Key developments in the global coronavirus outbreak today include:
Boris Johnson moved out of intensive care
The British prime minister has been moved out of intensive care but remains at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, Downing Street said.
A spokesman for the Boris Johnson said: “The prime minister has been moved this evening from intensive care back to the ward, where he will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery. He is in extremely good spirits.”
Johnson was transferred to an intensive care unit on Monday.
Global death toll passes 94,000, US overtakes Spain’s total casualties
The global death toll has passed 94,000 on the Johns Hopkins University tracker – the current figure is 94,807.
The US has now overtaken Spain with over 16,000 deaths. Spain has 15,238, according to the Maryland-based university’s research.
Italy is the country with the highest coronavirus-related deaths at 19,279.
Trump says new coronavirus treatment ‘will be tested soon’
President Trump said that Pfizer has found a “promising new treatment that might prevent the virus from replicating” and that it hopes to begin testing in clinical trials “very soon”.
In a press conference, he added that through the FDA’s coronavirus treatment acceleration programme, 19 therapies and treatments are being tested and 26 more “are in the active planning for clinical trials”.
However, there has been scepticism over Trump’s earlier claims for possible treatments including the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.
South Africa extends lockdown by a further fortnight
South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has announced it will extend its coronavirus lockdown by a further two weeks.
He had imposed a 21-day total lockdown on the country’s 56 million inhabitants on 27 March, enforced by the police and the army.
On Thursday, Ramaphosa said: “This evening, I stand before you to ask you to endure even longer. I have to ask you to make even greater sacrifices so that our country may survive this crisis and so that tens of thousands of lives may be saved.”
France’s death toll rises to more than 12,000
The country has said the total death toll in hospitals and nursing homes has risen to 12,210, from 10,869 on Wednesday, with care homes accounting for more than a third of all fatalities.
The number of people in intensive care has fallen slightly for the first time since the start of the outbreak.
Jérôme Salomon, head of the public health authority, said there were now 7,062 people in intensive care at hospitals, a net decrease of 82 from a day earlier.
US economy ‘could reopen in May’
The US treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said the American economy could start to reopen for business in May despite experts’ emphasis on prolonged physical distancing measures to defeat the coronavirus.
Asked on CNBC whether he thought Donald Trump could reopen the economy so soon, Mnuchin said: “I do.”
“As soon as the president feels comfortable with the medical issues, we are making everything necessary that American companies and American workers can be open for business.”
Australian minister fined for breaching lockdown rules
The New South Wales minister for arts, Don Harwin, has been fined $1,000 for breaching the state’s strict public health orders.
It emerged he had left Sydney for his property on the Central Coast, despite the government urging the public to delay non-essential travel.
The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has resisted calls to sack Harwin, saying he did not break the rules because he moved to his Central Coast home before the state lockdown came into effect.
Eurozone countries strike deal on coronavirus rescue
Eurozone finance ministers have reached an agreement on an emergency rescue package aimed at responding to the economic adversity triggered by coronavirus.
Finance ministers from countries including the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and France clapped over their teleconference.
“We acted decisively for our citizens in less than a month,” Mário Centeno, the Portuguese finance minister and president of the group, told his counterparts.
The package includes a boost to the lending capacity of the European Investment Bank and a new unemployment insurance scheme proposed by the European commission.
WHO had warned about risk of Covid-19 in January
The World Health Organization warned the US and other countries about the risk of human-to-human transmission of Covid-19 as early as 10 January, and urged precautions even though initial Chinese studies at that point had found no clear evidence of that route of infection.
Technical guidance notes seen by the Guardian and briefings by top WHO officials warned of potential human-to-human transmission and made clear that there was a threat of catching the disease through water droplets and contaminated surfaces, based on the experience of earlier coronavirus outbreaks.
Donald Trump has attempted to blame the WHO for the pandemic, pointing to a WHO tweet on 14 January saying “there was no human-to-human transmission”.
Pope holds Holy Thursday mass in empty St Peter’s Basilica
Pope Francis presided at a scaled-down Holy Thursday mass in an empty St Peter’s Basilica.
He spoke from a secondary altar behind the main one he normally uses and the occasion was attended by only two dozen people, including a few aides, nuns and a scaled-down choir.
The pope said: “These days more than 60 (priests) have died here in Italy while taking care of the sick, in hospitals. Together with the doctors and nurses they are the saints next door.”