Key developments in the global coronavirus outbreak today include:
Confirmed cases worldwide exceed 5.5m
According to the Johns Hopkins university coronavirus tracker, infections worldwide number at least 5,508,904. The death toll stands at 346,612. True death tolls and cases are likely to be significantly higher due to differing definitions and testing rates, delays and suspected underreporting.
UK Covid-19 death toll passes 47,000
The number of deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK has topped 47,000, according to the latest available data. The total includes new figures published on Tuesday by the Office for National Statistics covering England and Wales, which combined with information published last week by the National Records of Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency show that so far 47,343 deaths have been registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, including suspected cases.
French doctor dismisses WHO verdict on hydroxychloroquine
The controversial French doctor Didier Raoult has dismissed a study suggesting the drug he hails as a miracle treatment for the coronavirus is ineffective at best and possibly life-threatening at worst. The World Health Organization has suspended testing the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in Covid-19 patients due to safety concerns. The WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, cited a paper published last week in the Lancet that showed people taking hydroxychloroquine were at higher risk of death and heart problems than those who were not taking it. But Raoult dismissed the concerns: “Nothing will change what I have seen with my own eyes,” he said. “I’ve no idea if elsewhere, hydroxychloroquine kills, but here it’s saving people.”
UN refugee agency warns of catastrophe in Yemen
A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Yemen, a country ravaged by five years of war that finds itself uniquely vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. In a virtual briefing today, the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, said it was seeing a “growing number of families resorting to harmful coping mechanism” such as begging, child labour and marrying of children to survive. UNHCR spokesman Charlie Yaxley said: “We are reaching a potential breaking point in our programmes where if we don’t receive further funding soon, many of our programmes and particularly our cash assistance programmes to internally displaced Yemenis may have to stop.”
Saudi Arabia to revise curfew times
Saudi Arabia will revise curfew times this week, and lift them entirely across the Kingdom with the exception of the holy city of Mecca, from 21 June. Bans on domestic travel, holding prayers in mosques, and workplace attendance in both the government and private sector will be lifted from 31 May, while a phased lifting of curfews will begin this week.
Russia reports 8,915 new cases and 174 deaths
Russia has announced that 174 people with coronavirus have died in the past 24 hours, a record one-day amount that has pushed the nationwide death toll to 3,807. Officials reported 8,915 new cases, pushing its overall case tally to 362,342.
WHO warns of ‘second peak’ in areas where Covid-19 is declining
Countries where coronavirus infections are declining could still face an “immediate second peak” if they let up too soon on measures to contain the outbreak, the World Health Organisation said. WHO emergencies chief, Dr Mike Ryan, told an online briefing: “We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now it is going to keep going down and we are get a number of months to get ready for a second wave. We may get a second peak in this wave.”
Philippine president confirms no school before vaccine
The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has said that he will not allow students to go back to school until a vaccine is available. Children were due to return to school at the end of August after classes for more than 25 million primary and secondary students were shut down in March. But Duterte said he believed the risk was too great, even if it held students back academically. “Unless I am sure that they are really safe it’s useless to be talking about opening of classes,” the president said. “For me, vaccine first.”
Dutch PM Mark Rutte did not visit dying mother due to Covid-19 restrictions
The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, was unable to visit his dying mother in her final weeks because he obeyed coronavirus restrictions against visiting care homes, his office has said. His mother did not die of Covid-19, although there had earlier been an outbreak of the disease in the home where she was living, Dutch media reported.
Mexico City records thousands more deaths than usual, amid doubt over official Covid-19 toll
This year, Mexico City has issued 8,072 more death certificates than the average for the same period in the past four years, according to a new study that suggests the country’s coronavirus death toll could be significantly higher than the official figure of nearly 7,400. The report’s authors found 37% more death certificates were issued in April 2020 than that month’s average during the previous four years. By the end of May they estimated the number may grow to 120%.
Australia will not open the country’s borders ‘anytime soon’
Australia will not open the country’s borders “anytime soon”, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, said on Tuesday, but added the country would continue its discussions with neighbouring New Zealand about a trans-Tasman safe travel zone. “I was speaking with Prime Minister Ardern this morning, and we’ll continue to have our discussions about the trans-Tasman safe travel zone,” Morrison told the National Press Club in Canberra.
Masks too dangerous for children under two, Japan medical group says
Children under the age of two shouldn’t wear masks because they can make breathing difficult and increase the risk of choking, a Japan medical group has said, launching an urgent appeal to parents as the country reopens from the coronavirus crisis.