Leaders from around the globe have joined the World Health Organisation for a virtual meeting in which they pledged their support for a collaboration to speed up the development of treatments for COVID-19, though the US was markedly absent.
The death toll in the US surpassed 50,000 overnight as Donald Trump signed a $750 billion relief package into law, the fourth of that nature so far throughout this pandemic.
Meanwhile for the first time in Spain, the country records more people having recovered from coronavirus than being diagnosed with it in a single day.
This story is being updated regularly throughout Saturday. You can also stay informed with the latest episode of the Coronacast podcast.
Saturday’s key moments:
Trump says he was being ‘sarcastic’ with disinfectant theory
US President Donald Trump says his widely ridiculed comments about possibly using disinfectant inside people’s bodies to fight COVID-19 were sarcastic.
Lysol tweets: Reminder: Lysol disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as directed and in line with usage guidelines
Mr Trump said at a news briefing on Thursday that scientists should explore whether inserting light or disinfectant into the bodies of coronavirus patients might help treat COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.
The following day, Mr Trump sought to walk back those comments while also seeming to continue to advance his theory that disinfectants and sunlight might ultimately help within the body.
“I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen,” he said.
The President’s comments prompted the maker of Dettol to release a statement saying “under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body”.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy warned injecting disinfectant could be “quite toxic”.
Health professionals have been encouraging people for some time to wash their hands thoroughly with soap or to use hand sanitiser to help stop the spread of the virus.
Videos of the President’s comments went viral attracting thousands of comments and shares on Twitter.
Twitter Inc said the videos did not violate its COVID-19 misinformation policy because the company considered Mr Trump’s remarks a wish for a treatment for COVID-19, rather than a literal call for people to inject disinfectant.
The social media site later blocked the trends “InjectDisinfectant” and “InjectingDisinfectant.”
US death toll passes 50,000 as Donald Trump signs $750 billion virus relief bill into law
The death toll in the US now exceeds 50,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 3,000 of those occurred in the past 24 hours.
The tally of cases in the US now stands at more than 875,000, even as parts of the US reopen after weeks of lockdown.
Gyms, hair salons, tattoo parlours and some other businesses were cleared to open their doors by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who disregarded warnings from public health officials that relaxing restrictions could lead to more infections and deaths. Oklahoma, Alaska, and a number of other states have taken steps to reopen as well.
Overnight, President Donald Trump signed a $US484 billion ($758 billion) interim coronavirus bill into law.
The package provides funds to small businesses and hospitals struggling with the economic toll of a pandemic that has thrown a record 26 million out of work, wiping out all of the jobs created during the longest employment boom in US history.
It is the fourth bill passed in the US to address the coronavirus crisis.
World leaders launch WHO COVID-19 plan, but US won’t take part
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa are among dozens of leaders from across the globe who have pledged to help a global initiative to accelerate work to fight COVID-19, the World Health Organisation says.
The WHO billed the initiative as a “landmark collaboration” to speed up the development of safe, effective drugs, tests and vaccines to prevent, diagnose and treat COVID-19.
There was one major global power missing from the virtual meeting, however — the US.
“There will be no US official participation”, said a spokesperson for the US mission in Geneva.
“We look forward to learning more about this initiative in support of international cooperation to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 as soon as possible.”
Mr Macron urged all, namely the US and China to support the WHO undertaking.
“We will continue now to mobilise all G7 and G20 countries so they get behind this initiative. And I hope we’ll manage to reconcile around this joint initiative both China and the US, because this is about saying: the fight against COVID-19 is a common human good and there should be no division in order to win this battle,” said Mr Macron.
US President Donald Trump has lambasted the WHO as being slow to react to the outbreak and being “China-centric”, and announced a suspension of funding.
Prior to the meeting, when asked to confirm whether the United States was going to be participating, a WHO source said: “No, but almost everyone else is.”
Seth Berkley, the chief executive of GAVI, The Vaccine Alliance (a Geneva-based public-private partnership that leads immunisation campaigns in poor countries) said global manufacturing capacity must be ramped up ahead of choosing “a winner” vaccine.
“We can’t have a repeat of what happened in 2009, the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine, when there was not enough supply for developing countries or when supply did come it came much later,” he said.
Anzac dawn services in driveways across Australia and NZ
Australians have marked Anzac Day from driveways and verandahs after ceremonies were closed to the public or cancelled due to coronavirus.
Rhianna Patrick tweets: Normally my family and I would be getting together today to go watch the parade, but we sent our driveway dawn services to each other instead
The National Commemorative Dawn Service, with a handful of leaders and veterans present, was broadcast across the country from the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Australians were asked to mark the occasion in their driveways with a light.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who delivered the commemorative address, spoke of the impact of the coronavirus.
He said it was not the first time Anzac Day traditions had been interrupted and though quieter than usual, it was no less meaningful.
“This year our Anzac Day traditions have been interrupted, but not for the first time,” he said.
“On Anzac Day 1919, the first after the Great War, there were no city marches or parades for the returning veterans because Australians were battling the Spanish flu pandemic. Though our streets were empty, they were not forgotten.”
Usually thousands of people attend dawn services or marches on April 25 in Australia and New Zealand to commemorate the bloody battle at Gallipoli.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stood on her driveway with her family.
