Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 from around the world - Saturday, May 23

South America has become a new epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic with Brazil hardest-hit, while cases are rising in some African countries that so far have a relatively low death toll, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

"In a sense South America has become a new epicentre for the disease," Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO's top emergencies expert, told a news conference, adding Brazil is "clearly the most affected".

Ryan noted Brazilian authorities have approved broad use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine for treatment of COVID-19. He reiterated that current clinical evidence does not support the unproven drug's widespread use against the new disease, given its risks.

So far 338,000 people have been killed by the disease, with millions infected. 

Here's the latest from around the world overnight.

Europe

United Kingdom

Britain will introduce a COVID-19 quarantine for travellers arriving from abroad from June 8, Interior Minister Priti Patel said on Friday, a measure that airlines have warned will devastate their industry.

All international arrivals, including returning Britons, will be required to self-isolate for 14 days and provide details of where they will be staying to the authorities.

Patel said those who breach the quarantine in England could be fined £1,000 pounds, and that spot checks would be carried out by health and border officials.

The quarantine measures will not apply to those arriving from the Irish Republic, and there are also exemptions for freight drivers, medical professionals and seasonal agricultural workers.

Spain

Bars and restaurants prepared on Friday to re-open in Madrid on Monday as the government continued with its lockdown easing plan to allow outdoor dining and gatherings of up to 10 people.

Spain, one of the world's worst-hit countries with 27,940 registered fatalities and 233,037 infections, introduced its lockdowns on March 14. As people have been confined at home, the rate of new fatalities has steadily fallen to fewer than 100 deaths a day.

Russia

Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia's southern region of Chechnya, is suspected of having contracted the new coronavirus and is receiving treatment in a Moscow hospital, three Russian new agencies reported.

The TASS news agency, quoting an unnamed medical source, said the condition of Kadyrov, who is 43, was stable, but provided no further details.

Asia

Thailand

Thailand has reported no new coronavirus infections or deaths, maintaining the total of 3037 confirmed cases and 56 fatalities since the outbreak started in January.

There are 2910 patients who have recovered and returned home since the outbreak started, the government's coronavirus task force said in an update on Friday.

Singapore

Singapore's confirmed coronavirus cases has reached 30,426 as the Ministry of Health announced 664 new infections.

The ministry said the "vast majority" of Friday's cases are foreign migrant workers living in dozens of crowded dormitories that emerged as hotbeds for transmission in late March

A summary published by the ministry on Thursday shows a cumulative 27,541 cases in dormitories, where over 300,000 mostly young male immigrants from across Asia reside while working in sectors such as security and construction.

Despite Singapore's miniscule size - a population of around 5.8 million that includes 1.4 million foreigners and crammed onto 724 square kilometres - it has confirmed more cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, than any country in East Asia outside China.

Americas

United States

US President Donald Trump has urged state governors to allow the reopening this weekend in the United States of places of worship which have been closed due to the coronavirus, warning that he will override governors who do not do so.

At a short appearance in the White House briefing room, Trump said he was declaring that places of worship - churches, synagogues and mosques - are providing essential services and thus should be opened as soon as possible.

Places of worship have been closed as part of stay-at-home orders most states have tried to control the spread of the coronavirus. With the infection rate declining in many areas, there is pressure to begin reopening.

Trump issued a warning to governors who refuse his appeal but did not say under what authority he would act to force the reopening of religious facilities.

"If they don't do it I will override the governors. In America we need more prayer, not less," he said.

The Vila Formosa cemetery, where the dead bodies of the coronavirus pandemic victims are buried in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The Vila Formosa cemetery, where the dead bodies of the coronavirus pandemic victims are buried in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo credit: Getty

Brazil

There is not enough clinical evidence to support the use of hydroxychloroquine against coronavirus until more trials have been completed, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

Speaking on the rise of coronavirus cases across South America and in Brazil, where the government has approved the use of the anti-malarial drug to combat COVID-19, Mike Ryan, head of WHO's Emergencies Programme, said South America was now considered the new epicentre of the pandemic.

Also speaking at the briefing via video call, UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said Some 80 million children worldwide could be at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases like diphtheria, measles and polio due to disruption of routine immunization during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We cannot let our fight against one disease come at the expense of long-term progress in our fight against other diseases," said Fore.

Argentina

Coronavirus cases are surging in Argentina and are close to 10,000, the government announced on Friday.

Undersecretary of Health Strategy, Alejandro Costa, said there are 9,931 cases in the country, 648 infections registered in the past 24 hours.

Guatemala

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei has criticised the United States for sending back migrants infected with the coronavirus to his Central American country and straining its weak health system.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, and Giammattei's attempts to curb deportation flights from the United States, the administration of US President Donald Trump has been sending Guatemalan migrants back to their home country.

Of the deportees, 119 have tested positive for the virus, 5 percent of the country's 2512 cases.

"We understand that the United States wants to deport people, but what we do not understand is why they send us flights full of infection," Giammattei said in an online talk hosted by the Atlantic Council's Adrienne Arsht Latin America Centre.

"We've had serious problems with deported people," he said. "We haven't been treated by the United States in a way that I'd say is kind, in relation to the deportees."

Giammattei, 64, a retired doctor who walks with crutches because of multiple sclerosis, also said the United States had sent not "even a mask" during the pandemic.

Pacific

Australia

Disagreements have emerged over whether to re- open borders between states.

Prime minister Scott Morrison wants inter-state travel to resume by the end of July.

Reuters / Newshub.

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