US blocks UN Security Council vote on coronavirus: Live updates

The resolution called for cessation of hostilities in conflict zones so governments could focus on tackling COVID-19.

UN Security Council meets about situation in Syria at UN Headquarters in New York City
The United Nations Security Council meets about the situation in Syria at United Nations Headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri [Reuters]
  • The United States prevented a vote in the UN Security Council on a resolution calling to end worldwide hostilities amid the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Kuwait decides to implement a total lockdown starting on Sunday to curb the spread of coronavirus as the number of cases climbs in the Gulf country.

  • The US unemployment rate for April skyrocketed to 14.7 per cent as the coronavirus and lockdowns battered the economy.

  • WHO warns coronavirus could kill 83,000-190,000 people in Africa in the first year and infect between 29 million and 44 million during that period if it is not contained.

  • More than 270,000 worldwide have died from the disease with cases up to 3.8 million and nearly 1.3 million recovered. Cases in the US have reached 1.25 million with 75,500 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.

Here are the latest updates:

Friday, May 8

23:15 GMT – Union opposes reopening US meat plants as more workers die

The largest union representing US meatpacking workers said on Friday it opposed the reopening of plants as the Trump administration had failed to guarantee workers’ safety.

At least 30 meatpacking workers have died of the novel coronavirus and more than 10,000 have contracted it, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents more than 250,000 meatpacking and food processing workers, said in a statement.

The pandemic caused at least 30 meatpacking plants to temporarily close over the past two months, resulting in a 40 percent drop in pork production capacity and a 25 percent drop in beef production capacity, the union said.

20:55 GMT – Apple unveils plans to reopen some US stores

Apple said it will gradually reopen its retail shops in the US next week, taking pandemic precautions such as making sure everyone in them wears masks.

The iPhone maker planned to start with some stores in Alabama, Alaska, Idaho and South Carolina.

“We’ve missed our customers and look forward to offering our support,” Apple said in a statement to AFP news agency.

20:50 GMT – White House’s Birx to take key role in coronavirus drug distribution

US coronavirus task force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx will have a leading role in how the first drug to demonstrate a benefit in treating COVID-19 patients will be distributed to hospitals, the White House said.

Birx, who has been a fixture in televised task force media briefings, will be one of the chief consultants on how Gilead Sciences Inc’s remdesivir will be supplied, White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany told reporters.

New White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
The US federal government began distributing the drug this week [File: Carlos Barria/Reuters]

20:30 GMT – VP Pence says lack of religious services has been ‘burden’ 

Vice President Mike Pence spoke to a group of faith leaders in Iowa about the importance of resuming religious services, saying the cancellations in the name of slowing the spread of the coronavirus have “been a burden” for congregants.

Pence spoke with the religious leaders and Republican officials during a brief visit to the Des Moines area. He was set to speak later in the day with agricultural and food company executives.

“It’s been a source of heartache for people across the country,” Pence told about a dozen people at the Church of the Way Presbyterian church in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale.

Catholic Church Prepares For Remote Easter Mass During Coronavirus Lockdown
A new poll by The University of Chicago Divinity School and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows  just 9 percent of Americans think in-person religious services should be permitted without restrictions [File: Elsa/GettyAFP]

20:08 GMT – New Russia virus cases top 10,000 for sixth day

Russia registered more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases for the sixth day in a row, after emerging as a new hotspot of the pandemic.

A government tally showed 10,669 new cases over the last 24 hours, fewer than Thursday’s record of 11,231 bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 187,859.

The country also recorded 98 new deaths from the virus, for a total of 1,723, and while some officials are considering softening the current lockdown, the WHO warned Russia is going through a “delayed epidemic”.

Coronavirus precautions in Russia
Russia now ranks fourth in Europe in terms of the total number of cases, according to an AFP tally, behind countries where the epidemic hit considerably earlier: Britain, Italy and Spain [File: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu]

19:50 GMT – US pulls permission for Chinese masks found defective

Federal health officials have revoked U.S. authorization for masks made by more than 60 Chinese manufacturers after they failed to meet standards needed to protect health care workers.

The Food and Drug Administration had allowed the imports based on testing data from the companies. Normally, the masks are tested and certified by a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before they can be sold in the US.

The tight-fitting masks are essential for protecting health care workers treating patients with COVID-19. Faced with critical shortages at U.S. hospitals, the U.S. has accepted donations of masks, gloves and other protective equipment from China and other countries.

Outside image - blog - 14 April - morning
[The FDA and CDC reported Thursday that new U.S. testing showed dozens of the Chinese masks failed to meet that 95 percent level [File: Kevin Winter/AFP]

19:30 GMT – Opinion: Sanctions make Iran’s pandemic crisis more deadly

The role US sanctions have played, and continue to play, in the devastation caused by the coronavirus in Iran led to renewed discussions on the effectiveness, legality and legitimacy of sanctions not only in Iran and the US, but also across the world. 

Read more here.

Iran sanctions protest Washington DC Reuters
People protest in Washington DC against the role that US sanctions plays on Iran and the exacerbation of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) worldwide [Carlos Barria/Reuters]

19:10 GMT – EU governments allowed to take stakes in virus-hit firms

The European Commission adopted rules allowing EU governments to help virus-hit companies by acquiring stakes in the firms, which will be subjected to a ban on dividends, share buybacks, bonuses and acquisitions.

An EU executive also said EU countries could grant subordinated loans on favourable terms to companies affected by COVID-19.

COVID-19 destroys US livelihoods

18:50 GMT – Tanzania gets Madagascar’s anti-coronavirus drink disputed by WHO

Tanzania says it has received its first shipment of Madagascar’s self-proclaimed, plant-based “cure” for coronavirus, despite warnings from the World Health Organization that its efficacy is unproven.

The announcement on Friday came days after Madagascar said it would begin selling the herbal concoction – known as Covid-Organics – and that several African countries had already put in orders.

Read more here.

18:30 GMT – Opinion: The problem with predicting COVID-19 apocalypse in Africa

In an April 10 interview with CNN, American philanthropist Melinda Gates expressed her belief that the coronavirus pandemic will have the worst impact in the developing world. She said she foresees bodies lying around in the street of African countries.

A day later, it was announced that the United States, where Gates is from, had surpassed Italy in terms of the number of dead from COVID-19.

It is quite surprising to see that although there have been shocking reports of hospitals overwhelmed with patients and dead bodies left to decompose in homes and in the streets of the US and in other Western countries, the billionaire philanthropist and others like her still choose to talk about dead bodies in Africa.

Read more here.

18:10 GMT – France records 243 new virus deaths

France reported another 243 coronavirus deaths, raising its total toll to 26,230, while the number of patients in intensive care continued to fall.

While the country has been one of the hardest hit in Europe, it has seen the daily death rate steadily drop and is due to start emerging from a strict lockdown on Monday.

France reported 93 fewer patients suffering from the coronavirus in intensive care, dropping the total to 2,868. The figure rose above 7,000 at the peak of the country’s epidemic in April.

French fishing industry: Fighting to survive lockdown

17:50 GMT – Belgian llama holds key to possible treatment

Scientists the world over are scrambling to perfect an anti-viral treatment for the novel coronavirus, and following what might seem to be some unusual trails.

Belgium’s top researchers insist that their efforts to isolate an anti-body grown in a llama — the Andean beast of burden – is based on a solid lead.

Professor Xavier Saelens of the Flemish Institute of Biotechnology (VIB) in Ghent told AFP news agency, that if it works it would not be the first time the camel-like beast has helped out.

17:28 GMT – US prevents Security Council vote on pandemic resolution: diplomats

The United States prevented a vote in the UN Security Council on a resolution on the coronavirus pandemic, apparently because it made implicit mention of the World Health Organization, diplomats said.

The text, under negotiation since March, called for a worldwide cessation of hostilities in conflict zones so governments can address the pandemic.

The United States blocked a procedure that would have led to a vote on the resolution, the diplomats said.

17:10 GMT – New York child dies from rare disease linked to COVID-19

A five-year-old boy in New York state has died from a rare inflammatory disease believed to be caused by the new coronavirus, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

“There have been 73 reported cases in NY (state) of children getting severely ill with symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock-like syndrome.

“On Thursday, a 5-year-old boy passed away from these complications, believed to be caused by COVID-19,” Cuomo wrote on Twitter.

16:35 GMT – EU backs keeping external borders shut until mid-June over virus

The European Union (EU) executive backed keeping curbs on travel to the continent in place for another 30 days until mid-June as part of extraordinary measures to limit the spread of coronavirus, despite harming trade and tourism.

The bloc decided in mid-March to close its external borders for any non-essential travel in a largely failed bid to prevent the 27 member states from closing frontiers inside Europe’s control-free travel zone.

The EU’s Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said this week Europe would have to “go back to the future” of open borders once the pandemic is under control.

US airport workers hit with layoffs amid COVID-19 outbreak

16:15 GMT – Biggest threat to Brazil pandemic response? President Bolsonaro, says The Lancet

The biggest threat to Brazil’s ability to successfully combat the spread of the coronavirus and tackle the unfolding public health crisis is the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, according to British medical journal The Lancet.

In an editorial, the Lancet said Bolsonaro’s disregard for and flouting of lockdown measures is sowing confusion across Brazil, which is now recording record numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths, and is fast emerging as one of the world’s coronavirus hot spots.

16:10 GMT – Italy tops 30,000 deaths, new cases edge down

Italy became the third country in the world to record 30,000 deaths from the coronavirus, reporting 243 new fatalities compared with a daily tally of 274 the day before.

The country’s total death toll from COVID-19 since its outbreak came to light on February 21 now stands at 30,201, the Civil Protection Agency said. Only the United States and Britain have seen more deaths from the virus.

A patient is carried on a stretcher from a nursing home to a hospital, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Rome, Italy, May 2, 2020. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
The daily number of new infections fell slightly to 1,327 from 1,401 on Thursday, taking the total of confirmed cases since the epidemic began to 217,185, the third highest global tally behind those of the United States and Spain [Remo Casilli/Reuters]

15:50 GMT – US Vice President’s staff member tests positive for coronavirus

A member US Vice President Mike Pence’s staff has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which caused Pence’s flight to Iowa to be delayed and some fellow passengers on Air Force Two to disembark, according to a White House official.

Pence’s flight was delayed more than an hour, and according to press pool reports passengers who were Pence staff members, appeared to disembark prior to departure.

15:25 GMT – Yemen reports nine new cases, two more deaths

Yemen reported nine new coronavirus cases in Aden, the interim headquarters of the government, including one death, and said a second person infected in the southern province of Lahaj had died.

This takes the total count in areas under control of the internationally recognised government to 34 infections with seven deaths.

Will the coronavirus pandemic lead to a food crisis? | Counting the Cost

15:05 GMT – German chapter of Fridays for Future holds first post-corona protest

A small group from the Fridays for Future movement calling for action on climate change held a protest in front of the Hamburg City Hall on Friday, while observing strict social distancing rules.

Around 25 youthful demonstrators unfurled a banner with the words “Our future in your hands” in the first such protest in Germany since a partial lockdown was imposed in mid-March. 

The protest had been agreed with the relevant authorities and was held with strict hygienic precautions. 

14:44 GMT – Markets closed to control Mexico’s exuberant Mother’s Day

Few countries celebrate Mother’s Day with as much gusto as Mexico, creating fears the celebrations could threaten lockdown measures and spread the new coronavirus.

Wary of Mexicans’ deep desire to bring mothers flowers and cakes this Sunday, some officials have ordered the closing of public markets, and pastry and flower shops, while others are proposing a virtual Mother’s Day or even postponing celebrations for a month.

“There should be no celebration of Mother’s Day because we would probably bring mum the gift of the coronavirus, which could kill her,” said Dr Manuel De la O Cavazos, the health secretary of northern Nuevo Leon state.

14:20 GMT – Kuwait to impose 20-day ‘total curfew’ from May 10

Kuwait will enact a “total curfew” from 4pm (1300 GMT) on Sunday through to May 30 to help to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, the Information Ministry said on Twitter on Friday.

Further details of the curfew will be announced soon, it said.

Kuwait on April 20 expanded a nationwide curfew to 16 hours a day, from 4pm to 8am, and extended a suspension of work in the public sector, including government ministries, until May 31.

Ramadan doctor's note

13:59 GMT – Trump offers Biden rapid COVID-19 test to resume travel

President Donald Trump said that he is willing to provide Joe Biden, his presumptive Democratic opponent, with a rapid COVID-19 testing system so Biden can return to the campaign trail.

In a telephone interview with the Fox and Friends programme, Trump said he would be willing to provide the former vice president with the same coronavirus tests he uses.

“Yes, 100 percent. I’d love to see him get out of the basement so he can speak,” Trump said, needling Biden for holding virtual campaign events and media interviews from a studio in his home.

13:40 GMT – Japan lowers bar to coronavirus testing, drops temperature guideline

The Japanese Health Ministry said it now wants people experiencing difficulty breathing or those with a fever to seek advice on whether they may have been infected with the new coronavirus, easing public access to testing.

Government guidelines had previously specified that those who had had a fever of 37.5 Celsius (99.5 Fahrenheit) or more for four consecutive days should seek advice at local public health centres, which are tasked with conducting screening ahead of administering tests for the virus. The ministry has now dropped its temperature-related criteria.

13:18 GMT – Friday prayers resume as mosques reopen in Lebanon

Lebanon’s mosques welcomed worshippers for Friday prayers, as authorities eased restrictions imposed in March to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Dozens of worshippers preformed the weekly prayers at Beirut’s iconic Al-Amin Mosque. The masked worshippers sat, contrary to traditions, at considerable distance from one another and were obliged to bring their own prayer mats.

This year, Muslims find themselves cut off from much of what makes Ramadan special as authorities fight the pandemic. Many countries have closed mosques and banned Taraweeh to prevent crowds.

People pray as they wear face masks and practice social distancing as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Beirut
COVID-19 has infected 859 people and killed 26 in Lebanon [Mohamed Azakir/Reuters]

Hello, This is Usaid Siddiqui in Doha taking over from my colleague Saba Aziz.


13:00 GMT – Qatar reports more than 1,300 new cases

Qatar’s health ministry reported 1,311 new confirmed coronavirus cases, as total infections in the country surpassed the 20,000 mark. 

Most of the new cases were in expatriate workers who had come in contact with those previously infected, the ministry said.

12:30 GMT – Pandemic destroys 20.5 million US jobs in April 

The US unemployment rate hit 14.7 percent in April, the highest in the post-war era, as 20.5 million jobs vanished in the worst monthly loss on record.

The figures are a stark evidence of the damage the coronavirus pandemic has done to a now-shattered economy.

US Jobs Report
People who lost their jobs as coronavirus lockdown measures swept the United States wait in line to file for unemployment benefits [Nick Oxford/Reuters]

The unprecedented collapse drove the unemployment rate well beyond the peak hit in late 2009 during the global financial crisis – from 4.4 percent in March.

The plunge in nonfarm payroll employment was the largest ever recorded since 1939, while the jobless rate was the highest and the biggest increase since 1948, the Labor Department report said.

Read more here

12:00 GMT – EU to give 10 million masks to healthcare workers

The European Commission will start dispatching a stock of 10 million masks to healthcare workers across the 27-country bloc and in the United Kingdom.

The commission said a first batch of 1.5 million masks will be shipped to 17 member states and UK over the next few days.

The stock, purchased through a European Union fund set up to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, will be distributed in weekly instalments over the next six weeks.

11:45 GMT – South Africa to grant parole to 19,000 inmates

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said some low-risk prisoners would be granted parole to help curb the spread of the coronavirus in correctional facilities.

Around 19,000 people would be freed by the move, taken in response to a UN call on all countries to reduce prison populations so that social distancing and self-isolation conditions could be observed, Ramaphosa said.

“In South Africa, as in many other countries, correctional facilities have witnessed outbreaks of coronavirus infections among inmates and personnel,” Ramaphosa’s statement said.

COVID-19 in Africa: Misinformation thwarting containment

11:30 GMT – Italy’s Milan a ticking virus ‘bomb’, virologist warns

Italy’s economic capital Milan is a virus time “bomb” at risk of erupting with residents now free to move around after two months under a pandemic lockdown, a virologist has warned.

The city in the northern Lombardy region is the epicentre of Italy’s outbreak, one of the worst in Europe in terms of deaths and infections.

“We have a very high number of infected people returning to circulation,” Massimo Galli, the head of the infectious diseases department at the Sacco hospital in Milan, said in an interview with the Repubblica newspaper, referring to the easing of lockdown measures on May 4.

People wearing protective masks protest against the economic consequences of the lockdown at the Duomo square, as Italy begins a staged end to a nationwide lockdown, in Milan [Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters]

11:15 GMT – UN agency for Palestinians launches emergency appeal

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) launched an emergency coronavirus appeal, saying Palestinians across the Middle East were suffering a devastating socioeconomic impact.

The agency appealed for $93.4m for the next three months to provide food and cash assistance to the vulnerable.

While the number of Palestinian refugees infected with COVID-19 has so far been relatively low, they often work in informal sectors and are facing devastating economic repercussions from the crisis, UNRWA said.

11:00 GMT – South Korea’s football league kicks off with no crowd

Players of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC and Suwon Samsung Bluewings play during the opening game of South Korea’s K-League football match at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju [Kim Orel/Newsis via AP]

South Korea’s football league season kicked off with reigning champions Jeonbuk Motors hosting Suwon Bluewings in an empty World Cup Stadium in Jeonju.

The start of the season was delayed by several weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak. The 12-team campaign has been shortened from 38 to 27 match days, and no fans will be allowed at least in the early stages.

The K-League is the biggest football league to play at the moment, before Germany’s Bundesliga restarts on May 16.

10:45 GMT – China market had role in outbreak, but more research needed: WHO

A wholesale market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan played a role in the outbreak of the novel coronavirus last year, as the source or possibly as an “amplifying setting”, the World Health Organization said, calling for more research.

Chinese authorities shut down the market in January as part of efforts to halt the spread of the virus and ordered a temporary ban on trade and consumption of wildlife.

“The market played a role in the event, that’s clear. But what role we don’t know, whether it was the source or amplifying setting or just a coincidence that some cases were detected in and around that market,” said Peter Ben Embarek, WHO food safety and animal diseases expert. 

China Slowly Recovers From Coronavirus Outbreak
Visitors wear protective masks as they tour the Forbidden City, which recently reopened to limited visitors, in Beijing, China  [Kevin Frayer/Getty Images]

10:40 GMT – Spain’s virus death tolls rises by 229

Spain’s daily death toll from the coronavirus rose to 229, up from 213 on the previous day, the health ministry reported.

Overall deaths rose to 26,299 from 26,070 on Thursday and the number of diagnosed cases rose to 222,857 up from 221,447 the day before, the ministry said.

10:20 GMT – Ireland’s adjusted unemployment rate hits record high

Ireland’s unemployment rate rose to 28.2 percent at the end of April including those receiving emergency coronavirus jobless benefit, the highest on record and up from just 4.8 percent before the crisis two months ago, the state’s statistics office said. 

The new COVID-19 adjusted unemployment rate increased from 15.5 percent in March after the number of people claiming the higher emergency payment more than doubled to 602,107, on top of the 216,900 on regular jobless benefits.

Excluding the emergency coronavirus payment, the unemployment rate stood at 5.4 percent. 

10:00 GMT – UN: Civilian killings mounting in Syria amid pandemic

The UN human rights chief has accused the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group and other factions in Syria of taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to step up violence on civilians, describing the situation as a “ticking time bomb”.

“We are receiving more reports every day of targeted killings and bombings from one end of the country to the other, with many such attacks taking place in populated areas,” Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

“Various parties to the conflict in Syria, including ISIL, appear to view the global focus on the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to regroup and inflict violence on the population,” she added. 

We’re facing a double pandemic’: UN body warns of ‘mega-famines’

09:50 GMT – Facebook to allow employees to work remotely until year end

Facebook Inc said it would allow its workers who are able to work remotely to do so until the end of the year as the coronavirus pandemic forces governments to extend stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of the disease.

The social media giant also expects most offices to stay closed until July 6, according to a company spokesperson.

Facebook event
Facebook said most offices will remain closed until July 6 [File: Elise Amendola/AP]

09:45 GMT – Germany doubts US claims of China virus lab leak: Report

A German intelligence report casts doubts on US allegations that COVID-19 originated in a Chinese laboratory, Der Spiegel magazine reported.

An internal memo prepared for Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer “classifies the American claims as a calculated attempt to distract” from Washington’s own failings, Der Spiegel reported.

US President Donald Trump is attempting “to distract from his own mistakes and direct Americans’ anger at China”, Spiegel cited from the document.

09:05 GMT – China supports WHO review of global pandemic response

China said it supports the establishment of a panel led by the World Health Organization (WHO) to review the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, after facing global pressure to allow an international investigation.

The review should be conducted in an “open, transparent and inclusive manner” at an “appropriate time after the pandemic is over”, under the leadership of WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing.

09:00 GMT – World leaders scrutinised over face masks 

US President Donald Trump has not donned one. French President Emmanuel Macron boasted a small French flag on his. Slovakia’s president made a fashion statement by sporting a fuchsia-coloured one to match her outfit.

As the world starts emerging from coronavirus lockdowns, political leaders are being closely scrutinised over their choice to wear a mask – or not – as many people question seemingly mixed messages about the value of face coverings as infection barriers.

French President Macron visits a school in Poissy
France’s President Emmanuel Macron wears a protective face mask with a blue-white-red coloured ribbon as he gestures while speaking with schoolchildren at an elementary school in Poissy [Ian Langsdon/Reuters]

“The decision to wear or forgo a mask in public is based on what message the leader wants to convey,” behavioural scientist Jacqueline Gollan of Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, told AFP news agency.

“They are more likely to wear a mask if the leader believes in promoting public health. They may forgo the mask if the leader believes that they should convey that the risk of transmission is low and things are normalised,” she said.

08:45 GMT – Former Greek health minister dies of virus

Former Greek health minister, cardiologist and university professor Dimitris Kremastinos has died of the new coronavirus, Greek officials. He was 78.

Kremastinos, a widely respected doctor who became a household name in Greece as the personal physician of late Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou in the mid-1990s, was admitted to Athens’s public Evangelismos hospital on March 26 and was being treated in the intensive care unit.

News of his death was made public by Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias. 

08:30 GMT – South Korea tracks new outbreak in nightclubs

South Korean health authorities are investigating a small but growing cluster of coronavirus cases linked to a handful of Seoul nightclubs, at a time when the country is moving to less restrictive social distancing measures.

At least 15 cases have been identified with connections to clubs in Itaewon, a neighbourhood popular with Koreans and foreigners in the capital, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said on Friday.

“These venues have all the dangerous conditions that we were the most concerned about,” KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong said, referring to crowding and ventilation issues.

South Korea
A list of precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease is seen at an entrance of a club in Seoul [Yonhap via Reuters]

08:00 GMT – Qatar’s ‘coronavirus rate not high, but realistic’

It has been nearly two months since Qatar implemented a series of measures to contain the outbreak of COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The country has, to date, reported 18,890 cases and 12 deaths.

In our latest episode of Talk to Al Jazeera, Qatar’s minister of public health, Dr Hanan Mohamed al-Kuwari, discusses the country’s plans to combat the coronavirus.

07:50 GMT – Japan, US agree to cooperate in COVID-19 fight

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Donald Trump have agreed to cooperate closely in developing COVID-19 vaccines and drugs, and in their efforts to boost their economies.

The two leaders held telephone talks as they seek to reopen businesses in their respective countries.

“It was extremely meaningful to be able to reassure Japan-US cooperation via telephone talks between the two leaders just as the international society is expected to unite and tackle the (pandemic),” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

07:30 GMT – Russia reports over 10,000 cases again

The number of new coronavirus cases in Russia rose by 10,699 over the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide tally to 187,859, the coronavirus crisis response centre said.

It was the sixth consecutive day that cases had risen by more than 10,000, but down on Thursday’s record daily rise of 11,231.

It also reported 98 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the total death toll in Russia to 1,723.

07:10 GMT – Afghan health minister tests positive for COVID-19

Afghanistan’s Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz has contracted the COVID-19 disease, as the war-ravaged country sees a surge in cases of the virus, officials confirmed.

Waheedullah Mayar, spokesman for the health ministry, told Anadolu news agency the minister had experienced symptoms of the coronavirus for the past few days. He got a positive test result on Thursday.

“The health minister’s health is stable and he is under isolation at his residence,” he added. 

06:50 GMT – Malaysian businesses hit hard by lockdown

Malaysian business has been hammered by a lockdown imposed in mid-March to try contain the new coronavirus pandemic, according to a government survey. 

Some 42.5 percent of the 4,094 companies surveyed by the Department of Statistics said they will need at least six months to recover from the restrictions, which until Monday required people to stay at home unless buying essentials or commuting to work.

Malaysia’s retail sales fell 5.7 percent to a seven-year low in March, the department reported separately, with unemployment climbing 17 percent year-on-year to reach 3.9 percent.

06:20 GMT – Hong Kong gyms, bars and cinemas reopen 

Hong Kong started easing major social distancing measures with bars, gyms, beauty parlours and cinemas reopening their doors after the financial hub largely halted local transmissions of the deadly coronavirus.

Queues formed outside gyms in the semi-autonomous Chinese city for employees to check temperatures as people celebrated the return of some normalcy to the city.

06:00 GMT – WWII commemorations downsized in Europe

Large-scale parades to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe have been downsized. 

The anniversary of Nazi Germany’s 1945 unconditional surrender after a war that cost 50 million lives is a holiday in Berlin this year.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier are due to lay wreaths at the country’s main memorial.

A contractor puts fresh flags on the Cenotaph war memorial on Whitehall in central London [Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP]

Ceremonies across France have been drastically scaled down, although President Emmanuel Macron will still be attending an event on the Champs-Elysees.

In the United Kingdom, street parades by veterans have been cancelled.

05:40 GMT – UN chief: Coronavirus has sparked ‘tsunami of hate’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an “all-out effort” to end the “tsunami of hate and xenophobia” sparked by the novel coronavirus pandemic, without naming specific countries.

“Anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets,” Guterres said in a statement. “Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred.”

According to Guterres, migrants and refugees have been “vilified as a source of the virus – and then denied access to medical treatment.”

Hello, this is Saba Aziz in Doha, taking over the live updates from my colleague Ted Regencia

05:01 GMT – Thailand reports eight new coronavirus cases

Thailand on Friday reported eight new coronavirus cases but no deaths, bringing the total to 3,000 cases and 55 deaths since the outbreak started in January.

Of the new cases, three are from the southern province of Yala where authorities are aggressively testing the population due to high infection rates. Five other new cases are migrants who have been detained at an immigration detention centre in southern Songkhla province.

Slowing numbers of new cases have prompted Thailand to cautiously allow some businesses this week to reopen after weeks of semi-lockdown.

Bangkok, Thailand
People practicing social distancing sit and eat a meal at a market in Bangkok after restrictions were eased this week [Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP]

03:23 GMT – Former Japanese diplomat dies from coronavirus

Former Japanese diplomat Yukio Okamoto, a one-time adviser to prime ministers and expert on ties with the United States, died late last month after contracting the novel coronavirus, his consultancy confirmed on Friday, according to Reuters news agency.

After retiring from the foreign ministry in 1991, Okamoto, 74, served as an adviser to then-prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto on thorny issues related to Okinawa, home to the bulk of US troops in Japan.

He also advised then-prime minister Junichiro Koizumi from 2001-2004 and was a research fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for International Studies.

“This is a shock. And from the coronavirus!” said Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on social media.

Tokyo, Japan
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has extended the country’s state of emergency until the end of May [Eugene Hoshiko/AP]

02:58 GMT – Many states disregarding Trump’s guideline on reopening 

Many governors across the US are disregarding or creatively interpreting White House guidelines for safely easing restrictions and letting businesses reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, an Associated Press analysis found.

The AP determined that 17 states did not meet a key benchmark set by the White House for loosening up — a 14-day downward trajectory in new cases or positive test rates. And yet many of those have begun to reopen or are about to do so, including Alabama, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah.

Asked Thursday about states reopening without meeting the benchmarks, President Donald Trump said: “The governors have great power as to that, given by us. We want them to do that. We rely on them. We trust them. And hopefully they are making the right decisions.”

02:18 GMT – Pandemic sets Japan on course for deep recession

Japan’s household spending plunged in March and service-sector activity shrank at a record pace in April, reinforcing expectations that the coronavirus pandemic is tipping the world’s third-largest economy into deep recession, Reuters news agency reported.

The weak readings make it a near certainty the economy suffered a second straight quarter of contraction in January-March, the technical definition of a recession, and was on track for a deeper decline in the current quarter as the health crisis kept shoppers home and businesses closed.

01:40 GMT – Argentina’s Fernandez rises in polls over handling of COVID-19 crisis

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez has received a 68.5 percent approval rating in April over his handling of the country’s response to the spread of COVID-19, buttressing his political clout as he faces off against creditors with a major debt revamp.

Argentina is in a nationwide lockdown, which has been extended until at least May 10, helping slow the spread of new confirmed COVID-19 cases, which total just over 5,000 with 270 deaths. That is far less than in nearby Chile, Peru or Brazil.

Coronavirus - Argentina
A man disinfects a street in the “Villa 31” neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina on Wednesday [Natacha Pisarenko/AP]

01:08 GMT – Eyes an important entry point of coronavirus infection – Hong Kong study

The eyes could be an “important route” for the coronavirus infection to enter the human body, according to researchers from Hong Kong.

The South China Morning post also quoted University of Hong Kong scientists as saying that the virus is 100 times more infectious through the eyes and airways than SARS.

00:40 GMT – Australia prepares to ease coronavirus restrictions in four-week stages

Australia will ease social distancing restrictions in four-week increments, two sources told Reuters, as the country’s national cabinet meets on Friday to decide which curbs to remove first amid dwindling numbers of coronavirus cases.

With fewer than 20 new infections each day, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday began talks with state and territory leaders to decide which restrictions will be eased.

The easing will carried out in four-week increment to ensure measures do not lead to a resurgence in infections, two sources familiar with the plan told Reuters.

00:01 GMT – In clash with riot police, Hondurans block burial of coronavirus victim

Residents of an impoverished part of the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, have clashed with riot police after blocking the burial of a person suspected of having died from the novel coronavirus, according to a Reuters news agency witness.

Riot police fired tear gas when the residents armed with rocks burned tires and blocked a road leading to the Amor Enterno Cemetery with stones and construction material in the La Era neighbourhood, the witness said.

The Central American country has so far reported 1,461 coronavirus cases, many of them in the capital, and 99 deaths. Residents said their neighbourhood lacked adequate sanitation for such burials.


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

For key developments from yesterday, May 7, go here

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies