Here’s a bit of positive news from Turkey, where doctors are celebrating the recovery of a 93-year-old woman, Alye Gunduz, who was discharged from an Istanbul hospital following 10 days of treatment.
“It is promising because patients at this age and with chronic diseases are most of the time unable to recover because they are at highest risk from Covid-19,” chief physician Zekayi Kutlubay told AFP.
Turkey has registered more than 47,000 Covid-19 cases – ranking it among the 10 most infected countries in the world. It has recorded over a thousand deaths.
“A 93-year-old woman walking out of intensive care sound and safe is inspiring for us as well as for other coronavirus patients at her age,” said Kutlubay.
Progress is being made towards debt relief, says head of the World Bank
The World Bank president David Malpass has said he is confident that progress is being made, following his call for debt relief for the world’s poorest countries.
The call for a temporary pause in payments, made jointly with the International Monetary Fund, will be discussed next week by finance officials of both the G7 and G20 economies, he said.
It has been proposed that China and other big creditors should suspend debt payments from International Development Association (IDA) countries beginning May 1, freeing up resources for them to fight against the pandemic. The IDA countries are home to a quarter of the world’s population and two-thirds of the world’s population living in extreme poverty.
The issue is particularly critical for G20 member China, which has sharply increased lending to developing countries over the past two decades.
China’s government, banks and companies lent some $143 billion to Africa between 2000-2017, much of it for large-scale infrastructure projects, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. By some estimates, Chinese lending now dwarfs World Bank loans in Africa.
Britons urged to resist warm weather and stay home over Easter weekend
The UK’s health secretary Matt Hancock, has said the Easter weekend will be a “test of the nation’s resolve” and issued another warning to the public to “stay at home” amid the coronavirus crisis.
The Met Office said London could see highs of 25C or 26C, while much of England and Wales was expected to record temperatures of 18C to 24C.
Speaking at the daily press conference about the importance of keeping to the lockdown rules, Hancock said:
This is a national effort, and every single person in this country can play their part in this plan. This Easter will be another test of the nation’s resolve. It’s a time of year when people normally come together. But however warm the weather, however tempting your local beach or park, we need everyone to stay at home.
Because in hospitals across the country, NHS staff are battling day and night to keep desperately sick people breathing, and they need you to stay at home.”
Singapore suspends the use of Zoom by teachers
Singapore has suspended the use of video-conferencing tool Zoom by teachers after “very serious incidents” in the first week of a coronavirus lockdown that has seen schools move to home-based learning, Reuters has reported.
One incident involved obscene images appearing on screens and strange men making lewd comments during the streaming of a geography lesson with teenage girls, media reports said.
Zoom Video Communications has faced safety and privacy concerns over its conferencing app, use of which has surged in offices and schools worldwide after they shut to try and curb virus infection
Taiwan and Germany have already curbed use of Zoom, while Google banned the desktop version from corporate laptops this week.
It was confirmed earlier that cases of coronavirus in the US have now topped 500,000, while 18,693 deaths have been reported. Despite such rises in case numbers, there are some signs that the stay-at-home measures in the US are having an impact. On Friday, the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, expressed cautious optimism that the state’s infection rate was slowing.
The World Health Organisation and Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, have both warned that such progress could be reversed if lockdown measures are eased. President Donald Trump, however, is eager to lift restrictions.
Here is some detail from a recent report by the Guardian’s senior reporter Peter Beaumont and Madrid correspondent Sam Jones:
Trump, seemingly concerned by deflating approval ratings and exploding unemployment figures, had told reporters that he hoped to open up the economy “very, very, very, very soon”.
On Friday, the president struck a more emollient tone, saying he would announce next week a council of business and medical leaders to help him with the “biggest decision I’ve ever had to make” on when to reopen America for business.
Trump added: “I want to get it open as soon as possible. This country was meant to be open and vibrant and great … The facts are going to determine what I do. But we do want to get the country open.”
Reporter Uki Goñi in Buenos Aires has some more detail on the stricken Greg Mortimer cruise ship.
Over 100 Australian and New Zealand passengers from the Antarctic cruise ship Greg Mortimer have started disembarking at the port of Montevideo in Uruguay to board a medically-equipped Airbus to Melbourne early on Saturday morning.
It is not known if the Greg Mortimer, with its remaining European and American passengers and its crew of 85, will be allowed to remain docked at the port, or if the ship will be asked to sail out again 20 kilometres offshore from the coast of Montevideo where it has been anchored for the past two weeks.
The ship has been at sea since March 15 when it set off from Argentina’s southern port of Ushuaia on an ill-fated Antarctic cruise, spending the last three weeks with all passengers quarantined in their cabins. At least 128 passengers and crew, out of a total 217 on board, have tested positive for the virus.
New Zealand death toll rises to four
New Zealand has confirmed two new deaths related to Covid-19, doubling the country’s death toll to four.
A Christchurch man in his 70s and a Wellington man in his 80s both died on Good Friday after being admitted to hospital with the disease, Australian Associated Press has reported. Both had underlying health conditions, as did the previous two Kiwis to die after contracting coronavirus.
Worryingly, the Christchurch man is the second to die from a cluster linked to the Rosewood rest home. Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay said she “cannot rule out further serious illnesses or deaths” from that cluster. So far, 30 people have tested positive to coronavirus at Rosewood.
Health officials also announced 29 new cases of the disease on Saturday, a sign the country is moving closer to controling of the disease.
There were also 49 recoveries on Good Friday. The total number of cases is now 1312.
US cases surpass 500,000
The number of coronavirus cases in the US has now surpassed 500,000, according to the John Hopkins University global dashboard.
Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno has announced the creation of a humanitarian assistance account that will be funded with contributions from companies and citizens to address the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The account will be funded, in part, by a contribution of five percent of profits from companies that earned more than a million dollars. The money will serve to finance smaller companies that require capital. The other funds will come from a progressive contribution based on workers’ monthly income for nine months. The contribution will be for those who earn more than $500 per month.
Ecuador reported more than 2,196 new infections in one day on Friday, raising the total number to 7,161. Some 297 have died and another 311 were likely killed by the virus, according to official data. Moreno said in a televised address:
The pandemic hit us at a critical moment, when we were trying to get ahead after a very tough economic crisis…It hit us without a cent in the state’s accounts.”
The government has said deaths could reach 3,500 due to the outbreak in the province of Guayas, where the epicenter of the country’s outbreak is located, which accounts for 70% of infections.
Uruguay evacuates Australians and New Zealanders from cruise ship
The 112 Australians and New Zealanders stuck on board a coronavirus-stricken Antarctic cruise ship have finally disembarked in Uruguay, Associated Press has reported. The ship has been anchored off the coast of South America for the last 14 days.
At least six Americans, five British citizens and passengers from other countries, as well 83 crew members, remain on the the Greg Mortimer, a ship operated by Australias Aurora Expeditions. Arrangements for their evacuation are still being made.
Uruquay had originally refused to let passengers off the cruise ship, after authorities said that 128 of the 217 people on board had tested positive for the new coronavirus. They later sent medical teams to the ship to ensure people’s health and monitored the situation via WhatsApp.
Most of the crew and passengers have mild symptoms and are stable, Karina Rando, director general of Uruguay’s Public Health Ministry, told The Associated Press.
We are at a moment in the epidemic that allows us to evacuate. We have intensive care beds, doctors are available and we are not putting the care of our population at risk… We have the logistical and professional capacity to serve these people.”
The evacuated passengers will be repatriated using a humanitarian corridor with biosecurity measures unprecedented for the South American country.
They will be driven in four buses to Montevideo’s Carrasco airport, escorted by police and medical personnel. At the runway, the passengers and their luggage will be disinfected prior to boarding.
A refitted airplane operated by charter airline Hi Fly will take them to Melbourne, Australia, where the passengers will undergo a 14-day quarantine, the company said. The flight is expected to leave Uruguay at around 2 a.m. Saturday local time.
China reported 46 new coronavirus cases on Friday, of which 42 were imported from abroad. A further three deaths have also been reported.
Hubei province – home to the city of Wuhan, where the outbreak began – reported no new cases on Friday. This week, the city of 11 million people opened its doors again after 76 days sealed off from the world.
Hello this is Rebecca Ratcliffe at the helm of our global coronavirus liveblog.
As the global deaths from the virus passed the grim milestone of 100,000, the World Health Organization has warned that a premature lifting of restrictions on peoples’ movements by countries fighting the pandemic could spark a “deadly resurgence”.
In the US, where president Donald Trump is agitating for a reopening of the economy, the country’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, cautioned against easing lockdown measures. Both Italy and Spain have extended their restrictions. Meanwhile, Turkey has put in place a two-day lockdown in 31 provinces.
Here are some of the key developments from the last few hours:
- Nearly 1,000 more people are confirmed dead in France. The French death toll passes 13,000, the health ministry director Jérôme Salomon said. A further 554 deaths were confirmed in French hospitals and 433 in care and retirement homes.
- Italy extends lockdown. Restrictions will remain in place in Italy for another three weeks, the country’s prime minister has said, although a few types of shop will be allowed to reopen from next Tuesday. Giuseppe Conte said: “This is a difficult but necessary decision for which I take all political responsibility.”
- Trump promises to listen to expert advice on reopening the economy. The US president says he is creating a second task force that will include a council tasked with deciding when to ease restrictions. But Donald Trump, who has repeatedly pushed the idea, insists he is not determined to reopen the economy if he is advised that to do so would endanger public health.
- Turkey puts in place a two-day lockdown in 31 provinces. The measures cover Istanbul, Ankara and other major cities, its interior ministry says, adding that the curbs will begin at midnight and end at the same time on Sunday. The country’s known death toll stands at 1,006 people.
- The UK is urged to investigate if and why black, Asian and minority ethnic people are more vulnerable. The head of the British Medical Association made the call after it emerged that the first 10 doctors in the UK named as having died from the virus were all BAME.
- Liverpool legend, Kenny Dalglish, tests positive. The 69-year-old was in hospital for treatment on a separate infection.
If you think we’ve missed a story or want to draw our attention to something please do get in touch. My email is [email protected] and I’m @rebeccarat on Twitter.