“This year a new threat faces all nations as the impact of the coronavirus deepens worldwide,” Ms Ardern said in a statement.
“As we face these significant challenges, we remember the courage of those who have served in the name of peace and justice.”
Recoveries in Spain outnumber diagnoses
For the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in Spain, more people are being diagnosed as cured than those falling sick, authorities say.
In the past 24-hours, there were 2,796 new infections confirmed while 3,105 overcame the infection.
“With all the effort that we have done, the evolution of the epidemic is obviously beginning to be where it should be, said Fernando Simón,” the ministry of health emergency centre coordinator.
Spain has recorded 367 new deaths of patients with the coronavirus, to a total of 22,524.
West Indies and England test series called off
The three-Test cricket series between the West Indies and England in June has been postponed due the novel coronavirus outbreak, Cricket West Indies says.
The decision to postpone the tour came as uncertainty continued about the safe resumption of the sport in Britain and international air travel.
Cricket West Indies chief executive Johnny Grave said organisers would be in regular contact to work out when and how the series could be played.
“Clearly playing in June is now not possible and we will continue our discussions with the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) and other international boards on trying to find new dates,” Mr Grave said.
“We will only travel to England to play the series if our players can be assured that it is safe to do so.”
No deaths in South Korea in past 24 hours, officials say
South Korea has reported no new coronavirus deaths in the past 24-hours — the first time that’s happened in more than a month.
Only six new cases were reported on Friday.
Officials hope that the number of cases could drop to zero in the coming days, too.
South Korea has been lauded for its approach to fighting coronavirus, after an outbreak in Daegu saw its numbers soaring.
The country has largely managed to bring it under control without major disruption thanks to an extensive testing campaign and intensive contact tracing, earning praise from the World Health Organisation and other nations.
The Government has outlined guidelines for a two-year return to normality, but says it will depend on continued social distancing.
South Korea has a total of 10,708 confirmed cases, with 240 deaths.
Climate activists leave shoes behind as a mark of attendance to protest in Switzerland
Green activists placed rows of shoes in central Zurich to mark the place of protesters who normally come out in person each week to demand action on climate change.
Organisers said they wanted to make their point while respecting current restrictions on public gatherings.
A handful of people stood in the background holding banners that read “Wake Up: Climate Action Now” and “Crisis is Crisis” before being dispersed by police without incident.
Greta Thunberg, the activist who founded the global “Fridays for Future” protest movement, acknowledged that demonstrators were having to change tactics.
“Today we had planned a global climate strike with millions taking part. But in an emergency you have to adapt and change your behaviour,” she tweeted
@GretaThunberg tweet: School strike week 88.
She said during an Earth Day event earlier this week that countries have a chance to choose a new path as they begin to return to normal after coronavirus lockdowns.
Banned Vienna protest against coronavirus lockdown draws 200
A crowd of around 200 defied a police ban to gather in central Vienna for a protest against Austria’s coronavirus lockdown.
The restrictions, which have been in place for more than a month, saw bars, restaurants, schools and non-essential shops shut.
Some shops, however, were reopened last week in a first easing of the curbs.
The protest’s organisers, the Initiative for Evidence-Based Corona Information (ICI), want the lockdown ended.
They argue, among other things, that wearing face masks and fabric equivalents that are compulsory in shops and on public transport is counter-productive.
After looking on for an hour, police dispersed the crowd, checking the identities of those who stayed. There was one arrest, a spokesman said.
ICI urged people to respect the ban on Friday’s event but said it would register “a new, bigger demo” in a week’s time.
Austria has reported a total of 15,071 confirmed cases and 530 coronavirus-related deaths.
Belgium signals easing of restrictions
Belgium plans to start easing its coronavirus restrictions from May 4 in a phased reopening during the course of the month.
Restrictions in the country only permit shops selling food, home improvement stores, garden centres and pharmacies to open, with most people only allowed to work from home.
Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said Belgium would tighten restrictions or delay easing measures depending on the situation.
“It is now time to look to the future,” she said.
“But COVID has not disappeared, the virus is still with us and it is dangerous for the population. It is absolutely essential that the safety measures are respected during the phase-out period.”
Belgium will need to carry out 25,000 to 30,000 tests a day to withdraw from lockdown, she said.
The step in easing restrictions will include allowing more businesses to open and giving permission to people to meet up with two people not living with them in an outdoor setting.
Belgium has 44,293 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 6,679 fatalities.
Taliban rejects call for Ramadan ceasefire
The Taliban has rejected an Afghan Government call for a ceasefire for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and to let authorities focus on tackling the coronavirus, raising new concern about prospects for a fragile peace process.
Hopes for an end to Afghanistan’s decades of war were raised in late February when the Taliban and the United States struck a deal on the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces in exchange for Taliban security guarantees.
But the deal did not include a ceasefire, which has been left to the US-backed Government to negotiate with the insurgents.
A Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, said in a post on Twitter that a ceasefire would be possible if the peace process was being implemented “fully” but “hurdles” meant the Taliban would not yet lay down their arms.
President Ashraf Ghani called for the ceasefire for Ramadan and to allow the country to focus on what he said was a critical novel coronavirus outbreak spreading all over the country.
Afghanistan has detected more than 1,300 cases of the virus but health experts say the number could be higher as testing is limited and Afghanistan’s weak health system would struggle with a widespread outbreak.
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