Guatemala angry over coronavirus-infected deportees: Live updates

Guatemala’s President Alejandro Giammattei attacks Trump over US deportations of migrants infected with the virus.

Guatemalan immigration officials use protective equipment as a preventive measure against the new coronavirus, COVID-19, as they receiving Guatemalan migrants deported from the United States, at the A
  • Guatemala’s president Alejandro Giammattei has questioned his country’s relationship with the United States, revealing frustration over the US continuing to send deportees infected with COVID-19. 

  • Healthcare workers have started taking part in a trial of two anti-malarial drugs to see if they can prevent COVID-19, including one US President Donald Trump says he has been taking.

  • More than five million people around the world have now been confirmed to have the coronavirus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. More than 328,000 people have died globally while some 1.9 million people have recovered.

  • The United States has recorded the most deaths at 93,439. It is followed by the United Kingdom with 35,786, Italy with 32,486, France with 28,135 and Spain with 27,888.

Here are all the latest updates:

Thursday, May 21

22:40 GMT – Brazil surpasses 20,000 coronavirus deaths 

Brazil registered a record of 1,188 daily coronavirus deaths on Thursday, with more than 20,000 total fatalities from the coronavirus outbreak, the Health Ministry said.

Brazil now has 310,087 confirmed cases, the ministry said, just a few thousand fewer than world No 2 hot spot Russia, which trails the United States. 

22:30 GMT – Brazil’s Bolsonaro accepts no proof chloroquine works, but may work in some cases

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro, a long-running advocate of malaria drug chloroquine to treat COVID-19, said he knew there was no proof it works, but said there are cases in which it appears to have been successful. 

Bolsonaro, an ideological ally of US President Donald Trump who has also touted the drug for preventive use, has been widely criticised for his handling of the outbreak and his continued opposition to restrictions on movement he sees as too damaging to the economy.

20:45 GMT – UN: Latin America’s jobless to increase by 11.5 million

The economic crisis caused by the pandemic has left an extra 11.5 million people unemployed in Latin America, the United Nations (UN) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) said.

The new estimate from the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the ILO would mean a total of 37.7 million people in the region are now unemployed.

The report published on Thursday says Latin America’s economy will also shrink by an estimated 5.3 percent.

20:40 GMT – Ex-White House employee dies of COVID-19

A former White House employee who served under 11 United States presidents has died of COVID-19 this month.

Wilson Roosevelt Jerman, 91, was one of the White House’s longest-serving employees, working in various positions, including cleaner, doorman and butler from 1957 to 2012.

“I want the world to remember my grandfather as someone who is really authentic,” Jerman’s granddaughter, Jamila Garrett, told FOX 5, the local Fox affiliate in Washington, DC.

Read more here.

Wilson Roosevelt Jerman
Doorman Wilson Roosevelt Jerman is seen in the White house in 2004 [File: Tina Hager/George W Bush Presidential Library/National Archives and Administration] 

20:34 GMT – Coronavirus-triggered layoffs in US hit nearly 39 million

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits in the two months since the coronavirus took hold in the US has swelled to nearly 39 million, the government reported, even as states from coast to coast gradually reopen their economies and let people go back to work.

More than 2.4 million people filed for unemployment last week in the latest wave of layoffs from the business shutdowns that have brought the economy to its knees, the Labor Department said.

19:50 GMT – Bolsonaro to sign $10.7bn coronavirus package

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has said he will sign off a 60bn real ($10.72bn) federal aid programme for states and cities hit by coronavirus, but asked governors for support freezing public sector pay increases.

The bill to distribute federal money to states and municipalities was approved by Congress earlier this month. However, Bolsonaro has not signed off on it due to pressure from Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, an avowed free-marketeer who wants more fiscal austerity.

19:34 GMT – Chechen leader Kadyrov in hospital: Reports

Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov has been taken to the hospital in Moscow with suspected Covid-19, Russian news agencies reported.

“Ramzan Kadyrov was taken by plane to Moscow with a suspected case of coronavirus. Now [he] is under medical supervision,” state news agency TASS reported, citing a medical source who also said Kadyrov was in a “stable” condition.

Ramzan Kadyrov
A crucial ally of President Vladimir Putin, Kadyrov took power in Chechnya in 2004 [File:AFP] 

19:00 GMT – Venezuela sues Bank of England over gold reserves

Lawyers for Venezuela’s central bank said they had launched legal action against the Bank of England, demanding the release of gold reserves to be used to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

London-based firm Zaiwalla & Co said it had been instructed by the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) “to issue a claim against the Bank of England for the release of $1bn of Venezuela’s gold reserves to help the country combat COVID-19”.

It said BCV wrote last month to the Bank of England requesting the gold be transferred to the UN Development Programme, which is working to tackle the spread of coronavirus in the cash-strapped country.

18:50 GMT – Facebook’s Zuckerberg embraces remote work 

Facebook Inc will permanently embrace remote work even after coronavirus lockdowns ease, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told employees, accelerating the tech sector’s geographic diversification away from its home in Silicon Valley.

Zuckerberg said the world’s largest social network would start “aggressively opening up remote hiring,” expecting that about half its workforce would work remotely over the next five to 10 years.

Read more here.

18:25 GMT – France’s daily virus toll dips to 83

The number of coronavirus deaths registered in France over the last 24 hours dipped to 83, as a top doctor said he was not seeing a second wave of infections despite the country easing its lockdown.

The latest deaths in hospitals and nursing homes brought France’s total toll from the pandemic to 28,215, the health ministry said in a statement.

The trends remained optimistic, with 49 fewer people in intensive care for a total of 1,745 patients – a number that exceeded 7,000 at the peak of the crisis.

17:59 GMT – Guatemala blasts Trump over virus-infected migrant deportations

Guatemala has blasted Trump over US deportations of migrants infected with coronavirus.

President Alejandro Giammattei said the deportations had saturated quarantine centers in Guatemala and heaped pressure on the Central American country’s weak health system.

“Guatemala is an ally to the United States, the United States is not an ally to Guatemala,” he told the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based international affairs think tank.

“We understand that the United States wants to deport people, we understand that, but what we don’t understand is that they send us contaminated flights.”

Guatemala’s president questioned his country’s relationship with the US [File:Luis Echeverria/Reuters]

17:40 GMT – UK signs contracts for 10 million antibody tests

Britain will buy 10 million coronavirus antibody tests from Roche and Abbott and will roll them out to health workers from next week, health minister Matt Hancock has said.

The antibody tests – also known as serology tests – show who has been infected, although it is not yet clear whether the presence of antibodies to the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, confers permanent immunity.

“We have signed contracts to supply in the coming months over 10 million tests from Roche and Abbott,” Hancock said.

Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock holds the daily coronavirus disease news conference at Downing Street [Reuters]

17:35 GMT – Turkey to resume export of dairy products to China

Turkey’s exports of milk and other dairy products to China will resume, Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan has said, adding that 54 Turkish companies will be able to export to China.

In February, Turkey temporarily halted imports of livestock and animal fats from China over the outbreak. In a tweet, Pekcan said she welcomed the Chinese dairy market opening to Turkish exporters, after Chinese authorities deemed Turkey an exportable country.

16:45 GMT – Deep partisan divide in areas hardest hit by COVID-19: Reuters

As the United States’s response to the coronavirus pandemic splits along partisan lines, a Reuters news agency analysis may help explain why: death rates in Democratic areas are triple those in Republican ones.

By Wednesday, US counties that voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election reported 39 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 residents, according to an analysis of demographic and public health data.

In counties that voted for Republican Donald Trump, 13 of every 100,000 people had died from the virus.

Read more here.

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

16:42 GMT – Bolivia’s health minister held for ‘ventilator corruption’

Bolivia’s health minister has been arrested on suspicion of corruption related to the overpriced purchase of ventilators to fight COVID-19 before being sacked by interim President Jeanine Anez.

Marcelo Navajas was detained by police in La Paz, a day after Anez ordered an investigation into the questionable purchase. Two other health ministry officials were also arrested.

Anez is facing her biggest corruption scandal in her six months in power and a fierce wave of criticism over her handling of the crisis.

Read more here

Marcelo Navajas
Bolivia’s ex-health minister has been remanded in custody over a corruption investigation [File:EPA]

16:38 GMT – Spain’s daily COVID-19 death toll at 48, excluding Catalonia

Spain’s daily death toll from the coronavirus has fallen below 50 for the first time since a lockdown was imposed in mid-March, but the figure excludes deaths in the northeastern region of Catalonia.

Cumulative deaths climbed by 48 to 27,940, while the number of confirmed cases edged up to 233,037, the health ministry said.

Catalan authorities did not update their daily figures due to data-validation problems, the ministry said in a statement, without elaborating on the nature of the problems.

16:06 GMT – Pandemic accelerates deforestation in tropical countries: WWF

The destruction of tropical forests has accelerated rapidly during the pandemic, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has said.

“Everything indicates that the explosive deforestation has to do with a coronavirus effect,” said Christoph Heinrich from the WWF’s Germany office.

“In many countries, the state has withdrawn from forest protection during the lockdown, which favours illegal logging and the looting of other resources,” he added.

16:01 GMT – Italy’s daily coronavirus death toll and new cases broadly stable

Italy has recorded 156 new deaths from the epidemic, against 161 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, while the daily tally of new cases also declined slightly to 642 from 665 on Wednesday.

The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on February 21 now stands at 32,486, the agency said, the third highest in the world after those of the US and Britain.

People registered as currently carrying the illness fell to 60,960 from 62,752 on Wednesday.

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Naples
A worker measures the temperature of a man as the restaurant is being prepared for its reopening in Naples [Ciro De Luca/Reuters]

15:29 GMT – Democrats call for flags at half staff when virus toll hits 100,000

Top Democrats have urged President Donald Trump to order flags flown at half staff when the US coronavirus death toll reaches 100,000, saying the salute would reflect a “national expression of grief”.

“Our hearts are broken over this great loss” from the pandemic, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer wrote in a letter to the president.

This weekend’s observation of Memorial Day, which honors those who died serving in the US military, coincides with the country likely reaching the grim milestone of 100,000 COVID-19 fatalities.


15:25 GMT – Global COVID-19 trial of hydroxychloroquine begins

Healthcare workers in Britain and Thailand have started taking part in a trial to determine whether two anti-malarial drugs can prevent COVID-19, including one that US President Donald Trump says he has been taking.

The study, involving more than 40,000 healthcare workers across Europe, Africa, Asia and South America, seeks to determine whether chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine could play a role in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

Demand for hydroxychloroquine surged after Trump touted it in early April. He said this week he was now taking it as a preventive medicine against the virus despite medical warnings about its use. 

15:12 GMT – US plane with donated ventilators lands in Russia

A US military plane carrying dozens of donated American ventilators has landed in Moscow, with the cargo ready to be sent to a hospital treating coronavirus patients.

The 50 ventilators are “the first part of a humanitarian donation of a total of 200 much-needed US-manufactured ventilators to Russia”, valued at $5.6m, the US embassy in Moscow said in a statement.

Embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Ross posted a photo online of a US Air Force cargo plane after it arrived in the Russian capital’s Vnukovo airport.

“In times of crisis, the United States and Russia must work together to save lives,” she wrote.

15:08 GMT – Serbia reopens borders after easing virus restrictions

Serbia said it will start reopening its borders after sealing them on March 15.

Since it started relaxing restrictions earlier this month, Serbia required citizens returning from abroad to either bring a negative COVID-19 test not older than 72 hours or go through a fortnight’s self-isolation.

Foreigners were allowed to enter if they were vetted by a government commission and also tested negative.

But following an improvement in the health situation, the government decided “to reopen border crossings and allow free entrance of all people into the Republic of Serbia, without a mandatory coronavirus tests and the commission’s approval,” an official statement said.

The Balkan country reported 86 new cases. Authorities say 10,919 have been infected and 253 have died.

14:55 GMT – Trump aide released from prison early due to coronavirus

Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney to US President Donald Trump, has been released from prison due to concerns that he could be exposed to coronavirus there, two sources familiar with the case said.

Cohen, 53, had completed a bit more than a year of a three-year sentence for his role in paying hush money to two women who said they had sexual relationships with Trump, as well as financial crimes and lying to Congress.

Read more here.

Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer for US President Donald Trump arrives at his Manhattan apartment after being released from federal prison [Mike Segar/Reuters]

14:49 GMT – Air arrivals to Spain collapsed by 99.7 percent 

The number of people who arrived in Spain by air collapsed by 99.7 percent in April compared to the same month in 2019, the state tourism agency has said.

A total of 21,327 people arrived in the country on a plane in April, compared to more than 7 million a year ago. Spanish authorities banned all non-essential travel in March in order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Last week, Madrid imposed a new rule under which new arrivals must self-isolate in their homes for a period of two weeks.

14:39 GMT – China warns of ‘countermeasures’ over US virus sanctions threat

Beijing will retaliate if the US Congress passes legislation threatening sanctions against China over the pandemic, the spokesman for the country’s parliament has said.

“We firmly oppose these bills, and will make a firm response and take countermeasures based on the deliberation of these bills,” spokesman Zhang Yesui said at a news conference.

14:21 GMT – Scotland leader gives ‘map’ for easing lockdown 

Scotland’s leader has presented a “route map” for easing restrictions in the months ahead while observing social distancing guidelines.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Scottish lawmakers the lockdown will be loosened in three-week intervals, subject to progress in virus control. But, she added, the proposals “cannot be set in stone.”

Starting May 28, two households may see each other in small groups in “outdoor spaces.”

Other planned changes in Scotland beginning next week include the reopening of gardening stores and allowing noncontact outdoor leisure activities, such as golf and fishing. Schools will not reopen until August 1.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon details coronavirus ‘route map’ in parliament [File:Fraser Bremner/Reuters]

13:39 GMT – Crossing points on divided Cyprus to gradually open from June 8

Crossings used by thousands of Cypriots daily between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot sides of the divided island and sealed shut by the lockdown will gradually start reopening from June 8, an official has said.

A series of shutdowns which started on February 29 left many unable to cross to the other side of the island for work, tuition or medical reasons.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, the island’s Greek Cypriot leader, and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci discussed the matter by phone, government spokesman Kyriakos Koushos said.

13:35 GMT – UK urged to scrap healthcare fee for migrant NHS workers

Anger is growing towards the British government over its refusal to exempt an NHS fee for overseas healthcare workers, many of whom are currently putting their lives at risk on the front lines of the pandemic.

While doctors, nurses and paramedics have been granted a one-year exemption from the charge, those working in lower-paid roles such as hospital cleaners, porters and carers must still pay.

The annual fee is currently 400 pounds ($490) and will rise to 624 pounds in October. It must be paid regardless of whether individuals use the healthcare service.

Read more here.

Hello, this is Elizabeth Melimopoulos in Doha taking over from my colleague Mersiha Gadzo.

12:49 GMT – Catastrophe unfolding in southern Yemen: medical charity

The main coronavirus treatment centre in southern Yemen has recorded at least 68 deaths in just over two weeks, the medical charity running the site has said, more than double the toll announced by Yemeni authorities so far.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the dedicated COVID-19 centre in Aden that serves the entire south admitted 173 patients from April 30 to May 17, at least 68 of whom died, suggesting “a wider catastrophe unfolding in the city”.

“What we are seeing in our treatment centre is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the number of people infected and dying in (Aden),” Caroline Seguin, MSF’s operations manager for Yemen, said in a statement.

“People are coming to us too late to save, and we know that many more people are not coming at all: they are just dying at home.”

Rise in deaths with COVID-like symptoms in south Yemen: aid group

12:34 GMT – Lebanon reports 63 new cases

Lebanon has confirmed 63 new cases of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours.

The total number of cases in the country is now at 1,024 – however, only 335 of those are active cases, according to the information ministry.

Twenty-six people have died of the virus in Lebanon and 663 have recovered, according to official statistics.

12:05 GMT – One in six Spanish children depressed during pandemic: Survey

Nearly one in six Spanish children have felt regularly depressed during the pandemic, with those from poorer backgrounds suffering worse, a charity has said.

