Brazil deaths may surpass 125,000 by August: Coronavirus updates

As daily death rate climbs to the highest in the world, new study warns total toll could surge five-fold by early August

Brazil deaths could surpass 125,000 by August
  • As Brazil’s daily COVID-19 death rate climbs, a new study warns its total death toll could climb to 125,000 by early August, adding to fears it has become a new hot spot in the pandemic.

  • President Donald Trump continues his pressure on reopening the economy, as the country approaches 100,000 coronavirus deaths.

  • The WHO warned of the risks of an “immediate second peak” as countries ease up on lockdowns, urging governments in Europe and the US to step up surveillance, testing and tracking measures.

  • More than 5.5 million cases of coronavirus have been confirmed around the world, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. More than 346,000 people have died, while more than 2.2 million have recovered.

Here are the latest updates:

Tuesday, May 26

This is Elizabeth Melimopoulos, here is a quick summary of the latest developments until 21:00 GMT:

  • Saudi Arabia allowed mosques to open for Friday prayers as the kingdom eases restrictions on movement to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that a safety team would review data on hydroxychloroquine by next month.

  • The Pan American Health Organization warned that the new coronavirus is “still accelerating” in Brazil, Peru, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, as the Americas become the new epicentre of the global pandemic, with Brazil surpassing US in daily coronavirus deaths.

21:50 GMT – US House Republicans to sue top Democrat over rule changes allowing remote proxy voting

US House of Representatives Republicans will sue Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi over rule changes that allow remote proxy voting, Republican aides said.

The lawsuit, to be filed in federal court in Washington, will seek to block the new system set up by the Democratic-majority House to allow remote proxy voting during the coronavirus pandemic. The lawsuit will argue that the rule changes are unconstitutional, the Republican aides said.

20:58 GMT – Google to start reopening offices, sees 30 percent capacity by September 

Alphabet Inc’s Google has said it would start to reopen buildings in more cities beginning July 6 and scale up to 30 percent in September.

Google would also give each employee an allowance of $1,000, or the equivalent value in their country, to expense necessary equipment and office furniture, as it expects most of them to work from home for the remainder of the year.

20:47 GMT – Canada army reports horrific conditions in nursing homes hit by Covid-19 

After reading the report, Trudeau said: “I had obviously a range of emotions of anger, of sadness, of frustration, of grief.” [File: Reuters]

Conditions at Ontario nursing homes hard-hit by COVID-19 outbreaks, as described by Canadian soldiers helping out there, are “deeply disturbing,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

The Canadian military deployed troops at the height of the pandemic in April to five elderly care homes in the nation’s most populous province to fill severe staffing shortages.

In a report they said they found blatant disregard for infection control measures and “horrible” care of seniors that verged on abusive.

The soldiers said that among other forms of mistreatment, residents had been “left in beds soiled in diapers,” crying for help and forcefully fed, causing choking.

“It is deeply disturbing,” Trudeau told a daily briefing. After reading the report, he said: “I had obviously a range of emotions of anger, of sadness, of frustration, of grief.”

20:17 GMT – Canada’s Quebec provides $200m aid to Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil, its spotlight dimmed by the coronavirus pandemic, will receive $200 million in aid from Canada’s Quebec province, an official said, as part of broader efforts to revive and keep the hard-hit international entertainment group based in Montreal.

Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said the province has an agreement in principle that would give it the option to buy a majority stake in Cirque if shareholders TPG and Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd decide to pull out.

19:55 GMT – Chile’s hospital ICUs near full capacity 

Intensive care units in Chile’s hospitals are nearly at capacity amid a flood of coronavirus patients, forcing authorities and doctors to make wrenching choices over which patients get one of the few available beds.

Health officials said 95 percent of the country’s 2,400 ICU beds are occupied even after a doubling of capacity from the levels in March. They announced plans to add 400 more critical care beds in the coming days.

“This is an extraordinarily difficult time,” Health Minister Jaime Manalich said.

WATCH – Chile COVID-19 lockdown: Poor Santiago residents demand food, aid

19:46 GMT – Mexican coronavirus probe finds dozens of unlicensed retirement homes

Officials have discovered dozens of unlicensed retirement homes in northern Mexico, raising fears that so far undetected coronavirus clusters may emerge in the thinly regulated sector.

After outbreaks in three registered private facilities in the state of Nuevo Leon sent the health department scrambling to investigate the industry, it shuttered 40 unregistered homes in and around the city of Monterrey.

As of May 25, there had been 88 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the three homes in Nuevo Leon, the department said on Monday. One person tested positive in a fourth home.

19:36 GMT – Pence’s press secretary back to work after recovering from COVID-19

US Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller said she was back at work after recovering from COVID-19, a case that helped encourage White House officials to start wearing masks and take stricter safety precautions around President Trump.

Miller, who is married to Trump’s immigration adviser and speech writer Stephen Miller, said she had returned after receiving three negative tests for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

19:27 GMT – Conference raises $650m for Venezuela migrants

A global conference to support millions of migrants fleeing Venezuela raised more than $650m in donations, a result hailed as “exceptional” by the UN refugee chief. 

Ministers and officials from nearly 40 countries, as well as UN agencies and international finance institutions, pledged help at the event, held by video because of coronavirus. 

