The global coronavirus pandemic is accelerating, with Thursday’s 150,000 new cases the highest in a single day, World Health Organization (WHO) director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The United Kingdom’s chief medical officers have agreed to lower the country’s coronavirus alert level from four to three.
New confirmed cases of coronavirus remain stable in Beijing as officials say situation is under control.
German biopharmaceutical company CureVac has started a clinical trial for a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.
In Honduras, President Juan Orlando Hernandez became the latest world leader to be hospitalised after testing positive for the coronavirus.
More than 454,000 people have died as a result of the new coronavirus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. At least 8.4 million people have been confirmed to have the coronavirus around the world and more than four million have recovered.
Here are the latest updates:
Friday, June 19
20:30 GMT – Saudi Arabia to reopen Mecca mosques
Saudi Arabia plans to reopen from Sunday mosques in Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, after they were closed for three months due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, state television reported.
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The kingdom has taken restrictive measures against the virus, particularly in Mecca, but the number of new coronavirus cases has notably increased in recent days.
“The mosques in the holy city will begin to reopen their doors to the faithful on Sunday after three months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic,” the state-run Al-Ekhbariya channel reported, citing a decision by the Islamic affairs ministry.
Some 1,500 holy sites are preparing to welcome visitors, the channel reported, showing footage of workers disinfecting floors and carpets.
The decision comes weeks before the Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. While the Hajj is set to be held in late July, authorities are yet to announce if it will go ahead or be cancelled.
Outside Mecca, mosques elsewhere in the country reopened at the end of May, but with strict rules imposing social distancing and other measures. The hardest hit Gulf state, Saudi Arabia has reported over 150,000 virus cases, including nearly 1,200 deaths.
20:20 GMT – Argentina: COVID-19 cases spikes as pandemic grips poor ‘villas’
In Villa 31, a densely populated and poor neighbourhood in the heart of Buenos Aires, Lilian Andrade is getting used to tragedy after the area and others like it around the Argentine capital were hit by a spike of coronavirus infections.
The spread of the virus in the so-called “villas” underscores how millions of often informal workers in Latin American cities from Lima to Sao Paulo are struggling to stick to isolation measures and stay financially afloat.
“It is very hard to comply with the mandatory quarantine,” said Andrade, a 27-year-old community leader in Villa 31. “You have to go out because if you don’t then you might end up not eating for three days.”
Read more here.
20:00 GMT – Costa Rica halts reopening as coronavirus infections keep rising
Costa Rica’s government will halt reopening the country’s economy due to an increase in the number of coronavirus cases over recent days, Health Minister Daniel Salas said at a news conference.
19:10 GMT – Ireland says international quarantine to remain at least until July 9
Ireland’s 14-day quarantine for people arriving from other countries will remain in place at least until July 9 and the government will review the issue at a meeting next week, acting prime minister Leo Varadkar said.
“My ambition … is to reopen between countries where the virus is as suppressed as it is here, but we want to do that in a coordinated fashion with other European countries, but that hasn’t quite happened yet,” Varadkar told journalists.
19:00 GMT – Guatemala replaces health minister and his three deputies
Guatemala’s Health Minister Hugo Monroy and three deputies in his ministry have been replaced, the office of the president said and announced the names of their replacements.
It was not immediately clear why Monroy and the three vice ministers left their jobs. Monroy has faced criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, including the purchasing of personal protection equipment and pay to health workers.
18:05 GMT – Ireland speeds up plan to reopen economy
Ireland has announced another acceleration of the reopening of its economy from COVID-19 restrictions, with the reopening of churches, gyms and team sports brought forward to June 29, acting prime minister Leo Varadkar said.
Gatherings of up to 50 people indoors and up to 200 people outdoors will be allowed from June 29 with gatherings of up to 100 people indoors and 500 people outdoors from July 20, he said.
17:45 GMT – Switzerland to allow gatherings of up to 1,000 people
Switzerland has announced that gatherings of up to 1,000 people would be permitted next week, in a fourth stage of gradually easing the restrictions imposed to control COVID-19.
The wealthy Alpine nation has managed to avoid the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, despite its border with northern Italy – Europe’s early epicentre for deaths and infections.
The physical distancing requirement is being cut from two metres to 1.5 metres from Monday, while the midnight curfew on restaurants and nightclubs is also being lifted, as is the requirement to be seated at tables in bars.
The maximum size of gatherings will be raised on Monday from 300 to 1,000 people, the government said, so long as the number of people to be contact-traced in case of an infection remains at no more than 300, through measures such as separating groups into sections.
17:30 GMT – France reports less than 20 new coronavirus deaths
The number of people who died from coronavirus infection in France rose by 14 to 29,617, the lowest increase in five days.
The number of people in hospital for COVID-19 infections fell by 155 to 9,970, the first time that total is lower than the 10,000 threshold in almost three months.
16:45 GMT – Airlines’ legal challenge of UK quarantine policy to be heard early July
A legal challenge by British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair against the UK government’s decision to introduce a 14-day quarantine for travellers will be heard in early July, barristers involved in the case have said.
“The airlines claim that the regulations are irrational and disproportionate. A hearing has been listed for early July,” Blackstone Chambers said in a statement.
16:35 GMT – US capital to begin phase two of reopening next week
The US capital will begin phase two of its reopening process next week as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to drop, Mayor Muriel Bowser has announced.
The district will enter the next phase on Monday after 15 days of sustained drops in community spread, Bowser said in a statement, bringing it in-line with neighboring Virginia and Maryland, with the exception of Montgomery County, which is set to enter phase two later Friday.
After adding 49 cases on Thursday, the district has 9,952 confirmed COVID-19 infections. In total, 530 people have died from the virus in Washington, D.C., including three on Thursday, while 1,162 of those who contracted the virus have been cleared from isolation.
During phase two, restaurants and non-essential retail stores will be allowed to resume indoor activity at half capacity.
Mass gatherings will be limited to 50 people, and places of worship will be allowed to hold services with capacity capped at either 50 percent or 100 people.
16:25: GMT – Italy reports 47 coronavirus deaths, 251 new cases
Deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy climbed by 47, against 66 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, while the daily tally of new cases decreased to 251 from 333 on Thursday.
The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21 now stands at 34,561 the agency said, the fourth highest in the world after those of the United States, Brazil and Britain.
The number of confirmed cases amounts to 238,011 the eighth highest global tally. People registered as currently carrying the illness fell to 21,543 from 23,101 the day before.
15:30 GMT – Coronavirus pandemic accelerating, warns WHO chief Tedros
The global coronavirus pandemic is accelerating, with Thursday’s 150,000 new cases the highest in a single day, World Health Organization (WHO) director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“Almost half of the cases reported were from the Americas,” he told a virtual briefing. “The world is in a new and dangerous phase … the virus is still spreading fast, it is still deadly, and most people are still susceptible.”
14:35 GMT – Dutch gov’t: Companies on state aid must end tax avoidance
Companies that have “undesireable tax constructions” will not be allowed access to state aid in the future, and those that have them and receive aid must wind them down, the Dutch government has announced.
“We wish to support large companies that come knocking during the coronavirus if they are important to Dutch society,” deputy Finance Minister Hans Vijlbrief said in a letter to parliament.
“But it is not appropriate to ask for taxpayer money and at the same time to avoid taxes.”
The letter did not name individual companies affected. It said that companies based in countries with a tax rate below 9 percent, or that are on the European Union’s ‘black list’ would not be eligible for aid.
14:20 GMT – Poland to lift restrictions on numbers of aircraft passengers
Poland will allow aircraft to fly with all their seats occupied as of July 1, Deputy Prime Minister Jadwiga Emilewicz has announced.
Poland has been easing lockdown restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic, and opened its borders with other European Union countries on June 13.
14:05 GMT – Macron wants to find quick agreement on EU recovery fund in July
French President Emmanuel Macron told European Union leaders it was necessary to find a quick agreement on a proposed 750 billion-euro recovery fund in July to maintain the current momentum, a French official told Reuters news agency.
Failing to agree on the recovery plan would send the wrong signal, Macron said, according to the same official.
In the same call with EU leaders, the French president added that out of 750 billion euros, preserving the 500 billion euros in grants was France’s top priority, in line with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
France finds possible and legitimate to link grants with national reforms, though not through Troika-type mechanism, the official added
13:55 GMT – Saudi Arabia coronavirus cases exceed 150,000: Health ministry
The number of coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia has exceeded 150,000 following a rise in new infections over the past 10 days.
The Saudi Ministry of Health reported 4,301 new cases on Friday, taking the total to 150,292, with 1,184 deaths. The country hit more than 100,000 cases on June 7. Authorities are expected to lift a nationwide curfew on June 21.
13:45 GMT – Spain expects decision on travel corridor with Britain soon
Spain expects a decision in the coming hours in its talks with Britain on whether to establish a travel corridor to avoid imposing a quarantine on travelers due to the coronavirus pandemic, a Spanish foreign ministry source was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.
“Spain is willing to be open to the United Kingdom, we are in talks with them about their quarantine. We are in a position to open without a quarantine,” the source added.
Spain will open its borders to tourists from most European countries on Sunday.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce on June 29 that agreements have been reached for air bridges with a “small number” countries with low levels of the coronavirus outbreak, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Thursday.
12:15 GMT – Spain increases coronavirus death toll to 28,313
Spain reported on Friday a total of 28,313 coronavirus deaths as of Thursday, after adjusting its database to avoid duplications and errors, a health ministry official said.
The death toll had not been updated since June 7, when Spain reported 27,136 deaths, while the country was implementing a new methodology for logging deaths and cases.
11:35 GMT – Indonesia records more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases
Indonesia reported 1,041 new coronavirus infections, taking its total number of cases to 43,803.
Health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said 34 more deaths were reported, with total fatalities now at 2,373, the highest coronavirus death toll in East Asia outside of China.
So far, 366,581 people have been tested, according to the country’s COVID-19 task force.
11:05 – Qatar reports another seven coronavirus deaths
Qatar’s public health ministry has confirmed seven coronavirus deaths in the country in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 93.
At least 1,021 people contracted the virus in that period, the ministry said, increasing the total to 85,462.
10:05 GMT – German coronavirus tracing app downloaded almost 10 million times
Germany’s smartphone app to help trace coronavirus infections has been downloaded 9.6 million times, a government spokeswoman said.
The app, which SAP and Deutsche Telekom helped develop, was launched earlier this week.
09:30 GMT – UK lowers coronavirus alert level
The United Kingdom’s chief medical officers have agreed to lower the country’s coronavirus alert level.
The Joint Biosecurity Centre reduced the COVID-19 alert level from Level 4 to 3, meaning the epidemic is in general circulation but transmission is no longer high or rising exponentially.
“There has been a steady decrease in cases we have seen in all four nations, and this continues,” the chief medical officers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland said.
“It does not mean that the pandemic is over. The virus is still in general circulation and localised outbreaks are likely to occur.”
09:00 GMT – Coronavirus already in Italy by December: study
The coronavirus was already present in two large cities in northern Italy in December, more than two months before the first case was detected, a national health institute study of waste water has found.
Researchers discovered genetic traces of Sars-Cov-2, as the virus is officially known, in samples of waste water collected in Milan and Turin at the end of last year, and Bologna in January, the ISS institute said in a statement seen by AFP news agency.
Italy’s first known native case was discovered mid-February.
08:30 GMT – China’s Clover begins human trials of coronavirus vaccine
A potential coronavirus vaccine being developed by China’s Clover Biopharmaceuticals using GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine booster is now in early-stage testing in humans, the companies said.
Initial safety data from the trial, which is enrolling about 150 adults and also investigating the vaccine in combination with Dynavax’s adjuvant, is expected in August this year, Clover said.
08:00 GMT – India’s Modi says yoga a ‘protective shield’ against coronavirus
India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has extolled yoga as a way of building a “protective shield” of immunity against the coronavirus, as his nation battles a surge in infections.
Modi, a keen yoga practitioner who has long espoused the benefits of the ancient Indian practice, gave the advice in a YouTube message ahead of International Yoga Day on Sunday.
Read more here.
07:45 GMT – Russia reports nearly 8,000 new coronavirus cases
Russia on Friday reported 7,972 new cases of the novel coronavirus, pushing its nationwide case tally to 569,063 since the crisis began.
The national coronavirus response centre said 181 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 7,841.
06:45 GMT – German drugmaker Curevac starts coronavirus vaccine trial
German biopharmaceutical company CureVac on Thursday started its first clinical trial for a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.
The trial, which is being conducted at the University of Tuebingen, includes more than 100 test subjects aged between 18 and 60.
The first trial results are expected in two months, according to German news website Focus Online.
Scientists are trying to ascertain human tolerance towards the vaccine, as well as the human body’s immune response to it, according to the professor in charge of the trial, Peter Kremsner.
The news comes just three days after the German government announced it was acquiring a $337m stake in CureVac.
06:20 GMT – Thailand: 25 days without confirmed domestic transmission
Thailand reported five new coronavirus cases, all of which were found in quarantine, making it 25 days without a confirmed domestic transmission of the virus.
The new cases were Thais returning from Saudi Arabia, said Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman for the government’s COVID-19 task force.
Thailand has recorded 58 deaths related to COVID-19 among some 3,146 confirmed cases, of which 3,008 patients have recovered.
06:00 GMT –
Hello, this is Hamza Mohamed in Doha, Qatar taking over from my colleague Zaheena Rasheed.
05:53 GMT – Beijing outbreak ‘under control’
New confirmed cases of coronavirus remained stable in China’s capital on Friday after a public health official declared Beijing’s latest outbreak under control.
The city recorded 25 new cases, up by just four from Thursday, out of a total of 32 cases reported nationwide.
“The epidemic in Beijing has been brought under control,” Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a press briefing on Thursday.
“When I say that it’s under control, that doesn’t mean the number of cases will turn zero tomorrow or the day after,” he cautioned. “The trend will persist for a period of time, but the number of cases will decrease, just like the trend that we saw (in Beijing) in January and February.”
Local authorities are restricting the movement of people in the capital and stepping up other measures to prevent the virus from spreading further, following a series of local infections.
Classes in the city have also been suspended and reopening plans for sports and other events are on hold. More than 360,000 tests for the virus have been carried out in recent days, according to city health authorities.
05:17 GMT – China publishes genome data from latest Beijing outbreak
China has published the genome data for the coronavirus behind the latest COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing, the website of state-backed National Microbiology Data Center showed.
The move came as Chinese health officials said the virus found in Beijing’s Xinfadi market came from Europe, but was older than the current strain circulating on the continent.
Zhang Yong, an official at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the large number of samples found at Xinfadi indicates the virus “has been around for some time”.
“If it had only just arrived in the city for a short period of time, there may not have been so many positive samples found; however, we need more data before making an informed decision about its origin,” he was quoted as saying by the Global Times.
The virus could have arrived in imported frozen food or may have been lurking in dark, humid areas which had not been properly disinfected, he added.
04:58 GMT – Singapore lifts most restrictions
Singaporeans can wine and dine at restaurants, work out at the gym and get together in groups of no more than five people after most lockdown restrictions were lifted on Friday.
The city-state has one of the highest infections in Asia with 41,473 confirmed cases, mostly linked to foreign workers’ dorms. The government says the infections have declined, with no new large clusters emerging.
Cases outside the dorms were also stable despite a partial economic reopening two weeks ago.
Malls, gyms, massage parlours, parks and other public spaces reopened on Friday, with strict social distancing and health safety rules. Classes also resumed, except for singing. Minor bans remain including on contact sports and mass religious congregations.
Entertainment venues such as cinemas, karaoke rooms and bars are still shut while big events including trade fairs and concerts are banned.
04:50 GMT – South Korea on ‘cusp of erasing gains in virus fight’
South Korea reported 49 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, of which 26 came from the capital Seoul and the nearby port city of Incheon.
Six locally transmitted cases were also reported in Daejeon, some 160 km south of Seoul, stoking concerns that community spread may accelerate outside the Seoul area, the Yonhap news agency reported, describing South Korea as being “on the cusp of erasing gains in virus fight”.
The country has been reporting around 30 to 50 new cases per day since late May, inspiring second-guessing on whether officials were too quick to ease social distancing guidelines in April after the country’s first wave of infections waned.
“It is worrisome that cluster infections have been reported outside Seoul, and we will speed up the testing of potential cases and contact tracing, to stem further spread,” said Son Young-rae, an official with the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters.
03:46 GMT – Brazil sees return of football at empty Maracana stadium
Brazilian football resumed after a three-month hiatus on Thursday night, with Flamengo beating Bangu 3-0 at an empty Maracana stadium in the first game of the restarted Rio de Janeiro state championship.
The match marked the return of Brazil’s state leagues, most of which were halted in March as the novel coronavirus spread.
Most of the other state championships, which are usually played between January and April before the national leagues take place in the second half of the year, have not yet set a date for resuming.
The resumption in Brazil has caused controversy, with two top clubs, Botafogo and Fluminense, saying they will not turn up for scheduled games this weekend.
03:04 GMT – Japan lifts all domestic travel curbs
Japan lifted all coronavirus-related curbs on domestic travel, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling on people to go sightseeing or attend concerts and other events to help the nation’s economy bounce back from a pandemic recession.
Japan began lifting its pandemic lockdown in May as coronavirus infections fell. The latest easing on Thursday comes after the end of an emergency declaration that allowed people to return to work and for bars and restaurants implementing social distancing measures to reopen.
“I would like people, while observing social distancing, to go out on sightseeing trips. We would like you to make an effort to engage in social and economic activity,” Abe said in an address to the country late on Thursday.
In addition to ending the domestic travel advisory, Japan is also allowing up to 1,000 people to gather at indoor and outdoor events. Japanese professional baseball teams will also restart games on Friday, although spectators will be locked out.
02:25 GMT – UN seeks urgent funding to transport pandemic aid
The United Nations food agency is warning that without immediate funding its global transport system will have to stop delivering thousands of tonnes of masks, gloves and other critical equipment to 132 countries by the third week of July.
Amer Daoudi, the World Food Programme’s director of operations and COVID-19 response, told a video press conference that the Rome-based agency needs $965m to sustain its transport services through 2020.
But so far it has received about $132m – only 14 percent – even though “the COVID-19 virus is not slowing down” and “the entire humanitarian and health community is relying on WFP’s logistic services now more than ever,” Daoudi said.
02:06 GMT – Mexico posts record number of new infections
Mexico reported another record one-day increase in confirmed coronavirus cases – 5,662.
The country now has 165,455 confirmed cases and 19,747 confirmed deaths.
01:34 GMT – Honduras president stable, fatigued after hospitalisation
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez is in a stable condition and being treated for pneumonia after testing positive for COVID-19, one of his doctors said Thursday.
Dr Cesar Aaron Carrasco at the Military Hospital told Reuters News Agency that Hernandez’s condition had improved since he was admitted on Wednesday with difficulty breathing, fever and fatigue.
“In the two days that he’s been hospitalised an improvement in his situation has been observed,” Carrasco said. “He’s in a good general state, recovering.”
Carrasco said the president no longer laboured in his breathing, but still suffered fatigue when walking. He said it was unclear how long Hernandez would remain hospitalised.
00:53 GMT – Further lockdowns not needed in US, Fauci tells AFP
The United States does not require more widespread lockdowns to get its COVID-19 outbreak under control, a leading government expert told the AFP news agency, amid concerns about an uptick of cases in some 20 states, including California, Florida and Texas.
“I don’t think we’re going to be talking about going back to lockdown,” Anthony Fauci said when asked if states that are seeing a surge in their caseload should reissue stay-at-home orders.
“I think we’re going to be talking about trying to better control those areas of the country that seem to be having a surge of cases.”
Stressing the need for localised approaches, Fauci said one thing that bothered him was the public’s lack of compliance to authorities’ recommendations about wearing masks.
“We have a country where even when the recommendations are to wear a mask, a recommendation that I’ve been involved in making, there are some groups that actually do the recommendations very strictly and they adhere to it,” he said.
“And then … you see pictures of people in bars and in congregations without that. So again, it’s a mixed bag. Some people are doing it fine and some are not.”
00:18 GMT – Nursing homes represent more than 1 in 4 coronavirus deaths in US
In the US, nursing home residents account for nearly one in 10 of all the coronavirus cases and more than a quarter of deaths, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data.
The analysis of data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that nearly half of the more than 15,000 nursing homes have reported suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of June 7. About one in five facilities – or 21 percent – have reported deaths.
Nationwide, nursing homes reported nearly 179,000 suspected or confirmed cases among residents and 29,497 deaths.
00:01 GMT – Brazil nears 50,000 coronavirus deaths and 1 million cases
New statistics from Brazil’s Health Ministry shows the country fast approaching one million confirmed coronavirus cases and 50,000 deaths.
With the world’s worst outbreak outside of the US, Brazil now has 978,142 confirmed cases and 47,748 deaths, up 1,238 from Wednesday, the ministry said.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives.
You can find the key developments from yesterday, June 18, here.