Coronavirus latest: More than 500,000 new COVID-19 cases in last five days, says WHO

Passengers gather in Milan's Central Station, Italy
Passengers gather in Milan's Central Station, Italy Copyright Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP
By Luke Hurst
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Keep up to date with the latest coronavirus developments here.

A summary of the latest developments



German government announces €130 stimulus package

Germany's governing parties agree on a €130 billion economic package to revive the country's economy, hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Chancellor Angela Merkel described the package, agreed upon after two days of talks, as a "bold response".
It will benefit debt-laden municipalities, see value-added tax reduced for six months from July and provide a €300 bonus per child to families.

More than 100,000 new cases reported daily for fifth day in a row: WHO

Dr Tedros Adhanom Gehbreyesus, director general at the World Health Organisation (WHO), said during a briefing on Wednesday that "more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported to WHO for each of the past five days".
"The Americas continue to account for the most cases. For several weeks, the number of cases reported each day in the Americas has been more than the rest of the world put together. We're especially worried about central and south America where many countries are experiencing accelerating epidemics," he went on.
"We also see an increasing number of cases in the Eastern Mediterranean, southeast Asia and Africa, although the numbers are much smaller," he noted
"Yesterday saw the fewest number of new cases in Europe since the 22 of March," he also said.

Spain extends state of emergency by two weeks

Spanish MPs have voted to extend the state of emergency by an additional two weeks to June 21. 
The state of emergency allows the government to restrict movement and other rights in response to the pandemic.
The extension was passed with 177 votes in favour, 155 votes against. Eighteen lawmakers abstained.

French death toll passes 29,000

France's Health Ministry has announced that a further 81 people have died from COVID-19 over the previous 24 hours, taking the country's death toll to 29,021.
The number of people hospitalised has dropped by to 13,514 from 15,680 a week ago. 

WHO recommends resumption of  hydroxychloroquine trials

After suspending the hydroxychloroquine arm of a clinical trial of experimental COVID-19 drugs, the director-general of the World Health Organization said experts had reviewed the safety data and were now recommending the trial continue as planned.

The recommendation means doctors will soon be able to resume giving the drug to patients enrolled in the U.N. health agency’s study.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday that the WHO’s safety monitoring committee for the global trial had now examined all available mortality data about hydroxychloroquine. Some studies had suggested that people who were taking the drug for COVID-19 had a higher chance of dying than those who were not.

President Trump has said he is taking hydroxychloroquine even though he has not tested positive for the coronavirus; there are no studies that have proven the drug is effective against COVID-19.


Spain extends emergency for two final weeks

As previewed on Euronews earlier, Spanish lawmakers have voted to extend for two additional weeks the state of emergency that allows the government to restrict movement and other rights as part of its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says Spain has “overcome the worst of the pandemic” and declared that he won’t seek further extensions beyond the end date of the special powers at midnight on June 21.

The extension was passed Wednesday with 177 votes in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies. There were 155 votes against it, while 18 lawmakers abstained.

Sánchez also said that a new government decree next week will set out procedures to handle any resurgence of the outbreak after most of the restrictions, first imposed on March 14, are lifted.

There were no deaths reported in the country from COVID-19 on Monday or Tuesday. Spain has recorded 27,128 COVID-19 deaths and just over 240,000 confirmed infections.


Sending children back to school is 'very complicated balancing act': UK expert

Asked about how safe it is for children to return to school, Sir Patrick Vallance stressed that "overall it looks like children are much less likely than adults to get severe disease" and that parents of primary school children -- those who returned to school this week -- are generally not in the age group that is particularly at risk from the virus.
"Clearly there is a very complicated balancing act" for society, he added, describing schools reopening as a "walk between two risks: a risk to education and a risk of health".

Hard-hit Sweden admits it could have battled COVID-19 better

The architect of Sweden's coronavirus strategy today admitted there was "potential for improvement" over the country's handling of the crisis.

Unlike most of its European neighbours and many other countries around the world, Sweden did not impose a strict lockdown. Social distancing was promoted and large gatherings banned. But the country kept its bars and restaurants open throughout.

Sweden has the fifth-highest per capita COVID-19 death rates in the world if you microstates like San Marino and Andorra.

“I think there is potential for improvement in what we have done in Sweden, quite clearly,” Anders Tegnell, Sweden's leading epidemiologist, said on Wednesday.



UK infection rate 'not coming down as fast as we'd like'

Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government's chief scientific adviser, said on Wednesday that COVID-19 infection rate "is not coming down as fast as we would like it to come down."
He noted that although the daily tally of new cases is going down, the number could in fact be much higher. 
"That means we have to tread very carefully," he added. 

Italian death toll increases to 33,601

The Italian Health Ministry said that 71 people have died from COVID-19 over the previous 24 hours, bringing the death toll in the country to 33,601.
The number of confirmed cases has risen by 321 to 233,836.

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