The UN warns pandemic, which has killed more than 209,000 people, may cause a ‘human rights disaster’.
- Worldwide, the number of people confirmed to have the coronavirus has risen to more than three million, and at least 209,000 have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Some 884,000 people have recovered.
- Countries around the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Iran and Spain, are moving to ease coronavirus lockdowns as daily infections and deaths slow. Italy has announced it will ease its two-month-old controls from May 4.
- The UN rights chief has warned that countries flouting the rule of law in the name of fighting the novel coronavirus pandemic risk sparking a “human rights disaster”.
- At least 1.3 million Australians have downloaded the government’s COVIDsafe tracing app, as support for Prime Minister Scott Morrison surges thanks to his handling of the outbreak.
Here are the latest updates:
Monday, April 27
22:00 GMT – After on again, off again messages, Trump holds news briefing
Following mix messaging from the White House about whether a US coronavirus taskforce news conference would take place on Monday, Trump held a briefing, answering questions from reporters. The briefing largely centred on how states can expand testing and the efforts to reopen the economy.
Trump also said that the US is doing a serious investigation of China’s actions in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The president said he did not take responsibility for reports of individuals ingesting disinfectants after he suggested last week they could possibly be a treatment for COVID-19.
He also said he expects schools across the country to soon welcome students back to their classrooms even if it is for a short period time. (The majority of the country’s districts have already announced their schools will remain closed through the end of the school year.)
Finally. Trump said he knew how Kim Jong Un was, but he couldn’t talk about it, after being asked about whether he had information about the health of the North Korean leader, who has been noticeably absent from state media.
20:59 GMT – Mexican top official tests positive for coronavirus
The head of Mexico’s public administration ministry, which monitors federal employees, has tested positive for the coronavirus and is in “excellent health and without serious” symptoms, the ministry said in a statement.
That makes Irma Erendira Sandoval the highest ranking member of the Mexican government to test positive so far for the virus.
20:55 GMT – US House will be in session starting May 4
The US House of Representatives will return on May 4, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told fellow Democratic lawmakers in a conference call, according to his office.
“Mr. Hoyer just announced on today’s Caucus conference call that the House will be in session next week, beginning Monday, May 4th, and that votes are possible,” his office said on Twitter.
20:20 GMT – New Zealand plans phased exit from coronavirus lockdown
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has claimed the country scored a significant victory against the spread of the coronavirus as it begins a phased exit from lockdown.
After nearly five weeks at the maximum Level Four restrictions – with only essential services operating – the country will move to Level Three late on Monday.
Read more here.
19:50 GMT – Brazil working to reopen economy, resume football matches soon
Brazil’s government is working on a plan to gradually open up economic activity again, a senior Economy Ministry official said, adding he expects professional football matches to resume behind closed doors soon.
Productivity and competition secretary Carlos da Costa said the government is in talks with the country’s CBF football federation but the timing remained uncertain, while work and pensions secretary Bruno Bianco said government measures to combat the coronavirus crisis have saved around four million jobs.
19:35 GMT – Nigeria to begin ‘phased and gradual’ easing of lockdowns in Lagos, Abuja
Nigeria will begin a “phased and gradual” easing of more than four weeks of lockdowns on May 4, President Muhammadu Buhari said in an address.
Lagos and Ogun states, and the federal capital territory of Abuja, entered lockdowns on March 30.
19:20 GMT – Beach crowds lead California to increase enforcement
California Governor Gavin Newsom said the state would step up enforcement of coronavirus-related public health restrictions after crowds jammed beaches over the weekend.
18:51 GMT – Extra $2bn available for US coronavirus relief loans
The US will be able to lend an additional $2bn to small businesses through its Paycheck Protection Program, after a number of borrowers in the first round of funding for the coronavirus relief declined or returned their loans, the top official on the program said.
“More than $2bn of the first round of Paycheck Protection Program funding was either declined or returned and will be made available during the current application period,” Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza wrote on Twitter.
18:40 GMT – Madagascar: People without face masks forced to sweep streets
Madagascar police have forced citizens caught outside without a coronavirus face mask to sweep pavements as punishment.
On Monday, around 500 people in Antananarivo and Fianarantsoa were penalised, police deputy head Christian Rakotobe said.
Read more here.
18:38 GMT – Iran: Over 700 dead after drinking alcohol to cure coronavirus
More than 700 people have died in Iran after ingesting toxic methanol, erroneously thinking it can cure the new coronavirus.
Read about it here.
18:32 GMT – No ‘V-shaped’ recovery for US economy likely without more stimulus
The US economy needs another, fourth stimulus bill that could push it to take off again in what is commonly called a “V-shaped recovery,” one of the top White House advisers said.
“We’re going to probably need another phase of stimulus of some sort. We’ve built a bridge to the other side of this crisis we believe and it looks like we’re getting close to opening up in many places around the country. With that, we have to think about what’s it going to take to make sure we go back to thriving,” White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said in a Fox News Channel interview.
“And I don’t think that absent another round of stimulus that it’s very likely that you would see a V-shape,” he added.
18:15 GMT – France death toll surpasses 23,000
Coronavirus-related deaths in France rose by 437 to 23,293, the health ministry said in a statement.
The 1.9 percent increase is the highest in four days but well below the more than four percent rate seen 10 days ago.
The number of patients in hospital with coronavirus dropped to 28,055 from 28,217 on Sunday and the number of people in intensive care fell to 4,608 from 4,682 on Sunday.
Both have been on a downward trend for more than 10 days.
17:42 GMT – UK investigating possible link between severe symptoms for children and COVID-19
The UK is examining whether there is a link between an inflammatory disease which severely affects children and COVID-19, a health official said, adding that it was too soon to say whether there was a link.
Health Minister Matt Hancock said he was “very worried” about reports of children struggling with severe symptoms that might have a link to COVID-19.
“We have become aware in the last few days of reports of severe illness in children which might be a Kawasaki-like disease,” Stephen Powis, national medical director for England, said, referring to a syndrome which causes inflammation of blood vessels, adding that the disease was very rare.
17:30 GMT – Turkey’s death toll rises to 2,900
Turkey’s confirmed cases increased by 2,131 in the past 24 hours, and 95 more people have died raising the death toll to 2,900, according to Health Ministry data.
The total number of cases in the country stood at 112,261, the data showed, the highest number for any country outside Western Europe and the US.
16:58 GMT – UK has a ‘very long way’ to go: health official
The UK has a very long way to go in its attempt to contain the coronavirus and people should not just focus on passing through the first peak of cases, the government’s top medical adviser said.
“This has got a very long way to run. I think just thinking about the first peak, which … we have actually managed to go through, we’ve still got some way before it’s falling right off, but there is a long long way to go beyond that,” Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England said.
“It’s a big mistake in my view just to consider just the first phase. We need to look at the epidemic as a whole.”
16:54 GMT – Southern hemisphere countries will have lessons for North
Southern hemisphere countries such as South Africa, Chile, Argentina and Australia need support so they have the capacity to manage both seasonal influenza and the coronavirus, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) expert said.
The experience those countries will have with both diseases circulating at the same time will greatly benefit countries in the northern hemisphere that may face the same situation in six months time, Dr. Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies programme, told a news conference.
16:51 GMT – WHO says US federal plan is clear and science-based
A top World Health Organization (WHO) official said that the US seems to have a “very clearly laid-out”, science-based federal plan for fighting the epidemic.
“The federal government and the system of governors are working together to move America and its people through this very difficult situation,” Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergencies expert, told a virtual briefing in Geneva, adding that the federal system linking 50 states made the situation “complex”.
Ryan repeated an earlier WHO warning against easing restrictions too soon. Speaking specifically about US plans to ease confinement measures, he said: “We believe that the over-arching federal plan seems to be very much based on science.”
16:33 GMT – UK hospital deaths rise by 360, lowest daily death toll for four weeks
Another 360 people have died in British hospitals, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, bringing the total death toll to 21,092.
The 360 increase was the lowest daily death toll for four weeks, although weekend reporting delays can distort Monday totals.
Hancock said that the deaths of 82 health service workers were included in the figures.
16:28 GMT – Erdogan says Turkey will send medical gear to the US
President Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey will send medical gear including protective suits and masks to the US on Tuesday.
Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Erdogan also said a three-day lockdown would be imposed in 31 cities as of Friday, May 1, and that weekend lockdowns would continue until after Eid al-Fitr in late May.
16:21 GMT – Italy’s death toll rises but new cases lowest since March 10
Deaths in Italy rose by 333 against 260 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, but the daily tally of new cases declined to 1,739 from 2,324 on Sunday, the lowest reading since March 10.
The total death toll in Italy since its outbreak came to light on February 21 now stands at 26,977, the agency said, the second highest in the world after the US.
The number of confirmed cases stands at 199,414, the third highest global tally behind the US and Spain.
16:17 GMT – Cuomo to extend stay-at-home order in some parts of New York
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his stay-at-home order will likely be extended beyond May 15 in many parts of the state, but that restrictions could be relaxed in some parts if they have sufficient hospital capacity and meet other criteria.
Cuomo also told a daily briefing that an additional 337 New Yorkers died in the past day, down from 367 a day earlier and the lowest daily death toll since March 30.
16:14 GMT – New York cancels June 23 presidential primary
New York officials made an unprecedented decision to cancel the state’s June 23 presidential primary over coronavirus concerns.
16:10 GMT – Trump slams cities, states seeking relief as ‘poorly run’
US President Donald Trump slammed US cities and states seeking federal aid to offset huge losses, accusing them of being “poorly run” largely by Democrats.
US governors are seeking $500bn in US funding from Congress as lawmakers weigh another possible relief bill, saying the money is needed to cover the costs of responding to the outbreak as well as revenue lost while residents shelter in place.
“Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help? I am open to discussing anything, but just asking?” Trump, a Republican, tweeted.
16:01 GMT – Canada’s death toll rises by five percent in a day
Canada’s death toll rose by five percent to 2,617 in a day, according to official data posted by the public health agency.
Confirmed cases of coronavirus rose to 47,327, according to a statement.
On Sunday there were 2,489 deaths and 45,791 positive diagnoses.
15:50 GMT – US trucking squeezed by coronavirus
Lockdowns to stem the spread of COVID-19 are reducing loads for truckers as well as the rates they are paid.
Read Abubakr Al-Shamahi’s story here.
15:47 GMT – US stocks rise as states ease restrictions
United States stock markets opened in the green as investors focused on states reopening parts of their economies despite more dire warnings that the US economy is likely facing its hardest knock since the Great Depression.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up nearly 80 points or 0.33 percent in early morning trading on Wall Street. The S&P 500 – a proxy for the health of US retirement and college savings accounts – was up 0.6 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index was up 0.78 percent.
Read Radmilla Suleymanova’s story here.
15:30 GMT – WHO warns over COVID-19 impact on other health services
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), said the agency was deeply concerned over the effect COVID-19 wil have on other health services, especially for children, and vaccine-preventable diseases.
In a press briefing in Geneva, Tedros said that Gavi Alliance estimated that 21 countries were already facing vaccine shortages due to border restrictions and other factors.
14:57 GMT – UK offers 100 percent state-backed loans to smallest firms
Rishi Sunak, UK finance minister, said the government would provide 100 percent guarantees on loans to the UK’s smallest businesses in the latest move to shield the economy and workers from the shutdown.
Sunak, who has faced criticism for slow progress in getting government-backed credit to companies and had previously opposed 100 percent state guarantees, said the government would pay the interest on loans of up to 50,000 pounds ($62,010.00) on behalf of firms for the first 12 months.
14:53 GMT – UK offers public the chance to ask ministers questions
The UK government said it will give a member of the public the chance to ask ministers, scientific and medical officers a question at its daily briefing.
Hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to give the public “the maximum possible transparency”, the government asked the public to get involved.
The government said in a statement that anyone could apply on the https://www.gov.uk/ask website as long as they were over 18 and that the question would be reviewed at midday on the day of the news conference.
Only one question would be chosen each day and if selected, the person would be contacted by 3pm (14:00 GMT).
14:36 GMT – White House says task force to resume briefings later this week
US President Donald Trump will hold a press availability on Monday as he meets with chief executives and industry leaders but the White House coronavirus task force will not hold a briefing, a White House spokeswoman said.
The task force will resume briefings later in the week as the administration enters the reopening phase, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters.
14:25 GMT – $1 testing kits: Senegal’s approach to COVID-19
From early-detection mobile kits to 3D printed ventilators, the West African nation is demonstrating a possible model in curbing COVID-19, relying on their experience of managing the Ebola outbreak.
14:03 GMT – Gaza restaurants reopen
Restaurants and cafes in Gaza were allowed to reopen from Monday, the economy ministry announced, following pleas from restaurant owners to ease economic suffering.
Based on health ministry recommendations, restaurants must continue to observe social distancing rules, it said in a statement.
Since mid-March, Gaza’s Hamas government has imposed strict measures to avoid a widespread outbreak of the coronavirus.
This is Mersiha Gadzo in Doha taking over the live updates from my colleague Usaid Siddiqui.
12:55 – Thirty workers on Equatorial Guinea offshore oil platform test positive
Thirty workers at an offshore oil platform in Equatorial Guinea have tested positive for the new coronavirus, two sources close to the ministry told Reuters news agency.
The workers on the Serpentina floating production storage and offloading platform have since been evacuated back onshore and are in quarantine, while operator Exxon Mobil and government officials are working to disinfect the platform.
Oil production has not been impacted, the sources said.
12:50 GMT – Netherlands reports 400 new cases, 43 deaths
The Netherlands’ number of confirmed coronavirus cases has risen by 400 to 38,245 health authorities said, with 43 new deaths.
The country’s death toll stands at 4,518, the Netherlands’ Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said in its daily update.
The RIVM cautioned it only reports confirmed cases, and actual numbers are higher.
12:40 GMT – Sweden ambassador: Stockholm could reach herd immunity by May
Sweden’s ambassador to the United States has said the capital of the Nordic country could reach herd immunity by May – a result of a controversial response to the coronavirus pandemic involving few public restrictions.
“About 30 percent of people in Stockholm have reached a level of immunity,” Karin Ulrika Olofsdotter told National Public Radio (NPR).
“We could reach herd immunity in the capital as early as next month,” Olofsdotter said in the interview published on Sunday.
Read more here.
12:30 GMT – UK PM Johnson to meet Labour leader, parties to build consensus
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson with meet the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, this week and other party leaders next week, his spokesman has said, part of efforts to build consensus over plans to ease a coronavirus lockdown.
“The PM will be continuing cross-party engagement that has been taking place throughout the last several weeks,” the spokesman told reporters.
“He plans to speak with the leader of the opposition this week and the leaders of all the Westminster parties next week hopefully alongside the chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser.”
12:15 GMT – Pandemic exacts heavy toll on UK’s Somali community
Hanna Ali, a volunteer who works with several community organisations, has been exceptionally busy since the epidemic began in the United Kingdom.
Much of her time is spent sharing information in Somali in the hope that every family gets access to life-saving messages.
“There are now almost daily announcements of Somali lives lost or hospitalised due to COVID-19,” she told Al Jazeera.
The virus has claimed the lives of Somalis in Britain from all ages and backgrounds – from 13-year-old Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab and former Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, 83, to popular musician Ahmed Ismail Hussein Hudeidi, 91.
Read more here.
12:00 GMT – Trump admin considering protocols to keep US factories open: Adviser
The Trump administration is focusing on protocols to keep US factories open as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus outbreak, including screening workers for potential cases, White House adviser Peter Navarro has said.
“We’re trying to figure out the best protocols to keep our factories going,” Navarro said in an interview on Fox News. “We’re going to have to use appropriate protocols, different social distancing. You’re going to have to reconfigure factories. ”
11:45 GMT – Belgium admits lowest number of patients to hospital since lockdown began
Belgian hospitals have admitted the lowest number of COVID-19 patients since the start of the lockdown almost seven weeks ago, figures showed on Monday, a week before the country starts to ease restrictions.
In an encouraging sign, the number of hospital admissions, a key number to monitor the disease’s evolution, fell to 127 on Sunday, the lowest level since March 18. Daily admissions peaked at over 600 at the end of March and have hovered at around 200 for the past week.
The number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases also declined to a month low of 553, although health officials said the decline might be in part due to a weekend effect.
Read more here about how Belgium has been able to control the virus.
11:30 GMT – Indian medical body asks states to stop using test kits from two Chinese firms
India’s federal medical research agency has asked state government to stop using coronavirus testing equipment brought from China because of conflicting results.
More than half a million kits for testing for antibodies to coronavirus were ordered from China this month as a way to ramp up India’s screening. But the Indian Council of Medical Research said several states had complained about the quality of the equipment from two firms and these need to be sent back to China.
“ICMR, thereafter, has also evaluated the kits of Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech and Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics. The results have shown wide variation in their sensitivity, despite early promise of good performance for surveillance purposes.”
“In view of this, States are advised to stop using these kits procured from above mentioned companies and return them to be sent back to the suppliers,” it said.
11:15 GMT – Coronavirus forces delay in US extradition case against Assange
Hearings in the United States extradition case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will not go ahead next month as scheduled because of the coronavirus lockdown which prevents lawyers from attending court, a British judge decided.
The 48-year-old is held at London’s Belmarsh Prison where he is fighting a request by the United States to send him to stand trial for conspiring to hack government computers and espionage.
Assange was dragged from the Ecuador embassy in London last year after a seven-year stand-off.
He says he could spend decades in prison if convicted, and calls the case against him political and a threat to free speech. The US says he put the lives of informants in danger by publishing secrets.
11:05 GMT – China police detain three linked to censored coronavirus archive
Chinese police have detained two people who contributed to an online archive of censored articles about the coronavirus outbreak, a friend and a family member of one told Reuters.
The two – Chen Mei and Cai Wei – have been out of contact since April 19, when police detained them in Beijing, Chen Kun, Chen Mei’s brother, told Reuters.
Cai was held on charges of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble”, on a notice from Chaoyang district police in Beijing, Chen Kun said, an accusation often used against political activists in China.
Chen Kun said he did not know what charges, if any, his brother was held on.
A third person, Cai’s girlfriend, surnamed Tang, was held on similar charges, Chen Kun said, although it was not immediately clear if she was directly involved in the archive project.
Chen Mei, 27, and Cai, who are old friends, were volunteers with a project called Terminus2049, an open-source archive that keeps records of censored articles from Chinese media on Github, a coding platform, Chen Kun said.
In recent months, the project has been active in making records of articles on the coronavirus outbreak, which originated in the central city of Wuhan late last year.
10:35 GMT – Pandemic could create ‘human rights disaster’: UN
The UN rights chief warned that countries flouting the rule of law in the name of fighting the novel coronavirus pandemic risk sparking a “human rights disaster”.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on countries to refrain from violating fundamental rights “under the guise of exceptional or emergency measures.”
“Emergency powers should not be a weapon governments can wield to quash dissent, control the population, and even perpetuate their time in power,” she warned in a statement.
“They should be used to cope effectively with the pandemic – nothing more, nothing less.”
10:18 GMT – Over 200 Cuban health experts arrive in South Africa for virus fight
More than 200 Cuban doctors and health workers arrived in South Africa on Monday to help the fight against coronavirus, the presidency said.
“217 Cuban health specialists and workers have arrived in South Africa today… to assist with the fight to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the presidency said in a statement.
It is the second country in the region to receive medical support from Cuba after Angola.
South Africa has the highest number of coronavirus cases on the continent with 4,546 infections, of which 87 have been fatal.
10:15 GMT – India reports positive results from lockdown
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has said the monthlong ongoing lockdown has yielded positive results and that the country has managed to save “thousands of lives”.
Modi, who had a videoconference with various heads of the states, said the impact of the coronavirus, however, will remain visible in the coming months, according to a press statement released by his office.
During the meeting with state heads, Modi advocated for social distancing of at least two yards (6 feet) and the use of face masks as a rapid response to tackle COVID-19.
India has confirmed over 27,000 cases of the coronavirus, including 872 deaths.
10:10 GMT – Spain counts 331 new virus deaths in 24 hours: government
Spain counted another 331 new virus deaths, with the overnight toll rising by several dozen from its lowest level in more than a month.
The figure raised the overall toll to 23,521 in Spain, which has suffered the world’s third-highest number of deaths but which on Sunday began easing the conditions of its lockdown, allowing children out to play for the first time in six weeks.
09:05 GMT – Boris Johnson ‘cannot spell out’ how UK lockdown will ease
After suffering from a severe case of coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to work to the biggest dilemma of his premiership: how to lift the lockdown that is destroying swathes of the British economy without triggering a deadly second wave of the outbreak.
Speaking outside Downing Street early on Monday, he said the government “simply cannot spell out” when or how restrictive measures will ease, but offered hope by adding progress was being made with fewer hospital admissions and that the UK was “passing the peak”.
Read more here.
08:45 GMT – Bangladesh restarts some garment factories
More than 500 garment factories in Bangladesh have reopened after a month-long shutdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, while in India calls grew for an easing of its lockdown, which has caused deep economic pain.
Factories in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong have been permitted to resume work. Some of the world’s biggest clothing firms, including Gap Inc, Zara-owner Inditex and H&M, source their supplies from Bangladesh.
Industry groups for the sector, which boasts some 4,000 factories employing 4.1 million workers, had warned the shutdown could lose the country $6bn in export revenue this financial year.
Bangladesh has reported more than 5,000 cases of the coronavirus and 145 deaths.
08:25 GMT – Philippines’ coronavirus death toll rises to 511, cases to 7,777: Ministry
The Philippines has reported 198 new coronavirus cases and 10 more deaths, bringing the country’s tally to 7,777 cases and 511 fatalities.
The Department of Health also said 70 individuals have recovered from the infection, bringing the total number of recoveries to 932.
08:05 GMT – Motor racing-French Grand Prix cancelled due to pandemic
The French Formula One Grand Prix scheduled for June 28 at Le Castellet has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organisers said in a statement.
The Formula One season has yet to start, but the race at the southern circuit is the 10th to be affected by the new coronavirus.
07:25 GMT – Travellers from Saudi Arabia, Russia banned from entering Japan: Abe
Effective Wednesday, Japan is adding 14 more countries – including Russia and Saudi Arabia – to an entry ban to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.
The move brings the total number of countries and territories covered to 87.
Travellers from China, the United States and all of Europe are restricted from entering Japan under the measures.
07:05 GMT – Children return to school in Norway
Norway, which says it has the pandemic under control, reopened primary schools to the youngest students in a step toward a gradual normalisation, though some parents expressed concern.
One week after nursery schools, pupils aged six to 10 started returning to their schools after six weeks of remote learning. Classes were, however, reduced to a maximum of 15 students.
Norway has progressively begun lifting restrictions imposed on March 12 to combat the coronavirus.
06:44 GMT – Britain making good progress with antibody tests: Junior minister
The UK is continuing to explore whether antibody tests can be used in the fight against COVID-19 and is hopeful they will work, Minister of State for Health Edward Argar said.
“Tests continue to be tested, the sign at the moment is positive, but we’re not there yet in saying this is 100 percent going to work,” he told Talk Radio.
“We are continuing to research at pace … we are making very good progress now and I am hopeful we will see some positive news on that front.”
06:20 GMT – Pakistan extends flight ban until May 15
Pakistan has extended a ban on all international flights into and out of the country, with certain exceptions, until May 15, the country’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced.
“As per decision taken by the government of Pakistan, suspension of operation of all international passenger, chartered and private aircraft inbound flights to Pakistan is extended upto Friday, May 15, 2020,” said a Notice to Airmen issued by the CAA.
“The only exception to the above would be the diplomatic, special/cargo flights and flights of national carrier to/from Pakistan holding special approval from the competent authority for transporting stranded passengers, however, passengers onboard any or all inbound flights shall be subjected to thorough checking as per established procedures including screening, swab testing and isolation/quarantine as per the advice of the health professionals.”
The government has been allowing flights to bring home Pakistanis stranded overseas, as well as for foreign nationals to return to their home countries through flights arranged by their respective governments.
Hello, this is Usaid Siddiqui in Doha taking over from my colleague Kate Mayberry.
05:45 GMT – Germany, Thailand, Pakistan report latest coronavirus cases
A number of countries have been updating their data on the coronavirus.
Thailand has reported nine new cases and one death, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute has reported 1,018 new cases and 110 deaths while Pakistan has reported 605 new cases with total deaths rising to 281.
Pakistan has also said it will introduce a test-trace-quarantine programme, according to Al Jazeera’s Asad Hashim who reports the policy was approved at a high-level meeting last week.
“It is a new policy under which the provincial governments, with the support of district administrations, will locate the contacts of the confirmed cases and test them,” said Zafar Mirza, the country’s de facto health minister. “If any are found to be positive, they will be quarantined.”
04:45 GMT – South Korea investigating how patients get coronavirus again
South Korea has made great strides in tackling the coronavirus with daily cases now well below 20, but it has also found people who were thought to have recovered from the virus getting it again.
Finding out whether it is reinfection or reactivation could be crucial for efforts to develop a vaccine.
Read the story from Kelly Kasulis in Seoul.
03:25 GMT – New Zealanders prepare to emerge from strict lockdown
New Zealand was preparing on Monday to emerge from a month-long lockdown that was among the world’s strictest.
The country will move from Level 4 restrictions to Level 3 at midnight (12:00 GMT).
Parliament and the courts will reopen, and about 400,000 people are expected to return to work under stringent conditions. Some children will also be able to go to school. Delivery services – suspended under Level 4 – will also resume.
02:40 GMT – Osaka to ‘name and shame’ pachinko parlours that continue to open
Japan’s Osaka Prefecture has said it will “name and shame” pachinko parlours that continue to operate despite being told to close under coronavirus restrictions.
Pachinko parlours, with their closely packed lines of gaming machines, are common throughout Japan and known for their loud music and flashing lights.
“They are big, and we know who they are,” said a spokesman for the prefecture.
On Friday, it identified six pachinko parlours in operation; three have now closed.
02:30 GMT – China reports just three new cases on mainland
China’s National Health Commission said on Monday the mainland had confirmed just three new cases of coronavirus and no new deaths.
Of the new cases, two were among people returning from overseas, while the other was in the northern province of Heilongjiang, bordering Russia.
02:00 GMT – Australians rush to download tracing app, gov’t popularity surges
Some 1.3 million Australians have downloaded the government’s COVIDSafe tracing app since it was launched on Sunday.
Health Minister Greg Hunt says the app is necessary to help “disease experts find people who might have been exposed” and that its adoption had exceeded expectations.
The surge in downloads as a new poll showed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s approval rating rise to 68 percent on his handling of the outbreak, the highest approval rating for an Australian leader since 2008.
I downloaded #COVIDSafe. I don’t regard govt as malign, I regard it as essential. Didn’t vote for this mob + have plenty of criticism but we’re a democracy. That means we all give and take. My ‘right’ to privacy gives way to responsibility to other ppl rn. Society > self.
00:45 GMT – Iran to reopen mosques in coronavirus-free areas
Iran plans to reopen mosques in parts of the country that have been consistently free of coronavirus infections, President Hassan Rouhani announced.
The country will be divided into white, yellow and red regions, depending on the number of cases and deaths. In “white” areas, mosques will be allowed to reopen and resume Friday prayers, according to the presidency’s website.
00:30 GMT – Italy’s Conte announces lockdown easing from May 4
Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has announced that the second phase of Italy’s lockdown will begin from May 4.
Under the plans, bars and restaurants will be able to provide takeaway as well as delivery services, and people will be allowed to move around their own regions, but not beyond. Factories and construction sites will also be able to resume work, providing they respected physical distancing and other health protocols.
“We expect a very complex challenge,” Conte said. “We will live within the virus, and we will have to adopt every precaution possible.”
Museums and galleries can reopen from May 18, when sports teams will also be allowed to resume group training.
00:00 GMT – Trump rejects reports he plans to fire health secretary
US President Donald Trump has rejected – in a tweet – reports that he plans to fire Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.
Trump described the reports as “Fake News” and said Azar was doing an “excellent job”.
Reports that H.H.S. Secretary @AlexAzar is going to be “fired” by me are Fake News. The Lamestream Media knows this, but they are desperate to create the perception of chaos & havoc in the minds of the public. They never even called to ask. Alex is doing an excellent job!
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.
Read all the latest updates from yesterday (April 26) here.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES
Officials in South Korea are calling for caution amid reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be ill, emphasising that they have detected no unusual movements across the border in the north.
At a closed-door forum on Sunday, South Korea’s Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, who oversees engagement with the North, said the government has the intelligence capabilities to say with confidence that there was nothing unusual happening.
Rumours and speculation over the North Korean leader’s health began after he did not appear at a key state holiday on April 15. He has not been seen in public since.
South Korea media last week reported that Kim may have undergone cardiovascular surgery or was in isolation to avoid exposure to the new coronavirus.
However, they did carry reports that he had sent a message of gratitude to workers building a tourist resort in Wonsan, an area where some South Korean media reports have said Kim may be staying.
“Our government position is firm,” Moon Chung-in, the top foreign policy adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said in comments to news outlets in the United States.
“Kim Jong Un is alive and well. He has been staying in the Wonsan area since April 13. No suspicious movements have so far been detected.”
Satellite images from last week showed a special train possibly belonging to Kim at Wonsan, lending weight to those reports, according to 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project.
Though the group said it was probably the North Korean leader’s personal train, Reuters news agency has not been able to confirm that independently, or whether he was in Wonsan.
A spokeswoman for the Unification Ministry said on Monday she had nothing to confirm when asked about reports that Kim was in Wonsan.
Last week China dispatched a team to North Korea including medical experts to advise on Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with the situation.
Reuters was unable to immediately determine what the trip by the Chinese team signalled in terms of Kim’s health.
Experts have cautioned that Kim has disappeared from state media coverage before and that gathering accurate information in North Korea is notoriously difficult.
North Korea’s state media last reported on Kim’s whereabouts when he presided over a meeting on April 11.
Kim, believed to be 36, vanished from state media for more than a month in 2014 and North Korean state TV later showed him walking with a limp.
SOURCE: REUTERS NEWS AGENCY
Authorities in five southern provinces in Yemen have rejected a separatist group’s claim to self-rule, further heightening tensions among ostensible allies in the Saudi-led coalition battling Houthi rebels elsewhere in the country.
The separatists’ Southern Transitional Council (STC), which is backed by the United Arab Emirates, scrapped a peace deal with the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and declared a state of emergency overnight.
The separatists said they would “self-govern” the key southern port city of Aden and other southern provinces, accusing the government of corruption and mismanagement.
The STC seeks the return of the independent state that existed in the south until 1990.
Yemen’s internationally recognised government rejected the STC’s self-governance, and described the move as a continuation of the armed rebellion that started last August.
The government said local and security authorities in the provinces of Hadramout, Abyan, Shabwa, al-Mahra and the remote island of Socotra dismissed the move as a “clear and definite coup”.
Some of the provinces issued their own statements condemning it.
The authority to declare an emergency lies with the president only, and militias cannot replace state institutions, Shabwa security forces said in a written statement.
The administration of Hadramout, the biggest province in the south, said the STC’s announcement is “a violation of legitimacy and the Riyadh Agreement”, referring to a 2019 power-sharing deal between the separatists and the Yemeni government.
Abyan and Socotra administrations called for loyalty to the president, while the local authorities of al-Mahra province said the STC’s step aimed to deepen the crisis already existing in the country.
The STC did not immediately comment on the statements from the five provinces.
Saudis ‘caught in the middle’
In August, STC-aligned forces seized control of Aden, the temporary seat of Hadi’s government. The STC and the Yemeni government later agreed on a power-sharing deal. Brokered by Saudi Arabia, the agreement included arrangements for a government reshuffle and for military and security forces to be incorporated into the defence and interior ministries, although it has not been fully implemented.
Peter Salisbury, a Yemen expert at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank, said tensions between Hadi’s government and the separatists have been rising for months.
He said both sides have exchanged accusations of noncompliance with the peace deal, and were building up forces with intent to resume infighting.
He said Saudi Arabia, which brokered the power-sharing deal and had been overseeing its implementation, was expected to intervene.
“Each side wants the Saudis to support its narrative and Riyadh is really caught in the middle right now,” Salisbury said.
Catherine Shakdam, head of the Yemen department at the London-based Next Century Foundation, a peacebuilding think tank, told Al Jazeera that the main issue for Saudi Arabia has to do with the fact that it has backed the Hadi government.
“Hadi has lost whatever legitimacy he may have had at some point. We need to remember that the only legitimacy that he had was, in fact, given by the international community,” Shakdam said.
“There was an understanding that if he wasn’t supported by the international community, then de facto sovereignty would fall onto the Houthi movement,” she added.
Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when the Houthis took control of the country’s north, including the capital, Sanaa, and drove Hadi from power.
A Saudi-led military coalition intervened against the rebels in an attempt to restore the government the following year.
The conflict has killed more than 100,000 people and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medical shortages.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES