World News in Brief: May 23

Saturday, 2020-05-23 10:09:00
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The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mexico City. Authorities have now reported 62,527 total cases of the coronavirus and 6,989 deaths since detecting the first cases in Mexico in late February.
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South America has become a new epicentre of the COVID-19 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) said on Friday (May 22). About half of African countries are experiencing community transmission of the virus, the WHO said.

* China recorded no new confirmed COVID-19 cases on the mainland for May 22, the first time it had seen no daily rise in the number of cases since the pandemic began in the central city of Wuhan late last year. The National Health Commission (NHC) said in a statement on Saturday (May 23) that this compared to four new cases on the previous day. The number of confirmed cases in the mainland stood at 82,971 and the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

* The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday reported 1,571,617 cases of the new coronavirus, an increase of 20,522 cases from its previous count, and said that the number of deaths had risen by 1,089 to 94,150.

* Italy recorded 130 new deaths from the 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. The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21 now stands at 32,616, the agency said.

* France is to allow the resumption of religious gatherings after a two-month hiatus caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, but worshippers will have to wear face masks, the French interior ministry announced. The ministry said late on Friday that it would issue a decree setting out the new rules for religious gatherings.

* Britain will introduce a COVID-19 quarantine for travellers arriving from abroad from June 8, interior minister Priti Patel said on Friday, a measure that airlines have warned will devastate their industry. All international arrivals, including returning Britons, will have to self-isolate for 14 days and provide details of where they will be staying under the plans, which were criticised by airlines, business groups and politicians alike.

* A popular beach town near Lisbon plans to be the first in Portugal to test all of its 200,000 residents for coronavirus antibodies to try and help them enjoy as normal a summer season as possible despite the crisis. Portugal, which so far has nearly 30,000 cases and 1,277 deaths, is slowly easing restrictions from a mid-March lockdown.

* Peru on Friday extended its state of emergency and a nationwide lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic until the end of June, marking one of the longest periods of mandatory isolation in the world. The Andean nation, which began the lockdown in mid-March, will have lived under it for more than 3-1/2 months by a June 30 expiration, outlasting restrictions in Italy, Spain and China, some of the hardest hit countries in the pandemic. Friday's extension, announced by President Martin Vizcarra, came as Peru's confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 111,698, the second highest total in Latin America. The death toll stood at 3,244 on Friday.

* Russia denied on Friday a US accusation that it had repeatedly violated the Open Skies treaty, which allows unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, and said it was Washington that had flouted the terms of the pact. Washington said on Thursday it would pull out of the 35-nation treaty within six months, the Trump administration's latest move to withdraw from a major global accord.

* European members of NATO told the United States on Friday they were uneasy about its plan to withdraw from the 35-nation Open Skies treaty that allows unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, an official of the defence alliance said. Senior officials in President Donald Trump's administration, which says Russia has repeatedly violated the treaty's terms, said on Thursday that Washington would formally pull out of Open Skies in six months.

* The United States will exempt some foreign athletes who compete in professional sporting events in the United States from entry bans imposed because of the novel coronavirus epidemic, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said on Friday.

* Canada will ramp up COVID-19 testing and contact tracing as it gradually lifts restrictions and is working closely with Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google on a mobile phone app to help, the prime minister said on Friday. Canada's total cases rose to 81,765 on Friday, and deaths were up less than 2% to 6,180, official data showed. With contagion slowing, provinces have been gradually reopening in recent weeks.

* Malta on Friday rescued a group of 140 migrants from a sinking dinghy but refused to bring them to land, holding them instead on a chartered tourist harbour cruise boat just outside territorial waters. The rescue was conducted by a Maltese patrol boat in the early hours of Friday after the dinghy drifted into Malta’s search and rescue region.

Reuters