Coronavirus latest: Faithful back to holy spots in Europe and Middle East, Asia sees new surge

A deacon wearing a mask gives the communion to a nun during a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, May 31, 2020
A deacon wearing a mask gives the communion to a nun during a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, May 31, 2020 Copyright Remo Casilli/Pool Photo via AP
By Alessio Dell'Anna with AP, AFP
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Worshippers are finally allowed back to holy spots from Rome to Mecca; India sees its deadliest week; South Korea suffers a new surge in infections. Follow us for all the latest on the coronavirus pandemic.


Here is the latest news on coronavirus for Sunday, May 31. This article is regularly updated so please refresh the page to stay up to date on the pandemic.

  • France's gardens and parks reopen
  • Spain to further extend state of emergency
  • UK defends lockdown ease
  • Christians and Muslims allowed back to holy spots
  • Greece says tourists from countries outside 'list of 29' will undergo mandatory testing
  • Deadliest week in India
  • South Korea sees new infections rise
  • Trump postpones G7 to Autumn
  • COVID-19 cases hit six million mark

French parks reopen

French citizens, including Parisiens, are allowed back into parks and gardens after more than two months.

Face-maks are recommended but not compulsory.

Cafes and restaurants will reopen on Tuesday.

Spain set for new extension of state of emergency

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says he will ask Spain’s Parliament for a final two-week extension of the nation’s state of emergency.

This should be “the last extension of 15 days", he said, while the current state of emergency is set to expire on June 7.

Sánchez says this final stretch of the lockdown will include handing back control of health care over to the regions that have shown the most progress in containing the virus.

The central government is slowing rolling back confinement measures depending on which areas have fewer infections and are better prepared for a possible second outbreak.

UK says lockdown can't last 'forever'

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Sunday defended plans to ease restrictions in England, saying "we can't just stay in lockdown forever."

Raab however added that authorities just needed to take those steps responsibly and "be very careful".

"We've got to transition. And the more we transition through careful steps, the more I think we'll build up confidence in the approach we're taking," he told British broadcaster, Sky.

Meanwhile, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she agreed with scientists who warned loosened measures could cause the coronavirus to "run out of control".

Leading scientists including Professor John Edmunds, from the UK's SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) committee, expressed concern on Saturday over England's ability to contain the spread of the coronavirus under fewer restrictions.

On the same day, the UK government announced competitive sports in England will resume on June 1 and groups of up to six people will be allowed to train outdoors as long as a two-metre distance is kept.

Pope greets faithful back to St. Peter's Square

Pope Francis cheerfully greeted people in St. Peter’s Square as he resumed his usual addresses to the faithful for the first time since lockdown began in Italy and in Vatican City in early March.

“Today the square is open, we can return to it with pleasure,’’ Francis said.

Instead of the tens of thousands of people who might have turned out on a similarly brilliantly sunny day like in pre-pandemic times, only a few hundred came to the square on Sunday, standing well apart from others or staying in small family groups.

Greece announces mandatory tests for tourists from countries not on approved list

Greek said that the country will not limit incoming tourists to those from a list of 29 nations, but travellers from countries not on the list will be subject to mandatory testing on arrival and a period of quarantine depending on test 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 list of the 29 announced Friday (May 29) includes 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.

India records 'deadliest week' since pandemic hit the country

India has recorded more than 8,000 new cases of the coronavirus in a single day for the first time as the infection tally surged to 182,143.

The death toll climbed to over 5,160 after 193 fatalities were recorded in the last 24 hours, according to health ministry data.


This week has been the deadliest in India, with cases of infections and deaths reaching a new high almost every day.

Overall, more than 60% of the country’s virus fatalities have been reported from only two states, Maharashtra and Gujarat, central-western India.

South Korea sees a new rise in infections after initial success in curbing virus spread

South Korea reported 27 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday (May 31), including 21 from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where officials have been scrambling to stem transmissions linked to club-goers and warehouse workers.

The figures brought national totals to 11,468 cases and 270 deaths. Twelve of the new cases were linked to international arrivals.

South Korea was reporting about 500 new cases per day in early March but had seemed to stabilise its 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 since May amid increased public activity, causing alarm as millions of children have begun returning to schools.

Mosques reopen in Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem amid virus woes

Tens of thousands of mosques across Saudi Arabia reopened on Sunday for the first time in more than two months, with worshippers ordered to follow strict guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as Islam's holiest site in Mecca remained closed to the public.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Islam's holiest site outside of Saudi Arabia, also reopened for prayers for the first time since it was closed in mid-March.

G7 called off due to pandemic

US President Donald Trump said he will postpone the G7 meeting until the autumn, though it had been planned for June at the White House.

He said he had not yet set a new date for the meeting, but thought the gathering could take place in September, around the time of the annual meeting of the United Nations in New York, or perhaps after the US election in November.


The announcement came after German Chancellor Angela Merkel's office said on Saturday that she would not attend the meeting unless the course of the coronavirus spread had changed by then.

Trump added that it is time to include Russia, Australia, South Korea and India in the G7.

Coronavirus cases pass 6 million

The total number of COVID-19 cases passed 6 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center.

Latin America is a new breeding ground for the disease, with Brazil becoming on Saturday (May 30) the fourth most-affected country in terms of coronavirus-related deaths - over 28,800.

The US continues to be the world's worst-hit country, accounting for over 103,700 deaths, followed by the UK (over 38,400) and Italy (more than 33,300).


Brazil is however the second country per number of infections (498.400), followed by Russia (405,800) and the UK (274,200).

The United States remains the country with the highest number of COVID-19 cases (over 1.7 million).

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