What you need to know about the coronavirus right now 06-22-20

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

South Korea’s second wave

Health authorities in South Korea said for the first time the country is in the midst of a “second wave” of novel coronavirus infections focused around its densely populated capital.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) had previously said South Korea’s first wave had never really ended.

But on Monday, KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong said it had become clear that a holiday weekend in early May marked the beginning of a new wave of infections focused in the greater Seoul area, which had previously seen few cases.

Training an “army”

Europeans are enjoying the gradual easing of coronavirus lockdown measures, but in hospitals they are already preparing for the next wave of infections.

Some intensive care specialists are trying to hire more permanent staff. Others want to create a reservist “army” of medical professionals ready to be deployed wherever needed to work in wards with seriously ill patients.

European countries have been giving medics crash courses in how to deal with COVID-19 patients, and are now looking at ways to retrain staff to avoid shortages of key workers if there is a second wave of the novel coronavirus.

Antibody levels fall quickly

Levels of an antibody found in recovered COVID-19 patients fell sharply 2-3 months after infection for both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients, according to a Chinese study, raising questions about the length of any immunity against the novel coronavirus.

The study highlights the risks of using COVID-19 “immunity passports” and supports the prolonged use of public health interventions such as social distancing and isolating high-risk groups, researchers said.

Health authorities in some countries such as Germany are debating the ethics and practicalities of allowing people who test positive for antibodies to move more freely than others who do not.

Israeli company has high hopes for mask fabric

An Israeli company expects a fabric it has developed will be able to neutralise close to 99% of the coronavirus, even after being washed multiple times, following a successful lab test.

Sonovia’s reusable anti-viral masks are coated in zinc oxide nano-particles that destroy bacteria, fungi and viruses, which it says can help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Tests in the Microspectrum (Weipu Jishu) lab in Shanghai had demonstrated that the washable fabric used in its masks neutralised more than 90% of the coronavirus to which it was exposed, Sonovia said on Monday.

Liat Goldhammer, Sonovia’s chief technology officer, said that in the coming weeks the fabric, which can also be used in textiles for hospitals, protective equipment and clothing, will be able to neutralise almost 99% of the coronavirus.

Dog days for Chinese fair?

China’s annual dog-meat festival has opened in defiance of a government campaign to reduce risks to health highlighted by the novel coronavirus outbreak, but activists are hopeful its days are numbered.

The coronavirus, which is widely believed to have originated in horseshoe bats before crossing into humans in a market in the city of Wuhan, has forced China to reassess its relationship with animals, and it has vowed to ban the wildlife trade.

In April, Shenzhen became the first city in China to ban the consumption of dogs, with others expected to follow.

The agriculture ministry also decided to classify dogs as pets rather than livestock.

(Compiled by Linda Noakes, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now 06-05-20

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

When coronavirus and protests collide

Australian authorities are taking legal action to try to stop a Black Lives Matter protest scheduled for Saturday in Sydney, citing the risk of an outbreak of COVID-19 given the thousands expected to attend.

French police have also banned a demonstration planned for Saturday in front of the U.S. Embassy in Paris because of what they said were risks of social disorder and health dangers from large gatherings.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield have urged participants in protests sweeping the United States to get tested for the coronavirus.

Demonstrations are planned in several cities around the world this weekend.

Hydroxychloroquine or not?

An influential study that found hydroxychloroquine increased the risk of death in COVID-19 patients has been withdrawn a week after it led to major trials being halted, adding to confusion about a malaria drug championed by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Lancet medical journal pulled the study after three of its authors retracted it, citing concerns about the quality and veracity of data.

The World Health Organization will resume its hydroxychloroquine trials after pausing them in the wake of the study. Dozens of other trials have resumed or are in process.

Surging cases in Brazil, Mexico and India

The number of coronavirus deaths in Brazil has blown past Italy’s toll, while Mexico reported a record number of new cases, as Latin American leaders push to end quarantine measures and kick their economies back into gear.

Latin America as a whole has become a new focus of the pandemic, with health officials urging governments not to open their economies too fast and to avoid public crowds.

India’s coronavirus infections are meanwhile rising at the fastest daily rate than at any time in the past three months, but it plans to open shopping malls, restaurants and places of worship next week.

More drinkers cut than increase alcohol

People missing out on drinking in restaurants and bars during lockdowns are not entirely making up for it by pouring more at home, a survey of nine countries conducted on behalf of beer, wine and spirits companies showed.

The International Alliance for Responsible Drinking, made up of 12 major alcoholic beverage companies, said its survey of 11,000 people found that 30% were drinking less than before, and only 11% were drinking more.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh and Nick Tattersall)

‘Your Pain Is My Pain’: global anti-racism protests rage

FRANKFURT/LONDON (Reuters) – Protesters around the world took to the streets again on Friday, despite coronavirus warnings, in a wave of outrage at the death of African American George Floyd in the United States and racism against minorities in their own nations.

Floyd’s death, after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck while detaining him, has convulsed the United States.

Rallies in the German cities of Frankfurt and Hamburg drew more than 10,000 people, according to Reuters witnesses, with many lifting hands in the air and holding banners with slogans such as: “Your Pain Is My Pain, Your Fight Is My Fight”.

As authorities in many nations warned of the risk of COVID-19 infections from large gatherings, some participants in Germany wore anti-coronavirus masks with a clenched fist image.

One banner at the Frankfurt rally asked: “How Many Weren’t Filmed?” in reference to the fact that Floyd’s case was caught on camera in Minneapolis.

In London’s Trafalgar Square, dozens took to one knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Placards read: “White People Must Do More” and “Justice for Belly Mujinga” in reference to a rail worker who died of COVID-19 after being spat at by a man who said he was infected.

“There are a lot of uncomfortable conversations that people have been avoiding because it’s unpleasant, it’s not fun, and it can create tension, whether that’s in your family or with your friends or in your workplace,” said law firm worker Ada Offor, 21, in Trafalgar Square.

“But they’re conversations that need to be had if we want to avoid things like this happening in the future, if we want to create reform, if we want to finally create a kind of society where black bodies are treated equally.”

In Australia, demonstrators marched to Parliament House in Canberra, social media images showed, despite attempts by the authorities to stop gatherings due to the coronavirus.

Australians have also been drawing attention to the mistreatment of indigenous nationals.

Police banned a demonstration planned to take place in front of the U.S. Embassy in Paris on Saturday, citing the risks of social disorder and the coronavirus pandemic.

Elsewhere, rallies were scheduled on Friday in the Netherlands, Liberia, Norway, Italy, Austria, Canada and Greece, with more planned for the weekend.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaux worldwide; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now 6-02-20

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Inhaled remdesivir

Gilead Sciences Inc is developing easier-to-administer versions of its antiviral treatment remdesivir for COVID-19 that could be used outside hospitals, including versions that can be inhaled after trials showed moderate effectiveness for the drug given by infusion.

Remdesivir is the only drug so far that has been shown to help patients with COVID-19, but Gilead and other companies are looking for ways to make it work better.

Sell, stow or dump?

Forget fast or slow fashion, now it’s ground to a halt.

A mountain of apparel stock has been piling up in stores, distribution centres, warehouses and even shipping containers during months of COVID-19 lockdowns. As retailers reopen around the world, they have to work out how to get rid of it.

Their main options? Keep it in storage, hold a sale, offload it to “off-price” retailers like TJ Maxx which sell branded goods at deep discounts, or move it to online resale sites.

Save the crabs

Wildlife advocates are pushing drugmakers to curb the use of prized horseshoe crab blood by switching to a synthetic alternative for safety tests that detect bacterial contamination in intravenous drugs or implants, including those needed before a COVID-19 vaccine can be used on humans.

This shift could save 100,000 horseshoe crabs annually on the U.S. East Coast alone and help threatened migratory birds that depend on crab eggs for survival say the National Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife and other groups.

Horseshoe crabs’ milky-blue copper-rich blood has helped the species to survive for 450 million years – and made it a source of one of the drug industry’s most unusual raw materials because it clots in the presence of bacterial endotoxins.

Mockery over coronavirus “sex ban”

The British government faced mockery on Tuesday over coronavirus rules which were cast by some media as a “sex ban”, though a junior minister said the regulations were aimed at keeping people safe.

Under amendments introduced to English rules on Monday, no person may participate in a gathering which takes place in a public or private place indoors and consists of two or more people. Britain’s tabloid media cast it as a “bonking ban” while #sexban was trending in the United Kingdom on Twitter.

“What this is about is making sure we don’t have people staying away from home at night,” junior housing minister Simon Clarke told LBC radio when questioned about the ban.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh and Nick Tattersall; Editing by Nick Macfie)

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now 5-29-20

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Hospitals slash use of hydroxychloroquine

U.S. hospitals said they have pulled way back on the use of hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug touted by President Donald Trump as a COVID-19 treatment, after several studies suggested it is not effective and may pose significant risks.

Early hopes for the drug were based in part on lab tests and its anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. But its efficacy has so far failed to pan out in human trials, and at least two studies suggest it may increase the risk of death.

China plans to extend flight curbs

Chinese civil aviation authorities plan to extend until June 30 their curbs on international flights to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the U.S. embassy in Beijing said in a travel advisory on Friday.

China has drastically cut such flights since March to allay concerns over infections brought by arriving passengers. A so-called “Five One” policy allows mainland carriers to fly just one flight a week on one route to any country and foreign airlines to operate just one flight a week to China.

Washington has accused Beijing of making it impossible for U.S. airlines to resume service to China.

Fighting misinformation

It’s not just U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweets that are being fact-checked.

Twitter has also flagged a tweet written in March by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian that suggested the U.S. military brought the novel coronavirus to China, posting a blue exclamation mark under it with a comment urging readers to check the facts about COVID-19.

Clicking on the link directed readers to a page with the headline, “WHO says evidence suggests COVID-19 originated in animals and was not produced in a lab”.

Closed climbing season

Nepal’s Sherpa guides, famed for being the backbone of mountain expeditions in the Himalayas, have also found their livelihood hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

Many have returned to their villages, hiking officials say, as climbing and trekking activities have been suspended since March, and some are looking ahead with hope to the less popular autumn climbing season, which lasts from September to November.

Friday is the anniversary of the day Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa, and New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary became the first people to climb the 8,850-metre (29,035-foot) high Mount Everest in 1953.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh and Nick Tattersall; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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)

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

Summer cancelled?

Across the continent, from Portugal’s Algarve to the islands of Greece, beaches are deserted. There are no visitors at the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre, Edinburgh’s August festivals have been cancelled and the Netherlands’ flower fields are closed.

The big question facing Europe’s tourism industry, however, is whether it can still salvage summer.

“We have to endure the situation and get some revenue this summer,” said Goncalo Rebelo de Almeida, board member of Portuguese hotel chain Vila Gale. “I hope … that will at least allow us to pay fixed costs. And then we will bet on it returning to normal in 2021.”

In the meantime, calls are growing for economic support to haul hotels, restaurants, tour operators, travel agencies and cruise companies back from collapse.

Workplace wearables

Workers in the port of Antwerp will next month begin testing wristbands developed by a local technology company to reinforce social distancing as the world tries to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tech firm Rombit already supplies wearables resembling a sports watch that can warn workers of workplace dangers – newly installed software will now also give warning signals if workers come for example within 1.5 metres (five feet) of each other.

The developers believe it also could offer contact-tracing if someone becomes infected with the coronavirus. Such tools could be useful in helping companies restart work safely.

The vaccine race

An Oxford University team is launching this week trials in humans of a potential COVID-19 vaccine and say a million doses of it are being manufactured for availability by September – even before trials prove whether the shot is effective.

The experimental product – called “ChAdOx1 nCoV-19” – is one of at least 70 potential COVID-19 candidate shots under development by biotech and research teams around the world. At least five of those are in preliminary testing in people.

Job killer

Thursday’s weekly U.S. jobless claims report will likely show that a record 26 million Americans sought unemployment benefits over the last five weeks.

Put another way, that would mean that all the jobs created during the longest employment boom in U.S. history have been wiped out in about a month by the impact of coronavirus.

Ramadan congregational prayers

As the Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts this week, Pakistani doctors warned the government and clerics that it was ill-advised to allow prayer congregations at mosques.

Pakistan lifted precautionary restrictions on congregational prayers on Saturday, after several clashes between police and worshippers and with clerics rejecting such limitations.

The question now is whether other Muslim nations will also relent and relax bans on congregations in the light of pressure from local religious figures.

Sports calendar thins

Another day, another major sporting event bites the dust. The 2020 St. Andrews Trophy, scheduled to take place in Wales from July 23-24, has been cancelled due to the outbreak, the R&A and the European Golf Association has confirmed.

The tournament, contested between amateur golfers representing Britain & Ireland and Europe, was first staged in 1956 and has been held every two years since.

(Compiled by Mark John and Karishma Singh; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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)

Latest on the spread of the coronavirus around the world

(Reuters) – Reported cases of the coronavirus have crossed 2.26 million globally and 154,613 people have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 1400 GMT on Saturday.

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

*As some U.S. states look to start reopening their coronavirus-battered economies amid protests from supporters of President Donald Trump anxious to get back to work, hardest hit New York state began mandating the wearing of masks or face coverings in public to contain the pathogen’s spread.

*An official charged with overseeing how the U.S. government handles $500 billion in bailout funds said he will also monitor how companies use the cash, including for share buybacks, dividends and staff compensation.

* The U.S. coronavirus crisis took a sharp political turn as President Donald Trump lashed out at four Democratic governors over their handling of the pandemic after having conceded that states bear ultimate control of restrictions to contain the outbreak.

* U.S. coronavirus deaths topped 35,400 on Friday, rising by more than 2,000 for the fourth day in a row, according to a Reuters tally, as some states announced timetables for lifting restrictions aimed at blunting the pandemic.

* Better-than-expected social distancing practices have led an influential research model to lower its projected U.S. coronavirus death toll by 12%, while predicting some states may be able to safely begin easing restrictions as early as May 4.

*Some of the neediest residents of Colombia’s capital Bogota have started receiving food donations, while dozens living on the street were given a chance to shower and change clothes, as the city rides out a five-week lockdown to contain the coronavirus.

* Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said a large number of migrants on a deportation flight to Guatemala from the United States this week were infected with the coronavirus, adding that U.S. authorities had confirmed a dozen cases.

EUROPE

* France will try to avoid setting different rules for older people and other forms of discrimination once the government starts easing its coronavirus confinement measures, the French President’s office said.

* Spain’s death toll from coronavirus rose at a slower pace but surpassed 20,000 fatalities as the government mulled whether to ask parliament for a third extension of the confinement imposed in one of the world’s hardest hit countries.

* Deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy rose by 575 on Friday, up from 525 the day before, while the number of new cases declined slightly and scientists warned that infections were now mainly happening among family members.

* Doctors and health workers criticised the British government for suggesting that gowns used to protect them while treating coronavirus patients could be re-used, as supplies run low across the country.

* Russia said its death toll from the novel coronavirus had risen to 313, an overnight increase of 40, as it posted a new record daily jump in new cases.

* France said there was no evidence so far of a link between the new coronavirus and the work of the P4 research laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the current pandemic started.

ASIA-PACIFIC

*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.

*Hundreds of workers poured onto the streets of Bangladesh’s port city of Chittagong, flouting social distancing rules to demand work and wages during the coronavirus shutdown.

* Japan, alarmed by rising coronavirus deaths and the spectre of the collapse of the medical system, is scrambling to expand testing with drive-through facilities and general practitioners helping to collect samples.

* Singapore’s health ministry confirmed 942 more coronavirus infections, a new daily record, the vast majority of which are among migrant workers living in dormitories.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* The Nigerian president’s chief of staff, Abba Kyari, died on Friday from COVID-19, making him the most high profile person in the country to die in the coronavirus outbreak.

* Iran’s death toll from the new coronavirus rose by 73 in the previous 24 hours to reach 5,031 on Saturday, health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpour said on state TV.

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

* African leaders, the IMF and the World Bank appealed for rapid international action to help African countries respond to the coronavirus pandemic that will cause the continent’s economy to shrink by 1.25% in 2020, the worst reading on record.

* Dubai has extended by one week a 24-hour-a-day curfew imposed as part of a sterilisation drive to control the spread of the coronavirus, the government said in a Twitter post.

* The Holy Fire ceremony symbolising Jesus’ resurrection was lit in a deserted Jerusalem, without the joyful throng of Orthodox Christian pilgrims who normally attend a spectacle that brings the Easter season to a colourful climax.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

* 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, which has killed 1,250 people in the country, 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.

* Gold dropped about 2% on Friday after President Donald Trump’s new guidelines to re-open the U.S. economy and encouraging early data related to a potential COVID-19 treatment drove investors towards riskier assets.

* Some moderate Democrats key to their party’s control of the U.S. House of Representatives are urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi to move quickly to replenish a fund to help small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, saying other party priorities can wait.

* 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)

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Restarting crucial industries

India is planning to restart some crucial manufacturing to ease the difficulties of the poor, despite expectations it will extend a 21-day lockdown beyond April 15, two government sources said.

Spain lifts restrictions on some businesses on Monday after shutting down all non-essential operations nearly two weeks ago. This will allow businesses that cannot operate remotely, including construction and manufacturing, to reopen. The move has been criticised by some as risking a resurgence in the spread of the virus.

Patients testing positive again

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday that it was looking into reports of COVID-19 patients testing positive again after clinically recovering from the disease.

South Korean officials had reported on Friday that 91 patients cleared of the new coronavirus had tested positive again. Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a briefing that the virus may have been “reactivated” rather than the patients being re-infected.

Russian border becomes China’s new frontline

China’s northeastern border with Russia has become its new frontline in the fight against a resurgence in the epidemic, as new daily cases rose to a six-week high.

Half of the imported cases from the daily tally involved Chinese nationals returning home from Russia’s Far Eastern Federal District through border crossings in the Heilongjiang province.

Widespread testing needed

The United States needs to ramp up testing for the coronavirus as the White House considers when and how to lift stay-at-home restrictions and lockdowns triggered by the pandemic, U.S. health experts said on Sunday.

Diagnostic testing determines if somebody is infected with the virus and antibody testing shows who has been infected and is therefore immune. Both will be important in getting people back into the workplace and containing the virus as that happens, the experts said.

‘Ghosts’ patrol streets to keep Indonesians indoors

An Indonesian village on Java island has summoned up ghosts to help it persuade locals to stay indoors during the coronavirus outbreak.

The ghosts are in fact villagers dressed up as “pocong”, ghostly figures wrapped in white shrouds with powdered faces and kohl-rimmed eyes.

“We wanted to be different and create a deterrent effect because ‘pocong’ are spooky and scary,” said Anjar Pancaningtyas, head of a village youth group that coordinated with the police on the unconventional initiative.

In Indonesian folklore, “pocong” represent the trapped souls of the dead.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh)