In the UK, police have spoken to the prime minister’s key adviser Dominic Cummings about breaching the government’s lockdown rules after he was seen in Durham, 264 miles from his London home, despite having had symptoms of coronavirus.
Officers approached him days after he was seen rushing out of Downing Street when the prime minister tested positive for the virus at the end of March, a joint investigation by the Guardian and the Mirror has found.
At the time, the government had instructed people not to travel and to stay at their family homes. Cummings, however, was seen in Durham. A member of the public is understood to have seen him and made a complaint to the police.
Downing Street has previously refused to disclose where Cummings was staying during the lockdown.
Chile’s president Sebastian Piñera has kicked off a programme to provide support for families struggling during the pandemic.
About 2.5m packages of food and hygiene products will be distributed over the weekend to families in Santiago before the scheme expands to other parts of the country. Piñera said:
It is a support and relief for millions and millions of Chilean families who need urgent help.
However, poorer communities claim they are not receiving the support they need to survive during the pandemic, with many unable to work as parts of the country approach a second month of strict lockdown measures. Among those most affected are the 30% of the Chilean workforce who make up the country’s informal economy.
Unrest broke out earlier this week in several parts of the country over hunger, most notably in the Santiago district El Bosque, when dozens of people took to the street to express their desperation.
Police swiftly arrived, leading to violent clashes between police and protesters.
“After four weeks of quarantine, despair and hunger begin to appear,” said the mayor of El Bosque Sadi Melo Moya who condemned the police’s heavy-handed reaction.
The hunger protests have led to the emergence of dozens of makeshift soup kitchens in the city’s working-class neighbourhoods, where communities have united under the mantra “only the people help the people”.
Videos circulating on social media show police interrupting community support efforts, confiscating donated goods and shutting down soup kitchens.
The police denied accusations of excessive repression, claiming one of the gatherings filmed required intervention as it had “initiated disorder” and did not respect the quarantine.
Chile’s former president and the current UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said: “It is key to generate important mechanisms for social protection.”
A Berlin church is hosting Muslims who are unable to fit into their mosque for Friday prayers because of social distancing guidelines, Reuters reports.
The Dar Assalam mosque in the Neukölln district normally welcomes hundreds of Muslims to its Friday services. But it can currently only accommodate 50 people at a time under Germany’s restrictions.
During the holy fasting month of Ramadan, the nearby Martha Lutheran church stepped in to help, hosting Muslim prayers in Arabic and German.
“It is a great sign and it brings joy in Ramadan and joy amid this crisis,” said Mohamed Taha Sabry, the mosque’s imam, who led his congregation in prayer watched over by a stained-glass window depicting the Virgin Mary. “This pandemic has made us a community. Crises bring people get together.”
Places of worship reopened in Germany on 4 May after being shut for weeks, but worshippers must maintain a minimum distance from one another of 1.5m.
The church, a red-brick neo-renaissance building in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district could hardly offer a sharper contrast to the cultural centre in Neukoelln where the Muslim congregation is accustomed to gathering. One worshipper, Samer Hamdoun, said:
It was a strange feeling because of the musical instruments, the pictures. But, when you look, when you forget the small details. This is the House of God in the end.
The Islamic Council, an umbrella group of 400 mosques, said in April that many face bankruptcy because the closures stretched into the holy fasting month of Ramadan, usually a vital period for donations.
The church’s pastor, Monika Matthias, said she had felt moved by the Muslim call to prayer.
I took part in the prayer. I gave a speech in German. And during prayer, I could only say yes, yes, yes, because we have the same concerns and we want to learn from you. And it is beautiful to feel that way about each other.
South America has become a new epicentre of the pandemic, with Brazil hardest-hit, while cases are rising in some African countries that so far have a relatively low death toll, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
“In a sense South America has become a new epicentre for the disease,” Dr Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergencies expert, told a news conference, adding Brazil is “clearly the most affected”.
Ryan noted Brazilian authorities have approved broad use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. He reiterated that current clinical evidence does not support the unproven drug’s widespread use against the new disease, given its risks.
Some nine African countries had 50% rises in cases in the past week, while others have seen a decline or have stable rates, Ryan said. The low mortality rate may be due to half of the continent’s population being 18 years old or younger, he said, adding he still is worried the disease will spread on a continent with “significant gaps” in intensive care services, medical oxygen and ventilation.
About 80 million infants may have missed out on vaccines for diseases including diphtheria, measles and polio as a result of the disruption to healthcare services caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization says.
Fighting has forced 660,000 people to flee their homes since the UN secretary general called for a global ceasefire to focus on handling the pandemic, an NGO says. The Norwegian Refugee Council says the UN security council has failed to provide leadership for ceasefires during the pandemic.
Two-week quarantines will be imposed on new arrivals to the UK from 8 June, with a £1,000 fine awaiting anyone who breaches the measure. The home secretary, Priti Patel, announces that mandatory self-isolation would not apply to people coming from Ireland
The UK’s coronavirus epidemic is “either flat or declining … and in most areas it is declining,” said thegovernment’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance. He said the country’s coronavirus R0 number – the number of people to whom each infected person passes the virus – is between 0.7 and 1.
The 54 countries in Africa have collectively identified more than 100,000 cases of infection, according to figures collated by the Africa Centres for Disease Control. There have so far been 3,101 deaths across the continent.
Germany’s tax revenues for April fell by a quarter compared to the same month last year. According to the finance ministry’s monthly report, the central government and the 16 federal states pulled in about €39bn (£34.87bn).
The Madrid region and the Barcelona metropolitan area will be able to move into the next phase of lockdown de-escalation from Monday, the Spanish government says. The two regions have been the areas hardest hit by Covid-19.
One of Europe’s biggest music events, Exit festival in Serbia, has been rescheduled for August. Originally meant to take place in July in Novi Sad, the fate of the festival was uncertain. But, as Serbia emerges from its lockdown, its prime minister, Ana Brnabić, said the event can take place after all.
That’s it from me, Damien Gayle, for another day. I’ll be back tomorrow.
The British Grand Prix faces a race against time to resolve the problem created by the government’s imposition of quarantine on all entry into the UK, writes Giles Richards for the Guardian’s sports desk.
The chances of the race at Silverstone being held look increasingly slim but Formula One is understood to be remaining in a dialogue with the government in an attempt to find a solution.
F1 has yet to comment and is studying the full quarantine document before entering further talks with the government. As things stand, with F1 denied any exemption from the quarantine procedures, not only is the British GP under threat but the sport faces an increasingly complex challenge as it attempts to create and implement a new calendar for the 2020 season.
Human rights activists in Zimbabwe have accused the country’s police and other officials of more than 200 violations linked to its coronavirus lockdown.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, a coalition of 20 rights groups, said it had petitioned the country’s police chief and home affairs minister over escalating rights abuses, according to AFP.
“About 245 violations… have been recorded since the start of the lockdown,” Jestina Mukoko, who chairs the coalition, told reporters in Harare.
The forum is “appalled and outraged by the continued human rights violations that are openly taking place in Zimbabwe and perpetrated by the members of the… police,” Mukoko said.
The monitors in particular called on police to launch a criminal investigation into the “abduction and torture” of a lawmaker from the opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change and two other senior party officials.
They said that the women, who were arrested following flash demonstrations over food shortages, were taken by unidentified men and driven several miles out of town, beaten up, sexually assaulted and dumped by a roadside.
Zimbabwe has so far recorded 51 cases of coronavirus, including four deaths. Last weekend the president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, said a lockdown imposed on March 30 to control the spread of the virus would stay in place for the moment, but be reviewed every two weeks.
Iceland’s chief epidemiologist, Þórólfur Guðnason, has reportedly submitted proposals to now significantly ease Covid-19 restrictions, including reopening bars and permitting gatherings of up to 200 people.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of the southern Russian republic of Chechnya, has not been seen publicly in the 24 hours since Russian state media said he had been hospitalised in Moscow with coronavirus symptoms, writes Andrew Roth, the Guardian’s Moscow correspondent.
While online sleuths have sought to track planes or motorcades that may have ferried Chechnya’s leader in Moscow, local officials have either declined to give information about his whereabouts or health, or have opted to troll journalists who have asked.
Experts on the region said that Kadyrov’s status was unclear but that hiding an illness would fit a wider strategy of minimising problems in Chechnya, particularly when reporting to the Kremlin.
“Kadyrov is a hostage of his own PR, he is caught by his own approach, which doesn’t allow him to recognise problems in Chechnya,” said Grigory Shvedov, the editor of the Caucasian Knot, an independent news agency reporting on the North Caucasus region. “He reports to the Kremlin that everything is fine in Chechnya … and he is a hostage of this report.”
Italy recorded 130 new deaths from Covid-19 epidemic on Friday against 156 the day before, the civil protection agency said, while the daily tally of new cases rose marginally to 652, from 642 on Thursday, Reuters reports.
The total death toll now stands at 32,616, the agency said, the third highest in the world after those of the US and Britain.
However, statisticians believe Italy, like many other countries, has had considerably more deaths from the virus than its official data suggests, because many casualties were never tested.
A study this week by Italy’s social security agency, INPS, showed there were almost 47,000 more deaths between 1 March and 30 April than in the average for the same period over the previous five years.
Senior government officials in Russia have said the country will experience a sharp rise in mortality figures for May, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread.
“There will be a significant mortality increase in May,” the deputy prime minister, Tatiana Golikova, was quoted by AFP as saying at a government meeting with the president, Vladimir Putin, referring to official analysis and the country’s coronavirus curve.
“The illness and chronic conditions don’t always have a positive ending,” Golikova said, despite doctors trying to “save the maximum number of patients.”
The mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, also said the number of Covid-19 death in the city for May would be “considerably higher than in April”.
Russia registered 150 deaths from the coronavirus on Friday, its highest daily rate yet, amid criticism that the authorities are under-reporting the virus fatalities to play down the scale of the crisis.
Health officials have reported a total of 3,249 virus-related deaths, a fraction of the number in some European countries, while Russia has the second-highest number of infections in the world, after the US, with 326,448 cases.
Germany has announced a series of reforms of the country’s meat industry, including a ban on the use of subcontractors and fines of €30,000 (£26,000) for companies breaching labour regulations, as slaughterhouses have emerged as coronavirus hotspots, writes Holly Young in Berlin.
A number of meat plants across the country have temporarily closed after hundreds of workers tested positive for Covid-19 in recent weeks.
This week more than 90 workers were reported to have fallen ill at a plant in Dissen, Lower Saxony. Following an outbreak at a plant in Coesfeld, where more than 270 out of 1,200 workers tested positive, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia announced mass testing of industry employees.
An outbreak at a plant in Bavaria in the district of Straubing-Bogen coincides with numbers of infections reaching the “emergency break” level of 50 cases per 100,000 residents. States passing this point are allowed to reimpose lockdown restrictions.
“The corona outbreaks have not surprised us at all,” said Jonas Bohl, from the German Food, Beverages and Catering Union. “Rather the surprise was that they took a while to emerge.
“The people not only work closely together but more importantly they live together, in very cramped conditions where there is no possibility to keep social distance.”
Spain’s Covid-19 daily death toll has remained under 100 for the sixth consecutive day, according to the latest health ministry figures, which show that 56 deaths have been recorded in the past 24 hours, reports Sam Jones, the Guardian’s Madrid correspondent.
To date, the country has recorded 234,824 cases of the disease and 28,628 deaths.
YouTube has reinstated a video in which a former senior World Health Organization official said he believed the coronavirus pandemic could “burn out” without a vaccine being necessary.
Karol Sikora, a former director of the WHO’s cancer programme, who is now professor of medicine at the University of Buckingham medical school, said in an interview with the UK news website UnHerd that the past two weeks of official statistics suggested that the outbreak was petering out.
The video was subsequently removed from YouTube. But on Thursday, it was allowed back on the platform.
Travellers arriving in the UK from 8 June will have to tell the authorities where they will be staying and face spot checks to ensure they quarantine themselves for 14 days, the home secretary, Priti Patel, has confirmed.
All new arrivals, including UK citizens, will be expected to fill in an online “contact locator form”, including onward travel information. Anyone failing to comply could face a fine of £1,000.
As the world begins to emerge from what we hope is the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, we must look to the future and protect the British public by reducing the risk of cases crossing our border.
We are introducing these new measures now to keep the transmission rate down and prevent a devastating second wave.
Arrivals will be required to travel directly from their port or airport of arrival, preferably by car, to an address where they must then self-isolate for a fortnight.
The details they provide the authorities will allow them to be traced, if someone they travelled with subsequently contracts the disease, and public health authorities will be also be able to check up to ensure the quarantine rules are being obeyed.
A study of nearly 100,000 coronavirus patients has shown no benefit in treating them with anti-viral drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine.
According to the study, which was published on Friday in the Lancet, the drugs actually increased the likelihood of patients with Covid-19 dying in hospital.
Hydroxychloroquine is normally used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other conditions, but pronouncements from public figures including Donald Trump, who announced this week he is taking the drug, has prompted governments to bulk buy the medicine.
Chloroquine is an anti-malarial. Both drugs can produce potentially serious side-effects, particularly heart arrhythmia.
“Treatment with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine does not benefit patients with Covid-19,” said Prof Mandeep Mehra, lead author of the study and executive director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Center for Advanced Heart Disease in Boston.
“Instead, our findings suggest it may be associated with an increased risk of serious heart problems and increased risk of death.”
The authors estimated that the drugs put patients at up to 45% higher risk of dying from Covid-19 compared with underlying health issues.
80 million infants may have missed out on routine vaccines
About 80 million infants may have missed out on vaccines for diseases including diphtheria, measles and polio as a result of the disruption to healthcare services caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization has said.
According to data collected by WHO and its partners, the provision of routine immunisations for under-ones has been hindered in at least 68 countries, causing disruption to vaccine programmes not seen since their inception in the 1970s.
More than half of the 129 countries where data was available reported moderate-to-severe disruptions, or a total suspension of vaccination services during March-April 2020, WHO said in a press release on Friday.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general, said:
Immunisation is one of the most powerful and fundamental disease prevention tools in the history of public health. Disruption to immunisation programmes from the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to unwind decades of progress against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles.
The WHO’s warning comes before a global vaccine summit due to be hosted on 4 June in London, where international donors will be asked to pledge support to the vaccine alliance Gavi, a public-private partnership that aims to increase roll out of vaccines in poorer countries. Tedros added:
From the bottom of my heart, I urge donors to fully fund the alliance. These countries, these children especially, need vaccines, and they need Gavi.
In April, WHO and its partners recommended a temporary halt to polio vaccine campaigns despite recognising that the move would lead to a resurgence of the highly infectious, water-borne disease.
More than a dozen countries in Africa have reported polio outbreaks this year, all caused by a rare mutation in the virus contained in the vaccine.
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Africa’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 1 million, a Reuters tally showed on Thursday, as the disease began to spread rapidly through a continent whose relative isolation has so far spared it the worst of the pandemic.
The continent recorded 1,003,056 cases, of which 21,983 have died and 676,395 recovered.
VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria’s foreign ministry on Thursday warned against trips to Spain except for the Balearic and Canary Islands, as concerns grow that holidaymakers could catch the coronavirus and spread it once they return.
The measure will take effect from Monday, and people returning to Austria will be required to present a negative test for COVID-19, the ministry said.
Austria’s measures are the latest blow to Spain’s tourism-dependent economy after Britain, Germany and Switzerland recently warned their citizens against summer holidays on Spanish beaches or at least in certain regions of the country.
The spread of the disease in Spain slowed after the government imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe. However, new cases have started rising again and hit a post-lockdown record of 1,772 new cases on Wednesday.
Austria has weathered the coronavirus crisis quite well so far but also saw infections increase with the summer holiday season.
The state of 8.9 million has reported 21,689 COVID-19 cases and 719 deaths as of Thursday. It counted 148 new cases on Wednesday, the highest increase since July 30.
Austria already imposed tight testing requirements for arrivals from the Balkans after it saw an increase in infections among people returning from the region.
It has travel warnings for Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia in place, as well as for European Union member states Bulgaria and Romania.
(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Lisa Shumaker)
Preston is facing a fresh lockdown within days amid a surge in coronavirus cases, a public health official has said.
Cases of the disease in the Lancashire city have doubled in a week and Preston could follow in the footsteps of nearby east Lancashire, Greater Manchester and parts of West Yorkshire by reintroducing stringent lockdown rules.
Lancashire county council’s director of public health, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, expects stricter rules to be imposed in the city in the next few days, with residents already being asked to follow a number of extra measures in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.
Data from Public Health England shows the city recorded 49 new cases of Covid-19 in the week to 31 July – equating to almost 35 cases per 100,000 population – which is more than double the week before, with 18 cases recorded in one day alone.
The number is the second-biggest increase behind Blackburn with Darwen, which recorded 119 new cases.
Karunanithi told BBC Radio Lancashire he expected the government to impose restrictions “in the next few days”. “That is my personal and professional opinion, given the statistics, the direction of travel and given the size of the issue,” he said.
Further updates on possible measures are expected on Thursday after a government meeting to discuss local authorities, Karunanithi said.
“We will get to know after that meeting if there are any restrictions that will be brought in or [if] any support will be given to us as well,” he added.
Preston was not included in the official measures enforced by central government, but residents have been advised to take extra precautions. On Friday, guidance was issued by the city council calling on locals to avoid having visitors from another household in homes and to wear face coverings in all indoor public places.