Coronavirus: Latest from around the world - Thursday, May 7

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday warned of the risks of returning to lockdown if countries emerging from pandemic restrictions do not manage transitions "extremely carefully and in a phased approach".

Globally, more than 261,000 people are now known to have died from COVID-19.

Here's the latest on the pandemic from around the world overnight.

Europe

The European Union is backing calls for a timely review of the international response to the coronavirus pandemic, including the World Health Organization’s performance, according to the draft of a resolution for ministers to debate at the WHO.

Baltics

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will open their borders to each others' citizens from May 15, creating a Baltic "travel bubble" within the European Union amid an easing of pandemic restrictions, their prime ministers say.

The Baltic travel area would be the first of its kind in the bloc, where most countries restricted entry to non-nationals and imposed quarantine on incoming travelers as the novel coronavirus spread across the continent.

"We have agreed that all three Baltic states have properly contained the spread of the coronavirus, and we trust each others' health systems," Lithuania's Prime Minister Saulius Skvernlis wrote on Facebook.

"So, starting from May 15, we are removing all restrictions for citizens of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia traveling between the Baltic states."

People entering the region from other countries will need to self-isolate for 14 days, he added.

United Kingdom

Britain's COVID-19 death toll has risen by 649 to 30,076, according to figures announced by government minister Robert Jenrick.

The figures released on Wednesday reflect deaths in all settings following positive tests for coronavirus, cover the period up to Tuesday afternoon.

The UK has become the second country to record more than 30,000 deaths as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The UK stands only behind the United States, which has more than 72,000 coronavirus-related deaths.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands will begin easing coronavirus lockdown measures next week nearly two months after they were imposed, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Wednesday.

Italy

Deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy have climbed by 369 against just 236 the day before, while the daily tally of new infections also rose, increasing by 1444 against 1075 on the prior day.

The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on February 21 now stands at 29,684, the third-highest in the world after the United States and Britain. The number of confirmed cases amounts to 214,457.

Russia

Russia's culture minister has tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the third confirmed member of the cabinet to catch the disease, the TASS news agency reports.

Olga Lyubimova has mild symptoms and is continuing to work remotely, her press secretary Anna Usacheva said, according to TASS.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin last week told President Vladimir Putin he had been diagnosed and was temporarily stepping down to recover.

The country's coronavirus crisis response centre said on Wednesday that the number of cases had risen by more than 10,000 for a fourth consecutive day and stood at 165,929. Russia has recorded 1537 coronavirus-related deaths.

Belgium

As Belgium obliges people to wear face masks on public transport and recommends them elsewhere to limit the spread of the coronavirus, deaf people are calling for transparent masks to allow them to communicate with others.

For the hearing-impaired who rely on lip-reading to complement sign language, even buying an ice cream can be difficult, as shop assistants wear medical or home-made cotton masks that cover almost half the face.

"We are no longer able to read lips. It prevents communication," said Marie-Florence Devalet of Belgium's French-speaking deaf federation, saying it can add to the anxiety of living through a pandemic.

"When the mask is not see-through, it may worry fragile people, it disturbs them psychologically and it worries them," she told Reuters.

Germany

Chancellor Angela Merkel announced steps on Wednesday to ease the coronavirus lockdown in Germany but at the same time launched an “emergency brake” mechanism allowing for renewed restrictions in case infections pick up again.

Declaring an end to the first phase of the pandemic in Germany, Merkel said there was still a long way to go in the battle against the virus, which has battered Europe’s largest economy.

 

Americas

United States

US President Donald Trump says the White House coronavirus task force will remain in place but with a focus on medical treatments and easing restrictions on businesses and social life and perhaps with different advisers.

On Tuesday, Trump had said he planned to wind down the task force and replace it with "something in a different form" as the country shifts into a new phase focusing on the aftermath of the outbreak.

The death toll in the US is the highest anywhere in the world, at almost 73,000 confirmed.

Mike Pompeo.
Mike Pompeo. Photo credit: Getty

US private employers laid off a record 20.236 million workers in April as mandatory business closures in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak savaged the economy, setting up the overall labor market for historic job losses last month.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday renewed his aggressive criticism of China, blaming it for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people from the coronavirus and demanding again that it share information about the outbreak.

Asia

India

Hundreds of Indian police have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days, raising alarm among an over-stretched force as it attempts to enforce the world’s largest lockdown.

India has been under lockdown since March 25 and has confirmed nearly 50,000 coronavirus cases and some 1694 deaths.

China

China says tariffs should not be used as a weapon after US President Donald Trump threatened to impose more of them in retaliation for China's handling of the novel coronavirus.

Tariffs, in general, hurt all parties involved, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a daily briefing on Wednesday.

"So the United States should stop thinking it can use tariffs as a weapon and a big stick to coerce other countries," she said.

China's economy shrank 6.8 per cent in the first quarter as economic activity largely ground to a halt because of lockdowns ordered to stop the virus, and it would suffer more pain if the United States were to impose more tariffs.

Indonesia

Indonesia has reported 367 new cases of the coronavirus, taking the total to 12,438, says health ministry official Achmad Yurianto.

Twenty three more people who tested positive for the virus have died in the Southeast Asian nation, taking the total number of deaths to 895.

Africa

Kenya

Thousands of Kenyans in Nairobi are at risk of contracting the new coronavirus after authorities demolished their houses in the midst of the pandemic, human rights activists said on Wednesday.

Authorities ordered bulldozers into the Kariobangi informal settlement in northeast Nairobi on Monday, demolishing some 600 homes and forcefully evicting at least 5000 people - including many single mothers and children, said campaigners.

The state-run Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company claims ownership of the land which it says has been illegally occupied since 2008. Evicted residents say they bought the land from the city council and have documents to prove it.

Medical developments

A genetic analysis of samples from more than 7500 people infected with COVID-19 suggests the coronavirus spread quickly around the world late last year and is adapting to its human hosts, scientists say.

A study by scientists at University College London's (UCL) Genetics Institute found almost 200 recurrent genetic mutations of the new coronavirus - SARS-CoV-2 - which the researchers said showed how it may be evolving as it spreads in people.

At least 90,000 health-care workers worldwide are believed to have been infected with COVID-19, and possibly twice that, amid reports of continuing shortages of protective equipment, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) says.

The disease has killed more than 260 nurses, it said in a statement, urging authorities to keep more accurate records to help prevent the virus from spreading among staff and patients.

Reuters / Newshub.

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