There is hope in Spain and Italy that the spread of coronavirus may finally be starting to slow, weeks after both nations imposed tough lockdown measures in an effort to contain the virus.
Both countries have recorded lower daily death tolls over the weekend, and Italy is even beginning to plan for the eventual easing of restrictions.
Meanwhile, UK health officials have slammed arsonists who targeted 5G towers in response to conspiracy theories the technology is spreading coronavirus.
Britain says it is unlikely to lift its stringent coronavirus lockdown rules until the end of May, in the wake of its death toll rising by 20 per cent overnight.
Worldwide there are more than 1.2 million confirmed cases of the virus and there have been 64,750 deaths.
This story is being updated regularly. You can also stay informed with the latest episode of the Coronacast podcast.
Sunday’s key stories:
- Hope in Spain and Italy as countries record lower death tolls
- Australia in a ‘good place’, Chief Medical Officer says
- UK fights 5G coronavirus conspiracy theories
- Trump says many deaths expected in tough weeks ahead
- Queen to call for ‘good-humoured resolve’ in special message
- New York reels as 630 die in state’s bleakest day
- Brazil’s hospitals not ready for coronavirus peak
- UK death toll jumps 20 per cent
- One of world’s largest commercial malls turned into medical centre
‘Small message of hope’ from Spain and Italy
The rate of new coronavirus infections and deaths in Spain slowed again on Sunday as the country, suffering from one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the pandemic, began its fourth week under a near-total lockdown.
Total deaths from the highly infectious COVID-19 respiratory disease rose to 12,418 on Saturday — the second-highest worldwide after Italy.
However the daily death toll of 674 people was down from Saturday’s 809, and well below Thursday’s daily record of 950, the Health Ministry said.
Sunday’s rise represented a 6 per cent increase in total deaths, about half the rate reported a week ago. The total number of registered infections rose to 130,759 from Saturday’s 124,736.
“Today I unite [with colleagues] to give a small message of hope,” said General Miguel Angel Villaroya, chief of the defence staff, during a coronavirus briefing on Sunday.
“We are on the right track and we will beat [the virus].”
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said his coronavirus-ravaged nation was “starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel”, however he said he would ask Parliament to extend lockdown measures by 15 more days until April 26.
Meanwhile, Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza outlined plans for broader testing and beefed-up health services, as part of a package of measures that would follow a future easing of the country’s coronavirus lockdown.
On March 9, Italy became the first country in Europe to impose a general lockdown to slow the spread of the virus.
While Mr Speranza said it was too early to tell when the measures could be wound back, he said authorities were aiming to “create the conditions to live with the virus,” at least until a vaccine is developed.
On Saturday, Italy recorded its smallest daily rise in COVID-19 deaths for nearly two weeks, and the first fall of the number of patients in intensive care, feeding hopes that the epidemic may have reached its peak there.
Singapore reports biggest daily jump
Singapore’s health ministry confirmed 120 more coronavirus cases, the most new infections reported in a single day for the city-state.
The number of new cases is a 60 per cent increase over the 75 reported on Saturday, which was the previous biggest rise.
Singapore has reported a total of 1,309 infections and suffered six deaths from the global pandemic.
Australia in a ‘good place’, Chief Medical Officer says
Australians have begun to flatten the curve for new coronavirus infections, but the nation’s top doctor has said about 10 per cent of cases have been acquired by community transmission.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said Australia had recorded 5,687 cases, 139 of which were confirmed over the past 24 hours.
He also said more than 2,000 people had recovered.
This afternoon 33 people were on ventilators and Australia’s death toll had risen to 34.
“Many of you are watching the situation that’s happened in New York, for example, and other parts of the world, with a lot of fear. We have been very keen to bring in the measures we have brought in in recent weeks to prevent that happening,” Professor Murphy said.
“We’re increasingly confident that if people continue to adhere to what we’ve been asking them to do we can prevent a situation like we’ve seen in many other countries.”
He thanked Australians for following tough social-distancing restrictions so far.
“We’re in a good place at the moment,” he said.
“We are achieving good control because the community has done what we have asked.”
New Zealand’s ‘go hard’ approach is working, PM says
New Zealand’s strict orders for people to stay home appear to be working, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said.
The country was quick to introduce a four-week lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus.
New Zealand has recorded 872 cases of the virus. One person has died so far of the respiratory disease, according to health ministry data.
Ms Ardern said “going hard and going early” seemed to be working.
“While compliance has been generally strong, there are still some I would charitably describe as idiots,” Ms Ardern said.
UK fights 5G coronavirus conspiracy theories
Many conspiracy theories have been circulating since the outbreak of coronavirus, including claims the virus is a result of 5G exposure.
In the UK, mobile phone masts have in recent days been burned and vandalised and telco company staff have been abused.
An arson attack at a tower in Birmingham owned by BT, Britain’s biggest telco, caused significant damage.
It provided 2G, 3G and 4G services to thousands of people, but did not have 5G capability, BT said.
On Saturday, UK officials called the growing 5G conspiracy disgusting fake news and “complete nonsense”.
“That is just nonsense, dangerous nonsense as well,” British Cabinet Officer Minister Michael Gove said.
NHS England’s national medical director, Stephen Powis, said the theory was “utter rubbish” and “the worst kind of fake news”.
“I’m absolutely outraged, absolutely disgusted that people would be taking action against the very infrastructure that we need to respond to this health emergency, ” he said.
The theory that 5G mobile telecommunications masts play a role in spreading the novel coronavirus also seems to be gaining traction in Australia.
The second top-trending Google search question this weekend was: “Is 5G safe?”.
Trump says many deaths expected in tough weeks ahead
President Donald Trump is warning that the US is facing the “toughest” weeks ahead as the rise in coronavirus cases accelerates.
“There will be a lot of death, unfortunately. There will be death,” he said.
He again stated his desire to get the US open for business.
“We have to open our country again. We don’t want to be doing this for months and months and months. This country wasn’t meant for this,” he said.
“This country was not designed to be closed. The cure cannot be worse than the problem.”
Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak
- Download the ABC News app and subscribe to our range of news alerts for the latest on how the pandemic is impacting the world
- You can also get up-to-date information on the Federal Government’s Coronavirus Australia app, available on the App Store, Google Play and the Government’s WhatsApp channel.
Police launch criminal investigation into Ruby Princess coronavirus deaths
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has announced a criminal investigation into the operator of the Ruby Princess cruise ship after the death of 11 passengers from coronavirus.
The Police Commissioner said information about the matter which had already been received would be handed to the homicide squad tomorrow.
Commission Fuller said there were “many unanswered questions” about the ship, which was operated by Carnival Australia and docked in Circular Quay in Sydney on March 19.
Passengers were allowed to disembark despite some experiencing flu-like symptoms.
“There seems to be absolute discrepancies between the information provided by Carnival and what I would see as the benchmark for the laws that the Federal Government and the State Government put in place in terms of protecting Australians from cruise ships when coronavirus had started,” Commission Fuller said.
“The only way I can get to the bottom of whether our national biosecurity laws and our state laws were broken is through a criminal investigation.”
India to keep testing kits as cases rise
India is set to restrict the export of most coronavirus testing kits.
Coronavirus cases in the South Asian nation have topped 3,350 despite a three-week nationwide lockdown.
India has already banned the export of certain drugs, along with ventilators, masks and other protective gear needed by both patients and medical staff.
The move came despite US President Donald Trump urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a phone call on Saturday to release supplies of anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which is being tested as a possible treatment for patients with COVID-19.
“The two leaders agreed to remain in touch on the issue of global supply chains for critical pharmaceuticals and medical supplies and to ensure they continue to function as smoothly as possible during the global health crisis,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a tweet.
Cricket without fans would boost spirits, Langer says
Playing cricket without fans in the grandstands is an option worth considering to kickstart the game and boost morale after the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is over, Australiana cricket coach Justin Langer has said.
As with most sports, efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic have forced the shutdown of cricket around the world.
“When you started off playing underage cricket, there’s no crowds there,” Langer said.
“You played it because you loved playing the game, you loved playing with your mates.”
The Australian team had a taste of playing at an empty stadium when it took on New Zealand at the Sydney Cricket Ground in March.
An obvious benefit of getting games underway again would be providing broadcasters with content and so easing the financial strain on the game.
Cricket Australia has delayed the announcement of its contract list for the next year, and Test skipper Tim Paine has said the players are bracing for pay cuts.
Langer also suggested resuming cricket would also be a boost to the morale of the millions of fans around the world who were confined to their homes.
Tasmanian hospital stops admitting patients
The Tasmanian hospital where staff members have tested positive for coronavirus has stopped admissions and begun an outbreak investigation.
Three health workers at the North West Regional Hospital in Burnie have now tested positive for the virus.
The person confirmed to be infected is aged in their 20s.
About 18 staff are now in isolation after coming into contact with the infected staff members.
The announcement of a halt to admissions came as the state Premier Peter Gutwein forewarned of even tighter restrictions after witnessing firsthand members of the public flouting social-distancing rules.
Queen wants Britons to be remembered as strong during crisis
Queen Elizabeth II will call on Britons to show the same good-humoured resolve as their forebears as they take on the challenge and disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
In what will only be her fifth special televised message to the country during her 68 years on the throne, the Queen will also thank healthcare workers on the front line and recognise the pain already suffered by some families.
“I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge,” the Queen will say, according to extracts released by Buckingham Palace.
“And those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any.
“That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow feeling still characterise this country.
“I am speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time.
“A time of disruption in the life of our country — a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many, and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all.”
Your questions on coronavirus answered:
New York reels as 630 die in the state’s bleakest day
Coronavirus-related illnesses have killed 630 people in the last day in New York, the grimmest 24 hours yet for the US state hit hardest by the pandemic.
The coronavirus has now killed 3,565 people in the state and the situation is particularly worrying on Long Island, east of New York City, where the number of cases “is like a fire spreading,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
Health experts calculate that New York might be around a week away its infection peak.
“We’re not yet at the apex, we’re getting closer … our reading of the projections is we’re somewhere in the seven-day range,” Mr Cuomo said.
“It’s only been 30 days since our first case.
“It feels like an entire lifetime.”
The US has the world’s highest number of known cases of COVID-19.
White House medical experts have forecast that between 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could be killed in the pandemic, even if sweeping orders to stay home are followed.
New York City alone accounted for more than a quarter of the US coronavirus deaths tallied by Johns Hopkins University.
Hospitals and morgues in the city are struggling to treat the ill and bury the dead.
Brazil’s hospitals not ready for coronavirus peak
Brazilian health officials grappling with the new coronavirus outbreak have issued a stark warning about a lack of hospital beds, masks, testing devices and trained staff across Latin America’s largest nation.
A Health Ministry report said Brazil could currently carry out 6,700 COVID-19 tests a day, but that it will need to process as many as 30,000-50,000 tests daily during the peak of the outbreak, expected in June.
This latest assessment of the public healthcare system raises serious questions about its capacity to face the outbreak in a country of nearly 210 million.
It also calls for the maintenance of quarantine measures in states that are most badly hit, challenging President Jair Bolsonaro’s more laid-back approach to the virus.
Mr Bolsonaro has compared the new coronavirus to a “little flu” and publicly attacked governors who introduce quarantine measures.
He has grown increasingly isolated over his belief that keeping the economy running is more important than health advice and plans advocated by state governors and his health minister.
“Those who are under 40 years of age have almost zero chance of death. So there’s no reason not to let these people work. After all, if the virus kills in some cases, hunger also kills,” Mr Bolsonaro said earlier this week.
The health ministry had reported 10,278 confirmed cases and 431 deaths.
But the outbreak is still in its early phase, the report said, and the country’s hospitals are not ready to handle a peak.
Officials pointed to a shortage in trained health professionals “to handle mechanical ventilation equipment, respiratory physiotherapy and advanced nursing care” for critically ill patients.
Intensive care units and general hospitalisation beds are “not properly structured or in sufficient numbers”.
More Aussies evacuated from troubled Antarctic cruise ship
Two more passengers on a stranded cruise ship off South America, which is carrying nearly 100 Australians, have now been evacuated amid fears of a coronavirus cluster on board.
A 75-year-old Australian woman was taken off the Greg Mortimer Antarctic cruise ship yesterday.
She is now in a critical yet stable condition in an intensive care isolation unit in Montevideo, Uruguay, awaiting test results.
Passengers have told the ABC another woman was evacuated from the cruise ship this morning.
Three people in total have been taken to hospital and some onboard say the situation is increasingly dire.
Four days ago, a 69-year-old Australian man was taken off and tested positive for COVID-19.
Due to the number of ill people, authorities in Uruguay have refused to let the ship dock.
Healthy passengers have now been tested for the virus in the hope they will soon be able to get a charter flight home.
Over the past fortnight, more than a dozen people on the ship had reported having mild, flu-like symptoms and passengers have been confined to their rooms since March 22.
– Reporting by North America correspondent James Glenday
What the experts are saying about coronavirus:
UK death toll sees 20 per cent increase
The United Kingdom’s death toll from coronavirus has risen by 20 per cent to 4,313 deaths, with 708 new fatalities recorded in the past day, the health ministry said.
Britain is unlikely to lift its stringent lockdown rules until the end of May, once the spread of the coronavirus started to slow, a leading government adviser said.
The Government has put Britain into a widespread shutdown, closing pubs, restaurants and nearly all shops, while ordering people to stay home unless it is absolutely essential to venture out.
The country has almost 42,000 confirmed cases.
Neil Ferguson, a professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London, said the peak of new cases could come within a week or 10 days, but adherence to the strict rules would determine how quickly the rate of infections declined after that.
“It is quite finely balanced at the current time,” he said, adding that Britain could have quite high levels of infection for “weeks and weeks” if people started to socialise.
Britain’s health secretary Matt Hancock warned of further restrictions on people exercising outdoors might be introduced.
Mr Hancock said tighter restrictions would be necessary if people flouted orders designed to stem the virus.
One of world’s largest commercial malls turned into medical centre
One of Iran’s largest shopping malls has been transformed into a centre to treat patients suffering from coronavirus.
Iran Mall in west Tehran, which is one of the world’s largest commercial complexes, has been fitted with ventilators, health monitoring systems and hundreds of hospital beds.
Speaking at the new medical centre, Iran’s deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi dismissed US proposals to help Iran fight the coronavirus pandemic as “nonsense”.
Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak climbed to 3,603 on Sunday with 151 more fatalities recorded over the past 24 hours, Health Ministry Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpur said.
The total number of cases diagnosed with the disease reached 58,226, he said on state TV.
Iran is the country worst affected by the pandemic in the Middle East.
China’s Guangxi region tightens border controls
China’s southwestern Guangxi region, which has borders with Vietnam, has suspended cross-border passenger transportation and restricted cross-border travel amid concerns of an increase in imported coronavirus cases.
It has closed most ports except for a few being used for freight transportation, the Guangxi health commission said in a statement.
Regions around China’s porous borders with South-East Asia have been scrambling to plug border gaps as thousands flood into a country now seen as a safe haven in the global war against the coronavirus pandemic.
As of Friday, the total number of confirmed cases across China stood at 81,639, including 19 new infections, of which 18 were imported cases, the National Health Commission said.
Guangxi’s recent move does not allow Chinese citizens, including those living near the border areas, to leave China through land or waterway transportation.
Crew on inbound ships are not allowed to disembark.
Drivers of Vietnamese trucks are limited to unloading yard activities and have to leave on the same day.
The general public is being encouraged to report illegal immigration with offers for cash rewards between 3,000 to 10,000 yuan ($700-2350), according to the statement.
Australia has had more than 5,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 35 deaths (these numbers were last updated at 6:00pm AEDT on Sunday, April 5).
- New South Wales: 2,580 (16 deaths)
- Victoria: 1,135 (eight deaths)
- Queensland: 907 (four deaths)
- Western Australia: 453 (three deaths)
- South Australia: 409
- ACT: 93 (two deaths)
- Tasmania: 86 (two deaths)
- Northern Territory: 27
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