Including loans, a total of $2.79bn was raised at the conference, organised jointly by the EU and the Spanish government.

19:18 GMT – NY governor floats infrastructure projects to reboot economy

Vehicles move through a nearly empty Times Square during the coronavirus pandemic, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Coronavirus ravaged the state of New York and left it with a gloomy financial outlook [File:AP]

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo floated a number of major infrastructure projects to reboot the US economy post-pandemic, saying he would raise the issue at a meeting tomorrow with Trump.

“Let’s do something creative, let’s do it fast. Let’s put Americans back to work,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing, held specially at the New York Stock Exchange which opened for the first time since March 23.

Among his examples were building projects considered for many years pre-pandemic, including subway extensions, improving public transportation between the city and its airports, and developing renewable energy.

Coronavirus ravaged the state of New York and left it with a gloomy financial outlook, leaving a $13bn budget deficit.

19:00 GMT – Germany extends virus distance rules to June 29

Germany has extended social distancing rules aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus epidemic to June 29, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government said.

Up to 10 people will be allowed to gather in public places but Germans should be in contact with as few people as possible, according to the rules agreed between the federal government and 16 states.

18:45 GMT – India backs hydroxychloroquine for virus prevention

India’s top biomedical research body backed the use of the anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine as a preventive against coronavirus, after the WHO suspended clinical trials of the drug over safety concerns.

Observational and case control studies in India showed there were “no major side effects” of taking the drug as a prophylactic, ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava said. Cases of nausea, vomiting and heart palpitations were noted, he added.

The body said all healthcare workers in hospitals and some frontline personnel could now take the drug for up to several weeks under strict medical supervision.

“We recommended that for prophylaxis, it should be continued, because there is no harm. Benefit may be there,” Bhargava told reporters.

18:30 GMT – Saudi public sector employees will return to work starting May 31

Saudi public sector employees will start returning to work gradually as of Sunday May 31, after more than two months of suspension amid strict measures to help curb the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Public sector workers will eventually resume work as normal as of June 14, Minister of Human Resources Ahmed al-Rajhi said in a televised speech.

On March 16, Saudi Arabia suspended work in all government sectors except health and security as part of the efforts to contain the pandemic.

18:00 GMT – South Africa to allow places of worship to operate from June

South Africa’s President has announced that churches and other recognised places of worship will operate from June when the country eases lockdown restrictions further, but will be limited to 50 people or less.

“The faith community is an integral part of the South African life and has made a great contribution in the fight against the coronavirus,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address.

17:45 GMT – Rome Colosseum to open after three-month shutdown

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Rome
Tickets to the Colosseum also allow entrance to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. [File:Alberto Lingria/Reuters]

The Colosseum will start receiving visitors again after three months of shutdown during COVID-19 containment measures.

To lower the risk of possible contagion at one of Italy’s most popular tourist attractions, tourists must wear protective masks and have their temperatures taken before entering the ancient arena, which re-opens to tourism on June 1.

Entrance times will be staggered to discourage crowding and tickets must be bought online.

A reduced-price ticket will be available for afternoon visitors in an effort to encourage Romans to visit the monument at the end of their working day, especially while Italy awaits for tourism from overseas to resume.

17:42 GMT – Growing resistance against Latin America lockdowns

There is growing anger as countries in the new hotspot of the coronavirus pandemic struggle to cope with the outbreak.

Poor people across Latin America say they are the ones suffering the most from lockdowns and expenditure cuts.

And it is leading to protests throughout the region. Al Jazeera’s Alexi O’Brien reports:

WATCH: Growing resistance against Latin America lockdowns

17:30 GMT – Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli says he had coronavirus

Renowned Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli said he had caught the novel coronavirus but was now recovered, describing the experience as “a nightmare”.

Bocelli, who has been blind since age 12, raised spirits in Italy during the pandemic, which has killed nearly 33,000 people, by singing alone in Milan’s Duomo on April 12.

That was just over a month after the 61-year-old had tested positive for the virus.

“It was a tragedy, my whole family was contaminated,” he told journalists at a hospital in Pisa where he had gone with his wife to donate their plasma for COVID-19 research.

WATCH: Coronavirus: Andrea Bocelli’s ‘Music for Hope’

17:13 GMT – Apple to reopen about 100 stores in US 

Apple Inc has said it plans to reopen about 100 stores in the United States, most with curbside pickup but some with walk-in service.

Apple shuttered stores around the world as the novel coronavirus pandemic spread but has slowly opened them again, saying it examines local health data to make decision on a store-by-store basis.

Earlier this month, the company reopened a handful of stores in Alaska, Idaho and Alabama.

17:00 GMT – COVID-19 fuels Venezuelan migrants’ crisis

European countries are appealing for money to help more than five million Venezuelan migrants who left their homes because of the economic crisis.

Most remained in Latin America where many are destitute.

Now the coronavirus pandemic is making their situation worse because they cannot return home.

Lucia Newman reports:


16:50 GMT – Tanzania summons US official over coronavirus warning

Tanzania said it had summoned the top official at the US embassy to object to an advisory that warned of “exponential growth” of COVID-19 cases in the East African nation.

The embassy’s “health advisory” published earlier this month contained inaccurate information, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The advisory reported, for instance, that “many hospitals” in Dar es Salaam, the economic capital, “have been overwhelmed in recent weeks”. This claim “is not true and could cause panic among Tanzanians and foreigners”, the foreign ministry’s statement said.

16:30 GMT – Spain declares 10-day mourning period for for nearly 27,000 dead

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Madrid
People wearing protective face masks stand during a daily minute of silence to commemorate victims of the coronavirus disease [Reuters]

The Spanish government has declared a 10-day mourning period to pay tribute to nearly 27,000 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus.

Starting Wednesday until June 5, flags will be at half-mast in more than 14,000 public buildings across the nation as well as on the navy’s vessels, the government announced on Tuesday.

King Felipe VI, as Spain’s head of state, will preside over a solemn ceremony to honour the dead once the country emerges from its strict lock-down rules.

16:10 GMT – Italy’s Red Cross calling for antibody tests

Italy’s health minister is appealing to citizens to answer the Red Cross call for a blood test to determine if they have antibodies to COVID-19.

Red Cross volunteers began making phone calls to a representative sample of people throughout Italy. Minister Roberto Speranza told Sky TG24 TV the goal is to better understand how many people have developed antibodies.

Experts say many people without COVID-19 symptoms in the country where Europe’s outbreak began were likely infected but were never tested. Speranza says the blood test results of 150,000 people can be applied to the entire country.

16:05 GMT – Dutch PM did not visit dying mother until end due to coronavirus rules: statement

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte did not visit his 96-year-old mother for more than eight weeks until hours before her death this month due to lockdown measures in the Netherlands, his office said.

Mieke Rutte-Dilling died on May 13, Rutte’s office announced on Monday. She did not have the coronavirus, although there were COVID-19 infections at the nursing home where she lived.

“The prime minister complied with all the coronavirus restriction measures and didn’t visit his mother for (more than 8) weeks,” the premier’s office said in a statement.

“However the restriction measures leave room to say goodbye to a dying family member during the very last phase and the PM stayed with his mother during her last night.”

The details emerged amid controversy in Britain about a decision by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top adviser, Dominic Cummings, to drive 250 miles (400 km) out of London during a mandatory coronavirus lockdown.

16:00 GMT – Italy’s records 78 new coronavirus deaths, 397 new cases

Deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy climbed by 78, against 92 on Monday, the Civil Protection Agency said, while the daily tally of new cases increased to 397 from 300 on Monday.

The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on February 21 now stands at 32,955 the agency said, the third highest in the world after those of the United States and Britain.

The number of confirmed cases amounts to 230,555, the sixth highest global tally behind those of the US, Brazil, Russia, Spain and Britain.

15:42 GMT – Americas are new epicenter of coronavirus pandemic: WHO 

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers the Americas the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, and now is not the time for countries to ease restrictions, officials have said in a briefing.

Carissa Etienne, WHO director for the Americas and head of the Pan American Health Organization, said via videoconference that outbreaks were accelerating in countries such as Brazil, where the number of deaths reported in the last week was the highest in the world for a 7-day period since the coronavirus pandemic began. 

15:33 GMT – WHO says hydroxychloroquine safety findings expected by mid-June

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that a safety team would review data on hydroxychloroquine by next month, a day after officials cited safety concerns that prompted them to suspend use of the malaria drug in a global trial in COVID-19 patients.

The WHO called time on using the drug in its multi-country trial, called Solidarity, after a study published in British medical journal The Lancet found patients randomised to get hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) had increased mortality rates and higher frequency of irregular heartbeats.

US President Donald Trump and others have pushed HCQ as a possible treatment for the disease.

WATCH: WHO suspends clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19

15:25 GMT – Crowded pool party slammed by US officials

US officials in Missouri have condemned raucous crowds who packed a pool at a popular holiday venue after video footage of the weekend partying spread on social media.

The party at Lake of the Ozarks attracted furious criticism from nearby St Louis county, where many people travelled to the lake over the Memorial Day holiday despite concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials said that anyone who ignored protective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 should self-quarantine for 14 days or until they test negative.

The US has started to lift coronavirus lockdowns, and the images of hundreds of party-goers in congested swimming pools fuelled the fierce public debate over the strategy.

15:20 GMT – France unveils 8 bn-euro plan to revive virus-hit auto sector

President Emmanuel Macron has announced an 8bn euro ($8.8bn) plan to revive France’s auto industry, brought to its knees by the coronavirus crisis, including a billion euros in green car subsidies.

The “historic” intervention will aim to turn France’s rechargeable car industry into Europe’s biggest, the president said, with annual production of more than a million “clean cars” by 2025.

15:16 GMT – US stocks surge 600 points as NYSE trading floor reopens

NYSE floor reopens
A handful of floor brokers returned to the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday [Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

A slow march back to normalcy buoyed spirits on Wall Street as the floor of the New York Stock Exchange partially reopened since being closed more than two months ago, and investors focused on green shoots of economic activity and news on the race for a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average vaulted 600 points at the opening bell in New York to climb back above 25,000 while the S&P 500 – a proxy for the performance of US retirement and college savings accounts – jumped 2.2 percent to sail back over the 3,000-mark.

Both indexes hit levels not seen since early March, when coronavirus lockdowns started sweeping the United States, derailing entire sectors of the economy, decimating consumer spending and badly damaging investor confidence.

You can read more on that story here.

15:02 GMT – Chile’s LATAM becomes largest airline yet driven to bankruptcy by coronavirus

Latam airlines
Latam Airlines said it would continue to fly through its bankruptcy restructuring [File: Amanda Perobelli/Reuters]

Chile’s LATAM Airlines Group has filed for US bankruptcy protection, becoming the world’s largest carrier so far to seek an emergency reorganization due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The filing highlights the financial weakness of Latin America’s carriers and follows a similar bankruptcy reorganization earlier this month by its main rival, Colombia’s Avianca Holdings.

But unlike Avianca, which experienced management turmoil and losses, Chile’s LATAM posted profits for the last four consecutive years totaling more than $700m.

Latin American governments, many under severe budget constraints themselves, have been reluctant to bail out their key airlines, in contrast to the US and Europe. Most recently, Germany bailed out Lufthansa for a 20 percent stake.

14:55 GMT – Syria loosens coronavirus lockdown

Syrian authorities have loosened coronavirus lockdown restrictions by cancelling a nighttime curfew, allowing travel between provinces and announcing a reopening of mosques, state media said.

The decision comes as the country grapples with a crippling economic crisis and official cases of the COVID-19 respiratory disease continue to rise.

Damascus has announced 121 cases, including four deaths in government-held areas.In the Kurdish-run northeast, the United Nations has recorded six cases including one death.

In March, the Syrian government introduced a series of confinement measures to stem the spread of the virus.

14:48 GMT – Indonesia, major advocate of hydroxychloroquine, told by WHO to stop using it : Report

US President Donald Trump announced on May 18 he had been taking hydroxychloroquine for almost two weeks as a preventive measure against COVID-19 [George Frey/AFP]

The World Health Organization has urged Indonesia, one of the world’s biggest advocates of two malaria drugs to treat the coronavirus, to suspend such treatment over safety concerns, a source familiar with the advice told Reuters.

Any decision by Indonesia to halt use of the drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, in coronavirus patients would mark a major global shift away from a treatment which has been touted for months by US President Donald Trump.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, had told doctors to use the drugs to treat all COVID-19 patients with symptoms from mild to severe. The country has ramped up production since March, granting two dozen licenses to local manufacturers who have churned out millions of doses.

14:37 GMT – Chechen strongman reappears days after reported virus illness

Ramzan Kadyrov
Reports on Thursday, including from Russian state news agencies, said Ramzan Kadyrov was flown to a Moscow hospital for treatment [File: Reuters]

The strongman leader of Russia’s southern Chechnya region Ramzan Kadyrov, who was reported to be hospitalised in Moscow with possible coronavirus last week, has reappeared at a government meeting, making no mention of an illness.

Reports on Thursday, including from Russian state news agencies, said Kadyrov was flown to a Moscow hospital for treatment, which officials in Chechnya never confirmed nor directly denied.

The 43-year-old regional leader posted on his Telegram account Tuesday that he oversaw a meeting about the coronavirus, adding that the situation was “stable” in Chechnya’s hospitals.

14:35 GMT – Hungary expects emergency virus powers to end June 20

Hungary aims to lift a state of emergency spurred by the coronavirus crisis on June 20, its justice minister has said, as the government prepared a bill ending the power to rule by decree which drew international condemnation.

Right-wing nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban obtained the powers without a time limit in a vote by parliament where his party holds a two-thirds majority, drawing European Union criticism about democratic backsliding in Budapest.

Orban said earlier that parliament could at any time cancel the special powers to manage the country without parliament’s consent, which he said were necessary to curb the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fall-out.

14:30 GMT – Brazil police raid Rio governor’s residences amid COVID-19 probe

Brazilian federal police raided the residences of Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel as part of a COVID-19 corruption probe, targeting one of President Jair Bolsonaro’s political foes as the pandemic sweeps the nation.

Two sources and a statement from the federal police said the search warrants were part of an investigation into alleged corruption involving the use of public money destined to fight the coronavirus pandemic in Rio de Janeiro state. No arrest warrants were issued, a source said.

In a statement, Witzel said he was innocent and accused Bolsonaro of “interference” in the probe. He said he was “surprised and outraged” to see social media posts that suggested the president’s allies in Congress had prior knowledge of the operation, suggesting leaks and the “construction” of a false narrative against him.

You can read more on that story here.

14:12 GMT – Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic to mutually open borders

Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic will open their borders to each others’ citizens from midnight on Tuesday, with some conditions, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has said.

Cross-border travel without having to undergo mandatory quarantine amid the coronavirus pandemic will be allowed for Hungarians, Slovaks and Czechs whose stay in the other country does not exceed 48 hours.

In addition, Hungarians can travel to the Czech Republic by crossing Slovakia but cannot cross Slovakia on their way back; they will have to detour through Austria, Szijjarto said. The same applies to Czechs returning home from Hungary. Hungary had also opened its southern border for Serbs from Monday morning.

14:00 GMT – No reason to keep Swedes out when Nordics reopen borders: Swedish Minister

Excluding Sweden from moves to open borders across the Nordic region as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic would be a political decision and not justifiable on health grounds, Foreign Minister Ann Linde has said.

With many European countries looking to ease travel restrictions ahead of the summer, there are concerns elsewhere in the Nordic region that allowing Swedish tourists in could increase the risk of new infections.

More than 4,000 Swedes have died from COVID-19, nearly four times the combined total of the other Nordic countries. Still, Linde said the disease had mostly hit the capital with border areas such as Skane, in the far south, much less affected.

Sweden, which has not closed its borders to neighbours, opted against the hard lockdowns imposed by other Nordic countries and has kept most schools, bars and restaurants open.

13:46 GMT – Saudi Arabia allows mosques to open for Friday prayers

Saudi Arabia will allow mosques to open for Friday prayers, state TV has reported, as the kingdom eases restrictions on movement to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Mosques will be authorised to open 20 minutes before Friday prayers and should close 20 minutes after they finish, state TV said on Twitter, citing the ministry of Islamic affairs.

Saudi authorities said on Monday that restrictions would be lifted in three phases, culminating in a curfew ending – with the exception of the holy city of Mecca – from June 21.

13:23 GMT  – Mosques in West Bank reopen after virus closure

Mosques in the West Bank have welcomed worshippers as the Palestinian authorities lifted most of the restrictions put in place to fight the virus outbreak.

The reopening was welcomed by many Muslim faithful celebrating the last day of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

“I felt a great relief, and I’m very very happy as the Eid’s celebration is now complete with the reopening of the mosque today,” said Mahmoud Adawi told the Associated Press news agency, one of the worshippers who prayed at a Bethlehem mosque.

13:20 GMT – Putin says Russia has ‘passed peak’ of coronavirus infections

President Vladimir Putin said Russia has passed the peak of coronavirus infections as he told his defence minister to prepare a postponed World War II parade in June.

“According to experts the peak can be considered passed,” Putin told Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, ordering him to begin preparations for the parade marking 75 years since the defeat of Nazi Germany.

“We will do it on June 24, the day the legendary historic victors’ parade took place in 1945,” Putin said.

13:05 GMT – WHO warns that 1st wave of pandemic not over

As Brazil and India struggle with surging coronavirus cases, a top health expert is warning the world is still smack in the middle of the pandemic, dampening hopes for a speedy global economic rebound and renewed international travel.

“Right now, we’re not in the second wave. We’re right in the middle of the first wave globally,” said Dr Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s executive director. “We’re still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up,” Ryan told reporters, pointing to South America, South Asia and other areas where infections are still on the rise.

India saw a record single-day jump in new cases for the seventh straight day. It reported 6,535 new infections Tuesday, raising its total to 145,380, including 4,167 deaths.

13:00 GMT – Qatar Airways plans summer flights to over 80 destinations

Qatar Airways said it plans to fly a summer schedule to over 80 destinations worldwide.

The airline announced recently customers will be able to make unlimited changes with no fees. Date changes and even destination and origin changes will be allowed free of charge, as long as the booking is made before September 30.

Qatar Airways also pledged to give away complimentary roundtrip airline tickets as “a thank you” to 100,000 healthcare workers across the globe who put themselves in danger while fighting coronavirus.  

12:55 GMT – Virus heightens heatwave health risks, UN warns

The UN’s weather agency warned COVID-19 would amplify the risks of what was expected to be a record-breaking hot summer in the northern hemisphere.

The World Meteorological Organization urged governments to make plans to keep people safe during heatwaves without spreading the coronavirus. This year is expected to be “another record-breaking heat season in the northern hemisphere”, WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis Kapp told a virtual briefing in Geneva.

“We’re currently experiencing one of the hottest years on record. COVID-19 amplifies the health risks of hot weather for many people, and it complicates the task of managing it.”

12:50 GMT – French privacy watchdog okays coronavirus tracing app

France’s privacy watchdog gave the green light to a government-backed mobile phone app that will alert users if they have been in contact with an infected person.

Use of the app called StopCovid will be voluntary, and will keep track of users who had been in close proximity of one another over a two-week period. If any become infected, they inform the platform, which alerts the others.

Privacy defenders have expressed fears the app marks the first step towards a society under constant online surveillance. But the CNIL watchdog said the app met the legal requirements for privacy protection, with ample safeguards to prevent abuse.

Should we worry about surveillance during the pandemic? | Start Here

12:40 GMT – Iran eases restaurant curbs as virus claims 57 more lives

Iran further eased restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus by allowing restaurants to accept customers, as it announced another 57 deaths from the virus.

“Restaurants which before this decree were only allowed to distribute food will be allowed to accept customers from today,” Deputy Health Minister Mohsen Farhadi told state television.

Farhadi called on restaurants to respect health protocols to ensure distancing of two metres (6 feet), a measure he said would reduce client numbers by 50 percent.

Hello, this is Elizabeth Melimopoulos in Doha taking over from my colleague Linah Alsaafin

This is Linah Alsaafin, shortly handing over the blog to another colleague.

Here is a quick summary of the latest developments until 13:00 GMT:

  • UK junior minister Douglas Ross has resigned from cabinet in protest of senior aide Dominic Cummings’s trip across the country during the coronavirus lockdown 

  • The global fundraising campaign for a COVID-19 vaccine has surpassed $10bn

  • Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity has reopened, following its shuttering since March 5

12:26 GMT – Spain declares 10-day official mourning for coronavirus victims

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Madrid
Staff members from La Paz hospital attend a protest to ask for more health personnel in hospitals in Madrid [Juan Medina/Reuters]

The Spanish government declared a 10-day official mourning period from Wednesday to honour the nearly 30,000 people who died from the coronavirus pandemic in one of the world’s worst-hit countries, government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero said.

During the mourning period, flags will fly at half-mast all over the country’s public buildings and navy ships, she told a news briefing after a cabinet meeting.

The period will end with an official ceremony led by the head of state in remembrance of the 26,834 fatalities recorded in the country. Spain has reported a total of 235,400 confirmed cases of the disease.

12:10 GMT – Espanyol, Leganes offer free 2020-2021 season tickets to fans

Espanyol and Leganes fans holding current season tickets will be handed free passes for the entire 2020-2021 campaign to compensate for missing matches due to the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the two La Liga football clubs.

The Spanish top-flight is set to resume in June after being provisionally suspended in March with 11 rounds of matches remaining but, as in Germany’s Bundesliga, fans cannot attend the games in order to prevent further spread of the virus.

It is unclear when fans will be able to return to stadiums, with medical experts saying mass gatherings should be avoided until there is a vaccine, which is unlikely to be available until 2021.

11:50 GMT – Qatar’s birdlife thriving amid pandemic restrictions

The coronavirus lockdown in Qatar has had a positive effect on an array of wildlife with everything from whale sharks to turtles and hundreds of species of birds.

Stefanie Dekker reports:


11:25 GMT – Duterte wants Philippine schools closed until vaccine is ready

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he will not allow students to go back to school until a coronavirus vaccine is available, even as some countries resume in-person classes.

Without a vaccine, sending children to school “spells disaster”, Duterte said during a televised address late on Monday.

“I will not allow the opening of classes where students will be near each other,” he added. “Unless I am sure that they are really safe, it’s useless to be talking about opening of classes.”

Read more here

10:55 GMT – Coronavirus cluster found in cargo ship in Australia 

A coronavirus cluster was detected on a freight ship berthed in the Australian west coast port of Fremantle, raising questions about why local authorities were not alerted to the danger.

Six of 48 crew members from the Al Kuwait tested positive for the virus four days after the livestock carrier arrived from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Friday, Western Australia state Premier Mark McGowan said.

The six infected crew were transferred to hotel quarantine in the nearby city of Perth while health officials consider what to do with the remaining 42 on board, he said.

The ship’s cargo of 56,000 sheep is being held at a feedlot near the port. They were to be loaded within days and cannot be returned to farms because of quarantine restrictions, McGowan said.

10:41 GMT – Global fundraising for COVID-19 vaccine, drugs exceeds $10bn, EU says

A global campaign to fund the development of vaccines and therapies against COVID-19 has so far raised $10.4bn, the head of the European Commission said.

“Great result, reaching 1st milestone of GlobalResponse pledging marathon led by EU Commission,” Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter.

The pledging campaign, which the United States shunned, raised $8bn from global leaders and other institutions on May 4, when it was launched.

10:15 GMT – Malaysia reports 187 new coronavirus cases, no new deaths

malaysia blog entry
People wearing face masks amid concern over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, walk along a shopping area in Kuala Lumpur [File: Mohd Rasfan/AFP]

Malaysia reported 187 new coronavirus cases, with illegal migrants held at a detention centre accounting for most of them, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 7,604.

The health ministry said no new deaths were recorded. The total number of coronavirus deaths in Malaysia currently stands at 115.

Authorities said at the weekend that a new cluster of coronavirus infections had broken out at a detention centre for illegal migrants.

10:00 GMT – Taiwan to lift restrictions on mass gatherings and mask sales

Taiwan announced it would lift coronavirus-related restrictions on mass gatherings and the sale of masks next month, as the COVID-19 pandemic slowed in the island nation.

Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung said that from June 7, the restriction on mass gatherings will be entirely lifted but people participating in such activities should still either maintain social distancing or wear masks.

Starting on June 1, Taiwan will also end a ban imposed in late January on exporting and domestically selling surgical masks. According to Chen, Taiwan’s daily output of surgical masks now stands at about 20 million, including the 8 million ones requisitioned by the government.

09:45 GMT – UK govt minister quits in protest over Cummings lockdown trip

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government suffered its first resignation over the controversy surrounding senior aide Dominic Cummings’s trip across country during the coronavirus lockdown when Douglas Ross, a minister for Scotland, quit in protest on Tuesday.

“The reaction to this news shows that Mr Cummings’ interpretation of the government advice was not shared by the vast majority of people who have done as the government asked,” Ross said in a Twitter statement announcing his departure from government.

09:30 GMT – Nearly 4,000 new COVID-19 cases in Africa

A total of 3,998 people tested positive for coronavirus in Africa in the past 24 hours, bringing the tally of cases to 115,346, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

The virus also killed 123 more people across the continent during the same period, the update said.

The death toll on the continent has now risen to 3,471, while recoveries tallied at 46,426.

In terms of cases, South Africa continued to be the worst-hit country with 23,600, while Egypt has recorded the highest number of deaths with 783.

09:13 GMT – Hong Kong to reopen karaoke parlours, nightclubs, bathhouses

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

Hong Kong will lift the remaining coronavirus-related business restrictions on Friday, paving the way for nightclubs, karaoke parlours, bathhouses and other establishments to reopen, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said.

Hong Kong has recorded one locally transmitted case of COVID-19 in the last four weeks.

Karaoke parlours, bars and other establishments linked to COVID-19 clusters in the city were ordered to close on April 1. 

Lam also announced that public transit from the airport would resume on June 1, with restrictions on non-resident entry to the territory via Hong Kong International Airport set to expire on June 18.

08:16 GMT – Russia reports record one-day rise in coronavirus deaths

Russia has said 174 people with the coronavirus have died in the past 24 hours, a record one-day number that pushed the nationwide death toll to 3,807.

Officials reported 8,915 new cases on Tuesday, pushing its overall case tally to 362,342.

08:00 GMT – Spain calls for common EU rules on cross-border movement

Covid-19 measures in Madrid
Arancha Gonzalez said there must be common rules in the Schengen to open internal borders [File: Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency]

Spain has urged its European Union partners to set up common rules to open borders and reestablish the freedom of travel Schengen Area as different national coronavirus lockdowns are phased out.

“We have to work with our European partners to define the common rules that will allow us to retake freedom of movement on European territory,” Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez said on Cadena Ser radio station.

Even though EU countries have set different dates for reopening borders, there must be common rules throughout the Schengen Area to open internal borders and for external borders, she said.

07:45 GMT – Singapore’s health ministry confirms 383 more cases

Singapore’s health ministry has confirmed 383 more cases of the new coronavirus, taking the city-state’s tally to 32,343.

The lower number of cases on Tuesday was partly due to fewer tests being conducted, it added.

07:30 GMT – France’s Macron says support for car sector to be ‘massively amplified’

President Emmanuel Macron has said support for the French car sector, hard-hit by the coronavirus lockdown, will be “massively amplified”.

“The health crisis massively and brutally brought the French car sector to a halt. This is a part of our economy, thousands of jobs,” Macron also said on Twitter.

France is due to announce a support package for carmakers, the latest industry to get a sector-specific recovery plan.

07:15 GMT – India reports biggest jump in virus cases again

Mumbai hospitals
Migrants wait for transportation to a railway station during an extended coronavirus lockdown in Mumbai [Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters]

For a seventh consecutive day, India has reported its biggest jump in coronavirus cases.

The country’s health ministry reported 145,380 new infections, an increase of 6,535 from the day before, and 4,167 deaths. Officials say the recovery rate has also risen above 40 percent.

Most of the cases are concentrated in two neighbouring states in central India, Maharashtra, home to financial hub Mumbai, and Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state.

07:00 GMT – Death toll in Brazil reaches 23,400

Brazil has confirmed a total of 23,473 deaths from the coronavirus as 807 more deaths were reported over the past 24 hours.

According to health ministry data, the number of cases jumped to 374,898 with 11,687 new cases registered in a day.

Brazil, which has the largest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Latin America, is the world’s second-worst-hit country after the US in terms of the number of cases.

06:45 GMT – Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity reopens as Palestinians ease coronavirus curbs

A visitor wearing a mask as a preventive measure against the coronavirus takes pictures in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasm
A visitor takes pictures in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem before it was shut down on March 5 [File: Mussa Qawasma/Reuters]

Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, said to be the birthplace of Jesus, has reopened to worshippers and tourists as Palestinian authorities eased coronavirus restrictions in the occupied West Bank.

Amid lingering pandemic concerns, the church is capping access to 50 people at a time and requires that they be free of fever and wear protective masks. The church had been shuttered since March 5, in a blow to Bethlehem’s tourism industry.

On Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said mosques, churches and businesses would reopen on Tuesday easing the anti-pandemic curbs, given the slow pace of infections.

06:30 GMT – India’s Glenmark to study potential COVID-19 drug combination

Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd has said it will begin a new clinical trial in India to test a combination of two anti-viral drugs – favipiravir and umifenovir – as a potential COVID-19 treatment.

Favipiravir is made under the brand name Avigan by Japan’s Fujifilm Holdings Corp and was approved for use as an anti-flu drug there in 2014, while umifenovir is licensed as a treatment of some types of flu infections in Russia and China.

The study will look to enrol 158 hospitalized patients with moderate COVID-19 in India.

Last month, Glenmark said it would conduct clinical trials in India of just favipiravir as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

06:15 GMT – Peru reports 173 more deaths

Peru has reported 173 new deaths from the coronavirus disease in the past 24 hours, the country’s health ministry said.

The ministry said the death toll climbed to 3,629 while the number of confirmed cases rose to 123,979.

Nearly 50,000 people have fully recovered in the country.

06:00 GMT – Social distancing to be extended until June 29 in Germany

Germany plans to extend social distancing until June 29, newspaper Bild said, citing a draft document that still needs to be approved by the federal states.

Asked about the report, a spokesman for the German government said talks were ongoing.

Bild said meetings in public places would be limited to a maximum of 10 people or members of two households.


Hello, this is Linah Alsaafin taking over the blog from my colleague Kate Mayberry.


05:30 GMT –

I’m handing over the blog to my colleagues in Doha. Before I go, an update of developments so far this morning.

As more countries ease their lockdowns (Saudi Arabia is the latest to announce a relaxation), the WHO is warning again of the dangers of a ‘second peak’. On the medical front, Japan’s tests of Avigen as a coronavirus treatment have been delayed while US firm Novavax has started phase-one trials for its vaccine in Australia. Meanwhile, a study has found some 8,000 more people died in Mexico City in the first months of 2020 than the average of the same period over the previous four years.

05:20 GMT – Novavax starts coronavirus vaccine trial in Australia

US biotech firm Novavax has started trials of the novel coronavirus vaccine, NVX-CoV2373, it is developing.

It expects preliminary results from the phase-one trial by July.

Phase one is taking place in Australia; the second phase will include more countries.

04:35 GMT – Fujifilm COVID-19 drug research spills over into June

Research into Fujifilm’s Avigen drug as a potential treatment for COVID-19 will continue into June.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had said he hoped the drug would be approved in May if its efficacy and safety could be confirmed.

“The company will continue research into next month or so, and if an application for approval is received from the company, it will be promptly reviewed,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a regular briefing when asked about Avigan.

Suga said trials of a coronavirus vaccine could begin as early as July, raising expectations about a candidate developed by Osaka University and biopharmaceutical firm AnGes Inc.

Avigan is the subject of at least 16 trials worldwide, though there is concern the drug has been shown to cause birth defects in animal studies.

03:50 GMT – Australia borders won’t open ‘anytime soon’: PM Scott Morrison

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the country won’t open its borders “anytime soon”, but the government was continuing to discuss a travel corridor with New Zealand. 

“I was speaking with Prime Minister Ardern this morning, and we’ll continue to have our discussions about the trans-Tasman safe travel zone,” Morrison told the National Press Club in Canberra.

03:15 GMT – Doctors group in Japan warn against masks for infants

Children under the age of two should not wear masks because they can make breathing difficult and increase the risk of choking, the Japan Pediatric Association has warned.

“Masks can make breathing difficult because infants have narrow air passages,” which increases the burden on their hearts, the association said, adding that masks also raise the risk of heatstroke.

“Let’s stop the use of masks for children under 2-years-old,” the association said in a notice on its website.

It added that there had been very few serious coronavirus cases among children and that most were infected by family members, with almost no outbreaks at schools or daycare facilities.

03:00 GMT – Mexico City registered 8,000 more deaths this year than past four years

Mexico’s capital registered 8,072 more deaths in the first five months this year than the average for the same period over the previous four years, an analysis by independent researchers showed on Monday, suggesting a surge in fatalities due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Health officials have reported 1,655 deaths from the virus in Mexico City, out of 7,394 deaths nationwide. They have also acknowledged that the true death toll is higher, but difficult to estimate because of the low testing rate.

Read more on the study here.

Mexico has been hard-hit by the coronavirus [File: Gustavo Graf/Reuters]

02:50 GMT – Hong Kong airport to open for transit passengers

Hong Kong International Airport will open for some transit services from June 1, chief executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday.

01:35 GMT – Saudi Arabia to loosen curfew from Thursday

Saudi Arabia will loosen its curfew for everywhere but Mecca from Thursday, according to the state news agency.

The curfew will be in force from 3pm-6am (12:00-03:00 GMT).

From May 31 to June 20, it will also allow prayers in mosques with the exception of Mecca. The curfew and restrictions on prayer there will be relaxed from June 21, it said.

You can read more on that story here.

01:25 GMT – South Koreans required to wear masks on public transport

South Koreans now have to wear masks whenever they use public transport or take taxis.

Health Ministry official Yoon Taeho says masks will also be required on all domestic and international flights from Wednesday.

South Korea was reporting 500 new cases every day in early March before it largely stabilised its outbreak with aggressive tracking and testing. But infections have been rising slightly since early May, with more people going out during warmer weather and eased physical distancing guidelines.

“Until treatments and vaccines are developed, we will never know when the COVID-19 crisis could end, and until then we will have to learn how to live with COVID-19,” Yoon said.

00:00 GMT – WHO warns of ‘second peak’ where COVID-19 apparently in decline

The WHO is warning that countries in which coronavirus appears to be in retreat could still face an “immediate second peak” if they let up too soon on measures to halt the outbreak.

WHO emergencies head Dr Mike Ryan told an online briefing that, while cases were declining in many countries, they were still increasing in Central and South America, South Asia and Africa.

Ryan said there was a chance infection rates could rise again more quickly if measures to halt the first wave were lifted too soon.

“We need to be cognizant of the fact that the disease can jump up at any time,” he said. “We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now it is going to keep going down and we get a number of months to get ready for a second wave. We may get a second peak in this wave.”

He said countries in Europe and North America should “continue to put in place the public health and social measures, the surveillance measures, the testing measures and a comprehensive strategy to ensure that we continue on a downwards trajectory and we don’t have an immediate second peak.”


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

Read the updates from yesterday (May 25) here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies