Here are the latest developments on Saturday (May 30) concerning the global coronavirus pandemic:
- Global COVID-19 cases pass 6 million
- Competitive sport behind closed doors resumes in England from June 1
- EU urges Trump to reconsider WHO withdrawal
- Brazil overtakes Spain for number of confirmed deaths from COVID-19
- Merkel will not go to US for G7 summit even if Trump decides to go ahead with it
- Leading UK scientists warn of England's lockdown restrictions being eased too soon
- Italy's foreign minister gives stark tourism warning
- Lufthansa agrees to EU-Germany compromise over bailout
Coronavirus cases pass six million globally
It was reported on Saturday evening by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Centre.
The United States is the world's worst-hit country with over 103,600 deaths reported.
North Macedonia extends state of emergency
North Macedonia's president Stevo Pendarovski extended the state of emergency by two weeks after a spike in COVID-19 cases and 16 new deaths in the past three days.
The decision is motivated "solely by the intention to allow an effective fight" against the pandemic and "against the economic and social consequences of the pandemic," the president said.
Romanian prime minister fined over breaching social-distancing measures
Romania’s prime minister was fined about €540, AP reports, for smoking indoors and holding a meeting in a government building where several Cabinet ministers and other participants did not follow social distancing rules.
In a photograph published in Romanian media, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban and others can be seen smoking with food and bottles of alcohol on a table. No one in the photo wore a mask or maintained the required spacing.
Orban told the Mediafax news agency that the picture was taken on May 25, his birthday. The foreign minister and economy minister of Romania were among those attending.
UK allows resumption of competitive sport in England from June 1
The British government authorized the return of competitive sport behind closed doors in England from June 1 after more than two months of stoppage, Sports and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said at a press briefing.
In addition, from Monday, groups of up to six people will be able to exercise outdoors as long as people stay two meters apart.
During the briefing, the government also defended the relaxation of containment measures amid critics coming from the UK scientific community arguing it is too early to do so.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam stressed however that deconfinement can only be successful if people comply with social-distancing and self-isolation measures.
EU urges Trump to reconsider WHO withdrawal
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Vice-President Josep Borrell issued a statement urging US President Donald Trump to reconsider his decision of withdrawing from the World Health Organisation.
"Global cooperation and solidarity through multilateral efforts are the only effective and viable means of winning this battle that the world is facing. WHO must continue to be able to lead the international response to pandemics, current and future. For this, the participation and support of all are necessary and essential.", the statement reads.
"Actions that weaken international results should be avoided. In this context, we urge the United States to reconsider the decision it announced".
Brazil overtakes Spain
Brazil has overtaken Spain for the number of confirmed deaths from COVID-19 to become the country with the fifth highest toll, according to the US Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. With 27,878 deaths as of Saturday midday (CEST), it sits behind the United States (102,836), the United Kingdom (38,243), Italy (33,229) and France (28,717). Scientists believe the real figures in Brazil are far worse.
Brazil reported more than a thousand deaths in a 24-hour period on Friday (1,124), as well as a new record number of daily infections (26,928), bringing the total to 465,166 since the start of the outbreak.
President Jair Bolsonaro has defied the global consensus on lockdowns, pitting him against state governors and arguing that more people will die from economic collapse if restrictions are too harsh.
The World Health Organization said on May 22 that South America had become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.
Merkel won't attend G7 summit in person
Chancellor Angela Merkel will not personally attend a meeting in the US with the leaders of the world’s major economies if President Donald Trump goes ahead with it, unless the course of the coronavirus spread changes by then, her office said on Saturday.
After cancelling the Group of Seven summit, originally scheduled for June 10-12 at Camp David, Trump said a week ago that he was again considering hosting an in-person meeting of world leaders because it would be a “great sign to all” of things returning to normal during the pandemic.
“As of today, given the overall pandemic situation, she cannot commit to participating in person,” her office said. It added that the chancellor would continue to monitor the coronavirus situation in case things change.
UK scientists: England's lockdown ease is too soon, too risky
Some scientists advising the British government are warning that lockdown measures may be being eased too soon in England.
Several members of the UK government's scientific advisory group have voiced concerns after an expert in infectious diseases spoke out to say the move was "dangerous".
From Monday in England, groups of up to six people from different households will be allowed to meet outside, in parks or private gardens, so long as two-metre distances are kept.
Some primary school children will be able to return to school, while the government launched its contact tracing system earlier this week.
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the UK's SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) committee, expressed concern over the country's ability to contain the spread of the coronavirus under these new measures.
He said the most important issue was the high number of cases still being reported, citing an estimate from the UK's official statistics body that there were probably 8,000 new infections per day in England alone during a two-week period in May.
"Even if we don't get a second peak and we just keep the incidence at this level that will still result in large numbers of infections over time," Edmunds said, adding, "and people will die."
Sir Jeremy Farrar, another SAGE member, added his support on Twitter for the comments, saying "Covid-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England". He said infection rates would have to come down, and testing and tracing operations fully working, before such a move could be made safely.
On Saturday two more SAGE members told BBC Radio that they agreed. Professor Peter Hornby warned it was vital "we don't lose control again". Calum Semple of the University of Liverpool said "essentially we're lifting the lid on a boiling pan and it's just going to bubble over".
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the move to ease lockdown rules in England on Thursday, after several days dominated by the controversy surrounding the alleged breach of regulations by his top adviser.
Italy foreign minister issues tourism warning
Italy’s foreign minister is warning that the European Union will “collapse” if governments treat Italians like lepers over the coronavirus and “black list” Europe’s one-time virus epicenter during the summer tourism season.
Luigi Di Maio posted a blistering Facebook message Saturday after Greece excluded Italians — as well as nationals from Spain, Britain and other countries with high infection rates — from the list of foreign tourists it will welcome this summer.
Di Maio said competition for tourism is one thing, but he insisted that it be healthy and fair in demanding a European response to the reopening of EU borders after virus lockdowns. He warned: “If you act differently and dislocated, the EU spirit will be lost. And Europe will collapse.”
Di Maio praised French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for making his first post-lockdown visit to Italy on Wednesday. Di Maio said he would be traveling to Germany, Slovenia and Greece in the upcoming week to make the case that Italy is ready to receive foreign tourists. Tourism and its related industries account for some 13% of Italy’s GDP.
Lufthansa €9bn bailout passes first hurdle
German flagship airline Lufthansa agreed Saturday to a compromise worked out between the government and the European Union, overcoming a major hurdle toward final approval of a €9billion bailout from Berlin.
Lufthansa said in a statement it had agreed to the compromise worked out between Germany and the EU in which the airline will have to give up several prized landing slots at Munich and Frankfurt airports. The DPA news agency reported the German government had also agreed to the compromise.
The government announced the aid package on Monday to help Lufthansa, which, like most airlines, has been struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.
The EU imposed conditions, however, saying that bailouts must include measures that would maintain a level playing field for other companies.