LIVE: Global coronavirus death toll exceeds 450,000

Over 8.4 million have been confirmed to have coronavirus around the world and more than 4.1 million have recovered.

Workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant on the street to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in central Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan March 24, 2020.
Workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant on the street to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in central Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov [Reuters]
  • More than 450,000 people have died as a result of the new coronavirus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

  • Over 8.4 million people have been confirmed to have the new coronavirus around the world and more than four million have recovered. The United States has the most cases and deaths, followed by Brazil.

  • Indonesia reported 1,331 new coronavirus infections, its biggest daily increase since the outbreak started locally, taking its total number of cases to 42,762.

  • The World Health Organization has announced that testing of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in its large multi-country trial of treatments for COVID-19 patients had been halted after new data and studies showed no benefit.

Here are the latest updates:

Thursday, June 18

20:30 GMT – Blood type, genes tied to risk of severe COVID-19: study

A person’s blood type and other genetic factors may be linked with severity of coronavirus infection, according to European researchers looking for further clues about why COVID-19 hits some so much harder than others.

The findings, published in The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, suggest people with type A blood have a higher risk of being infected with the coronavirus and developing worse symptoms.

At the peak of the epidemic in Europe, researchers analyzed the genes of more than 4,000 people to look for variations that were common in those who became infected with the coronavirus and developed severe COVID-19.

A cluster of variants in genes that are involved with immune responses was more common in people with severe COVID-19, they found. These genes are also involved with a cell-surface protein called ACE2 that the coronavirus uses to gain entry to and infect cells in the body.

20:00 GMT – California urges residents to wear face masks

California health officials ordered residents to wear face masks in “most settings outside the home,” saying the new rule was necessary because too many Californians were neglecting to cover their faces.

“Science shows that face coverings and masks work,” Governor Gavin Newsom said in a written statement.

“They are critical to keeping those who are around you safe, keeping businesses open and restarting our economy.”

19:20 GMT – Canada hits 100,000 coronavirus cases

Canada officially racked up 100,000 cases of the novel coronavirus and although the outbreak is slowing, health experts said major challenges remain.

Authorities admit they were not prepared for how fast the pandemic ripped through nursing homes, where more than 80 percent of the deaths occurred.

While the 10 provinces are slowly reopening their economies, major restrictions remain in place in Montreal and Toronto, Canada’s two biggest cities.

Peter Bosciglio cuts Joe Krywionek's hair at Peter's Barbershop as the provincial phase 2 reopening from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) r
While the 10 provinces in Canada are reopening economies, major restrictions remain in place in Montreal and Toronto [Carlos Osorio/Reuters] 

18:40 GMT – Kuwait eases curfew hours, extends phase one for a week: state TV

Kuwait’s cabinet decided to ease curfew hours to start from 7pm until 5am effective June 21, Kuwait TV citing government spokesman’s live conference.

The cabinet also decided to extend working with the first phase in a 5-phases plan to go back to normal life for one more week, also total lockdown on Hawally area has been lifted.

Kuwait will also allow traveling for patients with critical health conditions and students who might be missing exams with applying needed precautionary measures.

18:00 GMT – France reports 28 more coronavirus deaths

The number of people who died from coronavirus infection in France rose by 28 to 29,603, the same increase as Wednesday.

In a statement, the health ministry said the number of new confirmed cases of the virus was 467, at 158,641, nine more than 24 hours earlier.

Gradual end to a nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Paris
France has a total of 158,641 coronavirus-related deaths [Reuters] 

17:40 GMT – Slovenia imposes quarantine for entries from Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo

Concerned about the biggest rise in new cases of coronavirus in seven weeks, Slovenia will introduce an obligatory 14-day quarantine from Friday for most people coming from Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo, the government said.

“We want to prevent not being able to follow the contacts of those who are infected … so we need to react immediately where it is needed, primarily on our borders,” Health Minister Tomaz Gantar told a news conference.

The government could also increase restrictions inside the country if the virus continues to spread, he added. In May Slovenia became the first European country to declare an end to its coronavirus outbreak, although some restrictions remain in place.

17:00 GMT – The new lockdown in Beijing explained

After nearly two months of no coronavirus cases, the Chinese capital Beijing has been put under partial lockdown after new cases emerged.

Doctor Amir Khan explains how this serves as an example to the rest of the world.

16:20 GMT – Italy reports 66 coronavirus deaths and 333 new cases

Deaths from COVID-19 in Italy have climbed by 66, against 43 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, while the daily tally of new cases increased slightly to 333 from 329 on Wednesday.

The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on February 21 now stands at 34,514 the agency said, the fourth highest in the world after those of the United States, Brazil and Britain.

The number of confirmed cases amounts to 238,159, the eighth highest global tally. People registered as currently carrying the illness fell to 23,101 from 23,925 the day before.

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Rome

15:50 GMT – UK ditches COVID-19 app model to use Google-Apple system

The UK will switch to Apple and Google technology for its COVID-19 test-and-trace app, ditching its homegrown system which was not working well enough on Apple’s iPhone, the government said.

The test-and-trace programme is key to reopening the country but has been dogged by problems. A smartphone app developed by the National Health Service (NHS) was initially expected to be rolled out nationwide in May but did not materialise.

The decentralised Google-Apple system will benefit from work done on the abortive NHS app, said Dido Harding, head of the test-and-trace programme, and Matthew Gould, chief executive of the health service’s technology unit NHSX.

15:25 GMT – Johnson & Johnson in talks with governments on COVID-19 vaccine

Johnson & Johnson is in talks with multiple governments and global organisations as it seeks to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, it said.

“We are committed to making our COVID-19 vaccine accessible globally to populations at greatest risk and where it could provide the greatest good according to our vaccine’s profile,” a Johnson & Johnson spokesman said in an email, according to the Reuters news agency.

“As part of that, we are in ongoing discussions with many stakeholders, including national governments and global organisations.”

15:00 GMT – UK economy starting to recover but jobs news bad: BoE’s Bailey

The UK’s economy is recovering a bit more quickly than the Bank of England thought a month ago as the government eases its COVID-19 lockdown, but news from the labour market is mostly negative, Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said.

“As partial lifting of the measures takes place, we see signs of some activity returning,” Bailey said after the BoE announced a 100 billion pound ($124bn) increase in the size of its bond-buying programme but slowed the pace of purchases sharply. “We don’t want to get too carried away by this. Let’s be clear, we’re still living in very unusual times.”

Bailey told reporters that the BoE’s plan to stretch its now 745 billion-pound ($925bn) bond-buying programme until around the turn of the year was still faster than anything done by the British central bank prior to the coronavirus crisis.

Andrew Bailey BOE
Bailey: ‘As partial lifting of the measures takes place, we see signs of some activity returning’ [Reuters] 

14:30 GMT – UK death toll from COVID-19 cases rises by 135

The death toll in the UK from confirmed cases of the new coronavirus has increased by 135, the latest daily figures from the government showed.

The total number COVID-19-related deaths in the UK was 42,288 as on Thursday.

14:00 GMT – New York City to enter phase two of reopening on June 22

New York City will begin phase two of reopening on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, citing continued improvements in coronavirus data.

Offices, in-store retail, outdoor dining, hair salons and barbershops are among the businesses allowed to reopen their doors during phase two.

“We’ve seen consistent progress and it is time to say to everyone get ready for phase two,” de Blasio told a daily news conference.

Hello, this is Umut Uras in Doha taking over from my colleague Arwa Ibrahim.

12:50 GMT – US layoffs reach 45.7 million amid pandemic

Another 1.5 million US workers filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said, bringing the number of people laid off, at least temporarily, by COVID-19 to 45.7 million.

The number of new jobless claims was surprisingly high, a decrease of 58,000 from the previous week’s level, while the insured unemployment rate showing people still receiving aid was unchanged at 14.1 percent and 20.5 million continue to receive benefits.

12:45 GMT – Six percent in Sweden have COVID-19 antibodies: Study

About 6 percent of people in Sweden have developed COVID-19 antibodies, a study by the country’s health agency showed. 

“The spread is lower than we have thought but not a lot lower,” Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told a news conference.

Sweden has opted for a more liberal strategy during the pandemic, keeping most schools, restaurants, bars and businesses open as much of Europe imposed strict lockdowns. 

12:30 GMT – Bangladesh coronavirus cases pass 100,000 mark

Bangladesh has recorded a total of 102,292 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus since the first infection was reported on March 8.

As many as 3,803 fresh infections were reported over the past 24 hours across the country, Director-General of Health Services Nasima Sultana said. 

Addressing a news conference in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, she said 38 people also died due to the virus, taking the total death count to 1,343.

Barbers wearing protective suits provide hair cut service to the customers, in Dhaka
Barbers wearing protective suits and face masks provide hair cuts to customers inside a salon amid the coronavirus pandemic in Dhaka [Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters]

12:15 GMT – UK, Australia in favour of investigation into outbreak’s origins

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussed the need for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak with his Australian counterpart, Downing Street said. 

“The leaders discussed the coronavirus pandemic and agreed on the need for an independent investigation through the World Health Organization into the origins of the outbreak,” a spokeswoman for Johnson’s office said in a statement.

“They committed to coordinate closely on this issue in the weeks and months ahead.”

11:30 GMT – Wheelchair tennis champion slams US Open omission

Australian Paralympic tennis champion Dylan Alcott has slammed the omission of the wheelchair tournament from the US Open, calling it “disgusting discrimination”.

Alcott, who won the 2015 and 2018 wheelchair singles titles in New York and is the reigning doubles champion, said players were not consulted and posed no greater health threat than able-bodied entrants.

With the coronavirus still rife in the United States, the US Open, scheduled from August 31 to September 13, is going ahead without fans or a qualifying tournament for able-bodied players.

11:20 GMT – Nepal to deport foreigners who protested pandemic response

Five foreign nationals who took part in a protest in Nepal against the government’s pandemic response will be deported as soon as international flights resume, the country’s top immigration official said.

The three Chinese, one American and one Australian were not being detained but are required to report to officials regularly until they leave the country, immigration chief Ramesh Kumar KC said.

The five were also fined for taking part in Saturday’s protests against the government’s handling of the coronavirus situation. All five will be banned from returning to Nepal for two years.

corona blog - Nepal entry
Hundreds of protesters gathered demanding increased testing and alleging corruption by government officials while buying equipment and testing kits [Niranjan Shrestha/AP]

10:59 GMT – England’s COVID-19 test and trace system identifies 45,000 contacts in second week

The number of contacts of positive COVID-19 cases identified by England’s test and trace system increased to 44,895 in its second week, the UK’s health ministry said.

The Department of Health said 5,949 people who tested positive for coronavirus had their case transferred to the contact tracing system in its second week of operation.

It said 44,895 contacts were identified, up from nearly 32,000 last week.

10:13 GMT – Denmark opens borders to EU countries except Sweden and Portugal

Denmark will allow citizens from European countries with low infection rates to enter the country from June 27, the Danish foreign ministry said.

European Union and Schengen countries, including the UK, would be individually assessed based on objective criteria, the ministry said. Sweden and Portugal did not meet the criteria, it said.

A country would be classified as open if it has less than 20 infected per 100,000 inhabitants per week.

Covid19 pandemic in Copenhagen
The number one tourist attraction in Copenhagen, The Little Mermaid during the coronavirus precautions in Copenhagen [File: Anadolu]

10:01 GMT – WHO testing interim data from COVID-19 trial on HIV drugs 

The WHO is looking at interim data from its large multicountry trial of the combination of HIV drugs Lopinavir and Ritonavir to treat COVID-19 patients, the UN agency’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said.

Her comments came after the WHO on Wednesday stopped testing of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in the trial of treatments for COVID-19 patients, after studies indicated it showed no benefit in those who have the disease.

She said more study was needed to see whether hydroxychloroquine could prevent infection. 

Malaysian Healthcare Workers Make Homemade PPE To Tackle The Coronavirus Pandemic
WHO stopped testing of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in the trial of treatments for COVID-19 patients [File: Rahman Roslan/Getty Images]

09:55 GMT – Some business travel to Thailand may resume next month

Thailand could allow inbound international travel to resume next month for business purposes, the aviation regulator said, as the country seeks to revive an economy hit badly by the impacts of the coronavirus and global travel curbs.

Thailand’s tourism industry, which accounts for 12 percent of the economy, has ground to a halt from travel bans and health concerns, and projects as few as 14 million visitors this year, down from nearly 40 million in 2019.

09:47 GMT – Spain announces 4.25 billion euros aid plan to boost tourism

The Spanish government has announced a 4.25 billion-euro ($4.78bn) plan to help the crucial tourism industry recover from the coronavirus crisis.

“Spain is reopening itself to tourism,” Sanchez said. “We are a world leader and each step we take will be safe,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said while presenting the plan.

epa08490308 The first visitors walk at Alhambra Palace  that has reopened in Granada, Spain, 17 June 2020, with a 50 percent of its capacity and 4,250 tickets per day. The visit has some itinerary mod
The first visitors walk at Alhambra Palace that has reopened in Granada, Spain [File: Miguel Angel Molina/EPA]

09:33 GMT – Indonesia reports 1,331 new cases, its biggest daily rise

Indonesia reported 1,331 new coronavirus infections, its biggest daily increase since the outbreak started locally, taking its total number of cases to 42,762.

Health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said 63 more deaths were reported, with total deaths now at 2,339, the highest coronavirus death toll in East Asia outside of China.

Indonesia on Wednesday overtook Singapore with the largest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia.

09:27 GMT – Swedish economy to shrink slightly less than previously expected

The Swedish economy is expected to shrink about 6 percent this year, slightly less than previously forecast, Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson told reporters.

“We have seen some positive signs that we might have reached the bottom and are on our way back up,” Andersson told reporters.

However, the export-dependent Swedish economy will still take a deep hit.

09:11 GMT – Japan to ease entry for Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, NZ 

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the country would ease entry restrictions for people coming from Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam, according to a Jiji news agency report.

Japan small businesses reopen
A man wearing a face mask walks past a restaurant illuminated at night in the Shinsekai shopping district of Osaka, Japan [File: Buddhika Weerasinghe/Bloomberg]

09:02 GMT – Czechs lay ground for further easing of coronavirus measures

The Czech Republic will loosen many remaining restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the coming weeks, allowing larger crowds to gather, people to mostly ditch face masks and zoos and museums to return to normal operations.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech said the country, which has kept the daily rise in new infections to below 100 for the past two months, was moving away from blanket nationwide measures to a localised approach and individual responsibility.

“The virus is still here, it has not disappeared anywhere,” he told a news conference.

08:42 GMT – Beijing residents rush to test clinics as emergency rules expand

China’s capital has mandated coronavirus tests for hundreds of thousands of people as it widens measures against a new outbreak of the disease that has sent anxious residents flooding to clinics for voluntary tests.

“It’s very difficult right now,” said musician Chen Weiwen, 31, whose plans to visit the southwestern city of Chengdu faced a delay because of the wait for a test.

“I don’t mind waiting, but after the test, I need to leave in seven days and there may not be a flight I can get then.”

Beijing Curbs The Second Wave Of COVID-19
Crowds of masked people waiting for tests have become a common sight in recent days across Beijing, which has tested more than 350,000 people, with many more expected [File: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images]

08:15 GMT – Russia’s new coronavirus cases rise at lowest in six weeks

Russia reported 7,790 new cases of the novel coronavirus, its lowest daily rise in infections in six weeks, bringing the nationwide total to 561,091.

