Coronavirus live news: New Zealand traces 320 ‘close contacts’ of pair in quarantine breach

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “WHO halts trial of hydroxychloroquine; Germany bans all major events until October – as it happened” was written by Helen Sullivan (now and earlier); Kevin Rawlinson , Josh Halliday, and Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 17th June 2020 23.19 UTC

12.17am BST

We’ve launched a new blog at the link below – head there for the latest:

12.01am BST

New Zealand GDP fell 1.6% in first quarter, biggest since 1991

Radio New Zealand reports that the country’s GDP fell by 1.6% in the first quarter.

It was the first contraction in growth since late 2010 and the biggest single quarterly fall since 1991.

Most sectors of the economy contracted with the biggest in construction, retail and travel.

The number was worse than expected and the economy shrank by 0.2% in the year ended March.

However, economists are warning the second quarter to June will show the major impact on growth with expectations of a fall of as much as 20%.

11.48pm BST

Argentina’s president enters voluntary isolation amid coronavirus surge

Uki Goñi reports for the Guardian from Buenos Aires:

Argentina’s president Alberto Fernández has gone into voluntary isolation amid growing concerns over a surge of coronavirus infections, including several cases among the country’s political elite.

The decision to quarantine the president – whose popularity is riding high on his no-nonsense response to the pandemic – was taken due to the “significant increase in the circulation of the virus,” presidential doctor Federico Saavedra said in a statement on Wednesday.

Until now, Argentina’s strong coronavirus lockdown, had been a standout success in the containment of the pandemic that is ripping through its South American neighbours Brazil and Chile.

But that may start changing after Argentina’s reported cases more than quadrupled in the last month following the gradual lockdown relaxation that began on 10 May.

11.29pm BST

The video conferencing platform Zoom announced on Wednesday it has reversed course and decided to provide end-to-end encryption to all customers, not just those who pay for a subscription.

The video platform exploded in popularity after coronavirus-related lockdowns and is now seeing as many as 300 million daily users, up from just 10 million in December.

Zoom faced criticism from civil rights groups for its plans to exclude free calls from encryption services, which secure communication so it can only be read by the users involved.

The company’s CEO, Eric Yuan, had explained that Zoom planned to exclude free calls from end-to-end encryption to make sure it is still possible to “work together with FBI, with local law enforcement in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose”.

But “basic security shouldn’t be a premium feature that’s only available to wealthy individuals and big corporations,” Evan Greer, the deputy director at the digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future, said at the time.

Zoom changed its decision after speaking with civil liberties organizations, child safety advocates, encryption experts, government representatives, and users, Yuan said in a statement announcing the change. The enhanced encryption will be available starting in July.

11.21pm BST

I’ll be bringing you the latest coronavirus news for the next few hours.

It would be great to hear from you on Twitter @helenrsullivan or via email: helen.sullivan@theguardian.com – questions, comments, tips and news from your part of the world are most welcome.

11.15pm BST

Hi, Helen Sullivan joining you now, and bringing you this important news:

Australia and New Zealand have begun negotiations on a free trade agreement with the UK in what the Australian trade minister said was “a strong signal of our mutual support for free trade” in a post-Covid-19 world.

Boris Johnson hailed the opening of trade talks with Australia as an opportunity to bring the two countries closer together, and to exchange Penguin bars for Arnott’s Tim Tams with reduced tariffs. ‘How long can the British people be deprived of the opportunity to have Tim Tams at a reasonable price?’ the prime minister joked:

Updated at 11.20pm BST

10.07pm BST

Summary

Here’s a summary of the latest developments:

  • The global death toll from coronavirus is approaching half a million people, with more than 8.2 million confirmed cases of the disease worldwide. The Johns Hopkins University tracker is recording more than 445,000 deaths from Covid-19 across the world, as of Wednesday evening UK time. One in four fatalities are in the US, making it by far the worst-hit country.
  • The cheap steroid British researchers believe can help save lives should be used only for the most serious cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. The WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said research was at last providing “green shoots of hope”.
  • America’s top public health expert has warned the nation it is “still in the first wave” of coronavirus infections and deaths, as six states report record numbers of new cases amid continued rapid easing of lockdown restrictions. However, the state of New York recorded 17 coronavirus deaths on 16 June, its lowest daily death toll since the start of the outbreak. Just 10 weeks ago 800 New Yorkers died in a single day, so the decline is extraordinary.
  • Germany has agreed to ban large events, including festivals and fairs, for another four months to guard against a second spike in cases. Chancellor Angela Merkel held a meeting of all 16 state premiers where they agreed to extend the ban on big events until at least the end of October.
  • Millions of people in Beijing are living under renewed restrictions as a spike in virus cases continues. The city reported another 31 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 137 in the past week. Before the recent spike, the Chinese capital had gone 57 days without a locally-transmitted case.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has halted trials of the malaria drug championed by Donald Trump for treating coronavirus. WHO said it had stopped testing hydroxychloroquine as part of its multi-country trial because it had showed no benefit. It comes two days after US regulators revoked the emergency authorisation for its use, amid growing evidence it doesn’t work and could cause serious side-effects.
  • WHO welcomed the UK’s successful trial of dexamethasone, the low-cost anti-inflammatory drug found to save lives when used on coronavirus patients. The global body said it marked a “lifesaving breakthrough” in the fight against the virus and ordered its own analysis on the drug. However, some scientists – including South Korea’s top public health official – expressed caution on the drug.

10.03pm BST

Roche Holding AG’s Actemra did not improve symptoms in patients with early-stage Covid-19 pneumonia, scientists conducting a study of the drug in Italy have said. The revelation raises questions about the potential of the Swiss drugmakers’ rheumatoid arthritis drug to treat the infection.

The study compared patients who received anti-inflammation drug Actemra to those given standard treatment, and concluded that Actemra did not reduce severe respiratory symptoms, intensive care visits, or death.

According to Reuters, the trial ended early after enrolling 126 patients, about one third of the expected number, according to a press release issued by the groups that conducted the study.

9.43pm BST

In the US, the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has accused the incumbent Donald Trump of “surrendering” to the pandemic and failing to stay prepared for a resurgence that could put a US economic recovery at risk.

American people sacrificed so much to fight this virus … we may lose some the progress we’ve begun to make. All because he’s lost interest. Now he’s just flat surrendering the fight.

Trump is eager to reopen the economy and resume political campaigning even as the number of cases has started to rise again, with record increases reported this week in the states of Oklahoma, Texas and Oregon.

The president is planning his first rally since people were forced to stay at home three months ago in heavily Republican Oklahoma, over the objections of public health officials. Biden said:

He’s so eager to get back to campaign rallies that he*s putting people at risk.

9.09pm BST

Citizens and residents of the United Arab Emirates will be allowed to travel to countries deemed low-risk for catching the virus from next Tuesday, local officials have said.

Prospective travellers must test negative and must quarantine on their return to the UAE for up to 14 days, a spokesman for the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority has said.

Saif Al Dhaheri said airport authorities will check travellers for symptoms. Those with a fever or showing respiratory problems will be isolated and barred from travel.

Dhaheri did not give a list of countries for each risk category, but said all travel to high-risk countries would remain banned.

Travel to medium-risk countries would be allowed on a case-by-case basis, for people seeking health treatment, visiting immediate family or those on military, diplomatic or official business.

8.59pm BST

Sudan has extended the lockdown in the state of Khartoum to 29 June as it tries to curb the virus’ spread, its Security and Defence Council has said. Khartoum state, including the capital, is the Arab African country’s most populous.

Curfew hours will remain unchanged, from 3pm until 6am (CAT), the council said after approving the recommendations of its Supreme Committee for Health Emergencies.

Sudan will start a process to bring back stranded expatriates through flights and border crossings starting from Sunday, the statement said.

Those who do not have medical certificates proving that they are not carrying the virus will be transferred to quarantine centres until they can be tested, it added.

Last week, Sudan extended the closure of airports to international and internal scheduled commercial flights until 28 June. The country had reported 7,435 cases as of Saturday, including 468 deaths.

8.04pm BST

The borders of more than a dozen countries in West Africa could be reopened within weeks under proposals from government ministers there.

The measures could be in place in the first half of July, with travellers from other countries with low or controlled levels of coronavirus spread allowed in by the end of the month.

Members of the 15-country ECOWAS trade bloc have imposed varying levels of travel restrictions in response to the pandemic, with many shutting their borders entirely.

The new proposal, contained in an ECOWAS summary of a virtual meeting last week of foreign ministers and trade ministers, called for coordinated efforts to re-open cross-border trade.

It said a first phase consisting of opening up domestic air and land transport should be implemented this month. Many governments in the region have already begun to do so.

A second phase, involving the opening of land, air and maritime borders within the region, should happen by 15 July at the latest.

A third phase, involving the opening of air and land borders to “countries with low and controlled levels of Covid-19 contamination rates”, should occur by 31 July but will depend on the evolution of the pandemic, the report said.

7.41pm BST

France’s death toll rose by 28 to 29,575 on Wednesday, a figure more in line with the current trend after a spike in deaths on Tuesday due to the inclusion of weekly data for nursing homes.

Yet the number of new confirmed cases was at a four-day high of 458, at 158,174, and slightly above the daily average of 434 seen over the last seven days.

On Tuesday, the death toll was up by 111 but that figure included 73 fatalities in nursing homes. If only hospital deaths are taken into account, the average daily increase stands at 26.

France’s health ministry said that the number of people in hospital fell by 268 to 10,267 and the number of people in intensive care fell by 48 to 772. Both numbers have been on a downtrend for about 10 weeks.

Updated at 7.43pm BST

7.38pm BST

An official study of patients in the US city Atlanta has found that black patients are more likely to be hospitalised than white patients, highlighting racial disparities in the country’s healthcare system.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said about 79% of black patients were hospitalised, against 13% of white patients across six metropolitan hospitals and outpatient clinics between March and April 2020.

The researchers found such an association even when they controlled for underlying conditions such as diabetes. This suggested that other factors like healthcare access or the possibility of bias might explain the higher rates.

Hospitalised patients tended to be older, male, black, and have underlying conditions, said the researchers. They added that black Americans were more likely to be frontline industry or essential workers, raising their risks for infection.

Apart from age, race and underlying conditions, lack of insurance, smoking and obesity were independently associated with the likelihood of hospitalisation for the 531 Atlanta patients studied, researchers said.

7.33pm BST

The Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández has been hospitalised for Covid-19 and is being treated for pneumonia, a health official has said, shortly after the Central American leader’s diagnosis was revealed.

While his condition is serious enough to require specialised hospital care, including receiving medicine via an intravenous drip, the president is generally in good health, said Francis Contreras, a spokesman for Honduran health agency SINAGER.

Updated at 7.41pm BST

7.24pm BST

The US has suffered 722 more deaths and registered 27,975 new cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That takes the official totals to 116,862 and 2,132,321, respectively.

7.22pm BST

Reserve new treatment for most serious cases – WHO

The cheap steroid British researchers believe can help save lives should be used only for the most serious cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

The WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said research was at last providing “green shoots of hope”.

Trial results announced on Tuesday showed dexamethasone, a generic drug used since the 1960s to reduce inflammation in diseases such as arthritis, cut death rates by around a third among the most severely ill patients admitted to hospital.

The head of the WHO’s emergencies programme, Dr Mike Ryan, said the drug should only be used in the cases where it has been shown to help.

It is exceptionally important in this case, that the drug is reserved for use in severely ill and critical patients who can benefit from this drug clearly.

7.05pm BST

Summary

Right, I’m handing over to my colleague Kevin Rawlinson in London so I will leave you with this summary. Thank you for following, and for the tweets and emails. Josh.

  • The global death toll from coronavirus is approaching half a million people, with more than 8.2 million confirmed cases of the disease worldwide. The Johns Hopkins University tracker is recording more than 445,000 deaths from Covid-19 across the world, as of Wednesday evening UK time. One in four fatalities are in the US, making it by far the worst-hit country.
  • America’s top public health expert has warned the nation it is “still in the first wave” of coronavirus infections and deaths, as six states report record numbers of new cases amid continued rapid easing of lockdown restrictions. However, the state of New York recorded 17 coronavirus deaths on 16 June, its lowest daily death toll since the start of the outbreak. Just 10 weeks ago 800 New Yorkers died in a single day, so the decline is extraordinary.
  • Germany has agreed to ban large events, including festivals and fairs, for another four months to guard against a second spike in cases. Chancellor Angela Merkel held a meeting of all 16 state premiers where they agreed to extend the ban on big events until at least the end of October.
  • Millions of people in Beijing are living under renewed restrictions as a spike in virus cases continues. The city reported another 31 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 137 in the past week. Before the recent spike, the Chinese capital had gone 57 days without a locally-transmitted case.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has halted trials of the malaria drug championed by Donald Trump for treating coronavirus. WHO said it had stopped testing hydroxychloroquine as part of its multi-country trial because it had showed no benefit. It comes two days after US regulators revoked the emergency authorisation for its use, amid growing evidence it doesn’t work and could cause serious side-effects.
  • WHO welcomed the UK’s successful trial of dexamethasone, the low-cost anti-inflammatory drug found to save lives when used on coronavirus patients. The global body said it marked a “lifesaving breakthrough” in the fight against the virus and ordered its own analysis on the drug. However, some scientists – including South Korea’s top public health official – expressed caution on the drug.

Updated at 7.14pm BST

6.51pm BST

South Korea’s top health official has expressed caution on the UK’s successful trial of dexamethasone, the low-cost anti-inflammatory drug found to save lives when used on coronavirus patients.

Jeong Eun-kyeong, head of Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said: “Some experts have warned of the drug not only reducing the inflammatory response in patients, but also the immune system and may trigger side-effects.”

Other scientists too have been reluctant to wholeheartedly endorse what the UK and the World Health Organization (WHO) have described as a “breakthrough” in the fight against coronavirus.

Dr. Kathryn Hibbert, director of the medical intensive care unit at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital, said: “We have been burned before, not just during the coronavirus pandemic but even pre-Covid, with exciting results that when we have access to the data are not as convincing.”

The WHO is launching its own analysis of dexamethasone to deepen its understanding of its potential benefits and drawbacks. The head of the WHO’s emergencies programme, Mike Ryan, said on Wednesday the drug should only be used in those serious cases where it has been shown to help.

“It is exceptionally important in this case, that the drug is reserved for use in severely ill and critical patients who can benefit from this drug clearly,” he told a briefing.

Updated at 7.02pm BST

6.15pm BST

America’s top public health expert has warned the nation it is “still in the first wave” of coronavirus infections and deaths, as six states report record numbers of new cases amid continued rapid easing of lockdown restrictions.

Anthony Fauci, the head of the White House coronavirus taskforce, expressed worry about new hotspots for infections in major US states, while also advising that “personally, I would not” attend Donald Trump’s first political rally in months, due on Saturday, in Oklahoma, where vast crowds are expected despite rising Covid-19 cases.

US president Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House upon his return to Washington, US, on June 14 2020
US president Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House upon his return to Washington, US, on June 14 2020.
Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas reported record increases in coronavirus cases on Tuesday, while Nevada recorded its highest ever number of single-day cases.

In recent days North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama have reportedly set new highs in seven-day rolling average of Covid-19 cases, as many states have allowed some businesses and public spaces to reopen after months of restrictions.

Read the full story here.

Updated at 6.22pm BST

5.42pm BST

World Health Organization halts trial of hydroxychloroquine

The World Health Organization (WHO) has halted trials of the malaria drug championed by Donald Trump for treating coronavirus.

WHO said it had stopped testing hydroxychloroquine as part of its multi-country trial because it had showed no benefit.

It comes two days after US regulators revoked the emergency authorisation for its use, amid growing evidence it doesn’t work and could cause serious side-effects.

Trump, of course, criticised the decision by the US Food and Drug Administration, saying: “I took it and I felt good about taking it. I don’t know if it had an impact, but it certainly didn’t hurt me.”

I’ve checked Twitter and the US president has not yet commented on the WHO’s abandonment of its trial.

Updated at 5.44pm BST

5.32pm BST

Germany agrees to ban all major events for another four months

Germany will ban large events until at least the end of October, it has been confirmed.

The German chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday met the premiers of the country’s 16 states and they all agreed to extend the ban on big gatherings, such as festivals and fairs, to avoid another wave of Covid-19 infections.

Speaking after the meeting, Merkel urged Germans to remain cautious and stick to social distancing rules but added that the number of new coronavirus infections had stabilised at a low level.

Germany chancellor Angela Merkel and finance minister Olaf Scholz arrive for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany June 17, 2020
Germany chancellor Angela Merkel and finance minister Olaf Scholz arrive for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin
Photograph: Reuters

The announcement came as regional officials said that 657 people at a large meatpacking plant in western Germany had now tested positive for coronavirus after a localised outbreak.

Authorities previously said the new cluster centred on a slaughterhouse operated by the Toennies Group in the town of Rheda-Wiedenbrueck. Company officials have said it could be linked to workers visiting their families in eastern European countries as border controls were relaxed.

Updated at 5.33pm BST

5.07pm BST

The coronavirus death toll in Italy now stands at 34,448, up by 43 on Wednesday, the country’s civil protection agency said.

This compares with an increase of 34 the day before. The daily tally of new cases increased to 329 from 210 on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

Italy’s death toll is the fourth highest in the world after those of the United States, Britain and Brazil. Its number of confirmed cases amounts to 237,828*, the seventh-highest global tally.

*This figure was originally incorrectly given as 327,828. This has been amended.

Updated at 9.15pm BST

4.51pm BST

New York records its lowest daily death toll since pandemic began

The US state of New York recorded 17 coronavirus deaths on 16 June, its lowest daily death toll since the start of the outbreak.

Just 10 weeks ago 800 New Yorkers died in a single day, so the decline is extraordinary. Governor Andrew Cuomo is giving his daily briefing on the pandemic here:

4.35pm BST

France hopes to reach an agreement with the 26 other members of the European Union on a proposed €750bn recovery fund in July, a presidential adviser has said ahead of videoconference between EU leaders on Friday.

“It’s in no one’s interest to see the situation get bogged down,” the adviser said, reports Reuters, adding that “giant steps” had been made in recent weeks, including the backing of all EU countries for a joint debt mechanism.

4.09pm BST

UK death toll from positive cases passes 42,000

The UK death toll from confirmed cases of the new coronavirus has risen to 42,153, an increase of 184, the latest daily figures from the UK government show.

The daily increase of 184 is down on the previous daily rise of 233. A further 1,115 have tested positive for Covid-19, taking the UK total to 299,251 as of Wednesday morning.

Updated at 4.31pm BST

3.59pm BST

Sweden to lift advice against non-essential travel

Sweden will lift its advice against non-essential travel to 10 European countries from 30 June, the country’s foreign ministry has said.

The countries are Greece, Croatia, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, France, Iceland, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

For other European countries – including the UK as well as neighbouring Denmark, Norway and Finland – the advice against non-essential travel will still apply.

A recommendation against travel to countries outside the EU and the Schengen open-border zone – which groups most EU member states and some non-members – will be extended to 31 August, Reuters reports.

Updated at 4.32pm BST

3.39pm BST

Spain will formally honour its coronavirus victims on 16 July with a ceremony that will be attended by top EU and World Health Organization figures, the country’s prime minister has said.

The disease has left 27,136 people dead in Spain from 244,000 cases, making it the sixth worst-hit country in the world.

The Spanish government said King Felipe VI would preside over the event, which will take place in the square outside the Royal Palace in Madrid, the news agency AFP reports.

Among those attending will be the EU council chief Charles Michel, the European commission president Ursula von der Leyen, European parliament leader David Sassoli, top EU diplomat Josep Borrell and World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, told its parliament today:

There will be a state ceremony on 16 July to honour our 27,000 fellow countrymen who lost their lives that will also pay homage to those public servants who have been fighting on the front line against the pandemic.

Updated at 4.33pm BST

3.21pm BST

The UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s car has been involved in a minor collision in Westminster, central London.

Johnson was travelling in his silver Jaguar when a protester tried to run in front of it, forcing the car to slam on its brakes before it was hit by a Range Rover travelling behind.

Fortunately, no one was injured in the incident, the prime minister’s spokesman has said. The protester was detained.

Updated at 3.25pm BST

3.10pm BST

I’m sure many of us are utterly desperate to get back to the gym (he says, while sipping a can of pop and munching a chocolate bar). Well, Mexico is here to show us the way.

Behold, the coronavirus-friendly fitness cubicle, encased in what looks like some kind of perspex glass. I think I’ll stick with my chocolate bar for now.

Updated at 3.14pm BST

2.42pm BST

Latest on the worldwide spread of the coronavirus

Deaths and infections.

* More than 8.21 million people have been reported to be infected by coronavirus globally and 443,428* have died.

Europe.

* Germany’s smartphone app to help trace coronavirus infections has been downloaded 6.5 million times in the first 24 hours since its launch. * Russia reported 7,843 new cases of the coronavirus, its lowest daily caseload registered since April 30, pushing the nationwide total to 553,301. * Access to credit in the Polish economy could be limited by the coronavirus crisis, but the risks of a crunch have been lessened by actions already taken, the central bank said.

Americas

* New coronavirus infections hit record highs in six U.S. states, marking a rising tide of cases for a second consecutive week as most states moved forward with reopening their economies.
* The Trump administration said it would extend existing restrictions on non-essential travel at land ports of entry with Canada and Mexico.
* Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez said he had been diagnosed with coronavirus, is receiving treatment and will work remotely and through his aides.
* Mexico went into the coronavirus outbreak insisting it would beat the pandemic without mass testing, but with deaths surging as it prepares to exit lockdown, the strategy looks increasingly untenable.

Asia-Pacific.

* Scores of flights to and from Beijing were cancelled, schools shut and some neighbourhoods blocked off as officials ramped up efforts to contain a coronavirus outbreak that has fanned fears of wider contagion.
* Japanese researchers confirmed the presence of the coronavirus in wastewater plants, a finding that could serve as a signal for future outbreaks.
* Delhi’s local health minister checked into hospital and was being tested for the coronavirus as India reported more than 10,500 new infections.

Middle East and Africa

* Israel signed an agreement with Moderna Inc for the future purchase of its potential vaccine should the company succeed in its development.
* Nigeria’s commercial hub Lagos has suspended plans to reopen places of worship after a review of the new outbreak, the state governor said.

2.27pm BST

In Kazakhstan, president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has sought to allay fears stating Covid-19 is under control as the government prepared to announce fresh measures to stabilise the situation.

Authorities raised the alarm earlier about a fresh surge in cases in the capital, Nur-Sultan.

Saule Kisikova, the head of Nur-Sultan’s healthcare department, said the situation had worsened in the capital over the last few weeks and that more hospitals were being converted into Covid-19 facilities.

But doctors and other medical personnel are already stretched in the city of 1.2 million, she said, with more than 150 fresh cases reported daily for the last three days.

“If city dwellers continue behaving carelessly, there will not be enough doctors and hospital beds for everyone,” she said.

“We must not repeat the Italian scenario with patients lying in corridors and a lack of doctors and ventilators, because of (our) negligence,” she said, referring to the situation in northern Italy at the height of its Covid-19 pandemic.

A health worker takes a swab from a woman at a mobile testing station for coronavirus in Almaty, Kazakhstan
A health worker takes a swab from a woman at a mobile testing station for coronavirus in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Photograph: Pavel Mikheyev/Reuters

Kazakhstan ended a two-month nationwide lockdown in May after its economy took a heavy hit and half of the population applied for financial aid from the state.

Over the past week, however, the authorities have once again tightened restrictions such as the working hours of shops and public transport in most of the provinces, citing accelerating spread rates of the virus.

The central Asian country, which has a population of about 19 million, has so far confirmed more than 21,000 cases of the new coronavirus – including about 3,700 in the capital – with 88 deaths.

Updated at 2.33pm BST

1.45pm BST

On the worrying rise in infections in China, at least one potential source of the spike has been ruled out: Norwegian salmon.

A Norwegian minister has said its salmon was officially not the source of the recently discovered outbreak of coronavirus in Beijing after a cluster of new cases was reportedly traced back to chopping boards used for imported fish at the huge Xinfadi market in China’s capital.

Many Chinese restaurants and retailers have since stopped selling imports of the fish as millions of people in Beijing were placed under renewed restrictions.

Medical staff carry signs to assist people who live near or who have visited the Xinfadi Market in Beijing on June 17, 2020
Medical staff carry signs to assist people who live near or who have visited the Xinfadi Market in Beijing on June 17, 2020
Photograph: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

“The issue is being resolved. We’re working out the details today,” Norway’s fisheries minister Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen has said, quoted by TDN Finans.

Ingebrigtsen said Chinese and Norwegian officials had met on Tuesday and concluded that Norwegian salmon was unlikely to be the source of the virus detected last week at the Beijing market.

At least 137 people have been infected since last week in China’s capital, a resurgence of infections that has led to the lockdown of several neighbourhoods and the cancellation of more than a thousand flights.

Updated at 2.00pm BST

1.27pm BST

Death toll in Sweden passes 5,000

The death toll in Sweden has passed 5,000, far higher than neighbouring Nordic countries. The official death toll has reached 5,041, up from 4,939 on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Sweden has taken a softer approach to fighting the coronavirus, leaving most schools, shops and restaurants open and relying on voluntary measures focused on social distancing and good hygiene.

The number of deaths in Sweden has been far higher relative to the size of the population than in Denmark, Norway and Finland, where authorities have taken a stricter approach. But they have been lower than in Britain, Italy and Spain, where there have also been lockdowns.

Updated at 1.40pm BST

1.06pm BST

Taiwan is planning to relax controls on some foreign business visitors to the island from countries deemed low-risk, including New Zealand, Australia and Thailand.

Despite its close proximity and trade links with China, Taiwan has contained its own outbreak to just 445 cases, including seven deaths. Thanks to strict arrival controls and efficient trace and testing programmes it has recorded no local infections for 66 days.

The AFP news agency reports that from 22 June the self-quarantine period will be reduced from 14 days to five days for short-term business visitors from 14 “low-risk” places including Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Thailand.

“Mid-to-low risk” countries including South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore will have their quarantine periods cut to seven days, according to the government.

Visitors will need to provide proof of being tested negative for Covid-19 up to three days before departure and have no other travel history in the last two weeks, AFP reports.

They also have to test negative at the end of their shortened quarantine period before they can conduct business activities.

Business visitors who want to stay in Taiwan for more than three months still must undergo a full 14-day quarantine.

12.52pm BST

Around 11,000 mink at a farm in Denmark will have to be culled after they were found to be infected with the coronavirus, the country’s authorities have said.

The outbreak is the first in Denmark, the world’s biggest producer of mink skins, but comes shortly after the virus was found at 13 mink farms in the Netherlands, where about 570,000 mink have been ordered culled.

A spokeswoman told Reuters that around 11,000 mink would be culled in Denmark. A person associated with the farm had previously tested positive with Covid-19.

12.33pm BST

If you’re planning to meet Vladimir Putin in the next few weeks, be warned: you will have to pass through a special disinfectant tunnel to get to the Russian president.

Putin’s official spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has confirmed a report by Russian state television that three airport-style tunnels have been built for the president: one at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, where he has reputedly being doing much of his work during the pandemic, and two at the Kremlin.

Demonstration footage of the tunnel, published by the state-controlled RIA news agency on Tuesday night, showed masked people passing through it being sprayed with disinfectant from the ceiling and from the side.

Russia has recorded more than 500,000 coronavirus infections, the third highest number of cases in the world after Brazil and the US, something it attributes to a massive testing programme. Its death toll has reached 7,478 deaths so far but critics are dubious about the accuracy of its mortality figures, Reuters reports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, on Tuesday June 16 2020
Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, on Tuesday June 16 2020
Photograph: Alexei Nikolsky/AP

Updated at 1.08pm BST

12.06pm BST

Staying on Dexamethasone, the decades-old steroid found to be a life-saving treatment for Covid-19, officials in Russia say the drug is being used to treat its coronavirus patients but that it was “not a panacea”.

The state-controlled RIA news agency quotes Sergei Avdeev, head of the pulmonology department at Sechenov University, Russia’s largest medical research school, as saying:

The drug is already widely used in Russia. But dexamethasone, alas, is not a panacea: in some cases, it can help, but [only] in some.

The drug does have an anti-inflammatory effect in a certain part of patients with Covid-19 who have severe inflammation. In the latest version of the guidelines for the prevention and diagnosis of coronavirus infection, you can see that glucocorticosteroids, including dexamethasone, are prescribed there. In many clinics it is already being used in Russia.

The RIA report in Russian is here.

Updated at 12.28pm BST

11.57am BST

The director-general of the World Health Organiaation (WHO), Tedros Ghebreyesus, has praised the UK scientists behind the the first successful clinical trial of a treatment for coronavirus.

Writing on Twitter, he said they had made a “lifesaving breakthrough” with their discovery that Dexamethasone, a low-cost anti-inflammatory drug, can save lives and be used immediately to treat patients.

He added it was important that governments continue to track, trace and isolate every case and quarantine every contact.

Updated at 12.29pm BST

11.37am BST

Countries around the world are looking at how to redesign their cities around walking and cycling as they emerge from lockdown.

In India, the world’s second most populous country, the government has recommended that three markets in each be pedestrianised and more bicycle lanes added. City authorities must select the markets by the end of this month and begin implementing short-term measures by 1 October, according to reports.

Medical staff walk through a market for a door-to-door medical screening inside a market in Mumbai on 17 June 2020
Medical staff walk through a market for a door-to-door medical screening inside a market in Mumbai on 17 June 2020
Photograph: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images

Under India’s Smart Cities programme, which aims to make 100 urban centres more liveable and sustainable, some cities had already been promoting public transit and bicycle lanes. The southern Indian city of Chennai has carved out more than 100km (62 miles) of pedestrian-friendly streets, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Chennai’s efforts paid off during the lockdown, said Raj Cherubal, chief executive of Chennai Smart City Ltd:

We should use the coronavirus as an excuse to rejig our streets and our approach to public transit. India doesn’t have a choice but to do this to limit emissions, and curb congestion and pollution.

Updated at 12.29pm BST

11.12am BST

Germany to ban large events until at least October – reports

Germany will extend a ban on large events until at least the end of October due to the coronavirus pandemic, the broadcaster n-tv has reported.

Citing a document prepared for a meeting of chancellor Angela Merkel and the premiers of the 16 states, n-tv reports that mass gatherings including fairs and festivals remain too much of a risk despite the falling number of confirmed cases in the country.

However, it adds that there is disagreement between heads of Germany’s regional governments about the plan. Bavaria wants the ban on large events to continue until at least 31 October, n-tv reports, while the state of Saxony and others want to lift restrictions earlier.

This has not yet been confirmed by the German government.

Updated at 11.19am BST

11.04am BST

Hello all. Thanks very much for following our live coverage. I’m Josh Halliday in not-so-sunny Manchester, England, to steer you through the next few hours. I’m on Twitter and email if you want to send me news tips, information or just say hello:

Twitter: @JoshHalliday (DMs open)

Email: josh.halliday@theguardian.com

10.50am BST

The Afghan health ministry has detected 564 new Covid-19 infections, taking the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 26,874. The number of deaths has risen by 13 to 504.

The war-torn country, which has admitted it has a lack of testing capacity, has tested 60,298 suspected patients since the outbreak began. There have been 6,158 recoveries.

Most of the new cases (192) have been reported in the capital, Kabul. It is the country’s worst-affected area so far, with 10,924 cases and 109 deaths.

Health officials in the southern province of Kandahar recorded 27 new cases out of 45 tests. The eastern province of Nangarhar recorded two deaths overnight, as 6 out of 8 tests came back positive.

No official figures were released in the western province of Herat for the fifth day straight. The province’s laboratory – which is responsible for testing samples of patients in Herat and nearby areas – has halted work due to a lack of kits.

The Afghan health ministry has previously said it was unable to increase testing for coronavirus due to a lack of laboratories and an overload of suspected patients. Ahmad Jawad Osmani, the acting health minister, said medical workers would determine new coronavirus patients through their symptoms, rather than through tests.

Meanwhile, violence continues to rage across the country. At least four children were killed and three others wounded in central Ghazni province on Tuesday, after a mortar round landed where they were playing.

The United Nations’ annual Children in Armed Conflict report, released on Monday, found Afghanistan was the deadliest country for children for the fifth year straight.

The study fond that more than 3,000 Afghan children were killed in 2019, mainly by ground fighting, improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks.

Updated at 11.20am BST

10.24am BST

Spain’s most recent employment indicators anticipate an economic recovery in the second half of the year after the severe impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s economy minister, Nadia Calvino, has said.

“The recovery phase has started,” she told parliament, adding that the trend change is backed by various indicators, mainly the latest job creation data. She said 1 million furloughed workers were working again and 300,000 new workers on social security.

Spanish minister of economic affairs, Nadia Calvino.
Spanish minister of economic affairs, Nadia Calvino.
Photograph: BALLESTEROS/EPA

Updated at 10.26am BST

9.54am BST

New Zealand virus pair stopped to meet friends

The quarantine blunder that led to two women in New Zealand – who had recently arrived from Britain and were infected with Covid-19 – leaving quarantine without being tested for the virus appears to have gone from bad to worse for the country’s health authorities.

Officials initially said the women had driven from the city of Auckland to Wellington – a trip of nearly 650km, taking about eight hours – without stopping for fuel or bathroom breaks after they were allowed to leave quarantine early on compassionate grounds because one of their parents had died.

But the health ministry has now been forced to admit that the women had, in fact, met up with friends early in their journey to get directions after they got lost leaving Auckland. The pair had “limited physical contact” with two friends for up to five minutes, a statement just released by the ministry says.

The fiasco had initially been framed as simply a failure to test the women before they left quarantine – and has resulted in Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, removing the policy of compassionate exemption to isolation for returning travellers who wished to visit dying relatives.

New Zealand’s top health official initially said the women had “done everything right” and had not put any member of the public at risk during their trip.

But news that the women stopped on their trip – information that came to light only after a member of the public posted about it on Facebook, and it was raised in parliament by an opposition lawmaker in parliament – is likely to cause more political ripples for Ardern, her health minister, and other officials.

Updated at 10.30am BST

9.45am BST

Five foreigners from Australia, China and the US will be deported from Nepal and barred from returning for two years after protesting against the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, officials said Wednesday.

The five were among seven foreigners detained on Saturday when hundreds of people defied a nationwide lockdown to take part in the peaceful demonstration.

They demanded better virus testing, quarantine facilities for returning migrant workers and transparency from the government.

Nepal’s immigration department chief Ramesh Kumar KC told AFP they were being deported for joining a political rally in “a breach of tourist visa rules”.

They will be sent to their respective countries when international flights resume. They have also been banned from entering the country for two years.

Nepal has suspended international flights until 5 July.

People attending a protest against the government’s poor handling of the Covid-19 crisis in Kathmandu, Nepal, on 15 June.
People attending a protest against the government’s poor handling of the Covid-19 crisis in Kathmandu, Nepal, on 15 June.
Photograph: Sujan Shrestha/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

Updated at 10.29am BST

9.22am BST

Russia has reported 7,843 new cases of coronavirus, its lowest daily caseload registered since 30 April, pushing the nationwide total to 553,301.

Russia’s virus response team said 194 people had died in the last 24 hours, according to Reuters, bringing the official death toll to 7,478 since the crisis began.

9.15am BST

Germany’s smartphone app to help trace coronavirus infections has been downloaded 6.5m times in the first 24 hours since its launch, the CEO of software company SAP has said.

Christian Klein said the reception was testimony to the excellent work that teams from SAP and Deutsche Telekom had put into readying the Corona-Warn-App in just six weeks.

The German government appealed to its citizens yesterday to download the newly-launched warning app, insisting it was the most sophisticated tool yet for tackling the pandemic.

The Corona Warn App suffered setbacks including disagreements over data privacy and functionality, but is seen as being introduced just in time as lockdown regulations rapidly relax with a decreasing infection rate.

You can read the background in this piece by Berlin correspondent Kate Connolly from yesterday:

Updated at 10.29am BST

8.59am BST

Norwegian Air will resume flights on 76 routes halted during the coronavirus outbreak and bring back into service 12 of its mothballed aircraft on top of the eight already flying, as European countries reopen and demand for flights rises.

Airlines have been hit hard by the pandemic, which put a stop to most international travel, leading many to seek help from governments.

In comments reported by Reuters, chief executive Jacob Schram said:

We’re getting back in the air with more planes and we’re reopening many of the routes which our customers have requested.

More than 300 pilots and 600 cabin crew from the company’s bases in Norway will operate 20 aircraft, with about 200 pilots and 400 cabin crew being brought back to work. Norwegian furloughed or laid off about 7,300 staff, roughly 90% of its employees, after the Covid-19 outbreak.

Norwegian Air Sweden Boeing 737-800 plane.
Norwegian Air Sweden Boeing 737-800 plane.
Photograph: Ints Kalniņš/Reuters

8.49am BST

After three months of empty squares and alleys, and gondoliers stranded on dry land, Venice is welcoming tourists back to the city. This photo gallery documents the scenes as Italy relaxes its lockdown.

Tourists queue to enter the St Mark’s Tower in Venice, Italy.
Tourists queue to enter the St Mark’s Tower in Venice, Italy.
Photograph: Manuel Silvestri/Reuters

8.29am BST

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez announced late on Tuesday that he has been diagnosed with the coronavirus. In a televised speech, he said:

As president of the nation and a responsible citizen, I want to communicate that during the weekend I started to feel some discomfort and today I was diagnosed as having been infected with Covid-19.

Honduras’ President Juan Orlando Hernandez
Honduras’ President Juan Orlando Hernandez
Photograph: Jorge Cabrera/Reuters

8.18am BST

Eight British Muslims detained in India for more than two months face criminal charges after getting caught up in a court case in which thousands of foreign Muslims are accused of violating the coronavirus lockdown.

The men allege they are victims of religious persecution by the Indian government, which is led by the rightwing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), known for its anti-Muslim agenda. According to a petition filed to Delhi high court on 20 May, their treatment is “tantamount to illegal detention”.

More than 2,500 foreign Muslims, from 35 different countries, are being charged in the case. Last week, the Indian government agreed to release and deport detained foreign Muslims but only if they accepted guilt for visa violations and “wilfully” disobeying lockdown orders.

You can read the full story here –

8.13am BST

Morning from London. This is Frances Perraudin and I’ll be bringing you the latest news from the coronavirus pandemic around the globe. If you think there’s anything I’m missing, please email me on frances.perraudin@theguardian.com or contact me on twitter @fperraudin.

8.02am BST

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • Deaths worldwide are nearing 445,000. According to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official government data, the global coronavirus death toll stands at 443,685. There are 8,174,009 known infections.
  • Beijing raised its emergency level as dozens of new coronavirus cases emerged and residents were barred from any “unessential” travel. Hundreds of flights were cancelled, schools suspended and all residential compounds ordered to reinstate strict screening after authorities raised the city’s four-tiered covid emergency response system from three to two on Tuesday evening. All movement in and out of the city will be “strictly controlled”, officials said at the briefing. Authorities reported 31 new cases of the virus in Beijing as of Tuesday, bringing the total number of infections to 137 over the past six days.
  • Six US states saw record case increases. New coronavirus infections hit record highs in six US states on Tuesday. Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas all reported record increases in new cases on Tuesday after recording all-time highs last week. Nevada also reported its highest single-day tally of new cases on Tuesday, up from a previous high on 23 May. Hospitalisations are also rising or at record highs. Health officials in many states attribute the spike to businesses reopening and Memorial Day weekend gatherings in late May.
  • New Zealand put quarantine in the hands of the military after border fiasco. The New Zealand government has so far identified 320 close contacts of the two women, who were not tested before they were released on compassionate grounds. Ardern said she would not be replacing Minister of Health David Clark. She has, however, called in the military to oversee the quarantine and isolation process, under the leadership of Assistant Chief of Defense Air Commodore Digby Webb.
  • The UK began talks with Australia and New Zealand on free trade deal. Australia and New Zealand are about to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement with the UK in what the Australian trade minister said was “a strong signal of our mutual support for free trade” in a post-Covid-19 world.
  • Japanese researchers confirmed coronavirus testing in sewers as possible outbreak warning system. The researchers confirmed the presence of the coronavirus in wastewater plants, a finding that could serve as a signal for future outbreaks. The findings mirror similar studies in Australia, the US, and Europe. Public health experts say such sampling could be used to estimate the number of infected people in a region without testing every individual.
  • India coronavirus death toll saw a record jump of 2,000. India’s official coronavirus death toll leaped by more than 2,000 to reach 11,903 on Wednesday. Mumbai revised its toll up by 862 to 3,165 because of unspecified accounting “discrepancies” while New Delhi saw a record jump of more than 400 deaths, taking its total to more than 1,800. It was not immediately clear how many of the deaths had occurred in the past 24 hours and how many were from adjustments over a longer period.
  • Mexico recorded its 3rd highest daily death numbers. Mexico’s 730 deaths are its third-highest one-day total, AP reports.Even as Mexico announced plans for reopening churches and religious events, the country posted near-record numbers of newly confirmed cases and deaths from Covid-19 on Tuesday. The Health Department reported that confirmed cases rose by 4,599, the second-highest daily increase to date, to reach an accumulated total of 154,863. Deaths rose by 730, the third-highest daily confirmation number, after one-day increases of 1,092 and 816 earlier this month. Those death tolls rivaled those of the United States.
  • Brazil suffered a record increase in cases. Brazil has had its worst day for new confirmed cases, recording 34,918 in 24 hours to bring its overall total to 923,189 total infections.The health ministry said the country has also suffered 1,282 deaths since the last update on Monday, bringing the number of confirmed fatalities there to 45,241.In nominal terms, Brazil is the second-worst hit country in the world in both respects.
  • Around 9% of Guinea-Bissau health workers have been infected with Covid-19. More than 170 of Guinea-Bissau’s 2,000 health workers have contracted Covid-19, a World Health Organization expert said on Tuesday, warning that hospitals were close to being overwhelmed. The tiny West African nation’s under-equipped healthcare system has been struggling to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected over 1,400 people and killed 15. Health authorities have raised the alarm over a lack of oxygen to treat patients.
  • A steroid was found to help prevent the deaths of the sickest coronavirus patients. A cheap steroid has become the first life-saving treatment in the Covid-19 pandemic, described by scientists as “a major breakthrough” and raising hopes for the survival of thousands of the most seriously ill.

Updated at 9.10am BST

7.53am BST

As India revised its death toll sharply upward, the German foreign ministry sent a message to nationals in India saying it “recommends that you and your families seriously consider whether a temporary return to Germany or another country with an assured health care system makes sense”.

The note said that while the lockdown was being eased “unlike in Europe, case numbers are still rising strongly. This increases considerably the risk of infection.”

The embassy said its medical experts believed that people with the coronavirus and other serious medical needs have “no or very little chance of being admitted to hospitals. This increases considerably the health risks of a stay in India.”

Hospitals in Mumbai have been overwhelmed by coronavirus cases, while the government has sent specially adapted railway carriages to Delhi and authorities have taken over hotels and banquet halls to put coronavirus patients.

7.43am BST

India coronavirus toll sees record jump of 2,000 dead

India’s official coronavirus death toll leaped by more than 2,000 to reach 11,903 on Wednesday as Germany advised its nationals to consider leaving the country because of growing health risks, AFP reports.

Mumbai revised its toll up by 862 to 3,165 because of unspecified accounting “discrepancies” while New Delhi recorded a record rise of more than 400 deaths, taking its total to more than 1,800.

It was not immediately clear how many of the deaths had occurred in the past 24 hours and how many were from adjustments over a longer period.

Relatives wearing personal protective equipment lower the body of a Covid-19 victim into a grave in New Delhi, India, 16 June 2020.
Relatives wearing personal protective equipment lower the body of a Covid-19 victim into a grave in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Photograph: Harish Tyagi/EPA

Updated at 7.48am BST

7.38am BST

Wednesday briefing: Ardern blasts ‘failure’ of New Zealand quarantine

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has brought in the defence force to oversee the quarantine of new arrivals after two women who were allowed to travel freely turned out to have coronavirus and came into “close contact” with at least 320 other people. Ardern, who weeks ago announced New Zealand was free of coronavirus, said it was an “unacceptable failure … It should never have happened and it cannot be repeated.”

Families have hailed as “a game-changer” how a campaign by the footballer Marcus Rashford on free school meals shamed Boris Johnson into announcing a “summer food fund” for children in need in England. Families entitled to the meals will receive a one-off voucher at the end of the school term to spend in supermarkets, worth £15 a week for the six-week break. It has emerged that more than 100,000 carers have had to rely on food banks during lockdown.

More than nine in 10 universities have told a Universities UK poll they will provide some in-person teaching at the start of term this year. The survey also suggests 87% are planning to provide in-person sporting, fitness and wellbeing activities. Healthcare charities have called for clarity over when there will be an end to coronavirus shielding in England, which affects roughly 2.2 million “clinically extremely vulnerable” people who are having to stay isolated. The government has said it is considering “next steps” for the programme beyond the end of June and a final decision has not yet been made.

7.32am BST

Britain’s health minister on Wednesday hailed the use of a steroid called dexamethasone for treating coronavirus patients as the best news so far of the outbreak, Reuters reports.

Trial results announced on Tuesday showed dexamethasone, which is used to reduce inflammation in other diseases such as arthritis, reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely ill Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital.

“It does increase your chances of survival quite significantly,” health secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News. “It is one of the best pieces of news we’ve had through this whole crisis.”

He said the R-rate was below 1 in all regions but did not clarify if he was speaking about England or the entire United Kingdom.

Updated at 7.51am BST

7.07am BST

Thanks for following along. That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan for today.

6.42am BST

Global report: six US states report most ever new coronavirus cases

New coronavirus infections have soared to record highs in six American states, marking a rising tide of cases for a second consecutive week as authorities in Beijing said another 31 people had been infected in a fresh outbreak in China.

Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas all reported their most ever new cases on Tuesday after all-time highs last week and as they continued to reopen their economies. Nevada also reported its highest single-day tally of new cases on Tuesday, up from a previous high on 23 May.

Donald Trump is planning to hold an indoor campaign rally in Oklahoma this weekend despite the state recording 591 new coronavirus cases on Monday, a 7.7% increase and the highest in the United States. According to Reuters cases in Oklahoma rose 68% last week.

The vice-president, Mike Pence, said officials were considering outdoor venues for the rally in Tulsa which would be Trump’s first since the virus took hold in the US in March.

On Tuesday Oklahoma health officials urged anyone attending the rally to get tested for coronavirus before arriving and then to self-isolate following the event and get tested again. The health commissioner urged those over 65 or at higher risk of coronavirus-related complications to stay home.

Pence said in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that alarm about the continued rise in infections was “overblown”.

However, hospitalisations have continued to rise.

6.37am BST

As always, it would be great to hear from you. Get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan or via email: helen.sullivan@theguardian.com.

6.23am BST

Kimon de Greef reports for the Guardian:

Some so-called “wet markets” in Asia, named for the common practice of hosing them down with water, stock exotic wildlife alongside live animals, providing a potential nexus for diseases to spread. This has led to growing calls around the world to ban them, even though the precise history of the coronavirus pandemic, widely thought to have originated at a seafood market in Wuhan, is still unclear.

But the term “wet markets” has become confusing in the process, mixing up wildlife consumption with less exotic traditions, such as the poultry markets of New York. This has led to a situation where, in the rush to create a safer food system, culturally significant food practices, which pose comparatively minor public health risks, are coming under threat.

In New York, animal rights groups have begun campaigning vigorously on issues of food safety, including staging protests outside markets. A recent petition by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) urges officials to shut down “blood-soaked slaughterhouses” in New York, specifically referring to the facilities as “wet markets” in an accompanying video. Peta has also urged the World Health Organization (WHO) to denounce live animal markets globally. The WHO has resisted these demands, saying that live markets provide food and jobs for millions of people.

6.08am BST

Pandemics result from destruction of nature, say UN and WHO

Pandemics such as coronavirus are the result of humanity’s destruction of nature, according to leaders at the UN, WHO and WWF International, and the world has been ignoring this stark reality for decades.

The illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade as well as the devastation of forests and other wild places were still the driving forces behind the increasing number of diseases leaping from wildlife to humans, the leaders told the Guardian.

5.58am BST

Summary

Here are the latest developments from the last few hours:

  • Deaths worldwide passed 440,000. According to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official government data, the global coronavirus death toll stands at 441,668. There are 8,162,276 known infections.
  • Beijing raised its emergency level as dozens of new coronavirus cases emerged and residents were barred from any “unessential” travel. Hundreds of flights were cancelled, schools suspended and all residential compounds ordered to reinstate strict screening after authorities raised the city’s four-tiered Covid emergency response system from three to two on Tuesday evening. All movement in and out of the city will be “strictly controlled”, officials said at the briefing. Authorities reported 31 new cases of the virus in Beijing as of Tuesday, bringing the total number of infections to 137 over the past six days.
  • Six US states saw record case increases. New coronavirus infections hit record highs in six US states on Tuesday. Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas all reported record increases in new cases on Tuesday after recording all-time highs last week. Nevada also reported its highest single-day tally of new cases on Tuesday, up from a previous high on May 23. Hospitalizations are also rising or at record highs. Health officials in many states attribute the spike to businesses reopening and Memorial Day weekend gatherings in late May.
  • New Zealand put quarantine in the hands of the military after border fiasco. The New Zealand government has so far identified 320 close contacts of the two women, who were not tested before they were released on compassionate grounds. Ardern said she would not be replacing Minister of Health David Clark. She has, however, called in the military to oversee the quarantine and isolation process, under the leadership of Assistant Chief of Defense Air Commodore Digby Webb.
  • The UK began talks with Australia and New Zealand on free trade deal. Australia and New Zealand are about to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement with the UK in what the Australian trade minister said was “a strong signal of our mutual support for free trade” in a post-Covid-19 world.
  • Japanese researchers confirmed coronavirus testing in sewers as possible outbreak warning system. The researchers confirmed the presence of the coronavirus in wastewater plants, a finding that could serve as a signal for future outbreaks. The findings mirror similar studies in Australia, the United States, and Europe. Public health experts say such sampling could be used to estimate the number of infected people in a region without testing every individual.
  • Mexico recorded its 3rd highest daily death numbers. Mexico’s 730 deaths are its third-highest one-day total, AP reports.Even as Mexico announced plans for reopening churches and religious events, the country posted near-record numbers of newly confirmed cases and deaths from Covid-19 on Tuesday. The Health Department reported that confirmed cases rose by 4,599, the second-highest daily increase to date, to reach an accumulated total of 154,863. Deaths rose by 730, the third-highest daily confirmation number, after one-day increases of 1,092 and 816 earlier this month. Those death tolls rivaled those of the United States.
  • Brazil suffered a record increase in cases. Brazil has had its worst day for new confirmed cases, recording 34,918 in 24 hours to bring its overall total to 923,189 total infections.The health ministry said the country has also suffered 1,282 deaths since the last update on Monday, bringing the number of confirmed fatalities there to 45,241.In nominal terms, Brazil is the second-worst hit country in the world in both respects.
  • Around 9% of Guinea-Bissau health workers have been infected with Covid-19. More than 170 of Guinea-Bissau’s 2,000 health workers have contracted Covid-19, a World Health Organization expert said on Tuesday, warning that hospitals were close to being overwhelmed. The tiny West African nation’s under-equipped healthcare system has been struggling to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected over 1,400 people and killed 15. Health authorities have raised the alarm over a lack of oxygen to treat patients.
  • A steroid was found to help prevent the deaths of the sickest coronavirus patients. A cheap steroid has become the first life-saving treatment in the Covid-19 pandemic, described by scientists as “a major breakthrough” and raising hopes for the survival of thousands of the most seriously ill.

5.42am BST

Here’s the latest on Beijing: China’s capital has raised its emergency level as dozens of new coronavirus cases emerged and residents were barred from any “unessential” travel outside Beijing following a new outbreak of the virus that is yet to be brought under control.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled, schools suspended and all residential compounds ordered to reinstate strict screening after authorities raised the city’s four-tiered Covid emergency response system from three to two on Tuesday evening. All movement in and out of the city will be “strictly controlled”, officials said at the briefing.

Authorities reported 31 new cases of the virus in Beijing as of Tuesday, bringing the total number of infections to 137 over the past six days.

The new outbreak, linked to a sprawling wholesale food market in the south-eastern district of Fengtai, has spread to nine of the city’s 17 districts. On Tuesday, at least 1,255 inbound and outbound flights were cancelled, according to state media.

Authorities called on employers to continue regular operations but encourage remote working and ask employees to stagger their arrivals at work. All primary and secondary schools were ordered to stop attending classes on Tuesday, while kindergartens were closed. Officials also ordered that traffic to parks as well as indoor public spaces like museums and libraries be limited.

5.21am BST

Indian newspapers, which just a few months ago had defied the global trend by gaining circulation, are now buckling under the weight of coronavirus losses that have killed some off and critically wounded other big names.

Newspapers have remained a mainstay in the country of 1.3 billion people in recent years, when the rise of digital news has seen sales slump around the world.

But as a result of a lockdown that started on March 25 dailies were unable print, delivery boys were attacked by householders fearing they were also bringing the virus and – crucially – advertisers fled.

And according to some estimates, normal sales of more than 50 million newspapers a day across the country fell by two thirds.

Hundreds of journalists have been laid off or seen wages slashed and in Mumbai, one charity is organising food parcels for unemployed reporters.

English newspapers in Pune and Goa closed this month and nationals such as the Hindustan Times and Times of India, which had a circulation of more than two million before the crisis, have laid off scores of staff, cut wages and closed offices.

The Hindustan Times said in an email to staff that it was losing about 0,000 a day.

The Mathrubhumi regional newspaper, based in the southern state of Kerala, has seen advertising fall from up to million a month to 0,000, said joint managing director Shreyams Kumar.

5.08am BST

Beijing schools closed again as city finds 31 more virus cases

Beijing shut all its schools again on Wednesday as the city reported 31 new coronavirus cases, with authorities in the Chinese capital rushing to curb an outbreak linked to a wholesale food market, AFP reports.

The new cases have raised fears of a second wave of infections as China had largely brought its domestic outbreak under control.

City authorities on Tuesday had also announced a travel ban for residents of “medium- or high-risk” areas of the city, while requiring other residents to take nucleic acid tests in order to leave the capital.

Meanwhile, all schools – which had mostly reopened – were ordered to close again and return to online classes.

“The epidemic situation in the capital is extremely severe,” Beijing city spokesman Xu Hejian warned at a press conference Tuesday.

Tens of thousands of people in the city linked to the virus cluster – believed to have started in the capital’s sprawling Xinfadi wholesale food market – are being tested for the virus, with almost 30 residential compounds in the city now under lockdown.

Beijing has now reported 137 infections over the last six days, with six new asymptomatic cases and three suspected cases on Wednesday, according to the city’s health commission.

An additional two domestic cases, one in neighbouring Hebei province and another in Zhejiang, were reported by national authorities on Wednesday, while there were 11 imported cases.

5.06am BST

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 345 to 187,184, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday.

The reported death toll rose by 30 to 8,830, the tally showed.

4.44am BST

60% of Beijing flights canceled as city raises alert level

Chinese media say more than 60% of commercial flights in and out of Beijing have been canceled as the city raises alert level amid a new coronavirus outbreak.

The website of the Communist Party’s Global Times said that as of 9am. Wednesday, a total of 1,255 flights to and from the capital’s two major airports have been scrapped.

That accounts for 67% of outgoing flights and 68% of incoming flights, the Global Times said.

Beijing has enacted a number of measures to limit travel in and out of the city, especially among those coming from districts where new cases have been detected. Beijing had essentially eradicated cases of local transmission but in recent days has added a total of 137 new cases with no new deaths.

Beijing on Wednesday raised its threat level from 3 to 2, leading to the cancellation of classes, suspension of plans for opening up and stiffened requirements for social distancing.

People deliver food near a residential compound that is under lockdown in the Fengtai district, Beijing, on 17 June 2020.
People deliver food near a residential compound that is under lockdown in the Fengtai district, Beijing, on 17 June 2020.
Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Updated at 5.36am BST

4.38am BST

Justine Landis-Hanley reports for the Guardian:

How Australia’s cinemas and theatres will tackle the four-square-metre rule

National cabinet has agreed to replace limits on the number of attendees at non-essential indoor gatherings with the “one person per four square metres” rule, a move designed to help reopen larger entertainment venues such as cinemas and theatres.

New South Wales has announced it will bring in the change on 1 July, along with a 25% attendance limit on venues with 40,000 seats or less.

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, has said that from 22 June restrictions will ease somewhat in the state to allow indoor cinemas, concert venues, theatres and auditoriums to reopen for the first time in months to 50 seated patrons per enclosed space, the four-square-metre rule withstanding.

Cinema Nova, an independent arthouse theatre in Melbourne’s Lygon Street, is one such venue. The chief executive, Kristian Connelly, said the theatre would only be able to admit about one-third of the patrons it normally would in each cinema.

“All the evidence seems to point towards the fact that we are looking at a lot of people being very enthusiastic to return,” Connelly said.

Cinema Nova sold more than 1,300 choc-tops [a ubiquitous Australian cinema ice-cream] during two takeaway sales events run during lockdown, and has been “very encouraged at how quickly tickets are going” for the 22 June reopening.

4.19am BST

Here’s the full story on the news out of New Zealand now, with the Guardian’s Charlotte Graham-McLay:

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has branded an “unacceptable failure” a quarantine blunder that meant two arrivals from Britain left managed isolation in New Zealand without being tested for the coronavirus – which they were later diagnosed with.

“It should never have happened and it cannot be repeated,” Ardern said on Wednesday, adding that the defence force would now oversee the quarantine of new arrivals and audit the quarantine process.

Ardern also said she would temporarily remove the compassionate exemption under which the pair were released from quarantine early.

Health officials are tracing 320 people who are regarded as “close contacts” of the women, and they will be urged to get tested. Close contacts could include passengers on their flight to New Zealand and other quarantined travellers at their Auckland hotel, as well as hotel staff and flight crew. The women were now in isolation with a relative, officials said.

Ardern said the new cases did not change New Zealand’s Covid-free status. “Our definition always assumed there would be cases at the border,” she said.

The government is still scrambling for answers about why two women had not been tested before being allowed to leave an Auckland hotel after they arrived from the UK on 7 June. They had received a compassionate exemption to the compulsory 14-day isolation period for returning travellers in order to visit a dying relative 650km away in Wellington. The compassionate dispensation policy has been suspended.

It was “absolutely nonsensical” that the women had not been tested, Ardern said:

4.02am BST

Deaths worldwide pass 440,000

According to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official government data, the global coronavirus death toll stands at 441,505.

There are 8,155,266 known infections.

Both figures are likely to be higher due to differing testing rates and definitions, time lags and suspected underreporting.

3.53am BST

Japanese researchers confirm coronavirus testing in sewers as possible outbreak warning system

Japanese researchers confirmed the presence of the coronavirus in wastewater plants, a finding that could serve as a signal for future outbreaks, Reuters reports.

The study tested water from four treatment plants in Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures in western Japan. Out of 27 samples, 7 were positive for the SARS-CoV2 virus, according to a preprint of a study by Toyama Prefectural University, Kanazawa University and Kyoto University.

The findings mirror similar studies in Australia, the United States, and Europe. Public health experts say such sampling could be used to estimate the number of infected people in a region without testing every individual.

“Sewage testing is used as an early warning system to alert people about (possibly unnoticed) ongoing community transmission,” said Yuki Furuse, a Kyoto University professor who wasn’t directly involved in the study.

Japan is modifying its testing strategy as it braces for a possible second wave of infections. The health ministry reported yesterday that antibody tests of almost 8,000 people indicated a 0.1% infection rate in Tokyo, 0.17% in Osaka, and 0.03% in rural Miyagi Prefecture.

Also yesterday, the health ministry approved the use of antigen tests to confirm negative cases rather than repeated polymerise chain reaction (PCR) tests. Antigen tests, produced in Japan by a subsidiary of Miraca Holdings Inc, deliver results in 10-30 minutes, compared with up to six hours for a PCR test.

3.41am BST

UK begins talks with Australia and New Zealand on free trade deal

Daniel Hurst reports for the Guardian in Canberra, with Charlotte Graham-McLay in Wellington:

Australia and New Zealand are about to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement with the UK in what the Australian trade minister said was “a strong signal of our mutual support for free trade” in a post-Covid-19 world.

Simon Birmingham said his country was “ready to help the UK find new beginnings post-Brexit and in doing so, open up new doors for our farmers, businesses and investors”.

“We’ve been preparing for this deal since the UK decided to leave the EU and welcome their agreement to commence negotiations,” Birmingham said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

The UK is Australia’s seventh largest trading partner. Birmingham said Australia and the UK hoped to conclude the deal “as quickly as possible”. He said both sides wanted “an ambitious and comprehensive agreement that builds on our already significant people-to-people links and creates new opportunities for exporters, generating more jobs in our nations”.

3.28am BST

Podcast: How is Keir Starmer changing the Labour party?

After a months-long campaign to succeed Jeremy Corbyn, Sir Keir Starmer was eventually elected leader of the Labour party in March, just as the country was entering lockdown and parliament suspended. It was a time of national crisis and public opinion was broadly supportive of the government’s emergency measures.

But as the Guardian’s political editor, Heather Stewart, tells Anushka Asthana, as satisfaction with the government’s handling of coronavirus has dipped, Keir Starmer’s ratings show the best start to the job of any opposition leader in living memory. It follows confident performances in the Commons and a clear-out of prominent Corbyn allies from the shadow cabinet. So is the party now united behind its new leader?

3.10am BST

New Zealand: Summary

Just to recap what happened in New Zealand:

Yesterday, New Zealand cancelled exemptions from quarantine for compassionate reasons, after two women who had flown in to see a dying relative tested positive after they had been released on compassionate grounds.

  • Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the release of the two women, despite them not being tested, was an ‘unacceptable failure of the system’.
  • The government has so far identified 320 close contacts of the two women.
  • The issue of the two women not being tested had nothing to do with a lack of resources, she said.
  • She will not be replacing Minister of Health David Clark.
  • She has, however, called in the military to oversee the quarantine and isolation process, under the leadership of Assistant Chief of Defense Air Commodore Digby Webb.

On Twitter, many stood by Ardern, though some joked that Dr Ashley Bloomfield was in trouble:

Updated at 7.18am BST

2.57am BST

New Zealand identified 320 close contacts of two new cases

Newshub reports that the government has identified 320 close contacts of the two infected women:

The Ministry of Health says the two women remain in self-isolation and are ‘doing well’.

At this point, there are 320 identified close contacts. The majority of these will have been contacted by the end of the day. All of these people will be encouraged to get a test. We are confident there was no contact made with anyone on the journey between Auckland and Wellington.

2.54am BST

That press conference is now finished.

2.54am BST

“I can rule out a resourcing issue completely. We have the resources to roll out thousands of tests.”

Ardern says mandatory contact tracing is a different issue. “I see this as an issue of when we give instructions, we expect it to happen.”

“There has been significant pressure coming in … not least from my colleagues on the other side of the House, to expand borders.”

The pandemic is ongoing, she says, and caution is important.

“This is a growing pandemic, not a slowing one.”

Updated at 2.59am BST

2.52am BST

“Our job is to fix the situation. I also remind people that the Minister of Health has overseen a very successful operation to date and so no, I will not be removing him from his post. He is part of fixing the problem,” says Ardern, referring to Health Minister David Clark.

Updated at 4.07am BST

2.51am BST

“Those who have been granted compassionate leave should have been tested,” says Ardern.

“I’ve asked the assistant chief of defence to come in and look at all exits and audit the entire process.”

2.50am BST

New Zealand PM brings in military to oversee quarantine and isolation facilities

Jacinda Ardern has appointed Assistant Chief of Defense Air Commodore Digby Webb to oversee the country’s quarantine and isolation facilities.

Earlier, New Zealand cancelled exemptions from quarantine for compassionate reasons, after two women who had flown in to see a dying relative tested positive after they had been released on compassionate grounds.

Updated at 7.18am BST

2.47am BST

New Zealand PM calls new cases ‘unacceptable failure of the system’

Newshub reports:

Speaking at her press conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this is an ‘unacceptable failure of the system’.

‘It should never have happened, and it can’t be repeated again,’ she said.

‘We required not one but two tests to be undertaken of those in facilities – one at day three and one at day 12. That should have happened in the cases we learned about yesterday. It did not, and there are no new excuses.’

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says he is “taking responsibility” for ensuring this does not happen again.

‘In this instance, these individuals should have been tested prior to leaving the managed isolation facility,’ he says.

‘We have put in place a number of actions to provide the public and Government assurance that anyone arriving into New Zealand does not pose any risk from Covid-19.’

2.46am BST

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that she is bringing in the military to oversee quarantine operations.

2.44am BST

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is speaking now, we’ll be following it live, as the country confirmed two new cases yesterday.

“There has been a failure in the department of health,” she says.

2.35am BST

Mexico records 3rd highest daily death numbers

Mexico’s 730 deaths are its third-highest one-day total, AP reports.

Even as Mexico announced plans for reopening churches and religious events, the country posted near-record numbers of newly confirmed cases and deaths from Covid-19 on Tuesday.

The Health Department reported that confirmed cases rose by 4,599, the second-highest daily increase to date, to reach an accumulated total of 154,863.

Deaths rose by 730, the third-highest daily confirmation number, after one-day increases of 1,092 and 816 earlier this month. Those death tolls rivaled those of the United States.

Cemetery workers wear protective gear while they place the plastic-wrapped coffin of a man who died from suspected coronavirus into a grave at San Isidro cemetery, Mexico City, Mexico, 15 Jun 2020.
Cemetery workers wear protective gear while they place the plastic-wrapped coffin of a man who died from suspected coronavirus into a grave at San Isidro cemetery, Mexico City, Mexico, 15 Jun 2020.
Photograph: Carlos Tischler/REX/Shutterstock

Both case and death totals, which now stands at 18,310 are clearly undercounts, because Mexico does very little testing.

Health care professionals now account for about 24% of Mexico’s cases; 32,388 doctors, nurses and technicians have been infected, and 463 have died.

Health officials acknowledged Mexico is on a plateau, with sustained rates of transmission and deaths, with few if any signs of a decrease. Despite that, business are beginning to reopen after mandatory lockdowns due to the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, the Interior Department published guidelines for reopening religious activities and churches, which had been ordered closed. in about half the country, churches will be allowed to open at 25% of capacity; once case numbers and hospital saturation and other indicators fall, that capacity will be allowed to rise to 50%.

2.26am BST

South Korea records 43 new cases

The BBC’s Laura Bicker reports that South Korea has confirmed 43 new coronavirus cases:

2.22am BST

A coronavirus treatment and quarantine centre was ransacked Tuesday in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo when a riot erupted over the killing of a young man, authorities said.

The authorities in South Kivu said unidentified gunmen had shot and killed the young man on Monday, adding that according to rumours to he was killed by police who were enforcing a virus curfew declared by Governor Theo Ngwabidje Kasi. The governor promised “his personal involvement so that the investigations repair the harm caused” to the victim’s relatives, the authorities said in a statement.

“When the death was announced, some young people protested and attacked the Bwindi treatment centre,” the statement said.

Photographs verified as authentic by AFP showed broken windows as well as piles of stones on a balcony and in a bedroom.

“The care staff and the people interned at this centre are safe and sound,” the statement said.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has declared 4,974 infections, including 4,480 in the capital Kinshasa and 108 in South Kivu. There are around 100 deaths. Doctor Denis Mukwege proposed the opening of the centre in Bukavu while he was part of the coronavirus response effort in South Kivu province.

The 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureate resigned last week as head of a coronavirus taskforce in the eastern province, blaming organisational problems, outpaced strategy and slow testing.

2.03am BST

Some villagers in the eastern Amazon are spurning Brazilian government advice to take the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to keep the novel coronavirus at bay and are drinking tea of jambú, also known as the toothache plant, Reuters reports.

US regulators withdrew approval this week for the emergency use of hydroxychloroquine to treat patients with Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. It is still being prescribed in Brazil as scientists around the world are working to develop a vaccine and effective treatments.

In remote corners of the Amazon rainforest, where access to intensive care wards can require long boat rides to the nearest cities, prevention is paramount, and people there place their faith in traditional herbal medicines.

1.55am BST

Mexico’s total confirmed coronavirus infections rose to 154,863 cases and 18,310 total deaths on Tuesday, as the health ministry reported 4,599 new infections along with 730 additional fatalities.

The government says the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the official count.

A health brigade gets ready while on door-to-door visits to carry out Covid-19 tests in Mexico City, on 16 June 2020.
A health brigade gets ready while on door-to-door visits to carry out Covid-19 tests in Mexico City, on 16 June 2020.
Photograph: Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images

1.44am BST

Beijing reports 31 new cases, up from 27 a day earlier

Beijing’s city government reported 31 new confirmed coronavirus cases as of end-16 June, up from 27 cases reported a day earlier as the city moves to curb the new outbreak.

The city’s health authority said in a statement posted on its Weibo social media account that 19 of the new cases were reported in southwestern Fengtai district, where a cluster of infections emerged last week.

Security staff members patrol an entrance to the Xinfadi wholesale market, in Beijing, where a new coronavirus cluster has been reported.
Security staff members patrol an entrance to the Xinfadi wholesale market, in Beijing, where a new coronavirus cluster has been reported.
Photograph: Zoya Rusinova/TASS

1.31am BST

Around 9% of Guinea-Bissau health workers have been infected with Covid-19

More than 170 of Guinea-Bissau’s 2,000 health workers have contracted Covid-19, a World Health Organization expert said on Tuesday, warning that hospitals were close to being overwhelmed.

The tiny West African nation’s under-equipped healthcare system has been struggling to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected over 1,400 people and killed 15. Health authorities have raised the alarm over a lack of oxygen to treat patients.

“The three main Bissau hospitals are currently facing rooms filled with Covid-19 patients and a breakdown in essential medical services,” said Joana Cortez, a WHO expert in Guinea-Bissau, during an online seminar on the impact of the epidemic on Portuguese-speaking African countries.

Cortez said 176 health workers in the country had tested positive for the coronavirus. That amounts to nearly 9% of the country’s total medical staff of about 2,000, according to Reuters calculations based on figures from the health authorities.
“It is a chaotic situation,” Cortez said.

Health workers are vulnerable because of a lack of high- quality protective gear, according to Tumane Balde, who heads an interministerial Covid-19 commission.

1.10am BST

More on the rise in cases in the US now:

Across the United States, 17 states saw new cases rise last week, according to a Reuters analysis. In Oklahoma, where President Donald Trump plans to hold an indoor campaign rally on Saturday, new cases rose 68%.

Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday said officials were considering other, possibly outdoor, venues for the Tulsa event. The virus spreads far more efficiently in enclosed spaces.

On Tuesday, Oklahoma health officials urged anyone attending the rally to get tested for the coronavirus before arriving and then to self-isolate following the event and get tested again. The health commissioner urged those over 65 or at higher risk of coronavirus-related complications to stay home.

Pence pushed back against talk of a second wave of infections, citing increased testing.

“In recent days, the media has taken to sounding the alarm bells over a ‘second wave’ of coronavirus infections. Such panic is overblown,” Pence wrote in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece.

“We are winning the fight against the invisible enemy.” More than 2.1 million people have been infected with the coronavirus in the United States and over 116,000 have died from Covid-19, by far the most in the world.

12.59am BST

Kevin Rawlinson and Sarah Boseley report:

Healthcare charities have called for clarity amid growing confusion over government plans to end the coronavirus shielding programme in England.

A report from the Health Service Journal (HSJ) cited sources “close to the issue” that said ministers were planning to tell the roughly 2.2 million clinically extremely vulnerable people they will no longer need to isolate at home from the end of July, when food and medicine deliveries for them would be ended.

On Tuesday evening, a government spokesperson denied that a final decision had been reached. However, there was further confusion when a subsequent report in the Daily Telegraph cited unnamed government sources claiming that the shielding policy would indeed to be relaxed next month.

12.48am BST

Russian President Vladimir Putin is protected from the novel coronavirus by a special disinfection tunnel that anyone visiting his residence outside Moscow must pass through, the state-controlled RIA news agency reported on Tuesday.

The special tunnel, manufactured by a Russian company based in the town of Penza, has been installed at his official Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow where he receives visitors, it said.

Demonstration footage of the tunnel, published by RIA, showed masked people passing through it being sprayed with disinfectant from the ceiling and from the side.

The Russian news agency described the disinfectant as a fine cloud of liquid that covered people’s clothes and any exposed upper body flesh.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said in April that anyone meeting Putin in person was tested for the novel virus. A month later, Peskov said he had himself been infected.

Russia has recorded over 500,000 infections, the third highest number of cases in the world after Brazil and the United States, something it attributes to a massive testing programme.

Russia has registered 7,284 deaths so far – fewer than numerous other countries. Critics are dubious about the accuracy of its mortality figures.

12.29am BST

Brazil suffers record increase in cases

Brazil has had its worst day for new confirmed cases, recording 34,918 in 24 hours to bring its overall total to 923,189 total infections.The health ministry said the country has also suffered 1,282 deaths since the last update on Monday, bringing the number of confirmed fatalities there to 45,241.

In nominal terms, Brazil is the second-worst hit country in the world in both respects.

12.22am BST

Six US states see record case increases

New coronavirus infections hit record highs in six US states on Tuesday, marking a rising tide of cases for a second consecutive week as most states moved forward with reopening their economies, Reuters reports.

Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas all reported record increases in new cases on Tuesday after recording all-time highs last week. Nevada also reported its highest single-day tally of new cases on Tuesday, up from a previous high on May 23. Hospitalizations are also rising or at record highs.

Health officials in many states attribute the spike to businesses reopening and Memorial Day weekend gatherings in late May. Many states are also bracing for a possible increase in cases stemming from tens of thousands of people protesting to end racial injustice and police brutality for the past three weeks.

A man wearing a bandana plays a slot machine at the recently reopened Lucky Star Casino in El Reno.
A man wearing a bandana plays a slot machine at the recently reopened Lucky Star Casino in El Reno.
Photograph: Nick Oxford/Reuters

12.15am BST

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

I’m Helen Sullivan and I’ll be with you for the next few hours.

As always, it would be great to hear from you. Get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan or via email: helen.sullivan@theguardian.com.

New coronavirus infections hit record highs in six US states on Tuesday, marking a rising tide of cases for a second consecutive week as most states moved forward with reopening their economies.

Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas all reported record increases in new cases on Tuesday after recording all-time highs last week. Nevada also reported its highest single-day tally of new cases on Tuesday, up from a previous high on May 23. Hospitalizations are also rising or at record highs.

Health officials in many states attribute the spike to businesses reopening and Memorial Day weekend gatherings in late May. Many states are also bracing for a possible increase in cases stemming from tens of thousands of people protesting to end racial injustice and police brutality for the past three weeks.

Brazil meanwhile has had its worst day for new confirmed cases, recording 34,918 in 24 hours to bring its total to 923,189 total infections.

  • Brazil suffers record increase in cases. Brazil has had its worst day for new confirmed cases, recording 34,918 in 24 hours to bring its overall total to 923,189 total infections.The health ministry said the country has also suffered 1,282 deaths since the last update on Monday, bringing the number of confirmed fatalities there to 45,241.In nominal terms, Brazil is the second-worst hit country in the world in both respects.
  • Steroid found to help prevent deaths of sickest coronavirus patients. A cheap steroid has become the first life-saving treatment in the Covid-19 pandemic, described by scientists as “a major breakthrough” and raising hopes for the survival of thousands of the most seriously ill.
  • Beijing outbreak ‘extremely severe’, say authorities. Authorities in Beijing have described the city’s coronavirus outbreak as “extremely severe” as dozens more cases emerged and travel from the city was curtailed.
  • Australia accuses China of spreading ‘fear and division’ as diplomatic tensions escalate. Australia’s foreign minister has accused China of spreading disinformation while declaring Canberra would take a more active role in global bodies.
  • French police fire tear gas at healthcare protest. French police fired tear gas after being pelted with objects during a Paris demonstration led by healthcare workers demanding more investment in the health system, AFP journalists have reported.
  • Virus ‘hunger pandemic’ threatens Latin America says UN. The coronavirus crisis is pushing 40 million people into food insecurity in South and Central America and the Caribbean, the UN has warned.
  • Spain says British visitors may face quarantine. Britain’s inbound travel restrictions and high coronavirus infection rate mean that as Europe reopens for continental travellers, visitors from the UK risk being shut out, with Spain the latest country to say arrivals may face quarantine.
  • Global oil demand could hit record growth rate next year, IEA warns. The world’s oil demand could climb at its fastest rate in the history of the market next year, and may reach pre-crisis levels within years, unless new green policies are adopted, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
  • Germany appeals to nation to download coronavirus app. The German government has appealed to its citizens to download a newly available coronavirus warning app as it launched what it insisted was its most sophisticated tool yet for tackling the pandemic.

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