The WHO has announced the launch of the WHO Foundation, a legally separate body that aims to broaden the organisation’s donor base, while denying the foundation was created in response to the US pause on funding.
Spain began 10 days of mourning on Wednesday in memory of the more than 27,000 people who have lost their lives to the coronavirus. Flags are flying at half-mast until June 5.
South Korea has seen its highest spike in cases in 49 days with a new cluster now emerging around an online delivery depot west of Seoul.
A new study is warning that Brazil could be facing a death toll of 125,000 people by early August while the WHO has warned the Americas are the new epicentre.
More than 5.6 million cases of coronavirus have been confirmed around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 350,000 people have died, while nearly 2.3 million have recovered.
Here are the latest updates:
Wednesday, May 27
16:15 GMT – Italy records 117 new deaths, 584 new cases
Deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy have climbed by 117, against 78 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency has said, while the daily tally of new cases climbed to 584 from 397 on Tuesday.
The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on February 21 now stands at 33,072, the agency said, the third highest in the world after those of the US and Britain.
The number of confirmed cases amounts to 231,139, the sixth highest global tally behind those of the United States, Brazil, Russia, Spain and Britain.
16:00 GMT – England’s test and trace programme to launch on Thursday: Johnson
A COVID-19 test and trace service will launch in England on Thursday to help the loosening of lockdown measures, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
“We are also saying from tomorrow, and this is an important development, that there is a new test and trace operation which will change people’s lives and which will require a great deal of thought and compliance but which I think will be worth it for the whole nation,” Johnson told a committee of lawmakers on Wednesday.
The service, which will have a taskforce of 50,000 people to test and identify the contacts of anyone who tests positive for the virus, will not initially include the app that is key to finding anonymous contacts. The government did not give a date for when the smartphone technology would be deployed.
15:45 GMT – WHO chief announces creation of foundation to tap new funding sources
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has announced the creation of a foundation that will enable it to tap new sources of funding, including the general public.
The WHO Foundation is being created as an independent grant-making entity that will support WHO efforts to address the most pressing global health challenges by raising new funding from “non-traditional sources”, according to the organisation.
The new body will “will facilitate contributions from the general public, individual major donors and corporate partners to WHO and trusted partners to deliver on high-impact programmes”, the WHO said.
The US suspended funding to the WHO earlier this year and President Donald Trump threatened this month to halt funding altogether if the body does not commit to reforms within 30 days. But Tedros said the new foundation had “nothing to do with recent funding issues”.
WHO head says he will keep leading virus fight after Trump threat
15:30 GMT – French restaurants set empty tables in appeal for lockdown help
Restaurants, bars and hotels across France set empty tables and draped chef’s aprons outside on Wednesday to protest against continuing lockdown restrictions and demand more state aid.
France ordered the shutdown of its hospitality industry on March 14 – three days before a nationwide coronavirus lockdown – and all establishments remain closed even after the government began relaxing some restrictions on May 11.
“It’s sad not to have restaurants and bars open, they’re part of our life and culture,” Aurore Begue, co-owner of three restaurants, told Reuters news agency at a protest meeting by the Alexandre III bridge over the Seine.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will unveil measures to ease the lockdown on Thursday, though it is not known whether that will include reopening restaurants and cafes, particularly in ‘red zone’ virus hot spots like Paris.
15:15 GMT – Spain reports just one new coronavirus death, bringing total to 27,118
Spain has registered 27,118 deaths from the coronavirus, the Health Ministry has said, just one more than the previous day.
Only 39 deaths were reported over the last seven days, while a total of 236,769 cases have been detected since the beginning of the outbreak, the ministry’s figures showed.
The government has warned that data may fluctuate in coming days as authorities retrospectively apply a new methodology for logging cases and deaths.
COVID-19: Spain volunteers make masks for healthcare workers
15:00 GMT – Poland’s ruling party says June 28 deadline for presidential vote
The last possible date that Poland could hold a presidential election on is June 28, the leader of the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party said on Wednesday, amid deepening conflict surrounding the timing of the vote.
The date of Poland’s presidential election, originally scheduled for May 10, remains uncertain, with PiS accusing the opposition-controlled Senate of delaying tactics designed to help their main candidate’s chances.
Planning for the election collapsed earlier this month because of the coronavirus pandemic, forcing the government to abandon the original schedule.
“Our position is clear, shared: the elections will take place,” Jaroslaw Kaczynski told a news conference, flanked by the leaders of the junior partners in his ruling alliance. “If there are any attempts to oppose this, then we will use all the means at the state’s disposal to see to it that the law is followed.”
Should we worry about surveillance during the pandemic? | Start Here
14:45 GMT – Georgia to reopen all shops, cafes, resume public transport before June 8: PM
Georgia will restart public transport and reopen shops, shopping malls and cafes and restaurants before June 8, the ex-Soviet country’s Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia has said.
Gakharia told the government that public transport, including the metro, would resume on May 29, while shops and shopping malls, roofed and open-air markets, and restaurants with open spaces will reopen from June 1. Restaurants of all types, hotels and inter-city transportation will resume operations from June 8.
“We took a decision on further easing the existing restrictions by considering the economic and social interests of our citizens,” Gakharia said, adding that wearing face masks on public transport and in shops would remain obligatory.
Swimming pools, gyms, theatres and night clubs remain closed. Georgia had reported 735 cases of the coronavirus as of Wednesday, with 12 deaths.
14:30 GMT – UK can help companies prepare for Brexit and COVID-19, minister says
The British government is working with businesses to help them prepare for the departure from the European Union even as it helps them cope with the coronavirus pandemic, cabinet office minister Michael Gove has said.
“We are not considering an implementation phase,” he told a parliamentary committee, adding that staying within the purview of the EU would mean additional costs for taxpayers.
“What we will do is make sure that businesses adjust appropriately to the situation on the 1st of January once we’re outside the Customs Union and the Single Market,” he said. “Obviously we’ve all been preoccupied by the COVID pandemic … it is also the case though that we can step up our engagement with business in advance of December 31.”
14:15 GMT – Merkel: German states taking more responsibility for safety measures
Germany’s federal government is monitoring the coronavirus closely but practical responsibility lies increasingly with the 16 states, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said, warning care must be taken to avoid the virus spreading fast again.
As the number of new coronavirus cases has fallen, Germany has eased strict measures introduced in mid-March to slow the spread of the virus but now politicians from different regions are at odds on how far to go.
After talks with the leaders of the states in the former Communist East, some of whom have pushed for a shift away from strict rules to a loser approach based on recommendations, Merkel warned that the crisis was not yet over.
Reopened shops in Europe eagerly await the return of tourism
14:00 GMT – Singaporean sentenced to four months jail for COVID-19 Facebook post
A taxi driver was jailed for four months in Singapore on Wednesday over a Facebook post in which he falsely claimed food outlets would close and urged people to stock up due to impending COVID-19 restrictions, local media reported.
Kenneth Lai Yong Hui, 40, deleted the message sent to a private Facebook group with around 7,500 members after 15 minutes, court records show, but the public prosecutor called for a punishment that would deter others.
Singapore, which has seen bouts of panic buying during a four-month battle with the virus, has imposed tough punishments on those who breach containment rules or spread misinformation as it tackles one of Asia’s highest COVID-19 rates.
“The psychological fight to allay fear and hysteria is just as important as the fight to contain the spread of COVID-19,” deputy public prosecutor Deborah Lee said in her sentencing submission, according to case documents.
13:45 GMT – EU to borrow $8.5 bn to boost spending on vaccines, drugs, health
The European Commission has proposed borrowing $8.49 bn on financial markets to fund extra spending on vaccines, drugs and healthcare over the next four years and reduce its dependency on foreign supplies.
The plan, which requires approval from EU member governments and lawmakers, would complement a $2.6 bn emergency fund which could also be deployed to address medical shortages in the bloc highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Europe should strive to strengthen its strategic autonomy by reducing excessive import dependence for the most-needed goods and services such as medical products and pharmaceuticals,” an EU document published on Wednesday said.
13:30 GMT – Swiss to allow events of up to 300 people from June 6
The Swiss government said public and private events of up to 300 people and spontaneous gatherings of up to 30 people would be allowed again from June 6, further easing restrictions as the COVID-19 pandemic shows signs of ebbing.
The government will decide on June 24 whether to also lift a ban on events with up to 1,000 people. Big events with more than 1,000 participants will not be possible until the end of August, the government said in a statement on Wednesday.
The government said earlier on Wednesday it wants to restore free movement of people with other Schengen zone member countries by July 6.
13:15 GMT – Moscow stands ready to ease some restrictions from June 1
Moscow is ready to resume non-food trade and allow dry-cleaners and repair shops to open from June 1, as it eases its coronavirus-related lockdown, the city’s mayor Sergei Sobyanin has told President Vladimir Putin.
Russia said on Wednesday its nationwide death toll from the novel coronavirus stood at 3,968 and its overall case tally had reached 370,680.
Hello, this is Joseph Stepansky in Doha taking over from my colleague Farah Najjar.
12:11 GMT – Pandemic creating ‘lockdown generation’ as one in six youths stop work: UN
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused surging unemployment worldwide, but has hit young workers especially hard, forcing more than one in six people aged under 29 to stop working, the UN said.
“I don’t think it is giving way to hyperbole to talk about the danger of a lockdown generation,” International Labour Organization chief Guy Ryder told a virtual press conference, warning that the impact on young people’s work opportunities could “last a decade or longer.”
11:58 GMT – Putin gets invitation from UK’s Johnson on vaccine summit
Russian President Vladimir Putin has received an invitation from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take part in a summit on the coronavirus vaccine, but no decision has been made yet on participation, the Kremlin said.
On June 4, the British government will hold the Global Vaccine Summit 2020 to mobilise resources needed to ensure universal availability of the vaccine against the coronavirus.
11:39 GMT – Premier League clubs vote for return to contact training
Premier League clubs voted unanimously to return to contact training, including tackling, as the English top flight moved a step closer to a resumption after the stoppage due to the coronavirus.
A statement, following a meeting of all 20 clubs, said: “Squads are now able to train as a group and engage in tackling while minimising any unnecessary close contact.
“The Premier League’s priority is the health and wellbeing of all participants.”
Clubs last week returned to training in small groups without contact and under strict health protocols.
There have been no Premier League matches since early March because of the pandemic and 92 fixtures remain.
Premier League Shareholders today voted unanimously to resume contact training, marking another step towards restarting the Premier League season, when safe to do so
— Premier League (@premierleague) May 27, 2020
10:35 GMT – Oman to end lockdown of Muscat governorate
Oman will on Friday end a lockdown of its Muscat governorate – which includes the capital – that has been in place since April 10 as the sultanate eases its coronavirus containment measures, the state news agency reported.
It said a state committee had also ordered government entities to ensure at least 50 percent of employees are working from their offices from May 31.
10:29 GMT – British Tour heralds return of elite-level tennis in UK
A series of professional tennis events will take place in Britain from early July as the sport continues to emerge from the shutdown caused by the pandemic.
The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) said four British Tour events would be held between July 3-26, subject to confirmation of government requirements.
“Since the coronavirus crisis, we have been working incredibly hard to support all our players, venues, coaches and officials through this very challenging time,” LTA chief executive Scott Lloyd said in a statement.
“I’m delighted to announce today the next stage of elite tennis’s return to competing safely behind closed doors as part of a five-phase plan coordinated by UK Sport with Government.”
10:17 GMT – EU proposes 750bn-euro recovery fund
The European Commission proposed a 750 billion euro recovery fund to reboot the European economy that has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, a top official said.
Paolo Gentiloni, the EU Economic Affairs Commissioner, in a tweet, hailed the proposal as a “European breakthrough” that would “tackle an unprecedented crisis”.
09:23 GMT – France halts hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus treatment
The French government banned treatment of COVID-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine, a controversial and potentially harmful drug that US President Donald Trump has said he is taking preventively.
The move came after two French advisory bodies and the World Health Organization warned this week that the drug – a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus – had been shown to be potentially dangerous in several studies.
Under the new French rules, the drug can be used only in clinical trials to test its efficacy against the virus.
09:01 GMT – Indonesia reports 686 new cases, 55 deaths
Indonesia reported 686 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infections in the Southeast Asian country to 23,851, a health ministry official said.
Indonesia also confirmed 55 new deaths from the virus, bringing the total fatalities to 1,473, the official, Achmad Yurianto, told reporters.
Meanwhile, 6,057 people have recovered.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) May 27, 2020
08:32 GMT – Spain begins 10 days of national mourning
Spain has begun an official 10-day mourning period for the tens of thousands of victims of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
All flags on public buildings across the nation and on Spanish naval vessels will be lowered to half-mast until June 5 to pay tribute to the more than 27,000 people that have so far lost their lives.
Read more here.
08:28 GMT – Philippines reports 18 new deaths, 380 more infections
The Philippines’ health ministry reported 18 new coronavirus deaths and 380 additional infections, the highest single-day increase in cases in more than seven weeks.
In a bulletin, the ministry said total deaths have reached 904, while confirmed cases have risen to 15,049. It said 94 more patients have recovered, bringing total recoveries to 3,506.
08:22 GMT – Finland unemployment nearly doubles in April from year ago
Finland’s number of unemployed jobseekers nearly doubled in April to 433,100 from 229,700 a year earlier, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment said.
The number of jobseekers increased by 124,000 in April from the previous month, it said.
The ministry’s numbers, based on registered jobseekers at Finland’s employment offices, includes those who have been temporarily laid off due to the coronavirus outbreak.
07:37 GMT – Russia reports new deaths, cases
Russia said 161 people with the coronavirus had died in the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide death toll to 3,968.
Officials reported 8,338 new cases, pushing Russia’s overall case tally to 370,680.
07:15 GMT – Singapore reports 533 new cases
Singapore’s health ministry reported 533 new coronavirus cases, taking its total to 32,876.
06:57 GMT – UK gov’t says ‘move on’ to public outraged over Cummings conduct
The British government said that it was time to move on after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s senior adviser provoked outrage and widespread scorn by making a 400 km (250 mile) road trip during the coronavirus lockdown.
Dominic Cummings has refused to quit after it was revealed that he had driven from London to northern England in March with his 4-year-old son and his wife, who was sick at the time, to be close to relatives.
Johnson has backed his adviser.
“Now I think is the time for us all to move on,” Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told the BBC.
“That’s not to say this isn’t an important issue or that people don’t care a great deal about it but I think there is a lot more that we need to focus on now, like the virus and the economy.”
06:32 GMT – Bulgaria to reopen restaurants, bars and cafes
Bulgaria will allow restaurants, bars and cafes to reopen at full capacity on June 1 as the Balkan country further eased restrictions imposed in mid-March to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Health Minister Kiril Ananiev approved the decision, and also allowed the resumption of cultural and entertainment events, including theatres, concerts and stage performances. Dance classes could also resume, using up to 30 percent of their indoor capacity and up to 50 percent of the outdoor capacity.
According to the order, however, discos, piano bars and night bars must stay closed as the country remains under a declared epidemic situation until June 14.
06:10 GMT – Dubai eases lockdown restrictions
Cinemans, gyms, educational institutes and entertainment attractions have been allowed to reopen in Dubai, days after an extension on a nationwide curfew was imposed in the United Arab Emirates.
There will be no restrictions on movement or business operations between 6am and 11pm local time, Dubai’s Media office said, adding that social distancing rules must be observed.
Under the directives of @HHShkMohd, @HamdanMohammed announces the gradual reopening of business activities in #Dubai from Wednesday, 27 May. There will be no restrictions on movement between 6.00 am and 11.00 pm. pic.twitter.com/7ZeMKpyKUY
— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) May 25, 2020
05:30 GMT –
I am handing over this blog to my colleagues in Doha shortly.
A quick update on developments this morning. The global death toll has risen above 350,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, South Korea has seen its highest spike in cases in 49 days with a new cluster now emerging around an online delivery depot, and Japan and the EU are preparing giant new stimulus packages for coronavirus-hit economies.
05:00 GMT – Pakistan government mulls renewed lockdown measures as cases surge
Pakistan’s government is mulling a renewed lockdown after its move to lift many coronavirus restrictions over the past two weeks led to a surge in new cases.
Defacto health minister Zafar Mirza said there had been a “severe rush” to markets and people were behaving as if “the virus had been eradicated” since the curbs were relaxed.
04:45 GMT – Major economies prepare massive new stimulus packages
The European Union and Japan are preparing massive new stimulus packages to get their economies moving after weeks of coronavirus lockdown.
Japan’s measures are due to be finalised at a cabinet meeting later on Wednesday. The $1.1 trillion package includes cash for small and medium-sized enterprises, payouts to healthcare workers as well as funds for vaccine development and medical equipment, and rental subisidies for people or businesses who are struggling.
The 27-nation EU is also due to unveil its latest stimulus plan on Wednesday. The more than one trillion euro initiative involves grants, loans and guarantees. Some of the more fiscally conservative nations have expressed concern about the grants because they would need to be repaid through joint borrowing, which could lead to higher national contributions to the EU budget.
04:20 GMT – South Korea sees spike in cases with new cluster at retail logistics centre
South Korea has seen its biggest surge in new coronavirus cases in 49 days with a new cluster emerging at a retail logistics centre west of Seoul.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) says it confirmed 40 new cases up to midnight on Tuesday.
At least 36 cases have been linked to the Coupang warehouse, which was closed for disinfection on Monday. All 3,600 people who work there are being tested for the virus. Coupang enjoyed a surge of business as South Koreans stayed indoors although some of its workers complained about conditions.
“We are very nervous about community infections and we are keeping a close eye on the situation,” vice minister for health Kim Kang-lip said at a briefing.
04:15 GMT – ‘I use it as a prophylaxis’: El Salvador’s leader touts hydroxychloroquine
El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele has joined US President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to extol the benefits of hydroxychloroquine.
Bukele said he wasn’t promoting it as a treatment of coronavirus – given medical concern about its use – but as a preventative measure.
“I use it as a prophylaxis, President Trump uses it as a prophylaxis, most of the world’s leaders use it as a prophylaxis,” he claimed.
In case you’re wondering about the drug, read what our resident doctor had to say about it here. There are some pretty nasty side-effects.
WHO suspends clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19
04:00 GMT – New Zealand expects safe travel plan with Australia by June
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expecting a draft blueprint for resuming travel between the two countries will be ready by early June.
“We are working to move on this as quickly as we can can,” Ardern told reporters this morning. “We are both very keen on it … across both sides of the ditch.”
The idea is to create a travel bubble that would allow Australians and New Zealanders to travel to each other’s countries without the need for a 14-day coronavirus quarantine.
03:25 GMT – Singapore sets up vending machines for masks
Singapore has set up vending machines at community centres around the island to dispense free, resuable face masks.
The city-state made face masks compulsory on April 14 and gave out free masks to every household.
02:05 GMT – Australia records youngest coronavirus death
A 30-year-old man with underlying health conditions has died in Queensland, becoming the youngest victim of the coronavirus in Australia.
The authorities are tracing a possible link between the man and the Ruby Princess cruise ship which triggered the biggest cluster of cases in the country after it docked in Sydney in March. His partner is also showing symptoms of the disease.
Some 103 people in Australia have now died from coronavirus.
01:30 GMT – Global death toll exceeds 350,000: Johns Hopkins
Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows the confirmed death toll from coronavirus around the world is now 350,417, with roughly 28 percent of those deaths in the United States. The actual toll could be much higher.
- US – 98,902
- United Kingdom – 37,130
- Italy – 32,955
- France – 28,533
- Spain – 27,117
China, where the disease was first recorded late last year, has confirmed 4,638 deaths.
We have been trying to document some of the lives lost over the past few months.
You can read more on some of the victims here. If there is someone you would like to pay tribute to please do get in touch.
00:00 GMT – Spain to begin 10 days of national mourning
Spain, one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus, will begin 10 days of national mourning on Wednesday to remember the more than 27,000 people who have lost their lives to the disease.
Flags will be flown at half-mast at the thousands of public buildings across the nation, as well as on the ships of the Spanish navy.
At the end of the mourning period on June 5, King Felipe VI will also lead an official ceremony in remembrance of the dead.
23:30 GMT (Tuesday) – Police in Brazil raid home of Bolsonaro rival in coronavirus probe
Brazilian federal police on Tuesday raided the homes of Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel as part of a COVID-19 corruption investigation.
Witzel is a political rival of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro.
The federal police said the search warrants were part of an investigation into alleged corruption involving the use of public money earmarked for the coronavirus pandemic. Read more on that story here.
23:00 GMT (Tuesday) – ‘Still accelerating’ – WHO warns on coronavirus in Americas
The WHO’s regional Latin American health authority has warned that the new coronavirus is “still accelerating” in Brazil, Peru, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, with the Americas becoming the new epicentre of the global pandemic.