Hundreds of thousands of people are returning to work in New Zealand where authorities have begun scaling back some of the world’s toughest COVID-19 restrictions.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand has stopped community transmission of the virus.
This story is being updated regularly throughout Tuesday. You can also stay informed with the latest episode of the Coronacast podcast.
Tuesday’s top stories
New Zealand begins scaling back COVID-19 restrictions
New Zealand has moved from level four to level three restrictions, opening some non-essential businesses and resuming some healthcare and education activities.
About 400,000 people will return to work today and New Zealanders will be able to go fishing, surfing, hunting and hiking for the first time in more than a month as some of the world’s toughest restrictions begin to ease.
While shops and restaurants will remain closed, takeaway and delivery services will resume.
However most people will still be required to remain at home at all times and avoid social interaction.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand had stopped community transmission of COVID-19.
“We must make sure that we do not let the virus run away on us again,” she said.
“To succeed, we need to hunt down the last few cases of the virus.”
Seventh resident dies at Western Sydney aged care home
A seventh resident has died from COVID-19 at the Western Sydney aged care home where an employee worked six shifts despite displaying mild symptoms of the virus.
In a statement, Anglicare Sydney said it was “saddened” by the 89-year-old woman’s death, which occurred at Newmarch House in Caddens last night.
The woman’s death is the 84th in Australia and the 37th in NSW.
The announcement of the death came as NSW Health confirmed five new coronavirus cases, bringing the state’s total to 3,009.
Coronavirus forces delay in US extradition case against Assange
Court proceedings against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will not go ahead in England next month as planned due to the coronavirus lockdown.
The 48-year-old is in prison in London where he is fighting extradition to the US where authorities want him to stand trial on charges of conspiring to hack government computers and espionage.
Mr Assange was dragged from the Ecuador embassy in London in April last year after a seven-year stand-off.
In February, hearings took place for a week and the case was adjourned until May 18 for a further three weeks of arguments, but Britain has since imposed restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus.
“Remote attendance by the parties in this case will not be appropriate. Mr Assange and the lawyers on both sides will need to be physically present in the courtroom,” Judge Vanessa Baraitser said.
She adjourned the case until May 4 when a new date will be fixed.
UK investigating possible link between COVID-19 and other illness
Britain is examining whether there is a link between COVID-19 and an inflammatory disease which severely affects children, a health official has said.
Health Minister Matt Hancock said he was “very worried” about reports of children struggling with severe symptoms that might have a link to COVID-19.
“We have become aware in the last few days of reports of severe illness in children which might be a Kawasaki-like disease,” Stephen Powis, national medical director for England, said, referring to a rare syndrome which causes inflammation of blood vessels.
World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, meanwhile, expressed concern the coronavirus pandemic was taking a toll on children’s vaccination programs.
UK citizens can ask politicians for COVID-19 answers
The British Government says it will give the public the chance to ask ministers and health experts a question during its daily coronavirus briefing.
Just hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to give the public “the maximum possible transparency” over ministers’ thinking on measures to ease the coronavirus lockdown, the Government asked the public to get involved.
“The coronavirus is the biggest health crisis the UK public has faced in a generation. We know people across the UK are making significant sacrifices every day in order to stay at home,” a spokesman for Mr Johnson said.
Only one question from members of the public will be chosen each day.
The Government said anyone aged over 18 could submit a question.
Adidas suffers 611 million Euro sales drop
Sports clothing and shoe company Adidas has recorded a sharp fall in first-quarter profits, with the pandemic forcing the closure of 70 per cent of its stores.
Its net profit from continuing operations fell 97 per cent to 20 million euros ($33 million) from 631 million euros in the same period a year ago.
E-commerce picked up as shutdowns were implemented, rising 55 per cent in March.
“Our results for the first quarter speak to the serious challenges that the global outbreak of the coronavirus poses even for healthy companies,” Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted said.
The company said the pandemic was causing so much uncertainty it could not provide an earnings outlook for the full year.
“Despite the current situation, I am confident about the attractive long-term prospects this industry provides for Adidas,” Mr Rorsted said in a statement.
“Consumers are developing an increased appreciation of wellbeing. They want to stay fit and healthy through sports.”
Controversy swirls over French tracing app
MPs from France’s ruling party accused their own Government of withdrawing a vote on a planned coronavirus tracing app, saying they had been robbed of a chance to raise privacy concerns.
The Government last week bowed to pressure and promised a parliamentary debate and vote on the “StopCovid” smartphone software, which is designed to warn users if they come into contact with infected people.
But over the weekend, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe wrote to the lower house speaker, saying he wanted to broaden the debate scheduled for April 28–29 to cover the Government’s entire strategy on ending coronavirus lockdowns.
“Marginalising and erasing the debate about digital tracing shows how illegitimate using it will be,” tweeted Sacha Houlie, an MP from President Emmanuel Macron’s party who had told Reuters earlier he would vote against the app.
A Government source defended the decision on Monday (local time), telling Reuters the Government needed to move on quickly with its plans. Commentators said the move would also avoid a public display of division in the ruling party over the app.
Some across France’s political divide have said the software raises serious issues about state surveillance and privacy. Civil liberties groups have raised similar questions about apps being considered and used across the world to try and contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Yemen’s COVID-19 mystery
A Yemeni port official, known only as Saleh, is the sole confirmed case of coronavirus in the country.
But it is proving impossible to identify so-called “patient zero”, an important step in tracking and tracing all those potentially exposed to infection and containing an outbreak.
Saleh was tested first tested on April 7 and health officials then scrambled to identify more than 150 people who had met and dealt with the 60-year-old in the two weeks before he was diagnosed.
“All the close contacts were monitored and some showed some symptoms but were negative when they were tested,” Ali al-Walidi, the head of the national coronavirus committee, said.
Instead, their coughs and fever were normal flu.
The information gap reflects Yemen’s inability to detect, let alone repel, an infection humbling far wealthier nations.
Split into rival power centres, its medical infrastructure shattered by war and seen by the United Nations as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, Yemen is handicapped by its own destitution in its fight against the new coronavirus.
Russia tallies more cases than China
Russia overtook China in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases on Monday when its tally climbed above 87,000, as pressure rose on the Government to consider easing lockdown restrictions for businesses to help shore up the rattled economy.
Russia, the world’s largest country by territory, has been in lockdown since President Vladimir Putin announced the closure of most public spaces on March 25.
These measures are due to expire on April 30 and Mr Putin has not yet said if he plans to extend them, but the head of a safety watchdog said the lockdown should continue until May 12.
On Monday, the authorities reported 6,198 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total to 87,147, with 794 deaths.
Mainland China, where the virus first emerged, reported a total of 82,830 cases on Monday. China is now fighting an increased number of new cases coming from Russia.
Worldwide cases are approaching 3 million.