World Bank approves record $500 million to battle locust swarms

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The World Bank on Thursday approved a record $500 million in grants and low-interest loans to help countries in Africa and the Middle East fight swarms of desert locusts that are eating their way across vast swaths of crops and rangelands.

Four of the hardest-hit countries – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda – will receive $160 million immediately, Holger Kray, a senior World Bank official, told Reuters. He said Yemen, Somalia and other affected countries could tap funds as needed.

“The Horn of Africa finds itself at the epicenter of the worst locust outbreak we have seen in a generation, most probably in more than a generation,” he said, noting the new coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating the crisis.

Locust swarms have infested 23 countries across East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, the biggest outbreak in 70 years, the World Bank said. It threatens food supplies in East Africa where nearly 23 million people are facing food shortages.

See graphic:

The World Bank estimates the Horn of Africa region could suffer up to $8.5 billion in damage to crop and livestock production by year-end without broad measures to reduce locust populations and prevent their spread. Even with the measures, losses could be as high as $2.5 billion, it said.

Desert locusts can travel up to 150 km (95 miles) a day, sometimes in swarms as large as 250 km (155.34 miles) across, eating their own body weight in greenery.

In Kenya, the locusts are eating in one day the amount of food consumed by all Kenyans in two days, Kray said.

The new World Bank program will help farmers, herders and rural households by providing fertilizer and seeds for new crops, and cash transfers to pay for food for people and livestock.

It will also fund investments to strengthen surveillance and early warning systems to make the region more resilient over the medium- to longer-term, Kray said.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Latest on the worldwide spread of the new coronavirus – 5-7-20

(Reuters) – More than 3.79 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 263,682 have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 1427 GMT on Thursday.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

* For a U.S.-focused tracker with state-by-state and county map, open https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T in an external browser.

EUROPE

* Russia’s cases overtook France and Germany to become the fifth-highest number in the world after a record daily rise. Moscow’s mayor said the real number of cases in the capital was more than triple the official, TASS news agency reported.

* Restrictions in Moscow have been extended until May 31, said Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.

* Black people and men of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin are nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than whites, even when adjusting data for deprivation, a British report said.

* Poland plans to test 1,000 miners a day at drive-through sites as data show rapid growth in new cases in the coal region.

* German officials warned the crisis is far from over despite the country slowly reopening its economy.

* After standing empty for two months, Greece’s ancient sites, including the Acropolis hill, will reopen to visitors on May 18, authorities said.

* A European coalition is forming around an approach to using smartphone technology to trace infections that, its backers hope, could help to reopen borders without unleashing a second wave.

AMERICAS

* The first immigrant in U.S. detention has died of the coronavirus, local health authorities said as infections steadily climbed among the country’s around 30,000 immigrant detainees.

* Indigenous groups from nine countries in the Amazon basin called for donations to help protect 3 million rainforest inhabitants, vulnerable because they lack adequate access to healthcare.

* Brazil, one of the world’s emerging hot spots, registered a record number of cases and deaths on Wednesday, prompting the health minister to flag the possibility of strict lockdowns in hard-hit areas. President Bolsonaro’s spokesman has tested positive and is quarantined in his home.

* Argentine President Alberto Fernandez is rising in the polls on approval of his handling of the response, as he faces off against creditors with a major debt revamp.

* Colombia has removed the contact-tracing feature in its official coronavirus app after experiencing glitches, but aims to rebuild it using potentially more reliable technology.

* At least 47 residents and three workers have been infected at a retirement home in Mexico, in one of the biggest outbreaks yet reported in the country.

* A war of words broke out between Costa Rica and El Salvador after the Salvadoran president accused the other country of massaging statistics by deliberately carrying out fewer tests.

* El Salvador said it would from Thursday temporarily suspend public transport.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* China said it supports the WHO in trying to pinpoint the origins of the pandemic and accused the U.S. Secretary of State of lying in his attacks on Beijing.

* Japan has approved Gilead’s remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19, the health ministry said, making it the country’s first officially authorized drug for the disease.

* Cases in India rose past 50,000 on Thursday, with the pace of new infections showing no signs of abating despite a strict weeks-long lockdown.

* India will roll out a version of its coronavirus contact-tracing application that can run on Reliance Jio’s cheap phones, as it looks to widen use.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Iran is scrambling to buy millions of tonnes of grains to shore up reserves, officials and traders said, despite the president’s assertions that the coronavirus would not endanger food supplies.

* Pakistan’s lockdown will be lifted on Saturday, its prime minister said, despite the number of cases still accelerating.

* The head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention rejected the Tanzanian president’s assertion that tests it supplied are faulty.

* Saudi Arabia has formed a police unit to monitor violations of rules banning gatherings, state news agency SPA said.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

* World shares largely shook off data on Thursday showing millions more Americans sought unemployment benefits, with sentiment sustained by stronger than expected Chinese exports. [MKTS/GLOB]

* The IMF has approved 50 requests for emergency aid for a total of about $18 billion, and is continuing to work quickly through remaining requests, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said.

* Millions more Americans likely sought unemployment benefits last week, suggesting a broadening of layoffs from consumer facing industries to other segments of the economy and could remain elevated even as many parts of the country start to reopen.

* The Bank of England said Britain could be headed for its biggest economic slump in over 300 years and kept the door open for more stimulus next month.

* Sweden will not provide state aid to companies paying dividends to shareholders and could claw back funds from recipients that have already done so, the agency charged with disbursing the emergency support said.

* Border controls, lockdowns and flight shortages are making illegal drugs more expensive and difficult to obtain around the world, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said in a report published on Thursday.

(Compiled by Sarah Morland; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

Latest on the worldwide spread of the new coronavirus

(Reuters) – More than 3.59 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 250,386 have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 0200 GMT on Tuesday.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

* For a U.S.-focused tracker with state-by-state and county map, open https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T in an external browser.

EUROPE

* WHO said on Tuesday that a report that COVID-19 had emerged in December in France was “not surprising”, and urged countries to investigate early.

* More than 30,000 people in the United Kingdom have died with suspected COVID-19, the highest official toll yet reported in Europe, according to data published on Tuesday.

* The United States and Britain launched trade negotiations by videoconference, as both struggle with the effects of the pandemic and aim to shore up domestic supply chains.

* The mayor of The Hague ordered police to break up a demonstration against government measures to slow the country’s outbreak.

* Spain reported its third day in a row of under 200 deaths, but a record number of people claiming social security benefits for April.

* Austria’s first lockdown loosening three weeks ago has not led to a new spike in infections, though further vigilance is necessary, its health minister said.

AMERICAS

* The U.S. Senate will start scrutinizing the lawyer tapped by President Donald Trump to oversee a $500 billion fund to rescue larger businesses.

* A newly revised coronavirus mortality model predicts nearly 135,000 Americans will die from COVID-19 by early August, almost double previous projections.

* Some 40 Cuban sugar mills remain open out of season despite a partial lockdown of the country, in a last-ditch effort to add foreign exchange to the government’s all-but-empty coffers.

* Brazilian officials expect a rise in global agricultural protectionism as countries seek to secure local food supplies, according to a draft report seen by Reuters.

* Indigenous leaders in Brazil have asked the WHO to set up an emergency fund to help protect their communities.

* At least 300 people held in two centers set up by the Salvadoran government protested on Monday, demanding to be released and given their test results.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* China reported one new case for May 4, down from three the day before.

* Hong Kong said it will relax restrictions on public gatherings and allow gyms, cinemas and beauty parlours to re-open this week as new cases dwindle.

* One of Bangladesh largest drugmakers, Beximco Pharmaceuticals will begin producing experimental antiviral drug remdesivir, a senior executive said.

* Pakistan has raised concerns with the United Arab Emirates that workers are returning home with high infection rates and that crowded living conditions in the UAE may be helping the virus spread.

* Indonesia reported on Tuesday its biggest daily rise in infections with 484 new cases, taking the total to 12,071.

* Thailand may see the economic impact from the pandemic stretch over another nine months, its prime minister said.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Yemen’s Houthis said a Somali national, the first case in the capital Sanaa, died on Sunday, the group’s al-Masirah TV reported.

* Afghanistan’s government began distributing free bread to hundreds of thousands of people across the country as supplies have been disrupted and prices have soared.

* Lebanon’s supreme defence council will advise the government to extend a shutdown until May 24, a security source said.

* A parliamentary panel authorised Israel’s Shin Bet security service to continue using mobile phone data to track infected people until May 26.

* Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas extended to June 5 a state of emergency declared in areas under his administration in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

* Stock markets snapped a three-day losing streak on Tuesday and oil was on its longest run of gains in nine months as moves to ease major economies out of their coronavirus lockdowns lifted sentiment. [MKTS/GLOB]

* Banks in the European Union could end up paying annual contributions to an industry rescue funds by tapping government support for coronavirus-hit companies, lawmakers said on Tuesday.

* South Africa’s tax revenue losses due to the coronavirus and credit ratings downgrades could reach $15.5 billion this fiscal year, the commissioner of the revenue services said.

* Egypt’s budget deficit for the financial year that will begin in July will widen to 7.8% of gross domestic product if the crisis continues until the end of December, the finance minister said.

* The International Coffee Organization sees lockdowns flipping the global coffee market into a 1.95 million 60kg bag surplus in 2019/20 from previously forecast 474,000 bag deficit.

(Compiled by Sarah Morland, Vinay Dwivedi and Uttaresh.V; Editing by Arun Koyyur, Anil D’Silva and Tomasz Janowski)

Factbox: Latest on the worldwide spread of the new coronavirus – May 1st

(Reuters) – More than 3.27 million people have reportedly been infected by the novel coronavirus globally, and 232,200 have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 0200 GMT on Friday.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

* For a U.S.-focused tracker with state-by-state and county map, open https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T in an external browser.

EUROPE

* Britain was now past the peak of its coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, promising to set out a plan next week on how the country might start gradually returning to normal life.

* Death toll in Italy climbed by 285, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 1,872.

* Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, as confirmed cases surged past the 100,000-mark.

* Ukraine reached 10,000 cases.

AMERICAS

* More than 1.07 million people have been infected with the new coronavirus in the United States and 62,891 have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 0200 GMT on Friday.

* Half of all U.S. states forged ahead with their own strategies for easing restrictions on restaurants, retail and other businesses shuttered by the coronavirus crisis.

* U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday his hard-fought trade deal with China was now of secondary importance to the coronavirus pandemic and he threatened new tariffs on Beijing, as his administration crafted retaliatory measures over the outbreak.

* California ordered beaches in Orange County to close after crowds defied public health guidelines to throng the popular shoreline last weekend.

* Canada’s coronavirus curve is flat but worrying trends are emerging, according to its top medical officer, as Alberta unveiled a plan to reopen its economy gradually.

* Brazil reported a record 7,218 cases in the last 24 hours and 435 additional fatalities.

* Peruvian authorities closed a busy food market in Lima after mass rapid testing confirmed more than 160 positive cases.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* China reported 12 new cases for April 30, up from four a day earlier, bringing the national tally to 82,874.

* Japan will formally decide as early as Monday whether to extend its state of emergency, which was originally set to end on May 6.

* Thailand reported six new cases and no new death.

* Malaysia will allow majority of businesses to resume operations from May 4.

* Australia will consider next Friday whether to relax coronavirus-related mobility restrictions.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Turkey’s death toll rose by 93 in the last 24 hours to 3,174, with 2,615 new cases of the virus.

* The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved $411 million in emergency assistance for Ethiopia.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

* Initial claims for state unemployment benefits totalled a seasonally adjusted 3.839 million for the week ended April 25, the U.S. Labor Department said, while the Commerce Department said consumer spending slumped by a record 7.5% in March.

* Irish manufacturing activity suffered its sharpest monthly decline on record in April as output collapsed, while British factory output risks falling by more than half during the current quarter, a trade body said.

* South Korean exports plunged at their sharpest pace since the global financial crisis in April.

* Consumer prices in Japan’s capital city fell for the first time in three years in April and national factory activity slumped, increasing fears that the pandemic could tip the country back into deflation.

* France suffered its sharpest economic contraction since records began in 1949 in the first quarter.

* Democratic Republic of Congo has cut its 2020 economic growth forecast to -1.9% and is expecting its economy to contract, its central bank said.

* Chile’s unemployment rate rose to 8.2% in the first quarter from the same period a year ago, hitting a decade high.

(Compiled by Vinay Dwivedi and Uttaresh.V; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Sriraj Kalluvila)

Latest on the worldwide spread of the new coronavirus

(Reuters) – More than 3.21 million people have reportedly been infected by the novel coronavirus globally, and 227,864 have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 1400 GMT on Thursday.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

* For a U.S.-focused tracker with state-by-state and county map, open https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T in an external browser.

EUROPE

* Italy’s prime minister said he would gradually relax the country’s lockdown taking into account differences in contagion levels in different parts of the country.

* The United Kingdom’s COVID-19 death toll is probably higher than 27,241, making it one of the worst-hit countries in Europe, opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said.

* The pandemic is fuelling extremism on the far-right and far-left in Europe and giving Islamic State and other militants cover to regain influence, the European Union’s counter-terrorism chief has warned.

* Ukraine reached 10,000 cases on Thursday and its health minister urged people not to violate lockdown measures.

* Slovakia will consider letting shops reopen sooner as its daily tally of infections has dropped to single digits and the numbers of recovered patients is outpacing new ones, its prime minister said.

* Leading privacy advocates in Britain have urged the government to prevent a soon-to-be launched COVID-19 contact tracing app from turning into a form of state surveillance.

* A town in southern Sweden has turned to a traditional source to try to prevent the coronavirus spreading during an annual festive event on Thursday – chicken manure.

AMERICAS

* The top U.S. infectious disease official said Gilead’s experimental antiviral drug remdesivir will become the standard of care for COVID-19 after early clinical trial results showed it helped patients recover more quickly.

* Florida’s governor, among the last to lock down his state, said he would permit a limited economic reopening next week while leaving restraints intact for the dense greater-Miami area.

* Some contract workers in America’s fast food restaurants, hospitals and warehouses could find it harder to demand equipment and other measures to protect themselves from the coronavirus under a new labor agency rule, according to workers’ advocates and unions.

* About two dozen migrants deported from the United States to Colombia last month have tested positive.

* The International Monetary Fund approved $650 million in emergency financial assistance to help the Dominican Republic respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

* Deaths from the outbreak have piled up so fast in the Amazon rainforest’s biggest city that the main cemetery is burying five coffins at a time in collective graves.

* Mexican tomato farmers are so hard pressed to sell their product due to the disruptions that they have had to donate some of their produce to food banks or use it to feed cattle.

* Latin American drug lords have sent bumper shipments of cocaine to Europe in recent weeks, including one in a cargo of squid, even though the pandemic has stifled legitimate transatlantic trade, senior anti-narcotics officials say.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* China has cancelled the 2020 Boao Forum for Asia, which Beijing is trying to promote as the region’s answer to Davos.

* South Korea on Thursday reported no new domestic cases for the first time since February, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

* Japan is preparing to extend its state of emergency, originally set to end on May 6, for about a month, government sources told Reuters.

* Indonesia confirmed 347 new infections on Thursday, taking its total to above 10,000.

* Thailand will start reopening on Sunday some businesses, such as outdoor markets, barber shops and pet groomers, after the numbers of new infections dropped into single digits this week.

* As the pandemic empties bazaars that have long dominated Uzbekistan’s food trade, supermarkets are driving into the vacuum.

* Tajikistan has confirmed its first 15 coronavirus cases.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Yemen reported multiple infections and deaths for the first time and an official in the southern port of Aden said the number of cases was very likely to increase in the coming days.

* The World Health Organization is worried by the community spread of the coronavirus in a significant number of West African countries, the regional head of the organization said.

* In Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum, hairdressers have created a new hairstyle, designed to emulate the prickly appearance of the virus under a microscope.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

* World stocks suffered a slip on their way to record monthly gains on Thursday, as the European Central Bank held back from providing another instant hit of stimulus and millions more Americans filed unemployment claims. [MKTS/GLOB]

* Economic lockdowns brought on by the pandemic look set to cut global energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions by record amounts, the International Energy Agency said.

* France suffered its sharpest economic contraction since records began in 1949 in the first quarter, as a coronavirus lockdown from mid-March left shops shuttered and consumers hunkered down at home.

* A sudden stop in tourism caused by border closures and lockdowns will cause a 6.2% contraction of the Caribbean economy in 2020, the deepest recession in over half a century, the IMF said.

* Preventing an increase in soured bank loans is a top priority for Greece as it grapples with the economic fallout, its prime minister said.

(Compiled by Sarah Morland; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Latest on the spread of the coronavirus around the world

(Reuters) – Reported cases of the coronavirus have crossed 2.7 million globally and 189,970 people have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 0200 GMT on Friday.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

* For a U.S.-focused tracker with state-by-state and county map, open https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T in an external browser.

AMERICAS

* The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a $484 billion coronavirus relief bill on Thursday.

* An array of U.S. merchants in Georgia and other states prepared to reopen for the first time in a month.

* A preliminary survey of New York state residents found that nearly 14% of those tested had antibodies against the coronavirus.

* California recorded its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday.

* Drugmaker Gilead disputed a report that said its experimental coronavirus drug failed a trial in China, saying results were inconclusive as the study was terminated early.

* Canada pledged new money to develop and eventually mass-produce vaccines.

* Costa Rica has for the past week reported a steady fall in the number of people currently infected.

* Ecuador’s authorities added 11,000 new infections that resulted from delayed testing.

* Cuba’s decades-old rationing system is staging a comeback in a bid to prevent virus transmission during frantic shopping hunts.

EUROPE

* France offered retailers some relief on Thursday, saying it wanted them to reopen when a nationwide lockdown ends on May 11.

* Spain’s daily increase in fatalities further steadied at around 2%, as the government apologised for confusion over lockdown rules for children.

* Germany has chosen a home-grown technology for smartphone-based tracing of infections, putting it at odds with Apple Inc.

* Britain’s health minister Matt Hancock promised to expand testing to all those considered key workers.

* Greece extended its general lockdown by a week to May 4.

* Irish hospital admissions of COVID-19 patients have fallen from an average of around 100 per day at the start of April to around 40 now.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* South Asia’s infections have crossed 37,000, with more than half in India.

* China is preparing to buy more than 30 million tonnes of crops for state stockpiles to help protect itself from supply chain disruptions.

* Thousands of Hong Kong students were among the first in the world to take their final secondary school exams on Friday, all wearing face masks and having their temperatures checked.

* As many as 91 crew of an Italian cruise ship docked in Japan’s southwestern port of Nagasaki are infected with coronavirus. Tokyo’s first drive-through coronavirus test centre was launched this week.

* Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has extended a strict lockdown in the capital Manila until May 15.

* Indonesia will temporarily ban domestic air and sea travel starting Friday, barring a few exceptions.

* Malaysia will extend travel and other curbs by two weeks to May 12.

* Australia will push for an international investigation into the coronavirus pandemic at next month’s annual meeting of the World Health Assembly.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government will allow a partial reopening of the economy on May 1.

* The governors of Nigeria’s 36 states agreed to ban interstate movement for two weeks.

* Algeria will ease confinement measures from the first day of the holy month of Ramadan on Friday.

* Israel’s religiously devout Jews, who traditionally shun the use of internet or smartphones, are increasingly going online to shop, study and video chat.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

* Asian shares and U.S. stock futures fell on Friday, spurred by doubts about progress in the development of drugs to treat COVID-19 and new evidence of U.S. economic damage. [MKTS/GLOB]

* The UK’s government borrowing is soaring to the highest levels in peacetime history.

* The closure of bars and restaurants may have slashed global wine sales and winemakers’ revenues in Europe by half.

* Japan’s core consumer inflation eased in March for the second straight month.

* Half of German companies are using the government’s short-time work facility as most see a decline in revenues.

* Italian government debt yields fell after EU leaders agreed to move towards joint financing of a recovery.

* Latin America’s biggest economies, Brazil and Mexico, will likely struggle with increasing deficits this year.

(Compiled by Milla Nissi, Devika Syamnath and Ramakrishnan M.; Editing by Tomasz Janowski, Shounak Dasgupta and Sriraj Kalluvila)

Factbox: Latest on the spread of the coronavirus around the world-Thursday

Reported cases of the coronavirus have crossed 2.62 million globally and 183,761 people have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 0200 GMT on Thursday.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

* For a U.S.-focused tracker with state-by-state and county map, open https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T in an external browser.

AMERICAS

* Hundreds of members of the U.S. House of Representatives will gather in Washington on Thursday to pass a $484 billion relief bill, bringing the unprecedented total of funds approved for the crisis to nearly $3 trillion.

* U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered a temporary suspension of the issuance of green cards and permanent residence permits, in a move he said aimed at protecting American workers and jobs.

* Mexico, whose total cases exceeded 10,000, will increase spending on social programs and infrastructure projects by $25.6 billion.

EUROPE

* The northern Italian region of Lombardy began an antibody testing programme on Thursday as it prepared to start opening up its economy following weeks of lockdown.

* Spain’s daily increase in fatalities further steadied at around 2% on Thursday, as the government apologised for confusion over lockdown rules for children.

* French president told mayors that unwinding the lockdown would not be done region by region, with a plan to be unveiled around Tuesday next week.

* The French government wants all retail outlets other than restaurants, bars and cafes to be able to reopen once a nationwide lockdown is lifted on May 11.

* Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to show endurance and discipline to get through the pandemic that is “still at the beginning”, and called for a bigger European Union budget to support economic recovery in the bloc.

* The British government came under sustained pressure over its coronavirus response when members of parliament got their first major opportunity in a month to hold it to account.

* Life is unlikely to return to normal even when the tightest restrictions are lifted, and social distancing measures could stay for the rest of this year and beyond, Scottish first minister said.

* Russia showed tentative signs of a flattening infection curve, but the Kremlin said the situation remained tense and officials moved to tighten lockdown measures in 21 regions.

* Hungary will decide next week on the future of lockdown measures as it prepares for a restart of the economy.

* Greece extended its general lockdown by a week to May 4, saying any relaxation would be staggered over May and June.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* Mainland China reported 10 new cases as of the end of April 22, bringing the total to 82,798. The death toll was unchanged at 4,632.

* South Asia’s infections have crossed 37,000, with more than half in India, complicating the task of governments looking to ease lockdowns.

* Indonesia will temporarily ban domestic air and sea travel starting Friday, barring a few exceptions.

* Spooked by a sharp increase in cases in the navy, Taiwan is debating whether to consider a broad lockdown.

* Nearly 50 crew members on an Italian cruise ship docked for repairs in Japan’s Nagasaki have tested positive, raising concern about the strain on the city’s hospitals.

* All member nations of the WHO should support a proposed independent review into the pandemic, Australia’s prime minister said, further threatening strained ties with China.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Iranians have returned to shops, bazaars and parks this week as the country eases restrictions, and the daily increase in the death toll remained below 100 on Thursday.

* African nations that lack ventilators will receive some from a donation of 300 supplied by the Jack Ma Foundation.

* The governors of Nigeria’s 36 states agreed to ban interstate movement for two weeks.

* Botswana’s president and lawmakers were released from two weeks in quarantine after testing negative.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

* Caution gripped markets on Thursday, with stocks falling before a key Eurogroup meeting to discuss joint stimulus measures, offsetting optimism from a fresh round of U.S. coronavirus aid and a recovery in oil prices.

* European Union leaders will on Thursday take their first step towards joint financing of an economic recovery but will kick any difficult decisions about the details into the long grass.

* A record 26 million Americans likely sought unemployment benefits over the last five weeks, meaning all the jobs created during the longest employment boom in U.S. history were wiped out in about a month.

* Japan offered its bleakest assessment of the economy in over a decade as the pandemic threatens to tip the world’s third-largest economy into a deep recession.

* South Korea’s ruling party and the government agreed to provide cash handouts to every household, not just to families below the top 30 percentile of income as previously announced.

* Britain’s economy is crumbling and government borrowing is soaring to the highest levels in peacetime history, increasing pressure on the government to set out an exit strategy.

* India froze inflation-linked increases in salaries and pensions for more than 11 million federal employees and pensioners to generate nearly $10 billion to help combat the outbreak.

(Compiled by Milla Nissi; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

Latest on the spread of the coronavirus around the world – Sunday

(Reuters) – Reported cases of the coronavirus have crossed 2.33 million globally and 159,818 people have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 2000 GMT on Sunday.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7in an external browser.

* For a U.S.-focused tracker with state-by-state and county map, open https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9Tin an external browser.

AMERICAS

* Governors in U.S. states hardest hit by the novel coronavirus sparred with President Donald Trump over his claims they have enough tests and should quickly reopen their economies as more protests are planned over the extension of stay-at-home orders.

* The U.S. death toll from the novel coronavirus rose to more than 40,000 on Sunday, the highest in the world and almost double the number of deaths in the next highest country Italy, according to a Reuters tally.

* U.S. lawmakers are very close to an agreement on approving extra money to help small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic and could seal a deal as early as Sunday, congressional and Trump administration officials said.

* The number of people with the new coronavirus in Canada is trending in the right direction but strict physical distancing will need to stay in place, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday.

* Chile reported on Sunday that there were more than 10,000 people in the country with the coronavirus, the third-highest tally in Latin America, as the disease ravages the economy of the world’s top copper producer.

* Peru reported over 15,000 cases of coronavirus on Sunday, the second-highest tally in Latin America, as the disease continues to ravage the economy of the world’s No. 2 copper producer.

EUROPE

* President Vladimir Putin said that Russian authorities had the coronavirus crisis under full control and that everything would work out with God’s help, even as the country on Sunday registered a record daily rise in cases of the new virus.

* Italy said on Sunday that deaths from the coronavirus pandemic rose by 433, the lowest daily tally in a week, and the number of new cases slowed to 3,047 from a previous 3,491.

* Ireland is highly unlikely to allow large gatherings this year and the “cocooning” of people over 70 years old in their homes may persist for quite a while, Health Minister Simon Harris said.

* A delivery of protective equipment for British health workers that was due on Sunday from Turkey has been delayed, a British government official said, as medics on the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak increasingly report shortages of gear.

* Britain is not considering lifting the lockdown imposed almost four weeks ago to control the coronavirus outbreak given “deeply worrying” increases in the death toll, a senior minister said

* Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases have risen by 2,458 to 139,897, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Sunday. That was lower than a 3,609 increase reported on Saturday.

*Pope Francis called for an all-embracing vision of the world after the Covid-19 crisis, saying moving on without global solidarity or excluding sectors of society from the recovery would result in “an even worse virus”.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* China reported 16 new coronavirus cases but no deaths while authorities remained on guard against a major resurgence and monitored the spread of cases in Heilongjiang province.

* Australia added to growing pressure on China over its handling of the novel coronavirus, questioning its transparency and demanding an international investigation into the origins of the virus and how it spread.

* South Korea extended its social distancing policy for another 15 days but offered some relief for churches and sporting fixtures, as it reported just eight new coronavirus infections, the lowest in two months.

* Indonesia’s death toll from the new coronavirus has likely reached 1,000, nearly double the official figure of 535, Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) chairman Daeng Faqih was quoted saying.

* Pakistan has lifted restrictions on congregational prayers at mosques, but put in place a host of safety conditions to avert the further spread of the coronavirus in the country, a statement said.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Health ministers from the Group of 20 major economies began a virtual meeting on Sunday to work on a joint response to the coronavirus pandemic, Saudi Arabian state television reported.

* Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, the Council of Senior Scholars, urged Muslims worldwide to pray at home during Ramadan if their countries require social distancing to combat coronavirus, state news agency SPA reported.

* Turkey’s confirmed coronavirus cases have risen to 82,329, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said, overtaking neighbouring Iran for the first time to register the highest total in the Middle East.

* Iran has extended furloughs for prisoners for another month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday, as the Islamic Republic endeavours to stem the spread of the new coronavirus in its crowded jails.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

* Neiman Marcus Group is preparing to seek bankruptcy protection as soon as this week, becoming the first major U.S. department store operator to succumb to the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, people familiar with the matter said.

*Europe will need at least another 500 billion euros from European Union institutions to finance its economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic, on top of the agreed half-a-trillion package, the head of the euro zone bailout fund said.

* Canada will invest C$2.5 billion ($1.8 billion) in measures to help the hard-hit oil and gas industry during the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

* Global stocks rallied on President Donald Trump’s plans to revive the coronavirus-hit U.S. economy and a report about a clinical trial for a potential drug to treat COVID-19.

* China’s economy contracted for the first time on record in the first quarter as the coronavirus shut down factories and shopping malls and put millions out of work.

(Compiled by Sarah Morland and Devika Syamnath; Editing by William Maclean)

Factbox: Latest on the spread of the coronavirus around the world

(Reuters) – Reported cases of the coronavirus have crossed 2.18 million globally and 147,265 people have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 1400 GMT on Friday.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

– For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

– For a U.S.-focused tracker with state-by-state and county map, open https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T in an external browser.

AMERICAS

– The U.S. Secretary of State said nations should rethink adopting Huawei’s 5G networks in their telecommunications infrastructure, due to China’s role in the pandemic.

– Some Venezuelan public health workers told Reuters the nation’s rickety health care system is ill-prepared to confront the pandemic, with a nationwide testing program dependent on a single, overstretched Caracas lab.

– Honduras’ health minister said that a Cuban medical brigade would join local medics to fight the coronavirus.

– Mexico’s deputy health minister, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, said the country might have as many as 55,951 people infected, twice the estimated number reported last week.

– Brazilian President Bolsonaro fired his health minister and again called for states to end stay-at-home orders. He also accused a house speaker of turning state governors against him and seeking to remove him from office.

EUROPE

– Britain was too slow to react on a number of fronts to the outbreak and 40,000 people could die, a leading public health professor told lawmakers on Friday, a day after the UK’s hospital death toll rose to 14,576.

– Switzerland urged residents against complacency as the country’s infection rate slows and lawmakers start relaxing restrictions.

– Germany’s health minister said the outbreak has become manageable again as the number of recovered patients has exceeded new infections every day this week.

– Moscow has more cases than state testing shows, private testing results among people without symptoms suggest.

ASIA-PACIFIC

– Nearly 1,300 people who died in the Chinese city of Wuhan, or half the total, were not counted in death tolls because of lapses, state media said on Friday, but Beijing dismissed claims that there had been any kind of cover-up.

– Singapore is assessing whether to place recovered migrant workers on cruise ships rather than back in dormitories that have become infection hotbeds, despite problems controlling onboard outbreaks encountered elsewhere.

– Japan said it hoped to start distributing relief payments next month, after extending a state of emergency nationwide.

– The number of infections in South Asia crossed 22,000 on Friday, driven by a rise in cases in India as the Maldives locked down its capital.

– Indonesia surpassed the Philippines on Friday as the country reporting the most infections in Southeast Asia.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

– The pandemic will likely kill at least 300,000 Africans and risks pushing 29 million into extreme poverty, the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa said, calling for a $100 billion safety net for the continent.

– Iran paraded medical gear to mark its national Army Day as the country’s death toll rose to 4,958. A parliamentary report released earlier this week said the death toll might be almost double the figures announced by the health ministry, and the number of infections eight to 10 times more.

– Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti said that Muslim prayers during Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr feast should be performed at home if the outbreak continues.

– Israel is heading off shortages of disposable surgical masks by mass-producing washable versions sized to fit everyone from children to bearded men.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

– World stock markets made a super-charged sprint towards a second straight week of gains on Friday after President Donald Trump laid out plans to gradually reopen the coronavirus-hit U.S. economy following similar moves elsewhere. [MKTS/GLOB]

– Oil prices were mixed on Friday as news of Trump’s plans was quickly overshadowed by China’s worst quarterly economic contraction on record.

– The International Monetary Fund said the economic fallout of the pandemic, combined with other problems, meant Latin America and the Caribbean would likely see “no growth” in the decade from 2015 to 2025.

– Chile´s export-driven economy will see a painfully slow recovery after being battered by mass protests and the coronavirus crisis, market watchers said.

– It is unclear whether measures designed to support the euro zone economy will be sufficient, Germany’s Bundesbank head told Bloomberg, adding that expansionary monetary and fiscal policies would remain necessary for some time.

– The outbreak will not affect China’s current account in the medium-to-long term, the foreign exchange regulator said on Friday.

– Saudi Arabia is facing the crisis with strong financial reserves and relatively low government debt, its finance minister said.

– Fourteen Japanese companies have scrapped plans for initial public offerings this month, more than in the aftermath of the Sept 2001 attacks on the United States.

– Britain’s financial watchdog has proposed a repayment freeze for millions of consumers with auto finance contracts, goods bought on high-cost credit, and pawned belongings.

(Compiled by Sarah Morland; Editing by Tomasz Janowski, Arun Koyyur and Nick Macfie)

Exclusive: Iran-linked hackers pose as journalists in email scam

By Raphael Satter and Christopher Bing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – When Iranian-born German academic Erfan Kasraie received an email from The Wall Street Journal requesting an interview, he sensed something was amiss.

The Nov. 12 note purportedly came from Farnaz Fassihi, a veteran Iranian-American journalist who covers the Middle East. Yet it read more like a fan letter, asking Kasraie to share his “important achievements” to “motivate the youth of our beloved country.”

“This interview is a great honor for me,” the note gushed.

Another red flag: the follow-up email that instructed Kasraie to enter his Google password to see the interview questions.

The phony request was in reality an attempt to break into Kasraie’s email account. The incident is part of a wider effort to impersonate journalists in hacking attempts that three cybersecurity firms said they have tied to the Iranian government, which rejected the claim. The incidents come to light at a time when the U.S. government has warned of Iranian cyber threats in the wake of the U.S. air strike that killed Iran’s second most powerful official, Major-General Qassem Soleimani.

In a report https://blog.certfa.com/posts/fake-interview-the-new-activity-of-charming-kitten published Wednesday, London-based cybersecurity company Certfa tied the impersonation of Fassihi to a hacking group nicknamed Charming Kitten, which has long been associated with Iran. Israeli firm ClearSky Cyber Security provided Reuters with documentation of similar impersonations of two media figures at CNN and Deutsche Welle, a German public broadcaster. ClearSky also linked the hacking attempts to Charming Kitten, describing the individuals targeted as Israeli academics or researchers who study Iran. ClearSky declined to give the specific number of people targeted or to name them, citing client confidentiality.

Iran denies operating or supporting any hacking operation. Alireza Miryousefi, the spokesman for the Islamic Republic’s mission to the United Nations, said that firms claiming otherwise “are merely participants in the disinformation campaign against Iran.”

Reuters uncovered similar hacking attempts on two other targets, which the two cybersecurity firms, along with a third firm, Atlanta-based Secureworks, said also appeared to be the work of Charming Kitten. Azadeh Shafiee, an anchor for London-based satellite broadcaster Iran International, was impersonated by hackers in attempts to break into the accounts of a relative of hers in London and Prague-based Iranian filmmaker Hassan Sarbakhshian.

Sarbakhshian – who fled the Islamic Republic amid a crackdown that saw the arrest of several fellow photojournalists in 2009 – was also targeted with an email that claimed to be from Fassihi. The message asked him to sign a contract to sell some of his pictures to The Wall Street Journal. Sarbakhshian said in an interview that he was suspicious of the message and didn’t respond.

Neither did the ruse fool Kasraie, an academic who frequently appears on television criticizing Iran’s government.

“I understood 100 percent that it was a trap,” he said in an interview.

That’s not surprising given the hackers’ sloppy tactics. For instance, they missed the fact that Fassihi had left the Journal last year for a new job at The New York Times.

The Journal declined to comment. Fassihi referred questions to The Times, which in a statement called the impersonation “a vivid example of the challenges journalists are facing around the globe.”

U.S. officials and cybersecurity experts see Iran as a digital threat. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued alerts about the threat of Iranian cyberattacks following the controversial U.S. attack that killed Soleimani. Microsoft, which tracks attempts to undermine election security, in October accused Charming Kitten of targeting a U.S. presidential campaign; sources told Reuters https://reut.rs/38a9rEM at the time that the campaign was Donald Trump’s.

Homeland Security and FBI spokespeople declined to comment on the recent impersonations identified by Reuters. Certfa, ClearSky, and Secureworks said they could be tied to Charming Kitten through a study of the tactics, targets, and digital infrastructure involved – including servers, link shortening services, and domain registration patterns.

“This activity does align with prior Iranian cyber operations,” said Allison Wikoff, a Secureworks researcher who has tracked Charming Kitten for years.

In early 2019, the United States indicted Behzad Mesri – who ClearSky has linked to Charming Kitten through emails and social media activity – on charges of recruiting a former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer to spy on behalf of Iran. Mesri remains at large and could not be reached for comment.

Other impersonated journalists included CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd, whose identity was stolen in August and used in attempts to break into email accounts in Israel, ClearSky said. Another was Michael Hartlep, a Berlin-based videojournalist who has done freelance assignments for Deutsche Welle and Reuters. ClearSky found his name on an email inviting recipients to a bogus Deutsche Welle webinar on Iran’s role in the Middle East. The firm did not find evidence that the Reuters name was used in hacking attempts.

In another case, the hackers appear to have invented a journalist – “Keyarash Navidpour” – to send out a phony invitation on Jan. 4 to an online seminar that it claimed Deutsche Welle would hold about the killing of Soleimani the day before. No such journalist works for Deutsche Welle, said the news organization’s spokesman Christoph Jumpelt.

Vinograd referred questions to CNN, which did not return messages seeking comment. Hartlep told Reuters he worried such stunts might give sources second thoughts about answering a reporter’s queries.

“If this becomes the usual way of tricking people,” he said, “definitely it makes our work very hard.”

(Reporting by Raphael Satter and Christopher Bing in Washington; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York and Parisa Hafezi in London; Editing by Chris Sanders and Brian Thevenot)