Coronavirus updates: China reports highest daily total of new COVID-19 cases in two months

China has reported its highest daily total of new coronavirus cases in two months.

It came in the wake of Beijing’s biggest wholesale food market being shut down following a resurgence in local infections.

Greg Hunt says Australia has been presented with a “golden opportunity” to become a global leader in medical research thanks to a strong response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Italy, Germany, France and Netherlands have secured 400 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine for Europe after signing a contract with British drug-maker.

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China reports most new daily cases in two months

China has reported its highest daily total of new coronavirus cases in two months.

It came after Beijing’s biggest wholesale food market was shut down following a resurgence in local infections.

There were 57 confirmed cases in the 24 hours to midnight Saturday (local time), the highest daily toll since mid-April, the National Health Commission reported.

The Xinfadi market on Beijing’s south-eastern side was closed on Saturday and neighbouring residential compounds were locked down after more then 50 people in the capital tested positive for coronavirus.

They were the first confirmed cases in 50 days in the city of 20 million people.

China, where the pandemic began in December, relaxed most of its anti-virus controls after the ruling Communist Party declared victory over the disease in March.

‘Golden opportunity’ for Australia’s medical research

The Federal Heath Minister says Australia’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has put it in a prime position to become a leader in future medical research and clinical trials, bringing not only new medicines but new jobs to the country.

Greg Hunt said the success of Australia’s health response to the virus was internationally recognised and the national stockpile of gloves, gowns and masks had been bolstered in the past few months even as global supplies of personal protective equipment fell.

“One thing we can do, because we’ve been COVID-safe, because our health system is seen as doing so well, we have a golden opportunity to be a global leader in attracting new medical research, technology and clinical trials to Australia,” Mr Hunt said on Insiders.

“We want to work with the states to simplify the clinical trial process to really give Australians better access to medicines and better access to new medical jobs.”

The Health Minister also announced $35 million in funding for Indigenous health research projects.

The money will go towards projects that target avoidable deafness, blindness and kidney disease in Indigenous Australians.

Britain to review two-metre social distancing rule

Britain will urgently review its two-metre social-distancing rule as it tries to help its economy recover from a 25 per cent coronavirus crisis collapse, Finance Minister Rishi Sunak has said.

Progress in tackling coronavirus meant Britain was able to take a “fresh look” at the rule, which many employers had said would make it harder for them to get back up to speed, Mr Sunak told Sky News on Sunday.

“The Prime Minister has put in place a comprehensive review of the two-metre rule,” he said.

Reducing the distance people must maintain between each other would mean three quarters of British pubs could reopen.(ABC News: Tim Stevens)

“That review will involve the scientists, economists and others.”

He said safety would not be put at risk by any changes.

Reducing the distance that people must maintain to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus would mean three quarters of pubs could reopen, rather than about one third with a two-metre rule in place.

The Chancellor later told the BBC the British Government was also looking at options for its two-week quarantine for people entering the country.

“We all want to see travel open again, of course we do, and like everything else we want to make sure we have the right measures at the right time informed by the science and everything else that we have to consider,” he said.

“We are looking at all options to ensure that that is possible and people have got suggestions about how we might be able to open up some travel corridors over time and so the transport secretary is actively looking at all of those options.”

The Government has come under heavy pressure from the travel industry and other sectors over the quarantine policy it introduced last week. Airlines said it would hammer jobs and tourism.

Mr Sunak told Sky News that data last week showing Britain’s economy shrank by a quarter over March and April “just laid bare the scale of the economic impact” of the lockdown.

“We have always known that was going to happen, but now the numbers are starting to show that,” Mr Sunak said.

The immediate shock to the economy from the lockdown would prove temporary and this week’s reopening of the retail sector was an important step for the recovery which would be followed by the hospitality sector, he added.

Spain to open borders to most countries in EU’s Schengen area early

Spain will open its borders to countries in the European Union’s Schengen Area on June 21, except for Portugal where the border will open on July 1 as previously announced, Spanish media including El Pais newspaper and Ser radio station has reported.

The Spanish Government had previously said it would allow foreign tourists to enter Spain on July 1 without self-quarantining, apart from the Balearic Islands which could start receiving tourists on Monday as part of a test programme.

The Schengen Area consists of the 26 European countries that have officially abolished all border controls at their mutual borders.

Twenty-two of the EU’s 27 member states are current members along with the four members of the European Free Trade Association — Iceland, Liechenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Bullfighters protest in Spain

Bullfighting events have been cancelled to comply with Spain’s coronavirus lockdowns.(Reuters: Susana Vera)

Matadors and bullfighting fans have staged protests across Spain calling for government support after the coronavirus pandemic halted the season.

Major festivals such as Sevilla’s April Fair and Pamplona’s San Fermin have been cancelled and bulls have been sent from ranches straight to the slaughterhouse.

The shut-down could deal a fatal blow to a controversial spectacle that has struggled for survival in recent decades.

Protests were held in Guadalajara, Seville, Madrid and Barcelona on Saturday.

“The COVID-19 crisis has had an enormous impact,” Colombian bullfighter said Juan de Castilla said.

“It has reduced almost by 100 per cent the scheduled events for the year and all the families that live off bullfighting have been too affected.”

Several hundred masked people marched in Guadalajara, waving Spanish flags with bull figures and holding banners in support of the traditionally emblematic Spanish spectacle.

The Spanish government has allowed bullfights to resume but with only half occupancy and a limit of 800 attendees in regions with lesser lockdown restrictions.

The country has now contained the coronavirus spread, which has killed more than 27,000 people.

Europe secures 400 million potential coronavirus vaccines from British drug-maker

British drug-maker AstraZeneca said on Saturday it signed a contract with Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands to supply Europe with a vaccine against the coronavirus, with deliveries starting by the end of 2020.

The contract is for up to 400 million doses of the vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, the company said, adding that it was looking to expand manufacturing of the vaccine, which it pledged to provide for no profit during the pandemic.

“With our European supply chain due to begin production soon, we hope to make the vaccine available widely and rapidly,” Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said in a statement.

The experimentation phase of the vaccine is already advanced and expected to end in the autumn, Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a Facebook post.

AstraZeneca has agreed manufacturing deals globally to meet its target of producing 2 billion doses of the vaccine, including with two ventures backed by Bill Gates and a $1.2 billion ($1.7 billion) agreement with the US Government.

There are no approved vaccines or treatments for COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

“Many countries in the world have already secured vaccines, Europe has not yet. The rapid coordinated action of a group of member states will create added value for all EU citizens in this crisis,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

The European Commission received a mandate from EU Governments on Friday to negotiate advance purchases of promising coronavirus vaccines, the EU’s top health official said, but it was unclear whether there would be enough money available.

Russia’s total coronavirus cases exceed 520,000

Russia has the third-highest number of cases of coronavirus in the world.(AP: Dmitri Lovetsky)

Russia reported 8,706 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, raising its cumulative tally above 520,000 as data showed that more than 2,700 people infected with the virus had died in April.

With 520,129 cases, Russia has the third-highest number in the world after the United States and Brazil. Its official death toll stands at 6,829, many times lower than the figure seen in other countries with serious outbreaks.

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The Kremlin has denied any problem with its official data after the World Health Organization (WHO) said Russia’s low death rate was “difficult to understand”.

Rosstat, the country’s state statistics service, on Saturday published data showing that 2,712 people infected with the coronavirus had died in April. The virus was identified as the main cause of death in 1,660 cases, the data showed.

Moscow’s health department this week raised its death toll for May, citing changes in the way it determines the cause of death for patients suffering from other health problems.

Greece ready to open to tourists, PM says safety is top priority

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, centre, has announced the opening of the tourist season.(AP: Dimitris Papamitsos)

The safety of tourists is a top priority for Greece as it opens its airports to foreign visitors, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said on a visit to the popular holiday island of Santorini.

International flights to and from the country’s main airports will resume on June 15, after a nearly three-month lockdown.

Accounting for about 20 per cent of Greece’s economic output, tourism is vital for the Mediterranean nation, which emerged from a decade-long debt crisis in 2018.

“It is a great pleasure to be here in Santorini … to send a message: Greece is ready to welcome tourists this summer by putting their safety and their health as a number one priority,” Mr Mitsotakis said.

The country will conduct coronavirus tests on all visitors arriving from airports deemed high-risk by the European Union’s aviation safety agency EASA from Monday.

Visitors will be quarantined up to 14 days, depending on the test result. Passengers arriving from all other airports will be randomly tested.

Restrictions on movement imposed in March helped Greece contain the spread of COVID-19 infections to just above 3,000 cases, a relatively low number compared with elsewhere in the European Union.

But it brought its business and tourism sector to a virtual standstill and the country now expects its economy to shrink by up to 13 percent this year.

India passes 300,000 cases with single-day high

India’s caseload has jumped by about 100,000 in a week, coinciding with the reopening of shopping malls, houses of worship and restaurants.(AP: Mahesh Kumar)

India has reported more than 11,000 new coronavirus infections, another single-day high for the country, as it passed the grim milestone of 300,000 cases.

The Health Ministry reported 11,458 new cases, driving the toll to 308,993, the fourth-highest in the world.

It also reported 386 deaths, raising the number of fatalities to 8,884.

India’s caseload has jumped by about 100,000 in a week, coinciding with the reopening of shopping malls, houses of worship and restaurants.

The Government had imposed a nationwide lockdown in late March.

In New Delhi, the capital, most public hospitals are full, and crematoriums and graveyards are struggling to manage a rash of bodies.

New Delhi’s Government has projected that cases in the capital area alone could expand to more than half a million by late July, and is considering taking over luxury hotels and stadiums to convert into field hospitals.

Former Pakistan cricket captain Afridi tests positive for COVID-19

Pakistan’s former cricket captain Shahid Afridi (centre) says he has been diagnosed with coronavirus after feeling ill for a while.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

Former Pakistan cricket captain Shahid Afridi, 40, has said he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

“I’ve been feeling unwell since Thursday; my body had been aching badly,” Afridi wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

“I’ve been tested and unfortunately I’m COVID positive. Need prayers for a speedy recovery.”

The all-rounder played over 500 international games across all formats after making his debut in 1996.

Afridi’s last match for Pakistan was the defeat by Australia in the World Twenty20 in Mohali in March 2016.

Pakistan has a total of 132,405 coronavirus cases and 2,551 confirmed deaths.

Austria plans coronavirus help for jobless, families

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said the country will give one-off payments to the vulnerable to help contain the economic impact of coronavirus.(AP: Ronald Zak)

The Austrian Government intends to make one-off payments to jobless people and boost spending on families with children as part of measures this year to cushion the blow from the coronavirus pandemic, its Coalition leaders have said.

Measures to be approved at a cabinet meeting next week include payments of 450 euros ($738) to the unemployed and 360 euros per child under 18, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Greens party leader Werner Kogler told broadcaster ORF in interviews aired on Saturday.

In addition, the Government plans to cut the lowest income tax bracket to 20 per cent from 25 per cent and make the change retroactive to the start of this year.

Mr Kurz said the Coalition Government of conservatives and Greens would have more to say about the costs of the measures when the meeting wraps up on Tuesday.

In May, the Government announced an aid package of up to 38 billion euros to keep companies and the economy afloat.

On Friday, it almost doubled the amount of debt it plans to issue this year to a record level.

Austria plans to cut value-added tax (VAT) for restaurants and the culture sector to 5 per cent until the end of the year to help them cope with the fallout, the Government said on Friday.

Austria has had nearly 17,000 confirmed cases of infection and 677 reported deaths.

Austrian economic output will shrink by 7.2 per cent this year if there is no second coronavirus wave in the autumn, but even a resurgence milder than the first outbreak would deepen that to 9.2 per cent, the country’s central bank said this month.

Hundreds protest against Nepal’s coronavirus response; 7 foreigners arrested

Protestors in Nepal are demanding better handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kathmandu, Nepal.(AP: Niranjan Shrestha)

Police in Nepal arrested 10 people, including seven foreigners, on Saturday as demonstrations against the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis continued with hundreds of protesters gathering in the capital city Kathmandu, officials said.

The Himalayan nation imposed a complete lockdown in March after reporting its second confirmed coronavirus case.

But the number of infections have since increased to 5,062, with 16 deaths, and the Government has come under fire for not doing enough to contain the outbreak.

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Police officials said an estimated 1,000 people had gathered on a major thoroughfare in Kathmandu for the third day, where seven foreign nationals were arrested.

“The foreigners were arrested for interfering in Nepal’s internal affairs,” police official Basant Lama said.

Earlier this week, police used baton charges, water cannons and tear gas to break up protests near the prime minister’s residence. No such clashes took place on Saturday.

Protesters are demanding better quarantine facilities, more tests and transparency in the purchase of medical supplies to fight the crisis.

“Quarantine facilities lack water, sanitation and safety. They are becoming the breeding centres for the coronavirus. This must be improved,” protester Ramesh Pradhan said.

Nepal’s Government says it has spent about US$89 million ($130 million) to fight the pandemic, has conducted around 310,000 tests and quarantined some 158,000 people.

But activists insist this is not enough in a country of 30 million people.

“The Government is committed to increase tests, boost medical services and improve the quarantine facilities,” Deputy Prime Minister Ishwor Pokhrel, who is leading the country’s coronavirus response, said in a statement on Saturday.

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