Peru coronavirus cases surge past 100,000: Live updates

Peru’s rise in cases comes amid WHO reporting most number of COVID-19 cases in 24 hours yet.

Employees of the Ciudad de Dios market wait respecting safety distances to be tested by workers of the Health Ministry to discard COVID-19 in Lima on May 11, 2020. ERNESTO BENAVIDES / AFP
  • Peru’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 100,000, making it the country with the second-highest number of cases in South America after Brazil.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) reported 106,000 cases globally, the highest in a single day yet, rasing concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in poor nations.

  • China has accused the United States of smearing Beijing and shirking responsibilities to the WHO after US President Trump threatened to quit the organisation.

  • Globally, there have been more than 4.9 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, and more than 323,000 people died, according to the Johns Hopkins University. More than 1.7 million people have recovered.

Here are all the latest updates:

Wednesday, May 20

23:52 GMT – Madrid presses Spanish Supreme Court to ease lockdown

The regional authority of Madrid is appealing to Spain’s Supreme Court over the Spanish government’s refusal to ease its lockdown.

The Madrid regional government said in a statement on Wednesday it believes that technical assessments over what areas can loosen restrictions adopted to stem the new coronavirus outbreak are not being applied in the same way in different parts of the country.

The Madrid region has officially recorded almost 67,000 of the country’s 232,000 COVID-19 cases, making it the hardest-hit area.

23:12 GMT – Brazil to expand use of chloroquine against COVID-19

The administration of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday unveiled new measures to expand use of chloroquine, the predecessor of an anti-malaria drug promoted by U.S. President Donald Trump as a treatment for COVID-19.

The new guidelines were approved by General Eduardo Pazuello, who became interim health minister after his predecessor was fired five days ago. Pazuello had no health experience until he became the ministry’s No 2 official in April.

22:00 GMT – Brazil records 888 new coronavirus deaths, nearly 20,000 new cases

Brazil registered 888 new coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, with a record of nearly 20,000 new cases, taking the total to 291,579, the Health Ministry said.

21:30 GMT – Trump says his hydroxychloroquine regimen finishes in the next day or two

US President Donald Trump said the regimen of an anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine that he is taking to ward off the coronavirus finishes in the next day or two.

Trump revealed this week he was taking the drug despite medical warnings about potential serious side effects and questions about its effectiveness in preventing COVID-19.

20:55 GMT – Mexican capital restarts beer production

The Mexican capital will allow beer production to restart after a standstill of nearly two months caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, local authorities announced.

From June 1, brewing beer will be considered an essential economic activity, in the same way as construction, mining, transport equipment or bicycle sales, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said.

20:44 GMT – Germany’s government agrees to Lufthansa rescue offer: report

German ministers on Wednesday agreed on final details of a rescue deal they will offer coronavirus-stricken airline giant Lufthansa, business daily Handelsblatt reported.

Berlin will take a 20-percent stake in the group, topping it up with a convertible bond worth 5 percent plus one share – “putting the state in a position to build a blocking minority in case of a hostile takeover”, the newspaper said.

If confirmed, the solution would close weeks of wrangling between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU conservatives and their centre-left junior partners the SPD.

Lufthansa aircraft grounded in Frankfurt
Due to the Covid-19 Coronavirus outbreak a large number of flights of the German carrier Lufthansa have been cancelled [Thorsten Wagner/EPA-EFE]

20:22 GMT – Qatar launches messaging service to protect health and rights of domestic workers

Qatar’s Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs has created a series of SMS messages in 12 languages to help provide tips to domestic workers on COVID-19 and how to protect their rights.

The project was done in conjuction with the support of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Project Office for the State of Qatar, and the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF).

20:01 GMT – Soccer-Women’s Bundesliga to restart on May 29

The women’s Bundesliga will restart following the coronavirus stoppage on May 29, the German Football Association (DFB) said on Wednesday following a meeting with the clubs.

The DFB said the competition was among the sporting events which had been given the green light to resume by local health authorities who have the final say.

“I am very happy that the clubs of the women’s Bundesliga have expressed their unity in favour of continuing the season,” said DFB president Fritz Keller.

19:46 GMT – Peru’s confirmed coronavirus cases surpass 100,000 – health ministry

Peru’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 100,000, the Ministry of Health reported.

There are 104,020 confirmed cases in the South American country, which has been under nationwide lockdown since March and the death toll rose to 3,024, the ministry said.

Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome
Peru has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in South America after Brazil [File: Rodrigo Abd/AP]

19:24 GMT – Austria protesters demand end to virus measures

Hundreds of people gathered on Vienna’s central Heldenplatz square to protest against the government measures implemented to curb the coronavirus.

In order to keep the required distance of one metre (3.2 feet) between each other people were standing on signs depicting a baby elephant – a reference to a government campaign asking people to keep at least “the length of one baby elephant” between each other in public.

19:06 GMT – ‘World’s largest iftar’ online set to wrap up with prominent speakers 

The United Kingdom’s Ramadan Tent project will host a global online iftar from May 19-20, that will see thousands of people from across the world come together to break fast amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The event will feature a list of speakers including former football star and Seville FC player Fred Oumar Kanoute, Hollywood star Riz Ahmad and media personality Mishal Husain.

18:45 GMT – Merkel sees ‘further steps’ ahead to ease developing countries’ debt

The international community may soon take “further steps” to ease developing nations’ debt burden on top of a payments freeze decided last month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

“We took a correct step with the debt moratorium by the G20 and Paris Club, but it’s only a moratorium” on repayments, Merkel told reporters in Berlin.

In her talks with the heads of economic groups including the World Trade Organization, International Labour Organisation, World Bank, IMF and OECD “it was definitely highlighted that this might not be the final step,” Merkel added.

Last month, G20 and Paris Club creditor nations agreed to waive most debt payments for the world’s poorest countries in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

18:20 GMT – Bolivia health minister arrested for corruption over ventilators: police chief

Bolivia’s Health Minister Marcelo Navajas has been arrested on suspicion of corruption related to the over-priced purchase of coronavirus ventilators, the police chief said on Wednesday.

Navajas was detained by police in La Paz, Colonel Ivan Rojas said, a day after interim President Jeanine Anez ordered an investigation into possible corruption.

Bolivia street
Bolivia has reported over 4,800 coronavirus cases and 189 deaths to date [File: Manuel Claure/Reuters]

18:08 GMT – Pompeo calls China virus response ‘paltry’ compared to damage done

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took fresh aim at China over the coronavirus on Wednesday, calling $2bn Beijing has pledged to fight the pandemic “paltry” compared to the hundreds of thousands of lives lost and trillions of dollars of damage.

Pompeo rejected Chinese President Xi Jinping’s claim that Beijing had acted with transparency after the outbreak in China, and said if Xi wanted to show that, he should hold a news conference and allow reporters to ask him anything they liked.

17:50 GMT – Monkey studies encouraging for coronavirus vaccine

Two studies in monkeys offer some of the first scientific evidence that surviving COVID-19 may result in immunity from reinfection, as well as a positive sign that vaccines under development may succeed.

In one of the new studies, researchers infected nine monkeys with the new coronavirus. After they recovered, the team exposed them to the virus again and the animals did not get sick.

In the second study, the same researchers treated 25 monkeys with experimental vaccines and then exposed them to the coronavirus. In the vaccinated animals, “we saw a substantial degree of protection,” said Dr Dan Barouch.

17:35 GMT – Greece to restart tourism mid-June, international flights July 1

Greece will restart its tourism season on June 15 and gradually restore international flights from July 1 to boost its economy after the virus lockdown, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

With Greece suffering fewer than 170 COVID-19 deaths over two months into the pandemic, Mitsotakis said the country’s prompt response to the virus would be a “passport of safety, credibility and health” to attract visitors.

“The tourism period begins June 15, when seasonal hotels can reopen, and direct international flights to our tourist destinations will gradually begin July 1,” Mitsotakis said in a televised address.

17:15 GMT – WHO reports most coronavirus cases in a day, worried about poor countries

There were 106,000 new cases of new coronavirus infection recorded worldwide in the last 24 hours – the most in a single day yet, the World Health Organization said, expressing concern for poor countries even as rich ones emerge from lockdown.

“We still have a long way to go in this pandemic,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference. “We are very concerned about rising cases in low and middle income countries.” 

16:56 GMT – Opinion: Like India, Sri Lanka is using coronavirus to stigmatise Muslims

In India, since the emergence of COVID-19, members of the country’s 200 million-strong Muslim community have repeatedly been accused of being “super spreaders” of coronavirus both by the media and the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).    

In neighbouring Sri Lanka, the government chose to use the pandemic as an excuse to stigmatise Muslims and pander to Islamophobia. 

Read more here.

16:34 GMT – Turkey says low risk of second outbreak, opens to controlled tourism

Turkey does not risk a second wave of infections from the new coronavirus at the moment, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said, adding that Ankara was preparing to start what he called controlled health tourism with 31 countries as of Wednesday.

Koca also said travel restrictions for senior citizens were to be eased in the coming days.

Turkey’s daily number of new COVID-19 cases has fallen to around 1,000 from around 4,500 last month. Its official coronavirus death toll stands at 4,199, with more than 110,000 people having recovered.

16:10 GMT – India to allow some domestic flights from May 25 – minister

India will allow airlines to begin some domestic flights from May 25, its civil aviation minister said on Wednesday, two months after the country imposed a ban on air travel as it went into lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“Domestic civil aviation operations will recommence in a calibrated manner from Monday,” the minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, said on Twitter.

Puri said all airports and airlines are being informed to be ready for operations from May 25 and that the ministry would issue guidelines for passenger movement separately.

15:50 GMT – Italians let their hair down as coronavirus restrictions eased

The Italian government is allowing businesses to reopen gradually, in hopes to revive the economy without triggering a second wave of infections.

Italy has paid one of the highest prices of the global pandemic with more than 32,000 deaths and about 225,000 infected.

Read more here.

15:27 GMT – Brazil recommends chloroquine to treat even mild cases

Brazil’s health ministry has recommended using chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat even mild cases of COVID-19, treatments President Jair Bolsonaro has pushed for despite a lack of conclusive evidence of their effectiveness.

New federal guidelines released by the ministry recommend doctors prescribe the anti-malarial drugs from the onset of symptoms of coronavirus infection, together with the antibiotic azithromycin.

Patients will be required to sign a waiver acknowledging they have been informed of potential side effects, including heart and liver dysfunction, retina damage “and even death.”

Jair Bolsonaro

15:05 GMT – Nigeria doctors to strike over treatment by police during lockdown

Doctors in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos will go on strike because of what they describe as police harassment of health workers trying to move through the city to treat patients during a coronavirus curfew.

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) doctors’ union said it had become unsafe for its members to “continue to provide healthcare under the present confused arrangement”.

It cited an example in which it said an ambulance carrying a patient was “prevented from moving to a destination while the attending healthworkers were harassed and temporarily detained”.

Covid-19 restrictions eased in Lagos
Nigeria has had more than 6,000 confirmed cases of the virus and 192 deaths [Adeyinka Yusuf/Anadolu]

14:45 GMT – Germany moves to ‘clean up’ meat industry after virus outbreaks

The German government banned the use of subcontractors in the meat industry after a string of coronavirus infections among mainly foreign slaughterhouse workers sparked alarm.

“It’s time to clean up the sector,” Labour Minister Hubertus Heil told reporters after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet agreed on stricter regulations.

From January 1, 2021 abattoirs and meat-processing plants will have to directly employ their workers, putting an end to the controversial practice of relying on chains of subcontractors to supply labourers from abroad, often from Bulgaria and Romania.

14:35 GMT – EU’s ‘frugal four’ to make own virus aid plan: Dutch PM

Four European countries will propose a tougher alternative to a huge Franco-German fund to help the economy through the coronavirus crisis, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.

The Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden – dubbed the “Frugal Four” – will insist on greater guarantees that countries getting aid will enact reforms, and that any help should be in the form of loans not grants.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday proposed a 500-billion-euro ($546bn) fund to mend an economy devastated by the pandemic.

14:15 GMT – Israeli court tells Netanyahu he must appear at start of trial

An Israeli court rejected a request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be absent from the opening of his corruption trial next week, saying he must abide by the practice of hearing the charges in person.

Netanyahu had asked Jerusalem District Court to be excused from his May 24 arraignment, deeming the event a formality and arguing that bringing his bodyguards would be a waste of public funds and a strain on coronavirus rules against congregations.

13:55 GMT – Britain ready to support Rolls-Royce employees over job cuts

Britain’s government stands ready to help those affected by a plan at engine maker Rolls-Royce to cut at least 9,000 jobs, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

The spokesman said that although the plan to cut more than a sixth of Rolls-Royce’s workforce was distressing news for employees, the government would be ready to help them and would work with Rolls-Royce and other companies on supporting the sector.

13:39 GMT – Spain PM urges unity as he pushes to extend lockdown

Facing growing political opposition and protests in the street, Spain’s Pedro Sanchez called for unity as his minority government sought parliament’s approval for an extension of the lockdown.

Pot-banging demonstrators have hit the streets of several cities to demand Sanchez’s government quits over its handling of the crisis and curbing of basic freedoms.

“It’s the Spanish people who have stopped the virus together … nobody has the right to squander what we’ve achieved during these long weeks of confinement,” the prime minister told parliament, which is expected to back extending the state of emergency until June 6.

Spanish protest - reuters
Sanchez has come under heavy criticims for his government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis [Jon Nazca/Reuters]

13:20 GMT – Trump blames Chinese ‘incompetence’ for ‘mass Worldwide killing’

US President Donald Trump again lashed out at China over the coronavirus pandemic, blaming Beijing for “mass Worldwide killing”
The early morning tweet, which also referred to an unidentified “wacko in China,” was the latest heated rhetoric from the White House, where Trump is making attacks on Beijing a centrepiece of his November reelection bid.

“It was the ‘incompetence of China’, and nothing else, that did this mass Worldwide killing,” the president tweeted.

13:05 GMT – Marks & Spencer warns of pandemic impact as profits halve

British clothing-to-food retailer Marks & Spencer announced a slump in annual profit as it booked a sizeable charge late on from the coronavirus outbreak and said it was slashing costs.

Net profit collapsed 49.5 percent to 27.4 million British pounds($33m, 30 million euros) in the 12 months to March 28 from a year earlier, M&S said in an earnings statement.

The group booked a 52-million British pound ($63.4m) charge in March, largely owing to COVID-19.

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


12:30 GMT – Ukraine to further ease coronavirus lockdown 

Ukraine’s government has decided to ease nationwide lockdown measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic from May 22, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said at a televised government meeting.

The government will allow hotels to reopen and public transport to resume operations in cities from May 22, while kindergartens will be allowed to reopen from May 25 after implementing some precautionary measures.

Earlier in May, Ukraine opened parks and recreation areas and allowed some shops, such as those specialising in household goods or textiles, to open.

12:00 GMT – India’s domestic air travel to resume on May 25

Domestic air travel will resume in India on May 25 after a two-month shutdown introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic, a top minister announced.

“All airports and air carriers are being informed to be ready for operations from 25th May,” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Twitter.

The government halted all domestic and international flights on March 25 as it started a nationwide lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

11:45 GMT – Pakistani legislator dies from coronavirus

A local legislator in Pakistan has died after contracting COVID-19, hospital officials said, marking the first death of a political figure in the South Asian nation from the disease.

Shaheen Raza, a 65-year-old female member of the provincial assembly of Punjab, the country’s largest province, died at Mayo Hospital in the eastern city of Lahore.

