks to reopen and hotel guests to access private beaches, state media said, as the emirate gradually lifts restrictions.

On April 24, Dubai eased a full curfew to eight hours at night, and allowed dine-in restaurants and shopping malls to reopen at limited capacity.

Public parks are now open for groups of up to five people, state news agency WAM said. Hotel guests must practise physical distancing at beaches.

Tram and ferry services also resumed and groups of up to five can now practise recreational activities in open areas. Mosques, cinemas, public beaches and nightclubs remain closed.

07:16 GMT – Singapore confirms 675 new cases

Singapore’s health ministry said it has confirmed another 675 cases of coronavirus infections, taking the city-state’s tally to 25,346.

06:42 GMT – Austria, Germany, to reopen border mid June

Austria and Germany plan to open their border on June 15 after being closed for two months, the government in Vienna said.

“From June 15, the opening of the border between Germany and Austria will be possible,” Tourism Minister Elisabeth Koestinger told state radio station O1.

06:28 GMT – UK economy shrinks 5.8 percent in March 

Britain’s economy shrank by a record 5.8 percent in March from February as the coronavirus crisis escalated and the government ordered a shutdown of much of the country.

In the first three months of the year, gross domestic product contracted by 2.0 percent from the last three months of 2019, the Office for National Statistics said, the largest quarter-on-quarter fall since the end of 2008.

April will likely see an even bigger fall because the entire month was spent under lockdown.

Covid-19 deaths in UK exceed 32 thousand
Benches blocked with tape in an metro station to enforce distancing as a precaution against COVID-19 in London [Anadolu]

06:16 GMT – California cancels fall university classes

California’s state university system, the largest in the United States, canceled classes for the fall semester because of the coronavirus, while Los Angeles County said its stay-at-home order was likely to be extended by three months.

In one of the first indications the pandemic will continue to have a significant impact into autumn, the chancellor of California State University said classes at its 23 campuses would be canceled for the semester that begins in September, with instruction moved online.

“Our university … is a place where over 500,000 people come together in close and vibrant proximity with each other on a daily basis,” the chancellor, Timothy White, said in a statement.

“That approach, sadly, just isn’t in the cards now.”

05:57 GMT – Sumo wrestler infected with coronavirus dies

A 28-year-old sumo wrestler has died from COVID-19, becoming the first sumo wrestler to die from the virus, the Japan Sumo Association said.

Wrestler Shobushi, whose real name is Kiyotaka Suetake, was hospitalised last month and died on Wednesday in a Tokyo hospital due to multiple organ failure related to the coronavirus, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said.

Hello, this is Farah Najjar taking over from my colleague Kate Mayberry.

04:55 GMT – Twitter says staff can work from home ‘forever’ if they want

Twitter says that its staff can work from home “forever” if they are in a role and situation that allows them to do so.

Jennifer Christie, the company’s vice president, people, also said Twitter did not expect to be one of the first companies to return to its offices, that there would be no business travel before September and no in-person company events for the remainder of 2020.

04:50 GMT – Thailand reports no new cases of coronavirus

Thailand has reported no new cases of coronavirus for the first time since March 9.

04:45 GMT – Singapore to test all migrant workers for coronavirus

Singapore plans to test all 323,000 migrant workers living in company dormitories for the coronavirus, the local Straits Times newspaper reported, citing National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

The city-state, which relies on the workers for construction and other manual jobs, will use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and serological tests (for antibodies) to ensure they are free of the virus.

The authorities are currently doing 3,000 tests a day in the dormitories, and will step up testing with a view to completing the process by July, Wong said. 

Thousands of workers were confined to their dormitories after a spike in coronavirus cases.

04:05 GMT – Handbags at dawn: South Korean shoppers line up for Chanel

More than 100 people defied fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections to queue from as early as 5am outside Chanel in Seoul to buy the French brand’s luxury goods ahead of an expected rise in prices.

54-year-old Lee Ji-yeon told Reuters she was hoping to get a handbag for her daughter, who is getting married. Her future son-in-law was queuing at a Chanel concession in a department store, she said.

South Korea Chanel
People queued from as early as 5am outside a luxury shopping centre for the Chanel boutique [Minwoo Park/Reuters]

“We’ve been to the Chanel store several times before and agonising whether to buy it or not,” Lee said. “Since the prices are going up, we decided to buy it now.”

There has been a spike in coronavirus cases in Seoul after an outbreak linked to clubs and bars, with 119 cases across the country now linked to the 29-year-old who tested positive in early May.

03:50 GMT – London mayor says June ‘too early’ to resume Premier League

London mayor Sadiq Khan says it’s “too early” to be discussing the resumption of the Premier League and other high-profile sports in the UK capital because the country is “still in the grips of this crisis, and hundreds of people (are) dying every day”, the Evening Standard reported, citing a spokesman for the mayor.

Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur are among the five Premier League clubs in London.

The possibility of games resuming next month got a boost after the government said elite-level sport could resume behind closed doors from June 1.

Teams have been told no tackling will be allowed once training resumes.

03:30 GMT – Top Jilin city official warns of huge risk from new coronavirus cases

Gai Dongping, the vice mayor of Jilin in China’s northeast, has told reporters the six new cases confirmed on Wednesday morning raised the risk of the virus spreading further and the city was stepping up measures to curb and contain the virus.

The city is the second-biggest in the province of the same name and lies nearly 100km (63 miles) east of the capital Changchun.

02:45 GMT – Coronavirus hobbles cyclone response for Vanuatu and Pacific

The coronavirus pandemic is slowing efforts to help people in Vanuatu and other parts of the Pacific after Cyclone Harold tore through the region a month ago, destroying homes and livelihoods.

Michel Kerf, who heads the World Bank in the region, said the cyclone had been a “shocking reminder” of Vanuatu’s vulnerability to natural disasters.

Read more here.

Vanuatu - Cyclone Harold  - Dr Christopher Bartlett
People in Vanuatu are struggling to rebuild after Cyclone Harold as the world focuses on the coronavirus [Supplied/Dr Christopher Bartlett]

01:45 GMT – Iceland to ease restrictions on international arrivals from June

The government of Iceland says it plans to ease restrictions on international arrivals no later than June 15 and expects to be able to give travellers a choice between a COVID-19 test on arrival or two weeks of quarantine. A final decision will be made at the end of the month.

“When travellers return to Iceland we want to have all mechanisms in place to safeguard them and the progress made in controlling the pandemic,” Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir, minister of tourism, said in a statement. “Iceland’s strategy of large-scale testing, tracing and isolating have proven effective so far. We want to build on that experience of creating a safe place for those who want a change of scenery after what has been a tough spring for all of us.”

Iceland has already revised the quarantine regime that was first imposed in January, with essential workers and those involved in vital infrastructure eligible for a modified quarantine that does not require then to stay at home. The scheme will be extended to filmmakers, scientists and some others from May 15.

01:30 GMT – China confirms seven new cases; focus on northeastern Jilin province

China’s National Health Commission has confirmed seven new cases of coronavirus, six in the northeastern province of Jilin where the city of Shulan increased its risk level from medium to high on May 10.

The new cases were found in Jilin, the province’s second-biggest city, five of which were linked to an earlier case in Shulan. Jilin city temporarily suspended train services as a result of the outbreak.

China’s other case was found in a traveller returning to Shanghai.

00:05 GMT – Brazil reports more cases than Germany; daily deaths reach record

Brazil’s confirmed cases of coronavirus surpassed Germany on Tuesday as the country recorded 881 deaths in 24 hours – the highest since the outbreak began.

Brazil has confirmed 177,589 cases of coronavirus, compared with 170,508 in Germany.

The country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has sought to downplay the disease and is now battling with state governors over a presidential decree he signed on Monday designating beauty salons and gyms as “essential” services, a move that would allow them to open during lockdowns.

At least 10 governors have said they will not comply with Bolsonaro’s decree. 

“Bolsonaro is walking towards the precipice and wants to take all of us with him,” Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel wrote on Twitter.

23:30 GMT (Tuesday) – Trump support ebbs as coronavirus death toll climbs

Americans have become more critical of Trump over the past month as the coronavirus outbreak in the country deepened, according to a survey released on Tuesday.

A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll shows 56 percent of those surveyed now disapprove of Trump, up five points from a similar poll in mid-April. His approval rating slipped four points to 41 percent.

It also found that 46 percent of registered voters would back Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the November 3 election, while 38 percent would vote for Trump.


Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.

Read all the developments from yesterday (May 12) here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies