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Monday, May 4, 2020

May 04, 2020

Russia is now registering more new coronavirus infections than any other country in Europe. Vladimir Putin says the situation remains "very difficult." 

  • Russia has recorded its biggest daily increase in coronavirus cases and is now lodging the most new infections in Europe
  • Pakistan and India are also reporting record one-day spikes in infections
  • Global death toll currently stands at more than 243,000 with almost 3.5 million cases of the virus that first emerged in China at the turn of the year
  • Landmarks from Busan to Bratislava, from Toronto to Tallinn, have been following in the footsteps of New York's Empire State Building in lighting up as part of an initiative to thank those battling the coronavirus
Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)
10:44 People in Thailand were allowed to go to parks, restaurants and markets on Sunday as the government partially eased measures. A ban on buying alcohol was also lifted, prompting people to flock to bottle shops and supermarkets, according to local media. Army commander General Pornpipat Benyasri urged the public not to become complacent and to stay home, despite their new freedoms.
"There are no measures from the government that say you should let your guard down," he told a press briefing. 
Thai media reported that roads across the country were clogged with people traveling for Labor Day weekend after the government announced the first stage of eased measures on Thursday.
"Over the past few days, there has been a lot of traveling taking place," Pornpipat said. "Please stay home, maybe do some allowed activities, and continue working from home." 
Thailand has reported a total of 2,969 coronavirus cases, with 54 deaths. Three new infections were reported on Sunday.
10:42 South Korea will further relax social distancing rules from May 6, allowing a phased reopening of businesses. The government "will allow businesses to resume at facilities in phases that had remained closed up to now."
Gatherings and events will be allowed to take place, if "disinfection guidelines" are met. South Korea was one of the first countries outside of China to report cases of coronavirus and experienced an early spike, but managed to limit deaths and cases compared to some western countries.
Overall, 10,793 people have been infected and 250 people died.
10:14 Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says Germany wants to see more transparency from China in its handling of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.
"The whole world has an interest in clarifying the exact origin of the virus," Maas told the Funke Media Group on Sunday. "But sound answers to these questions have to come from science, not politics."
"China can demonstrate here how transparently it really wants to deal with the virus," he added.
While scientists agree the virus is natural in origin, questions remain about where it came from. Chinese scientists have said the virus was likely transferred from an animal to humans at a market in the Chinese city of Wuhan. However others, including US President Donald Trump, have backed the unproven theory it was accidentally released from a virology lab in Wuhan — an allegation Beijing rejects.
09:45 Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, says mosques in "low risk" parts of the country can reopen from Monday.  Measures imposed in mid-March to contain the coronavirus outbreak banned religious gatherings and forced mosques to close. As a result, people in the Middle East's worst-hit country began going to drive-in ceremonies broadcast on big screens during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
"Mosques will reopen in 132 low-risk or 'white cities' and towns from Monday. Friday prayer sermons will resume in those areas as well ... However, all these steps will be taken by respecting the health protocols," Rouhani said at a televised meeting of the country's virus taskforce. He also said some schools would be able to reopen on May 16.
The Health Ministry uses the colors white, yellow and red to classify risk levels in different parts of the country.  Iran has reported 97,424 infections cases of the coronavirus, including 6,203 deaths, although experts both in Iran and abroad have questioned the accuracy of the figures, saying the real numbers could be much higher. 
08:28 Spain has recorded its lowest daily death count from the coronavirus since March 18, with 164 new fatalities confirmed Sunday, according to the Health Ministry. The country's toll now stands at 25,264. The ministry said the number of infections also rose to 217,466 on Sunday, up from 216,582 the day before.
On Saturday, Spaniards were allowed to leave their homes to exercise for the first time in seven weeks as part of a gradual easing of strict rules that had largely confined people to their homes. 
09:00 Deutsche Welle has given this year's Freedom of Speech Award to journalists who have been persecuted for their coverage of the coronavirus crisis.
"We honor all our colleagues who are being prevented by force from doing their job in these difficult times," DW Director General Limbourg said. "Deutsche Welle is demanding that all journalists worldwide who have been arrested because of their coverage of the COVID-19 crisis are released immediately." 
08:56 Russia has recorded its biggest daily jump in coronavirus infections, with 10,633 new cases confirmed on Sunday. That's more new cases than any other European country is registering right now.  According to health authorities, 134,686 people in Russia have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 1,280 have died since the start of the outbreak. Some 58 new deaths were reported on Sunday.
 Although cases in the country of 145 million are steadily increasing, the official mortality rate is low compared to hard-hit nations such as Italy, Spain and the US. The government has suggested it could decide to begin lifting lockdown measures from May 12, depending on the region. President Vladimir Putin has said the situation remains "very difficult."
07:39 German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer says he supports plans to get the country's Bundesliga up and running this month, despite concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
"I find the schedule proposed by the German league plausible and I support the restart in May," Seehofer, who is also the minister for sport, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
Germany's national soccer league wants to resume the season in the next few weeks by holding matches without spectators and under strict conditions. If the plan goes ahead, the Bundesliga would become the first European championship to take such a step. Seehofer said football teams would be subject to the same rules as the rest of the population and would not get any special testing privileges.
"If there is a case of coronavirus in a team or its management, the club as a whole, and eventually also the team against which it last played, must go into quarantine for two weeks," he said. 
German authorities are expected to meet next week to discuss the issue.
07:11 Six people have been killed in a plane crash in Bolivia's Amazonian region, including four Spaniards who were being repatriated amid coronavirus-related travel bans. Bolivia's Defense Ministry said the Santa Cruz-bound plane experienced engine failure shortly after taking off from Trinidad. Two Bolivian crew were among the dead. 
Authorities said the plane was on a "humanitarian mission" and was also carrying aid supplies and samples from patients who may have been infected with COVID-19. The four Spanish nationals were scheduled to catch a repatriation flight to Madrid from Santa Cruz next week. The European Union says it has already brought home 550,000 EU citizens stranded overseas as a result of the global pandemic.

06:27 India has reported its biggest one-day increase in coronavirus cases since the outbreak began. Confirmed infections in the country of 1.3 billion have climbed by 2,600 to just under 40,000 in the past 24 hours, while the number of deaths has risen by 83. The toll now stands at 1,301.
India's six-week lockdown has been extended by another two weeks, and restrictions in some less-affected parts of the country have been eased. The government has also ordered all public and private sector employees to use a contact tracing app that alerts users if they have crossed paths with people who later test positive for COVID-19.
05:57 German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has warned that lifting worldwide travel warnings too early could "jeopardize the progress" made in the fight against the coronavirus.
"We cannot allow these to be hasty steps," he told the Funke Media Group. "When people are able to not just fly abroad again, but also come back in a sufficiently safe way, then we can roll back these travel warnings step by step."
 Germany has repatriated at least 225,000 citizens who became stranded overseas after dozens of countries began implementing coronavirus travel restrictions in March.
 "We cannot and will not bring back another quarter of a million people from their holidays again this summer," Maas said, adding that the government must "act in a controlled and coordinated manner."
The German Foreign Ministry this week extended a warning against all unnecessary tourist travel abroad to mid-June.
05:22 Swiss drugmaker Roche says it has been granted emergency use approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its coronavirus antibody test.  Such blood tests have been seen by governments and businesses as a potentially important tool in working out who has contracted the virus, and who may be immune, as countries move towards lifting lockdowns.
The Basel-based company had previously pledged to make the test, called Elecsys Anti-SARS-CoV-2, available by early May. It requires an intravenous blood draw, and is designed to determine if a patient has been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and if they have developed antibodies against it. Roche said it had already started shipping the tests to laboratories around the world, with plans to "ramp up production capacity to the high double-digit millions per month."
04:49 The coronavirus death toll in Japan has surpassed 500. According to official figures cited by local broadcaster NHK, the number of fatalities now stands at 530, with more than 15,000 confirmed cases.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to decide Monday whether to extend the nationwide state of emergency, which is set to expire on May 6.
While citizens are encouraged to stay home, and many shops and businesses are closed, Japan has resisted imposing the kind of strict lockdown measures seen in some other countries. People have still been allowed to go out to parks and beaches, as well as to crowded places such as games halls.
04:04 The Australian state of Victoria has seen its biggest jump in new cases in several weeks while the country's most populous state, New South Wales, is dealing with a cluster of infections at an old people's care facility.
Thirteen new cases have been registered in Victoria, health officials said, with six of the infections related to a meat processing facility in the state’s capital, Melbourne.
"What I'm worried about is the unknown unknowns," Victoria's Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said, pleading for more people to get tested. She added: "We want to make sure that if we have cases that are positive in the community we can identify those individuals... this is how we are going to defeat the virus."
In New South Wales there were four new infections, two of which were reported at the Newmarch aged care facility in Sydney, where more than 60 people have contracted the novel virus, resulting in 14 deaths.
03:57 The number of confirmed cases in Germany has increased by 793 to 162,496, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases has revealed.
This represented a decrease of 152 on the previous day's amount of new infections as the number of daily cases in Germany continues to steadily decline.
The reported death toll rose by 74 bringing the total number of fatalities to 6,649.
02:49 China has reported two new cases in its daily COVID-19 update, up from one the day before, the country's national health authority has revealed.
One case was imported and the other was local, the National Health Commission (NHC) said. The NHC also reported 12 asymptomatic cases for May 2, down from 20 in the previous day's update.
China has recorded 82,877 cases in total since the outbreak first emerged in the city of Wuhan while the country's death toll currently stands at 4,633.
The Chinese government has taken a number of stringent measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including blocking almost all foreigners from entering the country and sharply curtailing the number of international flights.
02:08 German Health Minister Jens Spahn has raised ethical questions over the possibility of issuing so-called "immunity passports" to those who had already been infected with the novel coronavirus.
Spahn expressed his concerns in a letter to the Ethics Council in Germany, according to newspaper Bild am Sonntag. The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politician said it is "a matter of concern to him that the ethical aspects" are met while there were still questions over "how and in what context the proof of an immunity should be used."
"Immunity passports" could be a way for key workers to get back to work as they will have developed the antibodies necessary to give them protection from the virus that has infected almost 3.5 million people worldwide.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently said it was yet to be convinced on the idea of any such certification being issued.
01:25 The United States has registered 1,435 deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of fatalities to 66,364, significantly more any other country in the world.
The Johns Hopkins University has stated that more than 1.1 million infections have occurred in the country, having recorded its first case on January 20.
01:22 Doctors treating British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for coronavirus last month were prepared to announce his death after he was taken into intensive care, he told the Sun on Sunday newspaper.
"It was a tough old moment, I won't deny it," he said. "They had a strategy to deal with a 'death of Stalin'-type scenario."
"I was not in particularly brilliant shape and I was aware there were contingency plans in place. The doctors had all sorts of arrangements for what to do if things went badly wrong."
The British PM first announced he had contracted the virus on March 27 but at the time was only displaying mild symptoms.

However, the following week it became apparent that his condition had deteriorated sufficiently for him to be admitted to hospital, where soon after he was moved to intensive care.
Johnson spent three days on "oxygen support," and admitted after his discharge on April 12 that his battle "could have gone either way."
The 55-year-old and his partner Carrie Symonds announced the arrival of their newborn son earlier this week and said the child would bear the names of "the two doctors that saved Boris' life," Symonds said.
01:17 Mexico's health ministry reported 1,349 new cases of the novel coronavirus on May 2, bringing the total number of infections in the country to over 22,000. The country also reported 89 more deaths, which brought the total death toll to over 2,000.
00:48 Panama has recorded 370 new cases, bringing its total to 7,090, and 197 deaths, the health ministry said. The ministry said the increase was partly because of ramping up testing.
In addition, Luis Sucre, Panama's health vice minister, said about a quarter of all tests performed had come back positive.
"This tells us that we're not meeting our required objectives for this phase," said Sucre.
00:02 The Eiffel Tower joined other famous landmarks around the world on Saturday in capping a sparkling tribute to those fighting against COVID-19. The initiative was first launched by the Empire State Building in New York last month.
At 8 p.m. local time (1800 GMT), the Paris monument lit up in "sparkling white" to hail "the unfailing courage of care workers confronting the coronavirus pandemic," said SETE, the firm that manages the Eiffel Tower.
The nine-day #HeroesShineBright initiative first began on April 24 in New York. Each night a different color is shone into the night sky to express gratitude towards healthcare staff, transit workers, and police or military personnel, SETE said.
Other landmarks that have seen similar acts are the Euromast in Rotterdam, the 360 Observation Deck in Chicago, the UAE'S Burj Khalifa, the CN Tower in Toronto, the Macao tower in China, the Busan Tower in South Korea, the Ostankino TV Tower in Russia, the Tallinn TV Tower in Estonia and the OVNI Tower in Slovakia.

In reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, unless otherwise specified, DW uses figures provided by the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Coronavirus Resource Center in the United States. JHU updates figures in real-time, collating data from world health organizations, state and national governments and other public official sources, all of whom have their own systems for compiling information.
Germany's national statistics are compiled by its public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). These figures depend on data transmission from state and local levels and are updated around once a day, which can lead to deviation from JHU.
jsi,nm/aw (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)