Coronavirus: Spain’s PM looks for 15-day extension to lockdown
Women dressed as Handmaid’s Tale characters demonstrate against restrictions in US
Women dressed like characters from The Handmaid’s Tale demonstrate against all government restrictions related to concern about the spread of Covid-19 outside the Statehouse in Boston. Photograph: Michael Dwyer/AP Photo
Spain’s prime minister said on Sunday the country needed 15 more days of lockdown until June 21st “to finish with the pandemic once and for all”, and he would ask parliament to approve a final two-week extension to the stay home rule.
“We have almost set out what we set out to do,” Pedro Sanchez told a press conference, as he expressed his intense relief that the number of new cases of Covid-19 in Spain, one of the nations hardest-hit by the virus, had fallen dramatically.
From June 21st a national state of emergency will end and with it the lockdown, allowing citizens to move freely in their regions. From July 1st, citizens will be able to move throughout the country.
Spain’s death toll rose by four on Saturday to 27,125, the health ministry said, while the number of Covid-19 infections rose by 271 overnight to 239,228 on Saturday.
Spain imposed a state of emergency on March 14th which involved a strict lockdown under which people could only leave their homes to buy food, seek medical care or for jobs where they could not work from home. Children were initially confined inside all day. Restrictions are being gradually eased.
Despite opposition to the most recent lockdown extension from parties on the right and demonstrations across Spain, Mr Sanchez has struck a deal with a Catalan separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) which should guarantee his minority government secures enough support to extend the lockdown.
In the US, women dressed like characters from The Handmaid’s Tale demonstrate against all government restrictions related to concern about the spread of Coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, outside the Statehouse in Boston. Demonstrations against the lockdown have been ongoing for the past few weeks across the states. The country has over 1.8 million confirmed cases and the death toll has reached 105,557.
The country has reported 27 new cases of coronavirus, including 21 in the Seoul area where officials are scrambling to stem transmissions linked to club-goers and warehouse workers.
The figures announced by South Korea’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday brought national totals to 11,468 cases and 270 deaths. Twelve of the new cases were international arrivals.
South Korea was reporting about 500 new cases each day in early March but seemed to stabilise the outbreak with aggressive tracking and tracing, which allowed authorities to ease social distancing guidelines.
But cases in the greater capital area have been rising steadily again as public activity increases, causing alarm as millions of children have begun returning to school.
At least 108 recent infections are linked to workers or visitors at a warehouse of local e-commerce giant Coupang, which has seen orders spike during the crisis.
Around 270 other infections have been traced to nightclubs and other entertainment venues, which saw huge crowds in early May as social distancing was relaxed.
Authorities have reported two new cases of Covid-19, bringing its total to 83,001.
Both cases were imported and in the Shandong province south of Beijing, bringing the number of cases from abroad to 1,740.
China has cut international flights drastically to try to keep new cases out, though it allowed a chartered Lufthansa A340 with employees of Volkswagen and other German companies operating in China to arrive on Saturday from Frankfurt.
It was the first of two such flights from Germany aimed at restarting the economy.
No new domestic cases have been reported in China for a week.
The country’s official death toll stands at 4,634.
About 90,000 mosques reopened on Sunday for the first time in more than two months, but worshippers have been ordered to follow strict guidelines and Islam’s holiest site in Mecca remains closed to the public.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs said millions of text messages were sent to people in multiple languages to inform them about the new rules for public prayer, which include keeping two metres apart, wearing face masks at all times and abstaining from greeting one another with handshakes or hugs.
Children under 15 are not allowed inside mosques, while the elderly and those with chronic conditions are being told to pray at home.
People are also being advised to perform the mandatory ablution at home since washrooms at mosques will be closed, to use hand sanitiser and to bring their own prayer rugs and copies of the Koran.
The continued closure of Mecca points to the increasing likelihood that the kingdom may suspend this year’s annual Muslim hajj pilgrimage, which falls in late July. A senior Saudi official has already told prospective pilgrims not to plan for the hajj this year amid the global pandemic.
Saudi Arabia took early and unprecedented measures to curb the spread of the virus, but has recorded more than 83,000 cases and 480 deaths.
More than 8,000 new cases have been reported in a single day, another record high that topped the deadliest week in the country.
The health ministry said on Sunday that confirmed infections have risen to 182,143, with 5,164 fatalities – including 193 in the last 24 hours.
More than 60 per cent of the overall virus fatalities have been reported from only two states – Maharashtra, the financial hub, and Gujarat, the home state of India’s prime minister Narendra Modi.
The new cases are largely concentrated in six Indian states, including the capital New Delhi.
Covid-19 restrictions are easing in most of the country, but authorities say they will be watching carefully to ensure efforts to contain the pandemic remain on track.
Deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth said the lifting of restrictions is a balancing act between the socio-economic benefit from their removal and the public health risk.
He said: “We’re taking a deliberately safe and cautious approach. Most importantly we’re taking the time to gather the data over the coming weeks to determine whether it’s safe to move to the next round of lifting restrictions.”
Coronavirus cases remain low in Australia by international standards, with 7,180 infections and 103 deaths.
The more flexible restrictions, which differ across the states, will mean more movement in public places including pubs, cafes and restaurants. But authorities have renewed their call for safe hygiene and social distancing measures to remain.
Officials have said they will not limit incoming tourists to those from a list of 29 approved nations, but travellers from other countries will be subject to mandatory testing on arrival and a period of quarantine depending on the results.
The policy will only be applied during the final two weeks of June, although Greek authorities left open the prospect of additional restrictions after that date.
The approved-nation list features: Albania, Australia, Austria, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Estonia, Japan, Israel, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lebanon, New Zealand, Lithuania, Malta, Montenegro, Norway, South Korea, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Finland.
Arrivals from those countries will be tested randomly.
The country saw a new overnight death toll high of 88, amid reports of acute care bed shortages and further pleas from health professionals to tighten lockdown measures.
The government, however, has kept mosques open, urging safe distancing but not enforcing the rules.
And in a reduction of restrictions, the government has now also withdrawn the limits on congregations in mosques and churches.
The total confirmed death toll is 1,483, with 69,496 cases. –AP and Reuters