Russia’s coronavirus crisis response centre said 182 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 7,660 since the crisis began.

07:45 GMT – Kazakh leader Nazarbayev tests coronavirus positive

Kazakhstan’s 79-year-old Leader of the Nation and former President Nursultan Nazarbayev has tested positive for the coronavirus, a statement on his official website said.

“Currently, the First President of Kazakhstan is in self-isolation. Unfortunately, the last test … for the coronavirus infection showed a positive result. There is no cause for concern,” the statement said.

Kazakh former President Nazarbayev meets with Russian President Putin in Moscow
Kazakh former President Nursultan Nazarbayev tested positive for the new coronavirus disease [File: Alexei Nikolsky/Reuters]

07:20 GMT – UK says China and Russia trying to exploit coronavirus crisis

The United Kingdom has said China, Russia and Iran are looking to exploit weaknesses shown by the coronavirus outbreak.

“We certainly know Russia is engaged systematically in misinformation and propaganda, through cyber and other ways.

“Others engage in the same too, China and Iran, but I don’t think it had any outcome on the electoral process in the UK,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News.

A handout photograph released by the UK Parliament shows Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (C) smiling beside (L-R) Britain's Leader of the House of Commons J
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says Russia is engaged in misinformation and propaganda [File: Jessica Taylor/AFP]

06:56 GMT – Kazakhstan to tighten COVID-19 restrictions as outbreak worsens

Kazakhstan will close shopping malls, markets and parks in major cities on June 20-21 and make additional hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients, the Central Asian nation’s government said.

It said the restrictions were needed due to a worsening of the outbreak there. It also ordered all provinces of the country to broaden their coronavirus testing.

06:40 GMT – Qatar Airways says no new planes in 2020 or 2021

Qatar Airways has said it will not take any new aircraft in 2020 or 2021, deferring orders with Boeing and Airbus as demand diminishes amid the coronavirus crisis.

“Quite a lot of [deliveries] will be deferred,” Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker told Britain’s Sky News on Wednesday.

“We have already notified both Boeing and Airbus that we will not be taking any aeroplanes this year or next year.

“And all the other aircraft that we have on order, that were supposed to be delivered to us within the next two or three years, will now be pushed back to as long as nearly eight to 10 years.”

Qatar airways
A Qatar Airways passenger plane comes in to land at London Heathrow airport following the outbreak of the coronavirus [File: Toby Melville/Reuters]

06:10 GMT – German travel sector down 23 percent in Q1 over pandemic

Sales of the German travel industry declined by 23 percent in the January-March period compared with the previous quarter, Germany’s statistics office said, as the sector came to a virtual halt in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It was the largest drop since the financial crisis in 2008, the office added.

I’m Arwa Ibrahim in Doha, Qatar, taking over the live blog from my colleague Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

05:21 GMT – Pakistan to repatriate all stranded citizens

Pakistan has announced plans to repatriate all of its citizens stranded around the globe, including in the Middle East, as a result of the pandemic, the AP news agency reported.

Between 40,000 and 45,000 nationals will be brought home every week, starting June 20, the government said.

About 120,000 Pakistanis are expected to return in the coming weeks and they will have to quarantine themselves at homes for 14 days.

Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari, an adviser to Prime Minister Imran Khan, said all international passenger flights are being allowed to resume their operations at 25 percent capacity as per social distancing regulations. 

In recent months, about 75,000 Pakistanis have already returned home through special and regular flights amid a surge in COVID-19 deaths and infections.

05:00 GMT – Hong Kong sends special flight to India

The Hong Kong government has sent a special flight to India to take residents back to the semi-autonomous Chinese city. 

The flight is expected to arrive in Hong Kong at about 08:00 GMT on Thursday, according to a statement from the city government. It is unclear how many Hong Kong residents are taking the special flight.

04:42 GMT – China to offer some debt relief to African countries

China will exempt some African countries from repaying zero-interest-rate loans due at the end of 2020, Reuters news agency reported quoting President Xi Jinping.

Under the framework of the China-Africa cooperation forum, China will further extend loan payment forbearance for some countries, including African countries, Xi told the China-Africa summit.

“I am confident that humanity will ultimately defeat the virus, and Chinese and African people will embrace better lives in future,” said Xi, making remarks on China-Africa’s joint efforts to fight against the coronavirus.

China is willing to give priority to African countries once COVID-19 vaccines are ready to use, Xi added.

04:08 GMT – Australia to fly foreign students from Singapore

The two universities in Australia’s capital plan to fly in 350 foreign students as the country’s international education sector reopens after the coronavirus lockdown, AP news agency reported.

Australian National University and Canberra University said on Thursday they expect the chartered aircraft to fly to Canberra from Singapore in late July.

Priority will be given to students involved in research that cannot be done online. The students will be quarantined at a hotel for two weeks. They are likely to be the first foreign students to return to Australian campuses since the lockdown.

03:40 GMT – Virus infections rise steadily in South Korea

South Korea has reported 59 COVID-19 cases as infections steadily rise in the capital area where half the country’s 51 million people live, according to The Associated Press news agency.

The figures announced on Thursday by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bring the national caseload to 12,257, including 280 deaths.

The agency says 39 of the new cases are in Seoul and the surrounding region, where authorities are trying to stem transmissions amid increased economic activity and eased attitudes on social distancing.

Eight new cases were linked to international arrivals. The country has at least 12,257 cases and 280 deaths.

South Korea - coronavirus
South Korean police officers stand guard during an event to commemorate the upcoming 70th anniversary of the Korean War, near the entrance of the 14th-century Gyeongbok Palace is Seoul [Ahn Young-joon/AP]

03:08 GMT – Germany’s confirmed cases rise by 580 to 187,764

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 580 to 187,764, Reuters news agency reported on Thursday quoting data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases.

The reported death toll rose by 26 to 8,856, the tally showed.

02:51 GMT – Trump: US will not lock down again amid rising coronavirus cases

President Donald Trump has said the United States would not close businesses again as several states reported rising numbers of new coronavirus infections.

“We won’t be closing the country again. We won’t have to do that,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Channel.

Trump’s comments come after White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the US could not shut down the economy again.

Restaurants, gyms, schools and other locations closed down in March as the country braced for the coronavirus, which has so far sickened 2.16 million Americans and killed nearly 118,000.

02:22 GMT – Wuhan study: There may be no immunity against COVID-19

A new study conducted by Chinese and American scientists says humans may never develop immunity against the coronavirus, the South China Morning Post reported.

The conclusion was based on a non-peer-reviewed study looking at whether hospital workers in Wuhan, where the infection was first reported, developed antibodies, after being exposed to the disease.

The report said only 4 percent of the samples studied had developed antibodies as of April. This was based on the assumption that at least a quarter of the more than 23,000 samples tested were infected.

02:02 GMT – UN: Many Jordanians struggling as country emerges from lockdown

Many people in Jordan are struggling to meet basic needs after a more than two-month lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic, a UN Development Programme (UNDP) study said, with reports of unemployment expected to rise to 19 percent.

Although Jordan has contained the first wave of COVID-19 and is now reopening most businesses, the full impact of the pandemic is still unfolding in the aid-dependent country of 10 million people, the UNDP study said.

Officials have adopted recent estimates by the World Bank that the economy was set to shrink by 3.5 percent this year – the first such contraction since 1990 – compared with an IMF estimate of 2 percent growth before the health crisis.

01:37 GMT – Beijing reports 21 new COVID-19 cases as of June 17

Beijing - coronavirus
The total number of infections in Beijing has risen to 158 over the past week [Ng Han Guan/AP]

Beijing confirmed 21 new COVID-19 cases as of June 17, China’s health authority said on Thursday, down from 31 a day earlier.

Beijing logged its first case in the current outbreak, the worst in the city since early February, on June 11. The total number of infections has risen to 158 over the past week, according to Reuters news agency.

01:25 GMT – Study shows how quickly coronavirus spreads at home

The novel coronavirus is twice as infectious within households than similar diseases such as SARS, with a substantial number of additional infections spreading before a COVID-19 sufferer shows any symptoms, AFP news agency reported on Thursday citing a new study.

Using data on 350 COVID-19 patients and nearly 2,000 of their close contacts in the city of Guangzhou, China, the researchers from the US and China found that while the average patient had just a 2.4 percent chance of infecting someone they did not live with, that figure jumped to 17.1 percent – about one in six – among cohabitants.

The overall chances of infecting a family member or live-in partner with COVID-19 are twice as high as with SARS, and three times higher than MERS, another coronavirus, they found.

The study suggested that quarantine of asymptomatic patients can help prevent transmission.

00:51 GMT – WHO stops hydroxychloroquine trial 

The World Health Organization has halted the trial of the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus.

According to the WHO, recent trials showed that the anti-malaria drug does not result in the reduction of mortality of hospitalised COVID-19 patients.

“Patients who have already started hydroxychloroquine but who have not yet finished their course in the trial may complete their course or stop at the discretion of the supervising physician,” the WHO statement said.

00:36 GMT – Qantas halts most international flights until October on border closure

Qantas Airways said on Thursday it had cancelled most international flights until late October after the Australian government indicated its border closure because of the coronavirus was likely to extend to 2021.

“We will still have some flights scheduled across the Tasman in the coming months with the expected travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand,” the airline said in a statement, referring to the Tasman Sea between the countries.

“Should travel between Australia and other countries open up and demand return, we can add more flights back into our schedule,” it added.

00:15 GMT – Mexico reports 4,930 new cases, 770 more deaths

Mexico’s health ministry has reported 4,930 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and 770 deaths, bringing the total in the country to 159,793 cases and 19,080 deaths.

The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases, according to Reuters news agency.

Mexico - coronavirus
Members of biological sciences of the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico City test people for COVID-19 [Henry Romero/Reuters]

00:08 GMT – Biden calls on Trump to ‘wake up’ to havoc caused by virus

Joe Biden unleashed a stinging critique of President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus, calling on Trump to “wake up” to the havoc caused by the pandemic and do more to prevent further harm, AP news agency reported.

“Donald Trump wants to style himself as a wartime president,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said at a recreation centre in the Philadelphia suburbs. “Unlike any other wartime leader, he takes no responsibility; he exercises no leadership. Now, he has just flat surrendered the fight.”

Biden has steadily stepped up his attacks on Trump’s leadership in recent weeks. But his remarks on Wednesday were especially sharp, trying to counter the populism Trump hopes to ride to re-election with stern warnings about how dangerous such an approach would be.

The US has topped 2.16 million confirmed coronavirus infections with at least 117,000 deaths, and some states are reporting increases in cases after reopening their economies.

00:01 GMT – Honduran president hospitalised for COVID-19, treated for pneumonia

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez,
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, accompanied by his wife Ana Garcia, addresses supporters during a rally outside the Presidential House in 2019 [File: Jorge Cabrera/Reuters]

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, is undergoing treatment in hospital for pneumonia after he tested positive for COVID-19 this week, Reuters news agency reported quoting a government spokesperson.

Francis Contreras, a spokesperson for Honduran health agency SINAGER, said that while Hernandez needed specialised medical care in a military hospital, including receiving medicines via intravenous drip, he is generally in good health.

The health news is a fresh blow to the 51-year-old Hernandez, who has come under increasing pressure at home as one of his brothers was swept up by a drug-trafficking probe in the United States which has threatened to engulf him too.

“His general health status is good,” Contreras told reporters outside the military hospital. However, he said X-rays of Hernandez have revealed lung problems.

Hernandez’s wife, Ana Garcia, also tested positive for the coronavirus, along with two presidential aides, but has not presented any symptoms of the disease, Contreras said.


Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Read all the updates from yesterday (June 17) here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies