Coronavirus news summary: cases and deaths - 23 April

Coronavirus live global: latest Covid-19 news - Thu 23 April

For all the latest news on the coronavirus pandemic from around the world on Friday 24 April, you can head to our daily live updates here. 

U.S. Congress approves $484 billion coronavirus-relief bill

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a $484 billion bill to expand federal loans to small businesses impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and hospitals overwhelmed by patients suffering from COVID-19. By a vote of 388-5, the House passed the measure, which was unanimously approved on Tuesday by the Senate. It now goes to President Donald Trump for signing into law. (Report by Reuters)

The latest Financial Times chart shows several countries are now on a downward trajectory...

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Algeria eases coronavirus lockdown for Ramadan

Algeria will ease confinement measures from the first day of the holy month of Ramadan on Friday by shortening a night curfew and lifting a full lockdown for a province near the capital Algiers, the prime minister's office said on Thursday. It said the full lockdown in the Blida province south of Algiers will be replaced with a curfew from 2 p.m. to 7 a.m. while a 3 p.m.-7 a.m. curfew in nine provinces, including Algiers, will be shortened to run from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.

The government made no changes to the confinement measures in the remaining provinces where a 7 p.m.-7 a.m. curfew has been imposed for weeks. 'Th government reiterates its call for citizens to remain vigilant,' the prime minister's office said in a statement. 'Changing or keeping the confinement measures will depend on the evolution of the epidemiological situation.' Algeria has so far reported 3,007 cases of the novel coronavirus, with 407 deaths and 1,355 recoveries. (report and photo by Reuters)

Ecuador's coronavirus case total is twice as high as confirmed - minister

Ecuador's health minister said on Thursday the country's coronavirus case total was twice as high as previously confirmed, as authorities added 11,000 new infections that resulted from delayed testing. With 560 confirmed deaths, the outbreak has ravaged the economy of the oil-producing country and overwhelmed sanitary authorities in the largest city of Guayaquil, where corpses remained in homes or for hours on the streets.

Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos said the government would add the new cases to the confirmed total of 11,183 infections. Almost 24,000 test results were pending, according to the health ministry's figures, and on average they take a week to process. Zevallos said authorities were also calling relatives of people who had recently died in Ecuador, with a population of 17.4 million, to check whether the deceased had coronavirus symptoms, as many deaths were not linked to the disease due to a lack of testing.

Last week, the government said during the first 15 days of April authorities registered 6,700 deaths in Guayaquil's surrounding province of Guayas, against an average of 2,000 deaths in January and February. (report from Reuters)

Donald Trumps gives his White House latest press briefing, highlighting that vaccine trials are currently underway in the US, China, Germany and the UK...

European Athletics Championships cancelled

The 2020 European Athletics Championships have been cancelled due to the coronavirus. The event was set to be held in Paris at the end of August. 

“The decision to cancel was driven by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the associated risks linked to the current situation, which are far from being under control, as well as the existing ban on mass gatherings in France,” said European Athletics in a statement.

U.S. coronavirus deaths top 49,000, averaging 2,000 lives lost a day (Reuters tally)

U.S. coronavirus deaths topped 49,000 on Thursday as the number of lives lost in April rises by an average of 2,000 a day, according to a Reuters tally. At that rate, U.S. deaths will reach 50,000 no later than Friday. The total number of U.S. cases was approaching 860,000 with many states yet to report on Thursday. U.S. cases rose by over 30,000 on Wednesday, the biggest increase in five days but in line with an average of 30,000 new cases a day in April, according to a Reuters tally.

Across the country, state officials say there remain bottlenecks in testing capacity, shortages of materials such as swabs used for taking samples and not enough workers to contact- trace infections. In addition to a staggering death toll, unemployment claims soared on Thursday and reaffirmed the grim economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

Over 26.5 million Americans have sought unemployment benefits over the last five weeks, confirming that all the jobs gained during the longest employment boom in U.S. history have been wiped out as the novel coronavirus savages the economy. A Reuters/Ipsos survey this month showed a bipartisan majority of Americans want to continue to shelter in place to protect themselves from the coronavirus, despite the impact to the economy. (report by Reuters)

South Africa to ease lockdown restrictions from next month

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that his government will ease restrictions once the nationwide lockdown comes to an end on April 30. 

However, the country's borders will remain closed and no travel will be allowed between provinces except for transportation of goods and for exceptional circumstances such as funerals. Bars, entertainment venues and events will also remain shut. 

South Africa has so far reporred  3,653 cases of coronavirus and 75 related deaths. 

Czech government speeds up reopening shops as new cases slow

The Czech Republic is speeding up plans to ease its coronavirus lockdown by two weeks to get all shops, restaurants and hotels operating again by May 25 as the number of infections stabilises, the industry minister said on Thursday.

The central European country has used drastic measures including shop and school closures, limiting people's daily movements and making masks obligatory in public in an effort to prevent any uncontrolled spike in the new coronavirus.

With the number of cases declining in recent days, it had planned a cautious lifting of restrictions between this week and June 8, a schedule criticised by business lobbies as too slow.

Industry Minister Karel Havlicek said on Thursday the slowing of new infections since the Easter holiday weekend this month had been good enough for the government to move faster.

canada

Canada says one million face masks imported from China failed to meet required standards

The Canadian government has announced that one million KN95-rated face masks it bought from China failed to meet proper standards for healthcare professionals and will not be distributed to provinces or cities, the Globe and Mail report. 

The imported masks were supposed to be rated as KN95 standards - KN95 is the Chinese equivalent rating to the N95 rating developed by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The Department of Health said that the masks in question did not meet the required filtering standards for N95-type masks, which are rated to capture 95 per cent of tiny particles. The masks are not fit for professional medical use but will be repurposed non-health care workers where the face-covering requirements are not as strict.

Euro football clubs launch branded non-surgical face masks

Following a similar initiative from the NBA, several league clubs across Europe have also made non-medical face masks available via their club shops.

Lyon

French death toll creeping up to 22,000

The number of people who have died from coronavirus infection in France rose by 516 to 21,856 on Thursday, the health ministry said in a statement. The 2.4% increase was slightly slower than on Wednesday and Thursday, when the death toll increased by 2.6%, but well below the more than 4% rate seen last week.

The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 infection fell further to 29,129 from 29,741 on Wednesday and the number of people in intensive care fell to 5,053 from 5,218 on Wednesday. Both have been on a downward trend for several days.

France is the third most-affected country in Europe behind Italy and Spain in terms of fatalities relating to Covid-19 infection. France has been under lockdown since 17 March but plan to start lifting restrictions from 11 May.

UK figures as of 23 April

The UK remains the sixth country with the most confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection. 139,243 people have tested positive and 701 patients have recovered while the death toll rose to 18,790 on Thursday - the fourth highest in Europe behind Italy, Spain and France.

US Senator Elizabeth Warren's older brother dies from Coronavirus

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has revealed that her elder brother Don Reed died from complications due to Coronavirus infection earlier this week in Norman, Oklahoma. He was 86 and had tested positive for the virus three weeks ago.

"My oldest brother, Don Reed, died from coronavirus on Tuesday evening. He joined the Air Force at 19 and spent his career in the military, including five and a half years off and on in combat in Vietnam. He was charming and funny, a natural leader," she confirmed on Twitter today. "I’m grateful to the nurses and frontline staff who took care of him, but it’s hard to know that there was no family to hold his hand or to say “I love you” one more time—and no funeral for those of us who loved him to hold each other close. I'll miss you dearly my brother."

UK Health Secretary makes call for public to volunteer for research projects

In this evening's press briefing, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the government is "putting the infrastructure in place now so we can roll out contact tracing on a large scale" with a new NHS track and trace app.  "If you become unwell, you'll be able to tell NHS with this app and then this will send an alert to other users," he explained.

 

Richmond

London's air dramatically cleaner

Figures published by London's mayor Sadiq Khan show the UK capital's air is significantly less polluted thanks to a halving of road traffic during the coronavirus crisis. 

The levels of nitrogen dioxide are about half what they would normally be. Oxford Street has seen a reduction of 47%. 

Khan said: "This cleaner air should not just be temporary as Londoners deserve clean air at all times.

So, once the current emergency has passed and we start to recover, our challenge will be to eradicate air pollution permanently and ensure the gains we’ve made through policies such as ULEZ (ultra-low emissions zone) continue.

It is critical that government keeps this in mind as part of the country’s recovery from the pandemic."

Across the world the lockdown has been leading to fresher air and cleaner rivers. In India pictures of clear water in the Ganges have been widely shared on social media, while India's pollution monitoring body said the river was now fit for bathing in some places. 

Ischgl

Austrian ski resort keen to move away from 'party tourism'

The Alpine ski resort of Ischgl, the epicentre of Austria's biggest cluster of coronavirus infections, said on Thursday it wants to move away from 'party tourism' as it emerged from more than a month under quarantine.

Ischgl, which is located near the point where Austria, Italy and Switzerland meet and has described itself as the 'Ibiza of the Alps'. It is now clear that more than 800 cases spread across Austria can be traced back to the resort and the surrounding Paznaun Valley. In February and early March the virus found a breeding ground in crowded apres-ski bars. Hundreds of foreign tourists were infected in Ischgl and then unwittingly took the virus home with them.

"We will question developments of the past years and, where necessary, make corrections," Ischgl Mayor Werner Kurz said in a statement today as the resort came out of quarantine which was imposed after it was closed on 13 March.  "That means more quality and less party tourism, prioritising skiers and fewer day-trippers on buses who only come to party".

 

Madrid

Children thank health workers with drawings

Apart from the daily, 8pm round of applause from residents all over Madrid, there have been other displays of gratitude to the doctors, nurses, health carers and assistants who have been treating patients and saving lives while putting their own at risk throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Spanish children have made drawings for health workers, some can be seen here at the temporary field hospital in the IFEMA exhibition centre in Madrid, Spain.

Missing Wuhan journalist reappears

In case you missed the story from yesterday, Chinese citizen reporter, Li Zehua, has been seen again. This comes two months after disappearing, his chase being live streamed.

He had been posting stories about the Covid-19 outbreak at its origin and now says he was forcibly quarantined by police.

Read the full story here.

Alcohol

Our new relationship with alcohol

The sales of alcohol have increased significantly in many countries during this period of lockdown, and this has raised a question about the potential problems ahead.

Full story

Our new relationship with alcohol

The sales of alcohol have increased significantly in many countries during this period of lockdown, and this has raised a question about the potential problems ahead.

Full story

Spain up 440 deaths as lockdown easing looms

Official figures in Spain have seen the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 and related deaths up by 4,635 and 440 respectively.

The government has provided more details on the restrictions being lifted for children, which is to begin in Sunday 26 April.

Those under 14, who have been at home since 14 March, will be able to walk and play in the streets for an hour per day although only between the hours of 09:00-21:00.

More guidance states that they must be accompanied by an adult and that they cannot be more than one kilometre from their home.

Deputy prime minister Pablo Iglesias apologised for the confusion in the messaging and said: “Children will be allowed to run and jump and do exercise, however, social distancing must always be observed.”

China's number quadrupled, says study

According to analysis by Hong Kong researchers, China's Covid-19 infected figure may be four times the amount that was initially reported by officials.

Around 55,000 were quoted from the first wave on the mainland but this has been questioned many times since. The report, broken down by The Guardian, suggests the figure is over 232,000. Read the full story here.

No 'patient zero'

A team of scientists from Madrid’s Carlos III Health Institute has analyzed the first 28 genomes of the virus in Spain. The trail of the errors does not lead to a single “patient zero,” but confirms that there were a “multitude of entries” by people who had been infected in other countries during the month of February. Full story.

Age is not just a number

The Pew Research Center has analysed and shared a study looking at age groups in each country and suggested correlations with infection rates.

No German slacking

Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Germans to show endurance and discipline to get through the coronavirus pandemic that is 'still at the beginning', and called for a bigger European Union budget to support economic recovery in the bloc.

Merkel is worried that Germans are slacking off their social distancing efforts after the federal and regional governments agreed to reopen shops this week. Germany has the fifth highest COVID-19 caseload behind the United States, Spain, Italy and France, but has kept fatalities down thanks to early and extensive testing. Germany's confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 2,352 to 148,046, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed earlier.

The number of people who have recovered is greater than the number of new cases. 'It is precisely because the figures give rise to hope that I feel obliged to say that this interim result is fragile. We are on thin ice, the thinnest ice even,' Merkel told the Bundestag lower house of parliament. 'We are still far from out of the woods,' she said, warning: 'We are not living in the final phase of the pandemic, but still at the beginning.'

Spain's empty hotels

The number of foreign visitors staying in Spanish hotels slumped almost 66% in March to 1.19 million as the coronavirus epidemic forced the tourism-dependent country to impose one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe, report Reuters.

The world's second-most visited nation, where tourism accounts for 12% of gross domestic product, introduced a state of emergency in mid-March. Hotels were ordered to gradually shut down form March 19 until complete closure on March 26.

The National Statistics Institute said the occupancy rate nearly halved in March to 29% from 53% a year ago. The overall number staying in hotels fell 65% to 2.63 million people, leading to a cumulative drop of 22% since the start of the year. Spain is among the world's worst-hit countries by the new coronavirus, with a death toll of nearly 22,000 and more than 204,000 infections.

Global flower cuts

We are all interconnected and the flower trade is an example of how the ripples quickly spread..

America first

In case you missed it last night, Donald Trump carefully read from his script about the immigration bill.

FT global trends

The latest summary from John Burn-Mordoch.

Covid-19 statistics at a glance

UK: total confirmed cases 134,638 / total deaths: 18,151

Canada: total confirmed cases 41,650 / total deaths: 2,081

Australia: total confirmed cases 6,547 / total deaths: 67

Spain: total confirmed cases 208,389 / total deaths 21,717

Source: Johns Hopkins University

Covid-19 live blog - welcome

Hello and welcome to our live daily coverage of the news that surrounds the coronavirus pandemic.

Throughout the day we will aim to keep you up to date with all the latest developments from around the world related to the Covid-19 crisis that has devastated many countries.

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