Spain has had one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, including keeping children behind doors for weeks, to curb the outbreak which has killed nearly 28,000 people.

Save the Children said its survey from April showed that while lockdown was enabling many families to enjoy more time together, still 17 percent of children felt depressed often or daily and new economic hardships were widening inequalities.

Spanish children
Vanesa Sanchez, a single mother and freelance journalist attends a work meeting while her daughter Valeria waits. Spain’s lockdown measures were among the strictest in Europe [Jaime Reina/ AFP]

11:53 GMT – Potential for contagion in Rohingya refugee camps is high: UN

The UN refugee agency chief has said that coronavirus cases in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh are under control but warned that the potential for contagion was high.

“Luckily we have not seen a major outbreak, although, in the last week, we’ve seen about five confirmed cases of refugees with the coronavirus,” Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for UNCHR, told Al Jazeera for the AJNewNormal show.

“…. the [infected Rohingya] are fine, it’s under control, but of course the potential for contagion there is high,” he said.

Watch the full interview here.

UN Rohingya entry

11:09 GMT – Africa reports more than 95,000 cases

The number of those infected with coronavirus in Africa has reached 95,201, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has reported.

According to the latest data, the death toll in the continent tallied at 2,997 while 38,075 people have recovered.

South Africa recorded 18,000 coronavirus cases, the highest number in the continent.

outside image - blog - 21 may - africa
People stand in a queue in at sunrise to wait for food being handed out during the national lockdown in Johannesburg, South Africa [Kim Ludbrook/EPA-EFE]

11:07 GMT – Nigerian medical union ends Lagos doctors strike

Nigeria’s largest medical union has ordered its members in the commercial capital Lagos to resume work, ending a strike over alleged police harassment.

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) doctors’ union, which ordered Lagos members to stop work indefinitely from Wednesday evening, said it had received assurances that doctors would be exempt from a nationwide overnight curfew and would therefore be allowed to move freely by police.

11:03 GMT – Despite closed borders, Argentina to fly in rabbis to certify kosher meat

Argentina, which has enforced one of the world’s toughest travel bans, plans to help charter a private flight to bring in rabbis from Israel to certify meat at the country’s packing plants for kosher markets around the world.

The trip is key to Argentina being able to maintain beef exports to key buyer Israel, which has become increasingly important with exports stalled to the European Union and sharply down to major buyer China.

“The only alternative has been to be able to try to arrange a charter in combination with Israeli clients, and supervised, authorized and coordinated by the governments,” said Mario Ravettino, head of Argentina’s ABC meat export consortium.

Argentina entry
People queue to buy groceries at a street market during the lockdown in Buenos Aires, Argentina [Juan Mabromata/AFP]

10:46 GMT – South Africa scientists say up to 50,000 deaths possible

South Africa could see up to 50,000 coronavirus deaths and as many as three million infections by the end of the year as the southern hemisphere winter leads to a higher rate of infection, scientific models have showed.

The country already has the highest number of infections and deaths on the continent, with more than 18,000 identified cases and 339 deaths, but a national lockdown entering its sixth week had slowed infections.

However, scientists and statisticians hired by the health ministry to model the spread of the disease said the country could see between 35,000 and 50,000 coronavirus deaths by November.

10:23 GMT – Qatar welcomes NATO initiative to airlift coronavirus supplies

Qatar has welcomed NATO’s initiative to airlift needed medical and humanitarian supplies in support of the UN’s efforts in fighting the pandemic.

“Qatar is proud to join the NATO initiative to send humanitarian and medical supplies in coordination with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to combat COVID-19 in countries that need more external support,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Lolwah Alkhater said on Twitter.

“Qatar Airways will participate in airlifting these supplies.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also welcomed the offers of the UK and Qatar to provide airlift assets coordinated by NATO’s Euro Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC).

UN OCHA had issued a global call requesting that appropriate military and civil defence assets be made available for the transport of humanitarian and medical items needed during the pandemic.

09:40 GMT – Iran says 10,000 of its health workers infected with coronavirus

About 10,000 Iranian health workers have been infected with coronavirus, the semi-official ILNA news agency has quoted the deputy health minister as saying.

“Around 10,000 health workers have been infected with the deadly disease in Iran and some of them have died,” Qassem Janbabai said, according to ILNA.

09:33 GMT – Indonesia reports 973 new cases, biggest daily jump

Indonesia has recorded its biggest daily jump in cases, bringing the total number of cases to 20,162 in the world’s fourth most populous country.

Indonesia confirmed 973 new infections and 36 new deaths, taking the total number of fatalities to 1,278, health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said.

09:30 GMT – Japan may lift Tokyo state of emergency as early as next week: PM

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said it was possible that a state of emergency in Tokyo and its surrounding regions could end as early as next week if the number of coronavirus infections continues to decrease.

“The state of emergency will continue in Tokyo, Hokkaido and other regions. We will meet with experts (on Monday) to update the situation on infections,” Abe told reporters after ending the state of emergency in Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures.

“If the current situation continues, it is possible that the state of emergency could be lifted in those areas.”

08:26 GMT – Airlines to follow ticket price rules as India resumes some flights

Airlines should stick to ticket price guidelines issued by India’s civil aviation ministry when they restart some domestic flights, two months after air travel was halted due to the pandemic, the ministry has said.

Airlines should adhere to the lower and upper limits of fares set by the ministry, it said in a notice, but it did not give details on the amounts.

Airlines will be allowed to resume about a third of their operations from Monday, adhering to rules that include no meals on board, temperature checks for all passengers and full protective gear for the crew, the ministry said.

08:10 GMT – Philippines reports four more deaths, 213 infections

The Philippines’ health ministry has confirmed four more coronavirus deaths and 213 new cases.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total deaths because of the pandemic had increased to 846, while infections had risen to 13,434. But 68 more patients have recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 3,000.

08:04 GMT – UK healthcare workers begin hydroxychloroquine trial

UK healthcare workers will begin taking part in a University of Oxford-led international trial of two anti-malarial drugs to see if they can prevent COVID-19, including the one US President Donald Trump says he has been taking.

The COPCOV study will involve more than 40,000 front-line healthcare workers from Europe, Africa, Asia and South America to determine if chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are effective in preventing the coronavirus.

The drugs have risen to prominence after Trump said earlier this week he was taking hydroxychloroquine as preventive medicine against the virus despite medical warnings about its use.

Trump says he’s taking hydroxychloroquine

07:40 GMT – Russia’s official death toll surpasses 3,000

Russia’s official coronavirus death toll has risen to 3,099 after officials said 127 people had died in the last 24 hours.

Russia’s authorities reported 8,849 new cases of the coronavirus, raising the total number of cases to 317,554.

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

07:33 GMT – Lufthansa closes in on $10bn state rescue deal

Lufthansa is in advanced talks over a $9.9bn (9 billion euros) state bailout that would see Germany take a 20 percent stake in its flagship airline.

Lufthansa has said a deal would involve the government taking two seats on its supervisory board, but it would only exercise its full voting rights in exceptional circumstances, such as to protect the firm against a takeover.

Lufthansa has been in talks with Berlin for weeks over aid to help it cope with what is expected to be a protracted travel slump, but has been wrangling over how much control to yield in return for support.

Read more here.

Lufthansa entry
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on May 20 that a decision would come ‘soon’ on a potential rescue programme for coronavirus-stricken airline giant Lufthansa after weeks of talks [Christof Stache/AFP]

07:26 GMT – UK dealing with technical issues of track and trace app: Minister

The UK is dealing with technical issues of its track and trace app, but will use traditional tracking means until it is rolled out, the security minister has said.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said a “world-beating” programme to test and trace those suspected of having been in contact with people who have tested positive for COVID-19 would be in place by June 1.

The test and track programme is seen as a key measure to reopen the country, but has also been dogged by criticism after opposition lawmakers said an earlier promise of a nationwide roll-out of a National Health Service (NHS)-developed smartphone app had slipped from the middle of this month.

UK NHS app entry
A resident of the Isle of Wight poses with his smartphone showing the newly released NHS Coronavirus contact tracing app in Ryde [AFP]

07:20 GMT – Singapore confirms 448 more cases

Singapore’s health ministry has confirmed another 448 coronavirus cases, taking the city-state’s tally of infections to 29,812.

07:00 GMT – EasyJet to restart flights in June with compulsory masks

British low-cost airline EasyJet has said a small number of flights would restart on June 15 and that passengers and cabin crew would all be required to wear masks when travelling.

EasyJet’s planes have been grounded since late March when the coronavirus spread across Europe, but the airline said it would restart domestic flights in the UK and France from June 15, before adding other destinations later.

EasyJet entry
The low-cost airline easyJet said a small number of flights would restart on June 15 [File: Matthew Childs/Reuters]

06:30 GMT – How coronavirus cases reached five million worldwide

More than five million people have now been infected by the new coronavirus worldwide.

The landmark figure was reached almost five months after the first reported case in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December.

The US, Russia and Brazil have emerged as the countries with the highest number of confirmed cases.

Read more here.


Hi, this is Mersiha Gadzo in Doha taking over the live updates from my colleague Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur.


04:48 GMT – Indonesia warned against premature easing of restrictions

Civil groups in Indonesia have warned the government that it should not rush the easing of restrictions in the country, as the number of cases and deaths continue to rise.

Lapor COVID-19, a civil society alliance, was quoted by Jakarta Post as saying that fatalities among suspected coronavirus cases in 18 provinces have hit 3,833 as of May 15. Combined with the 1,242 deaths among confirmed cases as of May 20, the group said the total number of deaths was at least 5,075.

indonesia blog entry
Staff in protective suits talk to a woman as people sit spaced apart to practice social distancing while waiting for their turn to enter a community health centre in Jakarta, Indonesia [Achmad Ibrahim/AP]

04:28 GMT – Greece seeks to jumpstart tourist season on June 15

Greece’s long-awaited tourist season will begin on June 15 with the opening of seasonal hotels.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis says international flights will begin heading directly to tourist destinations on July 1.

In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, Mitsotakis says visitors would be subject to sample coronavirus testing and “our general health protocols will be adhered to”.

There are 2,850 cases and 166 deaths reported in the country of nearly 11 million people.

greece blog entry
A guardian of antiquities stands on duty in the Acropolis archaeological site, in Athens, Greece [Orestis Panagiotou/EPA-EFE]

03:45 GMT – Japan ending emergency order in Osaka, two other areas

Japan’s economy minister says experts have approved a government plan to remove a coronavirus state of emergency in Osaka and two neighbouring prefectures in the west where the infection is deemed to be slowing, while keeping the measure in place in the Tokyo region and Hokkaido.

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters that experts at the meeting approved the plan to lift the measure in Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo.

The measure will be kept in place in Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures, as well as Hokkaido, where the infections have slowed but the containment needs further improvement, according to the AP news agency report.

japan blog entry
Commuters wearing protective masks head to work amid the coronavirus outbreak in Osaka, Japan [Kyodo/via Reuters]

03:13 GMT – Trump threatens funds for US states easing voting during pandemic

President Donald Trump has threatened to hold up federal funds for two election battleground states of Michigan and Nevada that are trying to make it easier and safer to vote during the coronavirus pandemic.

He later backed away from that threat but stuck with his unsupported claim that widespread voting by mail promotes “a lot of illegality”. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends voting by mail as a safe option during the pandemic.

Trump has said repeatedly, without evidence, that mailed ballots allow widespread fraud and has worried publicly that wide availability could lead so many people to vote that Republicans would lose in November.

02:50 GMT – Cambodia lifts entry ban from six countries as coronavirus eases

Cambodia has announced the lifting of a travel ban of tourists from Iran, Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the US.

In an announcement late on Wednesday, the country’s health ministry said visitors from those countries need to present a certificate no more than 72 hours old confirming that they are free from the virus, as well as proof of $50,000 health insurance coverage.

The visitors are also required to quarantine for 14 days upon the arrival.

02:09 GMT – Recession-hit Japan’s exports, imports fall due to pandemic

Recession-hit Japan’s exports plunged nearly 22 percent in April, the country’s worst drop in more than a decade as the coronavirus pandemic slammed global demand, AP news agency reported.

The Finance Ministry also said on Thursday that imports fell 7 percent.

The drop in exports is the worst since the 2008 financial crisis, as export-dependent Japan struggles to juggle the health risks of COVID-19 with the dire need to keep the economy going.

Japan is in a technical recession after a contraction that began in the last quarter of last year deepened in the January-March quarter. Analysts say worse may be ahead, given the economic pain of the pandemic may be prolonged.

Japan - coronavirus
Shoppers in the Japanese city of Yokohama take a stroll in one of the city’s business centres on Tuesday [Koji Sasahara/AP]

01:38 GMT – Merkel says Germany not cutting foreign aid

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the country won’t be cutting foreign aid due to the coronavirus pandemic, and further relief for poor nations is needed.

Speaking on Wednesday after a video meeting with heads of the World Bank, the International Monetary fund and three other global economic bodies, Merkel noted last month’s agreement to freeze poor countries’ debt obligations and said that “as far as the sustainability of debt is concerned further steps need to follow”.

But she did not spell out whether Germany would go so far as agreeing to debt relief.

01:17 GMT – New Zealand’s Ardern proposes four-day workweek

New Zealand’s prime minister wants employers to consider switching to a four-day workweek as a way to promote tourism, which has been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Jacinda Ardern said in a Facebook Live video that people had learned a lot about flexibility and working from home during the nation’s lockdown, which was eased last week.

New Zealand’s tourism industry had accounted for about 10 percent of the economy, but has ground to a halt during the outbreak, according to the Associated Press news agency.

The South Pacific nation’s borders remain closed, but Ardern said that as much as 60 percent of tourism was domestic and that more flexible working arrangements could allow New Zealanders to travel more within their own country.

00:56 GMT – South Korea’s exports of coronavirus test kits surge

South Korea’s exports of coronavirus test kits are expected to gather momentum down the road thanks to high overseas demand, Yonhap news agency reported on Thursday, quoting industry sources.

Yonhap quoted the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety as saying that 72 test kits manufactured by 46 companies have been approved for exports. The figure includes six products that have won approval for emergency use locally.

Several test kit makers have already clinched more orders this year than last year’s total, with Sugentech Inc securing $49m worth of deals to export coronavirus test kits since April 1. The company has been producing two million kits per week this month.

Test Kits
Sample testing devices used in diagnosing coronavirus are checked on a production line near Seoul [File: Ed Jones/AFP]

00: 28 GMT – China reports 2 new coronavirus cases, 31 new asymptomatic cases

China’s health commission reported on Thursday two new coronavirus cases as of the end of Wednesday, including one imported case.

The health agency also reported 31 new asymptomatic cases in the mainland, slightly up from 16 the previous day.

00:19 GMT – Russia sets up quarantine facility in Siberia

The Russian military has set up a quarantine facility at a Siberian gold mine where hundreds of workers have been infected with the novel coronavirus.

The Olimpiada mine in the town of Yeruda has emerged as a top spot of contagion, with more than 800 workers testing positive for COVID-19. The new facility can accommodate as many as 2,000 patients.

Russia has ranked second behind the United States in the number of infections, with more than 300,000 coronavirus cases.

Mexico eases restrictions despite increase in COVID-19 deaths

00:01 GMT – Large contingent of Cuban doctors help Mexico with coronavirus

At least 500 Cuban health workers are helping tackle the new coronavirus in Mexico City, Mexican officials told Reuters news agency, making it likely the largest contingent the communist-led island has deployed globally as part of its response to the pandemic.

Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum has publicly acknowledged the presence of “several” Cuban doctors working in the city’s hospitals to help make up staffing shortfalls, but she has not confirmed the scale of the deployment.

A federal health ministry told Reuters there were now 600 Cuban health workers on the ground. Both sources asked not to be identified. Cuba has for decades sent medical professionals to countries across Latin America and as far afield as Africa to help during health crises.


Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Read all the updates from yesterday (May 20) here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies