Corona Virus, Health, World

‘No one comes’: the cruise ship crews cast adrift by coronavirus

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “‘No one comes’: the cruise ship crews cast adrift by coronavirus” was written by Patrick Greenfield and Erin McCormick, for The Guardian on Friday 1st May 2020 07.15 UTC

The Apex was nearly finished. A brand new cruise ship for the Celebrity Cruises line, it was a towering, 117,000-ton vessel with luxuries like a “resort deck” featuring martini-glass-shaped jacuzzis and a movable platform cantilevered off the side – known as “the Magic Carpet” – to be used as an outdoor restaurant. As the builders put the finishing touches to it, the company held parties for crew and contractors, even as the rest of the world was shutting down to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Alexandra Nedeltcheva was one of the waiters. Though she avoided the parties, she served the contractors and crew at one of the ship’s restaurants. She says she contracted Covid-19 before the Apex even left port.

“It’s really scary, you don’t know how long it’s going to last,” says a coughing Nedeltcheva. She says she had trouble getting anyone to respond to her calls for medicine and help. “When I called medical and said, ‘can you get me some medicine, my head is going to explode’, they said, ‘there are people sicker than you, stay where you are’.”

She is one of more than 100 Celebrity Cruises crew members who have joined a class-action suit filed against the company on 14 April, alleging it failed to take timely action to protect workers, despite having weeks of notice that coronavirus was spreading worldwide.

Crew on the balcony of the Celebrity Apex cruise ship, Saint-Nazaire, France, 1 April 2020
Apex crew claim the company failed to protect workers.
Photograph: Sebastien Salom-Gomis/SIPA

The ship is not an exception. Across the world, a Guardian investigation has uncovered at least 50 ships facing outbreaks of Covid-19 among the crew.

Nedeltcheva, who managed to catch a charter flight to her home city in Bulgaria, may have been one of the lucky ones.

Upwards of 100,000 other crew members – including hundreds of her colleagues aboard the Apex – remain trapped on their ships.

Most have no communication with the outside world, and the ones who do are often scared of losing any prospect of future work by complaining. In the course of the Guardian’s investigation, however, a portrait has begun to emerge of what is effectively a nation of floating castaways, marooned on boats from the Galapagos Islands to the port of Dubai.

The first cruise ship to face Covid-19 cases, the Diamond Princess, was quarantined at dock in Japan for two weeks starting on 3 February. But cruises kept departing until mid-March. Although most passengers have since been repatriated, Covid-19 outbreaks continue to spread among the crew stuck on the ships. Last week employees aboard the Queen Victoria, which had just pulled into Southampton, were told they would have to quarantine in their cabins for 14 days because Covid-19 cases had been confirmed aboard, according to a recording of the captain’s announcement obtained by Business Insider.

Workers in protective gear prepare to check passengers after they disembarked the Diamond Princess cruise ship at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, Japan, 21 February 2020.
The Diamond Princess was quarantined for two weeks in Japan.
Photograph: Jiji Press/EPA

In the US the situation was so grim aboard the Oasis of the Seas, from which rescue crews have repeatedly evacuated sick workers to hospitals in Florida, that the captain made an announcement over the loudspeaker asking crew members not to video their co-workers being taken off the ship in ambulances, according to an account from an employee given to the Miami Herald.

Another member of the class-action suit against Celebrity Cruises, which is owned by Royal Caribbean, is Julia Melim, a US resident who hosted the Celebrity Infinity’s shopping and port-tourism show on the shipboard TV channel. Melim was one of only seven crew members allowed to leave the ship in Miami last week. The rest remain aboard. She says there was so much sickness that the ship’s medical personnel cleared out the whole third floor to isolate and treat people who had symptoms.

The cruise industry says cruise lines were just as blindsided by the pandemic as the rest of the world and that those on ships haven’t suffered higher infection rates than those on land.

A spokesperson for Celebrity Cruises said: “We have no higher priority than keeping our guests and crew safe, healthy, cared for and well-informed. We have at all times worked in close coordination with government and health authorities and are grateful for their guidance. We are working with all appropriate authorities to ensure the safe return home of all our crew members.”

The Cruise Line Industry Association says it is still assembling information on how many of its ships have been affected, but says it so far knows of 899 confirmed cases of Covid-19 on board 15 ocean-going cruise ships.

“This accounts for 0.06% of confirmed cases globally,” said the association in a statement. “It is hard to tell how many of those confirmed cases are crew members, as we are still in the process of collecting that information as well.”

The cruise ship Ruby Princess departs from Port Kembla, Australia, on 23 April 2020
The cruise ship Ruby Princess had 900 cases of Covid-19 and is blamed for spreading the virus around Australia.
Photograph: Saeed Khan/AFP

Those numbers appear to grossly underestimate the problem, given that the Diamond Princess alone had more than 600 cases. Another cruise ship, the Ruby Princess, which is blamed for spreading the disease around Australia in March, has now surpassed the Diamond Princess in the scale of its deadly outbreak – 21 people died and 900 were infected aboard the ship.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has specifically identified cruise ships as being global spreaders of coronavirus.

“Cruise ships are often settings for outbreaks of infectious diseases because of the semi-enclosed environment and contact between travelers from many countries,” said a 4 April CDC order, barring those leaving cruise ships from taking any commercial flights in the US. “Outbreaks of Covid-19 on cruise ships pose a risk for rapid spread of disease beyond the voyage.”

Most ships have only one doctor and a few nurses for thousands of passengers and crew, workers say The ships generally rely on hospitals on shore for urgent care. Because of the pandemic, however, the US and other ports are refusing to take all but the most dire cases.

“They are basically getting no healthcare,” says Michael Winkleman, the attorney in Miami who filed the class-action suit. “They are locked in their rooms and told they can call an advice line for help. But when they call, no one comes.”

Cruise lines have little recourse in seeking government help for urgent healthcare. While many of the major cruise companies, including Carnival and Royal Caribbean, are headquartered in the US, the companies are registered in low-tax countries. Carnival is technically a Panamanian company and Royal Caribbean is registered in Liberia, meaning they pay almost no US taxes.

Likewise their ships are typically flagged in countries such as the Bahamas or Bermuda, which allows them to avoid strict safety standards, labour laws and environmental restrictions they might otherwise face in the US.

A ship flying a flag of convenience means the owner has registered the vessel in a country other than their own. The ship flies the ensign or flag of that country, known as the flag state and operates under its laws, typically laxer than the owner’s own.
For a ship owner, the advantage of this arrangement includes comparatively fewer regulations, lower employment requirements, and thus cheaper labour, cheaper registration fees and lower or no taxes.
For crew members, the disadvantages tend towards lower working standards, fewer rights and little protection. They are opposed by the International Transport Workers’ Federation.
Panama, which has the largest ship registry globally, followed by Liberia, operates an “open registry”, allowing foreign owners to register ships under its flag. It guarantees anonymity to the owners, making it difficult for them to be held to account.
The practice began in the 1920s in the US, when owners of cruise ships registered their vessels in Panama so that they could serve their passengers alcohol during Prohibition.
Karen McVeigh, senior reporter

US Coast Guard officials said in a memo on 29 March that outbreaks aboard ships are straining the rescue and medical resources in the Florida region. The bulletin, first obtained by the Miami Herald, asked ships carrying more than 50 people to prepare to provide their own medical care to those onboard for extended periods.

“Foreign-flagged ships that loiter beyond US territorial seas, particularly those registered in the Bahamas” should seek assistance from the countries where they are flagged, it added.

Carnival Miracle sits in the fog at Long Beach port, California, 23 April 2020
The Carnival Miracle just off the coast of Long Beach, California. The company is registered to Panama.
Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

Officials in the Bahamas responded with their own memo, saying the medical system of the tiny Caribbean island nation would be overwhelmed if it had to take on caring for all those sick aboard cruise ships.

“The cruise industry is facing an unprecedented crisis, and we in the Bahamas, facing the same global crisis, are doing what we can to provide support,” said the statement by the ministry of transport and local government. “Our system is not designed to deal with a massive influx of new Covid-19 patients from outside our country.”

On some ships, crew members say they are being treated well, and some have been moved to passenger cabins with balconies and more space in which to spend their quarantine. Crew on the Celebrity Serenade made a parody video of their time confined to their cabins at sea. Some reported getting bonuses from their cruise lines. The Celebrity Edge, currently floating in the Bahamas, distributed a video of the ship’s captain delivering meals to the rooms of quarantined workers.

On other ships, the situation is dire. Workers have complained that food seemed to be running out, and that they were forced to pay for internet time.

Many crew have had their pay cut off entirely. Workers on board several ships run by the Geneva-based MSC cruise line, according to letters from MSC seen by the Guardian, are no longer being paid after their contracts ran out or were terminated early by the company because of the global pandemic.

A spokesperson for MSC cruises said: “MSC Cruises has taken the difficult decision to temporarily suspend its cruise ship operations. As this health crisis has caused all our ships globally to stop operating, we have temporarily agreed to relieve the majority of our crew from their duties and are working to identify and pay for flight tickets for each and every one to safely return home for the duration of the temporary suspension of ships’ operations. We are offering all those who remain on board full board and lodging free of charge, assigning each of them a guest cabin for individual use.”

A former crew member for another major cruise liner, Krista Thomas, who lives in Vancouver, has been running a private Facebook group to update crew members at sea about how to get home.

She says many crew are scared to speak out. They depend on the cruise industry for livelihoods, and cruise ship pay – while low compared to average wages in many developed countries – is often many times higher than what they can earn at home.

“They’re probably not just taking care of a wife and kids; they’re taking care of parents and in-laws,” says Thomas. “They are living contract to contract to get by … They don’t want to tear the industry down. It has taken a huge hit because of what’s happened and they don’t want to see their industry fall apart.”

Ross Klein, who has written books criticising the cruise industry and runs a website that reports incidents involving cruises, says crew members from developing countries “are in as close to indentured servitude as it gets”. He argues that the cruise companies bear a responsibility to care for them.

“The workers are powerless,” he says. “The employers have a moral and ethical duty to care for these people they brought from around the world. There have got to be ways to work out a solution to get these people safely home.”

Crew members on board the Italian-registered cruise ship Aidadiva, which is docked in the harbour of Skagen, Denmark, 6 April 2020
Crew members of the Italian-registered cruise ship AIDAdiva, which is docked in Denmark, are isolating on board.
Photograph: Henning Bagger/EPA

Alexandra Nedeltcheva, still experiencing the symptoms of Covid-19, has had to pay for an Airbnb to quarantine near her home in Bulgaria, so she doesn’t expose her family. She still worries about her friends aboard the Celebrity Apex in Saint-Nazaire in France. There, as of 14 April, two workers remained hospitalised with severe Covid-19 and 700 crew were still working or isolating, according to a report by a French TV station.

Nedeltcheva says she has enjoyed seeing the world in her 11 years working with Celebrity Cruises, but the treatment she says crew have received during the pandemic has opened her eyes.

“I really want something to change,” she says. “They can take much better care of their crew. It’s time the cruising industry does better.”

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Corona Virus, Health, World

Coronavirus live news: recoveries pass 1m as Trump contradicts intelligence on virus origin

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Coronavirus live news: Kim Jong-un reportedly appears in public – as it happened” was written by Helen Davidson (now); Kevin Rawlinson, Damien Gayle, Jessica Murray, Aamna Mohdin and Helen Sullivan (earlier), for theguardian.com on Friday 1st May 2020 23.52 UTC

12.52am BST

We are closing the blog now but coverage will continue over here.

12.29am BST

Reuters: Police in the Chilean capital Santiago detained more than 50 protesters on Friday, saying they had violated rules intended to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Protesters gathered on the Labor Day holiday in Santiago’s central square, many shouting and displaying signs that railed against abuse of workers and a sharp rise in layoffs in the South American nation.

Calls to protest on social media warned those who attended the rally to “use gloves, masks and alcohol gel,” but police said demonstrators had failed to adhere to a nationwide rule against gatherings of more than 50 people.

The Carabineros police force said on Twitter that one of the protesters detained had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and was meant to be in isolation for another week.

Police officers clad in plastic-screened helmets and olive uniforms herded protesters into police vehicles, while water cannons mounted on trucks nearby dispersed others.

Santiago is under partial quarantine, but scattered, small protests against the government of center-right President Sebastian Pinera have persisted in areas not under lockdown.

12.21am BST

Hello, this is Helen Davidson taking over the live blog for the next little bit. Thanks to Kevin Rawlinson for his coverage over the last few hours.

Here is our latest catch-up on recent developments.

12.00am BST

The top US health official Dr Anthony Fauci will be prevented from testifying to a congressional committee examining the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic next week, the White House has said.

The Trump administration claimed it would be “counterproductive” to have individuals involved in the response testify. The White House spokesman Judd Deere told Reuters:

While the Trump administration continues its whole-of-government response to Covid-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counter-productive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings.

We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time.

11.44pm BST

Trump said after the KCNA report that he will have something to say about Kim at the appropriate time.

There has been speculation about Kim’s health after he missed the birth anniversary celebrations of state founder Kim Il Sung on 15 April. The day is a major holiday in North Korea and Kim as leader usually pays a visit to the mausoleum where his grandfather lies in state.

A source familiar with US intelligence analyses and reporting told Reuters they could not immediately confirm the KCNA report. The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

11.41pm BST

According to Reuters, the news of Kim Jong-un’s appearance in public is now also being reported by North Korean sources.

The state news agency KCNA says he attended the completion of a fertiliser plant in a region north of the capital, Pyongyang, on Friday.

It is the first report of his public activity since 11 April. According to KCNA, Kim cut a ribbon at the ceremony and those in attendance “burst into thunderous cheers of ‘hurrah!’ for the Supreme Leader who is commanding the all-people general march for accomplishing the great cause of prosperity”.

Kim was accompanied by several senior North Korean officials, including his younger sister Kim Yo Jong, KCNA said.

Reuters said it could not independently verify the report.

11.03pm BST

Trump now hopes for fewer than 100,000 deaths

The US president Donald Trump has offered an increasingly bleak picture for the US, telling a White House event:

Hopefully, we’re going to come in below that 100,000 lives lost, which is a horrible number, nevertheless.

Trump, who initially dismissed the outbreak as a “hoax”, has oscillated between claiming that a death toll of between 100,000 and 200,000 people would represent a success and predicting it could be as light as 60,000 or 70,000.

According to the latest figures from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 62,406 people have died in the US since the outbreak began.

Updated at 11.05pm BST

10.32pm BST

Kim Jong-un reportedly appears in public

The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has made his first public appearance in nearly three weeks, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

His absence amid the pandemic had been the cause of speculation, though South Korean and US officials had stressed their belief he was not ill and could simply have been sheltering from the pandemic.

Updated at 11.21pm BST

10.15pm BST

More than 70% of virus patients admitted to critical care are men, according to data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC).

The research was based on a sample of 7,542 critically-ill patients confirmed as having Covid-19. It showed 5,389 of the patients were men compared to 2,149 women.

The report also found that men were more likely to die in critical care, with 51% dying in care compared to around 43% of women. In total about 49% of the 5,139 patients admitted to critical care who had recorded care outcomes had died, it found.

9.56pm BST

The FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn was careful to note that remdesivir has not received FDA approval as a coronavirus treatment and has only been approved for emergency use on severely ill patients who have been hospitalised.

FDA approval requires a much more lengthy review process, while an emergency use authorisation is issued more quickly after the agency weighs the potential risks and potential benefits of a treatment option to help address an emergency situation.

Today’s action is an important step in our efforts to collaborate with innovators and researchers to provide sick patients timely access to new therapies where appropriate, while at the same time supporting research to further evaluate whether they are safe and effective.

There’s tremendous interest among all parties to identify and arm ourselves with medicines to combat COVID-19, and through our Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program, the FDA is working around-the-clock and using every tool at our disposal to speed these efforts.

9.52pm BST

More people stayed home in Brazil, Japan and Singapore in April as their numbers of cases surged, while people in the United States and Australia returned to parks and jobs as infection rates flattened, data from Google suggest.

The latest weekly update of aggregated travel patterns Google collected from its users’ phones points to increased disobedience with lockdown orders in place since March but rising compliance with those issued last month.

9.43pm BST

US to allow emergency use of remdesivir for hospitalised patients

The US president Donald Trump has told reporters the drug remedesivir has been approved for emergency use to treat coronavirus patients.

The FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn clarified that the drug had specifically been cleared for emergency use on those in hospital.

The president said the approval represented a “very promising situation” and the White House’s taskforce coordinator Dr Deborah Birx added: “I think this really illustrates what can happen in such a short time.”

The emergency approval comes days after Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, expressed cautious optimism about the results of a remdesivir drug trial.

The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery. What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus.

9.23pm BST

Albania is relaxing some of its restrictions from Monday, its prime minister Edi Rama has said.

It will enlarge its area of green zones and let taxis travel between cities. Then, from 11 May, it will allow shopping centres to open and cars to travel without permits.

While still enforcing an afternoon-to-dawn curfew, Albania has eased its restrictions this week, letting many retailers open except for bars and restaurants, though they may offer deliveries. Some people wore masks, others did not.

9.09pm BST

On 12 March, two weeks after Australia declared the coronavirus would become a pandemic and 47 days after the first case in Australia was detected in Melbourne, the World Health Organisation made it official.

That night, in Melbourne, organisers of the Australian Grand Prix were scrambling to keep the event open despite an 11th hour order from Victoria’s chief health officer that they could run the race but had to turn spectators away. It would be the first major event in Australia to be cancelled by the coronavirus. Within 24 hours, almost every other flagship event planned for the next month would follow suit.

This is the first 50 days of the shutdown.

8.39pm BST

Yemen has reported its first case in Taiz governorate, raising the number of diagnosed infections to seven with two deaths in the war-torn country that lacks medical care.

The United Nations says it fears the virus could be spreading undetected among an acutely malnourished population with inadequate testing capabilities. The national emergency coronavirus committee tweeted:

A new confirmed case of coronavirus was reported, the first in (southwestern) governorate of Taiz, in a man in his 40s.

Yemen recorded its first case in southern Hadharamout province on 10 April. On Wednesday, it announced five infections in the southern port of Aden, with two deaths.

8.13pm BST

Hundreds of people have gathered in a Berlin square to mark May Day in defiance of the ban on public gatherings of more than 20, exposing deep frustrations with physical distancing rules.

Reuters reports that police blocked roads around a square in Kreuzberg, traditionally the centre of left-wing May Day protests to prevent more people from joining what a police spokeswoman called an illegal gathering.

Leftist groups had called for the demonstration to denounce capitalism and urge solidarity, especially with refugees seeking to reach Europe. They had urged participants to wear masks and stay at least 1.5 metres apart.

“Saving lives is not a crime,” read a giant red banner dangled from a window, in a reference to the rescue ships saving refugees trying to reach Europe.

Most of those gathered appeared to be keeping a safe distance from one another. Riot police watched from a distance as a police helicopter circled overhead.

“We have prevented the parade from growing bigger and are using loudspeakers to urge people to disperse,” the police spokeswoman said, adding that the situation remained largely peaceful.

An overwhelming majority of Germans back the lockdown enforced by the country’s 16 states and backed by the chancellor Angela Merkel, despite its heavy toll on the economy, which is expected to contract by a record of more than 6% this year.

7.42pm BST

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reiterated that the virus is of natural origin after the US president’s uncorroborated claims he had seen evidence it originated in a Chinese lab, AFP reports.

Scientists believe it jumped from animals to humans, emerging in China late last year, possibly from a market in Wuhan selling exotic animals for meat.

Trump has refused to offer any details of or evidence for his claim that he has proof that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was actually the source of the outbreak.

Asked about Trump’s claim during a virtual press conference, WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan stressed that the UN health agency had “listened again and again to numerous scientists who have looked at the sequences” of the virus.

“We are assured that this virus is natural in origin,” he said, reiterating a stance the UN agency has expressed previously.

7.18pm BST

Varadkar’s widely expected announcement was made in a solemn address that channelled the Vera Lynn song We’ll Meet Again.

Varadkar announced two tweaks to restrictions that are due to expire on 5 May: the 2km limit on exercise will extend to 5km and people aged over 70 who are cocooning will be allowed to exercise outdoors.

I know it’s been difficult. The uncertainty about when things will get back to normal and the fear of the virus itself. As a nation, our physical health has been attacked, our mental health eroded. Our economy battered and our society put to the ultimate test.

Restrictions were working and had saved thousands of lives but progress could be “swept away” with premature relaxation, he said.

It will take some time for our lives to get back to normal. To a new normal. But it will happen.

The reopening will have five stages, three weeks apart, starting on 18 May. If Covid-19 surges, it may be necessary to reverse, said Varadkar.

In the first phase outdoor workers, including builders and gardeners, will be able to return to work. Hardware shops, garden centres and other selected categories will be allowed to reopen and small outdoor gatherings will be permitted. “Not long from now, some summer night, we will see our friends again,” said Varadkar.

6.57pm BST

US meat production has continued to decline as the coronavirus crisis forces the shutdown of more processing facilities, sparking fears of shortages at grocery stores nationwide, writes Guardian US reporter Kenya Evelyn.

The US Department of Agriculture’s weekly report found that from 27 April, beef production was down nearly 25% compared to the same time last year. Pork production was down 15%.

While Sonny Perdue, the agriculture secretary, has said the US has “plenty of food for all of [its] citizens”, fewer pigs are being slaughtered at processing plants, down by nearly 50% since mid-March.

Meat processing companies have paused operations as some workers have tested positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Last month, Tyson Foods, one of America’s largest meat producers, warned “the food supply chain is breaking” in a full-page ad in newspapers including the New York Times.

“There will be limited supply of products,” the Arkansas-based company said, until it can reopen closed facilities.

6.55pm BST

Strict measures to continue in Ireland until 18 May

Restriction on movement are to continue for several more weeks in Ireland, although over-70s may now leaves their homes to exercise, Leo Varadkar has said.

In an address to the nation on Friday evening, the Taoiseach said most restrictions would remain in place until 18 May, “to weaken the virus further so it doesn’t make a comeback,” the Journal reported.

6.44pm BST

Thirty-four more people have died from Covid-19 in Ireland, taking the country’s total death toll 1,265, reports the Irish Department of Health.

There is now a total of 20,833 confirmed cases in the country after 221 more were detected since Thursday.

6.32pm BST

Markets slide on US-China Covid-19 trade war threat

Donald Trump threatening to reignite the US-China trade war in reaction to coronavirus has triggered a sell-off in global financial markets, as the economic costs of the pandemic continue to mount, Richard Partington, the Guardian’s economics correspondent, reports.

Against a backdrop of rising tension between the world’s two biggest economic superpowers, share prices resumed a downward slide on Friday with the FTSE 100 falling by 144 points, or 2.5%, in London.

Selling pressure resumed on Wall Street after recording gradual gains in recent weeks amid rising hopes a turning point had been reached for the coronavirus crisis. As fears over the economic costs from the disease mount and as the White House ramped up the threat of a renewed trade conflict with Beijing, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by more than 2% in afternoon trading in New York.

Stock prices fell sharply in Japan, with the Nikkei index of leading Japanese company shares sliding by more than 500 points, or 2.8%. Markets in China, Hong Kong and South Korea were closed for public holidays.

Despite world leaders starting to outline plans to lift lockdown measures more than a month on from the depths of the crisis, the economic fallout from tight controls on social and business activity during the Covid-19 outbreak are now becoming increasingly clear

6.22pm BST

A US federal judge ordered authorities to release of people from three migrant detention centres in Florida to prevent a wider spread of the coronavirus and protect detainees with underlying conditions, the Associated Press reports.

District court judge Marcia Cooke issued an order late on Thursday for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to begin the steps to bring down the number of detainees from 1,400 to about 350 within two weeks.

Two others orders were also issued on Thursday by federal judges in California and Louisiana siding with groups seeking the release of immigrants at high risk.

In Miami, seven detainees at the Krome detention centre have tested positive for Covid-19. According to court filings at least eight members of staff have also been infected there.

The judge said she found violations of the Fifth and Eight Amendments that protect due process and against unusual punishment, as conditions are worsening each day at Krome and authorities have failed at practicing social distancing at one of the other facilities.

These failures have placed petitioners at a heightened risk of not only contracting COVID-19, but also succumbing to the fatal effects of the virus as some of the petitioners have serious underlying medical illness, Cook wrote in the document. Such failures amount to cruel and unusual punishment because they are exemplary of deliberate indifference.

ICE was ordered to submit a report on Sunday with the steps to release detainees.

Updated at 6.22pm BST

6.17pm BST

Summary

Here are the latest headlines in our global coronavirus news coverage:

  • The global number of infections passed 3.2m, while at least 233,000 have died, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University’s tally of official figures.
  • The UK death toll rose to at least 27,510 after officials reported 739 more deaths. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said 177,454 people have tested positive; an increase of 6,201 since Thursday’s update. Of those, 15,111 are in hospital.
  • The US military has developed as potential breakthrough test that could identify carriers before they become infectious. Researchers hope the blood test will detect the virus about four days before current tests can.
  • Israel is to partially reopen schools on Sunday, with a full return for all students by 1 June. First, second and third graders as well as 11th and 12th graders can return to school from Sunday, the first day of the week in Israel.
  • US activists plan biggest rent strike in decades, calling for state leaders to cancel rent during the pandemic. Activists in New York, Pennsylvania and California are encouraging tenants to withhold rent, even if they can pay.
  • India extended its lockdown – the world’s biggest by population – for two more weeks, but with some easing of restrictions in areas with few cases.
  • South Africa began to ease its lockdown, with some industries allowed to reopen after five weeks. Africa’s most industrialised nation was already struggling with low growth and high debts when the lockdown began on 27 March.
  • The US handed m Covid-19 aid to fossil fuel firms, money that they are unlikely to have to pay back, according to a review of coronavirus aid meant for small businesses by investigative research group Documented and the Guardian.
  • Japan is preparing for a month-long extension to its state of emergency, its prime minister, Shinzo Abe, says. He imposed an initial month-long emergency for seven regions on 7 April, before expanding it across the whole country.

6.06pm BST

Six more people have died from coronavirus in Serbia, while 196 new infections were recorded, according to a report on local news site Telegraf.

The latest update brings the total death toll in the Balkan country to 185, with the overall number of confirmed cases now at 9,205.

Serbia has so far counted 113 male victims of the virus, and 72 female. Sixty-five patients are currently on respirators in the country.

5.52pm BST

Egypt has reported 14 more deaths from Covid-19, bringing the country’s total toll to 406.

According to the health ministry’s daily report, published on Facebook, 358 more confirmed cases of coronavirus were detected. So far 5,895 infections have been confirmed in Egypt, making it Africa’s second-worst affected country.

5.46pm BST

Deaths from the Covid-19 epidemic in Italy climbed by 269 on Friday, down from 285 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, while the daily tally of new infections stood at 1,965 against 1,872 on Thursday, Reuters reports.

The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on 21 February now stands at 28,236, the agency said – giving it the second highest death toll from the virus in the world after that of the US.

The number of officially confirmed cases, which includes those who have died or recovered, was 207,428, the third highest global tally behind those of the US and Spain.

People registered as currently carrying the illness declined to 100,943 from 101,551 on Thursday.

There were 1,578 people in intensive care on Friday against a previous 1,694, maintaining a long-running decline. Of those originally infected, 78,249 were declared recovered against 75,945 a day earlier.

The agency said 1.399 million people had been tested for the virus against 1.355 million the day before, out of a population of around 60 million.

5.37pm BST

Scientists in Germany have said children with the coronavirus may be as infectious as adults, and urged caution as schools and playgrounds across Europe start to reopen, Kate Connolly in Berlin and Kim Willsher in Paris report.

Researchers who analysed data on infected people found that the viral loads in children differed little from those in adults. Opening schools on the assumption that children are less likely to spread the virus was therefore ill-advised, said Christian Drosten, a virologist and Germany’s leading coronavirus expert, who led the team.

“In the current situation, we must warn against the unlimited reopening of schools and kindergartens,” he added.

Drosten’s study, which was released this week, examined the viral loads in the throats of 3,721 people, including more than 100 children, who tested positive for coronavirus in Berlin between January and April

He said he had been able to carry out his analysis once the number of tests carried out by Labor Berlin, the largest laboratory of its kind in Europe, had reached the critical mass of 60,000 earlier this week. That gave him and his team, including Terry Jones, a mathematician from the Centre for Pathogen Evolution at the University of Cambridge, enough data to be able to carry out an analysis of children who have had the virus.

5.33pm BST

The number of people who have died from Covid-19 in Turkey has risen by 84 in the last 24 hours to 3,258, with 2,188 new cases of the virus, Health Ministry data showed on Friday, according to Reuters.

The total number of cases rose to 122,392, the data showed, the highest total outside Western Europe or the US.

A total of 53,808 people have so far recovered. The number of tests conducted in the past 24 hours stood at 41,431, raising the total number of tests during the outbreak to 1.075 million.

5.22pm BST

UK death toll rises by 739 to 27,510

The UK has reported 739 more deaths from Covid-19, bringing the total death toll in the country to 27,510.

In a daily briefing on the outbreak, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said 177,454 people have so far tested positive for coronavirus, an increase of 6,201 since yesterday.

Of those, 15,111 patients are currently in hospital, Hancock said.

You can see more more updates from the daily briefing on our UK blog.

5.12pm BST

South Africa begins to ease lockdown

South Africa began to ease its strict coronavirus lockdown on Friday, allowing some industries to reopen after five weeks of restrictions, AFP reports.

Africa’s most industrialised nation was already teetering with low growth and high debts when the lockdown kicked in on 27 March.

Its easing comes after the ratings agency S&P on Wednesday downgraded the country’s credit rating further to junk.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a televised May Day speech:

The poor and the working class are having to bear the burden of a global pandemic that has caused severe economic and social disruption …

As we begin the process of easing the lockdown and many people start returning to work, we must remain vigilant and careful …

The road ahead will be long and hard, and we will make mistakes.

Staff at a bookshop in Johannesburg prepare for its reopening on Friday
Staff at a bookshop in Johannesburg prepare for its reopening on Friday
Photograph: China News Service/China News Service via Getty Images

With 5,647 confirmed cases and 103 fatalities, South Africa has the continent’s highest Covid-19 death toll.

But a mid-April government survey published on Friday showed that respondents were more concerned about a potential economic collapse than contracting coronavirus.

5.08pm BST

People living in the poorest parts of the UK are dying from Covid-19 at double the rate of people in the richest areas, a data analysis has found, writes Caelainn Barr, the Guardian’s data projects editor.

The most deprived areas had 55.1 deaths per 100,000 people – more than double that of people in the least deprived areas, where the death rate was 25.3, according to figures from England and Wales published by the Office for National Statistics on Friday.

The findings have lead to calls for the government to support the most vulnerable and prompted questions about why poorer people appear to be dying in greater numbers than the wealthy.

Javed Khan, the chief executive of Barnardo’s, said the crisis highlighted “deep-rooted inequalities that have been papered over for decades”. He went on:

Vulnerable children and families – and those already experiencing disadvantage – risk becoming the forgotten victims. Without intervention this crisis will be devastating for a whole generation – their mental health, safety, education and job prospects are on the line.

The government must ensure that the emergency funding and resources already announced reaches those in need without delay. And in the months ahead funding decisions should reflect the scale of the challenge now facing vulnerable children and families.

4.55pm BST

India extends coronavirus lockdown for two weeks

India is to extend its coronavirus lockdown – the world’s biggest by population – but with some easing of restrictions in areas with few cases, according to AFP.

The home ministry said in a statement that in view of “significant gains in the COVID-19 situation”, areas with few or no cases would see “considerable relaxations”.

The lockdown imposed near the end of March has caused misery for millions of workers in India’s vast informal sector and dealt a major blow to Asia’s third-biggest economy.

Air travel and passenger trains ground to a halt because of the lockdown and only the transport of “essential goods” was allowed, causing major problems as well as considerable confusion for industry and agriculture.

However the stringent restrictions have been credited with keeping confirmed cases of coronavirus to about 35,000 cases as of Friday, with 1,152 deaths.

The government said Friday that many activities will remain prohibited nationwide including air and rail travel – except for “select purposes” – schools, restaurants and large gatherings such as places of worship.

Restrictions are being lifted largely according to what colour an area has been assigned in a government rating system.

India is split into red zones with “significant risk of spread of the infection”; green zones with zero cases or no confirmed cases in the past 21 days; and those in between as orange.

4.44pm BST

An outbreak of Covid-19 among workers in a meat factory in Tipperary has raised fears that the virus is spreading through abattoirs and meat-processing plants in Ireland, writes Ella McSweeney, for the Guardian’s Animals Farmed project.

Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on agriculture, Brian Stanley, told the Irish parliament last night that 120 workers at the Rosderra Meats plant in Roscrea had tested positive for the virus. He also said that of 350 workers at the plant, up to 140 were off sick last week. Rosderra is the largest pork-processing company in Ireland.

Michael Creed, Ireland’s agriculture minister, told MPs that he was aware of six meat-processing plants with two or more confirmed cases of Covid-19 among workers, although he did not name them.

A spokesperson for Rosderra Meats confirmed to the Guardian that a number of employees had tested positive for coronavirus. They said that the company had implemented stringent measures to ensure the safety of employees, and added that production will be scaled down until all staff return to work.

4.30pm BST

The World Health Organization’s daily coronavirus briefing is starting now. Today, the UN health agency is expected to announce a joint effort with the European Investment bank to support countries in addressing the health impact of Covid-19.

The partnership between WHO and the world’s largest international public bank is meant to boost cooperation to strengthen public health, supply of essential equipment, training and hygiene investment in countries most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO said in a release on Friday.

It will will benefit from the EIB’s planned €1.4bn response to address the health, social and economic impact of COVID-19 in Africa.

Efforts will include: scaling up investment to tackle antimicrobial resistance; improving the effectiveness of malaria treatment; scaling up investment to tackle antimicrobial resistance

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, said:

Combining the public health experience of the World Health Organization and the financial expertise of the European Investment Bank will contribute to a more effective response to COVID-19 and other pressing health challenges.

WHO looks forward to strengthening cooperation with the EIB to improve access to essential supplies including medical equipment and training, and deliver better water, sanitation and hygiene where most needed. New initiatives to improve primary health care in Africa and support the EU Malaria Fund hint at the potential impact of our new partnership

4.23pm BST

As of 30 April, Vietnam has a coronavirus death count of zero and only 270 cases. Trang Bui, a Vietnamese freelance journalist based in Ho Chi Minh City, has written for the Guardian’s Comment section about how the south east Asian nation achieved it.

Out of the key factors that contributed to Vietnam’s successful coronavirus response, timeliness was the first. Vietnam acted early and did not hesitate to alert its citizens. On 28 January, when the country recorded only two cases, the government announced that it was planning for a scenario in which thousands of people could contract the virus.

4.15pm BST

4.12pm BST

Rwanda is to ease its coronavirus lockdown from Monday, allowing limited movement of people and restricted re-openings of restaurants and hotels, according to Reuters.

Movement between provinces in the central African country will still not be allowed, while schools will also remain shut until September, according to a government statement released late on Thursday.

All resumed services must adhere to health guidelines … mask wearing and social distancing.

Rwanda alongside neighbouring Uganda implemented some of the strictest lockdown measures in Africa to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, including shuttering all but the most essential businesses.

As of Thursday it had 243 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no deaths.

4.07pm BST

US military develops breakthrough Covid-19 test

Scientists working for the US military have designed a new Covid-19 test that could potentially identify carriers before they become infectious and spread the disease, Giles Tremlett reports for the Guardian.

In what could be a significant breakthrough, project coordinators hope the blood-based test will be able to detect the virus’s presence as early as 24 hours after infection – before people show symptoms and several days before a carrier is considered capable of spreading it to other people. That is also around four days before current tests can detect the virus.

The test has emerged from a project set up by the US military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) aimed at rapid diagnosis of germ or chemical warfare poisoning. It was hurriedly repurposed when the pandemic broke out and the new test is expected to be put forward for emergency use approval (EUA) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) within a week.

“The concept fills a diagnostic gap worldwide,” the head of Darpa’s biological technologies office, Dr Brad Ringeisen, told the Guardian, since it should also fill in testing gaps at later stages of the infection. If given FDA approval, he said, it had the potential to be “absolutely a gamechanger”.

4.02pm BST

Comoros has reported its first case of coronavirus, the World Health Organization’s Africa office said. Its daily round up of Covid-19 figures from Africa showed that South Africa and Egypt still have the most confirmed cases, while Algeria has recorded the most deaths.

3.59pm BST

Riot police fanned out across Hong Kong on Friday after democracy activists threatened to defy a ban on gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic – but the streets remained largely calm, AFP reports.

Activists in the semi-autonomous financial hub, which had for months protested against a strengthening of control by China’s government, had issued calls to muster once more on May Day – despite emergency anti-virus laws banning more than four people gathering in public.

The threat largely failed to materialise, although hundreds of protesters did however gather in small groups at a shopping mall in the town of Shatin, chanting slogans and holding protest flags.

Riot police soon rushed into the mall and used pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

One protester, a retired firefighter who gave his name as Lam, said:

I feel that the movement has been watered down because of the pandemic, but I personally think we should keep fighting. If we shrink back and accept our fate, then we will be living under an authoritarian regime.

Riot police enter a shopping mall to disperse May Day protesters in Hong Kong
Riot police enter a shopping mall to disperse May Day protesters in Hong Kong
Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP
Hundreds of protesters gathered in small groups at a shopping mall in the town of Shatin, chanting slogans and holding protest flags
Hundreds of protesters gathered in small groups at a shopping mall in the town of Shatin, chanting slogans and holding protest flags
Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP
Woman is covered with pepper spray as riot police disperse people from the mall
Woman is covered with pepper spray as riot police disperse people from the mall
Photograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

3.39pm BST

A day after armed protesters against Michigan’s stay-at-home order entered the statehouse in Lansing, Donald Trump has once again expressed support for the rightwing movement, writes Joan E Greve, a Guardian US politics reporter.

Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, should, the president wrote in a tweet on Friday morning, “make a deal” with the demonstrators.

Some of the demonstrators in Lansing on Thursday carried assault rifles, causing alarm among legislators.

Some protesters, many without face coverings, entered the statehouse and demanded to be let on to the House floor, which is not allowed. The gallery was closed to the public to allow room for representatives and reporters to spread apart.

3.30pm BST

Cities around the world are taking the lead in post-coronavirus planning, with a raft of environmental initiatives being rolled out in places from Bogotá to Barcelona to ensure public safety and bolster the fight against climate breakdown, Guardian environment correspondents Matthew Taylor and Sandra Laville report.

Mayors from cities in Europe, the US and Africa held talks this week to coordinate their efforts to support a low-carbon, sustainable recovery from the crisis as national governments begin to roll out huge economic stimulus packages.

Many cities have already announced measures, from hundreds of miles of new bike lanes in Milan and Mexico City to widening pavements and pedestrianising neighbourhoods in New York and Seattle.

The initiatives are designed to allow people to move around urban spaces safely in a world where physical distancing will be the norm for the foreseeable future – and do so without sparking a drastic increase in air pollution.

The mayors who took part in the newly formed economic taskforce this week believe these initial schemes point the way to more radical long-term measures that will help tackle inequality and the climate crisis.

The mayor of Milan, who is heading the taskforce run by the C40 group of cities, said:

Our immediate priority is to protect the health of our residents and overcome the Covid-19 pandemic. However, we must also look towards how we will keep our people safe in the future. How we structure our recovery efforts will define our cities for decades to come.

3.24pm BST

Is expecting the worst the best way to handle the coronavirus crisis?

During the pandemic, it’s useful to see the role your coping mechanisms play, if only to stop yourself spiralling into anxiety, writes Oliver Burkemann, a Guardian writer based in New York, in his regular column on mental wellbeing.

Exactly how terrible are the next months and years going to be? As a generally apocalyptically minded sort of person, I’ve been feeling some pride in watching my favourite question become everyone else’s favourite question, too; it’s like being a 19th-century aristocrat and seeing your debutante daughter become the star of the London season. But in deciding who to listen to, and thus how alarmed to be, it’s easy to overlook a crucial factor: in a crisis as all-consuming as this one, nobody – not academic experts, not media commentators, not that one friend who keeps urging you to be less (or more) worried than you are – is a completely neutral observer. Because predictions about the future aren’t solely about the future. They’re also coping mechanisms for dealing with the present.

3.13pm BST

Damien Gayle here back at the reins of the blog now, with thanks to my colleague Jessica Murray for covering my break for the past hour. Remember, if you want to send me any tips, comments or suggestions for coverage please drop me a line at damien.gayle@theguardian.com, or a via Twitter DM to @damiengayle.

3.09pm BST

Boris Johnson is of course no newcomer to Greece, a country he visited regularly in pre-corona times to sojourn at his father’s villa in Pelion, the peninsula off the mainland overlooking the Aegean Sea.

Greek diplomats and politicians voice admiration for his knowledge of the classics.

But Britain’s handling of the disease – its soft-touch approach and consequential catastrophic death toll – has been met with disbelief in a nation that, despite the odds has kept Covid-19 under remarkable control.

In contrast to the 26,771 people who have succumbed to the pandemic in the UK which has registered 165,221 coronavirus cases so far, Greece has recorded 2,591 infections and a death toll of 140 after enforcing tough measures to curb the spread of the disease early on.

Addressing reporters at his daily briefing on Thursday, the Greek health ministry spokesman and infectious disease expert professor Sotiris Tsiodras spoke of “victory” saying incidents of the illness had clearly stabilised.

The UK is home to a large Greek community many of whom fled to Greece before commercial air traffic was suspended in March.

Indicative of the mood the popular Protothema newspaper reported the news of the birth of the prime minister’s latest child under the headline: “Johnson, father amid national sorrow over coronavirus.”

“In the midst of the national sorrow that has weighed down on British society, the birth of Boris Johnson’s son has once again brought his personal life, one that is as unconventional as he is, back in the public eye,” the paper wrote. “[A life] with two marriages, an engagement, three extra marital affairs and at least six children.”

Graffiti in Athens’ ancient Plaka district reading: “In the beginning there was Boris, Then there was God.”
Graffiti in Athens’ ancient Plaka district
Photograph: Helena Smith

3.05pm BST

Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, continued to fly in the face of science on Thursday when he called social isolation measures introduced by state governors and mayors “useless”.

He said:

We know that many people will die. I’m sorry.

Seventy percent of the population will be infected and, from what it seems, from what we are seeing now, up until now all this effort to flatten the curve was practically useless.

What’s the consequence, the collateral effect of this? Unemployment. The people want to go back to work.

The president has consistently sought to downplay the impacts of the pandemic, arguing that Brazilians would be immune because they jump in sewage, and mixing with supporters.

Brazil has 85,380 confirmed cases and 5,901 deaths with 435 reported in the last 24 hours as numbers accelerate.

His new health minister, Nelson Teich, earlier contradicted this view. “You can’t start freeing things up when you have a curve that is frankly ascending,” he said.

While there are no definitive studies about the impact of social isolation on the growth of Brazil’s cases, experts believe it has had a positive impact.

The worst-hit state of São Paulo, for instance, was supposed to see a peak in April but this has now been moved to May, the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper reported.

“Brazil had flattened the curve, yes, with isolation measures, but in the last two weeks we are seeing a loosening of isolation and what we are seeing is a new acceleration of the epidemic,” Fernando Bozza,a researcher in infectious diseases at the government research institute Fiocruz in Rio de Janeiro who is modelling the pandemic, told the Guardian.

2.54pm BST

Health workers react after the last patients were discharged from a temporary hospital in Madrid before its closure.
Health workers react after the last patients were discharged from a temporary hospital in Madrid before its closure.
Photograph: Sergio Pérez/Reuters

2.41pm BST

Malaysia on Friday detained hundreds of refugees and migrant workers for illegally living in the country, rights groups said, at a time of movement and travel restrictions imposed to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Malaysia has around two million registered foreign workers but authorities estimate many more are living in the Southeast Asian country without proper documents.

Malaysia does not formally recognise refugees, regarding them as illegal migrants.

The arrests followed immigration raids in a neighbourhood in capital Kuala Lumpur where thousands of migrant workers and refugees live, according to human rights groups and photos shared on social media.

Human Rights Watch and the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network said over 700 migrants were taken into custody including young children.

Malaysian police and the immigration department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Rachel Tan, programme officer at the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, said the arrests were a “criminalisation of a people who toil in difficult and dangerous work conditions”.

The neighbourhood where the raids took place was close to an area with three buildings that had been placed under strict lockdowns last month after a surge in coronavirus cases there.

Malaysia has reported a total of 6,071 coronavirus cases and 103 deaths, and its prime minister said on Friday that most businesses will reopen from Monday following six-week long curbs that have caused a damaging economic slowdown.

2.33pm BST

Big Macs delivered on meal trolleys, hand washing stations at the entrance and designated waiting spots to separate customers could become a feature of McDonald’s restaurants in the Netherlands when they are allowed to reopen.

In a trial at a restaurant in the city of Arnhem, McDonald’s has been looking for ways to maintain social distancing when the coronavirus lockdown is relaxed.

McDonald’s Netherlands spokeswoman Eunice Koekkoek told Reuters:

We have tried to figure out how to keep our customers and employees safe, while maintaining a restaurant atmosphere.

These are drastic changes, but we hope to make them in a way that customers don’t notice them too much.

A McDonalds’ employee uses a trolley to deliver food to a ‘customer’ at a test location in a restaurant at in Arnhem, The Netherlands.
A McDonalds’ employee uses a trolley to deliver food to a ‘customer’ at a test location in a restaurant at in Arnhem, The Netherlands.
Photograph: Remko de Waal/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

Restaurants, bars and other public places in the Netherlands have been closed since 15 March.

But new infections have been dropping, prompting calls to loosen the lockdown after its current deadline of 19 May.

A decision on whether to reopen restaurants and bars is expected around 12 May, but the prime minister, Mark Rutte, has ruled out a return to normal.

If they do reopen, they will have to keep customers and staff at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart to avoid a new wave of infections.

McDonald’s says it could introduce table service, with burgers and fries wheeled to customers on trolleys from which they can pick up their orders.

Other new features would include hand-washing stations at the entrance and a host behind a plastic screen showing customers their place in line.

A man washes his hands at a McDonald’s test location set up in a branch at GelreDome in Arnhem.
A man washes his hands at a McDonald’s test location set up in a branch at GelreDome in Arnhem.
Photograph: Remko de Waal/EPA

Many restaurant owners in the Netherlands fear social distancing will simply put them out of business.

But McDonald’s expects its new set-up will work at 180 larger restaurants out of its 252 franchises in the country.

Koekkoek said:

On average this will allow us to serve around 66% of our normal number of customers.

We don’t expect reopening to be allowed before June.

But even then, we will move in steps. Readjusting 180 restaurants is a tall order.

Updated at 2.34pm BST

2.26pm BST

The Hungarian budget carrier, Wizz Air, flew into London’s Luton airport from Sofia on Friday, becoming one of the first European airlines to restart routes during the coronavirus pandemic.

At least one person onboard seen through the window was wearing a face mask.

A passenger wearing a protective face mask aboard a Wizz Air flight at Luton Airport.
A passenger wearing a protective face mask aboard a Wizz Air flight at Luton Airport.
Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

There were also dozens of passengers within the airport, spaced out for social distancing, possibly for the return flight which took off shortly afterwards.

European airlines have grounded the majority of their fleets over the last six weeks as governments imposed travel restrictions to combat the spread of the virus.

But Wizz Air said last week it planned to put some of its planes back in the air for essential travel, restoring services to destinations in Romania, Budapest in Hungary, Lisbon in Portugal and Spain’s Tenerife plus a few more.

The London Luton arrivals and departures board showed three Wizz Air flights were due to arrive and depart on Friday.

The airline says it is important to get the infrastructure operating and that there are people across Europe who need to travel for work.

A Wizz Air plane from Sofia, Bulgaria taxis to a gate after landing at Luton Airport.
A Wizz Air plane from Sofia, Bulgaria taxis to a gate after landing at Luton Airport.
Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

Across Europe, air traffic is down by about 90% according to global body IATA, with the flights that are still operating facilitating the repatriation of citizens, travel by medical experts and cargo supplies.

Given ongoing travel restrictions – UK government advice for example is for Britons to avoid all non-essential global travel and Wizz has said that it does not expect flights to be full, enabling it to maintain social distancing onboard.

The airline, whose geographic focus is on central and eastern Europe, has said all passengers must wear masks on flights while its crew will wear masks and gloves.

When travel restrictions do start to ease, it is likely that there will be tougher measures for flying, which could affect demand.

Britain is considering a two-week quarantine requirement for arrivals into the country.

2.21pm BST

India is extending its nationwide lockdown for another two weeks after 4 May, but will allow “considerable relaxations”.

These will apply in lower-risk districts marked as green and orange zones, under the government’s plan to fight the Covid-19.

2.19pm BST

Ural Airlines has begun delivering in-flight meals to travel-deprived Russians who miss the thrill of a catering cart rolling down the aisle because of coronavirus lockdown.

The airline, which is delivering its in-flight meals to customers in Moscow, St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg, said the initiative was meant to provide people with “the taste of travel without leaving your home”.

“Everything is just like on the airplane except for the view,” it wrote on its Instagram page on Thursday.

Russia has closed its borders to foreigners and grounded international flights, except those repatriating Russians or returning foreign nationals to their country of origin.

Ural Airlines’ service offers the staples of airline meals – chicken, meat and fish – as well as orange, apple and tomato juice. The meal is served on a traditional airline tray.

Updated at 2.20pm BST

1.54pm BST

US hands m Covid-19 aid to fossil fuel firms

US fossil fuel companies have taken at least m in taxpayer money they likely won’t have to pay back, according to a review of coronavirus aid meant for struggling small businesses by the investigative research group Documented and the Guardian, writes Guardian US environment reporter Emily Holden in Washington.

A total of m is going to three coal mining companies, including two with ties to Trump officials, bolstering a dying American industry and a fuel that scientists insist world leaders must shift away from to avoid the worst of the climate crisis. The other m is being paid out to oil and gas services and equipment providers and other firms that work with drillers and coal miners.

Melinda Pierce, the legislative director for the Sierra Club, said:

The federal money Congress appropriated should be going to help small businesses and frontline workers struggling as a result of the pandemic, not the corporate polluters whose struggles are a result of failing business practices and existed long before Covid-19 entered the public lexicon.

Updated at 1.56pm BST

1.45pm BST

This fascinating thread is an account of how a remote fishing village in Iceland dealt with its coronavirus outbreak. It is worth clicking through to read in full.

1.38pm BST

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Netherlands has risen by 475 to 39,791 health authorities said on Friday, with 98 new deaths.

The country’s death toll stands at 4,893, the Dutch institute for public health and the environment (RIVM) said in its daily update.

The RIVM cautioned it only reports confirmed cases, and actual numbers are higher. But it said the latest figures are “in line with the impression that the measures [taken to deal with the outbreak] are working,” adding:

The number of new hospital admissions reported per day is still decreasing. The same applies to the number of reported deaths.

The country is on course to reopen primary schools on 11 May, with secondary schools planned to reopen the following month.

Updated at 1.48pm BST

1.30pm BST

The world’s largest public service union federation, Public Services International, has launched a 12-hour virtual May Day live stream to celebrate the public service workers who are keeping society going during the coronavirus pandemic.

With more than 600 affiliated unions, PSI represents more than 20 million workers in 180 countries. They are calling on unions and workers across the world to take action from their homes rather than in the streets. In a blog posted to their website today, PSI general secretary, Rosa Pavanelli, said:

This May Day, for the first time in a century, workers won’t be in the streets. They’re busy saving the world. They’re keeping our relatives on life support. They’re keeping food systems flowing. They are risking their lives to save lives – not as heroes, but as professionals. As Trade Unions, the only way we can do justice to these momentous efforts is by winning the deep, systemic change which workers, now more than ever, need and deserve.

Anyone who wants to take part is encouraged to post a solidarity message to frontline workers to social media, using the hashtag #VirtualMayDay, or chat join the live chat on the stream on Vimeo or Facebook.

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#VirtualMayDay from LabourStart on Vimeo.

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Updated at 1.32pm BST

1.13pm BST

By eschewing the kinds of lockdowns seen elsewhere in the world, Sweden has taken a different and controversial approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic. That has led to international criticism and wounded national pride, writes Gina Gustavsson, an academic at Uppsala University. She asks: has Sweden’s coronavirus strategy played into the hands of nationalists?

Sweden has persisted with the strategy of coronavirus mitigation that the UK government eventually abandoned in March. The policy is widely supported by the public, even though the Swedish Covid-19 mortality rate is among the 10 highest in the world, at 240 per million population and steadily rising, and many of the nursing homes in Stockholm are now affected.

The typical explanation for this continued public support is that Swedes are trusting and unflappable. The country’s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, the public face of the Swedish response to the pandemic, is after all a dry scientist-turned-bureaucrat, not some populist politician trying to whip up nationalist go-it-alone emotion.

But beneath the surface, Sweden is anything but calm. The public debate is inflamed with a sense of wounded national pride. As a believer in the kind of liberal nationalism that encourages self-critical national attachment, this pains me. But as a scholar of nationalism, I recognise the pattern. This is what Isaiah Berlin called the nationalism of “the bent twig”, which lashes out against anyone who steps on it.

Updated at 1.32pm BST

1.05pm BST

Thousands of Indian students unable to leave the UK because of the coronavirus lockdown are relying on food donations from charities because they can no longer afford to eat, Anna Fazackerly reports for the Guardian.

Student groups representing the students, from across Britain, have been coordinating emergency food drops with local community groups and charities. Many of the young people have lost their part-time jobs and can no longer afford even basic living costs.

The Indian National Students’ Association, one of the largest student groups, says so far it has helped to distribute food to more than 3,000 struggling students across the country. A second UK-wide students’ group, the National Indian Students and Alumni Union, says it has also had calls from hundreds of students who cannot afford food.

Charan Sekhon, the chair of an Anglo-Indian charity based in Bedford called the Seva Trust, which has delivered food parcels to more than 60 Indian students in its local area, says: “We have had lots of examples where students are actually starving. They haven’t got anything at all to eat.”

India banned all international flights from 22 March, giving students only two days to arrange to get home. Flights that typically cost around £300 were selling for £2,000, and thousands of students found themselves stranded in Britain.

Updated at 1.10pm BST

12.57pm BST

Singapore has begun moving migrant workers who have recovered from coronavirus infections to two cruise ships in an effort to curb its spread in workers’ dormitories, AFP reports.

After taking swift and aggressive measures that initially controlled its outbreak, Singapore has been hit by a bigger second wave among the work permit holders who carry out many of the basic services that keep the city running.

On Friday, Singapore’s ministry of health reported 932 new infections, the majority of which were among migrant workers, who are housed in sprawling dormitory complexes. Just five cases were found among Singapore nationals or so-called permanent residents. So far it has reported 17,101 cases but just 15 deaths.

A group of migrant workers boarded the SuperStar Gemini, a mid-sized cruise ship, on Wednesday, and another vessel, the SuperStar Aquarius, is ready to receive more after undergoing assessments by government agencies, the Singapore Tourism Board said on Friday.

Together, the vessels can accommodate up to 2,000.

Updated at 1.11pm BST

12.42pm BST

Fifteen people have been arrested in Istanbul, Turkey, for trying to stage a May Day march in defiance of coronavirus lockdown measures, according to the Associated Press.

The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey, or DISK, tweeted that its head Arzu Cerkezoglu and several other union leaders were detained near Taksim Square, where they wanted to lay wreaths of carnations.

The Istanbul governor’s office said the demonstrators were later released. The statement added that various trade unions had left wreaths in Taksim Square, as permitted by the governor’s office, but that DISK had insisted on collectively marching to the square, which was in breach of lockdown and social distancing rules.

Turkish police officers detain a protester trying to march to Taksim Square during a May Day rally
Turkish police officers detain a protester trying to march to Taksim Square during a May Day rally.
Photograph: Ozan Köse/AFP via Getty Images
The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey, or DISK, tweeted that its head and several other union leaders were detained
The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey, or DISK, tweeted that its head and several other union leaders were detained.
Photograph: Erdem Şahin/EPA
Trade unionists struggle with Turkish riot police and plainclothes officers as they attempt to defy the ban on marching on May Day
Trade unionists struggle with Turkish riot police and plainclothes officers as they attempt to defy the ban on marching on May Day.
Photograph: Ümit Bektaş/Reuters
A trade unionist stands in front of the May Day wreath that she and others had hoped to place in the square, the site of a massacre of protesters on May Day in 1977
A trade unionist stands in front of the May Day wreath that she and others had hoped to place in the square, the site of a massacre of protesters on May Day in 1977.
Photograph: Emrah Gürel/AP

Taksim Square holds a symbolic value for Turkeys labour movement. In 1977, 34 people were killed there during a May Day event when shots were fired into the crowd from a nearby building.

Turkey has imposed partial lockdowns in 31 provinces every weekend and on national holidays. Exemptions apply, including for many labourers who continue to work amid the pandemic.

The ban on May Day demonstrations in Taksim has been in effect for several years, due to security concerns. Police closed all roads leading to Taksim Square with barricades and increased security presence Friday.

Turkey ranks seventh in the world for the number of confirmed infections with 120,204 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University, although experts believe the actual toll of the pandemic is higher than the tally. The country’s official death toll stands at 3,174.

Updated at 12.48pm BST

12.29pm BST

Summary

Here are the latest headlines in our international coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.

  • China’s Hubei province will lower its coronavirus emergency response from the highest to the second-highest level. The announcement follows months of strict lockdown. The virus was first detected in the province’s capital, Wuhan, in late 2019.
  • Deprived areas of England and Wales have double the death rates of affluent areas. Of the 20,283 Covid-19 registered deaths in England and Wales to 17 April, an overwhelming proportion of fatalities were of people from the poorest areas, figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed.
  • Russia reported 7,933 new cases of Covid-19 in a record daily rise, bringing the nationwide tally to 114,431. The official nationwide death toll rose to 1,169 after 96 people with the virus died in the last 24 hours, Russia’s coronavirus crisis response centre said.
  • Ryanair is to cut 3,000 jobs reduce staff pay by up to a fifth in response to the Covid-19 crisis, which has grounded flights. The no-frills airline said it did not expect passenger numbers or pricing to return to pre-coronavirus levels until summer 2022 at the earliest.
  • Queensland, Australia, cleared way for the National Rugby League season to restart. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has opened the state border in preparation for restart of the National Rugby League (NRL) season on 28 May.
  • One million people have recovered from coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Infections worldwide stand at 3,269,667. More than 233,700 people have died in the pandemic so far.
  • Trump claimed he has seen evidence that Covid-19 originated in Wuhan lab. When the president was asked if he has seen anything that gives you a “high degree of confidence” that coronavirus originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Donald Trump replied: “Yes, I have.” His own government experts say the virus was “not manmade or genetically modified”.

Updated at 12.31pm BST

12.25pm BST

Israel to partially reopen schools next week

Israel’s government just announced the country will partially reopen schools on Sunday, with a full return to for all students by 1 June, reports Oliver Holmes, the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent.

First, second and third graders as well as 11th and 12th graders can return to school as of Sunday, the first day of the week in Israel.

Childcare and kindergartens, ages zero to six, will remain closed for at least another week, the government said.

Despite seeing a drop in the number of daily virus infections during the past few days, the reopening of schools has been a contentious issue in Israel, with fierce debate within the government around whether it was a premature step.

Following Friday’s announcement, the mayor of Tel Aviv said he would not allow schools to open there.

Ron Huldai was quoted by Haaretz newspaper as saying the plan “doesn’t ensure the wellbeing and health of the children”.

A partial reopening has also been criticised by parents of children of different ages who will still not be able to work.

The country has 15,946 total confirmed cases and 223 deaths.

Updated at 12.36pm BST

12.16pm BST

A report by Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) yesterday heighten concerns among US officials and lawmakers that the pandemic threatens to derail stalled US-led peace efforts, Akhtar Mohammad Makoii reports.

The spread of COVID-19 already has significantly impacted Afghanistan, the report said, from complicating the peace initiative to forcing border crossing closures that have disrupted commercial and humanitarian deliveries.

“Afghanistan’s numerous and, in some cases, unique vulnerabilities – a weak health-care system, widespread malnutrition, porous borders, massive internal displacement, contiguity with Iran, and ongoing conflict – make it likely the country will confront a health disaster in the coming months,” the report said.

Meanwhile Save the Children announced yesterday that around seven million children are at risk of hunger due to the lockdowns following spread Coronavirus in Afghanistan.

“At a time when Afghan children need adequate daily nutrition to help strengthen their immune systems to fight the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the price of basic foods is rising under the lockdown, making it harder for families to feed themselves,” the report said.

The organization also warned that a third of the country will face food shortages.

“A third of the population – including 7.3 million children – will face food shortages in April and May due to the current pandemic,” the organisation said.

According to the organisation, even before the global COVID-19 crisis, the total number of children who needed some form of humanitarian support this year stood at 5.26 million, making war-torn Afghanistan one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child.

12.00pm BST

In case you needed it, here is a video explaining why the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory is false.

11.58am BST

France’s education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, is today expected to announce strict rules for the reopening of crêches, nursery and primary schools later this month, writes Kim Willsher, the Guardian’s Paris correspondent.

A provisional document seen by Le Monde and AFP suggests rules will be strict in applying accepted barrier and social distancing regulations, but it has already been declared unworkable by teachers, especially for classes of younger children.

Teachers are expected to return on 11 May to prepare for the restarting of classes the following day.

A child plays football in front of the Parc des Princes’ Auteuil tribune entrance in Paris. Younger children are due back to school on 12 May
A child plays football in front of the Parc des Princes’ Auteuil tribune entrance in Paris. Younger children are due back to school on 12 May.
Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images

The draft health protocol says children must wash their hands on arrival at school, before and after visiting lavatories, before and after each meal, after playtime, after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing and touching shared objects and before going home. Taps and running water are to be preferred but sanitising gel must be provided if this is not possible.

Ball games and contact games are banned and there is to be no exchange of personal objects. If more than one child touches an object it should be disinfected.

There must be staggered recreation and play breaks, and limited changes of room – French children tend to take different subjects in different classes – as well a one-way system organised in school buildings so pupils can maintain a 1-metre minimum distance from each other. Classes to be regularly disinfected and aired and doors left open to avoid pupils touching handles.

The wearing of masks is not obligatory for nursery school children, but is advised, and staff must wear masks.

There will also be a limit to the number of children in each class –reportedly 10 children for those in crêches and nurseries, and 15 in primary schools.

It must be stressed these are details in the provisional protocol, which needs to be confirmed by the education minister today.

The two lowest years in secondary schools will start back the following week, on 18 May. A decision on other years will be made at the end of May for a possible return to class on 2 June.

Another unknown factor is what say local mayors will have in deciding whether schools in their areas should reopen or if restarting classes poses too much of a risk, particularly in areas designated “red”, where the virus is circulating.

Updated at 12.13pm BST

11.47am BST

Japan extends state of emergency for a month

Japan is preparing for a month-long extension to its coronavirus state of emergency, prime minister Shinzo Abe said on Friday.

Abe imposed an initial month-long emergency for seven regions on 7 April, before subsequently expanding it across the whole country.

With measures due to expire next week, Abe said he had told his minister responsible for handling the outbreak, Yasutoshi Nishimura, to plan for an extension, AFP reports.

He was quoted as saying:

After receiving [a] report from the panel of experts, I asked Minister Nishimura to use extending the current framework of the state of emergency by about one month as the base scenario for swiftly drafting plans that will fit the needs of the regions

An extension of the state of emergency had been widely expected, despite the comparatively small scale of the outbreak in Japan, with nearly 14,300 infections recorded and 432 deaths so far.

11.31am BST

US activists plan biggest rent strike in decades

Thousands of people in the US plan to take part in a rent strike on Friday, calling for state leaders to cancel rent during the coronavirus crisis, writes Guardian US reporter Adam Gabbatt.

Activists in New York, Pennsylvania and California are encouraging tenants to withhold rent, whether they are able to pay or not, to draw attention to the plight of those unable to pay.

The protest is expected to represent the largest coordinated rent strike in America in decades, and comes as the labor department announced another 3.8 million people lost their jobs last week, with pressure growing on state leaders nationwide to increase their efforts on housing.

A woman raises her fist during a rent strike demonstration in front of the Los Angeles City Hall on Thursday
A woman raises her fist during a rent strike demonstration in front of the Los Angeles City Hall on Thursday. A nationwide rent strike begins today.
Photograph: Étienne Laurent/EPA

More than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past six weeks, as the coronavirus has caused widespread business closures.

The New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is among those voicing support for the strikes, which are being coordinated by an array of housing groups.

“People aren’t striking because they don’t feel like paying rent, they’re striking because they can’t,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

Updated at 11.54am BST

11.19am BST

Sixty-three more people have died from Covid-19 in Iran, bringing the total death toll in the country to 6,091, health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said in a statement on state TV on Friday, according to Reuters.

The total number of diagnosed cases of the coronavirus in the Islamic Republic, one of the Middle Eastern countries hardest hit by the outbreak, has reached 95,646, including 2,899 in critical condition, he added.

A woman reads the Koran while taking part in a Ramadan service in a parking area of Tehran’s Eram park
A woman reads the Koran while taking part in a Ramadan service in a parking area of Tehran’s Eram park
Photograph: AFP via Getty Images

Updated at 11.22am BST

11.08am BST

Hello and happy International Workers Day to readers around the world. This is Damien Gayle taking control of the global live blog now for the next eight hours, bringing you the latest international news on the coronavirus outbreak.

If you have any tips, comments or suggestions for coverage please drop me a line via email to damien.gayle@theguardian.com, or in a direct message on Twitter to @damiengayle.

10.59am BST

Spain has recorded 281 coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, compared with 268 yesterday, as it prepares for the first phase of the lockdown exit strategy. The total number of deaths stands at 24,824.

On Saturday, people of all ages will be allowed out for exercise for the first time in seven weeks, a week after children were allowed out to play if accompanied by an adult. To avoid overcrowding, separate time slots have been allocated for the elderly, people with the children and everyone else.

Barcelona has opened half of its parks and closed 44 streets to traffic in order to facilitate social distancing. The Madrid region will monitor 2m mobile phones to observe how the relaxed lockdown is progressing.

Today, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the Madrid regional president, formally closed the vast field hospital at the capital’s IFEMA exhibition centre, which opened 41 days ago. The temporary hospital, which came to symbolise the nation’s fight against the virus, had 5,500 beds. Of the thousands of coronavirus patients admitted, 98% survived.

In a provisional assessment of the economic impact of the health crisis, the government estimates Spain’s GDP will fall by 9.2% this year. Ministers said today the virus has so far cost the nation €139bn, of which around €17bn has gone on paying furloughed employees. After ending 2019 with a public deficit of 2.8%, this year it is expected to be 10.7%.

Updated at 11.10am BST

10.55am BST

In Afghanistan, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continued to surge on Friday in Kandahar as nationwide number of infections reached 2,335, amid increasing number of health workers testing positive.

A health ministry spokesman said 164 new Covid-19 cases were recorded in last 24 hours, most of which were new infections recorded in southern province of Kandahar as total number of confirmed cases reached 339 with 45 confirmed today in the province.

Four patients died in the same period, taking the death toll to 68 in the war-torn country. There have so far been 310 recoveries, 50 of which have been in last 24 hours.

Wahidullah Mayar, the health ministry spokesman, said 228 health workers have so far tested positive for Covid-19, most of them are confirmed in Kandahar with 38 cases.

In Kabul, the country’s worst affected area, the health ministry reported 44 new Coronavirus cases, bringing the total number to 617.

Mayar said spread of the virus in Afghanistan is “fast” and asked people to stay at home as the country is yet to reach its peak in number of deaths and infections.

Despite the lockdown, in most of cities streets were still crowded with vehicles and people walking freely around.

10.48am BST

Hundreds of workers at Amazon warehouses, Whole Foods grocery stores, Target retail stores, and shoppers at Instacart and Shipt called out sick on Friday as part of a coordinated one-day strike across the US in protest of working conditions and inadequate safety protections during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 1 May walkout began after Amazon ended its unlimited unpaid time off policy for workers at the end of April.

“The fact they took it away prior to the sick-out lets you know they’re aware of the sick-out and trying to stop people from participating in that,” said Derrick Palmer, an Amazon employee at the JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island, New York, who has worked at Amazon for more than four years. “Now they’re forcing people to go to work because if you run out of unpaid time off, that’s it, you’re fired.”

Palmer was one of the workers who participated in protests outside of JFK8 warehouse a few weeks ago in demand of safety protections for Amazon workers. An assistant manager at JFK8, Chris Smalls, was fired shortly after he organised the protest.

Palmer said that after the protests, Amazon began providing personal protective equipment to workers and enforcing social distancing rules and temperature checks, but he said cleaning procedures remain inadequate.

Updated at 11.11am BST

10.27am BST

The Office for National Statistics has published analysis on Covid-19 deaths by local areas and deprivation in England and Wales.

The London mortality rate was significantly higher than any other region.

The analysis found a strong link between how deprived an area is and the coronavirus mortality rate. In England, the mortality rate of deaths involving Covid-19 in the most deprived areas was more than double that in the least deprived areas:

  • Most deprived: 55.1 deaths per 100,000 population
  • Least deprived: 25.3 deaths per 100,000 population

The Guardian will be digging into this data set throughout the day, but you can read it yourself here.

Updated at 10.46am BST

10.21am BST

Armed protesters enter Michigan’s state capitol demanding an end to coronavirus lockdown.

Hundreds of protesters, some armed, attempted to enter the legislative chamber of Michigan’s state capitol, in response to moves to extend Covid-19 lockdown orders.

The demonstrators gathered as the Democrat governor, Gretchen Whitmer, pushed for stay-at-home orders to continue to mid-May. The state has recorded 3,789 coronavirus deaths.

Updated at 10.47am BST

10.00am BST

China’s Hubei province will lower its coronavirus emergency response from the highest to the second-highest level

China Xinhua News reports that Central China’s Hubei province, where the coronavirus outbreak started, will lower its emergency response from the highest to the second-highest level starting on 2 May, following months of strict lockdown.

Updated at 10.47am BST

9.47am BST

Here’s more information on Australia’s road to recovery by Guardian reporter Paul Karp and Daniel Hurst.

Scott Morrison has offered Australians an “early mark” to ease Covid-19 restrictions next week while warning a return to normality will depend on uptake of the Covidsafe contact tracing app.

The prime minister dangled the prospect of a potential loosening of the rules next Friday as he issued his strongest declaration yet that it was conditional on more downloads.

Morrison also revealed that net overseas migration is down 30% and is expected to fall by 80% in 2020-21, both compared with 2018-19, in a sign the economic contraction from Covid-19 will last much longer than restrictions to social life. Treasury officials and the Reserve Bank both estimate that unemployment is set to top 10%.

The first restrictions were eased this week with New South Wales allowing visits to friends and relatives, and a similar measure announced on Friday in the Australian Capital Territory, the first Australian jurisdiction with no active cases.

9.36am BST

In Greece, protesters have begun gathering in central Athens for traditional May Day marches, AP reports, despite authorities’ pleas to unions to move their demonstrations to next week after lockdown measures begin easing.

More than 100 people from the Communist party-affiliated PAME union gathered in Athens’ main Syntagma Square, outside parliament. Holding banners and red flags, and most wearing masks and gloves, the protesters stood roughly 2 metres (6.5ft) apart from each other as they waited for the march to begin.

Members of the communist-affiliated trade union PAME wearing protective masks and gloves practise social distancing during a rally commemorating May Day in Athens
Members of the communist-affiliated trade union PAME wearing protective masks and gloves practise social distancing during a rally commemorating May Day in Athens.
Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
Members of the communist-affiliated trade union PAME wearing protective masks and gloves practise social distancing during a rally commemorating May Day in Athens.
Members of the communist-affiliated trade union PAME wearing protective masks and gloves practise social distancing during a rally commemorating May Day in Athens.
Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
Members of the communist-affiliated trade union PAME wear scarves reading “The covered mouths have a voice” during a rally commemorating May Day, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Athens, Greece, May 1, 2020.
Members of the communist-affiliated trade union PAME wearing protective masks and gloves practise social distancing during a rally commemorating May Day in Athens.
Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

Updated at 9.48am BST

9.26am BST

The Philippines on Friday reported 284 new coronavirus infections and 11 more deaths, Reuters reports, bringing its total number of cases to 8,772 and fatalities to 579.

It also said 41 more individuals had recovered, bringing total recoveries to 1,084.

9.19am BST

France’s state-owned SNCF railways company estimates it will lose at least €3bn (£2.6bn) in revenue as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, Les Echos daily newspaper reported on Friday, citing unnamed sources.

Reuters reports the group has been running only 7% of its high-speed trains and 20% of regional services since mid-March and will be allowed to resume only about 30% of its network from 11 May as France seeks to manage the post-lockdown period.

Les Echos newspaper said strikes over government pension reforms that started in early December in France has already cost the company €1bn in lost revenue.

The newspaper said the company lost €700m in March, €1.4bn in April and expects losses to reach €3bn before a nationwide lockdown begins to ease from 11 May.

Updated at 9.45am BST

9.09am BST

Tourists in Tiananmen square during the Labor Day holiday in Beijing
Tourists in Tiananmen square during the Labor Day holiday in Beijing

Photograph: Wu Hong/EPA

EPA has this shot of a family wearing protective face masks while visiting Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, on 1 May.

China is loosening up nationwide restrictions after months of lockdown over the coronavirus crisis.

Labour Day in the country kicked off with a long weekend and an extended holiday, from 1-5 May, after the tourism industry has been hit during the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

Updated at 9.46am BST

8.57am BST

Rwanda will partially lift its virus lockdown from next week and allow people to move freely during the day more than six weeks after being confined, the prime minister’s office said Friday, AFP reports.

Rwanda was one of the first to impose strict lockdown measures in Africa, on 22 March, when it had only 19 cases, and to date has officially recorded 225 cases and zero deaths.

From Monday 4 May, people will be allowed to move freely from 5am to 8pm, but will need permission to do so later in the evening, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

Businesses, manufacturing and construction operations will be allowed to resume with essential workers, while markets will be allowed to open with no more than 50%t of traders operating. Hotels and restaurants will be allowed to operate but must close by 7pm.

While people will be allowed to exercise in open spaces, sports facilities will remain closed.

No more than 30 people will be allowed to attend funerals, and schools, churches, gyms and bars will remain closed.

Updated at 9.46am BST

8.48am BST

The speaker of Pakistan’s national assembly said late on Thursday that he had tested positive for Covid-19, after hosting an iftar dinner to celebrate Ramadan, Reuters reports, and meeting prime minister Imran Khan and other high officials earlier in the week.

It remains unclear if Khan will be tested after Faisal Edhi tested positive. Khan tested negative in April, after meeting with the head of Pakistan’s biggest charity organisation, who was subsequently confirmed to have caught the disease.

The assembly, the lower house of parliament, is in recess, though opposition parties have been calling for it to convene to discuss the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, where the number of cases has risen to 16,817, including 385 deaths.

Updated at 9.47am BST

8.43am BST

Russia reported 7,933 new cases of the coronavirus, a record daily rise

Russia reported its biggest daily rise of confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday , with 7,933 new cases.

The record daily rise brings the nationwide tally to 114,431, Reuters reports.

The official nationwide death toll rose to 1,169 after 96 people with the virus died in the last 24 hours, Russia’s coronavirus crisis response centre said.

8.37am BST

AFP have put together a brilliant photo gallery of May Day workers confronting coronavirus around the world. It is a celebration of the cleaners, transport workers, shop assistants, tradespeople, health workers and more who continue to serve despite the difficulties and risks of the pandemic.

Nassiba Belgherbi, 55, pharmacist, poses for a picture at her pharmacy in Algeria’s capital Algiers, on April 23, 2020 during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Nassiba Belgherbi, 55, pharmacist, poses for a picture at her pharmacy in Algeria’s capital Algiers, on April 23, 2020 during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Photograph: Ryad Kramdi/AFP via Getty Images
Spanish Ramon Montesinos Roman, a shepherd, poses with his flock of sheep in Ronda, on April 23, 2020 during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Spanish Ramon Montesinos Roman, a shepherd, poses with his flock of sheep in Ronda, on April 23, 2020 during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Photograph: Jorge Guerrero/AFP via Getty Images
Lalita Kesharwani, 41, vegetable vendor, poses for a picture in front of her stall during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Mumbai on April 22, 2020.
Lalita Kesharwani, 41, vegetable vendor, poses for a picture in front of her stall during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Mumbai on April 22, 2020.
Photograph: Punit Paranjpe/AFP via Getty Images
Dave Stanton, 57, a butcher poses for a picture outside his shop in Hartley Wintney, England, on April 25, 2020 during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Dave Stanton, 57, a butcher poses for a picture outside his shop in Hartley Wintney, England, on April 25, 2020 during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

Updated at 8.39am BST

8.16am BST

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Germany increased by 1,639 to 160,758 on Friday, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases.

The daily update showed the death toll rose by 193 to 6,481.

Updated at 8.20am BST

8.13am BST

Mikhail Mishustin, the Russian prime minister, who was tasked by Vladimir Putin with leading the response to the country’s coronavirus outbreak, has been diagnosed with Covid-19 and will self-isolate.

Mishustin, Russia’s most-high profile Covid-19 patient so far, disclosed the diagnosis during a televised video call with President Putin on Thursday evening. It was not immediately clear how severe Mishustin’s symptoms are, though one news agency reported that he had an elevated temperature of 39 degrees. Putin indicated during the call that Mishustin would be taken to hospital.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Russia passed 100,000 on Thursday. The first deputy prime minister, Andrei Belousov, would take on Mishustin’s duties in his absence, Putin said.

8.07am BST

Ryanair to cut 3,000 jobs as coronavirus grounds flights

Ryanair is planning to cut 3,000 jobs and reduce staff pay by up to a fifth in response to the Covid-19 crisis, which has grounded flights.

The no-frills airline said it did not expect passenger numbers or pricing to return to pre-coronavirus levels until summer 2022 at the earliest.

As part of a programme of sweeping cost cuts, Ryanair said it could close a number of bases across Europe until air travel recovers.

The company, which expects to report a net loss of more than €100m (£87m) for the first quarter and through the summer, said restructuring and job losses would start in July.

The job cuts will affect mostly pilots and cabin crew, although the measures will also hit head office and back office teams.

8.00am BST

Queensland clears way for National Rugby League season to restart on 28 May

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has opened Queensland’s border in preparation for next month’s restart of the National Rugby League (NRL) season. Palaszczuk not only gave the green light for the state’s three NRL clubs to train at their base and travel interstate, but also host home games.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison had said earlier on Friday it would be a matter for state jurisdictions to clear any resumption of sporting activities, following a meeting of the national cabinet.

Updated at 8.20am BST

7.52am BST

Hungary needs to prepare for a potential second wave of the coronavirus outbreak in October-November, even though the spreading of the virus will likely slow in the summer, prime minister Viktor Orbán told state radio on Friday, according to a report by Reuters.

Orban also said if authorities manage to reduce the death rate from the pandemic in Budapest, where 80% of deaths have been recorded, only then will current restrictions be eased in the capital city. Hungary will lift a large part of restrictions in the countryside from Monday.

Updated at 8.04am BST

7.41am BST

Migrant workers on Spanish farms that provide fruit and vegetables for UK supermarkets are trapped in dire conditions under lockdown, living in cardboard and plastic shelters without food or running water.

Thousands of workers, many of them undocumented, live in settlements between huge greenhouses on farms in the southern Spanish provinces of Huelva and Almeria, key regions for European supply chains.

Local union activists have been supporting the migrants, bringing them water, food and basic supplies since Spain declared a lockdown in mid March.

Clare Carlile from Ethical Consumer, a UK charity supporting the local activists, says the situation is the result of years of neglect of workers.

“They got visited by the Spanish army on 18 March and told to stay put, even though in some places running water is several kilometres away. Now, with Covid fears, a water truck comes twice a week. If you are at work and miss it you must walk several kilometres for water after a hard day.

“Failure of employers provide basic rights has for years created dire circumstances for the inhabitants of the settlements. Now, the pandemic has pushed the situation to crisis point.”

Updated at 8.03am BST

7.33am BST

London’s Heathrow airport, traditionally the busiest in Europe, said passenger numbers were expected to be down by around 97% in April.

Reuters reports that for the first quarter, revenue fell 12.7% to £593m (5m) and adjusted EBITDA fell by 22.4% to £315m.

Heathrow expects passenger numbers to remain weak until governments across the world fighting the coronavirus outbreak deem it safe to travel. The airport said it had £3.2bn in liquidity, sufficient to maintain the business at least over the next 12 months, even with no passengers.

A passenger wears a mask as he arrives at Heathrow airport
A passenger wears a mask as he arrives at Heathrow airport.
Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Updated at 7.39am BST

7.26am BST

Morning, I’m Aamna Mohdin taking over the liveblog from my colleague Helen. Please do send tips and comments to aamna.mohdin@theguardian.com or you can tweet me at @aamnamohdin

7.19am BST

Carmela Fonbuena reports for the Guardian:

Philippine provinces considered to have a low to moderate number of coronavirus cases began easing lockdowns on Friday 1 May, amid concerns from local officials and residents who are wary that the real scale of the outbreak cannot be known until the country conducts more testing.

“Many provinces are still just seeing imported cases from other areas. When [strict lockdowns are] lifted they expect imported cases to come in,” said former health secretary Manuel Dayrit.

The rules remain unclear. The government initially said religious gatherings will be allowed provided physical distancing is observed, but it’s now under review following concerns raised.

Medical personnel in protective take a break from treating patients at a parking lot converted into a Covid-19 isolation facility on 30 April 2020 in Quezon city, Metro Manila, Philippines.
Medical personnel in protective take a break from treating patients at a parking lot converted into a Covid-19 isolation facility in Quezon city, Metro Manila, Philippines.
Photograph: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

The Philippines recorded 8,488 cases as of 30 April, including 568 deaths. The numbers are believed to be higher as the country of 110 million people has tested less than 100,000 individuals. It’s a testament to its poor healthcare system as many hospitals struggle to meet requirements for coronavirus testing.

The decision made by a national government taskforce on coronavirus put several local officials in a difficult position. In the provinces of Ilocos Norte, La Union, and Albay, where residents oppose the government decision, local leaders cannot extend strict lockdowns without government approval.

“Lifting will only return the virus into a second wave,” said Joey Salceda, a lawmaker from Albay province, which recorded three deaths among total 28 cases but he is afraid there are undetected cases.

Metro Manila will remain in strict lockdown but certain restrictions will be lifted to allow some government infrastructure work to continue. Groups of overseas Filipino workers stranded in the capital due to provincial lockdowns have been allowed go home, too.

Updated at 7.33am BST

7.07am BST

Although this development is definitely worth mentioning again, too:

With that, I’m ducking away. My colleague Aamna Mohdin will be with you for the next few hours.

7.01am BST

Summary

Here are the most important developments from the last few hours:

  • 1 million people have recovered from coronavirus. According to Johns Hopkins University data, more than a million people have now recovered from coronavirus infection, with the total at 1,014,524. Infections worldwide stand at 3,256,570. More than 233,300 people have died in the pandemic so far.
  • Boris Johnson says UK ‘past the peak’. The prime minister promised to set out next week how schools and workplaces could safely reopen once lockdown restrictions were eased, as he claimed the UK was past the peak of the coronavirus outbreak. Despite announcing an increase of 674 in the death toll of the virus, taking it to a total of 26,771, Johnson suggested the worst was over.
  • US jobless toll amounts to 18.4% of working-age population. Thirty million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since 21 March. The White House let its two-week-old economic reopening guidelines expire on Thursday as half of all US states forged ahead with their own strategies for easing restrictions on restaurants, retail and other businesses shuttered by the coronavirus crisis, Reuters reports.
  • Trump claims he has seen evidence that Covid-19 originated in Wuhan lab. When the president was asked if he has seen anything that gives you a “high degree of confidence” that coronavirus originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Donald Trump replied: “Yes, I have.” His own government experts say the virus was ‘not manmade or genetically modified’. US intelligence agencies have been under pressure to link coronavirus to Chinese labs. Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, later said of the lab theory: “What we have before us doesn’t suggest that is a likely source”.
  • Protesters, some armed, gather inside Michigan state capitol. Hundreds of protesters, some armed, gathered inside Michigan’s state capitol on Thursday as state lawmakers debated the Democratic governor’s request to extend her emergency powers to combat coronavirus.
  • Major US airlines will require passengers to cover their faces during flights. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines said on Thursday they will soon require passengers to cover their faces during flights, following the lead of JetBlue Airways, Reuters reports.
  • British BAME Covid-19 death rate ‘more than twice that of whites’. The death rate among British black Africans and British Pakistanis from coronavirus in English hospitals is more than 2.5 times that of the white population, according to stark analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies.
  • UK food banks face record demand. The first two weeks of the coronavirus lockdown triggered an unprecedented rise in food bank use as the economy was hit and household incomes plunged, data from hundreds of emergency food aid charities reveals.
  • Jacinda Ardern’s popularity surges during lockdown. An opinion poll in New Zealand has found the prime minister’s approval rating jumped to 65% during the country’s nearly five-week strict lockdown. It puts her in a strong position ahead of this year’s general election. Her Labour party also did well, achieving a 55% approval rating.

Updated at 7.21am BST

6.56am BST

UK papers, Friday 1 May

6.50am BST

‘Australia has earned an early mark’

Australia has brought forward its decision on easing restrictions to next Friday 8 May in a further sign that the country is successfully flattening the curve.

Australia, which in late March recorded around 400 new cases of the virus a day, now consistently has fewer than 20 new cases daily. Restrictions on movement were put into place at the end of March, including the closure of schools in some states, as well as restaurants, pubs and some businesses, as well as restrictions on the number of people who can gather together.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was due to announce which of these restrictions would be lifted on 11 May after discussion with state premiers, but says the announcement has been brought forward three days, with a cheerful Morrison telling a press conference on Friday that “Australians have earned an early mark.”

He added that “we didn’t expect to be in this position six weeks ago”.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, flanked by Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy, speaks at a press conference on Friday.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, flanked by Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy, speaks at a press conference on Friday.
Photograph: Rohan Thomson/Getty Images

Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, said Australia will begin testing cohorts of asymptomatic people in an attempt to ensure early detection of any new outbreaks and avoid a second wave. That cluster testing will be focused on groups that have a high risk of exposure or work with vulnerable people, like aged care workers or healthcare workers. Teachers are among those who might get tested.

Says Murphy:

We need to test more people. If we are going to get on top of those small outbreaks … we cannot afford to have an outbreak that takes off so that we get a second wave when we reduce restrictions such as a number of other countries have seen. So our testing has to be very good.

He says that the case data shows that most people who transmit the virus do still have symptoms, so anyone with any symptoms should get tested.

The most important thing in testing is for anyone who has respiratory symptoms, a cough or a cold or a sore throat, to get tested … get tested and don’t go to work.

Updated at 6.50am BST

6.17am BST

Cholera and coronavirus: why we must not repeat the same mistakes

Coronavirus is not the only pandemic the world faces. There is another one raging right now. Since cholera first spread across the globe, two centuries ago, it has killed about 50 million people. In the time it takes you to read this article, another five people will have died from it. It is now mostly ignored in the west, but in other parts of the world, it has never gone away.

While I will surely be able to offer my patients in England a coronavirus vaccine in a year or two, and while western health systems will be reinforced to be more ready for a potential future outbreak, I worry that we may repeat the mistakes of cholera: conquering coronavirus everywhere except for the poorest parts of the world.

Updated at 6.53am BST

6.06am BST

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is addressing the media now.

He has been asked about US President Donald Trump’s comments late on Thursday. Trump said he had seen evidence that Covid-19 emerged from a laboratory in Wuhan, contradicting experts in his own administration who said it was not man made or genetically modified.

Morrison said he has not seen any evidence to suggest that’s the case, but says Australia is still pushing for an independent investigation into the origin of the disease.

What we have before us doesn’t suggest that that is the likely source. There’s nothing that we have that would suggest that that is the likely source but you can’t rule anything out in this scenario.

He says the virus did originate in Wuhan, but “the most likely scenario that has been canvassed related to wildlife wet markets”.

That is why Australia wants an “objective independent” investigation, he says.

While that can’t be ruled out its not something we have seen any hard evidence of that that is the position.

Morrison says an independent investigation would look at what happened and why it happened.

So we can learn if something similar could happen in any part of the world so the world will be able to respond quicker. Because clearly in these cases time is everything.

Updated at 6.10am BST

5.46am BST

Summary

  • 1 million people have recovered. According to Johns Hopkins University data, more than a million people have now recovered from coronavirus infection, with the total currently at 1,014,524.Infections worldwide stand at 3,256,570.233,363 people have died in the pandemic so far.
  • UK prime minister says the country now “past the peak”. Boris Johnson defended the decisions the UK government has taken. Speaking at the UK government’s daily press conference, Johnson said that the NHS has not been overwhelmed at any stage.
  • US jobless toll amounts to 18.4% of working-age population. The White House let its 2-week-old economic reopening guidelines expire on Thursday as half of all US states forged ahead with their own strategies for easing restrictions on restaurants, retail and other businesses shuttered by the coronavirus crisis, Reuters reports.
  • Trump to leave White House on Friday for first time in a month. US President Donald Trump will leave the White House on Friday for the first time in a month when he travels to the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.
  • Trump claims he has seen evidence of Covid-19 originating in Wuhan lab. When asked if he has seen anything that gives you a “high degree of confidence” that coronavirus originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, President Trump replied: “Yes, I have.” His own government experts say the virus was ‘not manmade or genetically modified’. US intelligence agencies have been under pressure to link coronavirus to Chinese labs.
  • Protestors, some armed, gather inside Michigan state capitol. Hundreds of protesters, some armed, gathered inside Michigan’s state capitol on Thursday as state lawmakers debated the Democratic governor’s request to extend her emergency powers to combat coronavirus.
  • Major US airlines will require passengers to cover their faces during flights. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines said Thursday they will soon require passengers to cover their faces during flights, following the lead of JetBlue Airways, Reuters reports.
  • British BAME Covid-19 death rate ‘more than twice that of whites’. The death rate among British black Africans and British Pakistanis from coronavirus in English hospitals is more than 2.5 times that of the white population, according to stark analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies.
  • UK food banks face record demand. The first two weeks of the coronavirus lockdown triggered an unprecedented rise in food bank use as the economy was hit and household incomes plunged, data from hundreds of emergency food aid charities reveals.
  • Germany eases lockdown measures. Germany is to re-open museums, galleries, zoos and playgrounds and allow religious services to resume, in measures agreed by the chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the leaders of 16 federal states.
  • Spain allocates times slots for outdoor activities, as death toll falls. Spain’s daily death toll fell to its lowest level in nearly six week, with 268 fatalities related to Covid-19 recorded overnight.
  • Eurozone records 3.8% slump, as European Central Bank chief warns of worse to come, with the eurozone potentially on course for a 15% collapse in output in the second quarter.
  • Covid-19 outbreak increasing across Africa, WHO warns. World Health Organization officials in Africa have said the Covid-19 outbreak is still increasing across the continent despite widespread efforts at containment.
  • Russian prime minister diagnosed with coronavirus. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has said he has been diagnosed with coronavirus and will self-isolate from the government in the country’s highest-profile case of the disease yet.

Updated at 5.53am BST

5.36am BST

Demand for coronavirus tests raises concerns over HIV and malaria

Governments were caught out when Covid-19 hit, having overlooked the need to be able to test for new diseases because they were focused on drugs and vaccines for those they already knew about.

Now there are fears that the rush to supply wealthier countries pressing for more tests may destabilise the fight against HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, illnesses that kill millions, mostly in low- and middle-income countries.

“Some companies are planning to reduce or stop malaria, HIV and TB test production,” said Dr Catharina Boehme, the chief executive of the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (Find) and an adviser to the World Health Organization. “They are shifting their production to Covid-19 tests.”

Boehme said companies could get about 18 cents for a rapid malaria test and for a Covid-19 test.

The Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria said it was concerned about “any action that might reduce the availability of tests or treatment for HIV, TB or malaria”

5.17am BST

The eels at a Japanese aquarium are lonely – and the aquarium staff are urging people to video call the creatures so that they do not grow too shy, AFP reports.

The Sumida Aquarium, housed in the landmark Tokyo Skytree tower, has been closed since the start of March and its animals have become used to a largely human-free environment during the two-month calm.

The “unprecedented situation” was having some unexpected downsides.

“Creatures in the aquarium don’t see humans except keepers and they have started forgetting about humans,” it said on its Twitter account this week. “Garden eels in particular disappear into the sand and hide every time the keepers pass by.”

That is causing difficulties for keepers trying to check on the health of the animals.

In a bid to reacquaint the eels with humans, the aquarium is setting up five tablets facing the tank housing the delicate creatures, with eel enthusiasts asked to connect through iPhones or iPads via the FaceTime app.

Once the video calls start, people are supposed to show their faces, wave and talk to the eels. But given the tender nature of the animals, callers are asked not to shout.

Updated at 7.10am BST

5.13am BST

Whistleblower complaint set to lift lid on Trump pressure to push untried drug

Donald Trump’s musing over whether cleaning people’s lungs with disinfectant might treat the coronavirus caused a furore but it may be the US president’s pushing of anti-malarial drugs that does far more lasting damage to his administration.

There is building anticipation over the content of an upcoming whistleblower complaint by Dr Rick Bright, who last week was abruptly removed as the head of the federal government office working on a vaccine for Covid-19.

It is understood that Bright is still working on the details of the complaint before lodging it with the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general.

Bright, a vaccines expert, has claimed he was removed as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (Barda) because he resisted an effort to expand the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat Covid-19. The drugs, approved to treat malaria, have yet to be proven effective for this new use but have been repeatedly promoted by Trump, who has called them a “game-changer”.

4.51am BST

Tony Allen, legendary drummer and Afrobeat co-founder, dies aged 79

The Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, who is credited with creating Afrobeat along with his old bandmate Fela Kuti, died suddenly at the age of 79 in Paris on Thursday, his manager said.

“We don’t know the exact cause of death,” Eric Trosset said, adding it was not linked to the coronavirus.

“He was in great shape, it was quite sudden. I spoke to him at 1pm then two hours later he was sick and taken to Pompidou hospital, where he died.”

Allen was the drummer and musical director of Fela Kuti’s band Africa ’70 in the 1960s and 70s, AFP reports.

During that time the pair created Afrobeat, combining west African musical styles such as highlife and fuji music with US jazz and funk. Afrobeat went on to become one of the totemic genres of 20th century African music.

Over Allen’s thrilling beat, Kuti laid out his revolutionary and pan-African message, which led him to become one of the abiding icons of the struggle for freedom across the continent.

4.33am BST

US President Donald Trump claims he has seen evidence of Covid-19 originating in a Wuhan lab. When asked at a press briefing if he has seen anything that gives you a “high degree of confidence” that coronavirus originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, President Trump replied: “Yes, I have.” He added that he was “not allowed” to tell reporters what that evidence was:

4.23am BST

US jobless toll amounts to 18.4% of working-age population

The White House let its 2-week-old economic reopening guidelines expire on Thursday as half of all US states forged ahead with their own strategies for easing restrictions on restaurants, retail and other businesses shuttered by the coronavirus crisis, Reuters reports.

The enormous pressure on states to reopen, despite a lack of wide-scale virus testing and other safeguards urged by health experts, was highlighted in new Labor Department data showing some 30 million Americans have sought unemployment benefits since 21 March.

People wait in a block-long line reaching around the corner to pick up food at the Masbia of Flatbush food pantry in Brooklyn, New York, USA, 30 April 2020.
People wait in a block-long line reaching around the corner to pick up food at the Masbia of Flatbush food pantry in Brooklyn, New York, USA, 30 April 2020.
Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA

The jobless toll amounts to more than 18.4% of the US working-age population, a level not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Physical separation of people – by closing schools, businesses and other places of social gatherings – remains the chief weapon against a highly contagious respiratory virus with no vaccine and no cure.

But with economic pain reaching historic proportions, agitation to relax stay-at-home orders and mandatory workplace restrictions has mounted.

For the second time in two weeks, hundreds of protesters – including armed militia group members – thronged Michigan’s state Capitol in Lansing demanding an end to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders.

The latest protest was sparked by the Democratic governor’s request, ignored by Republican lawmakers, to extend emergency powers she had invoked in a state hard hit by both the virus and closures to combat it.

3.58am BST

Trump to leave White House on Friday for first time in a month

US President Donald Trump will leave the White House on Friday for the first time in a month when he travels to the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

Trump will make the 70-mile (113 km) trip to Camp David on Friday evening, according to a schedule released by the White House on Thursday night. The schedule did not indicate how long Trump would stay at Camp David.

The White House on a rainy day in Washington D.C. April 30, 2020.
The White House on a rainy day in Washington D.C. April 30, 2020.
Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

Trump has been holding regular press events at the White House to highlight his administration’s efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump’s last trip away from the White House was on 28 March to Norfolk, Virginia, where he bid farewell to the Navy’s USNS Comfort hospital ship as it sailed to New York City to help take the pressure off civilian hospitals.

Trump, who faces re-election in November, said on Wednesday he would visit Arizona next week for an “industry”-related event.

Updated at 4.21am BST

3.40am BST

Dan Collyns reports for the Guardian from Lima:

Municipal authorities in Peru shut down a bustling street market in Lima on Thursday after a spot test for Covid-19 revealed one in five stallholders were infected with the virus.

Out of 842 stallholders, 163 tested positive for the virus when a team of medics with military backup descended on the Caquéta food market in the working-class San Martín de Porres district in downtown Lima on Wednesday.

Municipal workers clean and disinfect the surroundings of the Caqueta market in the north of Lima on 30 April 2020.
Municipal workers clean and disinfect the surroundings of the Caquéta market in the north of Lima on 30 April 2020.
Photograph: Ernesto Benavides/AFP via Getty Images

Most Peruvians shop in open-air or covered food markets rather than supermarkets, where prices are more negotiable and markedly cheaper. But social distancing and sanitary guidelines are regularly flouted as punters haggle for bargains and stallholders make special offers to attract more customers.

Markets were “hot spots” for Covid-19, Peru’s defence minister Walter Martos told journalists as he took part in the surprise inspection on Wednesday which revealed the virus’ increasing hold on the country’s population even as a stringent lockdown was nearing the end of its seventh week.

“We know that this market is major convergence point and we have seen on our hotspots map that around this market there’s a large number of infected [people],” Martos said.

Peru’s President Martín Vizcarra said it was a stern warning to maintain social distancing: “These 163 [stallholders] have to stay at home and keep their distance to avoid infecting others.”

“When you go to buy potatoes or lettuce, you could be taking Covid-19 into your homes as an extra,” he said, using the Quechua word ‘Yapa’, which means a bonus portion offered to loyal customers.

President Vizcarra has been praised by Peruvians for his swift and decisive response to Covid-19 enforcing one of the earliest lockdowns in Latin America. Nonetheless, the Andean country’s curve of infection has continued to rise and it had Latin America’s second-highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases after Brazil, with 36,976 confirmed cases and 1,051 deaths on Thursday.

Poverty has been a major obstacle to the enforcement of the lockdown. Thousands have been trying to leave Lima in recent weeks, many saying they had to choose between hunger or homelessness in the city or the risk of exposure to Covid-19 as they attempt to return to their rural hometowns.

3.27am BST

Podcast: Who is Covid-19 killing?

More than 26,000 people in the UK have officially been recorded as having died from the coronavirus. In this episode we look beyond the headline figure at who is dying – and hear from friends and family about the lives cut short:

3.24am BST

1 million people recover from illness

According to Johns Hopkins University data, more than a million people have now recovered from coronavirus infection, with the total currently at 1,014,524.

Infections worldwide stand at 3,256,570.

233,363 people have died in the pandemic so far.

Updated at 3.24am BST

3.21am BST

Jacinda Ardern and her government soar in popularity during coronavirus crisis

Charles Anderson reports for the Guardian:

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, reached an almost record-breaking approval rating while the country was in its strictest lockdown, according to a new leaked poll.

The poll, which was conducted by UMR and leaked to the New Zealand Herald, shows that Ardern’s Labour party has reached 55% approval, while the opposition National party has dropped to 29% – its lowest rating in more than a decade. The Greens were on 5% and New Zealand First – Labour’s Coalition partners – on 6%.

Ardern’s personal approval rating was 65% while the opposition leader, Simon Bridges, sat on 7%, according to the poll. It puts the PM close to her high of 70% approval in UMR polls during her term in office.

The poll also shows that 78% of New Zealanders believe the country is heading in the right direction – the highest since 1991.

3.12am BST

Nature is healing:

2.58am BST

China reported 12 new coronavirus cases for 30 April, up from four a day earlier, data from the country’s health authority showed on Friday.

Six of the cases were imported, the National Health Commission (NHC) said, up from four a day earlier. Of the domestic transmission cases, five were in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang and one in the northern region of Inner Mongolia.

China reported no domestic transmission cases a day earlier.

The NHC also reported 25 new asymptomatic cases for April 30, down from 33 a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed cases in the country has reached 82,874. With no new deaths on Thursday, the toll remained at 4,633.

Paramilitary police officers wear face masks and goggles as they march outside the Forbidden City, the former palace of China’s emperors, in Beijing on 1 May 2020.
Paramilitary police officers wear face masks and goggles as they march outside the Forbidden City, the former palace of China’s emperors, in Beijing on 1 May 2020.
Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

Updated at 2.58am BST

2.47am BST

Jair Bolsonaro says footballers in Brazil have ‘a small chance of dying’ from Covid-19

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro wants to see football competitions restart soon despite the country’s high number of coronavirus cases, arguing that players are less likely to die from Covid-19 because of their physical fitness, Associated Press reports.

Bolsonaro is one of the few world leaders that still downplays the risks brought by the coronavirus, which he has likened to “a little flu”.

Most leagues in Brazil were suspended on 15 March. The Brazilian championship was scheduled to begin in May, but that looks unlikely as the country has become a coronavirus hot spot with more than 5,900 deaths. Doctors say the peak of the pandemic is expected to hit within two weeks.

Brazil’s president said his new health minister will issue a suggestion that games return without any fans in the stadiums, but he acknowledged many players might be reluctant.

“The decision to restart soccer is not mine, but we can help,” Bolsonaro said, adding he has spoken with Gremio coach Renato Portaluppi about the issue and was told that players are still worried about the virus.

Neighbouring Argentina has already cancelled the rest of the 2019-2020 season because of the pandemic. France also decided to end the season, declaring Paris Saint-Germain as league champions on Thursday.

2.30am BST

Get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

2.26am BST

India’s film industry, purveyor of song-and-dance spectacles to millions, will take at least two years to recover financially from the coronavirus pandemic, which is threatening big-ticket projects, putting at risk tens of thousands of jobs, Reuters reports.

That was the sombre assessment of about a dozen top producers, distributors and actors from Bollywood, the movie industry in India’s commercial capital of Mumbai, during a video conference this week, one of the participants said.

Motorists ride past the statues of Indian freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose (C), and actors in the Kannada cinema, Dr. Rajkumar (L) and Vishnuvardhan, wearing shawls on the face as protection against coronavirus, in Bangalore on 9 April 2020.
Motorists ride past the statues of Indian freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose (C), and actors in the Kannada cinema, Dr. Rajkumar (L) and Vishnuvardhan, wearing shawls on the face as protection against coronavirus, in Bangalore on 9 April 2020.
Photograph: Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images

Such dim prospects, even after the lockdown is lifted, threaten the box-office takings that make up 60% of industry earnings, spurring producers to say big-budget films and extravagant shoots in foreign locations will be shelved.

Bollywood has come to a grinding halt, with film production and theatres shut nationwide, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a 40-day lockdown to curb the virus, which has infected 31,000 people and killed more than 1,000 in India.
About 9,500 theatres are shut, and business at multiplexes and single-screen cinemas is unlikely to bounce back for weeks or even months, as infection fears linger and discretionary spending plunges.

Shares in India’s two largest multiplex operators, PVR and INOX Leisure, have plunged more than 40% from all-time highs in late February.

Brokerage Emkay also slashed its rating on both to “hold” from “buy”, saying they would suffer declines of more than 50% in visitor numbers, ticket sales, advertising revenue and food and beverage sales in fiscal 2020-21.

2.06am BST

Trump claims to have evidence coronavirus started in Chinese lab but offers no details

Donald Trump claimed to have seen evidence to substantiate the unproven theory that the coronavirus originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, despite US intelligence agencies’ conclusion that the virus was “not manmade or genetically modified”.

“We’re going to see where it comes from,” Trump said at a White House event on Thursday. “We have people looking at it very, very strongly. Scientific people, intelligence people, and others. We’re going to put it all together. I think we will have a very good answer eventually. And China might even tell us.”

Pressed to explain what evidence he had seen that the virus originated in a Chinese lab, Trump responded, “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”

Prior to the White House event, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the clearinghouse for the web of US spy agencies, issued a statement asserting that the intelligence community “concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the Covid-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified”.

“The intelligence community will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan,” the statement added.

1.57am BST

Oh boy. Oh boy. Oh boy.

1.42am BST

Ms Du, door sensors and me: life with a Beijing Covid-19 quarantine handler

Every day for the last two weeks I have spoken with Ms Du, a mild-mannered, middle-aged woman who is my quarantine handler.

She calls me in the morning to remind me to send her my temperature. She calls again if I forget to send the afternoon reading. She texts rose emojis, reminding me to “please cooperate” with the rules. If I open my door, equipped with a sensor, to put the rubbish in the hall or pick up a delivery, she immediately calls and reminds me to let her know beforehand.

After returning from a reporting trip to Wuhan, I have been in strict self-isolation in my apartment in Beijing. Most days I get calls not just from Du but the local police station, perhaps checking the spelling of my name, someone from the health department asking about my travel history, or other representatives from the neighbourhood committee.

They send messages reminding me to cover my mouth when coughing and not to “spit wherever you please”. The calls and questions, politely made, are constant and after a few days I already feel harried. A pink slip of paper with hearts taped to my door alerts my neighbours how long my quarantine should last:

1.30am BST

France will contribute €50 per person towards bicycle repairs after a nationwide coronavirus lockdown ends on 11 May, taking an innovative step to encourage cycling and reduce overcrowding in metros and buses, where it is hard to practice the social distancing required to prevent virus transmission.

Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne announced on Thursday a €20 million ( million) plan for repairing bicycles, installing temporary bike parking spaces and financing cycling coaching sessions.

Borne said the government will also accelerate a programme allowing employers to cover up to €400 of travel costs of staff who cycle to work.

“We want this period to be a new stage towards a cycling culture and we want the bicycle to be the queen of deconfinement,” Borne said on her Twitter feed.

1.24am BST

Remdesivir: five Australian hospitals to receive experimental coronavirus drug

The US pharmaceutical company Gilead is finalising the location of five hospitals in Australia to receive the highly sought-after experimental Covid-19 drug remdesivir.

The only confirmed location is St Vincent’s hospital in Sydney, a major tertiary hospital and the centre of many of the New South Wales outbreak areas. A NSW Health spokeswoman confirmed the health department “has been engaging with Gilead on gaining access to the drug for Covid-19 patients”.

The news comes as the doctor informing the Covid-19 response in the White House, the immunologist Dr Anthony Fauci, promoted preliminary findings from a joint Gilead and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases study that suggested remdesivir could improve recovery time of patients. His comments have revived global hope in the drug, with no treatments now available for the virus.

1.13am BST

British BAME Covid-19 death rate ‘more than twice that of whites’

The death rate among British black Africans and British Pakistanis from coronavirus in English hospitals is more than 2.5 times that of the white population, according to stark analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

The highly respected thinktank also found that deaths of people from a black Caribbean background were 1.7 times higher than for white Britons.

NHS England figures published last week showed that hospital deaths per 100,000 among British people of a black Caribbean background were three times the equivalent number among the majority white British population. However, unlike previous analysis, the IFS research, published on Friday, strips out the role of age, gender and geography and shows that they do not explain the disparities.

1.07am BST

UK food banks face record demand in coronavirus crisis

The first two weeks of the coronavirus lockdown triggered an unprecedented rise in food bank use as the economy was hit and household incomes plunged, data from hundreds of emergency food aid charities reveals.

The Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest food bank network, said it experienced its busiest ever period after lockdown was announced on 23 March, when it issued 50,000 food parcels in the space of a week, almost double its usual volume.

A similar picture emerged from the Independent Food Aid Network (Ifan), which said its food banks recorded a 59% increase in demand for emergency food support between February and March – 17 times higher than the same period a year ago.

1.01am BST

Just a donkey named Earl playing with a purple ball:

12.55am BST

Here’s the full story on the armed protestors in Michigan:

12.48am BST

Major US airlines will require passengers to cover their faces during flights

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines said Thursday they will soon require passengers to cover their faces during flights, following the lead of JetBlue Airways, Reuters reports.

The move comes as airlines big and small contemplate how to comply with social-distancing recommendations in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

A flight attendant serves a snack on a Baltimore, Maryland bound Delta flight to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on 20 April 2020 in Linthicum Heights, Maryland.
A flight attendant serves a snack on a Baltimore, Maryland bound Delta flight to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on 20 April 2020 in Linthicum Heights, Maryland.
Photograph: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Most flights are nearly empty these days air travel is down 95% from a year ago, and the average domestic flight has 17 passengers, according to industry figures.

This week, JetBlue became the first US airline to announce it will require passengers to wear face coverings during flights, starting next week.

Wearing a face covering isn’t about protecting yourself, its about protecting those around you, said JetBlue President Joanna Geraghty. This is the new flying etiquette.

Earlier Thursday, Frontier Airlines said that it would begin requiring masks 8 May. Delta and United announced they would make masks mandatory starting Monday.

Updated at 3.15am BST

12.30am BST

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday that downstate New York’s entire public transport system (which includes New York City and Long Island) would be disinfected every 24 hours.

He also said he would need an “army” of between 6,400 and 17,000 people to trace the contacts of people who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus as part of a strategy to limit outbreaks.

Cuomo said that former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg would, in coordination with Johns Hopkins University, oversee the recruitment and training of these “contact tracers” and make the program available to governments worldwide.

An MTA worker disinfects a subway station in the Manhattan borough of New York City, 4 March 2020.
An MTA worker disinfects a subway station in the Manhattan borough of New York City, 4 March 2020.
Photograph: Eduardo Muñoz/Reuters

12.24am BST

Protestors, some armed, gather inside Michigan state capitol

Hundreds of protesters, some armed, gathered inside Michigan’s state capitol on Thursday as state lawmakers debated the Democratic governor’s request to extend her emergency powers to combat coronavirus.

A tightly packed crowd of protesters, some carrying rifles, attempted to enter the floor of the legislative chamber, and were held back by a line of state police and capitol staff, according to video footage posted by local journalists.

“Let us in! Let us in!” the protesters chanted, as they stood shoulder-to-shoulder inside the statehouse. Few of them were wearing face masks.

Some of the protesters shouted anti-government slogans, including comparing Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer to Hitler.

One Democratic state lawmaker posted a photograph of men with rifles standing in a gallery yelling down at lawmakers below. “Some of my colleagues who own bullet proof vests are wearing them,” state senator Dayna Polehanki, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter.

A spokeswoman for the Michigan senate minority leader that at least one lawmaker was wearing a bullet-proof vest.

The footage from the protest sparked strong reactions from many Americans. One Black Lives Matter organizer commented on the striking difference between the reaction to unarmed black Americans protesting police violence and armed white Americans protesting against public health measures.

12.15am BST

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of coronavirus news from around the world.

I’m Helen Sullivan, with you for the next few hours.

Please do get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has announced that the country is “past the peak”. Johnson – who has just returned to work after a bout of coronavirus, and the birth of his son – also said that the NHS has not been overwhelmed at any stage.

US president Donald Trump meanwhile has claimed to have evidence that Covid-19 originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, despite his own government experts saying the virus was “not manmade or genetically modified”. US intelligence agencies have been under pressure to link coronavirus to Chinese labs, the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour reports:

Here are the most important developments from the last few hours:

  • UK prime minister says the country now “past the peak”. Boris Johnson defended the decisions the UK government has taken. Speaking at the UK government’s daily press conference, Johnson said that the NHS has not been overwhelmed at any stage.
  • Trump claims he has seen evidence of Covid-19 originating in Wuhan lab. When asked if he has seen anything that gives you a “high degree of confidence” that coronavirus originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, President Trump replied: “Yes, I have.” His own government experts say the virus was ‘not manmade or genetically modified’. US intelligence agencies have been under pressure to link coronavirus to Chinese labs.
  • Germany eases lockdown measures. Germany is to re-open museums, galleries, zoos and playgrounds and allow religious services to resume, in measures agreed by the chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the leaders of 16 federal states.
  • Brazil sees record 7,218 new cases, raising the total to 85,380, Reuters reports the health ministry saying on Thursday.The death toll rose by 435 to 5,901.
  • Denmark says partial reopening has not accelerated virus spread. Denmark became the first country outside of Asia to ease lockdown measures a fortnight ago.
  • Spain allocates times slots for outdoor activities, as death toll falls. Spain’s daily death toll fell to its lowest level in nearly six week, with 268 fatalities related to Covid-19 recorded overnight.
  • Eurozone records 3.8% slump, as European Central Bank chief warns of worse to come, with the eurozone potentially on course for a 15% collapse in output in the second quarter.
  • Another 3.8 million Americans lose jobs as US unemployment continues to grow. The pace of layoffs appears to be slowing, but in just six weeks an unprecedented 30 million Americans have now sought unemployment benefits.
  • Covid-19 outbreak increasing across Africa, WHO warns. World Health Organization officials in Africa have said the Covid-19 outbreak is still increasing across the continent despite widespread efforts at containment.
  • Russian prime minister diagnosed with coronavirus. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has said he has been diagnosed with coronavirus and will self-isolate from the government in the country’s highest-profile case of the disease yet.
  • Tajikistan reports first coronavirus cases. Tajikistan, which was thought to be one of the few countries untouched by coronavirus, has recorded its first coronavirus cases.
  • South Korea reports no new domestic cases for first time since 29 February. South Korea reported on Thursday no new domestic coronavirus cases for the first time since its 29 February peak.
  • War-torn Yemen reports first virus deaths. The country reported its first two deaths and a new cluster of Covid-19 cases amid worries that the virus has been circulating undetected for some time.
  • Czechs say coronavirus spread is contained as country reopens. The Czech Republic has seen the number of new cases drop below 100 for the past eight consecutive days.
  • People out of work in Germany increased by 373,000 to 2.64 million in April. Data from the labour office also showed the unemployment rate increased to 5.8%, up from 5% in March, as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Updated at 3.19am BST

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WHO warned of transmission risk in January, despite Trump claims

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “WHO warned of transmission risk in January, despite Trump claims” was written by Peter Beaumont in London and Julian Borger in Washington, for The Guardian on Thursday 9th April 2020 17.16 UTC

The World Health Organization warned the US and other countries about the risk of human-to-human transmission of Covid-19 as early as 10 January, and urged precautions even though initial Chinese studies at that point had found no clear evidence of that route of infection.

Technical guidance notes seen by the Guardian and briefings by top WHO officials warned of potential human-to-human transmission and made clear that there was a threat of catching the disease through water droplets and contaminated surfaces, based on the experience of earlier coronavirus outbreaks, such as Sars and Mers.

In recent days, Donald Trump has attempted to blame the WHO for the pandemic, pointing to a tweet from the group on 14 January saying there was no human-to-human transmission.

“In many ways, they were wrong. They also minimised the threat very strongly,” the US president said, before threatening to cut funding to the organisation.

Trump supporters have been calling for the resignation of the WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and for a congressional investigation of the body’s performance.

The January WHO tweet reported “preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission”.

But in the same week top WHO officials were briefing health leaders around the world to keep looking out for signs of such transmission, and to take precautions as if it was already happening.

The WHO declared a “public health emergency of international concern” on 30 January, a day before Trump banned non-American residents who had been to China from entering the US. Nearly a month after the WHO declaration, Trump tweeted: “The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA”, adding that the WHO had “been working hard and very smart”.

Trump has pointed out that US funding of the WHO was more than 10 times China’s contribution, citing figures of 0m (£360m) and m, a reference to annual combined assessed contributions (membership fees) and donations. However, the US is currently about 0m in arrears in its assessed contributions, and donations are tied to specific projects.

Since the WHO launched a coronavirus emergency appeal, China has donated just over m, about the same as the UK, and the US has given less than m. Japan has donated .5m, Kuwait m and the European commission m.

Tedros has urged governments not to politicise the pandemic, warning on Wednesday: “We will have many body bags in front of us if we don’t behave.”

The WHO director general said: “The United States and China should come together and fight this dangerous enemy … It’s like playing with fire. When there are cracks at national level and global level that’s when the virus succeeds. For God’s sake, we have lost more than 60,000 citizens of the world.”

The technical guidance notes published by the WHO on the 10 and 11 of January were issued when suspected infections in China comprised a few dozen cases.

The notes lay out detailed clinical criteria for dealing with suspected cases as well as warning of the risk of ease of transmission both by airborne droplets and contact with contaminated surfaces, suggesting isolation procedures.

As well as being posted online, the guidance was sent to the organisation’s regional emergency directors and country heads to be circulated to senior health officials.

One note, published on 11 January, advised clinicians and health officials to be alert to the emergence of clusters of cases as well as any “evidence of amplified or sustained human-to-human transmission” despite the Chinese, at that stage, not reporting sustained local transmission.

While the document advised medical personnel to look out for suspected patients who might have travelled to China’s Hubei province, or health workers who had contact with the then new virus, it also recommended that doctors look out for “unusual or unexpected clinical course, especially sudden deterioration despite appropriate treatment” regardless of those factors.

It added caution even if another clinical explanation had been advanced that appeared to “fully explain” the patient’s symptoms.

A day earlier, another guidance note on collecting samples from patients showing symptoms of the disease listed stringent precautions to avoid the risk of human-to-human transmission, using the experience from the Mers coronavirus.

The documents add to a body of emerging evidence of the widespread early warnings about the coronavirus, many communicated by – and to – senior US officials, which were ignored by Trump.

In a briefing at WHO headquarters on 14 January, the same day as the tweet about the Chinese results, the organisation’s technical lead on Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, told reporters that while there had so far been only limited human transmission between family members in China, the risk of wider human-to-human transmission should not be regarded as “surprising” given the similarity to earlier Sars and Mers outbreaks.

An investigation in the Washington Post last week discovered a warning from US officials at the beginning of January relating to the threat of coronavirus.

On 3 January Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), spoke with his Chinese counterpart, George Gao, and was alerted to the newly emerging disease, becoming concerned enough for the CDC to establish an incident management structure for the new coronavirus on 7 January and activating its emergency response structure two weeks later, on 21 January.

Despite that move by the CDC, a day later Trump was insisting the situation was under control. “It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

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Coronavirus live news: global deaths near 90,000 as US says isolation measures are working

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Confirmed global cases pass 1.5m – as it happened” was written by Helen Sullivan (now and earlier) ; Nadeem Badshah , Damien Gayle, Gregory Robinson, and Amy Walker, for theguardian.com on Thursday 9th April 2020 23.44 UTC

12.44am BST

That’s it for this coronavirus pandemic live blog. We’ve launched a new one at the link below where I’ll be taking you through the latest news, analysis and the occasional cheerful tweet for the next few hours:

12.38am BST

A satisfying PSA from the Ohio Department of Health:

12.36am BST

That White House press briefing is now over.

Here are the main points:

  • White House officials are looking at whether health workers can wear reusable cloth gowns, instead of disposable ones, which are running out.
  • The US treasury is on track to issue first cash payments by next week. Mike Pence says the administration is “on the timetable” to send out the first round of stimulus checks by the end of next week. Many Americans will receive up to ,200.
  • Trump said that the US has “purchased and stockpiled millions and millions of doses” of hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug Trump has been touting as a game-changer in the fight against Covid-19. Medical experts, including the US National Institute of Health’s Anthony Fauci, has said there is no clinical evidence yet that the drug can effectively treat the disease.
  • Ventilator shortages: “We’re in good shape,” Trump said. “You’re not hearing of people needing ventilators much.” It is true that some states have ended up with more ventilators than they think they need. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a national shortage. The US has roughly 173,000 ventilators, according to the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University. Experts from Harvard Medical School predict that the US could end up needing 31 times that number to treat coronavirus patients.
  • Trump said his conversation with Vladimir Putin and Mohammed Bin Salman was “very good,” he said. They’re “getting close to a deal” and “getting along very well.”

12.31am BST

Dr. Fauci, on what it could mean to “reopen” the country:

“Often, people say re-open the government, like it’s a light switch on-and-off for the entire country. We have a very large country with really different patterns of disease and outbreaks in different parts of the country. So, it’s not going to be a one size fits all.”

It’s worth noting here that the federal government doesn’t have the power to “switch on” the economy all at once. States, counties and cities ultimately have a lot of authority to enforce distancing measures for as long as they deem necessary.

12.26am BST

Coronavirus testing by age:

Earlier in the briefing Dr. Deborah Birx presented the following numbers on testing nationally:

  • People younger than 25: 200,000 have been tested of which 11% tested positive
  • Age 25-45: 500,000 were tested, 17% were positive
  • Age 45-65: 500,000 were tested, 21% were positive
  • Age 65-85: 200,000 were tested, 22% were positive
  • People older than 85: 30,000 tested, 24% were positive

Updated at 12.26am BST

12.25am BST

There are more than 100,000 Americans being tested for coronavirus every day, Pence says.

12.25am BST

At the White House press briefing happening now, Vice President and leader of the Coronavirus Task Force Mike Pence also said that White House officials are looking at whether health workers can wear reusable cloth gowns, instead of disposable ones, which are running out. Hospitals may have to “recycle gowns” to stretch their supplies.

12.23am BST

You can get in touch with me directly on Twitter @helenrsullivan – questions, comments, tips and news from where you live are welcome.

12.21am BST

That’s it from my esteemed colleague Nadeem Badshah for today. I’m Helen Sullivan, with you now for the next few hours.

We’ll be bringing you the latest from the White House press conference for the next little while, where Vice President Mike Pence says the US treasury is on track to issue first cash payments by next week. Pence said the administration is “on the timetable” to send out the first round of stimulus checks by the end of next week. Many Americans will receive up to US,200.

12.18am BST

Key developments in the global coronavirus outbreak today include:

Boris Johnson moved out of intensive care

The British prime minister has been moved out of intensive care but remains at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, Downing Street said.

A spokesman for the Boris Johnson said: “The prime minister has been moved this evening from intensive care back to the ward, where he will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery. He is in extremely good spirits.”

Johnson was transferred to an intensive care unit on Monday.

Global death toll passes 94,000, US overtakes Spain’s total casualties

The global death toll has passed 94,000 on the Johns Hopkins University tracker – the current figure is 94,807.

The US has now overtaken Spain with over 16,000 deaths. Spain has 15,238, according to the Maryland-based university’s research.

Italy is the country with the highest coronavirus-related deaths at 19,279.

Trump says new coronavirus treatment ‘will be tested soon’

President Trump said that Pfizer has found a “promising new treatment that might prevent the virus from replicating” and that it hopes to begin testing in clinical trials “very soon”.

In a press conference, he added that through the FDA’s coronavirus treatment acceleration programme, 19 therapies and treatments are being tested and 26 more “are in the active planning for clinical trials”.

However, there has been scepticism over Trump’s earlier claims for possible treatments including the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.

South Africa extends lockdown by a further fortnight

South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has announced it will extend its coronavirus lockdown by a further two weeks.

He had imposed a 21-day total lockdown on the country’s 56 million inhabitants on 27 March, enforced by the police and the army.

On Thursday, Ramaphosa said: “This evening, I stand before you to ask you to endure even longer. I have to ask you to make even greater sacrifices so that our country may survive this crisis and so that tens of thousands of lives may be saved.”

France’s death toll rises to more than 12,000

The country has said the total death toll in hospitals and nursing homes has risen to 12,210, from 10,869 on Wednesday, with care homes accounting for more than a third of all fatalities.

The number of people in intensive care has fallen slightly for the first time since the start of the outbreak.

Jérôme Salomon, head of the public health authority, said there were now 7,062 people in intensive care at hospitals, a net decrease of 82 from a day earlier.

US economy ‘could reopen in May’

The US treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said the American economy could start to reopen for business in May despite experts’ emphasis on prolonged physical distancing measures to defeat the coronavirus.

Asked on CNBC whether he thought Donald Trump could reopen the economy so soon, Mnuchin said: “I do.”

“As soon as the president feels comfortable with the medical issues, we are making everything necessary that American companies and American workers can be open for business.”

Australian minister fined for breaching lockdown rules

The New South Wales minister for arts, Don Harwin, has been fined ,000 for breaching the state’s strict public health orders.

It emerged he had left Sydney for his property on the Central Coast, despite the government urging the public to delay non-essential travel.

The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has resisted calls to sack Harwin, saying he did not break the rules because he moved to his Central Coast home before the state lockdown came into effect.

Eurozone countries strike deal on coronavirus rescue

Eurozone finance ministers have reached an agreement on an emergency rescue package aimed at responding to the economic adversity triggered by coronavirus.

Finance ministers from countries including the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and France clapped over their teleconference.

“We acted decisively for our citizens in less than a month,” Mário Centeno, the Portuguese finance minister and president of the group, told his counterparts.

The package includes a boost to the lending capacity of the European Investment Bank and a new unemployment insurance scheme proposed by the European commission.

WHO had warned about risk of Covid-19 in January

The World Health Organization warned the US and other countries about the risk of human-to-human transmission of Covid-19 as early as 10 January, and urged precautions even though initial Chinese studies at that point had found no clear evidence of that route of infection.

Technical guidance notes seen by the Guardian and briefings by top WHO officials warned of potential human-to-human transmission and made clear that there was a threat of catching the disease through water droplets and contaminated surfaces, based on the experience of earlier coronavirus outbreaks.

Donald Trump has attempted to blame the WHO for the pandemic, pointing to a WHO tweet on 14 January saying “there was no human-to-human transmission”.

Pope holds Holy Thursday mass in empty St Peter’s Basilica

Pope Francis presided at a scaled-down Holy Thursday mass in an empty St Peter’s Basilica.

He spoke from a secondary altar behind the main one he normally uses and the occasion was attended by only two dozen people, including a few aides, nuns and a scaled-down choir.

The pope said: “These days more than 60 (priests) have died here in Italy while taking care of the sick, in hospitals. Together with the doctors and nurses they are the saints next door.”

11.57pm BST

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said it would be the “worst of all possible worlds” to let some parts of the UK come out of lockdown at different times.

Speaking to the BBC’s Newsnight programme, Burnham said: “The suggestion I’ve heard, and I really don’t like the sound of it, is this idea it might be phased on a regional basis.

“So lifted in London first, and possibly then possibly in the Midlands. All that I can tell you is it would be impossible to sustain here if there were images of people going back to pubs in other parts of the country.

“It’s got to be the same thing for the whole of the country.”

He added: “A phased release, I think, would be awful. The worst of all possible worlds and I hope the Government will resist that.”

11.41pm BST

Trump says new coronavirus treatment will be tested soon

In a press conference, President Trump said that Pfizer has found a “promising new treatment that might prevent the virus from replicating” and that it hopes to begin testing in clinical trials “very soon”.

He added that through the FDA’s coronavirus treatment acceleration programme, 19 therapies and treatments are being tested and 26 more “are in the active planning for clinical trials”.

11.27pm BST

The New South Wales minister for arts, Don Harwin, has been fined ,000 for breaching the state’s strict public health orders.

For more information, head over to our Australia blog –

11.14pm BST

Eurogroup finance ministers have reached an agreement over an emergency rescue package aimed at responding to the economic adversity caused by coronavirus.

Finance ministers from countries including the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and France clapped at the end of their teleconference.

“We acted decisively for our citizens in less than a month,” Mário Ceteno, the eurogroup president, told ministers.

The package includes a boost to the lending capacity of the European Investment Bank and a new unemployment insurance scheme proposed by the European Commission, The Financial Times reported.

The group will also propose a recovery fund to help with the post-lockdown economic recovery.

10.55pm BST

A police force have been forced to reassure people they will not be searching their shopping trolleys after a chief constable threatened to introduce the measure if “we don’t get the compliance we would expect”.
Northamptonshire Police chief constable, Nick Adderley, prompted criticism after saying his force was “only a few days away” from “marshalling supermarkets and checking the items in baskets and trolleys to see whether it’s a legitimate, necessary item”. He also warned roadblocks would be set up if members of the public did not adhere to government guidelines designed to curb the spread of coronavirus. Within hours of his comments in a news conference being reported, the force’s official Twitter account has seemingly contradicted him. “To clarify some suggestions made in the media, we absolutely will NOT be searching people’s shopping trolleys in Northamptonshire,” it said.
“The same message was communicated to our officers from the very moment we were given these new powers.”

10.44pm BST

Emergency workers battling coronavirus are being spat on or coughed at daily by people who have or claim to have the virus, the Director of Public Prosecutions said.
Max Hill QC said many had been jailed for assault or for crimes that cash in on the COVID-19 pandemic, and warned that others who commit such offences would be fast-tracked into court and risked prison. He told the Crown Prosecution Service’s website: “It is disappointing to see charges come in on a daily basis of hard-working police officers, NHS staff and other vital workers, being coughed or spat at, sometimes deliberately exposing them to the risk of infecting them with coronavirus.

“We take these offences immensely seriously and want to make it absolutely clear that where there is evidence to do so, people will be prosecuted and can face up to one year in prison.”

10.40pm BST

Friday’s Telegraph front page

10.37pm BST

The Guardian’s UK edition front page

10.34pm BST

Friday’s Daily Mail front page

10.33pm BST

The Daily Telegraph’s Friday splash

10.31pm BST

Tomorrow’s Daily Mirror

10.30pm BST

Friday’s front pages in the UK have come in, starting with The Times.

10.24pm BST

UN secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, warned the coronavirus pandemic is deepening existing inequalities and is having devastating social and economic consequences for women and girls that could reverse limited progress toward gender equality over the last 25 years.

He said in a video message and policy paper that across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impact of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of their sex.

While early data indicates the mortality rates from COVID-19 may be higher for men, Gutterres said nearly 60 per cent of women around the world work in the informal economy – earning less, saving less, and at greater risk of falling into poverty.

He said millions of womens jobs have been lost at the same time that their unpaid work has increased exponentially as a result of school closures and children being at home, and the increased needs of older people.

In this file photo United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press briefing at United Nations Headquarters(Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
In this file photo, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press briefing at United Nations Headquarters,
(Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

10.12pm BST

Uganda’s president has released a video of his home workout to encourage people to stay indoors during the coronavirus lockdown, becoming the country’s answer to Joe Wicks.

10.01pm BST

Chileans have a “moral duty” to stay home over the Easter holiday to stave of the spread of the coronavirus, Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel said after reports surfaced of wealthy Santiago residents sneaking off to coastal enclaves by helicopter and private plane.

Chile has confirmed nearly 6,000 coronavirus cases, among the highest tallies in Latin America.

The hardest hit regions of capital Santiago, a city of 6 million, are posh, high-end neighborhoods at the foot of the Andes Mountains.

Quarantine measures in many of those normally bustling communities require residents to shelter in place.

“What is going to be tested this weekend is how responsible, how supportive, we are as Chileans,” Blumel said.

“Staying at home is not only an obligation, it is a moral and ethical duty.”

Chilean health officials said earlier this week they planned to cordon off the city, setting up road checkpoints manned by police and military, to prevent city dwellers from fleeing to second homes in rural areas at the risk of spreading the virus.

But Santiago mayor Felipe Guevara told state television the city had received complaints “that people are using their own or leased helicopter or aircraft to leave the metropolitan region for their second home.”

Guevara said aviation officials would ask tough questions of any pilot seeking to leave the city.

9.53pm BST

The UK’s housing secretary Robert Jenrick has responded on Twitter to The Guardian’s story about him visiting his parents.

9.38pm BST

Egypt reported 139 new cases of coronavirus, bringing its total since the start of the outbreak to 1,699, according to a health ministry statement.

The Arab world’s most populous country also recorded 15 new deaths, raising the total number to 118.

9.03pm BST

Reacting to the news that Boris Johnson has left intensive care and returned to a ward, Dr Tom Wingfield, senior clinical lecturer and honorary consultant physician at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, said: “Being well enough to leave intensive care is a really encouraging sign that a patient is improving clinically.

“It means that they no longer need specialist ICU care, which includes continuous monitoring and, in some cases, a ventilator.

“They may still require close monitoring on a ward. Close monitoring means regular measurement of ‘vital signs’ like blood pressure, pulse rate, breathing rate, and oxygen levels, and also clinical review by doctors, nurses, and other health and social care professionals.

“Every patient is different and the time it takes for them to be fit enough to be discharged from hospital or recover to full health can vary widely. Nevertheless, leaving ICU is an extremely important first step on their road to recovery.”

8.54pm BST

Iran’s supreme leader suggested that mass gatherings may be barred through the Muslim holy month of Ramadan amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International said it believes at least 35 Iranian prisoners were killed by security forces suppressing riots by inmates over the virus.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the comments in a televised address as Iran prepares to restart its economic activity.

“We are going to be deprived of public gatherings of the month of Ramadan” Khamenei said.

“In the absence of these meetings, remember to heed your prayers and devotions in your lonesomeness.”

Ramadan is scheduled to begin in late April and last through most of May.

8.49pm BST

The UK’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab has tweeted his joy that prime minister Boris Johnson has been moved out of intensive care.

8.40pm BST

From our Latin America correspondent Tom Phillips:

Rio de Janeiro’s governor @wilsonwitzel has tweeted out this photograph of a coronavirus field hospital being built beside one of the world’s most iconic football stadiums, the Maracanã.

The Maracanã – which has hosted two World Cup finals, in 1950 and 2014 – is one of two major Brazilian stadiums being converted into Covid-19 field hospitals as the country braces for a big increase in coronavirus cases.

The other is São Paulo’s Pacaembu which has been turned into a 200-bed clinic for coronavirus patients who do not require intensive care treatment.

So far Brazil has recorded 16,238 cases and 824 deaths although low testing rates mean the true figures are likely to be much higher. Most cases have been concentrated in southeastern Brazil, of which both Rio and São Paulo are part.

Other Brazilian cities turning football stadiums into hospitals include Boa Vista in the Amazon state of Roraima and Fortaleza in northeast Brazil.

8.13pm BST

The US treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said on Thursday that the American economy could start to reopen for business in May, reports Reuters, despite experts’ emphasis on prolonged physical distancing measures to defeat the coronavirus.

Asked on CNBC whether he thought Donald Trump could reopen the economy so soon, Mnuchin said: “I do.”

“As soon as the president feels comfortable with the medical issues, we are making everything necessary that American companies and American workers can be open for business.”

Updated at 8.19pm BST

7.56pm BST

Boris Johnson is out of intensive care but the UK prime minister remains in hospital with coronavirus.

7.49pm BST

South Africa extends lockdown by a further fortnight

South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa has announced the country’s coronavirus lockdown will be extended by a further two weeks.

He had imposed a 21-day lockdown on the country’s 56 million inhabitants on 27 March, enforced by the police and the army.

Updated at 9.00pm BST

7.39pm BST

Pope Francis presided at a scaled-down Holy Thursday Mass in an empty St Peter’s Basilica, praising ordinary doctors, nurses and priests who risk their lives helping coronavirus victims as “the saints next door”.

The mass usually packs the basilica with up to 10,000 people, including cardinals, bishops and locals.

But because of coronavirus restrictions, Pope Francis spoke from a secondary altar behind the main one he normally uses and the occasion was attended by only two dozen people, including a few aides, nuns and a scaled-down choir.

The pope said: “These days more than 60 (priests) have died here in Italy while taking care of the sick, in hospitals.

“Together with the doctors and nurses they are the saints next door.”

Meanwhile, Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli will sing at the Duomo cathedral in Milan bare of worshippers on Easter Sunday.

He told Reuters: “The Duomo will be completely empty. This, on its own, already makes the situation abnormal.

“But in this case, and I repeat, as this won’t be a concert and it won’t be a performance, it will be a prayer and as a consequence it will not be important who is present physically but rather who wants to be with me spiritually in that moment.”

Bocelli will be accompanied only by the cathedral organist, Emanuele Vianelli, playing one of world’s largest pipe organs and performing a repertoire of sacred works including Pietro Mascagni’s Sancta Maria.

Updated at 7.48pm BST

7.24pm BST

Boris Johnson moved out of intensive care

The UK prime minister has been moved out of intensive care, Downing Street said.

A spokesman for Johnson said: “The prime minister has been moved this evening from intensive care back to the ward, where he will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery.

“He is in extremely good spirits.”

For more, visit our UK blog:

Updated at 7.29pm BST

7.13pm BST

The UK’s weekly nationwide applause for NHS workers will take place at 8pm UK time.

Updated at 7.29pm BST

7.05pm BST

France death toll rises to more than 12,000

France has said the total death toll in hospitals and nursing homes has risen to 12,210, from 10,869 on Wednesday, Reuters is reporting.

The number of confirmed cases in hospitals has increased to 86,334 today from 82,048 on Wednesday, while 30,767 are in hospital with the virus.

6.58pm BST

The World Health Organisation reports that there have now been 1,202 cases confirmed in Iraq, and that 69 people have died from the disease there, while 425 have so far recovered.

According to the latest situation report from the country published by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, about a quarter of the cases are in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and the remainder are in federal Iraq.

The Iraqi government has extended curfews and movement restrictions in federal Iraq until 18 April, and the Kurdistan regional government has extended curfews and movement restrictions until 10 April.

Iraqis pictured on Wednesday walking in an empty street where months before anti-government protests were taking place, during the lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus
Iraqis pictured on Wednesday walking in an empty street where months before anti-government protests were taking place.
Photograph: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty Images

Like many other poorer regions of the world, Iraq has a shortage of chemicals for coronavirus testing kits, the WHO reported. It said it had collaborated with scientists at Basrah university to manufacture some substances domestically, and that local production of disinfectants and hand sanitiser had also been stepped up.

The World Food Programme reported surges in the prices of foods and other commodities, the OCHA report said. According to the report:

Social distancing measures such as mandatory movement restrictions are reducing the economic activity in the country, which negatively impacts the most vulnerable groups such as day labourers and low-income workers.

Nearly all governorates reported price increases in food items; approximately half reported price hikes in hygiene items, while three reported increases in fuel prices. Significant price spikes were observed during the last two weeks of March.

That’s it from me, Damien Gayle, until tomorrow.

Updated at 7.03pm BST

6.43pm BST

Global death toll passes 90,000, US overtakes Spain’s total casualties

The global death toll has passed 90,000 on the Johns Hopkins University tracker – the current figure is 90,057.

The US has now overtaken Spain with 15,774 deaths. Spain has 15,238, according to the Maryland-based university’s research.

Italy is the country with the highest coronavirus-related deaths at 17,669.

https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

Updated at 7.05pm BST

6.23pm BST

Despite claims to the contrary by Donald Trump, the World Health Organization warned the US and other countries about the risk of human-to-human transmission of Covid-19 as early as 10 January, and urged precautions even though initial Chinese studies at that point had found no clear evidence of that route of infection, write Peter Beaumont in London and Julian Borger in Washington.

Technical guidance notes seen by the Guardian and briefings by top WHO officials warned of potential human-to-human transmission and made clear that there was a threat of catching the disease through water droplets and contaminated surfaces, based on the experience of earlier coronavirus outbreaks.

In recent days, Trump has attempted to blame the WHO for the pandemic, pointing to a WHO tweet on 14 January saying “there was no human-to-human transmission”.

“In many ways, they were wrong. They also minimised the threat very strongly,” the US president said, before threatening to cut funding to the organisation.

Trump supporters have been calling for the resignation of the WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus , and for a congressional investigation of the body’s performance.

Updated at 6.30pm BST

6.10pm BST

Why are coronavirus mortality rates so different?

How can we understand the risk of dying from Covid-19 when there are so many numbers flying around? There are actually three types of fatality rate, which are calculated in different ways and tell you different things.

When we know what each means and how they work, we can learn more about how new infections such as the coronavirus affect us, the Guardian’s video team reports.

Updated at 6.21pm BST

6.10pm BST

Second record-breaking death toll in New York

New York broke its record for the largest single-day coronavirus death toll for the third consecutive day, the state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, announced at his daily briefing.

New York recorded 799 deaths from coronavirus yesterday, bringing the state’s total death toll to 7,067. New York has lost about the same number of people to coronavirus as the UK.

Cuomo said the state would be bringing in additional funeral directors to help deal with the surge of deaths.

As the state mourns the loss of several thousand New Yorkers, there are also signs that social distancing is flattening the curve.

Yesterday, the state recorded the lowest number of new hospitalisations since the crisis started. The number of ICU admissions and intubations are also down.

“We are saving lives by what we are doing today,” Cuomo said.

Read more updates from the US on our US coronavirus live blog.

Updated at 6.14pm BST

6.04pm BST

A hospital consultant who wrote a public plea to the UK prime minister for more personal protective equipment for frontline staff in British hospitals has died from the coronavirus, Matthew Weaver reports.

Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, a consultant urologist at Homerton hospital in Hackney east London, died after spending 15 days in Queens hospital, Romford.

Last month he wrote a Facebook message to Boris Johnson outlining the urgent need for PPE for frontline staff and calling for testing for healthcare workers to be fast-tracked.

He wrote: “Dear and respectable prime minister Mr Boris Johnson, Please ensure urgently PPE for each and every NHS health worker.”

Updated at 6.15pm BST

6.00pm BST

The coronavirus crisis is not a “blank cheque” to flout civil liberties, the UN human rights commissioner warned on Thursday as she criticised some states’ adoption of “unlimited” emergency powers, AFP reports.

Addressing the first-ever virtual meeting of the United Nations human rights council in Geneva, Michelle Bachelet said:

Emergency measures may well be needed to respond to this public health emergency. But an emergency situation is not a blank cheque to disregard human rights obligations

Emergency measures should be necessary and proportionate. I am profoundly concerned by certain countries’ adoption of emergency powers that are unlimited.

Updated at 6.16pm BST

5.52pm BST

The World Health Organization has reported a drastic shortage of intensive care beds to treat Covid-19 patients in Africa, where it estimates there are only around five per million people, compared with 4,000 per million people in Europe.

As the WHO’s Africa branch reported a spread of the coronavirus beyond urban centres, officials insisted containment was still possible. But they warned of dire consequences if it was not achieved.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said:

Tackling cases in rural areas that often lack the resources of urban centres will pose an immense challenge for already strained health systems in Africa. There is a critical shortage of treatment facilities for critical cases of Covid-19 in Africa.

As elsewhere in the world, the toll of coronavirus in Africa is concentrated among older people. The WHO reported that according to a preliminary analysis more than half (55%) of reported deaths were of people over 60 years, despite their accounting for only 16% of total cases.

Updated at 6.04pm BST

5.36pm BST

Italy death toll rises by 610

Italy’s coronavirus curve has been flattening but is yet to show signs of a definitive decrease as deaths rose by 610 on Thursday, 68 more than on Wednesday, Angela Giuffrida reports.

The figures from the civil protection authority showed current infections rose by 1,615, or 1.7%. The overall number of cases, including those who have died or recovered, rose 4,204 (2.9%) to 143,626.

The number of intensive care beds in use continues to decline, as does the number of people hospitalised for the virus. Of the 96,877 people currently infected, 64,873 are recovering at home.

Italy has registered 143,626 confirmed cases of the virus to date, including 18,279 deaths and 28,470 survivors.

Italy’s lockdown is due to expire on 13 April but is likely to be extended by another two weeks.

• This entry was amended on 10 April 2020, to correct the figure regarding current infections, and to add information about the rise in the total number of cases.

A man sits on a bench in the Piazza Navona, in Rome, and reads the newspaper
A man sits on a bench in the Piazza Navona, in Rome, and reads the newspaper
Photograph: Steve Bisgrove/REX/Shutterstock

Updated at 12.22pm BST

5.33pm BST

Around the world people ordered to stay home to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic have turned to online fitness instructors to stay in shape.

Now the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, has got in on the act, publishing a video to social media to educate his compatriots about how to work out indoors.

The video had been hotly anticipated on social media after Museveni on Wednesday called on Ugandans to stop exercising outdoors in groups and promised to release a video showing them how to get their fitness fix at home.

True to his word, Museveni released his two-minute and 25 second instructional video on Facebook and Twitter on Thursday afternoon. Appearing barefoot and wearing a grey tracksuit in a spacious office with a plush red carpet, he tells viewers:

It’s good to go outdoors when there is no problem but when there’s a need you can go indoors. This is just an office. Because I don’t have time, I always do my exercises here or even in my home, in my room.

“So you start by warming up,” he says before jogging from one end of the room to the other, increasing his pace and making an effort to keep his knees up.

The 75-year-old retired general then begins to do push-ups, placing his hands on a white towel laid on the floor. In the background aides are heard counting 30 push-ups, although the camera cuts away at one point.

According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics 71 percent of people living in the capital, Kampala, share a one-roomed home with several others.

Uganda has recorded 53 cases of the coronavirus, and has implemented a 14-day lockdown with transport banned and a nightime curfew, however people are still allowed to move around on foot in groups of less than five.

Museveni, who is seeking a sixth term in office next year, has given almost daily briefings on the virus. He has become a hit on social media with his advice, telling landlords they can “demand their money later”, complaining about security officers who “like beating people” or urging that ‘this is not the time for exams.”

Updated at 5.44pm BST

5.12pm BST

UK Covid-19 death toll rises by 881 to 7,978

The latest figures are running on our UK-focused coronavirus live blog.

As of today, in the UK 243,421 people have been tested for Covid-19. Of them, 65,077 have tested positive and the number of people admitted to hospital with symptoms stands at 16,784.

Of those who have contracted the virus 7,978 have died.

5.04pm BST

Botswana’s president and 63 MPs self-isolate

The president of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, and 63 of the country’s MPs are to self-isolate after a nurse assigned to screen legislators for coronavirus tested positive for it herself.

Health minister Lemogang Kwape told parliament that some legislators at a special session on had interacted with a health worker who later tested positive for the virus. “Everyone who was here has to undergo mandatory quarantine from here,” the director of health services, Malaki Tshipiyagae, announced.

This includes Masisi, and all 63 MPs of the ruling and opposition parties.

Botswanan president Mokgweetsi Masisi addresses a special parliamentary meeting in Gaborone, Botswana, on Wednesday
Botswanan president Mokgweetsi Masisi addresses a special parliamentary meeting in Gaborone, Botswana, on Wednesday
Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

It is the second time in less than a month that Botswana’s leader will have been quarantined.

The special session had been called to debate Masisi’s request to extend Botswana’s state of emergency for another six months – one of a slew of measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus in the diamond-rich country.

Parliament gave its approval on Thursday.

The landlocked country has announced seven new confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the tally to 13, one of whom has died.

4.55pm BST

António Guterres, the UN secretary general, has released a statement saying he welcomes the unilateral ceasefire declared by Saudi Arabia over its war in Yemen, which he said he hopes will help the war-torn country handle its coronavirus epidemic

I welcome the announcement by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on behalf of the ‘Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen’, of a unilateral ceasefire in Yemen. This can help to advance efforts towards peace, as well as the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

I now call upon the Government of Yemen and Ansar Allah to follow through on their commitment to immediately cease hostilities. I also call on the Government and the Houthis to engage with each other, in good faith and without preconditions, in negotiations facilitated by my Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths.

Only through dialogue will the parties be able to agree on a mechanism for sustaining a nationwide ceasefire, humanitarian and economic confidence-building measures to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people, and the resumption of the political process to reach a comprehensive settlement to end the conflict.

Nurses in Sanaa, Yemen, receive training on using ventilators provided by WHO in preparation for any possible spread of Covid-19
Nurses in Sanaa, Yemen, receive training on using ventilators provided by WHO in preparation for any possible spread of Covid-19
Photograph: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

After five years of war, Yemen has little civil infrastructure left to manage an outbreak of Covid-19. According to a risk report published yesterday by ACAPS, only 51% of the country’s health centres are fully functional, and there are only three testing sites, with the capacity for a few hundred tests a day at most.

Forecasting the potential impact on the country, ACAPS’s report suggests:

By the time COVID-19 is identified in Yemen, it will likely be spreading rapidly through the population. While a proportion of cases will be hospitalised, hospitals will struggle to implement sufficient protective measures in COVID-19 treatment wards. This may cause patients with other ailments to decide not to visit healthcare facilities for fear of contracting COVID-19.

  • This post was amended on 15 April 2020 to correct the spelling of the organisation ACAPS.

Updated at 9.31am BST

4.30pm BST

4.25pm BST

Brazil’s health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, has admitted authorities will have to deal with drug traffickers and paramilitary gangs as they seek to stop the spread of Covid-19 through the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Tom Phillips, the Guardian’s Latin America correspondent, reports.

Heavily armed criminal gangs control many of the city’s thousand or so favelas, which this week recorded their first coronavirus deaths. And at a press conference on Wednesday, Mandetta conceded his workers would have to talk to them.

“Health authorities do communicate with traffickers and paramilitares, yes, because they are human beings too and they also have to cooperate, help and take part,” said the minister, a doctor who did part of his training in Rio’s favelas.

People wait to get donations of basic food supplies distributed by an NGO at the Cidade de Deus (City of God) favela in Rio de Janeiro
People wait to get donations of basic food supplies distributed by an NGO at the Cidade de Deus (City of God) favela in Rio de Janeiro.
Photograph: Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil’s health ministry told one local newspaper the minister’s comments – in many ways just a statement of the obvious – were designed to send a message to gang leaders that once the coronavirus began spreading through the densely populated favelas, health workers would have to come in.

But the declaration caused outrage among supporters of Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, with whom the health minister has been sparring over Brazil’s reaction to coronavirus. “Has this guy been smoking crack?” tweeted Edson Salomão, one of the founders of a group called Rightwing São Paulo. “WTF.”

Updated at 4.41pm BST

4.16pm BST

Africa’s top health official has issued a warning to wealthy countries hoarding medical equipment that if the coronavirus is left to spread in Africa the whole world remains at risk.

“We cannot be neglected in this effort,” John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters in a briefing on Thursday.

“The world will be terribly unsafe, and it will be completely naive, if countries think they can control Covid-19 in their countries but not in Africa.”

African nations are being forced to compete with wealthier countries for testing kits, as well as ventilators for patients having difficulty breathing and protective equipment for frontline health workers.

Nkengasong warned that the very future of the continent will depend on how this matter is handled as cases, now over 11,000, quickly rise. “We may not actually know how big is the size of the problem without scaling up testing,” Nkengasong was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

4.05pm BST

Health authorities in Pakistan have reported 250 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the total in the country to 4,322, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on Thursday.

According to OCHA, the most affected province due to Covid-19 virus was Punjab with 2,171 cases, followed by Sindh with 1,036. So far 467 (12%) cases had fully recovered and discharged while 1,139 were currently in hospital, of which 25 were in critical condition.

Pakistani English-language newspaper Dawn was reporting 65 deaths across Pakistan since the beginning of the outbreak. It ran higher figures for infections and recoveries on its home page than those given by the UN.

3.49pm BST

The World Health Organization’s top officials in Africa say it’s too early to make an assessment of the impact of lockdowns and other measures across the continent but called for all such restrictions to be accompanied by effective public health measures to be worth their very significant social and economic costs, writes Jason Burke, the Guardian’s African correspondent.

The total number of cases in Africa remains relatively low compared to Europe or the US, though the official stats by no means reflect the true spread of the disease. The total this morning was 11,400, with 572 deaths, up from 6,600 a week ago.

Almost all countries across Africa have imposed measures to enforce social distancing, ranging from very strict nationwide lockdowns, such as in South Africa and Liberia, to strict measures targeting individual cities, such as in Kenya and Nigeria, or simply closing big gatherings and meetings.

But the impact on communities that live in overcrowded neighbourhoods in big African cities, where many people rely on their daily earnings to eat, is massive. It has been compounded by a series of other economic shocks – such as a drastic drop in the amount of cash sent back to families by workers in the Gulf or elsewhere.

“The lockdowns are having a big cost and we really need to work together to make sure they are having an impact,” Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, told reporters in an online briefing on Thursday.

There is some good news, WHO officials said. There has been a lot of progress in ramping up testing capabilities, with pretty much all countries on the continent now theoretically able to test their citizens for the disease. As elsewhere however, there are shortages in the key chemicals needed for the tests, and that’s causing problems.

This is particularly true in South Africa, which has the highest number of cases and has adopted a strategy based on aggressive screening and testing to try to stamp out any clusters and outbreaks of the disease before it can spread.

Officials in South Africa have yet to decide whether to extend the lockdown in South Africa, now in its third week. Government medical advisors say the decision will depend on whether they can establish a good understanding of the spread of the disease in the coming days. One possibility may be to lift some restrictions but maintain strict rules to limit social distancing, but, they say, nothing is decided.

Other governments across the continent will face similar decisions in coming days and weeks. None will be easy, officials say, and the experience of European or Asian countries should not necessarily guide policy in the very different circumstances found in Nairobi, Kinshasa, Juba or Bamako.

3.41pm BST

The International Organization for Migration has issued a call for states to “uphold international obligations”, days after Italy closed its ports in an apparent attempt to block access to boats carrying migrants across the Mediterranean.

“Migrants continue to attempt the Mediterranean crossing, fleeing violence, abuse and poverty amid heightened concern over the Covid-19 pandemic,” the IOM said in a statement on Thursday.

At least six boats, carrying roughly 500 people, have departed from Libya since the beginning of this month, the IOM said, adding that an NGO vessel that had rescued 150 adrift in the Mediterranean remains at sea “without an assigned port of safety”.

The organisation’s statement says:

International maritime law and human rights obligations must be upheld during the Covid-19 emergency. The crisis should strengthen our collective resolve to preserve life, protect rights and find common, adaptable solutions to the challenges that affect us all.

… We recognise that while many countries have chosen to tighten control at their borders in an effort to contain the spread of the pandemic, it is crucial that such measures be implemented in a non-discriminatory manner, in line with international law, and prioritises the protection of the most vulnerable.

On Wednesday, Lorenzo Tondo reported that the Italian government had declared its seaports “unsafe” due to the coronavirus pandemic, and would not authorise the landing of migrant rescue boats until the end of the emergency.

The measure – the first of its kind in Italian history – appeared designed to prevent rescue boats from disembarking migrants in the upcoming weeks, as departures from Libya have increased in recent days with the arrival of good weather.

Updated at 3.54pm BST

3.30pm BST

Kenya has reported five new confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections so far in the country to 184. Seven patients have died, and 12 have recovered.

The health ministry publishes all the details of its latest coronavirus reporting on Twittter.

Updated at 3.54pm BST

3.24pm BST

The Canadian death toll from the coronavirus outbreak is likely to be between 11,000 and 22,000 by the end of the pandemic, health officials said on Thursday, outlining the two most likely scenarios.

The officials told a briefing that they expected between 500 and 700 people by April 16. The death toll so far is 435, reports Reuters.

3.24pm BST

Health authorities in Singapore on Thursday reported an increase of 287 confirmed cases of coronavirus, double the increase registered a day earlier, with the majority linked to dormitories used to house foreign workers.

The latest rise in cases is the biggest reported to date in the south east Asian city state, which was one of the first outside China to detect the virus. It brings the total to 1,910, Straits Times reports.

Singapore’s strict surveillance and quarantine regime initially slowed the outbreak, but recent rises in locally transmitted cases have raised fresh concerns, the Guardian reported on Wednesday, as the city reported 142 new infections.

Thousands of foreign workers – many of whom work in essential services in the city – are to be moved to army camps, floating hotels and vacant housing blocks, Straits Times reports.

This is Damien Gayle taking over the blog again. You can send me tips or news from your area to damien.gayle@theguardian.com, or via Twitter DM to @damiengayle.

3.08pm BST

Number of confirmed cases worldwide exceeds 1.5 million

The latest numbers from Johns Hopkins University, which has tracked the spread of the virus during the pandemic, now puts the confirmed global total of cases at 1,502,618.

Updated at 3.28pm BST

2.58pm BST

A record one million Canadians lost their jobs in March from the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s statistical agency said on Thursday.

The previous benchmark for monthly job losses in Canada was set in January 2009 when 125,000 jobs disappeared, reports Leyland Cecco from Toronto.

In its monthly Labour Force Survey, Statistics Canada said the country’s unemployment rate jumped more than 2.2 percent to 7.8%.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday,
Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the Covid-19 pandemic on Wednesday,
Photograph: Sean Kilpatrick/AP

Economists, and the prime minister, had warned the numbers would be grim. Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday:

It’s going to be a hard day for the country. We’re facing a unique challenge. But I know that if we pull together our economy will come roaring back after this crisis.

Ontario experienced the largest job losses, with 403,000 losing their jobs. Quebec lost 264,000 jobs and British Columbia lost 132,000.

Trudeau’s government has scrambled in recent weeks to help out-of-work Canadians, including a monthly benefit of ,000 for residents who have lost jobs due to the virus.

More than 5 million Canadians have so far applied for the programme, suggesting the scope of job losses are deeper than anticipated and renewing fears that April’s job losses will exceed the unprecedented numbers posted in March.

Updated at 3.18pm BST

2.37pm BST

Germany’s army is donating 60 mobile ventilators free of charge to the UK following a call for help as the NHS scrambles to get hold of enough life-saving equipment as the Covid-19 pandemic intensifies.

Speaking to the Guardian, a spokesperson for the German defence ministry confirmed a report in Der Spiegel, according to which the Bundeswehr would send 60 pieces of equipment from its own depot across the Channel as soon as possible.

The German ministry said it would not invoice the UK for the ventilators.

More than 480 ventilators are understood to have arrived in the UK from overseas since March. They have been bought or donated from China, US, Germany, Sweden and Taiwan.

Updated at 2.53pm BST

2.31pm BST

The pandemic will turn global economic growth “sharply negative” in 2020, triggering the worst fallout since the 1930s Great Depression, with only a partial recovery seen in 2021, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said.

Kristalina Georgieva said the crisis would hit emerging markets and developing countries hardest of all, which would need hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign aid, Reuters reports.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva speaks during a conference hosted by the Vatican on economic solidarity in February 2020.
IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva speaks during a conference hosted by the Vatican on economic solidarity in February 2020.
Photograph: Remo Casilli/Reuters

Georgieva said:

Just three months ago, we expected positive per capita income growth in over 160 of our member countries in 2020.

Today, that number has been turned on its head: we now project that over 170 countries will experience negative per capita income growth this year.”

If the pandemic faded in the second half of the year, the IMF expected a partial recovery in 2021, Georgieva said, but she warned the situation could also get worse.

I stress there is tremendous uncertainty about the outlook: it could get worse depending on many variable factors, including the duration of the pandemic.”

Updated at 2.40pm BST

2.18pm BST

Some African countries could see a peak in coronavirus cases in the coming weeks, and testing should be urgently increased in the region, World Health Organization (WHO) officials said on Thursday.

Michel Yao, the WHO Africa programme manager for emergency response, told a media teleconference on Thursday:

During the last four days we can see that the numbers have already doubled. If the trend continues, and also learning from what happened in China and in Europe, some countries may face a huge peak very soon.”

The numbers of people recorded as infected with the coronavirus in Africa have been relatively low so far, with nearly 11,000 cases and 562 deaths, according to a Reuters tally based on government statements and WHO data.

The WHO’s Africa head, Matshidiso Moeti, said there was an “urgent need” to expand testing capacity beyond capital cities in Africa, as the virus spreads through countries.

Updated at 2.32pm BST

2.08pm BST

Good afternoon, I’m taking over the live blog for the next hour. If you want to follow me or contact me on Twitter to share insight or send tips, I’m on @Gregoryjourno or send me an email at gregory.robinson@guardian.co.uk

1.53pm BST

What happens if you are in hospital with the coronavirus?

In this video, the Guardian’s health editor, Sarah Boseley, explains the different ways coronavirus can affect people, the likelihood of going to hospital and what will happen to people who are admitted.

Updated at 1.54pm BST

1.38pm BST

US unemployment rises 6.6m in a week

More than 6.6 million Americans lost their jobs last week, taking the total to 16 million job losses in the last three weeks as the coronavirus pandemic brings the US economy to a standstill, the US labor department confirmed on Thursday, writes Dominic Rushe in New York and Michael Sainato in Florida.

About 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as shutdowns across the US led employers to furlough workers in nearly every corner of the job market. Economists had expected 5.25 million Americans to file for unemployment benefits for the week ending 4 April.

Layoffs that started in the restaurant and leisure industries have now spread to manufacturing, construction and even healthcare. Job losses are rising in every state and economists are predicting the unemployment rate will soon reach 15% or higher, levels unseen since before the second world war.

The latest snapshot of economic devastation wrought by Covid-19 came as the virus itself continued its relentless spread. More than 86,000 deaths have been reported around the world and the US has over 432,000 confirmed cases, the most of any nation.

But while the numbers are stark, economists cautioned it was too early to say what the long-term impact of Covid-19 will be on the economy.

Updated at 2.05pm BST

1.30pm BST

I don’t know about your part of the world, but where I live in London has seen an explosion in the number of joggers and cyclists on the streets as people use their officially sanctioned single outing a day to get some exercise.

Many countries around the world have made daily exercise one of the few exceptions to strict lockdowns intended to curb the spread of coronavirus. But what if your daily jog, cycle, or even walk, with sanctioned fellow runners, cyclists or walkers could actually put people at greater danger of catching the disease?

That’s what new research by a team of Dutch and Belgian researchers has found. They are warning that existing social distancing advice does not account for the increased potential spread of the virus in aerosol droplets that catch in the slipstream of heavily breathing runners and cyclists.

In a white paper made freely available online by lead researcher Bert Blocken, professor of civil engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology, they say:

Walking, running or cycling are welcome activities to ease one’s mind in times of Covid‐19. But it is best not to exercise these outdoor sports in each other’s slipstream, according to recent research by Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands and KU Leuven in Belgium.

While the official advice to remain a specified distance away from other individuals outside your household works indoors, or in calm weather, Blocken says:

If someone exhales, coughs or sneezes while walking, running or cycling, most of the microdroplets are entrained in the wake or slipstream behind the runner or cyclist. The other person who runs or cycles just behind this leading person in the slipstream then moves through that cloud of droplets.

The slipstream is the zone that arises right behind a person when they are walking or cycling, and which pulls the air a bit along with this moving person, as it were.

Cyclists like to position themselves in the slipstream of others to reduce their air resistance. But someone who walks or runs also has such a slipstream. We have seen that no matter how that zone forms, droplets end up in that air stream. So it’s best to avoid that slipstream.

Blocken has made a couple of video animations and posted them on Twitter to illustrate what he means.

A note of caution: Blocken admits that his team’s findings are not peer reviewed. But, he adds: “Given the situation, we decided it would be unethical to keep the results confidential and keep the public waiting months for the peer review process to be completed.”

He says that full details of the scientific study will be posted as a LinkedIn article.

Updated at 2.26pm BST

1.10pm BST

The UK government has given an update on the condition of the prime minister, Boris Johnson, who spent his third night in intensive care last night after falling ill with Covid-19, Rowena Mason reports.

The prime minister’s spokesman said Johnson continues to receive standard oxygen treatment, adding:

Boris Johnson had a good night and continues to improve in intensive care at St Thomas’s hospital. He is in good spirits.

Updated at 1.38pm BST

1.00pm BST

Coronavirus death toll in Spain passes 15,000

The number of people killed by the coronavirus in Spain passed 15,000 on Thursday, but the daily death toll fell to 683 after two consecutive days of rising above 740, Sam Jones reports from Madrid.

Figures released by the health department suggest that the spread of the virus is continuing to slow down: between Wednesday and Thursday, the rise in the number of new cases was 3.9%, compared with a daily average of 12% at the end of March and 20% in mid-March.

To date, Spain has confirmed 152,336 cases of the virus, and 15,238 deaths. However, there are growing doubts over the way in which the country is counting the dead.

Mourners pray in front of the coffin of a person who died from coronavirus, at the Spanish Muslim military cemetery in Grinon.
Mourners pray in front of the coffin of a person who died from coronavirus, at the Spanish Muslim military cemetery in Grinon.
Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters

Recently released data from judicial authorities in Madrid suggest that 6,600 more people than usual died in the last two weeks of March, compared with the official tally of 3,500 Covid-19 deaths in the region.

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, is once again seeking Congress’s approval to extend the state of emergency – this time until 26 April.

Speaking in parliament on Thursday morning, he defended his government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis and said the continuing lockdown, which has been in effect since 14 March, was the best way to tackle contagion. He said:

We’re all aware of the enormous sacrifice that this second extension requires from people who, quite logically, are fed up with the efforts of the past month.

But we also know that it’s vitally important that we consolidate all the advances that have been made with so much pain and suffering over that time. And that’s something we’ll only manage to do if we maintain the state of emergency for as long as scientists consider it necessary.

Updated at 1.40pm BST

12.56pm BST

A group of doctors in Zimbabwe have taken their government to court over its failure to provide medical staff working on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic with masks, Nyasha Chingono reports from Harare.

The Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) is seeking to compel the authorities to urgently provide personal protective equipment for medical practitioners, warning that medics in the troubled health sector will otherwise die.

“There are simply no adequate PPEs for health personnel working at public and private health facilities in the country. We attest to the shortages because we work there,” read the court application, seen by the Guardian.

“If no urgent steps are taken to address the shortcomings, the country will be caught unprepared to handle a possible escalation of the Covid-19 pandemic and many lives will be lost, sadly including the lives of those at the frontline.”

A man wearing a face mask walks in a suburb in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Monday
A man wearing a face mask walks in a suburb in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Monday
Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

ZADHR said 1,500 staff working in public hospitals required at least three masks daily, a “luxury” the government was failing to provide.

“Yet it is a necessity if we are to avert the Italian disaster, where a large number of health practitioners got infected through the provision of health services to patients,” the statement said.

According to Reuters, Zimbabwe had reported 11 confirmed cases of coronavirus and three deaths by Thursday.

Updated at 1.42pm BST

12.48pm BST

Food supplies across the world will be “massively disrupted” by the coronavirus, and unless governments act the number of people suffering chronic hunger could double, some of the world’s biggest food companies have warned, writes Fiona Harvey, the Guardian’s environment correspondent.

Unilever, Nestlé and PepsiCo, along with farmers’ organisations, the UN Foundation, academics, and civil society groups, have written to world leaders, calling on them to keep borders open to trade in order to help society’s most vulnerable, and to invest in environmentally sustainable food production.

They urge governments to “take urgent coordinated action to prevent the Covid-19 pandemic turning into a global food and humanitarian crisis”. Maintaining open trade will be key, as will investing in food supply chains and protecting farmers in the developed and developing world, they say.

The G20 is coming under increasing pressure to act: a group of Nobel prize-winning economists and former senior development bank officials wrote to the forum advising that trillions of dollars would be needed to help the developing world cope with the Covid-19 pandemic. This week more than 100 former heads of government, including Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy, also called on the G20 to act urgently or risk recurrent outbreaks.

Updated at 12.48pm BST

12.35pm BST

For a republic that dispatched most of its own royal family to the guillotine 227 years ago, the French have an enduring fascination with the British monarchy, writes Kim Willsher in Paris.

Queen Elizabeth II addresses the nation on Sunday
Queen Elizabeth II addresses the nation on Sunday
Photograph: Getty Images

The Queen’s speech on Sunday was broadcast live on three television news networks with simultaneous translation and followed by 2.35 million viewers an estimated 8.6% of the watching public, according to the media observatory, Médiamétrie.

BFMTV reported its audience rose by more than half a million viewers for the speech.

Stéphane Bern, France’s leading royal expert, wrote in Le Figaro that the Queen’s speech had “moved not just the British nation”.

She is a symbolic figure. When we say “the Queen” we immediately think of the “Queen of England”. She is a kind of mater dolorosa (sorrowful mother: a reference to the image of the Virgin Mary holding a dying Jesus), the soul of the nation.

Bern was particularly impressed by the queen’s “humility” in thanking NHS and other frontline workers.

“I found her very elegant. She was taking a back seat, unlike the politicians,” Bern said.

In another interview, Bern added the Queen had “underscored British values of calm, camaraderie and self-discipline”.

She is like a rock in a storm, here we have a woman who has reigned for 68 years and who will soon be 94 years old, who has known the war…and made reference to it.

The fondness of older French people for the monarch, always referred to as “La Reine d’Angleterre” (the Queen of England), has been transmitted to a younger generation via the hugely popular Netflix series, The Crown.

This fascination has been widely documented in the French media. In 2016, Adelaïde de Clermont-Tonnerre, a French editor, said she was astonished to hear people shouting “Long live the Queen”, when Elizabeth II visited Paris in 2014.

Updated at 12.39pm BST

12.31pm BST

A second person has died from Covid-19 in Malta, where the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus currently stands at 299.

The Maltese health ministry said the 79-year-old, who had underlying health conditions, had been receiving care at the Karin Grech hospital after first testing positive for the coronavirus on Monday, the Times of Malta reports.

A 92-year-old woman became Malta’s first Covid-19 death on Wednesday. People over the age of 65 and people with underlying health conditions have been warned to remain indoors and only to leave their homes to buy food.

Updated at 12.47pm BST

12.23pm BST

The number of new infections continued to rise in Afghanistan on Thursday, as thousands of migrants poured back from Pakistan amid a surge of infections in Kandahar, Akhtar Mohammad Makoii reports from Herat.

Health officials reported 40 new coronavirus cases recorded in last 24 hours, bringing the total number in the country to 484. However, due to a lack of some testing materials, no suspected patients were tested for a second straight day in Herat.

As of Tuesday the number of infections was 257 in Afghanistan’s worst affected area. Local health officials said the materials arrived in Herat on Thursday afternoon and the process will restart soon.

A health ministry spokesman warned that the virus has now spread into the society and most of the new infections have no history of travel to Iran.

Health workers check the temperature of people on their way into Kandahar, where thousands of migrants have just returned from Pakistan
Health workers check the temperature of people on their way into Kandahar, where thousands of migrants have just returned from Pakistan
Photograph: Muhammad Sadiq/EPA

All three provinces which have border with Iran are under partial curfew in a bid to contain the spread of the virus. But with streets still packed with vehicles and people walking freely around, experts warn that fighting the outbreak will be challenging.

The country’s capital, Kabul, is the second most affected city with 95 positive cases – 10 confirmed in the last 24 hours. The city went under full lockdown on Wednesday. Health workers and food suppliers, media workers, security officials and telecom services employees are exempt, the interior ministry said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Pakistan opened its border with Afghanistan for three days and thousands of Afghan migrants returned, mostly to Kandahar, raising concerns in the province as the number of infections rose to 30.

Afghanistan has so far recorded 15 deaths of Covid-19, while 32 patients have recovered.

Updated at 12.46pm BST

12.13pm BST

Indonesia has reported its biggest daily increase in confirmed cases of coronavirus since officially reporting its first last month, Reuters reports.

The health ministry official Achmad Yurianto on Thursday announced 337 new infections had been detected in the past 24 hours, taking the total in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country to 3,293. He reported 40 new deaths linked to the virus, taking the total Covid-19 death toll to 280.

A woman hangs cloth face masks on a string to dry before distributing them around her neighbours in Tangerang, on the outskirts of Jakarta, on Thursday
A woman hangs cloth face masks on a string to dry before distributing them around her neighbours in Tangerang, on the outskirts of Jakarta, on Thursday
Photograph: Willy Kurniawan/Reuters

According to a report by Rebecca Ratcliffe, the Guardian’s south-east Asia correspondent, on Wednesday Indonesia’s government announced the closure of schools and workplaces in the capital, Jakarta, where a sudden rise in burials has raised concerns over undetected cases.

President Joko Widodo had previously resisted lockdown measures imposed in many other south-east Asian nations, but there are fears infections are not being spotted by authorities.

Updated at 1.45pm BST

12.02pm BST

Wednesday marked the 100th day since China, on 31 December 2019, first reported cases of pneumonia caused by a then unknown coronavirus to the World Health Organization. Since then there have been more than 1.3m confirmed cases, and more than 75,000 deaths. Billions of people are confined to their homes and stock markets have plummeted

The Guardian’s visuals team has put together an interactive graphic showing how the pandemic has spread across the globe, from the very beginnings of the outbreak in Wuhan. It’s worth a look.

Updated at 12.42pm BST

12.00pm BST

Bangladesh puts Rohingya camps under “complete lockdown”

Bangladesh has imposed a “complete lockdown” in its Cox’s Bazaar district, which is home to over a million Rohingya refugees from neighbouring Myanmar.

The area “will be put under complete lockdown – no entry, no exit – until the situation improves,” a government directive issued late on Wednesday said, according to AFP. No cases have been confirmed in the camps but one infection has been recorded nearby.

The consequences of an outbreak in Cox’s Bazaar are potentially catastrophic. Earlier this week, Save the Children reported that the district, which is home to a total of 3.3 million people, does not have a single ventilator to treat patients with severe Covid-19 symptoms.

The official number of coronavirus cases in Bangladesh doubled to more than 200 nationwide in the last five days, including 20 deaths. There are reportedly 1,769 ventilators in place or in the pipeline in Bangladesh, a country of 165 million people.

Updated at 12.43pm BST

11.42am BST

The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, has issued a statement in support of the World Health Organization, after it came under attack from critics, including the US president, who claimed it was in hock to China.

Guterres’s statement comes after WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, gave a spirited defence of the work of the WHO, and himself, in response to questions from journalists during a press briefing yesterday. Donald Trump had said on Twitter that the WHO “really blew it” adding that the organisation was “for some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric”.

Responding to the row in a statement published online, Guterres praised the “courage and determination” of WHO staff, and added:

It is my belief that the World Health Organization must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against Covid-19.

This virus is unprecedented in our lifetime and requires an unprecedented response. Obviously, in such conditions, it is possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities. Once we have finally turned the page on this epidemic, there must be a time to look back fully to understand how such a disease emerged and spread its devastation so quickly across the globe, and how all those involved reacted to the crisis. The lessons learned will be essential to effectively address similar challenges, as they may arise in the future.

But now is not that time. Now is the time for unity, for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences.

Updated at 12.41pm BST

11.30am BST

Iran Covid-19 death toll passes 4,000

The official death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in Iran has passed 4,000, the country’s health ministry reported on Thursday, after 117 more people were confirmed to have died from the disease in the past 24 hours.

Kianoush Jahanpour, the health ministry spokesman, said the total death toll in the Islamic republic was now 4,110, while 32,309 had recovered, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

In total, the country has reported 66,220 confirmed cases since its outbreak – the worst so far in the Middle East – began. Of those, 3,918 people are still in a critical condition, Jahanpour said.

He added that 231,393 tests have so far been carried out.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressing the nation during a live TV speech from Tehran on Thursday
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressing the nation during a live TV speech from Tehran on Thursday.
Photograph: Leader Office Handout/EPA

The latest death toll from Iran comes as its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Thursday appealed for Iranians to help stop the spread of the coronavirus by staying at home to pray during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

“In the absence of public gatherings during Ramadan, such as prayers, speeches … which we are deprived of this year, we should not neglect worship, invocation and humility in our loneliness,” AFP reported him as saying in a televised speech.

Updated at 11.52am BST

11.14am BST

Summary

Here’s a roundup of global coronavirus news over the last few hours. That’s it from me, Amy Walker. I’ll be handing over to my colleague Damien Gayle now.

  • Italy may begin to lift current lockdown measures by the end of April. The prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, told the BBC that some restrictions could be relaxed if the spread of the disease continued to slow. On Wednesday, there were 542 coronavirus-related deaths in Italy, compared with 604 the previous day.
  • Concern is growing in China over asymptomatic cases of Covid-19. According to the People’s Daily, a state council body has ordered reporting and monitoring of those not showing symptoms despite carrying the virus to be stepped up.
  • The Spanish prime minister has said the country’s latest coronavirus data is “encouraging”. Pedro S ánchez told parliament on Thursday: “The fire starts to come under control.” The country has the second highest number of global cases.
  • Indian and Pakistani troops continue to fight over disputed Kashmir, despite surging coronavirus outbreaks. Data from the Indian army shows there were 411 ceasefire violations by Pakistan’s military in March, compared with 467 in the same month last year.
  • The UK and Ireland are expected to extend current lockdown measures over the Easter weekend. It comes as deaths in the countries continue to grow.
  • The US senate has asked its members not to use the videoconferencing app Zoom over security concerns. The app has experienced a surge in usage after lockdown measures were put in place around the world, but concerns have been raised about its lack of end-to-end encryption and uninvited guests crashing meetings.

Updated at 11.50am BST

11.14am BST

Hi there, this is Damien Gayle taking control of the international live blog for the next eight hours or so. I’ll be focusing on Europe, Africa and the Middle East as countries across the region report their latest death tolls and infection figures, any changes in the measures and policies to control the spread of the coronavirus, and the particular issues faced by their peoples.

As usual I will be hoping to hear from readers with any tips, suggestions or news that you think we have overlooked. Please drop me a line at damien.gayle@theguardian.com, or via direct message to my Twitter profile, @damiengayle. If you are sending me news to report on the blog it is helpful if you provide a link or two so that I can source it.

10.53am BST

The number of daily coronavirus-related deaths in Spain slowed on Thursday as 683 fatalities were recorded in 24 hours.

The total of people who have succumbed to the virus now stands at 15,238, the health ministry said.

Confirmed infections across the country rose to 152,446 from 146,690 on Wednesday.

People in Madrid are seen applauding healthcare staff from their apartments yesterday, as they have been doing every day at 8 pm since the crisis started.
People in Madrid are seen applauding healthcare staff from their apartments yesterday, as they have been doing every day at 8pm since the crisis started.
Photograph: Juan Naharro Giménez/Getty Images

Updated at 11.07am BST

10.31am BST

Scientists and politicians in Germany have this morning presented some fascinating preliminary findings of a forensic study of the outbreak in the Heinsberg municipality on the Dutch border, which has been called “Germany’s Wuhan”.

For the “Covid-19 case cluster study”, scientists from the University of Bonn went back to the town that had the first two fatalities from the virus in Germany and interviewed and tested 1,000 residents. Researchers are also trying to work out exactly how the virus got transmitted at a carnival event in the area on 15 February.

After analysing around half of the tests, the study’s director, Prof Hendrick Streeck, said on Thursday morning that 14% of the population in the area had developed immunity after contracting the coronavirus. Previous estimated had put the infection rate at only around 5%.

Streeck said the fatality case rate of the virus in the area had also turned out to be considerably lower than the currently currently registered for the country as a whole. In Heinsberg, only 0.37% of people who contracted the virus had died.

The latest figure for Germany as a whole, as calculated by Johns Hopkins University, is 1.98%.

Updated at 11.07am BST

10.23am BST

Indian and Pakistani troops in Kashmir are locked in cross-border fighting over the disputed region, despite surging coronavirus outbreaks.

Indian army data reviewed by Reuters shows there were 411 ceasefire violations by Pakistan’s military in March, the highest number in a single month since at least 2018.

In comparison, 267 violations in March 2019 were recorded by the Indian Army.

Kashmir has long been a source of conflict between the neighbours, but tension has grown after Delhi withdrew its autonomy last August, splitting it into federally administered territories.

Both countries claim the region in full, but rule only parts of it.

Updated at 11.06am BST

10.16am BST

Meanwhile in Poland, some measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 will be lifted after Easter, its deputy health minister has suggested.

During a news conference, Waldemar Kraska, said some restrictions would be eased in order to support the country’s economy.

Poland’s schools, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and cinemas are currently closed as part of the restrictions.

Economists predict that the economy will shrink by 3.5% in 2020, triggering a steep rise in unemployment from the current level of 5.5%.

“After Easter we will want to turn on the economy a little,” said Kraska.

As of Thursday, 5,341 people had tested positive for the virus, while 164 had died in the country.

On Monday, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party pushed through measures allowing its presidential election to go ahead in May by postal vote.

Updated at 11.05am BST

9.58am BST

Restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus in Ireland could remain in place for a period of weeks, its health minister has said.

Citizens were ordered to stay at home on 27 March until at least this Sunday.

But Simon Harris told broadcaster Virgin Media it was “highly likely” that the restrictions will be extended tomorrow.

Garda officers conduct checks on pedestrians and motorists in Dublin city centre on April 8.
Garda officers conduct checks on pedestrians and motorists in Dublin city centre on April 8.
Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images

He added that Ireland would have to move on to a “different terrain” after that.

“In relation to the roadmap, there is going to be a point in this country where we will have to live alongside the virus, for want of a better phrase, where sadly people will still get sick and sadly some people will still die but it is at a rate that is sustainable for our doctors to manage,” said Harris.

Updated at 11.04am BST

9.31am BST

Italy may start to lift current lockdown restrictions by the end of April if the spread of the disease in the country continues to slow.

Prime minister Giuseppe Conte told the BBC on Thursday:

We need to pick sectors that can restart their activity. If scientists confirm it, we might begin to relax some measures already by the end of this month.

He warned that restrictions would only be eased gradually, adding that Italy could not lower its guard to the threat of the virus.

On Wednesday, there were 542 coronavirus-related deaths in Italy, lower than 604 the previous day. The death toll now stands at 17,669.

The number of people in intensive care also declined from 3,792 to 3,693.

8.58am BST

Russia has reported a record one-day rise of 1,459 new cases of Covid-19, bringing its national total to 10,131.

The number of reported related deaths also increased by 13 to 76 on Thursday, the national coronavirus crisis response centre said.

Updated at 8.58am BST

8.53am BST

China is showing increasing concern over asymptomatic cases of Covid-19, ordering closer monitoring and reporting of “silent” carriers of the virus.

According to a report in the People’s Daily, a State Council body has issued directions that screening for such cases – where people are diagnosed with Covid-19 and are infective even though they develop no symptoms – must be stepped up.

Close contacts of confirmed cases, people involved in cluster outbreaks, and travellers from high-risk areas should all be targeted, the report said.

It said medical institutions were now ordered to report such infections online to disease control departments within two hours of detection, and an epidemiological survey completed within 24 hours. The survey includes an investigation of the patient’s contacts.

China has only been including asymptomatic cases in its daily tallies this month. They are an estimated 18-31% of cases, according to Shanghai-based infectious disease doctor Zhang Wenhong.

Updated at 9.17am BST

8.39am BST

The US senate has told members not to use video conferencing app Zoom over security concerns, the Financial Times reports.

Senators have been asked to find an alternative platform to aid remote working, according to a person who told the FT that they had seen the warning.

However, the senate is believed to have stopped short of imposing an official ban on Zoom Video Communications Inc’s services.

A woman lifts her glass and cheers with friends during a virtual happy hour amid the coronavirus  crisis on April 8 in Virginia, in the US.
A woman lifts her glass and cheers with friends during a virtual happy hour amid the coronavirus crisis on April 8 in Virginia, in the US.
Photograph: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Usage of the app has skyrocketed after lockdown measures were put in place around the world, meaning that millions of people are unable to see their loved ones, and many are working from home.

But the influx of users has raised concerns about issues including its lack of end-to-end encryption and uninvited guests joining meetings.

8.32am BST

The latest coronavirus data from Spain is “encouraging” and the country is close to the beginning of a decline in the epidemic, its prime minister has said.

“The fire starts to come under control,” Pedro Sánchez told parliament on Thursday. His comments came before a vote on the extension of a state of emergency by another two weeks until 26 April.

Updated at 8.41am BST

8.02am BST

More from our project marking 100 days since the Chinese government first warned the world about the new coronavirus.

My colleagues Laurence Topham and Katie Lamborn have compacted the last three months into a whirlwind eight-minute video charting the development of the pandemic:

7.57am BST

A hundred days after a Chinese government website announced the discovery of a “pneumonia of unknown cause”, it has become clearer that the dynamics behind the virus’s rapid expansion across the globe have relied heavily on “cluster effects”.

Each of the countries most heavily hit by the pandemic have reported similar stories of social, cultural or religious gatherings where large numbers spent numerous hours in close company – holding hands, kissing, sharing drinks from the same glass – which then turbo-charged the spread of the pandemic.

“One pattern we are seeing across the globe is that wherever there was singing and dancing, the virus spread more rapidly,” said Prof Hendrik Streeck, a virologist at the University of Bonn whose team of researchers has spent the last week carrying out the first “Covid-19 case cluster study” in Heinsberg.

You can read more on how social gatherings became rocket fuel for Covid-19 below:

Updated at 8.09am BST

7.50am BST

The UK government’s emergency committee is scheduled to meet today to discuss the coronavirus lockdown.

Dominic Raab, who is deputising for prime minister Boris Johnson while he remains in intensive care with the virus, will lead the COBRA summit ahead of an April 16 deadline to review the current restrictions.

But government sources have made it clear the lockdown is likely to be extended. On Thursday morning, culture secretary Oliver Dowden told Sky News:

“We are beginning to make progress on this, we’ve not seen the acceleration you would have expected had we not introduced this, the curve is beginning to flatten.

“This is the moment that we need to stick to the path we’ve chosen.

“The British people have really come behind this, we shouldn’t be giving up this Easter weekend, that is the number one thing.”

The UK’s daily death toll is nearing that of the highest daily figures reported in hard-hit Italy and Spain. On Wednesday, 938 fatalities were announced, bringing the total to 7,097.

You can read more on this from my colleagues Heather Stewart and Rowena Mason here:

7.30am BST

U2 has given €10m to support healthcare workers during the coronavirus outbreak in Ireland.

The band’s donation will be used to source and buy personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline staff.

RTE has reported the money is part of a scheme involving Irish aircraft leasing company Avolon, which is working with companies to raise funds to buy PPE from China.

The first delivery arrived at Dublin airport earlier this week.

The Irish government is already spending more than €200m securing additional equipment from the country, with Aer Lingus transporting the stock from Beijing to Dublin on dozens of flights.

I’m Amy Walker. You can get in touch with tips or follow me on Twitter (@amyrwalker).

7.06am BST

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan, for now.

Today’s blog handover is dedicated to those among us who are living near active chainsaws, hammers, angle grinders and lawnmowers.

How thrilling it will be to learn what all the commotion was about when we finally emerge from our homes. And with all that we have learned about our neighbours’ tastes in music there will be no shortage of lively conversation.

Over to you, Amy Walker.

Updated at 7.15am BST

7.05am BST

Summary

  • At least 88,538 people have now died worldwide, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Around 1.5 million people have been infected, of whom 329,492 have recovered.
  • China reported a slight increase in new coronavirus cases for the second straight day, as the number of infections involving incoming overseas travellers hit a two-week high.
  • Boris Johnson’s condition improved on Wednesday, with the UK prime minister now sitting up in bed and “engaging positively” with the clinical team, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said. Johnson remains in intensive care.
  • German cases climb for third straight day. The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Germany rose by 4,974 in the past 24 hours to 108,202 on Thursday, climbing for the third straight day after four previous days of drops.
  • Japan confirms more than 500 cases on one day for the first time. Japan’s health ministry said Thursday that the country had more than 500 new cases for the first time on Wednesday.
  • The UK suffered its deadliest day since the outbreak began on Tuesday, as official figures showed 938 more people had died in hospitals, taking the overall total to 7,097. The true death toll is likely to be significantly higher.
  • The US recorded its highest one-day death toll on Tuesday, with 1,858 people dying on Tuesday. New York City was still the worst-affected part of the country, recording 806 fatalities. The city has registered more than 4,500 deaths. There are more than 400,000 cases in the country.
  • The US strategic national stockpile nearly out of personal protective equipment. America’s Strategic National Stockpile is nearly out of the N95 respirators, surgical masks, face, shields, gowns and other medical supplies desperately needed to protect front-line medical workers treating coronavirus patients.
  • But White House coronavirus task force officials say mitigation efforts are working, raising hopes of defying the worst case scenario projections.
  • Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign, making Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee. Sanders pledged to continue working to ensure progressive proposals are included in the party’s campaign platform.
  • Donald Trump once again scapegoated the World Health Organization. The WHO’s director-general earlier made a plea to avoid politicization as the world responds to crisis.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa to fall into recession in 2020, says World Bank. The coronavirus outbreak is expected to push sub-Saharan Africa into recession in 2020 for the first time in 25 years, the World Bank said in a new forecast.
  • Australia recorded its lowest number of new coronavirus cases in three weeks yesterday, with 96 new cases. This is the first time in three weeks the country has seen the number of new daily cases fall below 100.
  • Oxfam warned coronavirus could push half a billion people into poverty. More than half a billion more people could be pushed into poverty unless urgent action is taken to bail out poor countries affected by the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, Oxfam has warned.
  • Virus fears prompted a halt to Saudi military operations in Yemen. Concerns about a potential outbreak in Yemen, where no cases have been reported so far, are partly behind a decision to call a halt to the military action there that has left tens of thousands died and spread hunger and disease, a Saudi-led coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki has said.

Updated at 7.35am BST

6.55am BST

Japan confirms more than 500 cases on one day for the first time

Japan’s health ministry said Thursday that the country had more than 500 new cases for the first time on Wednesday, bringing the national total to 4,768 excluding hundreds from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier this year.

The continuous climb comes two days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other hard-hit prefectures, while asking people to reduce at least 70% of human interactions.

But many people were seen commuting to their offices Thursday morning in downtown Tokyo, as many Japanese companies are slow to allow remote-working for their employees, raising doubts over how effective measures can be under the state-of-emergency measures.

Commuters head to work through an underpass connecting from Shinjuku railway station in Tokyo on 9 April 2020.
Commuters head to work through an underpass connecting from Shinjuku railway station in Tokyo on 9 April 2020.
Photograph: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images

Updated at 7.02am BST

6.51am BST

South Korea South Korea says it has reported 39 more cases of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, in a continued slowdown of the virus outbreak in the Asian country, AP reports.

A blimp with a sign calling for people to participate in early voting flies above Gwangju, South Korea, 9 April 2020.
A blimp with a sign calling for people to participate in early voting flies above Gwangju, South Korea, 9 April 2020.
Photograph: YONHAP/EPA

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement Thursday the additional cases increased the country’s total to 10,423. It says 6,973 of them have been recovered and released from quarantine. The centre says fatalities from the coronavirus rose by four to 204.

But, the 39 new cases are the smallest daily jump since Feb. 20. South Korea recorded 47 and 53 new cases on Tuesday and Wednesday.

There are still worries about a steady rise in infections linked to international arrivals, which has helped inflate the caseload in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area.

A total of 22 of the 39 new cases have been reported in Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi province.

6.49am BST

German cases climb for third straight day

The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Germany rose by 4,974 in the past 24 hours to 108,202 on Thursday, climbing for the third straight day after four previous days of drops, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 246 to 2,107.

Updated at 6.52am BST

6.47am BST

Sub-Saharan Africa to fall into recession in 2020, says World Bank

The rapidly-spreading coronavirus outbreak is expected to push sub-Saharan Africa into recession in 2020 for the first time in 25 years, the World Bank said in a new forecast on Thursday.

The bank’s Africa’s Pulse report said the region’s economy will contract 2.1% to 5.1% from growth of 2.4% last year, and that the coronavirus will cost sub-Saharan Africa billion to billion in output losses this year due to trade and value chain disruption, among other factors.

Africa has more than 10,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, 562 deaths and 1,149 recoveries, according to a Reuters tally based on government statements and WHO data.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is testing the limits of societies and economies across the world, and African countries are likely to be hit particularly hard,” World Bank Vice President for Africa Hafez Ghanem said.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund are racing to provide emergency funds to African countries and others to combat the virus and mitigate the impact of sweeping shutdowns aiming at curbing its spread.

6.38am BST

UK front pages, Thursday 9 April 2020

6.18am BST

You can get in touch with me at any time with questions, comments, or tips on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

Updated at 6.18am BST

6.17am BST

UK domestic abuse helplines report surge in calls during lockdown

A helpline for perpetrators of domestic abuse who are seeking help to change their behaviour has received 25% more calls as the Covid-19 lockdown continues, fresh figures show.

The Respect phone line, which provides confidential advice to perpetrators about violence and domestic abuse, had a 26.86% increase in calls in the week starting 30 March, compared with the week before. The Respect phone line website recorded an increase in hits of 125% in the same period.

The figures come as Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, reported a 120% increase in calls to its helpline, which provides advice and facilitates referrals to refuge accommodation, in 24 hours following a fresh round of publicity on Monday.

6.12am BST

George and Amal Clooney have donated more than one million dollars (£807,000) to the coronavirus relief effort, including money for the NHS, PA reports.

The couple, who have a home in Berkshire, are understood to have donated money to six causes.

That includes a total of 0,000 (£242,000) to the NHS, the relief effort in the Lombardy region of Italy and the Lebanese Food Bank.

Amal, an internationally renowned human rights lawyer, was born in Lebanon.

Amal Clooney and George Clooney ‘Catch-22’ TV show premiere, London, 15 May 2019.
Amal Clooney and George Clooney ‘Catch-22’ TV show premiere, London, 15 May 2019.
Photograph: James Veysey/REX/Shutterstock

The couple also donated 0,000 dollars (£202,000) to both the Motion Picture and Television home, of which Hollywood star George is a board member, and to the US actors’ union SAG-AFTRA Fund.

The same sum went to the Los Angeles Mayor’s Fund, which helps provide childcare for the city’s emergency service and health care workers.

6.02am BST

Just a note that the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which is what the Guardian relies on for our infection, death and recovery figures, has changed the number of confirmed cases globally down from 1.5 million cases. This figure is likely to jump back up. At the moment it is showing 1,484,811 confirmed cases.

We’ll be keeping an eye on it in the meantime.

5.48am BST

Summary

  • At least 88,538 people have now died worldwide, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Around 1.5 million people have been infected, of whom 329,492 have recovered.
  • China reported a slight increase in new coronavirus cases for the second straight day, as the number of infections involving incoming overseas travellers hit a two-week high.
  • Boris Johnson’s condition improved on Wednesday, with the UK prime minister now sitting up in bed and “engaging positively” with the clinical team, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said. Johnson remains in intensive care.
  • The UK suffered its deadliest day since the outbreak began on Tuesday, as official figures showed 938 more people had died in hospitals, taking the overall total to 7,097. The true death toll is likely to be significantly higher.
  • The US recorded its highest one-day death toll, with 1,858 people dying on Tuesday. New York City was still the worst-affected part of the country, recording 806 fatalities. The city has registered more than 4,500 deaths. There are more than 400,000 cases in the country.
  • US strategic national stockpile nearly out of personal protective equipment. America’s Strategic National Stockpile is nearly out of the N95 respirators, surgical masks, face, shields, gowns and other medical supplies desperately needed to protect front-line medical workers treating coronavirus patients.
  • But White House coronavirus task force officials say mitigation efforts are working, raising hopes of defying the worst case scenario projections.
  • Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign, making Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee. Sanders pledged to continue working to ensure progressive proposals are included in the party’s campaign platform.
  • Donald Trump once again scapegoated the World Health Organization. The WHO’s director-general earlier made a plea to avoid politicization as the world responds to crisis.
  • Australia recorded its lowest number of new coronavirus cases in three weeks yesterday, with 96 new cases. This is the first time in three weeks the country has seen the number of new daily cases fall below 100.
  • Oxfam warned coronavirus could push half a billion people into poverty. More than half a billion more people could be pushed into poverty unless urgent action is taken to bail out poor countries affected by the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, Oxfam has warned.
  • Virus fears prompted a halt to Saudi military operations in Yemen. Concerns about a potential outbreak in Yemen, where no cases have been reported so far, are partly behind a decision to call a halt to the military action there that has left tens of thousands died and spread hunger and disease, a Saudi-led coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki has said.
  • Italy recorded 542 new deaths, but the rate has slowed slightly. The number of infected people increased by 1,195, or 1.3%. There was also a record day-to-day increase – 2,099 – in the number of people who have survived.
  • The World Trade Organization forecast a fall in global trade of up to a third. The suffering caused by the pandemic will be compounded by “unavoidable declines in trade and output”, the WTO’s director general said.

Updated at 7.41am BST

5.27am BST

Spanish sitcom tackles life in lockdown

From Herculean efforts to keep children from interjecting in conference calls to fitness classes derailed by daytime drinking, a new sitcom in Spain – billed as the first of its kind on primetime TV – is set to tackle the quirks of life in lockdown.

The show aims to offer a humorous take on the sweeping changes unleashed by the pandemic, said Álvaro Longoria, the creator and producer of Quarantine Diaries. “We are in no way trying to make fun of the people that are suffering. The focus is on those trying to make normal life out of an extraordinary situation.”

It is a delicate balance in Spain, where the virus has killed more than 14,500people and plunged its 47 million residents into one of the most restrictive lockdowns in Europe. For more than three weeks, social gatherings, leisurely walks and outdoor jogs have been banned in Spain, with residents ordered to remain in their homes except for essential trips.

Updated at 5.32am BST

5.19am BST

Vladimir Putin has taken a backseat in tackling Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, working remotely from his residence in the Moscow suburbs and delegating powers that he has spent a generation mostly accumulating in the Kremlin.

Cossack volunteers, wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus, patrol the Palace of Kuskovo museum-estate in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, 8 April, 2020.
Cossack volunteers, wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus, patrol the Palace of Kuskovo museum-estate in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, 8 April, 2020.
Photograph: Kirill Zykov/AP

Strict quarantine measures and border closures have been imposed by trusted lieutenants including the Moscow mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, and the new prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin, with officials leading parallel efforts to contain the virus and its economic fallout.

Putin, meanwhile, has mainly focused on cushioning the financial blow to Russians during teleconferences or in televised speeches from an empty office, a difficult perch from which to appear to be managing a crisis that he has seemed keen to hand off.

5.10am BST

International health officials are warning that the Nicaraguan governments perplexing weeks-long refusal to take measures to control the spread of the new coronavirus is heightening the risk of an epidemic in Central America even as neighbouring countries take tough action.

A person walks past closed stores in Managua, Nicaragua, 8 April 2020.
A person walks past closed stores in Managua, Nicaragua, 8 April 2020.
Photograph: Jorge Torres/EPA

President Daniel Ortega’s government urged Nicaraguans to party during Carnival celebrations, and it has said they should keep attending sports events and cultural festivals, and pack the countrys beaches during Holy Week vacations this week.

Doctors have been told not to alarm patients by wearing masks or using sanitizing gel.

Before schools closed for an extended vacation Friday, principals had threatened to expel students who missed class, and last month a third baseman was banned from professional baseball for three years after he asked to stop playing over virus fears.

Ortega’s administration has offered no detailed explanation for its refusal to take widely accepted measures. But the health minister has spoken of the need to support the economy, badly damaged by two years of anti-government protests and harsh crackdowns on dissent. Some analysts say Ortega and his circle may fear that anti-virus measures would weaken their hold on power.

5.06am BST

Mexican authorities said on Wednesday that about 60 personnel across two more hospitals have tested positive for the coronavirus, adding to a wave of infections among medical workers, according to local authorities and media reports.

A doctor and a paramedic from Mexico’s Emergency Medical Care System of Jalisco stand inside a mobile intensive care medical unit.
A doctor and a paramedic from Mexico’s Emergency Medical Care System of Jalisco stand inside a mobile intensive care medical unit.
Photograph: Ulises Ruiz/AFP via Getty Images

The two outbreaks struck a hospital outside Mexico City and one in the western state of Baja California Sur.

The coronavirus was first detected at the hospital in Tlanepantla de Baz, in Mexico state just outside the capital, on March 10, the head of Mexico’s social security institute, Zoe Robledo, said at the president’s regular news conference on Wednesday. At least 20 doctors tested positive there.

He said the transmission did not originate inside the facility and had been tracked to three separate cases – one patient and two doctors who did not have contact with each other.

He said the cluster was not similar to an outbreak in the city of Monclova in the northern border state of Coahuila, where 45 health workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the state’s health ministry.

4.58am BST

New Zealand will begin moving citizens to compulsory quarantine from Friday as they return from overseas, stepping up its efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus halfway through a four-week nationwide lockdown.

New Zealander Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a press conference at Parliament on 9 April 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand.
New Zealander Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a press conference at Parliament on 9 April 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand.
Photograph: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

“No one goes home, everyone goes into a managed facility,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, adding that 14 days spent in a government-approved facility would be a prerequisite for all foreign travellers.

“Even one person slipping through the cracks and bringing the virus in can see an explosion in cases, as we have observed with some of our bigger clusters,” she told a media briefing in Wellington on Thursday.

Ardern added that her cabinet would decide whether to extend the nationwide curbs on April 20, two days before the lockdown is set to end.

4.54am BST

Australian police said on Thursday they have taken the “black box” of a cruise ship which disembarked hundreds of passengers infected with the coronavirus in Sydney, as part of a homicide investigation into the country’s deadliest infection source.

This handout photo taken and released on April 9, 2020 by the New South Wales Police Force shows police officers about to raid the coronavirus-stricken Ruby Princess cruise ship and seize its black box at Port Kembla, Australia.
This handout photo taken and released on April 9, 2020 by the New South Wales Police Force shows police officers about to raid the coronavirus-stricken Ruby Princess cruise ship and seize its black box at Port Kembla, Australia.
Photograph: Nathan Patterson/NEW SOUTH WALES POLICE/AFP via Getty Images

The investigation got underway as the Australian authorities said the rate of new coronavirus infections hit its lowest number in three weeks and began arranging more flights to bring home citizens stranded abroad.

The Ruby Princess cruise ship, owned by Carnival Corp , has become a flashpoint of public anger in Australia after authorities granted the ship permission to disembark its passengers last month without health checks.

Hundreds of the passengers later tested positive for the coronavirus and 15 have died, out of Australia’s roughly 6,000 confirmed cases and 51 deaths.

4.49am BST

The governor of central Japan’s Aichi, which includes the city of Nagoya and also hosts Toyota Motor Corp, on Thursday said he would declare a state of emergency for his prefecture the following day.

Empty streets of Osaka after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a month-long state of emergency, Osaka, Japan - 8 Apr 2020.
Empty streets of Osaka after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a month-long state of emergency, Osaka, Japan – 8 Apr 2020.
Photograph: Aflo/REX/Shutterstock

Hideaki Omura made the announcement two days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe formally imposed a state of emergency on Tokyo and six other parts of the country.

Aichi was not included in the emergency despite having the fifth-highest number of infections among Japan’s prefectures, data from public broadcaster NHK shows.

Omura told a news conference that his prefecture had been in talks with the central government and was making preparations towards being included.
The central government will respond “swiftly,” he said.

4.46am BST

Honduras will extend its national curfew to 19 April as the country ramps up efforts to contain the coronavirus, the security ministry said on Wednesday.

The Central American country registered 31 new cases of the virus, bringing its total to 343 cases and 23 deaths, the system for risk prevention said.

4.44am BST

China released new measures on Wednesday to try and prevent asymptomatic “silent carriers” of coronavirus from causing a second wave of infections, as the country reported another modest rise in new confirmed cases, Reuters reports.

A worker wearing a protective suit waits to control the temperature of passengers at Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province early on 8 April 2020.
A worker wearing a protective suit waits to control the temperature of passengers at Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province early on 8 April 2020.
Photograph: Héctor Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

Mainland China reported 63 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, up from 62 a day earlier, the National Health Commission said. Of those, 61 were travellers arriving from overseas, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in China to 81,865.

China also reported 56 new asymptomatic cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of such cases to 657 since data for such infections were published daily from 1 April.

The State Council, or Cabinet, on Wednesday published new rules to manage asymptomatic coronavirus carriers, or what some state media described as “silent carriers” of the virus.

Under the regulations, medical institutions must report detection of asymptomatic cases within two hours of their discovery. Local governments must then identify all known close contacts of the case within 24 hours.

Asymptomatic patients will be quarantined collectively for 14 days, and will be counted as confirmed cases if they start to show symptoms. People who have had close contact with them must also be quarantined for two weeks.

4.32am BST

Now, a song using Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments earlier this week regarding masks and “speaking moistly”:

Updated at 4.34am BST

4.29am BST

Podcast: 100 days that changed the world, Part 1

What began as a mystery virus at a Chinese market in December swiftly became a global crisis. The Guardian’s Michael Safi and Patrick Wintour recount the first 100 days as coronavirus took hold, upending the lives of billions of citizens.

4.23am BST

Easter lockdowns around the world

A view of chocolate Easter bunnies with mouth masks during the production at the Wawi company in Pirmasens, Germany 8 April 2020.
A view of chocolate Easter bunnies with mouth masks during the production at the Wawi company in Pirmasens, Germany 8 April 2020.
Photograph: Ronald Wittek/EPA

Measures ranging from the draconian to the quixotic – a French mayor has banned sitting on benches – represent a collective warning to citizens who may be tempted to take a break from the restraint of recent weeks.

The goal is to keep people at home, but diverging approaches on whether to allow Easter egg hunts, barbecues, watersports and other activities underline the unprecedented dilemmas facing authorities.

In Australia, police will use cameras and number-plate recognition technology to monitor traffic and patrol caravan parks and other holiday spots.

Beach towns along Brazil’s south-eastern coast are sealing themselves off to prevent an influx of tourists.

In France about 160,000 police and gendarmes have been deployed across the country to make sure people stay home during what is normally the weekend of the Tour de France’s Grand Départ.

The government imposed a full curfew on Wednesday afternoon lasting until Thursday morning to cover the Jewish Passover holiday, traditionally a gathering of friends and family to eat, drink and commemorate the Israelites’ flight from Egyptian slavery.

4.16am BST

Australia records lowest number of new daily cases in three weeks

Health minister Greg Hunt announces there were just 96 new cases on Wednesday, Australia’s lowest daily increase in three weeks.
Health minister Greg Hunt announces there were just 96 new cases on Wednesday, Australia’s lowest daily increase in three weeks.
Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Australia recorded its lowest number of new coronavirus cases in three weeks yesterday, with 96 new cases. This is the first time in three weeks the country has seen the number of new daily cases fall below 100.

Australia’s health minister Greg Hunt says 6,068 Australians have been diagnosed with Covid-19. Of those, 82 are in intensive care and 35 are on ventilators. 51 people have died.

Hunt says while the early signs that Australia is successfully flattening the curve are encouraging, there is still “a long way to go” and he urges people to stay at home, particularly over the break:

As we go into Easter with welcome news for Australia, the virus does not take a holiday – therefore none of us can relax and what we do.

This in many ways is the most important weekend we may face in the whole course of the virus.

If we can lock in the gains that we’ve made as a nation through the courage and sacrifice of those on the health, medical and policing frontlines, but also through the immense goodwill and discipline of Australians, then we can help really protect Australian lives going forward and give ourselves the pathway through.

For more on the situation in Australia, you can follow our Australian-specific coronavirus liveblog here.

Updated at 4.18am BST

3.54am BST

There has been a huge amount of praise today for Emily Maitlis’ cold open on the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme Newsnight last night.

Maitlis responded to the language that has been used by many of Boris Johnson’s colleagues, who have said the prime minister will recover from Covid-19 because of his “fortitude” and “strength of character”.

She also responded to the claim that the prime minister’s infection reveals the coronavirus is “the great leveller” when it is clear that lower-paid members of society like nurses, shelf-stackers, bus drivers and care home-workers are far more exposed to the virus and likely to die from it and that the experience of lockdown is very different depending on people’s wealth.

It’s worth a watch.

3.34am BST

Over to New Zealand now, where the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern ,has refused to postpone the country’s September elections over the coronavirus pandemic, despite calls for a delay from her deputy and the deputy opposition leader.

On Thursday New Zealand recorded a significant drop in corona cases for the fourth day in a row, with just 29 new infections, 11 fewer than the previous day.

Full story below:

Updated at 3.34am BST

3.33am BST

3.21am BST

You can get in touch with me at any time with questions, comments, jokes or tips on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

3.21am BST

US strategic national stockpile nearly out of personal protective equipment

America’s Strategic National Stockpile is nearly out of the N95 respirators, surgical masks, face, shields, gowns and other medical supplies desperately needed to protect front-line medical workers treating coronavirus patients.

Face shields and other supplies are pictured at Oklahoma’s Strategic National Stockpile warehouse in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, 7 April 2020.
Face shields and other supplies are pictured at Oklahoma’s Strategic National Stockpile warehouse in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, 7 April 2020.
Photograph: Sue Ogrocki/AP

The Department of Health and Human Services told the Associated Press Wednesday that the federal stockpile was in the process of deploying all remaining personal protective equipment in its inventory.

The HHS statement confirms federal documents released Wednesday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee showing that about 90% of the personal protective equipment in the stockpile has been distributed to state and local governments.

HHS spokeswoman Katie McKeogh said the remaining 10% will be kept in reserve to support federal response efforts.

For the last month, health care workers across the nation have taken to social media to illustrate the shortages by taking selfies wearing home-sewn masks on their faces and trash bags over their scrubs.

3.12am BST

ProPublica is reporting that a Dutch company, Royal Philips NV, which was meant to sell 10,000 ventilators to the US but did not deliver has now entered a new deal with the government – charging four times as much per machine:

The Dutch company that received millions of taxpayer dollars to develop an affordable ventilator for pandemics, but never delivered them, has struck a much more lucrative deal with the federal government to make 43,000 ventilators at four times the price.

The US Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that it plans to pay Royal Philips N.V. 6.7 million for the new ventilators — paying more than ,000 each. The first 2,500 units are to arrive before the end of May, HHS said, and the rest by the end of December.

Philips refused to say which model of ventilator the government was buying. But in response to questions from ProPublica, HHS officials said the government is purchasing the Trilogy EV300, the more expensive version of the ventilator that was developed with federal funds.

3.02am BST

‘In a war, we draw’: Vietnam’s artists join fight against Covid-19

Chris Humphrey reports from Hanoi.

73-year-old artists Luu Yen The designed this propaganda poster, which calls on people to wear a mask to stem the spread of Covid-19.
73-year-old artists Luu Yen The designed this propaganda poster, which calls on people to wear a mask to stem the spread of Covid-19.
Photograph: Supplied

A masked healthcare worker stands valiant as a soldier, flanked by a bold slogan proclaiming that “to stay at home is to love your country”. Beneath, fine print implores residents to declare symptoms or report anyone escaping quarantine.

The poster, by artist Le Duc Hiep’s, is just one of numerous art forms to emerge from Vietnam – from viral hand washing songs to state stamps – that reflect the war-time spirit many in the country are invoking as they try to contain the virus.

With its archetypal propaganda aesthetic, nationalistic tone and heroic figures, one might assume Hiep’s poster was created by a communist state’s information ministry. In reality, he chose a design he felt would resonate with people to create a retrofitted PSA for those not following the rules.

2.55am BST

Summary

  • At least 88,444 people have now died worldwide, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. They say more than 1.5 million people have been infected, of whom 329,492 have recovered.
  • China reported a slight increase in new coronavirus cases for the second straight day, as the number of infections involving incoming overseas travellers hit a two-week high.
  • Boris Johnson’s condition improved, with the UK prime minister now sitting up in bed and “engaging positively” with the clinical team, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said. Johnson remains in intensive care.
  • The UK suffered its deadliest day since the outbreak began as official figures showed 938 more people had died in hospitals, taking the overall total to 7,097. The true death toll is likely to be significantly higher.
  • The US recorded its highest one-day death toll, with 1,858 people dying on Tuesday. New York City was still the worst-affected part of the country, recording 806 fatalities. The city has registered more than 4,500 deaths. There are more than 400,000 cases in the country.
  • Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign, making Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee. Sanders pledged to continue working to ensure progressive proposals are included in the party’s campaign platform.
  • Linda Tripp, who made the tapes of Monica Lewinsky discussing her relationship with Bill Clinton, has died. Tripp’s recordings of Lewinsky decribing the extramarital affair ultimately led to Clinton’s impeachment. The former Pentagon civil servant had reportedly been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer recently.
  • Donald Trump once again scapegoated the World Health Organization. The WHO’s director-general earlier made a plea to avoid politicization as the world responds to crisis.
  • Oxfam warned coronavirus could push half a billion people into poverty. More than half a billion more people could be pushed into poverty unless urgent action is taken to bail out poor countries affected by the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, Oxfam has warned.
  • Virus fears prompted a halt to Saudi military operations in Yemen. Concerns about a potential outbreak in Yemen, where no cases have been reported so far, are partly behind a decision to call a halt to the military action there that has left tens of thousands died and spread hunger and disease, a Saudi-led coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki has said.
  • Italy recorded 542 new deaths, but the rate has slowed slightly. The number of infected people increased by 1,195, or 1.3%. There was also a record day-to-day increase – 2,099 – in the number of people who have survived.
  • The World Trade Organization forecast a fall in global trade of up to a third. The suffering caused by the pandemic will be compounded by “unavoidable declines in trade and output”, the WTO’s director general said.

Updated at 7.50am BST

2.42am BST

US says mitigation efforts are working, raising hopes of defying worst case scenario

Social distancing and other mitigation efforts by the American people are working, raising hopes that the US can defy projected death tolls, the White House coronavirus task force said on Wednesday.

The task force projected on 31 March that the pandemic could claim between 100,000 and 240,000 American lives, even if the federal guidelines were maintained, based in part on evidence from Europe. There is now cautious optimism that the final total, while still monumental, will be lower.

Dr Deborah Birx, the response coordinator, told reporters: “We carefully looked at Italy and Spain and we are doing much better in many cases than several other countries and we’re trying to understand that. We believe that our healthcare delivery system in the United States is quite extraordinary.”

2.38am BST

Former acting U.S. Navy Secretary Thomas Modly’s controversial trip to Guam over the weekend where he ridiculed the commander of a coronavirus-stricken U.S. aircraft carrier cost taxpayers at least US3,000, officials said on Wednesday.

Navy Secretary Thomas Modly.
Navy Secretary Thomas Modly.
Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

Modly resigned on Tuesday after mounting criticism for firing and ridiculing Captain Brett Crozier of the Theodore Roosevelt who pleaded for help to contain a coronavirus outbreak onboard.

Modly quit only after mounting pressure from Congress and a backlash from the crew, and followed U.S. President Donald Trump’s own suggestion on Monday that he might get involved in the matter.

Two U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Modly flew for about 35 hours on a C-37B, the military version of a Gulfstream jet.

The officials said that based on the flying time, the cost was 3,151.65, Reuters reports.

So far, 286 personnel onboard the carrier have tested positive for the coronavirus.

2.35am BST

China reports slight increase for second day

China reported a slight increase in new coronavirus cases for the second straight day, as the number of infections involving incoming overseas travellers hit a two-week high.

An aerial view of light show which demonstrates various words and phrases to encourage the city and citizens to stay strong and appreciate support other provinces give on the Second Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge.
An aerial view of light show which demonstrates various words and phrases to encourage the city and citizens to stay strong and appreciate support other provinces give on the Second Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge.
Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

China reported 63 new cases on Wednesday, up from 62 a day earlier, the National Health Commission said.

Of those, 61 involved travellers arriving from overseas, the health authority said on Thursday, the most since March 25.

That brings the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China to 81,865.

While infections have fallen from their peak in February after China locked down several cities and imposed strict travel restrictions, authorities have called for continued vigilance amid fears of a second wave of infections.

Updated at 2.53am BST

2.24am BST

Falkland islands authorities announced the cancelation of visitor permits Wednesday, closing the British overseas territory in the South Atlantic to most arrivals, after five cases of coronavirus were reported among military personnel on the islands.

West Point Island, Falklands.
West Point Island, Falklands.
Photograph: Krys Bailey/Alamy Stock Photo

Only returning residents, individual holding Falkland status, military personnel and other essential individuals will be allowed entry, with exceptions to be determined “on a case by case basis,” Falkland authorities said in statement. A two-week quarantine is already in place for arrivals.

With the suspension of most flights in South America, the commercial LATAM air service that connected the islands to Brazil and Chile has ceased being operational, meaning the islands’ only air connection is now through their twice-weekly Airbridge with the UK.

All five cases are individuals stationed at the Mount Pleasent Complex, where between one and two thousand British military personnel are stationed.

None of the around 3,400 civilian population have been reported as coronavirus positive.

2.15am BST

‘Please don’t politicise this virus,’ urged World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus a day after US president Donald Trump tried to pin blame on the WHO for thousands of American deaths from the coronavirus.

Trump accused the WHO of having ‘called it wrong’ and threatened to pull funding. Ghebreyesus gave a stern warning to those seeking to score political points amid the pandemic: ‘If you want to have many more body bags, then you do it. You have many other ways to prove yourselves,’ he said. ‘This is not the one to use for politics, it’s like playing with fire’

2.12am BST

Sex toy sales triple during New Zealand’s coronavirus lockdown

They were warned by the officials against stockpiling toilet paper or flour. But that’s not all New Zealanders have been hoarding, according to the nation’s largest retailer of sex toys, which said sales of its products tripled after Jacinda Ardern announced a month-long lockdown of the country.

The restrictions also prompted a tripling of sex toy sales in the 48 hours before the lockdown was imposed on 25 March, and the prospect of a boring month indoors seemed to have prompted New Zealanders to stash adult products that they might not have tried before, said Adult Toy Megastore, a New Zealand-based company.

“We’re selling a lot of beginner toys … all our beginner ranges are very popular,” said Emily Writes, a spokesperson for the business. “It definitely looks like people are saying: ‘I’ve got time, I might try something new.’”

2.06am BST

Cats can become infected with the new coronavirus but dogs appear not to be vulnerable, according to a study published on Wednesday, prompting the WHO to say it will take a closer look at transmission of the virus between humans and pets, Reuters reports.

A cat – not infected with coronavirus.
A cat – not infected with coronavirus.
Photograph: Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images

The study, published on the website of the journal Science, found that ferrets can also become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the scientific term for the virus that causes the Covid-19 disease.

Dogs, chickens, pigs and ducks are not likely to catch the virus, however, the researchers found.

The study was aimed at identifying which animals are vulnerable to the virus so they can be used to test experimental vaccines to fight the pandemic.

The study, based on research conducted in China in January and February, found cats and ferrets highly susceptible to the virus when researchers attempted to infect the animals by introducing viral particles via the nose.

They also found cats can infect each other via respiratory droplets. Infected cats had virus in the mouth, nose and small intestine. Kittens exposed to the virus had massive lesions in their lungs, nose and throat.

2.02am BST

Here are the two main developments from the White House’s daily press briefing on Wednesday evening:

  • Donald Trump once again scapegoated the World Health Organization. The WHO’s director-general earlier made a plea to avoid politicization as the world responds to crisis.
  • Trump also tore down the idea of voting by mail, alleging widespread fraud — without any evidence to back his claims.Last week, he said if Democrats succeed in their efforts to make it easier to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again”.

1.52am BST

Rock band U2 has donated €10 million to support health care workers battling coronavirus in Ireland.

U2 concert in Mumbai, India, 2019.
U2 concert in Mumbai, India, 2019.
Photograph: Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times/REX/Shutterstock

The money will be used to source and buy personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline staff.

A spokeswoman for the band confirmed the move to the PA news agency.

RTE has reported the donation is part of an initiative involving Irish aircraft leasing company Avolon, which is working with public and private companies to raise funds to buy tonnes of PPE equipment from China.

1.45am BST

1.39am BST

Bernie Sanders, who has dropped out of the presidential race today, wrote an op-ed about the US coronavirus response for The Guardian.

In this unprecedented moment in American history, we need an unprecedented legislative response. President Trump is incapable of providing leadership, and instead continues to mislead the public and act out of political self-interest. So it is Congress that must lead, and it must do so now.

With anxiety growing, everyone in our country needs to know that, in the midst of this horrific pandemic and economic meltdown, their government is doing everything possible to keep them healthy and financially secure.

In other words, we need to build upon and expand the recent stimulus package with new and bolder emergency legislation which must be passed as soon as possible.

Here is Sanders’ announcement earlier:

Read the full piece for the Guardian at the link below:

Updated at 2.19am BST

1.32am BST

Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno on Wednesday called for an investigation into how local authorities handled the bodies of coronavirus victims in Guayaquil, the epicenter of the country’s outbreak that has overwhelmed health and sanitary authorities, Reuters reports.

Relatives of deceased patients wearing protective outfits arrive for their remains at Los Ceibos hospital in Guayaquil, Ecuador on 8 April 2020, amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Relatives of deceased patients wearing protective outfits arrive for their remains at Los Ceibos hospital in Guayaquil, Ecuador on 8 April 2020, amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Photograph: Jose Sanchez/AFP via Getty Images

Family members have complained via social media that public hospitals have failed to quickly locate the bodies of their loved ones and in some cases misidentified the remains.

“We will not allow anyone to be buried without being identified. They deserve a goodbye with dignity!” Moreno wrote via Twitter.

The tweet included a copy of a formal complaint over alleged irregularities filed by Jorge Wated, the state official tasked with handling corpses during the crisis.

As of Wednesday Ecuador had about 4,450 cases of the disease, with 242 confirmed deaths and another 240 who are suspected to have died from the virus.
Of those, 3,047 cases and 144 deaths were in the province of Guayas, where Guayaquil is located.

Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos said on Tuesday he had sacked an official who requested money in exchange for handing over the remains of a victim in a Guayaquil public hospital.

1.27am BST

In Mexico, a government body called Wednesday for authorities to investigate nightclubs that are advertising home delivery of table dances and other services amid the crackdown on large public gatherings and nonessential services during the coronavirus pandemic, AP reports.

The National Human Rights Commission said the offerings violate both the health campaign and womens rights.

The National Citizens Observatory of Feminicide said Tuesday that table dance take-out services are being offered by mens clubs that have been linked to allegations of sexual trafficking of women.

It said some of the clubs that were ordered closed 26 March to stem the spread of the coronavirus have taken to offering home delivery.

Women involved in such activities “are being exposed not just to being infected with Covid-19, but also to different forms of violence,” the group said in a statement.

Updated at 1.27am BST

1.20am BST

Donald Trump has blamed the World Health Organization for failures in the initial response to the coronavirus pandemic, even threatening to cut its funding, but most health experts say it has performed well with limited resources.

Accusing the WHO of giving bad advice, being “China-centric” and even withholding information, Trump claimed to have stopped US funding in a press briefing on Tuesday, only to claim a few minutes later that he was just considering it, pending a review of its performance.

In fact, the US is already about 0m in arrears in assessed contributions (national membership fees). It has given more in donations, and was the biggest single donor in 2019 – certainly far more than China, which gives a paltry amount given the size of its economy.

But the US is far from providing the majority of the WHO’s funds, as Trump claimed, and its voluntary contributions have largely been tied to specific projects. WHO’s total annual budget is about .5bn, and contributions from member states have not significantly increased over three decades.

1.09am BST

Oxfam warns coronavirus could push half a billion people into poverty

More than half a billion more people could be pushed into poverty unless urgent action is taken to bail out poor countries affected by the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, Oxfam has warned.

Ahead of three key international meetings next week, the charity said the impact of shutting down economies to prevent the virus spreading risked setting back the fight against poverty by a decade globally – and by 30 years in the hardest-pressed countries of sub-Saharan Africa, north Africa and the Middle East.

1.08am BST

Pakistan doctors beaten by police as they despair of ‘untreatable’ pandemic

My colleagues Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Shah Meer Baloch report:

Doctors in Pakistan have warned of “deplorable” conditions on the frontlines of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, describing the pandemic as untreatable in one region and accusing police of brutally suppressing protests over working conditions.

One doctor who took part in a sit-in on Monday to protest against a lack of personal protective equipment said he had been “beaten and humiliated” by police.

“In the beginning, I thought, ‘How could police use violence against the frontline fighters of Covid-19 when some days ago the same officers had saluted us for leading during the pandemic?’” said Amanullah, speaking from the police station where he was being held in Quetta, in the Balochistan region.

“But we were wrong. Sticks and butts of AK-47 rifles rained down on us. We were dragged through the street and thrown into trucks.” He and about 60 other doctors were held in police detention overnight and only released at midnight on Tuesday.

1.02am BST

New York City’s death toll from the coronavirus has been disproportionately high in black and Hispanic communities, and the city is starting an outreach campaign for those residents, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

“We’re seeing folks who have struggled before really being hit particularly hard,” de Blasio said at a City Hall briefing.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio briefs media on the Covid-19 pandemic in the city at P.S. 1, New York, New York, United States, 7 Apr 2020.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio briefs media on the Covid-19 pandemic in the city at P.S. 1, New York, New York, United States, 7 Apr 2020.
Photograph: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/REX/Shutterstock

Preliminary data indicates that black people account for 28% of the city’s COVID-19 death toll, even though they are just 22% of the city’s population. Hispanic people account for 34% of the city’s virus death toll and 29% of its population, AP reports.

State health officials reported Wednesday that nearly 4,600 people have been killed by the virus in New York City. The city’s new round of data is based on a smaller number of cases, about 1,600, where the race and ethnicity of the victim is known.

De Blasio said the city would embark on a multimillion-dollar public service campaign to reach non-English speaking communities with information about the virus.

When the city fatality figures are adjusted to reflect the age makeup of ethnic groups within the city’s population, the disparities are more stark. The age-adjusted death rate for both blacks and Hispanics was more than double the rate for non-Hispanic whites.

Asians, meanwhile, experienced a much lower rate of fatalities: 8.4 per 100,000 residents, compared with 10.2 for non-Hispanic whites, 19.8 for non-Hispanic blacks and 22.8 for Hispanics.

Although the figures released Wednesday show racial disparities in who has died of the virus, the disparities are not as great as those that have been reported elsewhere in the country.

12.56am BST

Veep and Seinfeld star Julia Louis-Dreyfus has released a statement, too:

12.54am BST

UN Secretary General António Guterres has released a statement as Donald Trump continues to criticise the World Health Organization’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Trump also called the WHO “China-centric”:

Statement by the Secretary-General – on COVID-19

The Covid-19 pandemic is one of the most dangerous challenges this world has faced in our lifetime. It is above all a human crisis with severe health and socio-economic consequences.

The World Health Organization, with thousands of its staff, is on the front lines, supporting Member States and their societies, especially the most vulnerable among them, with guidance, training, equipment and concrete life-saving services as they fight the virus.

It is my belief that the World Health Organization must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against Covid-19.

This virus is unprecedented in our lifetime and requires an unprecedented response. Obviously, in such conditions, it is possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities. Once we have finally turned the page on this epidemic, there must be a time to look back fully to understand how such a disease emerged and spread its devastation so quickly across the globe, and how all those involved reacted to the crisis. The lessons learned will be essential to effectively address similar challenges, as they may arise in the future.

But now is not that time. Now is the time for unity, for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences.

12.39am BST

The White House daily press briefing has just ended and we’ll have a summary of what happened there for you shortly. In the meantime here are other major developments from the US today:

  • Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign, making Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee. Sanders pledged to continue working to ensure progressive proposals are included in the party’s campaign platform.
  • More than 400,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the US. The national death toll has surpassed 14,000 and at least 1,939 people died of the virus yesterday, marking the deadliest day in the US since the crisis started.
  • New York is starting to flatten its curve of coronavirus cases even as the state death toll continues to climb. New York’s “stay at home” order is having an impact on the number of coronavirus cases, governor Andrew Cuomo said, but yesterday’s death toll of 779 was the state’s worst single-day figure yet.
  • Linda Tripp, who made the tapes of Monica Lewinsky discussing her relationship with Bill Clinton, has reportedly died. Tripp’s recordings of Lewinsky decribing the extramarital affair ultimately led to Clinton’s impeachment. The former Pentagon civil servant had reportedly been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer recently.

12.35am BST

Summary

Hello and welcome today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.

As the world confirms more than 1.5 million cases of coronavirus, both the US and the UK have experienced their worst daily number of deaths.

There are also major political developments in both countries, with US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders dropping out of the race and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson still in intensive care.

I’ll be with you for the next few hours. You can get in touch with me at any time with questions, comments, jokes or tips on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

  • At least 87,706 people have now died worldwide, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. They say more than 1.5 million people have been infected, more than 315,000 of whom have recovered.
  • Boris Johnson’s condition improved, with the UK prime minister now sitting up in bed and “engaging positively” with the clinical team, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said. Johnson remains in intensive care.
  • The UK suffered its deadliest day since the outbreak began as official figures showed 938 more people had died in hospitals, taking the overall total to 7,097. The true death toll is likely to be significantly higher.
  • The US recorded its highest one-day death toll, with 1,858 people dying on Tuesday. New York City was still the worst-affected part of the country, recording 806 fatalities. The city has registered more than 4,000 deaths. There are more than 400,000 cases in the country.
  • Virus fears prompted a halt to Saudi military operations in Yemen. Concerns about a potential outbreak in Yemen, where no cases have been reported so far, are partly behind a decision to call a halt to the military action there that has left tens of thousands died and spread hunger and disease, a Saudi-led coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki has said.
  • Italy recorded 542 new deaths, but the rate has slowed slightly. The number of infected people increased by 1,195, or 1.3%. There was also a record day-to-day increase – 2,099 – in the number of people who have survived.
  • It emerged that the European commission is preparing a “roadmap” to a coordinated lifting of lockdowns. However, EU member states were advised to extend their restrictions until 15 May.
  • The World Trade Organization forecast a fall in global trade of up to a third. The suffering caused by the pandemic will be compounded by “unavoidable declines in trade and output”, the WTO’s director general said.
  • The European Union reshuffled its aid budget, promising €20bn to Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and eastern Europe. The bloc’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, said: “Unless the virus is defeated everywhere, it will not be defeated anywhere.”
  • Work is due to restart at some of the German car factories owned by Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler in less than a fortnight. It said its German staff would work shorter hours until 30 April.
  • Italy declared its ports “unsafe” in a move that appeared designed to block rescue efforts for people struggling to cross the Mediterranean. The measure came as departures from Libya increased with the arrival of good weather.

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Coronavirus US live: US sees largest single-day Covid-19 death toll reported by any country

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Trump again criticizes WHO as 400,000 cases confirmed in America – as it happened” was written by Maanvi Singh in San Francisco (now) and Joan E Greve in Washington (earlier), for theguardian.com on Thursday 9th April 2020 01.13 UTC

2.40pm BST

Live reporting on coronavirus in the US continues in Thursday’s blog:

1.59am BST

Summary

  • During the daily coronavirus task force briefing, Donald Trump once again scapegoated the World Health Organization. The WHO’s director-general earlier made a plea to avoid politicization as the world responds to crisis.
  • Trump also tore down the idea of voting by mail, alleging widespread fraud — without any evidence to back his claims. Last week, he said if Democrats succeed in their efforts to make it easier to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again”.
  • Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign, making Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee. Sanders pledged to continue working to ensure progressive proposals are included in the party’s campaign platform.
  • More than 400,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the US. The national death toll has surpassed 14,000 and at least 1,939 people died of the virus yesterday, marking the deadliest day in the US since the crisis started.
  • New York is starting to flatten its curve of coronavirus cases even as the state death toll continues to climb. New York’s “stay at home” order is having an impact on the number of coronavirus cases, governor Andrew Cuomo said, but yesterday’s death toll of 779 was the state’s worst single-day figure yet.
  • Linda Tripp, who made the tapes of Monica Lewinsky discussing her relationship with Bill Clinton, has died. Tripp’s recordings of Lewinsky describing the extramarital affair ultimately led to Clinton’s impeachment.

Updated at 2.13am BST

1.33am BST

Bernie Sanders, who has dropped out of the presidential race today, wrote an op-ed about the US coronavirus response for The Guardian.

In this unprecedented moment in American history, we need an unprecedented legislative response. President Trump is incapable of providing leadership, and instead continues to mislead the public and act out of political self-interest. So it is Congress that must lead, and it must do so now.

With anxiety growing, everyone in our country needs to know that, in the midst of this horrific pandemic and economic meltdown, their government is doing everything possible to keep them healthy and financially secure.

In other words, we need to build upon and expand the recent stimulus package with new and bolder emergency legislation which must be passed as soon as possible.

Read the full piece:

1.20am BST

Report: US intelligence warned of the coronavirus threat as early as November

US officials warned in November that the coronavirus was spreading through China’s Wuhan region, according to ABC News.

US military analysts from the National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI) “ concluded it could be a cataclysmic event,” one of the sources of the report told ABC News. The Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon and the White House were all briefed, according to the source.

The Guardian hasn’t independently verified the report.

Donald Trump has repeatedly said he acted early, and sought to blame the World Health Organization for not warning the US sooner of the coronavirus threat.

Updated at 1.21am BST

12.52am BST

Fact check: Voting fraud

Donald Trump is again spreading misinformation about voting by mail. After alleging during the coronavirus task force briefing, without any evidence, that there is rampant voter fraud, he’s now repeating the claim in a tweet.

Absentee ballots and vote-by-mail ballots are essentially the same, despite Trump’s claim that they are “very different”.

And experts say that voter fraud is incredibly rare. In North Carolina, an election was overturned in 2018 after a Republican political operative was alleged to have directed workers to collect and mail in other people’s absentee ballots during the 2018 Republican congressional primary and during the 2016 general election.

But states can avoid that sort of fraud by implementing ballot tracking, providing prepaid postage and setting ballot boxes and drop-off sites. Five states already conduct their elections entirely by mail, and have found ways to ensure the integrity of ballots.

There is no evidence of widespread voting fraud. The Brennan Center for Justice found in 2017 that the risk of voting fraud is 0.00004% to 0.0009%. Moreover, Trump’s own voting integrity commission found no evidence to support claims of widespread fraud found.

Updated at 1.21am BST

12.32am BST

The task force has wrapped up its briefing for today.

12.31am BST

Dr Birx mentioned that though there are now 18,000 Abbott machines to run coronavirus tests at labs around the country, many are not being used. She said she will be having a conference call with labs tonight to find out the status of the machines and how they’re being used.

Updated at 12.43am BST

12.29am BST

Responding to a question about whether the death toll for coronavirus is being inflated, Dr Fauci noted, “You will always have conspiracy theories…They are nothing but distractions.”

Dr Birx said that in some cases, there may be several reasons for death. “The number of Italians who succumbed had three or more comorbidities,” she said. The virus is considered the acute reason for death.

Updated at 12.42am BST

12.24am BST

“We will be attending church in the living room of the vice-president’s residence,” said Mike Pence. He’ll watch an Easter service from his home church in Indiana.

He encouraged all Americans to stay home. “Avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, avoid unnecessary travel,” he said.

Several churches around the country have flouted regulations and held services.

Updated at 12.41am BST

12.15am BST

Marianne Williamson endorsed Biden and condemned DNC chair Tom Perez in one very efficient tweet.

After dropping out of the 2020 race, Williamson had endorsed Bernie Sanders.

Updated at 12.15am BST

12.10am BST

Distancing is “the best tool”, Dr Anthony Fauci said. “We know that this is something that is a strain on the American public,” he added, but it works to stop the spread of disease.

He also addressed the health disparities for African Americans. “We are not going to solve the issues of health disparities this month, or next month,” he said – so it’s doubly important for “people in that community to please try as best as you can to protect yourself… and people who are susceptible”, including the elderly.

“What we can do now, today, is to prevent people who are put at higher risk because of their demographic group from getting into a situation that is much, much more deleterious,” Fauci said. Going forward, the US will have to make a concerted effort to eliminate racial health disparities.

Updated at 12.19am BST

11.59pm BST

Fact check: voter fraud

Donald Trump has left the briefing room, but we want to circle back to his earlier comments alleging rampant voter fraud. The president referenced a settlement in California, “where they admitted a million people should not have voted”. In doing so, he grossly misstated what that settlement entailed.

In January, the conservative group Judicial Watch announced that it had settled a 2017 lawsuit against the state of California. The settlement required LA county to remove inactive voters from its voter lists, and required California to direct other counties to do the same. All parties to the settlement agreed there was no admission of liability or wrongdoing by LA or California.

Judicial Watch estimated that as many as 1.5 million people would have been removed from voter lists in LA county. But, there’s no evidence than any of those people voted illegally. Judicial Watch said most of that 1.5 million would have ben “voters who have moved to another county or state or have passed away”.

At the time of the settlement, Paul Mitchell of the nonpartisan research firm Political Data Inc told the AP that the case was insignificant because it pertains to inactive voters who “are not getting voting materials, they are not casting ballots, they are not showing up in precincts”.

In other words, the settlement got LA county to update old records.

Updated at 12.12am BST

11.46pm BST

Fact check: ventilators

“It looks like we’re in great shape from the bed standpoint. It looks like we’re in great shape from the ventilators standpoint,” Trump said.

However, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine published on Wednesday 25 March categorically concluded that the US does not have enough ventilators to treat patients with Covid-19 in the coming months.

The authors, American public health experts, wrote: ‘There is a broad range of estimates of the number of ventilators we will need to care for US patients with Covid-19, from several hundred thousand to as many as a million. The estimates vary depending on the number, speed, and severity of infections, of course, but even the availability of testing affects the number of ventilators needed…. current estimates of the number of ventilators in the United States range from 60,000 to 160,000, depending on whether those that have only partial functionality are included. The national strategic reserve of ventilators is small and far from sufficient for the projected gap. No matter which estimate we use, there are not enough ventilators for patients with Covid-19 in the upcoming months.”

Updated at 11.56pm BST

11.45pm BST

Donald Trump appealed to Sanders voters. “Bernie and I agree on trade,” he said – though he’s better, Trump said.

The Vermont senator’s trade platform does prioritize protecting American jobs, a goal that Trump has also said he has.

“I got a lot of them in the last election,” Trump said of Sanders supporters. “They’re great people.”

Updated at 11.48pm BST

11.36pm BST

Asked what evidence there is of widespread voting fraud, Trump said, “I’ll provide you with some.”

“We’re going to find out about the proof,” he said. “You’re going to see what’s going on.

11.33pm BST

Fact check: Trump acted quickly

“People were shocked I acted so quickly” on coronavirus, Trump said. “And everybody thought I was wrong because I did act so quickly as you know with respect to closing the borders.”

In fact, it was almost six weeks after the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the country that the Trump administration moved to ramp up coronavirus testing, allowing laboratories and hospitals to finally conduct their own Covid-19 tests to speed up the process.”

Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were – they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it,” an unnamed government official told the Washington Post. “The system was blinking red.”

Updated at 11.50pm BST

11.31pm BST

Trump once again said he hadn’t seen a memo from economic adviser Peter Navarro, which warned in January of coronavirus’s disastrous impact. “Peter sends a lot of memos,” Trump said.

Here’s more about the memo:

11.26pm BST

This is the US coronavirus taskforce briefing, but Trump was just asked whether he’d pardon Joe Exotic, the protagonist from the hit Netflix TV documentary Tiger King.

“ What did he do?” Trump asked. “Are you recommending a pardon?”

The president said he’d look into it.

Here’s more on the TV show:

Updated at 11.32pm BST

11.24pm BST

Fact check: testing

Trump once again boasted about testing in the US, claiming that “we’re testing more than anybody”. Other countries that known being good on testing are now “calling us”, he added.

While the US has ramped up testing, it still lags behind other countries, including South Korea and Germany. South Korea has administered 486,003 tests, according to the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With a population of 51.5 million, the country has tested about 1 in every 113 people. Germany has done even better, testing every 1 in 90 people.

Meanwhile, the United States, with a population of 329 million, had administered at least 1,951,044 tests, according to the Atlantic’s Covid Tracking Project – so the US has tested about 1 in every 168 people.

Updated at 11.55pm BST

11.20pm BST

Fact check: WHO

Trump again went after the World Health Organization, saying the organization was initially “minimizing the threat” of coronavirus and got everything “wrong”.

The WHO has been criticized for a 14 January tweet, which Trump just referenced, that noted that a preliminary investigation by Chinese officials found no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

But the organization declared coronavirus a “public health emergency” by 30 January. The Trump administration and the president himself repeatedly played down the crisis through February and March.

On 11 March, the WHO declared coronavirus a pandemic.

Updated at 11.52pm BST

11.12pm BST

The president repeated a story about a Democratic state lawmaker who credits hydroxychloroquine and Trump for her recovery from Covid-19. “She’s in terrific shape, she looks fantastic, and she was very generous with her statements,” Trump said.

Here’s more on that state representative, from the Detroit Free Press:

State Rep. Karen Whitsett, who learned Monday she has tested positive for COVID-19, said she started taking hydroxychloroquine on March 31, prescribed by her doctor, after both she and her husband sought treatment for a range of symptoms on March 18.

“It was less than two hours” before she started to feel relief, said Whitsett, who had experienced shortness of breath, swollen lymph nodes, and what felt like a sinus infection. She is still experiencing headaches, she said.

Whitsett said she was familiar with “the wonders” of hydroxychloroquine from an earlier bout with Lyme disease, but does not believe she would have thought to ask for it, or her doctor would have prescribed it, had Trump not been touting it as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

11.09pm BST

Fact check: hydroxychlor0quine

Trump said the national stockpile is now equipped with 30m hydroxychloroquine pills.

But public health experts including Trump’s top infectious diseases adviser, Dr Fauci, have previously warned that there was only “anecdotal evidence” that the drugs could be helpful.

Fauci has repeatedly warned that there is no conclusive evidence to support using the drug. Asked whether it should be considered a treatment for Covid-19, he said on 24 March: “The answer is no.”

Trump made his first endorsement of hydroxychloroquine on 19 March.

As the Guardian’s Julia Carrie Wong has reported, belief in the drug’s potential to cure patients infected with the virus followed an extraordinary trajectory from a small study conducted in France (Trump’s “very good test”) to Silicon Valley social media influencers, Fox News, and then the White House.

Twitter has deleted tweets by the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, and the Fox News personality Laura Ingraham that touted the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine.

Updated at 11.24pm BST

11.02pm BST

The World Health Organization “hasn’t accomplished what it was intended to deliver” Pompeo said, doubling down the president’s criticisms.

The president has repeatedly sought to shift blame for the crisis on the WHO, alleging that it responded too late.

11.00pm BST

Asked whether he thinks China has withheld information and whether the US will act on the president’s suspicion China has not been accurately reporting coronavirus data, Pompeo said, “This is not the time for retribution, but it is still the time for clarity and transparency.”

Pompeo avoided calling the coronavirus the “China virus” or “Wuhan virus” as he as in the past.

Updated at 11.24pm BST

10.57pm BST

The state department is working to repatriate Americans abroad, according to the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.

“We still have several thousand” US citizens abroad, in some cases in remote areas. Efforts to bring them home are ongoing, and “we will keep it up” Pompeo said.

Updated at 10.59pm BST

10.53pm BST

“We send our regards to Boris, his friends, his family,” Trump said. “Hopefully he’s going to be OK.”

Yesterday, Trump detailed how he plans to help Boris Johnson, by alerting his doctors in London to “some very good potential cures” that US companies are exploring.

Updated at 10.59pm BST

10.49pm BST

Coronavirus briefing begins

Donald Trump has begun by saying that this is a “holy week” for Jewish and Christian people.

10.47pm BST

Of the coronavirus victims whose demographic information has been shared by officials, about 42% are black, according to an analysis by the AP.

The AP looked int 4,450 deaths and 52,000 Covid-19 cases from across the country.

My colleague Kenya Evelyn reported earlier:

African Americans face a higher risk of exposure to the virus, mostly on account of concentrating in urban areas and working in essential industries. Only 20% of black workers reported being eligible to work fromhome, compared with about 30% of their white counterparts, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Experts also point to initial research showing a high prevalence of Covid-19 among those suffering from obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes – risk factors more common among black Americans. The virus is known to take a harsher toll on those with underlying health issues, and many hospitals are only testing those admitted for critical care.

Updated at 10.47pm BST

10.14pm BST

Hi there, it’s Maanvi – blogging from the west coast.

We’re awaiting the White House coronavirus task force briefing. During the briefing yesterday, and subsequently on Fox News, Donald Trump repeatedly attacked the World Health Organization, alleging that it was late to act on coronavirus and that it was biased toward China. Trump threatened to stop funding the WHO, as his supporters called for the organization’s head to step down.

Without naming or addressing Trump directly, the WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, made a plea for solidarity, warning that politicizing the pandemic would result in “many more body bags”.

“When there are cracks at the national level and global level, that’s when the virus succeeds,” he said. “Please quarantine politicizing Covid. That’s the way if we want to win.”

Updated at 10.20pm BST

10.01pm BST

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign, making Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee. Sanders pledged to continue working to ensure progressive proposals are included in the party’s campaign platform.
  • More than 400,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the US. The national death toll has surpassed 14,000 and at least 1,939 people died of the virus yesterday, marking the deadliest day in the US since the crisis started.
  • New York is starting to flatten its curve of coronavirus cases even as the state death toll continues to climb. New York’s “stay at home” order is having an impact on the number of coronavirus cases, governor Andrew Cuomo said, but yesterday’s death toll of 779 was the state’s worst single-day figure yet.
  • Linda Tripp, who made the tapes of Monica Lewinsky discussing her relationship with Bill Clinton, has reportedly died. Tripp’s recordings of Lewinsky decribing the extramarital affair ultimately led to Clinton’s impeachment. The former Pentagon civil servant had reportedly been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer recently.

Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

9.53pm BST

Linda Tripp, who made Lewinsky tapes, has died – reports

Linda Tripp, who recorded Monica Lewinsky discussing her sexual relationship with then-president Bill Clinton, has died at 70, according to reports.

Tripp was a civil servant in the Pentagon when she became friends with Lewinsky and learned of her relationship with Clinton.

Tripp recorded Lewinsky discussing the extramarital affair, and the scandal ultimately led to Clinton’s impeachment, although he was later acquitted by the Senate.

Tripp was reportedly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer recently, and her daughter posted on Facebook last night that she was on her deathbed.

Lewinsky reacted to news of Tripp’s diagnosis earlier today, saying she hoped for her recovery.

9.45pm BST

The Guardian’s Mario Koran reports on the latest from California:

Here are California’s latest numbers on coronavirus cases and deaths, as provided by governor Gavin Newsom:

  • 16,957: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases.
  • 1,154: The number of people in intensive care units, a 4.2% increase from the previous day.
  • 2,714: The number of people who have been hospitalized, a 3.9% increase from the previous day.
  • 442: The number of coronavirus deaths, including 68 in the past 24 hours, the highest single-day death toll yet.

Of the 6,306 cases analyzed by race:

  • Latinx Californians made up 30% of cases and 29% of deaths.
  • African Americans made up 6% of cases and 3% of deaths.
  • Asian Americans made up 14% of cases and 16% of deaths.

While the state isn’t on safe ground, Newsom expressed optimism that the rate of transmissions and hospitalizations from the virus appears to have slowed. Experts expect numbers to peak next week.

Meanwhile, workers across the state are facing dire economic consequences from the pandemic. About 2.4 million Californians have filed for unemployment since March 13, Newsom said.

9.41pm BST

The Guardian’s Mario Koran reports on the latest from California:

In states across the county, the racial make-up of those felled by the coronavirus has revealed alarming disparities for people of color.

A staggering 70% of deaths linked to coronavirus in Louisiana are African Americans — more than double the percentage of the state’s black population. Disparate numbers are emerging in other states across the south, including Georgia and Alabama.

Health experts worry the coronavirus is exacerbating already existing disparities within health outcomes. Blacks have disportionately high rates of asthma and hypertension and are more likely to work jobs that keep them out in the community.

Incomplete data in California hasn’t yet cut the same picture, but only 37% of the confirmed coronavirus cases have been disaggregated to provide a racial view.

Within those counted, the number of cases tracks roughly with the state’s demographic make up, California governor Gavin Newsom said in a Tuesday presser. But disparities could emerge as more data becomes available.

9.30pm BST

The Guardian’s Mario Koran reports on the latest from California:

California governor Gavin Newsom is leading a charge to secure the needed protective equipment in the nation’s most populous state, levering the power of a mighty nation-state to help other states obtain what they need.

Speaking at a noon press conference, Newsom re-upped comments he told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow when he announced deals that have been landed with a consortium of nonprofits to provide 200 million medical masks a month for California and other states.

California plans to spend 0m in state funds on protective gear and has to make a down payment of about half that amount in the following days.

“We’ve been competing against other states, against other nations, against our own federal government for PPE — coveralls, masks, shields, N95 masks — and we’re not waiting around any longer,’’ he told Maddow yesterday. “We decided enough is enough: let’s use the power of the purchasing power of the state of California as a nation-state,” he added.

To reach its “audacious goal” of over 500m masks needed in California, the state is turning to community organizations and NGOs to plug into their PPE pipelines. It’s also looking to its contracts with large vendors, which has provided 41 m masks the state has already distributed.

The state is also tapping defense contractor Patel, which has manufactured technology that can clean and sterilize N-95, and make them ready for reuse. The technology, which can clean up to 80,000 maks a day, is expected to be ready next week,

“This is not a silver bullet, there are always challenges in anything we’re attempting of this scale”, said Mark Ghilarducci, director of California’s office of emergency services.

Updated at 10.22pm BST

9.20pm BST

The White House has reportedly signaled opposition to Democratic requests for the next coronavirus relief bill.

Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said yesterday that he would ask Congress to pass a bill allocating an additional 0 billion in small business loans. (The original stimulus bill gave 0 billion to small businesses, and those funds appear to be rapidly dwindling.)

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is taking up the request, but Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and House speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement today requesting that the bill also include 0 billion for hospitals and state and local businesses.

Politico reports:

And by Wednesday afternoon, White House officials privately signaled opposition to Democrats’ efforts to add billions in funding for hospitals and state governments, sending the delicate bipartisan talks further into a tailspin. …

Republicans haven’t totally ruled out Democrats’ request and multiple officials familiar with the ongoing discussions said their demands could be addressed in future coronavirus legislation.

The debate over whether to allocate funds for hospitals and state and local governments could at the very least slow the bill’s passage, a disappointing prospect to the White House considering the administration wants to fast-track approval of the additional money for small businesses.

9.11pm BST

Congressman Thomas Massie signaled he would once again oppose any effort to pass a coronavirus relief bill by unanimous consent, which could force lawmakers to return to Washingtona as the city and the surrounding region see a surge of coronavirus cases.

The Trump administration is calling on Congress to pass a bill allocating an additional 0 billion in small business loans. The original stimulus package incuded 0 billion for small businesses.

“Once again, they’re recommending just let Nancy Pelosi pass it on her own, that we can all stay home,” Massie told Fox Business. “And I’m saying that’s not going to fly.”

Massie also opposed efforts to approve the stimulus package by unanimous consent, forcing House members to return to Washington to get the bill passed.

Many people, including the president, criticized Massie for the move, especially after several lawmakers who were present for the vote later said they had contracted coronavirus.

8.55pm BST

The Guardian’s Daniel Strauss reports:

Former vice president Joe Biden signaled that his campaign is moving into a different phase of picking a running mate after Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign earlier today.

During a fundraiser on Wednesday, Biden was asked whether he should announce a vice presidential nominee in June, after the final Democratic primary.

Biden, speaking a few hours after Sanders dropped out, said that “we are putting in place, we can do with abandon now, a mechanism being able to vet the vice-presidential potential picks.”

Biden said his team would start the process for picking a running mate in the next few weeks.

“In the coming weeks we’re going to put together before the end of the month, start looking at candidates and I’m looking for someone who will be a partner in this progress,” Biden said, according to a pool report of the fundraiser. “Someone who is simpatico, and someone who’s ready to be present on a moment’s notice.”

8.43pm BST

Americans are becoming less satisfied with the federal government’s response to coronavirus, according to a new Monmouth University poll.

A Monmouth poll released today showed 54% of Americans believe the federal government has not gone far enough to slow the spread of coronavirus. That’s up from 45% in late March. The portion of Americans who say the government’s actions have been appropriate has also decreased from 47% to 35%.

In comparison, 60% of Americans say the actions taken by state governments to slow the spread have been appropriate, while 30% say state governments have not gone far enough.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appears to be the most trusted public-facing official when it comes to delivering information on the pandemic.

Fauci was named by 35% of respondents as the most trusted official, in comparison to 23% for New York governor Andrew Cuomo and 20% for Trump.

8.23pm BST

Detroit mayor Mike Duggan said there were 26 more deaths in his city in the last 24 hours but said they “are seeing the line, the curve, beginning to flatten out”.

“This is the hardest part of this job,” Duggan said during Wednesday’s coronavirus press briefing. “But when you look at the trend lines this reinforces what I said yesterday; we’re seeing the beginning of a glimmer of light.”

Duggan presses that promising numbers should not mean any relaxation of the social distancing guidelines: “Do we care enough about each other that when it’s 67 degrees and sunny, we don’t go and gather together and give this virus new energy. Because we are starting to weaken it, and if we don’t give it new energy by clustering, we are going to continue to be successful.”

7.58pm BST

Broadway producers have extended the suspension of all shows through the first week of June per the latest medical guidance, according to a statement from the trade association representing producers and theater owners for the Great White Way.

“Our top priority continues to be the health and well-being of Broadway theatregoers and the thousands of people who work in the theatre industry every day, including actors, musicians, stagehands, ushers, and many other dedicated professionals.” said Broadway League president Charlotte St Martin on Wednesday.

St Martin added: “Broadway will always be at the very heart of the Big Apple, and we join with artists, theatre professionals, and fans in looking forward to the time when we can once again experience live theatre together.”

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on an injustry that abruptly closed on 12 March after drawing 14.8m patrons and grossing .8bn last season. A number of shows planning spring openings have abandoned those plans entirely, including Hangmen and a revival of Edward Albee’s Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, while several others have moved to the fall.

Updated at 8.05pm BST

7.27pm BST

“If we wait for a pandemic to appear, it’ll be too late to prepare.”

So said George W Bush in 2005. He read a book about the 1918-1919 flu pandemic and “became obsessed” with the idea that the US needed a comprehensive plan to prepare.

Resurfacing, here, this article from ABC a few days ago, spotted by the Guardian’s Oliver Conroy:

In the summer of 2005, President George W Bush was on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, when he began flipping through an advance reading copy of a new book about the 1918 flu pandemic. He couldn’t put it down.

Apparently some preps were made, others not, but a lot of work was done and has been in place ever since.

ABC noted:

Bush declined, through a spokesman, to comment on the unfolding crisis or discuss the current response. But his remarks from 15 years ago still resonate.

“If we wait for a pandemic to appear,” he warned, “it will be too late to prepare. And one day many lives could be needlessly lost because we failed to act today.”

Updated at 7.36pm BST

6.59pm BST

The White House is reportedly having discussions about reopening the economy next month, which could cause friction with health experts who have warned against lifting “stay at home” orders too quickly.

CNN reports:

Officials said the options being discussed on reopening the country vary widely in scope, from recommendations on benchmarks for when individual states can begin easing restrictions to a nationwide ‘big bang’ that Trump previewed Tuesday evening on Fox News. The officials said the conversations were still preliminary and would likely evolve over the course of the next weeks.

Still, some officials have even begun mulling the type of event Trump may want to mark the day when nationwide restrictions are lifted after he suggested a ‘big celebration’ when the crisis is over. …

Multiple officials said this week the discussions could lead to a clash between health and economic advisers, who have disagreed over the past month on the extent and length of distancing recommendations for Americans.

Some of the president’s supporters also appear to be pushing for reopening the economy. Fox News host Laura Ingraham encouraged Trump to set a May 1 deadline for reopening in a tweet this morning.

6.45pm BST

Barack Obama called for a “robust system of testing and monitoring” to confront the coronavirus crisis.

The former president said social distancing practices were key to flattening the curve of coronavirus cases, but he empashized the country would not be able to relax those restrictions until a system of testing and tracking was in place.

The United States is now conducting nearly 700,000 coronavirus tests each week, but experts say that rate is not enough to sufficiently track the spread of the virus and allow the economy to reopen.

6.30pm BST

Today so far

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign, making Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. The Vermont senator promised to continue working to ensure progressive proposals are included in the party’s platform.
  • New York broke its record for the highest single-day coronavirus death toll for the second consecutive day. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced 779 New Yorkers died of coronavirus yesterday, bringing the state’s total death toll to 6,268.
  • The US had confirmed more than 400,000 cases of coronavirus. Yesterday was the deadliest day in the country’s crisis yet, with at least 1,939 Americans dying of coronavirus.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

6.21pm BST

New York governor Andrew Cuomo ended his briefing where he started, by emphasizing the stark discrepancy between the state flattening the curve and simultaneously recording a record number of deaths.

“We are flattening the curve,” Cuomo said. “Thank God.”

But the governor reiterated that residents cannot get “complacent” about social distancing practices. “It’s what we’re doing that’s working,” Cuomo said. “Keep doing it.”

Cuomo said the good news of the curve flattening had to be kept in perspective of the awful news that 779 New Yorkers died of coronavirus yesterday.

“I went through 9/11,” Cuomo said. “That this should literally eclipse that in terms of number of deaths in this state — it’s unimaginable.”

New York’s coronavirus death toll of 6.268 is more than double the death toll from the September 11 attacks.

6.10pm BST

New York govenor Andrew Cuomo acknowledged that the state’s death toll may be understating the number of coronavirus victims because some people have been dying at home.

“I think that’s a very real possibility,” Cuomo said of a potential under-count.

The governor said the state is looking at other models to try to incorporate data about at-home deaths because most data points currently come from hospitals.

6.04pm BST

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said he would sign an executive order to make all residents eligible for absentee voting in the state’s June 23 primary.

It has not yet been determined whether any in-person polling places will be open for the primary, Cuomo said.

His comments come a day after Wisconsin’s chaotic primary, which was disrupted by voters’ fears about contracting coronavirus at polling sites.

Updated at 6.06pm BST

6.01pm BST

Governor Andrew Cuomo defended New York’s response to the coronavirus crisis after the New York Times published an investigation showing the state and city missed early opportunities to prepare.

“I think New York was early, and I think the actions we took were more dramatic than most and frankly were criticized for being premature,” Cuomo said.

But other localities, including San Francisco, took steps like closing schools days before New York did, which may have accelerated the spread of the virus.

5.57pm BST

New York governor Andrew Cuomo was asked whether he would reduce essential services like grocery stores and public transportation as the death toll rsies.

“I don’t think we can reduce the essential services,” Cuomo said, arguing it’s impossible to tell people to “eat less” or use fewer prescriptions.

The governor noted earlier that many essential workers are people of color, and communities of color are seeing disproportionately high rates of coronavirus deaths.

5.50pm BST

Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state is examining why Latinx and African American New Yorkers are dying of coronavirus at a disproportionately high rate.

Cuomo noted that many essential workers who cannot work remotely are people of color, putting them at a higher risk of contracting the virus.

Cuomo pledged to do more coronavirus testing in communities of color to help track the spread of the virus.

5.42pm BST

New York once again sees highest single-day death toll

New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state had broken its record for the biggest single-day death toll for the second consecutive day.

“The bad news isn’t just bad; the bad news is terrible,” Cuomo said after noting the state is flattening the curve of coronavirus cases.

New York recorded 779 deaths yesterday, putting the state’s total death toll at 6,268. Cuomo said he would order flags in the state to be flown at half-mast in honor of the victims.

5.39pm BST

New York is flattening the curve, Cuomo says

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said the state is seeing the effect of social distancing and the curve of coronavirus cases is starting to flatten.

The governor noted that the rate of hospitalizations is down, and some hospitals are releasing more patients than they are admitting.

“Social distancing is working,” Cuomo said. “It is flattening the curve.”

But Cuomo emphasized that New Yorkers need to continue to be vigilant about practicing social distancing to avoid a resurgence of cases.

Updated at 5.41pm BST

5.34pm BST

US confirms 400,000 cases of coronavirus

The US has now confirmed 400,000 cases of coronavirus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins.

The country’s coronavirus death toll is just shy of 13,000, and officials predict that figure will continue to rise over the coming days.

Here is the Guardian’s map on the latest numbers state by state:

5.20pm BST

Biden says he will be ‘reaching out’ to Sanders

Joe Biden has released a statement on the suspension of Bernie Sanders’ campaign, commending his rival for the coalition he has built and promising to work with him moving forward.

“He hasn’t just run a political campaign; he’s created a movement,” Biden said. “And make no mistake about it, I believe it’s a movement that is as powerful today as it was yesterday. That’s a good thing for our nation and our future.”

Biden said he would be “reaching out” to Sanders, as the former vice president seeks to unify the Democratic party before the general election.

“You have put the interest of the nation — and the need to defeat Donald Trump — above all else,” Biden said. “And for that Jill and I are grateful. But we also want you to know: I’ll be reaching out to you. You will be heard by me.”

Biden also made a specific pitch to Sanders’ supporters: “I see you, I hear you, and I understand the urgency of what it is we have to get done in this country. I hope you will join us. You are more than welcome. You’re needed.”

5.13pm BST

Although he is suspending his campaign, Bernie Sanders said he would remain on the ballot and continue to gather delegates in future primaries.

“While Joe Biden will be the nominee, we must continue working to assemble as many delegates as possible at the Democratic Convention, where we will be able to exert significant influence over the party platform and other functions,” Sanders said.

He added that his influence on the party platform would help Democrats to unify and increase the chances of victory against Trump in November.

5.07pm BST

Bernie Sanders congratulated Joe Biden on his victory in the Democratic priamry, calling the former vice president “a very decent man.”

Looking ahead to the general election, Sanders pledged to work with Biden “to move our progressive ideas forward.”

Sanders closed by saying how he and his wife, Jane, have been moved by the support they have seen across the country. “Let us go forward together,” Sanders told his supporters. “The struggle continues.”

5.04pm BST

Sanders confirms he is dropping out, calling victory ‘virtually impossible’

Bernie Sanders has formally announced he is suspending his campaign in a livestream to supporters.

“I wish I could give you better news, but I think you know the truth,” Sanders said. The Vermony senator noted that Joe Biden’s delegate lead had made victory “virtually impossible.”

“I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful, and so today I am announcing the suspension of my campaign,” Sanders said.

Sanders acknowledged his withdrawal from the race had been a “difficult and painful decision” that came after an “honest assessment” of his prospects.

5.00pm BST

Bernie Sanders said his movement had won the “ideological struggle” of the Democratic party, even though he did not win the nomination.

Sanders said a number of his positions that were previously considered extreme, such as raising the minimum wage to an hour, have now become mainstream.

4.57pm BST

Sanders thanks supporters in livestream

Bernie Sanders is addressing his supporters via livestream to formally announce he is suspending his presidential campaign.

The Vermont senator thanked his supporters for powering his candidacy through phone banks, door-knocking and 10 million donations.

Sanders applauded his supporters for creating a “new vision” of what America could be, particularly on issues like overhauling the healthcare system and raising the minimum wage.

4.51pm BST

Trump has weighed in on Bernie Sanders suspending his campaign, blaming Elizabeth Warren for his loss and imploring Sanders’ supporters to back him instead of Joe Biden in November.

4.40pm BST

Joe Biden’s victory in the Democratic presidential primary comes almost exactly a year after he launched his third bid for the White House.

Once Biden announced his candidacy, he became the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, a title he largely held on to for the duration of the race.

Biden’s worst weeks came in Feburary, when he lost the first three contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. Bernie Sanders’ strong performances across the three states briefly made him the frontrunner in the race.

However, Biden’s victory in South Carolina followed by a series of wins on Super Tuesday gave him the rebound he needed to surpass Sanders and ultimately win the nomination.

4.31pm BST

Bernie Sanders, the 78-year-old senator from Vermont who reshaped American politics with his youth-led movement for sweeping social change, has ended his campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

His departure all but ensures the former vice-president Joe Biden will be the Democratic presidential nominee in an election against Donald Trump amid the rapidly escalating coronavirus crisis.

For weeks, Sanders resisted calls to leave the race despite falling almost hopelessly behind his rival as the pandemic forced the candidates to retreat from the campaign trail and governors to delay several key primary elections. Against the worsening economic and public health crises, Sanders found a new urgency for his progressive agenda, the centerpiece of which is a single-payer proposal that would guarantee health coverage for every American.

In the final weeks before his exit, Sanders effectively turned his campaign into a coronavirus response effort, hosting virtual events on the virus and raising money for charities helping those affected by the outbreak.

4.28pm BST

Bernie Sanders’ decision to suspend his presidential campaign comes after a series of losses to Joe Biden in recent primaries.

The Vermont senator was briefly viewed as the frontrunner in the race afrer winning the New Hampshire primary and the Nevada caucuses in February.

However, Biden quickly rebounded with a win in the South Carolina primary and a series of victotries on Super Tuesday. The winning streak gave Biden a delegate lead over Sanders that many deemed insurmountable.

4.25pm BST

Bernie Sanders said he would address supporters via livestream in about 20 minutes to formally announce he is suspending his campaign.

4.23pm BST

Bernie Sanders suspends presidential campaign

Bernie Sanders is suspending his presidential campaign, making Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

4.17pm BST

Trump said he believed the coronavirus crisis would end “sooner rather than later,” as experts express cautious optimism about the effects social distancing has had on the number of cases.

“Once we OPEN UP OUR GREAT COUNTRY, and it will be sooner rather than later, the horror of the Invisible Enemy, except for those that sadly lost a family member or friend, must be quickly forgotten,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “Our Economy will BOOM, perhaps like never before!!!”

The president also once again bragged about viewership of his daily White House briefings on the coronavirus response, saying “the ratings are through the roof.”

Trump mocked some of his critics who have called on networks to stop broadcasting the briefings because the president has repeatedly made false statements during them.

4.02pm BST

White House confirms Kayleigh McEnany will become press secretary

The White House has released a statement confirming that Kayleigh McEnany will replace Stephanie Grisham as press secretary, a day after Grisham’s role change was announced.

Alyssa Farah will also become the White House’s new director of strategic communications after serving as press secretary of the defense department.

Trump’s reelection campaign, where McEnany most recently worked as national press secretary, released a statement on her move. “Kayleigh McEnany is a first class professional who will serve President Trump and the American people well,” said campagin manger Brad Parscale.

But a number of critics have raised concerns about McEnany’s past comments on a number of issues, including the coronavirus pandemic. McEnany incorrectly said in February that coronavirus would not affect America because of Trump’s leadership.

“This president will always put America first. He will always protect American citizens. We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here. We will not see terrorism come here,” McEnany said on Feb. 25. “And isn’t that refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama?”

3.48pm BST

Latinx and black New Yorkers are dying of coronavirus at a disproportionately high rate, according to newly published data on the city’s fatalities.

The data shows 521 Latinx New Yorkers have died of the virus, as well as 428 black New Yorkers. Put together, the two groups account for 61% of New York’s coronavirus deaths, even though they account for roughly half of the city’s population.

Other major cities, including Detroit and Chicago, have also seen disproportionately higher death rates among people of color, as the Guardian’s Kenya Evelyn has reported:

3.37pm BST

Local leaders and health experts are warning that the Washington metropolitan area is “an emerging hotspot” in the coronavirus crisis.

Nearly 9,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the region, according to the Wasington Post, and at least 189 people have died of the virus.

Dr Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, has repeatedly named the DC region as an area of concern for the next round of hot spots.

“We are concerned about the metro area of Washington and Baltimore,” Birx said this morning.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser expressed frustration Monday about residents ignoring social distancing guidelines after photos surfaced of a crowd gathering at a local fish market, which was promptly shuttered.

“We had to close that market because the social distancing requirements were not being met,” Bowser said. “We cannot express enough that staying at home is every individual’s responsibility to save lives.”

3.20pm BST

Projection shows expected US death toll falling to 60,000

A commonly cited model of the US coronavirus crisis now predicts that 60,000 Americans will die of the virus by early August, marking a significant decrease from past projections.

Reuters reports:

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model is one of several that the White House task force has cited.

It now projects U.S. deaths at more than 60,000 by Aug. 4, down from the nearly 82,000 fatalities it had forecast on Tuesday.

The White House coronavirus task force has previously projected 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die.

The institute also moved up its projected peak in the number to U.S. deaths to this Sunday, when it predicted 2,212 people will succumb to the disease. The revision moves forward the projected peak by four days, suggesting the strain on the country’s healthcare system will begin to abate a little sooner than previously expected.

Surgeon general Jerome Adams similarly said yesterday that he expects the death toll to fall below the 100,000 to 240,000 range previously predicted by the White House, thanks to Americans practicing social distancing.

“That’s absolutely my expectation, and I feel a lot more optimistic, again, because I’m seeing mitigation work,” Adams said.

3.08pm BST

Dr Anthony Facui predicted schools would be able to reopen in the fall, as early evidence indicates that social distancing is having a positive effect on the country’s number of coronavirus cases.

“Bottom line is, no absolute prediction, but I think we’re going to be in good shape,” Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said during the White House briefing yesterday.

While emphasizing there is still great uncertainty around how the coming months will unfold, Fauci said he expects that “by the time we get to the fall … we will have this under control enough that it certainly will not be the way it is now, where people are shutting schools.”

Many schools across the country are currently closed, and governors in several states have said schools will not reopen during this academic year.

2.56pm BST

The New York Times front page today includes a startling graphic on the city’s coronavirus death toll.

The newspaper used bars on a map to demonstrate the number of people who have died of the virus in each major city. The bar for New York goes past the newspaper’s masthead.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said that Monday was the deadliest day yet for the state since the coronavirus crisis started.

New York reported 731 deaths on Monday, bringing the state’s total death toll to 5,489. Most of those deaths have been concentrated in the New York Cirty area.

2.40pm BST

The Guardian’s Kenya Evelyn reports on how coronavirus is disproportionately affecting African Americans:

The disparity is especially stark in cities like New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit, where high concentrations of African Americans live.

Louisiana has the fourth largest number of Covid-19 cases in the country, and the majority of the Covid-19 deaths are in New Orleans, where black Americans constitute 60% of the population. “Slightly more than 70% of [coronavirus] deaths in Louisiana are African Americans,” the state’s governor, John Bel Edwards, said in a press conference on Monday. “That deserves more attention and we’re going to have to dig into that to see what we can do to slow that down.”

African Americans face a higher risk of exposure to the virus, mostly on account of concentrating in urban areas and working in essential industries. Only 20% of black workers reported being eligible to work from home, compared with about 30% of their white counterparts, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Experts also point to initial research showing a high prevalence of Covid-19 among those suffering from obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes – risk factors more common among black Americans. The virus is known to take a harsher toll on those with underlying health issues, and many hospitals are only testing those admitted for critical care.

Critics note that those risks are significantly exacerbated by racial inequities in healthcare, including facility closures and caps on public health insurance plans like Medicaid and Medicare. African Americans are twice as likely to lack health insurance compared with their white counterparts, and more likely to live in medically underserved areas, where primary care is sparse or expensive.

Unconscious racial bias can also contribute to unequal health outcomes, especially when health professionals are inexperienced with the culture of the community they serve, according to the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Governor JB Pritkzer of Illinois acknowledged racism’s role in the state’s response to the outbreak, but he called it “a much broader problem” that won’t be solved in a matter of weeks. “It’s hard to make up for decades, maybe centuries, of inequality of application of healthcare to people of color,” he said.

2.25pm BST

Intelligence community issued warning on coronavirus in November – report

US intelligence officials were warning of a virus sweeping through the Wuhan region of China as early as November, according to an ABC News report.

ABC News reports:

Concerns about what is now known to be the novel coronavirus pandemic were detailed in a November intelligence report by the military’s National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI), according to two officials familiar with the document’s contents.

The report was the result of analysis of wire and computer intercepts, coupled with satellite images. It raised alarms because an out-of-control disease would pose a serious threat to U.S. forces in Asia — forces that depend on the NCMI’s work. And it paints a picture of an American government that could have ramped up mitigation and containment efforts far earlier to prepare for a crisis poised to come home.

‘Analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event,’ one of the sources said of the NCMI’s report. ‘It was then briefed multiple times to’ the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff and the White House.

This news follows reports that Trump’s top trade adviser, Peter Navarro, wrote memos starting in late January warning of a potential coronavirus pandemic with catastrophic consequences for Americans’ health and finances.

The president claimed yesterday that he had never seen Navarro’s memos, but their existence undermines his defense of the federal government’s early response to the pandemic, which has been widely criticized.

2.06pm BST

Trump says mail-in voting ‘doesn’t work out well for Republicans’

Trump urged Republicans to “fight very hard” against mail-in voting as Democrats work to expand absentee voting options amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting,” Trump tweeted. “Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”

Voter fraud is actually extremely rare, and many voters have been hesitant to cast their ballots in person out of fear of catching coronavirus at a polling site, as demonstrated by yesterday’s chaotic primary in Wisconsin.

Trump has previously suggested that mail-in voting could hurt Republicans’ chances in November, presumably because it would increase voter turnout.

During deliberations over the stimulus package, House Democrats pushed to give states billion in election assistance, but the final bill included only 0 million.

“The things they had in there were crazy,” Trump said of the Democratic proposals last week. “They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

1.46pm BST

US sees deadliest day yet in fight against coronavirus

Good morning, live blog readers.

The day is beginning with a grim statistic: yesterday was the deadliest day yet in the US since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

According to the Washington Post, at least 1,939 Americans died of coronavirus yesterday. That is the largest single-day death toll reported by any country since the pandemic began.

Overall, nearly 13,000 Americans have died of coronavirus, and health experts have warned this could be the worst week yet for the death toll.

However, there are also encouraging signs that Americans practicing social distancing is already having an effect on the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said yesterday that the state’s three-day average of hospitalizations is down, and surgeon general Jerome Adams predicted the overall US death toll would fall below 100,000, which was previously viewed as the lowest possibility.

“I know it’s hard, but we have to keep doing it,” Cuomo said of social distancing. “And, to the extent it takes an effort, remember at this time it is about ‘we’, and it is not about ‘me’”.

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How to meditate when it feels like everything is out of control

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “How to meditate when it feels like everything is out of control” was written by Steph Auteri, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 8th April 2020 09.30 UTC

As physical distancing measures continue, more people are turning to meditation, and Google searches for information are at an all-time high. It is a practice that has been used by many different cultures and in many different ways, but always to quiet the mind and make us less reactive.

In recent years, research on this ancient practice has shown that meditation may improve immune response, and also decrease stress and depression.

With everything that is happening in the world today, with everything that is out of our control, could meditation be the key to surviving quarantine?

When the first physical distancing measures were instated, my husband and I were already working from home. Now, on top of our jobs, we are also forced to manage our five-year-old’s distance learning. This juggling act often feels impossible, a rigged game in which nobody wins. Sometimes, being around my family – not being able to escape or to focus on one thing at a time – makes me want to scream. At night, I can’t fall asleep. My mind races.

When I get tired of chasing the thoughts in my head, I lie flat on my back, place my hands on my belly and follow my breath. I scan my body, systematically relaxing each part of me from my toes to my jaw. Finally, I sleep.

“We’re all feeling intense emotions right now,” says Jessica Morey, a mindfulness meditation teacher. “We’re cycling through panic and fear and overwhelm and sadness. A meditation practice can help us learn how to be with these intense emotions and shift toward compassion or recognize moments of joy.”

Don’t feel you have to do it right – and don’t worry if you think you’re doing it wrong

“There’s a myth about meditation that if you’re doing it right, you should feel bliss and calm and quiet in the mind,” says the meditation instructor Jay Michaelson. “Then, when you don’t experience that, you think you’re doing it wrong.” Michaelson suggests starting out with just five minutes of meditation. “If you can feel like 10% less of a wreck than when you started,” he says, “it’s totally worth it.”

You can slowly increase your meditation time by three to five minutes at a time as you feel ready, as you would increase weights or reps as part of an exercise routine.

Form a meditation habit

Anushka Fernandopulle, a Buddhist meditation teacher, recommends picking a time and the place where you can do meditation every day. “It can be just a normal chair or a cushion,” she says, “but the regularity can help a lot with developing a habit.”

Morey believes that finding a meditation buddy or a sitting group – anyone who could provide an extra measure of accountability – could also aid in developing a regular practice. It’s the reason why smartphone apps such as Headspace, Calm and Ten Percent Happier, which provide guided meditations and ongoing challenges, are so popular.

Simple meditation No 1: pay attention to your body and breath

Body-based meditations can be particularly grounding, and Fernandopulle shares a seated meditation that allows you to focus on just that.

Meditators should sit in a quiet, stable position, relaxing and bringing their attention to the sensations of the body sitting and breathing. If you remain focused on what’s going on in the body, it becomes easier to let thoughts and sounds come and go like so much background noise. And if you find yourself getting lost in thought, just gently bring your attention back to the body and the breath.

Simple meditation No 2: practice loving-kindness

Another common meditation – and one that can be particularly resonant at a time like this – is the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness meditation.

In this case, after settling into your seat, you silently repeat to yourself phrases of goodwill for yourself and for others: “May I be well. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.” After repeating those phrases to yourself several times, you can begin to wish others well, starting with your friends and family, moving outward to everyone in your neighborhood, and finally sending loving-kindness out into the entire world.

Simple meditation No 3: act mindfully throughout the day

If you don’t feel ready for seated meditation, Fernandopulle says you can practice mindfulness by focusing on your body as you engage in a simple physical task like washing dishes or walking.

“Try to keep attention anchored in the body or hands during the task,” she says. “Notice if your attention goes to daydreaming, worrying or planning. Gently bring the attention back and connect again with the physical activity.”

Taking it further: find the meditation practice that resonates with you

These forms of meditation, which allow us to focus on something simple like the body or the breath, or even a repetitive thought, are accessible to even the most beginner meditator. But as with exercise, if you don’t find a form of meditation you connect with, you probably won’t maintain your practice.

Many of the smartphone apps have introductory programs as well as higher-level meditation courses you can work your way through.

Similarly, there are some meditation luminaries who offer ongoing courses you can take via daily email, such as Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield’s 40-day Mindfulness Daily course.

Eventually, you may want to dig deeper in order to find the technique that works best for you. The turning point for me was reading davidji’s Secrets of Meditation. His book delves into what he described as “the many paths to oneness”, and contained chapters on the various types of meditation – from bodymind meditation to chanting meditation – and the various forms each of those types could take. His website acts as a living reference manual and also contains opportunities to take online courses and teacher trainings.

Sites like Audio Dharma, an archive of Dharma talks given at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California, contain a treasure trove of information on Buddhist teachings and meditation techniques. And Mindful provides also provides guided meditations and courses.

And of course, during this time, many brands and meditation teachers are making their teachings more accessible, with free access to their apps, or with virtual meditation sessions. Fernandopulle herself is doing guided meditations on Instagram Live every week.

Just remember: meditation won’t be a cure-all for everything you’re feeling right now. But what it can give you is a sense of control, and the ability to react to whatever life throws at you with greater equanimity.

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Health, India, World

Coronavirus news updates: India launches curfew as Italy tightens lockdown

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Merkel in quarantine; Spain set to extend state of emergency – as it happened” was written by Clea Skopeliti (now) and Hannah Mays, Haroon Siddique and Helen Davidson (earlier), for theguardian.com on Monday 23rd March 2020 00.05 UTC

12.00am GMT

Hi, this is Helen Sullivan. We are closing this blog. Thanks for following along. I will be bringing together all of the latest developments at our new coronavirus live blog here:

Updated at 12.07am GMT

11.41pm GMT

That’s all from me, Clea Skopeliti. Handing over to my colleague Helen Sullivan to take you through events as they develop.


11.04pm GMT

Summary

Here’s a summary of today’s coronavirus developments.

Updated at 11.09pm GMT

10.41pm GMT

Clinical trial launched

A European clinical trial involving some 3,200 people has been launched to test four possible experimental coronavirus treatments, French public health research body Inserm has said.

Participants will have been hospitalised with coronavirus and are expected to be drawn from Belgium, the UK, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and the Netherlands.

10.15pm GMT

UK residents have been told that “essential travel” does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks, whether for isolation purposes or holidays and that they should remain in their primary residence.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport updated its guidance to avoid non-essential travel in the UK, saying: “This guidance is for people planning to visit second homes or holiday premises during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Essential travel does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether for isolation purposes or holidays. People should remain in their primary residence. Not taking these steps puts additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk.”

The update follows a wave of people travelling to rural and remote areas to self-isolate. The trend has been condemned by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who underlined that it meant “extra pressure on essential services and on health services that are already more distant from people”. Similarly, Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price has said self-isolaters should be prohibited from travelling to rural parts of Wales during the crisis.

Updated at 10.16pm GMT

10.00pm GMT

The Welsh government has warned that people will face a tough crackdown if they refuse to self-isolate and continue with non-essential travel during the outbreak.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said it is important members of the public follow the official advice to prevent further deaths.

“Self-isolation for those who have symptoms and social distancing by everyone is absolutely essential at this stage if we are to delay the spread of this virus and save lives,” the First Minister said.

“We all need to follow this advice now to protect each other and our families and to help ensure our NHS is not overwhelmed. Social distancing includes avoiding all but essential travel and if people don’t follow this advice we will have no choice but to use powers to enforce it.”

The First Minister’s warning follows a similar message from Boris Johnson, where he outlined that stricter measures would be enforced if social distancing was not observed.

Across Wales, 12 people with Covid-19 have died and a further 347 have tested positive for the virus.

9.23pm GMT

Georgian municipalities shut down

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia has announced that the government is shutting down the municipalities of Marneuli and Bolnisi, south to capital city of Tbilisi. The move comes as reportedly the Georgian healthcare authorities could not identify the source for the latest case confirmed in Marneuli, and follows the country’s declaration of a state of emergency yesterday.

Updated at 10.03pm GMT

9.04pm GMT

Brazil has just announced its latest coronavirus statistics. Twenty five dead and 1,546 confirmed cases as of today. That is up from 18 and 1,128 yesterday.

South-east Brazil has so far borne the brunt of the crisis and of the fatalities 22 were in Brazil’s most populous state, São Paulo and three in the neighbouring state of Rio de Janeiro.

Both states are now in a state of partial shutdown with São Paulo set to enter a two-week period of quarantine on Tuesday. Streets were eerily empty on Sunday in parts of Rio although supermarkets and some shops remain open.

Brazil’s far-right president – whose response to the crisis has been widely criticised – has attacked the governors of Rio and São Paulo – who he sees as potential presidential rivals in the 2022 election – for the drastic steps they are taking.

“They are creating a climate of terror,” by trying to shut airports and keep people at home, Bolsonaro said on Saturday.

But there have now been five nights of protests against Bolsonaro’s administration and his handling of coronavirus here and many observers believe his reaction has already wrecked any hope of re-election.

8.58pm GMT

McDonald’s has said it is closing all its UK and Ireland restaurants from Monday night. In a statement, its UK CEO, Paul Pomroy, said: “I am incredibly grateful to our brilliant employees who have been working hard to continue to serve you safely in difficult circumstances.

“Over the last 24 hours, it has become clear that maintaining safe social distancing whilst operating busy takeaway and Drive Thru restaurants is increasingly difficult and therefore we have taken the decision to close every restaurant in the UK and Ireland by 7pm on Monday 23 March.

“We will be working closely with community groups across the UK and Ireland to distribute food from our restaurants to those most in need, and ahead of closing tomorrow evening, will ensure frontline health workers and emergency services personnel do not have to pay for any food or drink in our restaurants on sight of their work pass.

“Take care of one another in these unprecedented times, we look forward to seeing you again as soon as it is safe for us to reopen.”

Paul Pomroy

Updated at 9.31pm GMT

8.43pm GMT

Our Australian team have launched their blog today to follow all the developments there.

8.34pm GMT

NHS healthcare workers received a round of applause and flowers from Tesco staff in a show of support for their work against the pandemic.

Tesco told the PA news agency that staff at stores across the country independently decided to make the gesture as part of the ‘NHS hour’ it has introduced. This will allow healthcare workers to arrive an hour earlier every Sunday to buy supplies.

8.14pm GMT

Grenada has reported its first case of coronavirus, local sources report. The patient is said to have recently travelled from the UK.

8.04pm GMT

A 95-year-old Czech man infected with the new coronavirus has died, the country’s first victim of the pandemic, the chief of the Czech crisis committee said.

Reuters reports that the patient is said to have been suffering from a series of other conditions.

The Czech Republic has reported 1,120 cases of coronavirus infection.

7.59pm GMT

The Costa Rican government has announced 17 more Covid-19 cases, bringing the total to 134. President Carlos Alvarado said the virus how now spread to all parts of the country and urged Costa Ricans not to drop their guard against the virus.

There is still hope coronavirus can be contained in the Central American country amid a nationwide lockdown. Costa Rica has the second largest outbreak in the region behind Panama, where cases have surged over the weekend to 245 and three deaths.

Further north, Guatemala has started an eight day curfew to prevent the spread of the virus after the country recorded 17 cases on Saturday.

7.49pm GMT

From PA Media: A fourth patient diagnosed with Covid-19 in Ireland has died. The patient is reported to have had an underlying condition.

7.41pm GMT

First confirmed case in Syria, health minister announces

Syria’s health minister Nizar Yazigi has announced the country’s first confirmed coronavirus case, AP reports.

Updated at 7.43pm GMT

7.29pm GMT

The Archbishop of Canterbury has started a call to prayer on Twitter amidst the pandemic.

7.16pm GMT

International Olympic Committee considers postponement

The International Olympic Committee is considering a postponement of Tokyo 2020, with four weeks until it has to make a decision.

The BBC reports the IOC saying that cancellation is “not on the agenda”, but a ‘scaled-down’ Games will be considered.

Updated at 11.05pm GMT

7.04pm GMT

112 new deaths in France, reports say

France’s coronavirus death toll rose by 112 on Sunday to 674, senior health official Jerome Salomon said. The number of confirmed infections increased by 1,559 to 16,018, according to Reuters.

Updated at 7.17pm GMT

6.58pm GMT

The UK’s education secretary Gavin Williamson has reiterated guidance on school attendance for children of key workers.

In a statement, he said: “Tomorrow, all schools will be closed except for vulnerable children and those of critical workers. If your work is not critical in the response to Coronavirus then please keep your child at home. This will help to halt the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.

“We will be closely monitoring what is happening in schools and will ensure they get the support they need in the weeks and months ahead.”

Updated at 7.01pm GMT

6.51pm GMT

An 18-year-old with underlying conditions has died in England, the NHS has said. They are thought to be the youngest person in the UK to die of the virus so far.

6.47pm GMT

The global fashion retailer H&M has announced tonight that it is using its global supply chain to produce “personal protective equipment” such as masks, gloves and aprons for use in hospitals and by health care workers to help tackle the widespread effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,

The H&M Group said its supply chain teams around the world were collectively supporting initial efforts to support as many countries and communities as possible worldwide.

Anna Gedda, head of sustainability at the H&M Group, said:The Coronavirus is dramatically affecting each and every one of us, and H&M Group is, like many other organisations, trying our best to help in this extraordinary situation. We see this is as a first step in our efforts to support in any way we can. We are all in this together, and have to approach this as collectively as possible.

6.34pm GMT

The High Street coffee chain Pret Manger has this evening reversed a previous decision to cut the working hours of its employees by 25%, agreeing to continue to continue to award them full pay and following the decision to close all 400 UK stores.

The company’s staff were told on Thursday it was triggering contractual clauses relating to “unforeseen, exceptional circumstances” caused by the coronavirus outbreak and that the measures would remain in place for at least three months. On Saturday evening it announced the closure of all its UK stores, after closing seating areas and switching to a ‘takeaway model’ from Wednesday.

A Pret spokesperson said: “We have decided to continue to pay all our UK employees 100% of their normal hours and pay, reversing our previously proposed reduction in hours. This decision follows the Government’s announcement on Friday that it will pay a percentage of wages due to the coronavirus impact.

“This allows us to keep our teams safe at home and ensure they are paid 100% of their normal hours throughout March and April, despite the fact that our UK shops are not currently open.
“We have made a commitment to protect jobs across Pret and our number one priority is to look after our teams throughout this pandemic. We will keep reviewing the situation as it develops and in light of the continuing cost pressures on the business.”

6.30pm GMT

Opera star Plácido Domingo has tested positive for coronavirus.

In a Facebook post, the 79-year-old Spanish tenor wrote: “I feel it is my moral duty to announce to you that I have tested positive for COVID19, the Corona virus. My Family and I are all in self isolation for as long as it is deemed medically necessary. Currently we are all in good health but I experienced fever and cough symptoms therefore deciding to get tested and the result came back positive.

“I beg everyone to be extremely careful, follow the basic guidelines by washing your hands frequently, keeping at least a 6 feet distance from others, doing everything you can to stop the virus from spreading and please above all stay home if you can ! Together we can fight this virus and stop the current worldwide crisis, so we can hopefully return to our normal daily lives very soon. Please follow your local government’s guidelines and regulations for staying safe and protecting not just yourselves but our entire community.”

Updated at 7.00pm GMT

6.12pm GMT

That’s it from me, Hannah Mays. Handing over now to my colleague Clea Skopeliti

5.56pm GMT

Spain’s prime minister has called for the European Union to roll out its own “Marshall Plan,” describing a program of public investment capable of countering the deep economic blow of the crisis.

The country has emerged as one of the hardest hit in Europe, with the death toll soaring to 1,720. The country has 28,572 confirmed cases – a number that is expected to rise in the coming days as expanded testing is rolled out.

Officials have warned that the worst is yet to come. “We’re in a critical moment, the days ahead will be hard,” the prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said in a televised address on Saturday. “We have to ready ourselves psychologically and emotionally.”

Around 12% – or 3,475 of the confirmed cases – are doctors, nurses and others on the frontlines of the coronavirus battle, the head of Spain’s health emergency centre, Fernando Simón said Sunday. Earlier this week, Spain lost its first healthcare worker to the virus: A 52-year-old nurse from the Basque Country.

As the government scrambles to contain the virus, a near-total lockdown has been imposed with residents ordered to stay in their homes save for essential trips. Sánchez said on Sunday that he would seek to extend the emergency measures until 11 April.

He also announced additional measures, including a 30-day restriction on travellers arriving from non-EU countries, save for those on essential travel. As well, regional governments will be given the power to take control of private care homes amid concerns that the unchecked spread of the virus in care facilities could be linked to the deaths of at least 100 people.

While the country struggles to contain the virus, many worry about the economic impact it will have on a country where the unemployment rate already ranks among the highest in the industrialised world.

Praising the EU’s response to the crisis so far, Sánchez called for an EU-wide plan aimed at reinvigorating the economies of member states. “We need to articulate a grand Marshall Plan of reconstruction,” he said.

“Europe is at war against the coronavirus. And we have to respond with all of our weapons, with all our tools.”

5.51pm GMT

Angela Merkel in quarantine

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in quarantine after a doctor who gave her a vaccine tests positive for coronavirus.

Merkel’s spokesman said the German chancellor, who is 65, was informed about the doctor’s test shortly after holding a news conference Sunday announcing new measures to curb the spread of the virus.

Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Merkel had received a precautionary vaccine Friday against pneumococcal infection.

Seibert said in a statement that Merkel would undergo “regular tests” in the coming days and continue with her work from home for the time being.

Merkel had earlier expressed her gratitude to Germans who were following the rules on social distancing, saying it was important to remain at least 1.5 meters (about five feet) apart to reduce the likelihood of infection.

Updated at 6.03pm GMT

5.49pm GMT

Greece’s prime minister has announced that as of 6 AM tomorrow a curfew will come into effect nationwide. In a televised address – his third in less than a week – Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the measure will prohibit “the circulation and movement of citizens” deemed to be “purposeless” – the strictest restriction, yet, in the fight to contain the novel coronavirus spreading further.

“It is perhaps the last step that an organised democratic state [can take],” he said. “ A step which must be taken in time, so that it is not taken in vain, because time isn’t counted, any more, in days but in hours,” he told the nation adding that in Italy, every two minutes, a life was now being lost to Covid-19.

Exceptions to the rule would be made for citizens going to and from work; for the provision of food and medicine; for visits to a doctor and for those who needed care; for those exercising individually, or with one other person, and for people walking dogs. Those travelling to their permanent place of residence would also be exempt from the measure.

But once enforced anyone out on the streets would have to have their passports or identity cards with them at all times, the centre right leader said insisting that the full force of the law would be imposed on those who violated the restriction. Fines of 150 euro will be given in the case of infractions.

Although Greece has managed to contain the spread of Covid-19 infections, numbers are going up and privately officials say they expect a big leap in the coming days. On Sunday, health authorities announced that in the past 24 hours there had been 94 new cases of people testing positive for the virus with a total of 624 confirmed coronavirus cases countrywide. To date, 15 people have died from the disease (with the exception of three, all men). Altogether 124 have been hospitalised with 34 requiring intensive care – double the figure over that released yesterday. Most of those who have contracted the virus are in Athens. The average age of those hospitalised is 64.

Greece was among the first EU member states to announce draconian measures to stem the virus, starting with the closure of schools on March 10, followed by the shutting of nightclubs, gyms, cinemas and theatres two days later and cafes, restaurants, bars and shopping malls on March 13. All retail shops were ordered closed on March 18. In his address, Mitsotakis thanked the vast majority of Greeks for upholding the restrictions, chastising the “frivolous few [who] undermine the safety of most.”

Greeks could be seen in droves converging on beaches on Saturday to enjoy the warm weather. A mass exodus of residents from Athens and other urban centres to villages in the countryside has also alarmed authorities who fear transmission rates spreading to remote areas nationwide.

Updated at 5.58pm GMT

5.15pm GMT

Our UK focussed coronavirus blog is reporting on Boris Johnson’s daily press conference which is currently happening. You can follow here.

5.07pm GMT

Poland went ahead with six by-elections on Sunday and reaffirmed plans to hold presidential elections on May 10 as pressure rises to call off the poll amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have to prepare this. That is the law in our country – nothing has changed,” Tomasz Grzelewski, spokesman for the National Electoral Commission, said. “If there was a decision by the President about introducing a state of emergency, then we would behave differently.”

Poland has shuttered schools, cinemas and theatres, while limiting public gatherings to no more than 50 people. It has also closed its borders to foreigners and introduced a “state of epidemic”.

The country has 627 confirmed cases of coronavirus and seven deaths as of Sunday.
But despite calls from opposition critics and candidates to call off the presidential elections, the government says it will not postpone them as it could only do so if it introduces a state of emergency.

Earlier this month, voters turned out in low numbers in France’s mayoral elections after the government imposed stringent restrictions on public life. The second round of the election was then called off.

Grzelewski said protective measures had been taken to ensure the by-election went ahead smoothly. Staff at voting booths had masks, disinfectant gel and gloves for voters to use. Voters were also to be given single-use pens to mark their ballots.

4.53pm GMT

Germany bans meetings of more than two people

Germany will ban public meetings of more than two people unless they are about work on slowing the spread of the coronavirus, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia state said on Sunday.

“The danger lies in the direct social interaction,” state premier Armin Laschet said, adding that the federal government and regional states had agreed on the stricter rules.

Updated at 4.58pm GMT

4.49pm GMT

Spain’s Interior Ministry has said that Spain will impose 30 day entry restrictions on most foreigners from midnight at ports and airports. Spanish nationals, foreign residents, air crew, cargo workers, health workers and diplomats will be exempted from restrictions.

4.43pm GMT

23 dead and 83 injured in Bogota prison riots

Colombia’s prisons were rocked by riots and protests overnight, with inmates demanding better protection against the spread of Covid-19 in the South American country’s jails.

Shootouts were heard outside some prisons as videos circulated on social media showing fires and unrest.

One video appears to show armed riot police outside La Modelo prison in Bogotá, the capital, as shots and explosions can be heard inside.

Another video appeared to show a fire raging inside the same prison.

Colombia’s overcrowded prisons have long been hotbeds for organised crime, with violent power struggles between inmates and guards flaring up on occasion. Earlier this month, the government banned visitors to prisons in a bid to isolate inmates from the coronavirus.

“The authorities must urgently hand over an official report on the protests and riots that occurred last night in the country’s jails,” José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, tweeted on Sunday morning. “Many of the detainees demanded conditions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. They denounce several dead and wounded.”

The Justice Ministry said Sunday that the rioting left 23 dead and 83 injured in Bogota.

Prison authorities have not yet reported how many casualties resulted from the disturbances.

Bogotá’s mayor, Claudia López, joined the chorus calling for a report on Sunday morning, tweeting that if authorities don’t “face up and explain [what happened] to families of prisoners, there will be another right, but of distressed families.”

The riots broke out on the same night that Colombia confirmed its first death as a result of Covid-19. On Sunday morning, confirmed cases stood at 231, with two people dying from the disease.

A nationwide quarantine – expanding on those currently in place in cities across the country, including Bogotá – will come into effect at midnight on Tuesday.

Updated at 5.52pm GMT

4.30pm GMT

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said at a press conference that “Life shouldn’t feel normal right now, so if your life still feels entirely normal, ask yourself if you are doing the right things”

She also said that people shouldn’t go shopping except for essentials or gather at parties, celebrations or weddings. She said that gathering together in the park or at the beach should be avoided, because this is almost as dangerous as going to the pub.

4.22pm GMT

Mozambique has confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus – a 75-year-old man who had recently returned from Britain, health minister Armindo Tiago said on Sunday.
The man returned to the country mid-March, Tiago told journalists.

4.17pm GMT

360 new deaths in Lombardy, reports say

The death toll in the northern region of Lombardy, which has borne the brunt of Italy’s virus outbreak, has risen by around 360 in a day to more than 3,450, a source has told Reuters.

The number of cases in the region, which includes Italy’s financial capital Milan, has increased by around 2,590 to more than 28,370. However, a number of results were still awaiting confirmation and it was not clear if they would be added later.

Sunday’s figures represented an improvement on Saturday, when the death toll in the region rose by 546 and new cases increased by 3,251. The national death toll is due to be released later on Sunday. The tally stood at 4,825 on Saturday – the highest in the world.

Updated at 4.17pm GMT

4.10pm GMT

Spain moves to extend state of emergency

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said his government would ask parliament to extend for another 15 days until April 11 a state of emergency it imposed this month to try to curb the spread of the virus.

The nationwide state of emergency was first announced on March 14 and it bars people in the nation of around 46 million people from leaving home except for essential outings like buying food or seeking medical care.

Sanchez said the request to extend the state of emergency would be approved by his cabinet on Tuesday and he was confident the assembly would approve it.

“I know that is a drastic measure… but experts agree that it is an effective measure in the fight against coronavirus,” he told a news conference after holding talks via video conference with the heads of Spain’s regional governments.

The announcement comes after Spain announced 394 new deaths caused by the pandemic, raising to 1,720 the official death toll in Europe’s worst-hit country after Italy, a 30 percent increase over the previous day.

The number of confirmed cases of the disease rose by 3,646, or 14.6 percent, to 28,572, according to health ministry figures, straining Spain’s health care system.

Sanchez has said his country’s situation was now the most difficult since the 1936-39 civil war, and he warned that the outbreak would worsen.

“We must prepare ourselves emotionally and psychologically for very hard days ahead,” he told the nation in a televised address late on Saturday.

4.08pm GMT

French doctor dies

A French doctor has died from coronavirus, the first medic to succumb in the country, health minister Olivier Veran has said.

The minister paid tribute to all front-line medical staff and urged other workers to keep essential services running despite the nationwide lockdown. “The medical profession is making a heavy sacrifice in our country today,” Veran told LCI television.

The doctor who died was an emergency specialist working at a hospital in Compiegne, north of Paris, public television reported, citing a Facebook post by one of his children. “We’re asking citizens to continue mobilising to keep our economy working,” Veran said. “Not for the sake of economic objectives or budgets, but because a single missing link can bring down the entire production system.”

France’s death toll rose by 112 to 562 on Saturday, according to health ministry numbers, while the number of confirmed cases increased 15% to 14,459 in 24 hours.

The government may also roll out a tax-free coronavirus “attendance bonus” for people who need to be at their workplace to carry out their jobs, officials have said.

4.01pm GMT

Dubai carrier Emirates has reversed a previous announcement suspending all passenger flights, saying it is going to continue flying to 13 destinations, including the the U.S., the UK, Japan, Australia and Canada. The company said Sunday that the decision comes after receiving requests from governments and customers to support the repatriation of travellers. Hours earlier, Emirates said it was suspending all passenger flights starting Wednesday.

3.47pm GMT

Cambodia has reported 31 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, 29 of them among French tourists, bringing the total number of infections recorded in the Southeast Asian country to 84, the health ministry said in a statement.

The statement said the two Cambodians who were infected had been tour guides accompanying the tourists. All were now being kept in isolation in a hotel in the beach city of Sihanoukville, the statement said.

3.39pm GMT

The Canadian death toll from the coronavirus outbreak jumped almost 50% percent to 19 in less than a day, according to official figures released by the federal government on Sunday.

Ottawa said late on Saturday that 13 people had died from the respiratory illness caused by the virus, but by 9 a.m. ET (1300 GMT) on Sunday that number had grown to 19. The number of confirmed cases rose to 1,302 from 1,099, with a further 69 people listed as probably suffering from the highly contagious virus.

Canada has already closed its borders to all but essential travel, announced a C billion aid package for the most affected by the health crisis and is urging people to practice self-isolation.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said on Saturday that “Canadians need to understand this isn’t about two weeks of social distancing. This is about months of social distancing.”
Nova Scotia on Sunday became the latest of Canada’s 10 provinces to declare a state of emergency, closing its borders to non-residents and threatening to arrest those who did not practice self-distancing.

Premier Stephen McNeil told a news conference that despite warnings to avoid meeting in large groups, people were flocking to provincial parks and other common areas.
“We are dealing with a deadly virus and this behavior is unacceptable,” he said.

3.21pm GMT

Saudi Arabia cases pass 500

Saudi Arabia has reported a jump in coronavirus cases. Saudi Health Ministry spokesman Mohammed Abdelali said the kingdom recorded 119 new cases, raising the total number to 511, the highest to date in the Gulf Arab region.

The tally of cases in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council now stands at more than 1,700.

3.17pm GMT

José Ameal Peña was just four years old when the 1918 flu tore through his small fishing town in northern Spain, its deadly path narrated by the daily ringing of church bells.

More than a century later, Ameal Peña – believed to be Spain’s only living survivor of a pandemic described to be the deadliest in human history – has a warning as the world faces off against Covid-19: “Be careful,” he said. “I don’t want to see the same thing repeated, it claimed so many lives.”

The 1918 flu, known as the Spanish flu after the country’s press were among the first to report on it, killed between 50 and 100 million people around the world.

In Ameal Peña’s town of Luarca, it claimed some 500 lives, or a quarter of the town’s 2,000 residents. He watched from his window as a steady stream of funeral processions made their way to the local cemetery.

In autumn 1918, he became the only one out of his seven siblings to catch the flu. “I still can’t figure out how I’m here,” he told Spanish newspaper El Mundo. “When I woke up, I could barely walk. I had to crawl on my hands and knees.”

As he wrestled with a relentless fever, a local doctor prescribed vapours of boiled eucalyptus and seaweed.

In recent weeks, he’s watched anxiously as another pandemic tightens its grip on the world. Spain has emerged as one of Europe’s hardest-hit by the coronavirus, with 1,720 people killed.

“He knows exactly what is happening with the coronavirus,” his daughter Anunciata told El Mundo. “Since he lived through all that, he’s having a hard time now. He’s afraid that something similar will happen again, even though we’re living in very different times.”

While the fear unleashed by both pandemics is similar, this time the battle is unfolding against a backdrop of scientific advances, allowing the virus to be isolated, antiviral drugs to be tested and complex medical treatments to be carried out.

Across the Atlantic, another survivor of the 1918 flu, 107-year-old Joe Newman, offered his perspective. “There are those of us who say, well, this too shall go away. And it will,” the resident of Sarasota, Florida told NBC news. “But at what cost, at what expense?”

Newman urged people to lean on each other for support. “You have to be my crutch. I have to be yours. It’s been that way through every crisis we’ve had,” he said. “And then we find – when we do look back – that is what got us through it.”

3.12pm GMT

One of the world’s biggest airlines, Emirates, said it was suspending all passenger flights starting Wednesday. It’s a pivotal move that reflects the dramatic slowdown in traffic through the airline’s hub in Dubai, the world’s busiest international airport, due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus.

The state-owned carrier stressed in a statement on Sunday it will continue to operate cargo flights through its fleet of Boeing 777 freighters for the transport of essential goods, including medical supplies across the world. It also said the company would reduce salaries for the majority of its employees for three months, but will not cut jobs.

3.07pm GMT

Singapore: 23 new cases confirmed

23 new cases of the virus have been confirmed in Singapore. 18 of the cases had recently travelled to Europe, North America, South America and ASEAN countries, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in its daily update. Nine of the cases had travelled to the UK and three to the US.

Singapore confirmed its first deaths yesterday. A 75-year-old Singaporean woman and 64-year-old Indonesian man.

Updated at 3.10pm GMT

2.59pm GMT

During his weekly Sunday blessing, Pope Francis urged all Christians to join in reciting the Our Father prayer on Wednesday at noon. “To the virus pandemic, we want to respond with the universality of prayer, of compassion, of tenderness”, the pope said.

Francis, who began streaming his audiences online earlier this month due to virus concerns, said he would also lead a global blessing to an empty St. Peters Square on Friday. The Urbi et Orbi, blessing is normally reserved for Christmas Day and Easter.

2.54pm GMT

Waitrose and John Lewis have outlined measures that will be in place from tomorrow to support NHS workers:

  • All Waitrose shops will protect a proportion of deliveries of ‘hard to find’ and essential stock exclusively for NHS workers to ensure they have better opportunity to access basic shopping items at all times of the day.A proportion of deliveries
  • NHS staff will receive priority checkout treatment in all Waitrose supermarkets either through a dedicated till or moved to the front of the queue
  • John Lewis is donating comfort items and Easter gift food to local hospitals, to support workers

Berangere Michel, Executive Director for Customer Service at the John Lewis Partnership, said: “Through these steps we want to recognise the tireless work of NHS staff, supporting us all through these unprecedented circumstances. We hope these measures make their life a little easier; our Partners are keen to do something to help, and we are offering this with sincere thanks from us all.”

These new measures follow steps outlined by the John Lewis Partnership earlier this week to support customers, including the launch of a £1million Community Support Fund to help local communities along with a protected shopping hour for the elderly and vulnerable.

Many Waitrose shops have already been using their community funds to assemble care packages of essential items for vulnerable or elderly people in the local community.

2.44pm GMT

Greece’s centre right government is hours away from announcing further restrictive measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus with media reports saying the latest clampdown on movement will likely take the form of a curfew. starting either tonight or tomorrow morning. News sites reported that prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is expected to announce the emergency measure in a TV address at 6pm local time. The step follows alarm at the number of citizens still flouting regulations enforced as part of gradual lockdown to halt transmissions of the virus.

On Saturday Greeks could be seen flocking to beaches along the Athenian riviera despite repeated government entreaties for people to remain at home. A mass exodus of Greeks from Athens, and other urban areas, to villages in the countryside has also caused consternation. As of Saturday afternoon, when the latest health ministry figures were announced, authorities had confirmed 530 cases of coronavirus and 13 fatalities – with the exception of one, all men.

Mitsotakis and other officials have repeatedly warned that the coming weeks are critical in containing the disease. Addressing reporters last night, the deputy civil protection minister Nikos Hardalias felt fit to remind Greeks that Italy, the country worst hit in Europe by Covid-19, had recorded the same number of coronavirus cases and deaths 24 days ago.

Officials fear that Greece’s health system – savaged by years of budget cuts during the country’s long-running debt crisis – is far from ready to deal with a sudden surge in numbers requiring immediate hospitalisation. That, and the country’s proximity to Italy, played a central role in the government taking a tough stance from the outset announcing measures that included the closure of schools early on.

Updated at 3.36pm GMT

2.38pm GMT

Afghanistan announces first coronavirus death

Afghanistan has announced its first Coronavirus death. The Health Ministry confirmed that the patient, who was 40 years old, died three days ago in northern Balkh province and the result of his coronavirus test arrived today.

Wahidullah Mayar, spokesman for the Health Ministry said the body was transferred to a Taliban controlled area [by his relatives] and buried there.

Another suspected patient died today in western Herat province. The coronavirus test result will arrive tomorrow. Herat neighbours Iran and is the most affected city with 18 positive cases so far.

Afghanistan has reported 34 coronavirus cases so far, 10 in last 24 hours. Testing remains low and experts fear the full extent of the spread is not known. With as many as 15,000 people arriving daily from Iran, one of the worst-hit countries, Afghanistan remains vulnerable to the spread.

Updated at 3.10pm GMT

2.28pm GMT

Fox News reports that the New York City Police Department is dealing with a sudden spike in coronavirus cases. According to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, over 50 police officers have tested positive for the virus, but only one has been hospitalised. The 1st Precinct in Manhattan is the hardest hit, with 31 officers (17 percent of the workforce) calling in sick, forcing the NYPD to call the Movie and Television Unit to fill in.

The police union says that the NYPD has failed to provide adequate protective equipment for officers or cleaning supplies.

2.12pm GMT

In the space of less than 24 hours on Sunday, India amped up its drastic measures to try and stop the spread of coronavirus, as the number of cases rose to 341 and the death toll reached seven.

From 7am to 9pm, a nationwide “people’s curfew” was imposed to clear the streets. It was then announced that all train operations in India would be suspended until at least 31 March, a move which will impact the 23 million passengers who rely on India’s railways every day.

The capital city of Delhi, which has now reported six cases of coronavirus which were locally transmitted, will also be locked down from 6am on Monday until at least 31 March, with the state borders sealed, all public transport and non-essential businesses closed and taxis and rickshaws ordered off the roads.

Lockdowns were imposed in 75 districts across the country and in Goa the curfew was extended until Wednesday.

2.09pm GMT

First two cases confirmed in Gaza

The first two cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the Gaza Strip last night in individuals who had come from Pakistan. An outbreak could wreak havoc on the Palestinian territory, which is home to over 2 million people, many living in cramped cities and refugee camps. There are similar concerns about a catastrophe if the virus turns up in war-torn Syria, Libya or Yemen.

Abdelnasser Soboh, director of the World Health Organization’s Gaza office, said the territory only has 62 ventilators, with all but 15 already in use. He estimates the territory needs 50 to 100 more to address an outbreak.

With its current capacity, he estimated Gaza’s hospitals can handle the first 100 cases if they come in gradually. If there is a spread to hundreds, this will cause a challenge to the health care system,” he said.

Hundreds of Gazans have returned home in the past two weeks, but only 92 people have been examined, highlighting the territory’s limited testing capacity. More than 1,270 people have been quarantined at hospitals, hotels and schools after crossing into Gaza from Israel and Egypt, according to the Health Ministry.

Updated at 3.10pm GMT

1.46pm GMT

The coronavirus economic relief bill being finalised in the US Congress will include a one-time ,000 payment for families and allow the Federal Reserve to leverage up to trillion of liquidity to support the nation’s economy, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said today.

Mnuchin, speaking in an interview on the “Fox News Sunday” television program, said the additional liquidity measures for the U.S. central bank aims to help a broad base of U.S. businesses to get through next 90 to 120 days.

1.39pm GMT

43 more deaths in the Netherlands

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Netherlands rose by 573, or nearly 16%, to 4,204, Dutch health authorities said in a daily update on Sunday.

The death toll in the Netherlands rose by 43 to 179, with victims aged between 57 and 97.

1.33pm GMT

The Chinese billionaire founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba has sent coronavirus supplies to Africa. Jack Ma sent a cargo flight from Guangzhou in China containing more than 6m medical items, which arrived today in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. The supplies will be distributed to African countries in need of resources to battle the virus.

According to Ethiopian officials and the Jack Ma Foundation, the plane carried 5.4m face masks, 1.08m testing kits, 40,000 sets of protective clothing and 60,000 protective face shields. Ma has sent similar shipments of medical supplies to countries in Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America.

The virus has been slow to reach Africa but has now spread to at least 42 of the continent’s 54 countries.

Updated at 1.43pm GMT

1.15pm GMT

Independent.ie has reported that hospitals in Ireland are braced for a new wave of cases after at least 14 patients in an Irish care home in Leinster tested positive for the virus. Covid-19 is believed to have been transmitted to residents via a health worker.

Updated at 1.42pm GMT

1.03pm GMT

The Welsh government has just tweeted reminding everyone to avoid all but essential travel and suggesting stronger measures will be brought in if people ignore the advice.

1.00pm GMT

We’ve now got a live blog up and running focusing on UK coronavirus developments. Head over here to check it out. Meanwhile I’ll be continuing to bring you the major headlines and updates from around the world.

Updated at 1.05pm GMT

12.46pm GMT

Boris Johnson has tweeted asking everyone to stay at home and not visit vulnerable mums in person this Mother’s Day.

Updated at 1.04pm GMT

12.41pm GMT

Paul Reid, Ireland’s top health service official, has said huge orders have been placed for coronavirus testing equipment and protective gear for staff. A total of 11m masks, 1m face shields and 1m goggles for workers are on order. Another 400,000 gowns and suits are also being purchased.

Almost 40,000 sample test kits are being distributed. Another 20,000 will be in Ireland by Wednesday, the health service said. The Irish Republic is at an advanced stage of negotiations with China to secure a further 100,000 and good progress is being made, it said.

The worldwide nature of the coronavirus pandemic means there is a lot of competition to secure supplies. On Saturday night, 177 people were in Irish hospitals with coronavirus, up from 151 on Saturday morning. Ireland usually spends €15m a year on personal protective equipment, the health service said. Its bill since January has already hit €60m.

Updated at 12.57pm GMT

12.27pm GMT

Iran’s supreme leader blames US for sending coronavirus to Iran

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the US was responsible for sending coronavirus to Iran, therefore making it impossible to accept any American help to fight the virus there. Speaking on the occasion of the New Year and Eid al-Mab’ath, the 80-year-old said “you Americans are accused of engineering coronavirus”, adding: “I do not know how true this claim is, but as long as the accusation stands, which sensible person would trust you to accept your offer of help.

“Possibly your (offered) medicine is a way to spread the virus more,” he said. “Or if you send therapists and doctors, maybe so they want to see the effect of the poison in Iranian society, so they can complete their information. It is said that part of the virus was produced against the Iranian people.”

His tone contradicted that of the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, who had the day before sent a heartfelt plea to the American public to set aside their differences with Iran and work together to fight the virus, including by the US suspending economic sanctions on Iran.

The supreme leader was immediately challenged by Iranian reformist politicians such as Mahmoud Sadeghi to produce evidence to back his claim.

Khamenei’s controversial belief in an American biological conspiracy came as the Iranian health ministry said the new infections in Iran in the past 24 hours had reached 1,865, with a further 129 deaths. The official figures show the number of deaths by day stabilising.

The total number of infected people had reached 21,638. The health ministry spokesman said 7,913 people had recovered.

The official figures have been widely challenged on the basis that the recording of the number of deaths includes only those who died after being tested for the disease. The World Health Organization has said the figure may be only a fifth of the true number who have died. The official death toll shows no obvious pattern since for the last three days it has risen only from 220 to 240, yet the infections are rising.

Iran also continued to send out contradictory messages about whether it could overcome the virus without sanctions being lifted. The letter from the president underlined the need for US sanctions being lifted. Khamenei has insisted the country can survive independently.

The US state department hit back at claims it was preventing medicines reaching Iran, saying: “Dear Iranians, as your government will not tell you the truth, we say: on March 2, Iran, which instead of acting like any normal government around the world, refuses to make your economic system transparent. The reason the regime is hiding its economy is because it is corrupt.”

In Tehran province the deputy mayor, Hamid Reza Goudarzi, after weeks of controversy has announced that all shops but essential food shops and pharmacies must close, and those that refuse to abide by the instructions will be punished.

The International Monetary Fund has still not responded to an Iranian request for a bn loan to help fight the virus.

Qom News, an agency covering Qom, one of the centres of the disease, reported on Sunday: “In every house black cloth hangs from the walls of houses and the sound of crying in mourning houses resounds. Stay at home or else you’re the next person.”

Updated at 12.53pm GMT

12.15pm GMT

Spain: death toll climbs to 1,720

The death toll in Spain has climbed to 1,720 – with 394 lives claimed in the past day – as the country’s prime minister warned that the “worst is yet to come” and announced plans to extend the country’s near-total lockdown until the 12 of April.

Across Spain, the number of confirmed cases sits at 28,572, according to the latest data from the health ministry.

In the span of a few weeks, Spain has emerged as one of the hardest-hit countries in the global pandemic. After the first full week of near-total lockdown, the country’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, reportedly told regional leaders he would aim to get parliamentary approval to extend the emergency measures for another 15 days.

The extension comes after Sánchez warned that the toughest days of the crisis still lie ahead.

“Unfortunately, the worst is to come,” Pedro Sánchez said on Saturday. “We have yet to feel the impact of the hardest, most damaging wave, one that will test the limits of our moral and material capacity, as well as our spirit as a society.”

A cacophony of sound preceded his address to the nation, as some banged pots and pans to show their dissatisfaction with how his government has managed the crisis.

Healthcare workers on the frontlines have described a healthcare system pushed to the brink, with intensive care patients outstripping capacity in some hospitals and workers forced to use garbage bags as hospital gowns amid a shortage of protective gear. “We’re at war,” one doctor at Madrid’s La Paz Hospital told the Guardian.

The government said it had distributed more than million masks and was working on a plan to domestically produce protective gear. As the call for expanded testing grows, Sánchez said the government had acquired more than 640,000 tests and had already begun handing them out.

On Sunday, paramedics in Madrid began transferring patients to a field hospital set up in Madrid’s main exhibition hall, in a bid to relieve pressure on the city’s most overwhelmed hospitals. The makeshift hospital, mounted in the past days by the military, can be expanded to hold as many as 5,500 patients.

Updated at 12.43pm GMT

12.09pm GMT

Croatia’s capital Zagreb was shaken by a series of earthquakes this morning that brought most of the population out onto the streets, just as social distancing regulations to prevent the spread of coronavirus had gone into place. The ill-timed quakes, the largest of which measured 5.3 on the Richter scale, have left one child in critical condition and damaged buildings across Zagreb, including the spire of the city’s main cathedral. The epicentre was about four miles north of Zagreb.

Photographs showed damage to a hospital in the capital, just as the country’s health system was gearing up for a potential surge in coronavirus cases. Mothers cradled their newborns on the street as a maternity ward was evacuated.

Croatian authorities on Saturday advised residents to stay off the streets, cut most public transport and demanded people pay heed to social distancing recommendations. The country has recorded 206 cases of coronavirus so far and one death.

Croatia’s interior minister Davor Božinović said on Sunday that the army was helping to clear up the rubble in Zagreb. He said authorities were working to manage both crises, but said the coronavirus was a more serious threat to the country than the earthquake. He urged those on the streets due to the earthquake to maintain social distancing norms.

12.02pm GMT

A Tesco in Lewes that opened one hour early for NHS workers at 9am this morning reportedly let others in because of long queues outside and did not open the tills until 10am, meaning that shoppers were packed together in close quarters.

11.55am GMT

Summary

  • The number of confirmed coronavirus deaths in Spain has risen by almost 400, or 30%, in 24 hours, as the government is reported to be extending its state of emergency by another 15 days. As well as 394 new deaths, the country reported the number of confirmed cases has risen by 3,646 (15%) from 24,926 to 28,572.
  • In Iran, the death toll rose has risen by 129 (8%) to 1,685 over the past day, and the number of cases has risen by 1,028 (5%) to 21,638.
  • In Germany, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has risen by 1,948 (12%) to 18,610, and the number of deaths has increased by nine (20%) to 55, the country’s public health institute said.
  • Indonesia has confirmed 10 new deaths from Covid-19 and 64 new cases, taking the respective totals to 48 and 514. On Saturday, Indonesia reported six deaths and 81 new cases.The south-east Asian country has turned its athletes village built for the 2018 Asian Games into an emergency hospital.
  • The number of deaths in Wales of patients who tested positive for coronavirus has more than doubled, from five to 12, the chief medical officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, said.
  • Colombia, Guam Kosovo and Romania each reported their first death, with the fatality in Guam, the first in the Pacific region. Palestinian officials reported the first two cases in the Gaza strip.
  • The UK government has refused to dismiss the idea of an Italian-style lockdown if needed to curb the further spread of the virus, amid reports that many people were out enjoying the weather on Saturday and not practising social distancing. The government is to write to 1.5m people perceived as vulnerable due to underlying health conditions, urging them to stay indoors for 12 weeks.
  • A group of almost 4,000 NHS workers in the UK have pleaded with the prime minister, Boris Johnson, to ensure they have adequate protective equipment to deal with the coronavirus crisis.In an open letter to The Sunday Times, the medics have called on Johnson to “protect the lives of the life-savers” and resolve the “unacceptable” shortage of protective equipment.
  • The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has announced wide ranging restrictions on businesses but has said schools will remain open. Among those affected will be clubs, hotels, pubs, entertainment venues, indoor supporting venues and places of worship. Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway only.
  • The Russian military is sending medical help to Italy from today, including mobile disinfection vehicles and medical specialists.
  • Malaysia has sent the army to the streets to enforce restrictions which people appear to be defying. The country has one of the highest rates of infection in Southeast Asia.
  • China is diverting all Beijing-bound international flights to other airports for checks before allowing them to continue.
  • Singapore has banned the entry and transit of all foreigners, except those with work permits in essential services.
  • Hawaii has become the first US state to require 14 days quarantine for all arrivals.
  • India has imposed a curfew from 7am to 9pm Delhi time.
  • The Italian PM ordered businesses to close all operations.
  • More than 50,000 people queued to see the Olympic flame in northeast Japan. Meanwhile Olympic officials are reportedly workshopping delaying the games despite the Japanese government’s insistence it go ahead.

Updated at 11.58am GMT

11.53am GMT

Employers in Scotland have been urged to give paid leave to all members of staff who volunteer as special constables to help Police Scotland cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

The force said it faced “unprecedented challenges to maintain policing while managing rising levels of sickness and self-isolation among officers and staff.”

It has asked special constables, who have the same powers as regular police officers, to increase their hours volunteering over the next three months and written to their employers asking them to support them.

Police Scotland launched a new recruitment campaign on 3 February this year after a sharp decline in special constable numbers, partly because 500 specials became full time officers.

Figures given to BBC Scotland after a freedom of information request showed a 62% fall since the unitary force was formed in 2013, down from 1,391 that year to 517 in 2019.

Malcolm Graham, a Police Scotland deputy chief constable, said in a statement: “This is an extraordinary moment and one that requires a collective response. It is a moment when the ethos of the Special Constabulary – supporting Scottish communities and local policing – has never been more relevant.

“The coronavirus pandemic is presenting an unprecedented and dynamic set of challenges and, to support health professionals and maximise public safety, the policing response is crucial.

“The coming weeks and months will be demanding and there will be significant additional duties that we are required to discharge during this critical period. To support our overall response, we would like to include our valued special constables in our resourcing plans.”

11.33am GMT

Tourists are being urged to stay at home and not visit some of the remote communities in the Scottish Highlands in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. Scotland’s Tourism Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, said: “My advice to everybody is stay where you are. Do not travel to the Highlands and Islands.”

The pleas came as the organisation that represents tourism businesses along the A830 road, which connects Fort William with Mallaig, also urged visitors to stay away. The Road To The Isles group includes 100 accommodation and visitor-based businesses on the scenic route, which takes in Glenfinnan, Lochailort, Roshven, Arisaig, Morar, Mallaig and the Small Isles of Eigg, Muck, Rum, Canna and the Knoydart peninsula.
The area already has an ageing population, with just one doctor and ambulance to cover it, and the nearest hospital is 100 miles away.

Thanks to Haroon for covering the blog this morning. This is Hannah Mays signing on.

Updated at 11.35am GMT

11.17am GMT

An 82-year old man who died in hospital in Kosovo on Sunday is the country’s first victim of the coronavirus, the Kosovo Public Health Institute said in a statement.

“Patient already had chronic illness, cardio and pulmonary,” the institute said, according to Reuters.

Kosovo, a country of 2 million people, has registered 31 cases of people infected with coronavirus.

This is my last post, I am now handing over to my colleague Hannah Mays.

11.07am GMT

Almost 400 new deaths in Spain

The number of deaths linked to Covid-19 in Spain has risen by almost 400 – 30% – to 1,720 in the last day, Spanish media are reporting.

As well as the 394 deaths, the number of confirmed cases has reportedly risen by 3,646 (15%) from 24,926 to 28,572.

The government is reportedly extending the 15-day state of emergency imposed on 14 March by another 15 days.

Updated at 11.12am GMT

10.59am GMT

Croatia’s capital Zagreb was shaken by a series of earthquakes this morning that brought most of the population out onto the streets, just as social distancing regulations to prevent the spread of coronavirus had gone into place.

The ill-timed quakes, the largest of which measured 5.3 on the Richter scale, have left one child in critical condition and damaged buildings across Zagreb, including the spire of the city’s main cathedral. The epicentre was about four miles north of Zagreb.

Photographs showed damage to a hospital in the capital, just as the country’s health system was gearing up for a potential surge in coronavirus cases. Mothers cradled their newborns on the street as a maternity ward was evacuated.

Croatian authorities on Saturday advised residents to stay off the streets, cut most public transport and demanded people pay heed to social distancing recommendations. The country has recorded 206 cases of coronavirus so far and one death.

Croatia’s interior minister Davor Božinović said on Sunday that the army was helping to clear up the rubble in Zagreb. He said authorities were working to manage both crises, but said the coronavirus was a more serious threat to the country than the earthquake. He urged those on the streets due to the earthquake to maintain social distancing norms.

A person walks past rubbles lying on a street after a 5.3-magnitude earthquake that hit near Zagreb, Croatia
A person walks past rubbles lying on a street after a 5.3-magnitude earthquake that hit near Zagreb, Croatia Photograph: Antonio Bat/EPA

Updated at 11.20am GMT

10.48am GMT

Albania has said it will suspend all commercial flights to and from the country from midnight, allowing only flag carrier Air Albania to fly to Turkey and operate humanitarian flights, the government and airport operator said.

The government had already cut all air and sea links with Italy, now the worst-hit country and home to 400,000 Albanians, after its first coronavirus case arrived from Italy a fortnight ago along with 120,000 returning Albanians.

There have been 76 coronavirus cases in Albania and two deaths.

10.37am GMT

We have had lots of people get in touch about lack of social distancing in the UK, with people going out in the sunny weather.

A reader from the Lake District – a popular holiday destination in north-west England – did not want to be named but said:

People are escaping to the countryside for days out as normal.

The National Trust shut all its properties, but kept the outdoor places open for people to exercise. They had to reverse this decision overnight as thousands of tourists saw the sunny weather as an opportunity to have a day out. Many of the properties where busier that a normal bank holiday weekend. This is just not acceptable.

The rural areas just can’t cope with this kinds of influx of visitors at this time. Our healthcare system in the Lakes is only meant for the 500,000 permanent residents. It’s already being overwhelmed.

The local community is trying its best to get the message across that we aren’t welcoming visitors at the moment, but it just doesn’t seem to be working. We are overrun. Car parks have turned into campsites, and our small local co-ops are now empty as they can’t keep up with demand from tourists. All the holiday cottages and second homes are full.

Updated at 10.52am GMT

10.24am GMT

Australia announces restrictions on businesses

The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has announced restrictions on businesses but has said schools will remain open. In a press conference, which is ongoing – you can follow it on our dedicated Australia live blog – he said that Australians had been disregarding advice on social distancing. In response, he announced that from tomorrow at midday, the following businesses will be closed or restricted in their trade:

  • Registered and licensed clubs
  • Licensed premises in hotels and pubs.
  • Entertainment venues and cinemas, casinos and nightclubs.
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restrict to takeaway only.
  • Indoor sporting venues.
  • Places of worship.
  • Enclosed spaces for funerals and things of that nature will have to follow the strict four square metre rule which will be enforced.

10.17am GMT

Hong Kong has reported 44 more cases confirmed over the past 24 hours, the city’s second highest daily increase to date, RTHK reports.

The highest daily toll to date was the 48 confirmed on Friday. The total number of confirmed cases in Hong Kong now stands at 317.

Out of the 44 new cases, 29 had recently come back to Hong Kong from abroad, including nine students who had just returned to Hong Kong, RTHK says.

10.09am GMT

NHS nurses are being made to use various items they can find – including bin bags – in the hospital to help protect themselves, with many using plastic aprons over their head, buying wellies or wrapping clinical waste bags around their feet.

One nurse, who did not wish to be named, said:

Widespread nurses are making their own PPE [personal protective equipment]. I know friends I trained with doing the same. We have to protect ourselves, some of us have children and babies. We are trying to help people but have to protect families. I don’t know why we are not getting PPE.

She added:

I don’t think it’s about money but management. Some third world countries are dealing properly with this pandemic but we are not. We are doing our best – really doing our best but in terms of the equipment needed to help patients they are failing. Ventilators, for example. If we have unwell patients but no ITU [intensive treatment unit] capacity we can’t do much.

Nurses in the Royal Free hospital in north London have been tying clinical waste bags around their legs, the Guardian has been told. In North Middlesex hospital they have been tying plastic aprons around their heads.

10.07am GMT

Seven more deaths in Wales

A further seven patients in Wales who tested positive for coronavirus have died, bringing the total to 12, the chief medical officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, has said.

9.54am GMT

Iran cases jump to 21,638, with 129 more deaths

Iran has also issued its latest figures, which show the death toll has risen to 1,685, an increase of 129 in 24 hours, and the number of cases has risen by 1,028 to 21,638.

Updated at 9.56am GMT

9.49am GMT

German infections rise by 1,948 to 18,610 as nine more people die

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has risen by 1,948 to 18,610, and the number of deaths has increased by nine to 55, the country’s public health institute has said.

Updated at 9.56am GMT

9.35am GMT

Covid-19 could pose a threat to Africa’s endangered mountain gorilla, conservationists have warned. From AP:

Congo’s Virunga National Park, home to about a third of the world’s mountain gorillas, is barring visitors until 1 June, citing advice from scientific experts indicating that primates, including mountain gorillas, are likely susceptible to complications arising from the Covid-19 virus.

Neighboring Rwanda also is temporarily shutting down tourism and research activities in three national parks that are home to primates such as gorillas and chimpanzees.

Mountain gorillas are prone to some respiratory illnesses that afflict humans. A common cold can kill a gorilla, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, one reason why tourists tracking gorillas are not normally permitted to get too close.

Paula Kahumbu, chief executive of the Kenya-based conservation group WildlifeDirect, told The Associated Press that every possible effort must be made to protect mountain gorillas because so few are left in the wild. She said:

We know that gorillas are very sensitive to human diseases. If anyone has a cold or a flu they are not allowed to go and see the gorillas. With coronavirus having such a long time of no symptoms in some cases, it means that we could actually put those gorillas at risk.

Even existing measures may not be enough to protect them.

A baby mountain gorilla clings to the back of its mother, on Mount Bisoke volcano in Volcanoes National Park, northern Rwanda.
A baby mountain gorilla clings to the back of its mother, on Mount Bisoke volcano in Volcanoes National Park, northern Rwanda. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP

9.19am GMT

A UK pet shop chain, Pets At Home, has been criticised for claiming key worker status for its staff. Schools in the UK have closed but children of those classified as key workers are still allowed to attend. A letter from Pets At Home tells schools to contact their legal department in case of questions.

The general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers has responded:

9.03am GMT

The UK communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, has reiterated government warnings for people to maintain social distancing, refusing to dismiss the idea of an Italian-style lockdown if needed to curb the further spread of the virus. He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday:

We want to continue in a free society. But this isn’t a game, people need to follow the advice.

Discussing a plan announced overnight to write to 1.5m people perceived as vulnerable due to underlying health conditions, urging them to stay indoors for 12 weeks, with provision for care packages to be sent to them, Jenrick said these people could remain with other household members, saying he is “not expecting families to be broken up”.

Jenrick said that while people should stay healthy and go out for exercise, he said they should not pack together in parks, and stay physically apart from people

Failure to follow the advice could see the NHS overwhelmed, he warned, even with measures to increase critical care capacity:

We’re doing all the things we can, but let’s be clear, the numbers are rising, we need to follow the advice of healthcare professions.

8.57am GMT

Indonesia has confirmed 10 new deaths from Covid-19 and 64 new cases, taking the respective totals to 48 and 514.

On Saturday, Indonesia reported six deaths and 81 new cases.

The south-east Asian country has turned its athletes village built for the 2018 Asian Games into an emergency hospital with a capacity to hold more than 4,000 patients, it announced earlier today.

An Indonesian Red Cross Society employee sprays disinfectant at the Kemayoran Athletes Village
An Indonesian Red Cross Society employee sprays disinfectant at the Kemayoran Athletes Village Photograph: Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana/Reuters

8.50am GMT

A group of almost 4,000 NHS workers in the UK have pleaded with the prime minister, Boris Johnson, to ensure they have adequate protective equipment to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

In an open letter to The Sunday Times, the medics have called on Johnson to “protect the lives of the life-savers” and resolve the “unacceptable” shortage of protective equipment.

The group said many medical workers are “putting their lives on the line every day” by treating coronavirus patients without appropriate protection, and they called on the prime minister to ensure an adequate supply of masks, safety glasses, gloves, aprons and protective suits.

The letter, signed by 3,963 front-line NHS staff, reads:

Front-line doctors have been telling us for weeks that they do not feel safe at work.

Intensive care doctors and anaesthetists have told us they have been carrying out the highest-risk procedure, putting a patient on a ventilator, with masks that expired in 2015.

The letter adds that paediatricians have warned their stocks of protective glasses would run out in 48 hours, including in special-care baby units.

One acute care worker reported one NHS trust had run out of its stock of masks last weekend, the letter said. It continued:

GPs have told us they feel abandoned; many have been left without any protection for weeks and do not even have simple masks to protect them if a patient comes in with symptoms of Covid-19.

The group also said ambulance workers had been arriving for shifts to find no hand sanitiser, masks or wipes were available.

8.37am GMT

Iran’s supreme leader has today refused US humanitarian assistance to fight the new coronavirus, citing an unfounded conspiracy theory that the virus could be man-made by America.

Washington has offered to help Iran while refusing to lift crushing sanctions blocking the country from selling its crude oil and accessing international financial markets.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said:

Possibly your (offered) medicine is a way to spread the virus more, Khamenei said. Or if you send therapists and doctors, maybe he wants to see the effect of the poison, since it is said that part of the virus is built for Iran.

There is no scientific proof offered anywhere in the world to support Khamenei’s comments. Earlier this month, Chinese government spokesman Lijian Zhao tweeted that it might be US army who brought the epidemic – described by Donald Trump as the Chinese virus – to Wuhan.

Khamenei made the comments in a speech in Tehran broadcast live across Iran marking Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

Iran has over 20,600 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus amid 1,556 reported deaths.

8.22am GMT

Romania confirms first death from coronavirus

Romania has today confirmed its first death in the due to coronavirus, Reuters reports.

The deceased was a 67-year-old man who had been suffering from terminal cancer, the government said. He was confirmed to be infected with coronavirus on 18 March and was being treated in a hospital in the southern Romanian city of Craiova.

Romania, which has recorded 367 cases of coronavirus to date, declared a state of emergency on 16 March.

Updated at 8.24am GMT

8.21am GMT

This video is of Piccadilly in London’s West End, one of the capital’s busiest districts, which would usually be packed full of revellers and tourists on a Saturday night.

8.13am GMT

Hello, this is Haroon taking over from Helen. If you want to get in touch you can contact me via the following channels:

Twitter: @Haroon_Siddique

Email: haroon[dot]siddique[at]theguardian[dot]com

Due to the volume of messages we receive I may not be able to reply to or acknowledge each one but thank you in advance.

8.06am GMT

The latest developments at a glance

That’s all from me for now. I’ll leave you in the capable hands of my colleague Haroon Siddique. Take care.

  • The Russian military will send medical help to Italy from today, including mobile disinfection vehicles and medical specialists.
  • Malaysia has sent the army to the streets to enforce restrictions which people appear to be defying. The country has one of the highest rates of infection in Southeast Asia.
  • China is diverting all Beijing-bound international flights to other airports for checks before allowing them to continue.
  • Singapore has banned the entry and transit of all foreigners, except those with work permits in essential services.
  • Hawaii became the first US state to require 14 days quarantine for all arrivals.
  • Multiple Australian states will effectively close borders, requiring 14 days quarantine for all arrivals from Tuesday.
  • NSW, the ACT and Victoria have ordered the shutdown of non-essential services from tomorrow.
  • India has announced a curfew from 7am to 9pm Delhi time.
  • The Italian PM ordered businesses to close all operations.
  • More than 50,000 people queued to see the Olympic flame in northeast Japan. Meanwhile Olympic officials are reportedly workshopping delaying the games despite the Japanese government’s insistence it go ahead.
  • UK military planners have been drafted in to help feed vulnerable people.
  • Italy reported 793 deaths in a single day, and 6557 new cases
  • Thailand has reported 188 new cases on Saturday.
  • Australia – 276
  • South Korea – 98
  • Indonesia – 81
  • Mexico – 48
  • Philippines – 73
  • Afghanistan – 10
  • Mainland China – 46, including the first domestic case in four days.
  • Argentina – 67, with the security minister not ruling out declaring a state of siege.
  • Palestinian health officials have reported the first two cases in the Gaza Strip.
  • The Caribbean region has surpassed 400 cases.
  • Colombia recorded its first death.
  • Guam reported the first death in the Pacific region.
  • Bolivia has postponed its presidential elections.
  • Former Real Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz has died of Covid-19.

Updated at 8.22am GMT

7.58am GMT

Indonesia has turned its “Athlete’s Village” built for the 2018 Asian Games into an emergency hospital with a capacity to hold more than 4,000 patients, authorities said on Sunday, as coronavirus cases and deaths in the country rose.

Four out of 10 towers in the Athlete’s Village, located in the country’s capital city, have been converted into a medical facility that would house more than 7,000 people, including a coronavirus task force, medical staff and up to 4,208 patients.

“The ministry of state-owned enterprises will provide supplies for the emergency hospital to handle COVID-19, be it healthcare equipment, medicine, personal protection gear and masks,” the minister of state-owned enterprises, Erick Thohir, said in a statement.

On Saturday, Indonesia confirmed 81 new cases and 6 more deaths due to the virus, bringing the total number of cases to 450 and deaths to 38. Indonesia has the highest coronavirus death toll in Southeast Asia.

7.21am GMT

From Reuters: Malaysia has deployed the army to enforce a two-week curb on travel in a country that has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia, most of them linked to a mass religious gathering.

The country has so far reported nine deaths and 1,183 infections. Southeast Asia has recorded a total of more than 3,200 positive cases, with the other big centres being Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines.

Malaysia called in the army after some people continued to defy the restrictions that came into force on Wednesday, the defence minister said in a briefing after the deployment started at noon.

“Even though police have said 90% compliance now, 10% is not a small number,” Ismail Sabri Yaakob said.

“Among the things that will be done jointly by the police and army include road blocks. Likewise for patrols in urban and rural areas, maintaining security at hospitals, managing areas that are congested and may not abide by the order such as markets.”

Soldiers in face masks maintain a checkpoint in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Sunday, March 22, 2020. Malaysian government issued a movement order to the public starting from March 18 until March 31 to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
Soldiers in face masks maintain a checkpoint in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Sunday, March 22, 2020. Malaysian government issued a movement order to the public starting from March 18 until March 31 to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. Photograph: Vincent Thian/AP

A four-day Islamic gathering held at a mosque near the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur is connected to 60% of all the cases in the country, whose tally is only behind those of China and South Korea in Asia.

Worshippers who attended the event are cooperating with authorities, an organiser said in a statement, after the government said on Thursday that it had yet to trace 4,000 of the 14,500 Malaysian residents who attended.

The health ministry said on Saturday it expected the number of cases to spike next week as it tried to track down unscreened participants of the Feb. 27-March 1 congregation.

“After hearing reports of thousands or participants yet to be screened, many had returned to their district health departments or hospitals repeatedly until their names and details were recorded,” Abdullah Cheong, a leader of the event’s organising team, said on Saturday.

“We are prepared and have given our full commitment to help the authorities deal with the pandemic.”

He also said 12,500 people attended the gathering, including foreigners and 200 Rohingya refugees. The government has put the number at 16,000.

7.11am GMT

6.58am GMT

Afghanistan reports 10 new cases of people with Covid-19

From my colleague Akhtar Mohammad Makoii in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has reported 10 new coronavirus cases in last 24 hours raising the total cases to 34.

Two foreign diplomats are included. The health ministry said in a press conference in Kabul that the diplomats were infected by the coronavirus while abroad. They were not identified publicly.

He also asked authorities to quarantine the western city of Herat, which neighbours Iran and is the most affected city in the country. 18 of the 34 cases were found in Herat, and concerns are high, with thousands of Afghans crossing the border each day from Iran.

6.31am GMT

The Russian military will start sending medical help to Italy from Sunday in order to help it battle the new coronavirus after receiving an order from President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Putin spoke to Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Saturday, the Kremlin said, saying the Russian leader had offered his support and help in the form of mobile disinfection vehicles and specialists to help the worst hit Italian regions.

Italy recorded a jump in deaths from coronavirus of almost 800 on Saturday, taking the toll in the world’s hardest-hit country to almost 5,000.

The Russian Defence Ministry said military transport planes would deliver eight mobile brigades of military medics, special disinfection vehicles, and other medical equipment to Italy starting from Sunday.

Russia itself has reported 306 cases of the virus, most of them in Moscow, and one coronavirus-related death.

6.19am GMT

China’s aviation regulator said on Sunday that all international flights due to arrive in Beijing would be diverted to other airports as their first port of entry beginning on Monday, as the country steps up measures to battle the coronavirus.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said incoming international flights to Beijing would land at one of 12 other designated airports, where passengers would be screened. Passengers who were cleared would then be permitted to reboard the plane, which would take them on to Beijing, it said.

6.06am GMT

More than 50,000 people queued to see the Olympic flame in northeastern Japan on Saturday.

Honestly.

Some people stood in the 500m queue for hours, according to local media.

The flame arrived in Japan to a scaled-down welcoming ceremony on Friday as doubts grew over whether the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will go ahead on schedule as the deadly virus causes chaos around the world.

It was displayed at Sendai station in Miyagi, chosen as part of the “Recovery Olympics” to showcase the region’s revival after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.

The pandemic has already shredded the global sports calendar, with top sports leagues suspended and major tournaments postponed.

People queue as they try to watch the Olympic cauldron during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Flame of Recovery tour at Sendai StationPeople wearing protective face masks following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), queue as they try to watch the Olympic cauldron during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Flame of Recovery tour at Sendai Station, Miyagi prefecture, Japan March 21, 2020, in this photo taken by Kyodo.
People queue as they try to watch the Olympic cauldron during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Flame of Recovery tour at Sendai Station
People wearing protective face masks following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), queue as they try to watch the Olympic cauldron during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Flame of Recovery tour at Sendai Station, Miyagi prefecture, Japan March 21, 2020, in this photo taken by Kyodo.
Photograph: KYODO/Reuters

5.56am GMT

A brilliant visualisation of how and why isolation and distancing is so important to stop people dying.

5.42am GMT

Another Australian state is effectively closing its borders by requiring all entrants to undergo 14 days quarantine.

The Western Australian border will close at 1.30pm Tuesday, at the same time as South Australia and the Northern Territory. The WA police commissioner Chis Dawson indicated that self-isolation would occur at the point of arrival.

Exemptions will be made for freight, essential services, and 2,500 “critical” staff in the mining and oil and gas industries, who are based interstate but will be allowed to fly in.

The WA government is looking to acquire hotels in order to house people who have nowhere appropriate to undergo self-isolation, or who don’t want to self-isolate. Rottnest Island, a former prison turned into a tourist destination, could be appropriated for this purpose.

More details on our Australia-focused live blog here.

Updated at 7.09am GMT

5.30am GMT

Two people are dead and six wounded in a protest at a Sri Lankan prison where guards fired on inmates to prevent them from fleeing.

Prisoners at the Anuradhapura prison, about 200km from Colombo, were complaining about the decision by the authorities not to allow visitors as a move to contain the virus.

Senaka Perera, president of the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners, said the inmates were protesting congested conditions and the poor quality of meals after the government banned visitors for two weeks to prevent the spread of the virus. Visitors often bring home-cooked food.

Sri Lanka’s prisons are overcrowded, sometimes housing 5,000 inmates in a facility capable of holding 800, according to the pressure group.

Tensions erupted Saturday at the prison when guards tried to control the riot, police said. In the commotion, guards opened fire to prevent inmates from fleeing, police said.

Sri Lanka has imposed a three-day countrywide curfew since Friday as the number of cases has risen to 77.

5.21am GMT

Netflix Inc said it will cut traffic by 25% on networks across Europe in a relief measure for internet service providers (ISPs) experiencing a surge in usage due to government “shelter in place” orders aimed at slowing the coronavirus outbreak.

The streaming giant, which has already deployed a way to reduce its traffic on networks in Italy and Spain by a quarter, on Saturday said it would do the same for the rest of Europe in the next two days.

Netflix said it will remove the highest bandwidth streams within each resolution category for the next 30 days in Europe wherein users might notice a slight decrease in video quality within each category.

Amazon’s Prime Video and YouTube have also committed to slowing their speeds, as has Disney+ which launches in a couple of days.

5.01am GMT

188 new confirmed cases in Thailand

Thailand reported 188 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, its largest daily increase, taking the total to 599 cases, a senior health official said.

The majority of the new infections are connected to a previous cluster of cases from a boxing stadium, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a Public Health Ministry spokesman, told a news conference adding one patient had recovered.

“Most of the new cases were found in Bangkok and were among young people who continue to have social activities, which can lead to more infections,” he said urging the public to stay home.

There has been one death in Thailand.

4.38am GMT

Two female nurses at a medical centre in Japan have contracted the virus, Kyodo newswire said, according to Reuters. One of the nurses was in her 20s and another in her 50s, taking the total at the facility in Oita prefecture to 14.

The south-western prefecture is conducting virus tests for about 600 staff and patients who are or were hospitalised, the newswire said, with the view that they may be linked to a cluster.

Japan has 1,055 domestically transmitted cases, up 40 from the previous day.

4.12am GMT

The outbreak is gathering pace in Latin America.

Colombia has recorded its first death late on Saturday. The victim was a 58-year-old taxi driver from the coastal city of Cartagena, the health ministry said in a statement. Earlier this month he had two Italian tourists in his taxi and two days later presented the first symptoms, the ministry said, adding the man had untreated hypertension and diabetes.

A woman wearing a face mask in Bogota.
A woman wearing a face mask in Bogota. Photograph: Reuters

The patient was first treated on 13 March and died three days later. Two tests for coronavirus came back negative, the statement said, but one was taken incorrectly.

Ecuador’s health and labor ministers resigned on Saturday, just hours after officials announced the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus had shot up to over 500 in the country. The government declared a state of emergency last week, prohibiting travellers from entering and imposing a night-time curfew.

Updated at 4.13am GMT

3.50am GMT

3.32am GMT

Singapore bans entry and transit of visitors

Singapore has just declared a raft of restrictions and bans on entrants.

According to the Straits Times, Singapore will ban all short term visitors from entering or transiting, from 11.59pm Monday.

The only foreigners allowed to return to Singapore will be work pass holders and their dependents, and only if they work in an essential services sector like healthcare or transport.

This is a big expansion on the previous measures which allowed people (apart from a small number of countries) to go to Singapore as long as they underwent 14 days of mandatory quarantine.

It follows news on Saturday of the first two deaths in Singapore from Covid-19 – a 75-year-old Singaporean woman and a 64-year-old Indonesian man.

Updated at 3.57am GMT

3.19am GMT

News America is reporting the number of Covid-19 diagnoses in the Caribbean has surpassed 400.

According to the report the Dominican Republic has the highest number of people confirmed to have Covid-19, with 40 new cases reported on Saturday, bringing the total to 112. Trinidad and Tobago reported 40 new cases on Saturday, having only previously had nine.

There were 10 new deaths reported across the region on Sunday.

One person has died on Guadaloupe, where 56 vases have been confirmed, and one person has died on Martinique where the total number of cases is 37.

It reports the only places without any cases are Belize, Grenada, Turks & Caicos, Anguilla, and the British Virgin Islands.

3.08am GMT

Amazon is raising overtime pay for associates working in its US warehouses as the world’s largest online retailer tries to meet the rapidly growing demand for online shopping from consumers stuck at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

CEO Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, said in a message posted on the company website on Saturday: “My own time and thinking is now wholly focused on Covid-19 and on how Amazon can best play its role.”

Hourly workers at Amazon’s US warehouses will receive double pay after 40 hours for overtime, up from the 1.5-times rate, from March 15 through May 9, the rate increase announcement said.

This is the second time the e-commerce giant announced an increase in pay for its workers in a week. On Monday, Amazon hiked the minimum hourly rate for associates to from and announced plans to hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers in the United States as the virus outbreak boosts online orders.

Amazon has offered unlimited unpaid time off to encourage employees to stay home if they do not feel well. It has also staggered workers’ shifts and prohibited employees from sitting next to each other in the lunchroom to limit contact.

2.50am GMT

At least 38 people have tested positive for coronavirus in New York City jails, including at the notorious Rikers Island jail complex, the board that oversees the city’s jail system said Saturday.

In the past six days the Board of Correction learned that at least 12 Department of Correction employees, five Correctional Health Services employees, and 21 inmates have tested positive for the virus.

In a letter to criminal justice leaders, the board’s interim chairwoman Jacqueline Sherman wrote that at least 58 other people were currently being monitored in contagious disease and quarantine units.

It is likely these people have been in hundreds of housing areas and common areas over recent weeks and have been in close contact with many other people in custody and staff, Sherman warned, predicting a sharp rise in the number of infections.

At least 38 people have tested positive for coronavirus in New York City jails, including at the notorious Rikers Island jail complex.
At least 38 people have tested positive for coronavirus in New York City jails, including at the notorious Rikers Island jail complex. Photograph: Seth Wenig/AP

New York has consistently downplayed the number of infections, The Associated Press has found in conversations with current and former inmates.

More than 2.2 million people are incarcerated in the United States more than anywhere in the world and there are growing fears that an outbreak could spread rapidly through a vast network of federal and state prisons, county jails and detention centres.

With limited capacity nationally to test for COVID-19, men and women inside worry that they are last in line when showing flu-like symptoms, meaning that some may be infected without knowing it.

The first positive tests from inside prisons and jails started tricking out just over a week ago, with less than two dozen officers and staff infected in other facilities from California and Michigan to Pennsylvania.

2.33am GMT

South Australia has followed Tasmania and the Northern Territory in effectively closing its state borders, enforcing any new arrival to undergo 14 days of quarantine.

South Australia, like the Northern Territory and Queensland (which closed its NT border earlier this week) has a number of remote Indigenous communities. These communities are extremely vulnerable and any outbreak would be devastating.

2.18am GMT

New cases in South Korea, Mexico, Philippines

South Korea reported 98 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing national infections to 8,897, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The daily increase showed a continued downward trend in new cases, despite a slight jump on Saturday.

Mexican health authorities said on Saturday that there are 251 confirmed coronavirus cases in Mexico, 48 more cases than a day earlier.

The Philippines’ health ministry has confirmed 73 new cases, bringing the country’s total to 380.

Updated at 2.58am GMT

2.08am GMT

India announces curfew

India launched a 14-hour long curfew on Sunday to limit the fast-spreading coronavirus epidemic in the country, where 315 people have so far been found to have contracted the disease.

The prime minister, Narendra Modi, in an address to the nation last week urged citizens to stay indoors from 7am to 9pm Delhi time – a move that he said would be a crucial test for a country to assess its abilities to fight the pandemic.

“Let us all be a part of this curfew, which will add tremendous strength to the fight against the Covid-19 menace,” Modi tweeted minutes before the curfew commenced. “The steps we take now will help in the times to come,’ he said in the tweet.

Updated at 2.12am GMT

1.57am GMT

First Covid-19 death in the Pacific

Guam has reported the death of an 68-year-old woman from the Covid-19 illness, Radio New Zealand has reported.

According to Dr Mike Cruz, who is leading Guam’s virus response, the woman had “multiple co-morbidities”, including end-stage renal disease. She was the relative of a person who returned to Guam with Covid-19.

“Five of the first 14 confirmed cases had recent travel, most of which is linked to the Philippines,” Dr Cruz said on Sunday.

“There is strong evidence that Covid-19 cases has spread throughout our community and has affected residents in the northern, central and southern villages,” he added.

There are 15 confirmed cases in Guam, where the government has declared a major disaster. It has more cases than any other Pacific Island nation, and the woman’s death is the first in the region.

1.49am GMT

From Reuters: North Korea on Saturday welcomed what it said was a letter from US president Donald Trump to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying it was a sign of “the special and very firm personal relations” between the two leaders despite recent frictions.

A senior Trump administration official confirmed Trump sent the letter and said it was “consistent with his efforts to engage global leaders during the ongoing pandemic”.

The president looks forward to continued communications with chairman Kim, the official said.

North Korea state media KCNA said Kim had received a letter from Trump in which the US president said he was impressed by the North Korean leader’s efforts to defend his people from the coronavirus.

Trump “expressed his intent to render cooperation in the anti-epidemic work, saying that he was impressed by the efforts made by the Chairman to defend his people from the serious threat of the epidemic,” KCNA reported in a statement carried by Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong.

The report came after North Korea’s missile test on Saturday, which prompted South Korea to urge an immediate halt of “inappropriate action” in the face of the global pandemic.

1.42am GMT

China confirms new domestic case

For the first time in four days China has reported a new domestic case of the virus.

The case is one of 46 new confirmed diagnoses in mainland China, which is the fourth straight day of an increase.

A record 14 were in the financial hub of Shanghai, and 13 were reported in the capital Beijing, a decline from 21 the previous day.

As in other Asian nations which had appeared to get their outbreaks under control, China is now fearful of a second wave brought in by people coming into the country.

1.29am GMT

Hawaii to enforce quarantine for arrivals

In the Pacific island state of Hawaii, governor David Ige has just announced a mandatory 14 day quarantine period for any new arrival. It is the first US state to enact such measures.

The process is much the same as that in other places – on arrival at the airport passengers must declare where they intend to self-isolate for 14 days, and go straight there. They can only leave for medical emergencies or to seek medical care.

The order carries a penalty of up to ,000 or a year in prison for any breaches.

Ige says 2,500 tests have been conducted in Hawaii. On Saturday 11 new cases were reported, including two cases of community transmission.

Updated at 1.31am GMT

1.23am GMT

Back at the press conference with Australia’s PM:

There is an extraordinary story in Australia this weekend, where almost 2,700 people were allowed to disembark a cruiseship in Sydney despite several people on board testing positive. Some of those passengers have since travelled on to other places in Australia.

Neither the NSW state government or the federal immigration authorities want to take responsibility for the potentially disastrous oversight.

Morrison says he isn’t going to get into commentary on it.

“On every occasion things will not go exactly as we might like it,” he says.

“People are working under extreme stress, often with limited information and we are going to support those people to make the best decisions they can and the states and territories standing shoulder to shoulder with each other and the Commonwealth.”

Morrison is asked about the possibility of repatriation flights for Australians overseas who are trying to follow the advice to return from overseas but really can’t get home.

He says people stuck on cruise ships and in Peru are the most extreme examples, and says everyone should contact the department of foreign affairs and trade.

“This is one of the many challenges we’re working on but at this stage I’m not going to advance the possibility of any [repatriation flights].”

1.10am GMT

From my colleague Uki Goñi in Argentina:

Argentina could declare a state of siege to enforce the mandatory nationwide lockdown that started Friday, said Security Minister Sabina Frederic, amid concerns about the social effect of the spread of the coronavirus here. “It’s an extreme measure that we’re trying to avoid,” said the minister.

The number of coronavirus cases leapt to 225 Saturday, an increase of 67 cases, more than double the previous highest leap. Four deaths have been reported since the first case was detected on March 5.

Not all Argentinians are obeying the enforced quarantine, however. Authorities reported 3200 arrests for violating it since it went into effect Friday.

Political leaders are worried that the stoppage imposed on many sectors of the economy could lead to supermarket lootings in some poverty-stricken districts in the Greater Buenos Aires area, in a country where over a third of the population lives below the poverty line.

A man plays guitar on a tenement balcony during the second day of total quarantine in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
A man plays guitar on a tenement balcony during the second day of total quarantine in Buenos Aires on Saturday. Photograph: Ricardo Ceppi/Getty Images

“It’s inevitable thinking that looting might occur,” Buenos Aires province security minister Sergio Berni told the press. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, but we have to be prepared.”

The large number of arrests includes two German tourists, aged 28 and 35, who escaped isolation from a hotel in the central city of Córdoba Tuesday. They were caught Saturday at Ezeiza international airport trying to board a plane to neighbouring Brazil. They are being held pending expulsion back to Germany.

There was nonetheless some good news for Argentinians, with the announcement that all consumer bank debt, including the payment of credit card debt, has been postponed by government order.

“The deadline for all debt with financial entities that fall due between March 20 and March 31, 2020, have been postponed until April 1,” the Central Bank announced.

1.07am GMT

Australia bans all non-essential domestic travel

The Australian government is banning all non-essential domestic travel as it unveils a Abn stimulus program to deal with the virus impact.

It has warned of more draconian measures to come.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has also flagged localised lockdowns after seeing people defy warnings and fill beaches yesterday.

What happened at Bondi Beach yesterday was not OK.

And served as a message to federal and state leaders that too many Australians are not taking these issues seriously enough.

So the measures that we will be considering tonight means that state premiers and chief ministers may have to take far more Draconian measures to enforce social distancing particularly in areas of outbreaks than might otherwise be the case.

You can get more details on this over at the Australian-focused live blog.

12.54am GMT

Incredibly, people across multiple countries are still ignoring warnings to stay home.

We’ve seen the pictures of Australia’s Bondi Beach, and we heard earlier from a UK dentist in Skegness, in Lincolnshire, warning of a “disaster waiting to happen” as thousands of people flocked to his seaside town in spite of official guidance to stay at home.

“I view these actions as massively, massively socially irresponsible. I personally think that those involved should be ashamed of themselves,” said Dr Mitchell Clark.

Clark joined the local police and crime commissioner in urging for local businesses to shutter their shops and for caravan parks to be closed.

It appears similar things are happening in Scotland.

Claudio Nardini, a takeaway shop operator at Largs on the west coast, has pleaded with people to stay home.

We decided to remain open to provide a takeaway service for what I thought would be a few people grabbing the opportunity to appreciate a walk along Largs prom.

Staying open a few more days also allows us to wind things down in and business sense meaning less waste and staff completing their planned shifts.

I can’t believe how busy the prom was. Crowds of people walking hand in hand, hugging, grandmothers holding babies, teenagers sharing drinks, elderly people galore mingling with others of all ages. Wow! Just Wow!

Now, I have strong links to two other countries in Europe and have witnessed this virus develop by talking regularly to family in both Italy and Spain. This nonchalant attitude was rife in both those countries only a couple of weeks ago.

Everyone at work today was overcome with a strange feeling of guilt, almost as if we were contributing to this madness. For this reason we have decided to completely close this evening until this whole thing blows over.

An announcement not long ago pointed out it’s spreading faster here than it did at this stage in both Italy or Spain. Please please please stay at home if you can, I couldn’t bear seeing what is happening to my relatives happen here too.

12.23am GMT

Summary

Welcome to our continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. This is Helen Davidson here to take you through the next few hours of developments.

Here’s what’s happened recently:

  • UK military planners drafted in to help feed vulnerable. Key military officials are to help ensure food and medicines reach vulnerable people isolated at home during the coronavirus crisis, as part of a nationwide campaign to protect more than a million people most at risk of being hospitalised.
  • Italian PM orders businesses to close all operations. Italy’s government announced the closure of all “non-essential production activities” across the country, after the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak rose by 793 to 4,825 on Saturday. “Grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open,” said the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte. “But all the rest of the non-essential production activities, including plants and offices, will close down.”
  • Former Real Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz dies of Covid-19.The former Real Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz has died of coronavirus aged 76, La Liga announced on Saturday. Sanz, Real’s president from 1995 to 2000, had been admitted to hospital with a fever and tested positive for the virus.
  • Rihanna pledges m to curb coronavirus. Rihanna has become the latest celebrity to join the effort to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. The singer’s Clara Lionel Foundation announced on Saturday that it has donated million to a number of organisations responding to the outbreak.
  • Bolivian presidential elections postponed amid coronavirus outbreak. Bolivia’s interim government announced on Saturday it would postpone presidential elections originally slated for May 3 and institute a mandatory countrywide quarantine for 14 days as coronavirus spread across the Andean nation. The country’s electoral authority said in a statement it would “suspend the elections calendar” for 14 days to match the quarantine, but did not set a new date for the vote.
  • Britons stranded in Peru could be flown home early next week.Hundreds of Britons stranded in Peru due to the coronavirus pandemic could be flown home early next week, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has said. More than 400 British and Irish citizens are believed to be in the Andean nation and have been unable to leave following a 15-day government lockdown imposed since Monday.
  • First coronavirus cases in Gaza Strip. The first two cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the densely-populated Gaza Strip, Palestinian health officials said.

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US NEWS, World

Biden sweeps to victory in coronavirus affected primaries – live updates

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “US Senate votes to expand free Covid-19 testing and paid leave – as it happened” was written by Maanvi Singh in San Francisco (now), Joan E Greve, Adam Gabbatt and Martin Belam (earlier), for theguardian.com on Thursday 19th March 2020 00.25 UTC

12.22am GMT

Summary

  • Ice will temporarily shift its priorities amid the coronavirus pandemic, delaying arrests of foreign nationals except for those who have committed crimes.
  • A Florida representative said that he tested positive for coronavirus, marking the first case in Congress.
  • The iconic New York Stock Exchange will close floor trading beginning on Monday. Electronic trading will continue.
  • After invoking the Defense Production Act to help make up for medical supply shortages, Donald Trump walked back the move, adding to the confusion surrounding his administration’s coronavirus response.
  • The Senate passed the second coronavirus bill, which expands paid sick leave and provides funding for free testing, on a vote of 90-8. It now heads to Trump’s desk for his signature.
  • The Dow closed down more than 1,300 points, marking another dismal day for the markets as investors panic over the coronavirus crisis. With today’s drop, nearly all the stock market gains since Trump took office have been wiped out.
  • Bernie Sanders’ campaign said he was assessing the path forward for his presidential bid, after Joe Biden completed a three-state sweep last night and moved closer toward securing the Democratic nomination.
  • The US-Canadian border will be closed to all non-essential travel in the hope of mitigating the spread of coronavirus. Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the two countries had mutually agreed to the closure.

Updated at 12.25am GMT

12.04am GMT

The temporary policies that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has announced in response to the coronavirus pandemic resemble the Obama administration’s “felons, not families” approach.

Under the previous administration, immigrants without serious criminal offenses were often spared deportation. Donald Trump changed priorities, and his administration has often underscored that all undocumented immigrants are subject to deportation.

The new Ice policy comes after immigration lawyers joined with labor unions representing Ice prosecutors and immigration judges to ask the Justice Department to temporarily close the immigration courts. Though there are no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ice detention facilities, doctors and public health officials have warned that detained populations are at high risk.

It’s unclear whether the 37,000 people already in Ice detention will remain there. Overcrowding at detention facilities puts not only those who are detained but also enforcement agents and officers at risk, according to the internal watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Ice.

Although no cases of coronavirus have been confirmed at detention centers, one person was evaluated with coronavirus symptoms at a facility in San Diego. Another center in Washington state’s King’s county closed for two weeks due to concerns that an employee was infected.

The enforcement agency has not said for how long the new policies will be in place.

Updated at 12.15am GMT

11.47pm GMT

FLOTUS to star in coronavirus PSAs

Melania Trump
Melania Trump
Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Melania Trump will appear in public service announcements that “address the “important ways Americans can protect themselves and those most at risk” from contracting and spreading the coronavirus, according to the White House.

Coronavirus PSAs featuring Surgeon General Jerome Adams, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx and other officials will also be nationally broadcast. It’s unclear when these will launch.

Melania Trump has been notably disengaged from the White House’s messaging on coronavirus thus far. On Tuesday, she tweeted, “Consider taking advantage of time working from home to connect with your loved ones via email or FaceTime, spend time w family, or work on your well-being by reading a book or spending time on a hobby,” apparently unaware that most people who work from home have to spend their time … working.

11.28pm GMT

Miami-Dade County will restrict of close all non-essential business, its mayor announced. Starting tomorrow, non-essential retail, private educational facilities and casinos will be closed.

“These actions are necessary to keep our community safe from the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring the continuity of essential services,” officials said in a statement.

The county declared a state of emergency last week. Now, food service establishments, bars and clubs have been ordered to close. Restaurants can remain open for takeout and delivery. Miami shut down its beach earlier after spring break revelers failed to practice social distancing.

11.14pm GMT

Ice confirms that it will “temporarily adjust its enforcement posture”.

The agency will focus “on public safety risks and individuals subject to mandatory detention based on criminal grounds,” it said in a statement. In all other cases agents “will exercise discretion to delay enforcement actions until after the crisis or utilize alternatives to detention, as appropriate,” the agency said.

10.59pm GMT

Ice to change enforcement policies

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is reportedly making changes to its policies, in response to the coronavirus pandemic according to multiple reports.

Updated at 11.40pm GMT

10.53pm GMT

Representatives reports first coronavirus case in Congress

Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican of Florida, has tested positive for coronavirus, he said in a statement. “I’m feeling much better,” he said. “However, it’s important that everyone take this seriously.”

Diaz-Balart appears to be the first member of Congress who has tested positive for the disease.

Updated at 11.41pm GMT

10.44pm GMT

Donald Trump’s walk-back of his decision to invoke the Defense Production Act isn’t the first time he’s vacillated. The president’s response to the pandemic has been hot and cold, writes Luke O’Neil:

On Monday this week Trump, seeming to finally take the threat seriously, said: “We have a problem that a month ago nobody ever thought about.”

The next day, attempting to rewrite history, he said he felt it was a pandemic long before it was declared a pandemic.

And then, on Wednesday morning: “I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning, including my very early decision to close the ‘borders’ from China – against the wishes of almost all. Many lives were saved.”

10.25pm GMT

The New York Stock Exchange’s decision to temporarily close the floor was prompted by the positive coronavirus test results of two people, Stacey Cunningham, President of the NYSE, told CNBC.

“We implemented a number a number of safety precautions over the past couple of weeks, and starting on Monday this week we started pre-emptive testing of employees and screening of anyone who came into the building,” Cunningham said on “Closing Bell.” “If that screening warranted additional testing, we tested people and they were sent home and not given access to the building. A couple of those test cases have come back positive.”

This is the first time the physical trading floor will be shut while electronic trading continues. The floor was previously closed during World War II and in the aftermath of 9/11.

10.16pm GMT

After invoking the Defense Production Act to help make up for medical supply shortages and deploy hospital ships to help mitigate the coronavirus pandemic, Donald Trump appears to be walking back the move.

Trump tweeted that he’d only signed an executive order signaling he’d invoke the DPA “should we need to invoke it in a worst case scenario in the future.”

The message contradicts his earlier statements. During the White House press briefing today, Trump said he sees himself “in a sense as a wartime president” after invoking an act established in 1950 in response to production needs during the Korean war as a response to the coronavirus crisis.

Trump’s executive order said he’d use the DPA to help provide “health and medical resources needed to respond to the spread of COVID-19, including personal protective equipment and ventilators.”

Updated at 10.19pm GMT

9.53pm GMT

McDaniel is one of nearly 60,000 people who have been tested in the US, as public health experts continue to raise concerns about shortages. The Guardian’s Lauren Aratani reports that not everyone who needs a test has been able to get one:

Who is getting tested in the US?

Decisions about who is getting tested are being made at the county and state level.

Broadly, CDC guidelines to healthcare professionals say that those tested must be showing symptoms, and priority is given to those who are in hospital, are at risk for the virus’s most deadly effects (elderly people and those with chronic medical conditions or weakened immune systems) or had known contact with a person who tested positive as priorities for testing. The CDC also says those who have a history of travel from “affected geographic areas” – China, Iran, South Korea and parts of Europe – should be prioritized.

But there appears to be no guarantee of a test. Over the past few weeks, there has been a flood of stories of people who are symptomatic and should be prioritized by testing, but were not: for example, the elderly husband of a coronavirus patient who died from the illness, healthcare workers who may have been exposed to the virus and countless numbers of symptomatic travelers to countries with known outbreaks.

Those who have been tested have often described frustrating experiences of being sent from one place to another seeking a test.

Fueling the frustration are stories of high-profile figures who have managed to get tested. The NBA got 58 tests within six hours for players of the Utah Jazz, though it is unclear how many players were actually showing symptoms. A fashion influencer who had body aches and a fever was tested with the help of a friend, after other doctors she spoke with told her she did not qualify for testing in New York state.

Updated at 9.54pm GMT

9.49pm GMT

The chair of the Republican party has tested negative for coronavirus.

Ronna McDaniel was tested, “on the advice of her doctor,” according to a spokesperson. “That test has, fortunately, come back negative.”

9.45pm GMT

One Native American tribe’s trailblazing coronavirus response:

The Lummi nation, a sovereign Native American tribe in the Pacific north-west, will soon open a pioneering field hospital to treat coronavirus patients, as part of a wave of strong public health measures which have gone further than many governments.

Tribal leaders have been preparing for Covid-19 since the virus first appeared in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, with medical staff beefing up emergency plans, reorganizing services and gathering medical supplies, including test kits and personal protective equipment.

The Lummi reservation is located in Whatcom county – 115 miles north of Seattle, Washington, where the first US Covid-19 case was confirmed in January, followed by the first death in February.

So far, the tribe has reported three Covid-19 cases, but expect numbers to rise as the pandemic progresses.

As the Trump administration stalled, the tribe swiftly introduced mitigation and prevention measures such as social distancing, drive-through testing, telemedicine clinics, and a home delivery service for the elderly.

The tribal council declared a state of emergency on 3 March – 10 days before Donald Trump did the same in the US – and approved m to prepare and respond for the evolving pandemic, which includes setting up the hospital.

9.33pm GMT

Donald Trump announced plans to formally nominate Russ Vought to direct the Office of Management and Budget. Vought has served as the acting director of the office for more than a year.

Vought has come under fire for doubling down on proposed cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last week, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, Matt Cartwright, a Democratic representative of Pennsylvania, pushed Vought on Trump’s proposal to cut Health and Human Services funding by .5 billion. The cut included a .2bn decrease to the CDC and a m decrease to the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund’s annual contribution.

“If you’re asking if I’m sending up a budget amendment, no, I’m not sending up a budget amendment,” Vought said.

The OMB later said that the CDC cuts in the budget didn’t affect infectious diseases and that Trump’s budget request included .3bn in funds for Infectious Diseases and Preparedness.

9.17pm GMT

Hi, there — this is Maanvi Singh, taking over from the West Coast.

The New Yor Stock Exchange will temporarily switch to electronic trading starting on Monday. Floor trading will be suspended in order to protect everyone from the spread of coronavirus.

“The decision to temporarily close the trading floors represents a precautionary step to protect the health and well-being of employees and the floor community in response to COVID-19,” said Intercontinental Exchange, Inc, which operates global exchanges and clearinghouses.

9.04pm GMT

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • The Senate passed the second coronavirus bill, which expands paid sick leave and provides funding for free testing, on a vote of 90-8. It now heads to Trump’s desk for his signature.
  • The Dow closed down more than 1,300 points, marking another dismal day for the markets as investors panic over the coronavirus crisis. With today’s drop, nearly all the stock market gains since Trump took office have been wiped out.
  • Bernie Sanders’ campaign said he was assessing the path forward for his presidential bid, after Joe Biden completed a three-state sweep last night and moved closer toward securing the Democratic nomination.
  • The US-Canadian border will be closed to all non-essential travel in the hope of mitigating the spread of coronavirus. Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the two countries had mutually agreed to the closure.

Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

8.57pm GMT

Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke over the phone shortly after the president announced the US-Canadian border was being closed to non-essential travel.

“The two leaders discussed the coronavirus pandemic and the close cooperation on efforts to combat the virus, including the agreement to reduce movement across the United States-Canada border to essential travel only,” the White House said in a statement.

“President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau agreed it was important to preserve supply chains and trade, regardless of travel restrictions.”

8.41pm GMT

Before an event with nurses at the White House, Trump spoke to reporters about the “Chinese virus,” despite widespread criticism of his usage of that term to describe coronavirus.

Trump said his press conference with FDA officials, which he previewed on Twitter earlier today, would take place tomorrow. “The FDA will be working very very hard, and I appreciate what they’re doing,” Trump said.

The president also said he was impressed by the “tremendous spirit” he was seeing in the country.

“Even Republicans and Democrats are getting together, for the most part, but they’re getting together,” said Trump, who has repeatedly criticized Democratic lawmakers amid the crisis. “So that’s a good thing to see.”

8.21pm GMT

Eight Republican senators — Marsha Blackburn, Jim Inhofe, James Lankford, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Ben Sasse, Tim Scott and Ron Johnson — voted against the second coronavirus bill.

Some Republicans had raised objections about how the paid sick leave outlined in the bill could affect small businesses.

With the legislation passed, senators will now focus on the third coronavirus bill, a stimulus package that could end up costing more than trillion.

8.12pm GMT

Senate passes second coronavirus bill

The Senate has just passed the second package aimed at combatting the coronavirus crisis, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

The bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 90-8, will help expand free testing and provide American workers with paid leave if they are sick or need to self-quarantine.

The bill will now head to Trump’s desk for his signature, and lawmakers will turn their attention to the third coronavirus package, aimed at bolstering the economy amid the crisis.

8.10pm GMT

Dow closes down 1,300 points

The Dow has officially closed down about 1,300 points, or 6%, after another bad day due to concerns about the coronavirus crisis.

However, the Dow looked a bit better at the closing bell than it did earlier in the day, when it was down more than 2,000 points.

The steep losses led to a halt in trading, the fourth such pause in the past two weeks.

Today’s drop, combined with other recent losses, nearly wipes out all the stock market gains since Trump took office.

For more updates and analysis, follow the Guardian’s business live blog:

7.51pm GMT

Bernie Sanders lashed out against a CNN reporter who asked him about the future of his presidential campaign after Joe Biden swept three contests last night.

“I’m dealing with a fucking global crisis,” Sanders told CNN’s Manu Raju. “You know, we’re dealing with.”

When Raju continued to press Sanders, the Vermont senator replied, “Well right now, right now I’m trying to do my best to make sure that we don’t have an economic meltdown and that people don’t die. Is that enough for you to keep me busy for today?”

Sanders’ campaign said he is assessing his path forward as Biden has secured an arguably insurmountable delegate lead and more Democrats are calling on Sanders to drop out of the race.

7.32pm GMT

Trump’s final primary challenger reportedly withdraws

Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, the last remaining long-shot candidate challenging Trump for the Republican presidential campaign, is reportedly ending his campaign.

Weld’s announcement comes one day after Trump secured enough delegates in the Republican presidential primary to become the presumptive nominee.

Weld had hoped to appeal to more moderate Republicans who have concerns about Trump, but the former governor won only 9% of the vote in New Hampshire.

A few other Republican candidates, such as former congressman Joe Walsh and former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, similarly tried to challenge Trump, but none of them were able to shake the president’s lock on the party base.

7.07pm GMT

JPMorgan is now predicting the second quarter of this year could see the US economy slump by as much as 14% because of the coronavirus crisis.

If the bank’s second-quarter prediction is accurate, it would mean that this year will see the worst three-month economic period in the US since World War II.

6.52pm GMT

Joe Biden urged Americans to focus on Trump’s actions in response to the coronavirus crisis, rather than his tone.

The Democratic presidential candidate’s warning comes as a number of commentators have noted Trump’s tone has become increasingly grim in recent days.

The president claimed on Sunday that his administration had “tremendous control” over the crisis. A day later, he acknowledged that no country has control over the virus right now.

However, health experts have warned that the administration has already lost critical time in responding to the crisis.

6.36pm GMT

The Pentagon said the Comfort, one of the hospital ships designated to help with the coronavirus crisis, is receiving maintenance and will not be ready to go for weeks.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said officials are trying to expedite the maintenance process, so the Comfort can get to New York and provide hospital beds to the city as it battles coronavirus.

The Mercy, which is supposed to go to the west coast, will be ready much more quickly, Hoffman said.

Both ships are expected to assist hospitals by taking some non-coronavirus cases and hopefully prevent a shortage of hospital beds.

6.27pm GMT

The Guardian’s Nina Lakhani reports:

Puerto Rico has requested US authorities suspend national and international flights for two weeks – in a last ditch effort to lock down the carribean island and prevent localized spread of Covid-19.

Governor Wanda Vázquez has also asked Federal Aviation Administrator, Stephen Marshall, to close all airports where local authorities aren’t screening incoming passengers and limit the air-strips where charter planes can land.

Puerto Rico, a US territory of 3.2 million people, has five confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 21 others currently awaiting test results. All five cases are linked to travel. The island’s overburdened healthcare system, weak sanitation system and aging population, make it vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus.

Today’s intervention is the latest in a series of dramatic measures since the weekend when Vázquez imposed a curfew from 9pm and 5am, and ordered all non-essential businesses to close until the end of March The island, which depends heavily on tourism, has suspended cruise ships from docking, and is screening incoming passengers at its main international airport in the capital San Juan.

6.18pm GMT

The secretary of the interior has announced entrance fees will be waived for national parks as the country battles coronavirus.

“Our vast public lands that are overseen by the Department offer special outdoor experiences to recreate, embrace nature and implement some social distancing,” secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement.

5.58pm GMT

The Guardian’s Sam Levine reports:

The US Census Bureau announced Wednesday it was suspending all of its field operations to get people to respond to the 2020 census, the decennial survey that aims to count every person in America.

The Bureau said it would suspend its field operations until April 1, and encouraged people to respond online or by telephone in the meantime. The decision stalls years of careful planning to get people to respond to the survey.

The Bureau still has plans to send out field workers in May to follow up with people who fail to self-respond, a critical effort that aims to ensure hard-to-count groups get counted. The Bureau said Wednesday it would adjust that operation as necessary to follow the guidance of public health authorities.

The decision, made to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, came about a week after Americans began filling out the survey. The results of the census have profound political consequences — the data is used to allocate .5 trillion in federal funding and to draw electoral districts in place for the next decade. The decennial census is mandated by the constitution.

Coronavirus concerns add to a pile of challenges facing the bureau. There is considerable concern that minorities and immigrant groups will be fearful of responding to the survey because of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies. Individual census responses must be kept confidential by law.

Updated at 5.58pm GMT

5.52pm GMT

The Detroit Three — Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler — have agreed to temporarily close all US plants to protect workers against coronavirus.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

Ford Motor Co. said after Thursday evening shifts, Ford is temporarily suspending production at its North America plants through March 30 to thoroughly clean its facilities to protect its workforce and boost containment efforts for the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Ford said it will continue to work closely with union leaders to find ways to help keep workers healthy and safe, ‘even as we look at solutions for continuing to provide the vehicles customers really want and need,’ said Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of North America. ‘In these unprecedented times, we’re exploring unique and creative solutions to support our workforce, customers, dealers, suppliers and communities.’

Union leaders had pushed for the shutdown for the sake of workers’ health, but the move does make it more likely that auto giants will later seek financial assistance to recover from the coronavirus crisis.

5.36pm GMT

The Dow has now dropped below where it was on the day of Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

Therefore, all of the stock market gains that Trump has repeatedly boasted about have now been wiped out.

5.30pm GMT

Trading halted again amid steep losses

This is Joan Greve in Washington, taking over for Adam Gabbatt.

Trading was temporarily halted at the New York Stock Exchange, with the Dow currently down more than 1,800 points.

This marks the fourth time in two weeks that trading has been halted because of steep losses linked to investors’ fears about the coronavirus crisis.

For the latest updates on the market drop, follow the Guardian’s business live blog:

5.10pm GMT

Summary

•The government has closed the US-Canada border to “non-essential traffic”, Donald Trump announced, as the number of coronavirus cases continued to rise. Speaking at a White House press conference, Trump also said the government was preparing new test kits, but did not elaborate on a new financial package to combat the impact of Covid-19.

•The aid package proposed by the White House would direct tn to businesses and individuals. A treasury department memo said 0bn could be spent on two separate payments to Americans. The plan also provides bn for the airline industry, and 0bn for other effected businesses.

•Bernie Sanders is ‘assessing the path forward’ for his campaign, after a disappointing showing on Tuesday. Sander’s campaign manager said the senator would travel to his home state of Vermont today, where Sanders and his wife will “begin holding conversations with supporters to get input and assess the path forward for our campaign”.

•The federal government is dispatching two hospital ships to respond to the coronavirus crisis. Trump said the ships, Mercy and Comfort, were being readied. New York governor Andrew Cuomo said earlier that the Comfort was heading for New York City harbor.

•Trump said he was not being racist by continuing to use the term “China virus”, even as reports emerged of bias against Asian people. Experts have warned against labelling the coronavirus based on geography as it could stigmatize ethnic groups, but Trump said it was: “Not racist at all.”

4.58pm GMT

Bernie Sanders suspends Facebook campaign ads – report

Bernie Sanders “currently has no active Facebook ads”, Axios reports.

The news comes after Sanders’ campaign manager said the Vermont senator will “assess the path forward” for his campaign.

On Tuesday Sanders lost all three primary states to Joe Biden.

Axios reports:

A pause in digital advertising spend on Facebook has been a good indicator that candidates are dropping out of the 2020 race before. Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg made their Facebook ads inactive hours before they suspended their campaigns.

4.46pm GMT

Trump was asked why a number of athletes have been tested for coronavirus, despite showing symptoms, while other Americans have not been able to get access to tests.

“You’d have to ask them that question,” Trump said.

There was a follow-up question: do the well-connected have ways to get tests that everyday people don’t?

“Perhaps that’s the story of life,” Trump said, not very helpfully.

He didn’t expand.

4.42pm GMT

Trump was asked if the White House’s economic coronavirus package would be similar to reports that suggest it would cost tn, 0bn of which would go to Americans in the form of two payments.

“It could be,” Trump said. He said he did not want to elaborate as details of the package are “moving”.

“We’re also playing with a lot of numbers a lot of very big numbers and a lot of small numbers, frankly,” Trump said.

4.37pm GMT

Trump: use of term China Virus is ‘not racist at all’

Trump has denied he is being racist by continually referring to the coronavirus as the “China virus”.

At the White House press conference, Trump was asked why he insisted on using the term even as there have been reports of bias against Chinese and Asian people due to the coronavirus. Experts have warned against labelling the coronavirus based on geography as it could stigmatise ethnic groups.

Trump said he used the term: “Because it comes from China.”

“It’s not racist at all,” Trump said. (He called Covid-19 “China virus” again in the press conference today.)

Trump also said he does not believe his own Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin’s assessment that unemployment could skyrocket to 20% due to the coronavirus.

“I don’t agree with that,” Trump said at a White House press conference.

“That’s an absolute total worst case scenario.”

4.29pm GMT

Donald Trump will invoke the Defense Production Act, he said, to expand production of hospital masks and protective gear.

Trump was speaking at the White House press conference.

The White House is also recommending that medical professionals “eliminate non-essential surgical procedures” during the coronvirus crisis, Seema Verma administrator of the Centers for medicare and medicaid services, said.

4.25pm GMT

Deborah Birx, the White House, coronavirus response coordinator, has warned that there may be a “disproportional number of infections” among millennials.

Speaking during a press conference at the White House, Birx warned that social distancing needs to be practiced across th US.

“We cannot have these large gatherings that continue to occur,” Birx said.

Should someone contract coronavirus at such a gathering, Birx said: “You have the potential then to spread it to someone who does have a [pre-existing] condition.

4.16pm GMT

Trump says government working on new coronavirus test

Trump is holding a press conference at the White House right now.

The government is readying two hospital ships, Trump said – “big white ships with the cross on the sides” – named Mercy and Comfort. Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference earlier that the Comfort was heading for New York City.

Working on a new, simpler method of testing for Covid-19, Trump said. Health professionals are working on whether people can do a “self-swab” test. The current testing procedure is more complicated, Trump said.

The department of housing and urban development will “suspend all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April”.

“It’s the invisible enemy, that’s always the toughest enemy,” Trump said.

He said the virus would be defeated, adding: “I think we’re going to do it even faster than we thought.”

Updated at 4.26pm GMT

3.50pm GMT

Hospital ship to be sent to New York, governor says

The federal government is sending the USNS Comfort “hospital ship” to New York, as the state continues to grapple with the coronavirus crisis.

Andrew Cuomo announced that the ship, which has a total patient capacity of 1,000, had been dispatched to New York City’s harbor.

Cuomo also said he was issuing a “mandatory statewide requirement”, that no business “can have more than 50% of their workforce report for work outside of the home”.

The order exempts essential services including food delivery, food stores and healthcare.

New York is the hardest hit state by Covid-19, with 2,382 confirmed cases in New York state – 1,339 of which are in New York City.

“We’re responding to science and data, there’s no politics here,” Cuomo said.

The hospital ship USNS Comfort, anchored off the coast of Castries, Saint Lucia in September 2019.
The hospital ship USNS Comfort, anchored off the coast of Castries, Saint Lucia in September 2019.
Photograph: Morgan K Nall/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 3.52pm GMT

3.33pm GMT

White House coronavirus plan would send 00 to many – report

The White House is working with Congress on a financial plan that would issue two checks for 00 to many Americans, according to the Washington Post.

The Post has obtained a memo from the Treasury department outlining a potential package to combat the economic impact of the coronavirus, which would also include 0bn for small businesses.

According to the Washington Post the tn package would “send two ,000 checks to many Americans”.

The Treasury department says the first payment would be made on April 6 and another on May 18.

The payments, which would total 0bn, would be “tiered based on income level and family size”, according to the document.

The Treasury department also suggests funneling bn to the airline industry, and 0bn to other “severely distressed sectors of the US economy”.

3.11pm GMT

New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo has warned the state’s hospital system is likely to be overwhelmed by the coronavirus crisis.

Appearing on the New York Times’ podcast, Cuomo said it was not the time for concern over the financial implications of the virus response.

“You are past the time of monetizing these decisions,” Cuomo told the Times.

“You are at a point of deciding: how many people are going to live, how many people are going to die?”

From the Times:

“We are seeing the enemy on the horizon, and they are approaching very quickly and we don’t have our defense in place,” Cuomo said. He said the hospital system was likely to be overwhelmed. “There is no way they can handle this.”

He continued: “I’m watching the increase in cases, and you take one measure and you see what the effect was. You take another measure and you see what the effect was. And nothing was having an effect. Nothing we were doing.”

Andrew Cuomo speaking to the media earlier this week.
Andrew Cuomo speaking to the media earlier this week.
Photograph: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/REX/Shutterstock

2.58pm GMT

It’s the “usual suspects” that are dragging the Dow Jones down today.

Boeing has lost another 16%, American Express are down 10% and Home Depot have lost 9%, reflecting the slump in travel and consumer spending, my colleague Graeme Wearden reports.

In (slightly) better news, however, pharmacy firm Walgreens Boots are up 4%, though, with Walmart up 3.7% and Procter & Gamble 1.2% higher.

2.15pm GMT

Sanders campaign – ‘We are losing the battle over electability’

Bernie Sanders will return to Vermont today, his campaign manager said, where he will “begin holding conversations with supporters to get input and assess the path forward for our campaign”.

“No sugarcoating it, last night did not go the way we wanted,” Faiz Shakir said in an email to supporters.

“And while our campaign has won the battle of ideas, we are losing the battle over electability to Joe Biden.”

Shakir said:

Bernie will likely have a vote on the coronavirus in the Senate today. He’ll take that vote, and you can expect him to continue his fight to ensure we are protecting working people, low-income people, and the most vulnerable communities, not just giant corporations and Wall Street in any response to the virus.

Then after this vote today, Bernie and Jane are going to get on a plane back to Vermont. Once there, they’ll begin holding conversations with supporters to get input and assess the path forward for our campaign. We will keep you updated as those conversations progress.

In the meantime, please continue to stay safe, and thank you for everything you’ve done so far. It means the world to Bernie and Jane.

Bernie Sanders in Chicago earlier in March.
Bernie Sanders in Chicago earlier in March.
Photograph: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Updated at 2.34pm GMT

1.59pm GMT

A shutdown of the United States-Canada border, barring all non-essential travel, is likely to be met with strong approval in Canada, as health officials grapple with a surge in coronavirus cases originating in the United States.

When prime minister Justin Trudeau previously announced the closure of Canada’s border to international travelers earlier this week, he made a large exception: American citizens could still travel north.

But a growing number of coronavirus cases has likely shifted the government’s calculations in recent days.

“We have 32 new [cases] in the last 24 hours,” Dr Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said Monday. “And a significant number of those were exposed [to the virus] in the United States.”

British Columbia’s health minister has been the most vocal of critic of Americans still having permission to travel into Canada. The westernmost province has been hit hard in recent days by a surge in cases, many of which are suspected of have originated in northern Washington state, one of the deadliest locations in the country for the virus.

“It’s our strong view and it’s our strong message that visitors from the United States not come to British Columbia,” said minister Adrian Dix at a press conference Tuesday night, as health officials announced a surge in cases- and three more deaths. “Don’t come. Because at this moment that is the wrong thing to do.”

Updated at 2.18pm GMT

1.52pm GMT

Wall Street slumps, wiping out gains

Not even the prospect of a .2 trillion stimulus package could prevent the New York stock market from sliding.

Wall Street slumped roughly 5% as soon as the opening bell rang, wiping out most of yesterday’s rally.

  • Dow: down 1,267 points or 6% at 19,970 points
  • S&P 500: down 132 points or 5.24% at 2,396 points
  • Nasdaq: down 304 points of 4% at 7,030.21 points

You can follow the Guardian’s business-specific live blog here:

1.50pm GMT

US-Canada border to close

Donald Trump has announced the border with Canada will be closed to “non-essential traffic”. It comes after the US restricted travel from much of Europe and other countries impacted by the coronavirus.

We’ll post more details as they emerge.

Updated at 2.10pm GMT

1.09pm GMT

News of Bernie Sanders assessing his campaign comes after Joe Biden made an overture to Sanders supporters last night.

In a video following Biden’s wins, Biden said he and Sanders shared common goals on regarding healthcare, inequality and the climate crisis.

“Senator Sanders and his supporters have brought remarkable passion and tenacity to these issues, and together, they have shifted the fundamental conversation in the country,” Biden said.

“So let me say especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Senator Sanders, I hear you. I know what to stake, […]

I know what we have to do. Our goal is as a campaign, and my goal as a candidate for president is to unify this party, and then to unify the nation.

12.39pm GMT

Sanders to “assess campaign” and focus on coronavirus response

The Sanders’s campaign has just issued the following statement via campaign manager Faiz Shakir:

The next primary contest is at least three weeks away. Sen. Sanders is going to be having conversations with his supporters to assess his campaign. In the immediate term, however, he is focused on the government response to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring that we take care of working people the most vulnerable

More to follow…

12.21pm GMT

As promised, here’s a round-up of some reaction to those Joe Biden victories last night.

Jim Newell at Slate said it was the night that Biden put it all together, even as the primaries fell apart

The race is effectively over. Biden has built up an insurmountable delegate lead and, barring some major medical issue—we hear there’s a bug going around?— he will be the Democratic presidential nominee. It seemed hard to imagine that Democratic voters could speak with any clear voice just two and a half weeks ago, when there were still seven Democratic candidates jockeying for a percentage point or a delegate here and there. More than half of pledged delegates will have been allotted once Tuesday’s results are final, and Democratic voters couldn’t speak much more clearly.

Read it hereSlate: Joe Biden Puts It All Together as Primary Season Falls Apart

Rebecca Morin and Jeanine Santucci were putting together the takeaways for USA Today, and they made a key point about what the demographics from last night are telling us

Throughout the campaign, Sanders touted his ability to bring out new voters to participate in the election and power his win. But with turnout up before the coronavirus pandemic, Sanders’ prediction didn’t pan out. Younger voters have not turned out in the numbers he needs to close the gap with Biden. A key demographic that Sanders has relied on, Latino voters, also did not help carry Sanders to victory this time. Latinos, who are not a monolithic voting bloc, did not turn to Sanders in Florida or Arizona. Biden won more Latino vote in those states than Sanders did.

Read it hereUSA Today: Biden stays in the driver’s seat, coronavirus changes our elections

For the New York Times, Giovanni Russonello highlighted how unusual Sanders’ speech was last night, considering it was an election day.

Sanders made no announcement Tuesday night about the future of his campaign — though things are looking pretty bleak right now. Instead, he gave a video address early in the evening that outlined how he would confront the coronavirus. Moments before primary results arrive is an unusual time for a policy speech, but Sanders called for increased access to virus testing, free health care and sending ,000 a month to every family in the country.

Read it hereNYT: Biden Gets Out the Broom

Among our panel verdict on the primaries, Art Cullen was unequivocal:

This has to end. The coronavirus has ravaged the primary voting process. Turnout was stunted, but Joe Biden won big again Tuesday on mail-in ballots. Ohio’s primary was postponed. The only way to run an election amid a pandemic is through mail-in ballots, which probably can’t be managed by the June national party deadline. It has to end. Bernie Sanders must drop out and clear the mess.

Read it hereBiden dominated again – is it time for Sanders to quit?

12.15pm GMT

Trump repeatedly calls coronavirus “the Chinese virus” in series of tweets

Trump has been tweeting, and once again been calling Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, “the Chinese virus”. It is one of the things that is ramping up tension between the two nations. It doesn’t look like Trump is going to be dialling that rhetoric down any time soon.

Trump is also claiming, without offering any evidence, that he took the coronavirus outbreak seriously from the start, suggesting it is a false media narrative that he did not.

Just as a reminder, at the end of February, Trump said “When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”

The number of confirmed cases in the US is currently at 6,496, and every state is affected.

11.49am GMT

I’ll be posting some links to reaction around the media to Biden’s primary victories shortly, but it is not just election politics that is being affected by coronavirus. Day-to-day on Capitol Hill is going to change too.

The Associated Press are reporting this morning on how Congressional leaders are resisting calls to let lawmakers vote remotely, with it being described as a dispute which is pitting coronavirus against two centuries of tradition.

Advocates of the voting change cite the health perils of air travel at a time when health experts want people to avoid crowds. They argue that as infections spread, it may become all but impossible for many lawmakers to make the journey because of the growing risk of getting the virus.

“There was a time when physical presence was the only way to make sure that a person was present and voting,” No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Dick Durbin said on Tuesday. “I think that technology gives us other options and we better exercise them.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was not having it. “We’ll not be doing that,” McConnell he told reporters. He suggested his chamber might extend roll call votes beyond the traditional 15 minutes and allow senators to vote in small groups, rather than all at once. “We will deal with the social distancing issue without fundamentally changing Senate rules,” McConnell said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose hometown of San Francisco is among many Bay Area communities whose residents have been ordered to stay home, has also opposed the idea, according to lawmakers who’ve spoken to her.

Whether these objections continue to be sustainable if the coronavirus crisis lasts for several months remains to be seen.

11.38am GMT

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams has been on the TV this morning. Challenged on whether people are getting the administration’s message, he said: “I think we are starting to turn a corner and people really are, because it is starting to affect people who they see or know.”

He joked that his sons at home don’t care what dad says about staying home, even if their dad is the surgeon general, but “by golly they know that Kevin Durant just got diagnosed with the coronavirus”

You can watch it here:

11.16am GMT

The global pandemic is straining ties between the United States and China further. Matthew Lee, diplomatic writer at Associated Press, has been looking at how coronavirus became the latest flashpoint between the two nations:

Since the virus has spread, he reports, Trump and his top aides have stepped up their criticism of China, noting consistently that the outbreak was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan. They have referred to Covid-19 as the “Wuhan virus” or the “Chinese virus” on multiple occasions, disregarding World Health Organization terminology that avoids identifying the virus by geography.

On Tuesday alone, Trump discussed the Chinese source of virus outbreak during at least two events. At a State Department news conference, Mike Pompeo referred six times to Covid-19 as the “Wuhan virus”, and suggested the Chinese are attempting to distract the world from the shortcomings of its initial response.

In a meeting with hotel executives at the White House, Trump took pains to make clear that the virus originated in China, asking pointed questions of Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson about where the impact was first felt.

“And this all started in China? That’s where you first saw the problem and where you first got hit?” Trump asked.

“Absolutely,” Sorenson replied.

“Hopefully, you all heard that,” Trump told reporters.

Having already been targeted by Trump in a trade war and by Pompeo and others for repression of Muslim and other religious and ethnic minorities in western Xinjiang Province, the Chinese have taken particular offence to the constant repetition, complaining vociferously and suggesting that the US military may have actually introduced the virus to Wuhan.

“Recently, some American politicians have linked the new coronavirus with China to stigmatize China. We express strong indignation and opposition to it,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Tuesday. “We urge the US to immediately correct its mistakes and stop unwarranted accusations against China.”

That, in turn, has prompted angry US protests with the State Department hauling in China’s ambassador to the United States to complain and Pompeo calling the top Chinese diplomat to re-register the anger.

“The disinformation campaign that they are waging is designed to shift responsibility,” Pompeo said, before quickly adding that “now is not the time for recriminations.”

Yet recriminations seem to be the order of the day.

“China was putting out information which was false that our military gave this to them,” Trump said. “That was false. And rather than having an argument I said I have to call it where it came from. It did come from China. So I think it’s a very accurate term. But no, I didn’t appreciate the fact that China was saying that our military gave it to them.”

Shortly after Trump’s comments, the Chinese foreign ministry announced the expulsion of American reporters from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

Pompeo responded to that news: “I regret China’s decision today to further foreclose the world’s ability to conduct free press operations that frankly, would be really good, really good for the Chinese people in these incredibly challenging global times. Where more information, more transparency are what will save live