Key developments in the global coronavirus outbreak today include:
Doctor’s claim that coronavirus in Italy ‘no longer exists’ sparks controversy
The head of the San Raffaele hospital in Milan has claimed that “the virus clinically no longer exists in Italy”, provoking a furore in Italy. “The swabs performed over the past 10 days have showed a viral load that is absolutely infinitesimal in quantitative terms compared to those carried out a month or two months ago,” Alberto Zangrillo said. “Pending scientific evidence to support the thesis that the virus has disappeared, I would invite those who say they are sure of it not to confuse Italians,” said Sandra Zampa, an under-secretary in the health secretary. Franco Locatelli, the head of the national health council, and Giuseppe Ippolito, director of the prestigious Spallanzani infectious diseases institute in Rome, have also criticised the statement.
Iran sees highest daily rise in infections since 1 April
Iran has counted its most new cases of coronavirus on any day for nearly two months, with 2,979 more people testing positive for the virus since yesterday, according to the health ministry. The last time Iran counted more new infections was 1 April, when 2,988 were detected. The latest surge suggests the country is now in the grip of a second wave of widespread infection. Saeed Namaki, the health minister, warned the epidemic could come back stronger than before. “If our people fail to respect the health protocols ... we must prepare ourselves for the worst situation,” he said.
Hong Kong police ban Tiananmen Square vigil
Hong Kong police have formally banned this week’s vigil for the Tiananmen Square massacre, citing Covid-19 measures. The move was expected, especially after the Hong Kong government extended its ban on public gatherings in groups larger than eight, but the announcement confirms that for the first time since the Chinese military killed untold numbers of protesters in 1989, there will be no event. Earlier on Monday Hong Kong reported its first local transmitted case of the virus for more than two weeks.
Armenian prime minister tests positive for coronavirus
The Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, has confirmed that he and some members of his family have tested positive for Covid-19. “I will continue to work from the prime minister’s residence,” he said. “I have all means of communication, all the necessary conditions, an office. I will work from here as much as needed, but of course, under conditions of isolation.”
South Africa backs down on school reopenings
Schools in South Africa had been told to open their doors today, only for the education ministry to back down at the last minute as teachers’ unions, school staff and governing associations pledged to defy the order. Changes to lockdown regulations today also include letting people outside for work, worship, exercise or shopping, and allowing mines and factories to run at full capacity.
Manila eases lockdown
Traffic jams and crowds of commuters returned to the Philippine capital on Monday, as Manilla relaxed antivirus measures in a high-stakes gamble to slowly reopen the economy while fighting the coronavirus outbreak. Public transport was still limited and many commuters waited for hours to get a ride despite the government deploying special buses. School classes remain suspended for the next two weeks. Barber shops and beauty salons can open next week at a third of their capacity. The Philippines remains a south-east Asian hotspot for Covid-19, with more than 18,000 infections and 957 deaths.
Japan may open doors to travellers from selected countries
Japan is considering reopening its borders to travellers from selected countries that have low levels of coronavirus infections, as it begins to ease restrictions put in place earlier this year to control the outbreak. As schools, cinemas, sports clubs and department stores reopened in Tokyo on Monday, media have reported that the government is also planning to allow travellers in from Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand in the coming months. There was no immediate comment from the foreign ministry.
Brazil passes 500,000 Covid-19 cases
Brazil has reported 16,409 new cases, taking the total of infected cases to 514,849. It keeps the country in second place in terms of infections, behind the US on 1.78 million cases. Brazil has moved into fourth in terms of deaths, with 29,314 fatalities, according to the health ministry. President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly dismissed the severity of the virus and continued to flout social distancing measures. On Sunday he road a horse to a rally calling for the supreme court to be shut down for investigating him.
Africa approaches 145,000 confirmed cases
Nearly 145,000 people have now tested positive for the coronavirus in Africa, the World Health Organization’s regional office for the continent says. So far out of those cases reported by its 54 countries, more than 61,100 people have recovered and 4,100 have died. South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa’s most industrialised nation, has the most cases, while Egypt, at the other end of the continent, has counted the most deaths.
Moscow eases lockdown despite high virus caseload
Shopping malls and parks are reopening in Moscow on Monday as the Russian capital eases coronavirus restrictions despite having the world’s third-largest caseload, with 405,843 infections. The relaxation of the confinement orders in Moscow, the centre of Russia’s outbreak with a population of more than 12 million, comes after Vladimir Putin announced the epidemic had passed its peak in the country.