WHO states agree to coronavirus response probe: Live updates | News

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  • WHO member states have agreed on an independent review of the global pandemic response at a virtual meeting of the World Health Assembly.

  • China has accused the United States of smearing Beijing and shirking responsibilities to the World Health Organization (WHO) after President Donald Trump threatened to pull out of the UN health body.

  • Unemployment claims in Britain jumped by 69 percent last month as the coronavirus pandemic took hold and hit the labour market.

  • Globally, there have been more than 4.8 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 318,800 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 1.8 million people have recovered.

Here are all the latest updates:

Tuesday, May 19

16:20 GMT – Regional health body warns of spread in Amazon tri-border area

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has warned that the new coronavirus is spreading rapidly in the tri-border area of the Amazon between Brazil, Colombia and Peru and threatens to infect remote indigenous communities in the rainforest.

PAHO directors urged in a virtual briefing that special measures be taken to protect vulnerable groups among the poor and indigenous populations of the Americas.

They said contagion was rising fast in densely populated Amazon border cities such as Manaus, Leticia and Iquitos, and the greatest danger is the COVID-19 spreading now to isolated villages.




Brazil’s president defiant as coronavirus death toll soars

16:00 GMT – Italy’s daily death toll and new cases climb

Deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy have climbed by 162, against 99 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, while the daily tally of new cases rose sharply to 813 from 451 on Monday.

The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on February 21 now stands at 32,169 the agency said, the third highest in the world after those of the United States and Britain.

The number of confirmed total cases is now 226,699, the sixth highest global tally behind those of the US, Russia, Spain, Britain and Brazil.




Shops, cafes reopen as Italy lifts coronavirus restrictions

15:45 GMT – Latin American health chief says ‘hopes’ to continue working with US

 The head of the Pan American Health Organization, Carissa Etienne, has said that the WHO-affiliated body “hopes” to continue working with the US government, after President Donald Trump threatened on Monday to end US funding and withdraw from WHO.

15:30 GMT – Canada, US agree to 30-day extension of ban on non-essential travel: Trudeau

Canada and the US have agreed to extend a ban on non-essential travel between the two nations by another 30 days as part of the fight against the coronavirus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said.

Trudeau made the announcement in remarks to reporters. Officials from both nations said last week it was likely that the measure would be rolled over until June 21. 

Drivers wait to cross through Canadian customs at the Canada-US border near the Peace Arch Provincial Park in Surrey, British Columbia. [File: Jesse Winter/Reuters]

15:15 GMT – Pakistan airlifts 274 students from Wuhan

Pakistan has repatriated 274 students from the Chinese city of Wuhan, according to the ministry of foreign affairs. 

The students were shuttled from the city, where the virus first appeared and the one-time epicentre of the global outbreak, to Islamabad on a Pakistan International Airlines flight that arrived in Islamabad on Monday. 

The first wave of the outbreak in Wuhan had been brought largely under control in April, but new clusters have emerged in recent days.

15:00 GMT – Sweden tops Europe deaths per capita over last 7 days

Sweden, which has opted for a more open strategy in combating the virus than other European countries, has the highest number of deaths in Europe per capita from the COVID-19 disease over the last seven days, data shows.

Sweden has kept most schools, restaurant and businesses open during the pandemic. While deaths are on the decline Sweden had 6.25 deaths per million inhabitants per day in a rolling seven day average between May 12 and May 19, according to Ourworldinsata.org. That was the highest in Europe and just above the United Kingdom, which had 5.75 deaths per million.

Over the course of the pandemic Sweden still has fewer deaths per capita than the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Belgium and France, which have all opted for lockdowns, but much higher than Nordic neighbours Denmark, Norway and Finland.




Sweden response to coronavirus outbreak divides opinion

14:45 GMT – UK economy will take time to return to normal after lockdown: Finance minister

British finance minister Rishi Sunak has said it would take time for the economy to get back to normal even when the government’s coronavirus shutdown is lifted.

“It is not obvious that there will be an immediate bounce-back,” Sunak told lawmakers, saying the retail sector, for example, would still face restrictions when it reopens.

“In all cases, it will take a little bit of time for things to get back to normal, even once we have reopened currently closed sectors.”




England’s schools to reopen as coronavirus curbs ease

14:30 GMT – WHO will continue to lead global fight against pandemic, Tedros vows

The WHO will continue to lead the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic which “threatens to tear at the fabric of international cooperation”, its chief has said.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, thanked “the many member states who have expressed their support and solidarity” at its two-day annual ministerial assembly.

He welcomed an EU resolution, adopted by consensus by WHO’s 194 member states, that calls for an independent evaluation of the international response, “including, but not limited to, WHO’s performance”.

“We want accountability more than anyone,” Tedros said. “We will continue providing strategic leadership to coordinate the global response” to the pandemic.

tedros

The WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has welcomed a resolution calling for an independent evaluation of the international response to the pandemic [Christopher Black/AFP]

14:10 GMT – Russia denounces US attempts to ‘break’ WHO     

Russia has denounced President Donald Trump’s threat to pull the US out of the WHO over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.     

“Yes there are opportunities to improve it… but we are against breaking everything that is there for the sake of one state’s political or geopolitical preferences,” deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said, according to Interfax news agency.

13:50 GMT – China protests support for Taiwan at World Health Assembly

The Chinese envoy to the WHO has denounced support shown by the US and other members to Taiwan during its annual ministerial assembly.

“There are still a few countries determined to plea for Taiwan authorities…,” Chen Xu, the Chinese ambassador told the virtual assembly, saying this was “undermining global anti-epidemic efforts”.

“This conduct is not acceptable,” Chen added in response specifically to US support for Taiwan following remarks by a senior US diplomat which he dismissed as “political hype”.

Taiwan is not a member of the UN agency although a proposal was submitted to allow it to participate in the assembly as an observer. However, no invitation was issued due to a lack of consensus.




Xi: Nobody can change fact Taiwan is part of China

13:30 GMT – US backs pandemic resolution at WHO but rejects patent wording

The US has joined consensus on an EU resolution on the global handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but quickly distanced itself from its wording on intellectual property and reproductive health services.

In a statement, the US mission to the UN in Geneva said the pandemic review would ensure “complete and transparent understanding of the source of the virus, timeline of events … and the decision-making process for the WHO’s response”.

But it had to “disassociate” itself from the references in the pandemic resolution to intellectual property under the so-called “TRIPS” agreement that allows for compulsory licensing of medicines and vaccines during a health emergency.

Such language would “send the wrong message to innovators who will be essential to the solutions the whole world needs”, the US statement said. The Trump administration “believes in legal protections for the unborn”, and it could not accept the idea of an international right to abortion, it added.

Arcturus Therapeutics, RNA medicines company, researches a vaccine for novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

The US has rejected the wording on intellectual property in an EU resolution passed at the World Health Assembly [Bing Guan/Reuters]

13:15 GMT – Italy’s PM says entering next pandemic phase with ‘cautious optimism’

Italy’s prime minister has told the World Health Organization on Tuesday that he was cautiously optimistic about the next phase of the pandemic as the country eases coronavirus measures.

“We are entering this phase with cautious optimism and a sense of responsibility,” Giuseppe Conte said in a speech to the World Health Assembly, being held virtually. “We know that our struggle is far from being over.”

He also said that global health should be a “shared priority” shortly after the assembly adopted an EU resolution on the pandemic.


Hello, this is Joseph Stepansky in Doha, taking over from my colleague Saba Aziz.


12:30 GMT – WHO states agree on COVID-19 response probe

World Health Organization member states agreed to an independent probe into the UN agency’s COVID-19 response as US criticism mounted over its handling of the pandemic.

Countries taking part in the WHO’s annual assembly, held virtually for the first time, adopted a resolution by consensus calling for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the international response to the crisis, including a probe of WHO actions and “their timelines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic”.

None of the WHO’s 194 member states – which include the United States – raised objections to the resolution brought by the European Union on behalf of more than 100 countries including Australia, China and Japan.

12:15 GMT – How does lockdown affect our mental health?

The coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns are having an effect on people’s psychological well-being.

So, how do we help ourselves and the people around us? Watch our latest Start Here episode. 

12:10 GMT – Egypt extends suspension of international flights 

Egypt has extended a halt to all international passenger flights to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said in a statement. 

Flights at Egyptian airports were suspended on March 19, and the stoppage will continue until further notice, the statement said.

11:45 GMT – S Africa rugby team use World Cup score for fundraiser

South Africa’s World Cup winning squad are using the score from last year’s final in Japan to launch a campaign to feed people affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

A total of 100,000 raffle tickets are being sold at 32.12 South African rand ($1.76) which will pay for food parcels and soup kitchens.

20th Laureus World Sports Awards in Berlin

South Africa’s rugby players pose after winning the Laureus World Team of the Year award in February [Annegret Hilse/Reuters]

The Springboks beat England 32-12 in November’s final to win the World Cup for a third time and many of their top players have already launched their own initiatives to collect food for the hungry, notably captain Siya Kolisi.

11:30 GMT – Turkey extends travel ban in 15 major cities

Turkey has extended a travel ban in 15 major cities for 15 more days to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.  

In a statement, the interior ministry said the travel ban will continue until June 3 and those who do not comply with the travel restrictions will face administrative fines.

The cities include Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Balikesir, Bursa, Eskisehir, Gaziantep, Kayseri, Kocaeli, Konya, Manisa, Sakarya, Samsun, Van and Zonguldak. 

19th May Commemoration of Ataturk, Youth and Sports Day

Turkey imposed a travel ban across 31 provinces in April to stem the spread of the virus and later lifted the restrictions in some of them [Mehmet Ali Ozcan/Anadolu]

11:10 GMT – EU backs WHO after Trump pull-out threat

The European Union has backed the World Health Organization and multilateral efforts to fight the coronavirus after Trump threatened to quit the global agency.

“This is the time for solidarity, not the time for finger pointing or for undermining multilateral cooperation,” European foreign affairs spokeswoman Virginie Battu-Henriksson told reporters.

The EU has sponsored a motion at Tuesday’s session of the WHO’s annual assembly to urge an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the international response to the pandemic.

11:00 GMT – Qatar introduces new restrictions for Eid al-Fitr

Qatar has announced a series of new measures aimed at stopping the spread of the new coronavirus, including halting most commercial activities until May 30.

All shops, with the exception of food and catering shops, pharmacies, restaurants delivery services and a few other essential services, will also be closed during the same time period, which coincides with the official Eid al-Fitr holidays.

Read more here. 

10:20 GMT – Al-Aqsa Mosque to reopen after Eid holiday

Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque will reopen to worshippers after the Eid holiday, a statement from its governing body said, two months after closing due to the coronavirus.

“The council decided to lift the suspension on worshippers entering the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque after the Eid al-Fitr holiday,” a statement from the Waqf organisation said, referring to the holiday expected to begin this weekend.

The statement added that the exact terms of the reopening of Islam’s third holiest site would be announced later.

More:

09:10 GMT – Russian PM back to work after coronavirus battle

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is returning to his duties after fighting off the coronavirus, the Kremlin said. 

President Vladimir Putin signed a decree ordering Mishustin to assume his regular duties, which were carried out by a deputy since April 30, while the prime minister was receiving medical treatment.

Russian Prime Minister Mishustin chairs a meeting via video link in Moscow

Mishustin told Putin last month that he was temporarily stepping down while he recovered from coronavirus [Dmitry Astakhov/Sputnik/Reuters]

09:00 GMT – Spain lifts direct ban on flights from Italy

Spain has lifted a ban on all direct flights and ships from Italy since March 11 during its coronavirus lockdown, according to the government gazette.

Travellers from Italy will have to comply, however, with a two-week quarantine like other foreign visitors, while a state of emergency is in place.

08:45 GMT – Latest coronavirus figures:

Russia: 299,941 cases (9,263), 2,837 deaths (115)

Indonesia: 18,496 (486), 1,221 deaths (30)

Oman: 5,671 cases (292), 26 deaths (0)

08:00 GMT – China says US trying to smear Beijing over WHO

China said the US was trying to shift the blame for Washington’s own mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, responding to Trump’s letter threatening to permanently freeze funding to the WHO.

Trump threatened on Monday to reconsider Washington’s membership of the UN agency if the organisation did not commit to improvements within 30 days, and said the body had shown an “alarming lack of independence” from China.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters the US was trying to smear China and had miscalculated by trying to use China to avoid its own responsibility.

Zhao also said China would would agree to an eventual review of the global response to the pandemic, but not an immediate probe as Australia and others have proposed.




Trump says he’s taking hydroxychloroquine

07:30 GMT – South Sudan’s Riek Machar tests positive for coronavirus

Riek Machar, South Sudan rebel leader and former vice president, has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

South Sudan's Vice President Riek Machar addresses a news conference in Juba

South Sudan has so far recorded 339 coronavirus cases and six deaths [File: Samir Bol/Reuters]

Machar’s wife, Minister of Defence Angelina Teny, and “a number of his office staff and bodyguards” have also been infected, his office said. 

Read more here. 

07:15 GMT – Qatar confirms virus in jail but denies widespread outbreak

Qatar has confirmed 12 coronavirus cases in its central prison, but denied reports of a widespread outbreak, saying all infected patients had been “transferred immediately” to a specialised hospital, isolating them from others.

The government issued the statement following a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, which warned about the spread of the disease inside the jail complex potentially becoming “a public health disaster.”

Read the full story. 

07:10 GMT – Tennis players join relief efforts in Pakistan

Some of the world’s leading tennis stars, including men’s number one Novak Djokovic, have rallied behind relief efforts led by Pakistan’s top tennis player to help feed people affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The initiative was launched last week by doubles specialist Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, who has been raising funds and delivering door-to-door ration packs to poor families suffering due to the country’s partial lockdown.

Novak Djokovic

Djokovic donated a shirt he wore at the 2011 Australian Open final, which he won [Saba Aziz/Al Jazeera]

Read more here.

07:00 GMT – Countries report new total figures:

Germany: 175,210 cases (513), 8,007 deaths (72)

India: 101,139 cases (4,970), 3,163 deaths (134)

Czech Republic: 8,586 cases (111), 297 deaths (0)

06:30 GMT – UK jobless claims jump to 2.1 million in April

A measure of the number of people claiming unemployment benefits in Britain soared in April, the first full month of the government’s coronavirus lockdown, government data showed.

The claimant count rose by 856,500 to 2.097 million, the Office for National Statistics said.

The ONS also said Britain’s unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent in the January-March period, covering only one week of the lockdown, from 4.0 percent in the three months to February.

Read more here. 

Britons Adjust To Eased Coronavirus Lockdown, Now In Ninth Week

A worker disinfects door release buttons at Waterloo Station in London, England [Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]

06:15 GMT – Singapore sorry for sending positive test results in error

Singapore has apologised to 357 COVID-19 patients who received an erroneous text message saying they had again tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

“The messages had been sent due to an IT system testing glitch as we sought to improve the efficiency of our system,” the health ministry said in a statement. 

It apologised “for any inconvenience and anxiety caused” and said recipients had been alerted to the error within hours.


Hello, this is Saba Aziz in Doha, taking over from my colleague Kate Mayberry.


05:25 GMT – 

I will be handing over the blog to my colleagues in Doha shortly. A quick recap on this morning’s developments: US President Donald Trump has threatened to permanently freeze US funding for the WHO and withdraw from the organisation if it does not reform within 30 days; the US has set aside $11bn to ramp up coronavirus testing; and it looks as if Hong Kong will extend social distancing measures that outlaw gatherings of large groups.

05:05 GMT – Chinese city tightens lockdown after spike in cases

Authorities in the Chinese city of Shulan are tightening lockdown measures after a spike in coronavirus cases.

Since noon on Monday, people living in compounds with confirmed or suspected cases have been barred from leaving while visitors have been banned. All food will be delivered.

The northeastern city of Shulan has confirmed 19 locally-transmitted cases of the virus since May 7, according to state media. It was classified as a “high risk” area on May 10.

04:45 GMT – ‘A joke’: Chinese embassy dismisses Australia claim of probe vindication

The Chinese Embassy in Canberra has dismissed Australian claims that a World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution calling for an inquiry into the coronavirus was a vindication of the country’s campaign for a global review. 

“The draft resolution on COVID-19 to be adopted by the World Health Assembly is totally different from Australia’s proposal of an independent international review,” the embassy said in a statement that was emailed to journalists in Australia.

“To claim the WHA’s resolution a vindication of Australia’s call is nothing but a joke.”

More on the assembly’s promised review here.

04:25 GMT – Hong Kong signals social distancing measures will be extended

Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam has indicated social distancing measures that prohibit gatherings of more than eight people will be extended, which could make the territory’s annual commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre impossible.

“There’s no political consideration at all on certain anniversaries or political gatherings and so on,” Lam said. “Our only consideration is public safety and public health concerns.”

With coronavirus receding, anti-government protests that rocked the territory last year have resumed.

Anti-Government Protests Continue In Hong Kong Amid The Coronavirus Pandemic

Anti-government protests – met with riot police – have begun to resume in Hong Kong as the coronavirus threat has receded [Anthony Kwan/Getty Images]

03:30 GMT – Trump threatens to halt funding permanently if WHO does not reform

US President Donald Trump has threatened to permanently halt funding for the WHO and withdraw the United States from the United Nations health agency if it does not make “substantive improvements” in the next 30 days.

Earlier on Monday he attacked the WHO as a “puppet of China”. The president froze US funding for the WHO in April.

02:30 GMT – Children in New South Wales to return to school next week

Children in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) will return to school full-time from next week, the state’s Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

Berjiklian said the state government had used the time that children were at home to prepare schools as a coronavirus-safe environment but warned that temporary closures would probably be necessary to contain sporadic outbreaks of the virus.

The decision caught the state’s teachers’ union by surprise. It “caused a lot of concern, frustration and anger among teachers and principals,” Teachers Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos told Australian network ABC television. About 800,000 children attend school in NSW, Australia’s most heavily-populated state. 

02:00 GMT – Medical evacuations of Indigenous people in Amazon with COVID-19 

The coronavirus is spreading so fast among Indigenous people in the most remote parts of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest that doctors are having to evacuate the most seriously-ill patients by plane.

“It’s the last opportunity to save their lives,” Edson Santos Rodrigues, a paediatric doctor working on medevac plans in Amazonas told Reuters News Agency. “Sometimes we don’t get there in time because we cannot land at night on remote airfields that have no lights.”

Brazil’s Indigenous health service, Sesai, reported on Monday that at least 23 Indigenous people had died from COVID-19. The country’s main tribal umbrella group APIB, which counts cases among Indigenous people who have moved to the cities, reported 103 confirmed deaths on Monday – up from 18 on April 3. 

00:30 GMT – US promises $11bn for expanded coronavirus testing

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has set aside $11bn in new funding to support coronavirus testing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will provide $10.25bn to states, territories and local jurisdictions, the CDC said in a statement. The Indian Health Service will provide $750m to the IHS, tribal and urban Indian health programmes, it added.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the “historic investment” would enable the US to track and control the spread of the virus as the country reopens.

“For the sake of all Americans health and wellbeing, we must help Americans get safely back to work and school, and that requires continued expansion of testing, surveillance and contact tracing,” he said.

More:

23:30 GMT (Monday) – Trump turns on WHO over handling of pandemic

President Trump has again attacked the WHO calling the UN agency a “puppet of China” that has “done a very sad job” in handling the coronavirus.

“The United States pays them $450m a year, China pays them $38m a year, And they’re a puppet of China. They’re China-centric to put it nicer, but they’re a puppet of China,” Trump told reporters in Washington, DC.

Trump has already suspended US funding of the WHO. 

Trump’s comments came after the US administration continued to put pressure on the WHO over its handling of the pandemic at a key meeting of the agency’s decision-making body, the WHA.

23:00 GMT (Monday) – UNESCO says 90 percent of world’s museums closed

Studies from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Council of Museums have confirmed that more than 85,000 museums across the world – about 90 percent of all institutions – have shut because of the coronavirus.

Almost 13 percent may never reopen, UNESCO added.

UNESCO said protection of staff, digitisation and inventory, as well as online content development were priorities for museums but noted that there were large disparities in digital access between different regions.

—-

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.

Read all the updates from yesterday (May 18) here.

Russia:  299,941 cases (9,263), 2,837 deaths (115)

Oman:  5,671 cases (292), 26 deaths (0)

 





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