Raza belonged to the ruling party of Prime Minister Imran Khan and was elected on a reserved seat for women. Tuesday saw the most deaths reported in a single day, at 46, in the country.

11:30 GMT – Canadian preacher arrested in Myanmar for holding service

Myanmar police have arrested a Canadian pastor for allegedly holding a service in defiance of a coronavirus ban on mass gatherings, after which he and dozens of his followers and their families became infected.

Myanmar-born preacher David Lah, 43, was taken to a Yangon court where he was charged with violating the Natural Disaster and Management Law.

Toronto-based Lah, who often visits his motherland Myanmar for sermon tours, could face three years behind bars if convicted [AFP]

Footage emerged in early April showing Lah leading services in which he claimed Christians would be spared from the pandemic.

10:05 GMT – Guterres: African countries may be spared worst of the pandemic

The relatively low number of confirmed cases in Africa has “raised hopes that African countries may be spared the worst of the pandemic”, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, while praising the continent for responding swiftly to the pandemic.

Guterres, however, warned that millions of people in Africa could be pushed into extreme poverty due to the pandemic.

“The pandemic … will aggravate long-standing inequalities and heighten hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease,” Guterres said.

Since the pandemic is still in its “early days” in Africa, he stressed that “disruption could escalate quickly”.

Read more here.

09:49 GMT – Russian prime minister says outbreak reaching stabler phase 

Russia’s coronavirus outbreak is entering a more stable phase, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said, while warning that restrictions should be lifted carefully in the 17 regions where such moves have been authorised.

Russia’s coronavirus cases surpassed 300,000, but with the lowest daily rise in infections since May 1.

09:22 GMT – Virtual safaris help attract support for African wildlife parks

Virtual safaris are helping distract people under lockdowns while attracting badly needed support for African wildlife parks hit hard by the disappearance of tourists.

Some Kenyan wildlife tourism operators are sharing live broadcasts of safaris on social media in the hope that interest in endangered and other species doesn’t fade.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy workers have created the “Sofa Safari”, driving around filming with a smartphone from an open-top vehicle.

“One of the ways we are trying to be innovative is looking at virtual ways of bringing wildlife to people’s homes, to their television sets and to their telephones,” said Ol Pejeta managing director, Richard Vigne.

09:17 GMT – Number of cases in Malaysia tops 7,000

Malaysia’s health ministry reported 31 new coronavirus cases, taking the cumulative total to 7,009 infections.

No new deaths were recorded, leaving the total number of fatalities at 114.

08:41 GMT – Germany moves to protect healthcare firms from foreign takeover

The German government gave itself new powers to veto hostile foreign takeover bids for healthcare companies, a measure designed to ensure a continuous supply of essential products during the coronavirus crisis.

The regulation, approved during a cabinet meeting, will allow the government to block foreign takeovers of makers of vaccines, precursor chemicals, medicines, protective equipment or medical machinery such as ventilators.

Coronavirus testing site in Berlin
Health officials at a testing station at Festplatz, Mitte, Berlin, Germany [File: Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu]

08:39 GMT – UK still working out quarantine plan for people entering country 

The British government is still working on the details of how it will implement quarantine measures for people arriving in the country, interior minister Priti Patel said.

“We are still developing measures,” Patel said during an interview on LBC radio.

“In terms of how this will work, we will be announcing this shortly,” she said, confirming only that the duration of quarantine would be 14 days.

08:14 GMT – Philippines reports 279 new cases, five deaths

The Philippines’ health ministry recorded 279 additional confirmed coronavirus cases, the highest daily increase in nine days, and five additional deaths.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total deaths had reached 842, while infections have risen to 13,221, with total recoveries rising 89 to 2,932.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque told a senate panel that the country is already facing a second wave of infections, with the first occurring in January when three Chinese people from Wuhan tested positive of the virus.

Philippines Eases Lockdown Amid The Coronavirus Pandemic
Motorists at a quarantine checkpoint after the government relaxed lockdown measures and allowed more industries to resume in Marikina, Metro Manila, Philippines [Ezra Acayan/Getty Images]

07:53 GMT – Global number of cases surpasses 4.9 million

The total number of positive cases worldwide has exceeded 4.9 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University in the US.

While the global death toll stands at 323,345, nearly 1.7 million people have recovered from the disease.

07:43 GMT – Cambridge University moves lectures online until summer 2021

Cambridge University has become the first university to announce measures for the full 2020-2021 academic year, saying that it will move all lectures online, according to a Press Association report.

It may be possible for smaller teaching groups to take place if they conform to physical-distancing requirements, the university said, adding that the decision will be reviewed should there be any changes to “official advice on coronavirus”. 

07:37 GMT – Number of cases in Russia surpasses 300,000

Russia reported 8,764 new cases, its lowest daily rise since May 2, taking the total number of documented infections to 308,705.

The country’s coronavirus response centre said 135 people had died in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll from the virus to 2,972.

Coronavirus cases in Russia exceed 300 thousands
A woman wears a mask as a precaution against coronavirus as she walks at Pyatnitskaya street in Moscow [EPA]

06:58 GMT – Thailand says it expects a vaccine next year after tests in mice

Thailand expects to have a coronavirus vaccine ready next year, a senior official said, after finding positive trial results in mice.

Thailand will begin testing the mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccine in monkeys next week after successful trials in mice, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, spokesman for the government’s Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration.

The Thai vaccine is being developed by the National Vaccine Institute, the Department of Medical Science and Chulalongkorn University’s vaccine research centre.

06:33 GMT – Spaniards ordered to wear masks if distancing not possible

Spain’s government made it compulsory for everyone older than six to wear masks in indoor public spaces, and outdoor ones when it is impossible to keep more than two metres (six feet) apart.

The health ministry in Spain, one of the hardest-hit countries, said the measures were needed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Barcelona
In Spain, people have to wear protective masks if they cannot remain at least two metres apart [Nacho Doce//Reuters]

06:24 GMT – Britain’s Rolls-Royce to lay-off 9,000

British engine-maker Rolls-Royce said that it would need to lay off at least 9,000 of its 52,000 staff to make annual cost savings of 1.3 billion pounds ($1.59bn) as it seeks to cope with the downturn in air travel caused by the pandemic.

“We are proposing a major reorganisation of our business to adapt to the new level of demand we are seeing,” Chief Executive Warren East said in a statement.

“As a result, we expect the loss of at least 9,000 roles from our global workforce of 52,000.”

The job losses would mostly be in its civil aerospace business, the company said, as it started consultations with unions.

06:11 GMT – Polish schools may remain closed until end of June

Polish schools will most probably remain closed until the end of June, when children start summer holidays, government spokesman Piotr Muller told public radio.

Schools have been closed since March when Poland confirmed its first case of coronavirus. By May 25, they will start offering daycare for the youngest children, although teaching will still be conducted online.

The current school year ends on June 26, followed by a two-month holiday in July and August.

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

05:30 GMT –

I’m handing the blog to my colleagues in Doha shortly. A brief summary of developments this morning – Brazil had a record number of deaths for a single day on Tuesday, the US praised Taiwan’s COVID-19 response as President Tsai Ing-wen was inaugurated for a second term, Estonia has begun tests for a digital immunity passport, and Singapore has delivered a death sentence by Zoom.

04:35 – Man sentenced to death by Zoom call in Singapore amid court curbs

A man has been sentenced to hang in Singapore via a Zoom video-call, the first time the city-state has delivered a death sentence remotely.

Punithan Genasan, a 37-year-old Malaysian, was sentenced for his role in a 2011 drug deal on Friday, court documents showed. Singapore is under lockdown to try and curb one of the highest coronavirus rates in Asia.

“For the safety of all involved in the proceedings, the hearing for Public Prosecutor v Punithan A/L Genasan was conducted by video-conferencing,” a spokesperson for Singapore’s Supreme Court said in response to Reuters’ news agency questions, citing restrictions imposed to minimise the virus’s spread.

Singapore supreme court
Singapore’s Supreme Court sentenced a Malaysian man to death in a Zoom call [Edgar Su/Reuters]

It was the first criminal case where a death sentence was pronounced by remote hearing in Singapore, the spokesperson added.

Genasan’s lawyer, Peter Fernando, confirmed his client received the judge’s verdict on a Zoom call and is considering an appeal. While rights groups have criticised the use of Zoom in capital cases, Fernando said he did not object because it was only to receive the judge’s verdict, which could be heard clearly, and no other legal arguments were presented.

04:20 GMT – Malaysia raids migrants in area under enhanced lockdown

Local media in Malaysia are reporting authorities have begun a raid on undocumented migrants in an area of Kuala Lumpur that is under enhanced lockdown.

The Star newspaper reported immigration trucks entering Petaling Jaya Old Town on Wednesday morning and that police were providing assistance.

In a statement, local MP Maria Chin Abdullah, who was distributing food aid when the trucks arrived, urged the authorities to stop using COVID-19 as an excuse to crack down on migrants.

“No one should be faced with such indignity, especially at a time of crisis like this,” she said. 

There have been raids previously in other parts of the city with large populations of migrants.

Petaling Jaya Old Town was sealed off behind razor wire on May 10 after a spike in coronavirus cases linked to a food market in the area, with no one allowed in or out. The enhanced lockdown is due to end on May 23.

04:05 GMT – Estonia begins testing digital immunity passport for workplaces

Estonia has started testing one of the world’s first digital immunity passports, according to Back to Work, a coalition of technology firms, medical experts and local government officials developing the app.

The device collects testing data and allows people to share their health status with a third party via a temporary QR code.

Taavet Hinrikus, founder of Transferwise and a member of Back to Work, told Reuters the immunity passport was intended to “diminish fears and stimulate societies all over the globe to move on with their lives amid the pandemic.” 

02:00 GMT – Venezuela imposes new curfews in key border towns

Venezuela has imposed new curfews in a number of towns along its border with Colombia and Brazil after a jump in coronavirus cases.

Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said the country had confirmed 131 new cases in the past 24 hours – the most in a single day – 110 of those in people who had returned from overseas.

Many Venezuelans have left the country because of economic collapse, finding work in nearby countries including Colombia, Peru and Ecuador. Those returning have to spend 14 days in quarantine in shelters at the border.

01:45 GMT – US praises Taiwan’s pandemic response in inauguration message

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday praised Taiwan’s coronavirus response, calling it a reliable partner, in a statement congratulating President Tsai Ing-wen on her second term; words that stood in sharp contrast to recent US criticism of China.

“We have a shared vision for the region – one that includes rule of law, transparency, prosperity, and security for all, Pompeo said in a statement. “The recent COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity for the international community to see why Taiwan’s pandemic-response model is worthy of emulation.”

Tsai, who won a landslide victory in January elections, had her inauguration ceremony on Wednesday morning. China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own.

01:10 GMT – Australia’s New South Wales to ease domestic travel restrictions

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says people living in New South Wales will be able to take holidays within the Australian state from the beginning of June.

Art galleries and museums will also reopen, but Berejiklian warned people they would need to adapt because some physical-distancing measures would remain.

“We want people to enjoy themselves, to be free, but at the same time, please know that nothing we do is the same during a pandemic,” she said in a televised media conference.

00:10 GMT – Brazil reports record daily death toll

Brazil’s daily death toll from the new coronavirus reached a record 1,179 on Tuesday.

The highest daily toll before that had been on May 12 when 881 people died. The pandemic has killed at least 17,971 people in Brazil, according to the Health Ministry.

Right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro has been widely criticised for his handling of the outbreak and has been a vocal opponent to coronavirus lockdowns that he sees as too damaging to the economy.

Brazil has the third-highest number of cases in the world after the US and Russia. 


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

Read all the updates from yesterday (May 19) here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies