Coronavirus: What’s happening around the world Thursday

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The United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are urging governments and others to unite in developing a “people’s vaccine” to protect everyone against the novel coronavirus.

Their appeal came ahead of a summit in London organized by the Global Vaccine Alliance that is seeking to mobilize billions of dollars of funding for a COVID-19 vaccine.

The “people’s vaccine” should protect the affluent, the poor, the old and young, said a statement by the UN and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. That is a “moral imperative that brings us all together in our shared humanity,” the statement said.

It said the pandemic is also raising risks of other illnesses as it disrupts childhood immunization programs, leaving at least 80 million children under the age of one at risk of diseases like measles, diphtheria and polio.

According to Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking coronavirus cases, there are more than 6.5 million cases of coronavirus globally as of Thursday morning, and there have been more than 386,000 deaths. 

More than 107,000 of those deaths happened in the United States.

As of Thursday morning, Canada has 93,085 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, with 51,048 of the cases considered recovered or resolved, according to data compiled by The Canadian Press. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial data, regional information and CBC’s reporting stood at 7,539.

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As countries such as New Zealand and Australia mark progress in containing the pandemic and work on plans to resume some international air travel, others are having to step up precautions.

North Macedonia reintroduced stringent restrictions on movement in its capital, Skopje, and three other areas after confirming 101 new infections as of Thursday.

In the U.S., where a wave of protests is adding to concerns over possible additional outbreaks, new cases of the coronavirus have been surging just weeks after many businesses were allowed to reopen in some states.

COVID-19, the illness caused by a novel virus that was first reported in China and has since spread around the world, causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

Read on for a closer look at what’s happening around the world on Thursday.

In the U.S., nearly 1.9 million people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, the ninth-straight decline since applications spiked in mid-March, a sign that the gradual reopening of businesses has slowed the loss of jobs.The total number of people who are now receiving jobless aid rose only slightly to 21.5 million, suggesting that rehiring is offsetting some of the ongoing layoffs. The U.S. remains the world’s hardest hit for total COVID-19 cases. 

In Pakistan, doctors are bracing for a surge of COVID-19 patients as the country’s total number of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed the number in neighbouring China. Pakistan’s confirmed cases jumped to 85,264 on Thursday after officials reported 4,688 new infections during the previous 24 hours and 82 deaths, a single-day record for virus-related fatalities. The developments prompted the government to order the closure of all shopping malls and markets where social distancing regulations are being ignored.

A staff member at the Prado museum in Madrid, Spain, wears a face mask and shield protection as protection against coronavirus. Three of Madrid’s most famous museums are set to reopen on June 6 as Spain winds down its restrictions on movement due to the new coronavirus. (Manu Fernandez/The Associated Press)

Nations across Africa continue to grapple with a short supply of COVID-19 testing materials. But the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a new platform to pool the continent’s purchasing powers has obtained about 15 million coronavirus testing kits for the next six months. 

John Nkengasong said 3.4 million tests have been conducted so far across Africa, which has a population of 1.3 billion people, and testing capacity is “increasing very, very rapidly.” Africa’s numbers are rising steadily as testing improves, with a 31 per cent increase in new confirmed cases since last week. The continent’s confirmed cases are now above 162,000, representing less than three per cent of global cases.

Police officers wearing face masks stand guard during a rally near the Chinese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, on Thursday. (Ahn Young-joon/The Associated Press)

Nearly 30,000 COVID-19 tests that Britain sent to a U.S. lab for processing came back void, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said on Thursday, adding to mounting questions over the U.K.’s testing regime. The admission comes in a week where the government has faced criticism from a statistics watchdog over incomplete test data, pressure over turnaround times for test results and teething issues with a new test-and-trace program.

Ireland hopes to be able to recommend the resumption of air travel with a select number of countries in a number of weeks, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Thursday, telling prospective vacationers “summer is not yet lost.”

Some European countries, such as Germany, Spain and Austria, plan to lift coronavirus-related border restrictions with neighbouring countries this month, something Ireland has been more cautious about as it slowly reopens its economy.

Ireland requires anyone entering the country to self-isolate for 14 days and foresees making its first step back to non-essential travel via so-called “air bridges” with other countries who share low levels of coronavirus infection.

A medical worker disinfects his colleague after escorting a patient by ambulance to a hospital for COVID-19 patients in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Thursday. (Dmitri Lovetsky/The Associated Press)

In Russia, a planeload of 150 ventilators arrived from the U.S. on Thursday, Washington’s embassy in Moscow said, to help fight the novel coronavirus in further medical aid collaboration between the two politically estranged nations.

Russia’s case tally, the world’s third highest, rose to 441,108 on Thursday after 8,831 new infections were reported, and 169 more people died in the previous 24 hours. At 5,384, Russia’s death toll is lower than many other countries, sparking debate over the way the country counts fatalities.

Visitors wearing face masks take photos at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Thursday. China tightened controls over dissidents while pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and elsewhere sought ways to mark the 31st anniversary of the crushing of the pro-democracy movement centered on Tiananmen Square. (Mark Schiefelbein/The Associated Press)

The governor of Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, announced on Thursday the easing of some coronavirus restrictions, though he warned that the fight against the outbreak was far from over in Southeast Asia’s biggest city. The governor said that on Friday, some public transport could resume normal operations and houses of worship could reopen, though with restrictions. Restrictions on movement, in place since mid-April, would be extended.

India’s cases reached 216,919 after 9,304 new cases were reported over the previous day, the health ministry said Thursday. The densely packed cities of Delhi and Mumbai are seeing a spike in infections as the government lifts a lockdown imposed in March.

Malaysian authorities on Thursday reported 277 new coronavirus cases after infections were detected in an immigration detention centre. The rise in new cases pushed Malaysia’s cumulative total past the 8,000 mark to 8,247. The health ministry reported no new deaths, keeping total fatalities at 115.

WATCH | Social disparities have significant impact on access to health care:

Black Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, says Toronto respirologist Dr. Samir Gupta, while noting that similar data is not available for Canada. 6:18

Spain said on Thursday that all restrictions at border crossings with France and Portugal will be lifted from June 22. The authorities closed the borders to everybody but Spaniards, cross-border workers and truck drivers from mid-March when the country went into lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The European Union is preparing to use an emergency 2.4-billion-euro ($2.7 billion US) fund to make advance purchases of promising vaccines against the novel coronavirus. The EU’s push follows moves from the United States to secure vaccines under development, including almost a third of the first one billion doses planned for AstraZeneca’s experimental COVID-19 shot.

People wait to check in for a flight to Dusseldorf, Germany, at Rome’s Fiumicino airport on Wednesday. (Alessandra Tarantino/The Associated Press)

In Sweden, confidence in the ability of the government and the health agency to handle the outbreak of the novel coronavirus is falling amid growing worries about the high mortality rate, polls published on Thursday showed. Sweden’s decision not to adopt a lockdown as in many other European countries was widely supported by the population, but criticism has been growing in recent weeks over the country’s high death rate from COVID-19 when compared to its Nordic neighbours, especially among the elderly.

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The central Chinese city of Wuhan has tested nearly every one of its 11 million residents for the coronavirus in a mass effort that resulted in the isolation of 300 people, authorities said Wednesday.

The pandemic is believed to have originated last year in the industrial city that went under lockdown for 76 days to try to stop the outbreak. Wuhan still accounts for the bulk of China’s 83,021 cases and 4,634 deaths from the disease.

The testing effort carried out in the second half of May targeted every resident not already tested and excluded only children under age six.

“This is extraordinarily rare anywhere in the world,” National Health Commission expert Li Lanjuan told reporters. “It not only shows confidence and determination in the fight against the epidemic in Wuhan but has also provided reference to other cities for their prevention.”

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed Australia’s economy into recession for the first time in 29 years. Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Wednesday the current June quarter will be the second in a row in which the Australian economy has shrunk. A recession is defined as at least two successive quarters of contraction.

Data released on Wednesday for the March quarter shows a 0.3 per cent contraction since the three months through December because of the destructive wildfires and the early stages of the coronavirus lockdown.

Frydenberg said the Treasury Department had advised the June quarter result will be worse.

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