World News

'Tragedy foretold': Coronavirus ravages Brazil as cities reopen

Brazil is set to pass 1.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases as country remains divided on openings, protection.

Brazil was set to pass 1.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday, as the virus continues to ravage Latin America’s largest country even as cities reopen bars, restaurants and gyms sparking fears infections will keep rising.

Brazil has the world’s second-largest outbreak after the United States and the virus has killed more than 60,000 people in the country.

In Rio de Janeiro, crowds gathered to drink on the sidewalk of an upscale beach-side neighbourhood on Thursday night, the first evening bars in the city were allowed to reopen.

Pictures of the revelry in Leblon, where few were wearing face masks and people were huddled close together, went viral on social media drawing condemnation and concern.

“A tragedy foretold,” David Miranda, a federal congressman for Rio, wrote on Twitter above a picture of the crowded sidewalk. He criticised the city’s Mayor Marcelo Crivella.

“Crivella’s decision to throw open the doors of business will come with a high cost,” he added.

Crivella’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In Rio alone, more than 6,600 people have died of COVID-19 in the past four months. Only 14 countries in the world have a death toll higher than the city. Intensive care units in public hospitals are at 70 percent capacity.

Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest and worst-hit city, is expected to open bars and restaurants next week.

President Jair Bolsonaro has been widely criticised by health experts for downplaying the severity of the virus which he has dismissed as just “a little flu”. Bolsonaro has pressured governors and mayors for months to reverse lockdown measures and reopen the economy.

On Friday, Bolsonaro vetoed parts of a law that would have made wearing a face mask obligatory in enclosed spaces where large groups gather – such as churches and schools.

Bolsonaro has regularly flouted social distancing guidelines advised by most health experts, shaking hands and embracing supporters. He has said publicly that his past as an athlete makes him immune to the worst symptoms of the virus.

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State Department warns top U.S. firms over supply chain risks linked to China's Xinjiang

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department warned top American companies including Walmart Inc(WMT.N), Apple Inc (AAPL.O)and Inc(AMZN.O) over risks faced from maintaining supply chains associated with human rights abuses in China’s western Xinjiang province, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Friday.

“It is critical that U.S. companies and individuals be aware of the large-scale human rights abuses perpetrated by the PRC government in Xinjiang,” Keith Krach, Undersecretary of State for economic growth, energy and the environment wrote on July 1.

“Businesses should evaluate their exposure to the risks that result from partnering with, investing in, and otherwise providing support to companies that operate in or are linked to Xinjiang,” he said in the letter also sent to trade groups.

The United States is seeking to ratchet up pressure on China at a time of heightened tensions over that country’s treatment of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang and Beijing’s new national security law for Hong Kong.

It also follows a Wednesday advisory by the U.S. government that said companies doing business in Xinjiang or with entities using Xinjiang labor could be exposed to “reputational, economic, and legal risks”.

In a call with reporters, Krach said the complex nature of supply chains was making companies vulnerable to potential risks and urged them to be more vigilant. “It’s incumbent on the board of directors for each company to conduct a detailed analysis of their supply chains to reveal who their company is buying from and who it is selling to,” he said.

He did not give specific number on how many U.S. companies might have been entangled in such supply chains.

The United Nations estimates that more than a million Muslims have been detained in camps there. China has denied mistreatment and says the camps provide vocational training and help fight extremism.

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World News

#Stayhome guide for Thursday: Go on a virtual road trip of Switzerland, explore Chinatown Heritage Centre and more

1. VISIT: Switzerland


Go on a virtual road trip of Switzerland, which highlights its beautiful countryside, 22 lakes and 11 Unesco World Heritage sites. The scenic route features sparkling glaciers, mountains and mediaeval villages.

Grand Tour of Switzerland feeds your wanderlust at a time when many borders around the world are still closed.

Info: Grand Tour of Switzerland website

2. EXPLORE: Chinatown Heritage Centre


Although the Chinatown Heritage Centre is temporarily closed, you can explore its exhibits on its website. Trace the journey of Singapore’s early pioneers and experience 1950s Chinatown, complete with audio clips.

Get a piece of Chinatown from the newly launched online shop (, which offers a wide range of merchandise and artworks.

Info: Chinatown Heritage Centre website

3. Covid-19 stay-home recipe: Crispy salted egg whitebait


Crispy fried whitebait coated in a luscious salted egg yolk sauce is full-on richness, but it is worth the labour involved.

I double-fry the whitebait for a crispier texture and it holds up fairly well even when smothered in the thick sauce.

Chilli padi gives it an edge and keeps the sauce from being overly cloying.


4. 30 Days Of Art With NAC: Things To Do In A Pandemic by Aaron Maniam


Grow a beard. There will be other ways we

Won’t recognise ourselves when this is over.

Wear old T-shirts, the ones musty with



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World News

Zoom says added over 100 features as part of 90-day security plan

(Reuters) – Zoom Video Communications Inc said on Wednesday it has added over 100 features to its video conferencing as part of its 90-day plan to address security and privacy concerns.

The company said it has made significant progress for a transparency report that details information related to requests Zoom receives for data, records, or content and the report will be out later this year with details on governmental requests for its users’ account information.

The company’s teleconferencing platform has seen a surge in users as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions around the world indoors. However, it came under fire over privacy and security issues, prompting Zoom to roll out major upgrades.

To address those concerns, it has embarked here on a 90-day plan and hired several security experts, including former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos as an adviser, to address privacy concerns.

It plans to offer end-to-end encryption for video calls to both free and paying users and launch a trial version in July.

Last week, Zoom took another step towards tackling these concerns and named former Inc security executive Jason Lee as its chief information security officer.

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South Korea factory activity shrinks for sixth month in June

SEOUL (REUTERS) – South Korea’s manufacturing activity extended declines in June as the coronavirus impact on global demand protracted, while uncertainty over the future development and economic recovery further weighed on business outlook.

The IHS Markit purchasing managers’ index (PMI) ticked up to 43.4 in June from 41.3 in May, but remained far below the 50-mark threshold that separates contraction from expansion for a sixth month, data on Wednesday (July 1) showed.

The headline index reflected slower rates of contraction in major sub-indexes such as output, new orders and export orders but business conditions remained extremely weak in historical terms due to a long-feared resurgence in coronavirus infections.

“While the output and new orders indices have risen from the bottoms seen in April, these increases have been marginal as many companies are operating well below capacity or simply observing no month-to-month improvement in production and new order volumes,” IHS Markit economist Joe Hayes said.

Given the country’s high dependence on foreign trade – with exports making up 33 per cent of 2019 nominal gross domestic product – a growing number of analysts downgraded their economic projections for South Korea this year, with the International Monetary Fund now seeing a 2.1 per cent contraction.

Businesses were seen cutting staffing levels for a 14th consecutive month in June and at a similar rate seen in May, in response to weak sales and lower operating requirements.

Expectations for manufacturing output over the next 12 months also remained pessimistic, given uncertainty in Covid-19 development and potentially weak recovery.

“Given the cyclical nature of South Korea’s export-oriented economy, it appears the chances of a slow recovery from the Covid-19 economic shock are rising,” Mr Hayes said.

“Without a sustained pickup in demand, manufacturing output levels will likely remain subdued.”

Read the latest on the Covid-19 situation in Singapore and beyond on our dedicated site here.

Get The Straits Times app and receive breaking news alerts and more. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now.

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World News

Swabs maker Copan open to new investors but with conditions: CEO

MILAN (Reuters) – Italy’s Copan Group, one of the main manufacturers of swabs globally, has been approached by suitors and would be willing to accept any new investor prepared to support its expansion into new products or markets, its CEO and chairman said on Tuesday.

Earlier this year, the family-owned company had to step up production to respond to a boom in demand for swabs triggered by the coronavirus outbreak. Until now, however, it has managed to fund its own growth.

“I never close the door … I always ask (a suitor) what he can offer me,” Stefania Triva said, adding the group had recently been approached by prospective investors.

Speaking at a digital event, Triva said that the company did not need a pure financial partner, but an ally who could also bring know-how.

“If (a new investor) contributes not only financially but also with scientific knowledge I would be interested … because it is the opportunity to enter a new business line or a new market that attracts me,” she said.

Triva added that accepting a new investor would mean giving up some flexibility and autonomy, a sacrifice that should be compensated by some benefits to convince her family to strike a partnership.

The turnover of Copan, which was founded in 1979 by the late Giorgio Triva, Stefania’s father, is growing at a rate of around 60% so far this year, the CEO said.

Earlier this year, Apple Inc (AAPL.O) awarded $10 million to Copan’s California subsidiary to help it to boost its production of nasal swabs and other materials for collecting samples for COVID-19 tests.

Copan Group is based in the Lombardy region of Italy, which emerged in March as one of the regions worst hit by the pandemic.

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World News

'Disaster' looms in coronavirus-hit Afghanistan: Live updates

With hospital beds almost full, Afghan officials warn of coming ‘disaster’ as suspected cases of COVID-19 surge.

  • As Afghan officials warn of a looming crisis, health authorities in the country reported 761 new positive cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, taking the total number of confirmed infections to 19,551.    

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has changed its position on face masks and is now encouraging people to wear them in crowded places, citing anecdotal evidence that supports their value in stopping the spread of the coronavirus. 

  • Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has threatened to pull his country out of the WHO, accusing the body of being “partisan” and “political”. With more than 34,000 coronavirus deaths, Brazil now has the third-highest toll in the world.

  • About 6.7 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 394,000 people have died, including some 109,000 in the United States. More than 2.9 million people have recovered.

Here are the latest updates:

June 6, Saturday

23:09 GMT – Italy confirms 270 new cases, including a cluster in Rome

Italy added another 270 confirmed coronavirus cases to its official count, including a cluster of two dozen more cases at a Rome hospital that has been sealed off to contain the spread.

The Italian civil protection agency on Saturday also reported the deaths of 72 more people with the virus. Italy’s official COVID-19 death toll now stands at 33,846, but officials say the real mortality figure in Europe’s one-time coronavirus epicenter likely is much higher.

Italy’s outbreak hit the northern region of Lombardy hardest, with more than 90,000 cases out of Italy’s official caseload of 235,000 and more than 16,000 deaths.

20:05 GMT – No new positives in Premier League COVID-19 tests

The latest round of tests for COVID-19 in the Premier League produced no positives, the league said.

A total of 1,195 tests were carried out on Thursday and Friday, the sixth round of tests since players from England’s 20 top-flight clubs returned to training.

The previous rounds of testing produced 13 positives.

No Premier League matches have taken place since March because of the pandemic, but a restart is scheduled for June 17. 

18:17 GMT – Turkey reports new deaths, cases 

The number of coronavirus deaths in Turkey rose to 4,669 as the country reported 21 new deaths in the past 24 hours.

Turkey reported 878 new infections, taking its total number of cases to 169,218.

18:03 GMT – Dutch mink cull starts as coronavirus spreads to 10th farm

Dutch mink farms have begun a government-ordered cull amid concern that animals infected with coronavirus could transmit the illness to humans.

Infected mink have been found on 10 Dutch farms where the ferret-like animals are bred for their fur, according to the country’s Food & Wares Authority.

“All mink breeding farms where there is an infection will be cleared, and farms where there are no infections won’t be,” said spokeswoman Frederique Hermie.

The government ordered the cull of 10,000 mink on Wednesday after determining that affected farms could act as a long-term reservoir of disease.

17:43 GMT – Italy reports 72 new deaths 

Italy reported 72 more fatalities from the coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 33,846.

The slowing trend of deaths last month continued in June confirming that the peak of the crisis has been left behind. 

The tally of active infections fell again on Saturday by 1,099, placing the total at 35,877.

However, health authorities stressed that the contagion rate is reassuring but the outbreak has not ended yet. 

17:41 GMT – OPEC, allied nations extend nearly 10m barrel cut by a month                  

OPEC and allied nations agreed to extend a production cut of nearly 10 million barrels of oil a day through the end of July, hoping to boost energy prices hard-hit by the pandemic.

Ministers of the body and outside nations like Russia met via video conference to adopt the measure, aimed at cutting out the excess production depressing prices as global aviation remains largely grounded due to the pandemic. It represents some 10 percent of the world’s overall supply. 

17:29 GMT – Kazakh president’s spokesman hospitalised 

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s spokesman has been hospitalised after testing positive for COVID-19, he wrote on his Facebook page, adding that the president’s health was not at risk.

The spokesman, Berik Uali, wrote that Tokayev, 67, gets tested regularly and that additional safety measures have been taken at the presidential headquarters.

“President Tokayev continues his work as scheduled, his health is under no threat,” Uali said.

The Central Asian nation has confirmed 12,511 cases and 53 deaths. It emerged from a two-month lockdown last month, while keeping in place social distancing rules and closed borders.

17:14 GMT – Impossible to play under US Open’s COVID-19 protocols, says Djokovic 

World number one Novak Djokovic has said participating in the US Open would be an impossible task due to the “extreme” COVID-19 protocols in place for the tournament at Flushing Meadows.

The US Open, scheduled to begin on August 31, will be the first Grand Slam to be played after the COVID-19 pandemic suspended the season in March. The French Open was postponed to September while the Wimbledon championships was cancelled.

“I had a telephone conversation with the leaders of world tennis. There were talks about the continuation of the season, mostly about the US Open due in late August, but it’s not known whether it will be held,” Djokovic told Serbia’s Prva TV.

“The rules that they told us that we would have to respect to be there, to play at all, they are extreme. We would not have access to Manhattan, we would have to sleep in hotels at the airport, to be tested twice or three times per week.

17:02 GMT – Canada reports new cases, deaths

Canada’s total coronavirus cases rose to 94,335 from 94,070 the day before, according to data published by the public health agency.

The country reported a total of 7,703 deaths, up from 7,652 the day before.

16:32 GMT – Brazil’s Bolsonaro defends partial release of COVID-19 data

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro defended his government’s move to partially withhold official data on the scale of the world’s second-largest coronavirus outbreak.

Late on Friday, Brazil’s Health Ministry took down a website showing the evolution of the epidemic over time and by state and municipality. The ministry also stopped reporting a total tally of confirmed cases, which have shot past 645,000 – more than anywhere outside the United States – and its overall death toll.

“The cumulative data … does not reflect the moment the country is in,” Bolsonaro said on Twitter, citing a note from the ministry. “Other actions are underway to improve the reporting of cases and confirmation of diagnoses.”

14:44 GMT – Liberia set to ease virus restrictions   

Liberia has made good progress in containing the spread of coronavirus and will open its international airport and hotels on June 21, the government has said.

A state of emergency that was declared in April and due to expire on June 9 would not be renewed, President George Weah said in a statement.     

Restrictions such as a night-time curfew would remain in place, though it would start later, according to the statement released on Friday.

14:28 GMT – Afghanistan warns of ‘disaster’ as virus infections surge

Afghanistan is running out of hospital beds as suspected cases of coronavirus surge, officials said, warning “there is a disaster coming” in the impoverished country.

Afghan health authorities reported 761 new positive cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, taking the total number of confirmed infections to 19,551.      

“Our [hospital] beds are almost full, we won’t have any more capacity very soon,” Health Minister Ahmad Jawad Osmani told reporters.     

“There is a disaster coming,” said Kabul governor Mohammad Yakub Haidary at a joint press conference with the health minister, adding that in Kabul alone there could be a million people infected.

So far there have been 327 confirmed deaths in the country.

14:13 GMT – Moscow’s annual book fair draws crowds despite coronavirus curbs

Hundreds of Moscow residents flocked to an open-air book fair in Red Square, though some publishing houses opted to stay away as city authorities keep most restrictions in place.

Organisers of the annual book fair, which was attended by 300,000 people last year, have implemented numerous measures to stem the spread of the virus – with chairs spaced one metre apart and temperature checks at the entrance.

The even drew up to 600 visitors within hours of its opening.

13:45 GMT – Turks stream out for first lockdown-free weekend in nearly two months 

Turks streamed outside for their first weekend without a coronavirus lockdown in nearly two months, the day after President Tayyip Erdogan suddenly scrapped a stay-at-home order.

Cafes, restaurants and other facilities had reopened on Monday as infection rates slowed and restrictions on intercity travel had been lifted as the infection rate slowed. But Erdogan had intended to maintain the weekend lockdown, applied to big cities since April 11, until a public backlash.

Hello, this is Farah Najjar taking over from my colleague Linah Alsaafin.

12:15 GMT – Indonesia records single-day high in new cases

Indonesia has reported nearly 1,000 new cases of the coronavirus, a new single-day high for the country that brought its total caseload past 30,000, as the government unveiled an enhanced stimulus package worth $47.6bn to anchor the virus-battered economy.

The health ministry said there were 993 newly infected people over the past 24 hours. Indonesia has confirmed 30,514 cases, including 1,801 deaths, the most in Southeast Asia.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said a 677.2 trillion rupiah ($47.6bn) stimulus package aims to strengthen the healthcare system, direct more spending toward social protection to boost consumption, and provide incentives to rescue Indonesian businesses from bankruptcy and workers from layoffs.

At least 4,902 patients have died so far across the continent due to the virus, it said in a Saturday update.

A total of 78,267 patients have so far recovered from the disease.

North Africa has so far confirmed 51,300 cases and a death toll of 2,200; Southern Africa has 46,000 cases and 933 deaths; West Africa has 39,900 cases and 795 deaths; East Africa has 20,600 cases and 592 deaths; and Central Africa has 18,900 cases and 421 deaths.

07:50 GMT – Fans and football return to Vietnam after coronavirus shutdown

Football was back and so were the spectators in Vietnam when the top domestic league resumed after the coronavirus shutdown.

Fans were allowed into Ho Chi Minh City’s scoreless draw with Hai Phong on Friday among three matches. But unlike Germany’s Bundesliga and South Korea’s K-League, which returned to action in May with empty arenas, more than 1,000 fans attended the V-League game at Hai Phong.

Allowing spectators to the matches was the result of Vietnam’s successful efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Despite sharing a long land border with China, where the virus originated, Vietnam, with a population of almost 100 million, has recorded just 328 cases and not a single recorded death.

Fans were subjected to temperature checks as they entered the stadiums, which were limited to half of normal capacity. They were not required to wear masks.

07:32 GMT – Hydroxychloroquine is ‘useless’ against COVID-19, says Oxford study

A study of thousands of patients led by the University of Oxford has said that the hydroxychloroquine drug does not work against the new coronavirus disease and should not be given to any more hospital patients around the world.

“If you are admitted to hospital, don’t take hydroxychloroquine,” said Martin Landray, deputy chief investigator of the Recovery trial and professor of medicine and epidemiology at Oxford University. “It doesn’t work.”

“It is being touted as a game changer, a wonderful drug, a breakthrough. This is an incredibly important result, because worldwide we can stop using a drug that is useless.”

07:00 GMT – Most of 51 new South Korea cases linked to door sales

South Korea has reported 51 new cases of COVID-19, mostly in the densely populated capital region, as authorities scramble to stem transmissions among low-income workers who cannot afford to stay home.

The figures announced by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought national totals to 11,719 workers and 273 deaths.

At least 34 of the new cases were linked to door-to-door sellers hired by Richway, a Seoul-based health product provider.

Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said the spread of the virus among Richway sellers was particularly alarming as most of them are aged in their 60s and 70s. He called for officials to strengthen their efforts to find and examine workplaces vulnerable to infections.

06:40 GMT – Pakistan reports highest single-day virus deaths

Pakistan has broken its previous record of the highest single-day deaths ever from the novel coronavirus, reporting 97 fatalities over the last 24 hours, the health ministry said.

With the latest surge, the death toll in the country has reached 1,935.

With 4,734 new cases over the past day, the country’s number of coronavirus cases has reached 93,983, already surpassing China, and landing the country at the 17th spot in terms of coronavirus cases, the data shows. Some 32,581 patients have recovered.

Hello, this is Linah Alsaafin in Doha taking over from my colleague Zaheena Rasheed.

05:08 GMT – India’s confirmed infections overtake Italy’s

India has surpassed Italy as the sixth worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic after another record single-day spike in confirmed infections.

The health ministry reported 9,887 new cases on Saturday, bringing the total to 236,657.

Most of the new cases are in rural areas following the return of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who left cities and towns after the lockdown in late March.

The lockdown is now largely being enforced in high-risk areas while authorities have partially restored train services and domestic flights and allowed shops and manufacturing to reopen. Shopping malls and religious places are due to open on Monday with restrictions to avoid large gatherings.

03:51 GMT – Beijing eases emergency response level to second lowest

China’s capital Beijing further eased its coronavirus measures on Saturday, lowering the city’s emergency response level to the second lowest.

That will lift most restrictions on people travelling from Wuhan and the surrounding province of Hubei, where the virus first appeared late last year. They will no longer face 14-day mandatory quarantines and other forms of monitoring, and those currently in such situations will be allowed to return to their normal lives.

Beijing residential compounds will not be required to conduct temperature checks and masks no longer must be worn for outdoor activities. Kindergartens will reopen and other grades still suspended will restart classes.

Beijing has reported no new cases of local transmission in at least 50 days and as many as 90 days in some districts.

02:51 GMT – China urges citizens to shun Australia

China has advised its citizens not to visit Australia, citing racial discrimination and violence against Asians during the coronavirus pandemic.

A notice issued by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism late on Friday said there had “been an increase in words and deeds of racial discrimination and acts of violence against Chinese and Asians in Australia, due to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic”.

“The ministry advises Chinese tourists to raise their safety awareness and avoid travelling to Australia,” the notice said.

The move comes after China threatened retaliation following Australia’s decision to push for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and responses to it.

02:14 GMT – China reports three new COVID-19 cases

China has recorded three new confirmed cases of the new coronavirus as of the end of Friday, down from five the day before, the National Health Commission said.

All of the cases were imported, involving travellers arriving from abroad, the NHC said.

The total number of infections in China, where the virus first emerged late last year, stands at 83,030. With no new deaths reported, the death toll remained at 4,634.

02:07 GMT – California to allow pro-sports, day camps

California broadly relaxed its coronavirus-related shutdowns, moving to allow professional sports to be played without audiences and reopen day camps, tribal casinos, museums and zoos as soon as June 12.

The most populous US state will also allow film, television and music production, a key sector of the economy that provides thousands of jobs, to restart.

Still not allowed in California are nail salons, tattoo parlors, movie theatres, nightclubs, concert venues, theme parks or higher education, the state’s website showed.

01:23 GMT – Brazil’s Supreme Court halts police raids in Rio’s favelas

A Brazilian Supreme Court minister has banned police raids in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas during the coronavirus pandemic, as criticism of brutal police tactics grows in Latin America’s largest nation.

In the decision, Minister Edson Fachin forbid raids on Brazil’s informal shanty towns “except in absolutely exceptional cases”, which must be preapproved by the state prosecutor’s office.

Rio’s police forces are notoriously violent, having killed more than 1,800 people in 2019. In May, police in Rio drew criticism for an operation in which a 14-year-old boy was killed, as well as another shootout in a coronavirus-stricken favela, which drew hundreds into the streets.

Congressman Alessandro Molon, whose Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) filed the suit that resulted in the decision, called the ruling “historic”.

00:39 GMT – Bolsonaro threatens WHO exit

President Jair Bolsonaro threatened to pull Brazil out of the WHO after the United Nations agency warned governments about the risk of lifting lockdowns before slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Speaking to journalists, Bolsonaro accused the WHO of being “partisan” and “political”. He said Brazil will consider leaving the body unless it ceased to work “without ideological bias”.

Earlier on Friday, when asked about efforts to loosen social-distancing orders in Brazil despite rising daily death rates and diagnoses, a WHO spokeswoman said a key criteria for lifting lockdowns was slowing transmission.

“The epidemic, the outbreak, in Latin America is deeply, deeply concerning,” Margaret Harris told a news conference in Geneva. She said that among six key criteria for easing quarantines, “one of them is ideally having your transmission declining.”

00:01 GMT – G20 pledges $21bn dollars to fight coronavirus

The Group of 20 (G20) – a bloc whose member nations have the world’s largest economies – has pledged more than $21bn to fight the coronavirus, a statement by the group said early on Saturday.

“The G20, with invited countries, has coordinated the global efforts to support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, G20 members and invited countries have pledged over US$21 billion to support funding in global health,” the statement said.

The pledges will be directed towards diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics, and research and development, the statement added.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives. 

For all the updates from yesterday, June 5, go here. 

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Governments backtracking as confirmed coronavirus cases surge

NEW DELHI — Governments are stepping up testing and reimposing restrictions as newly confirmed coronavirus infections surge in many countries. India reported 20,000 on Monday, while the caseload in the U.S. is growing by about 40,000 a day.

The United States on Monday reported 38,800 newly confirmed infections, with the total surpassing 2.5 million, or about a quarter of the more than 10 million cases worldwide, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Experts say the actual numbers, both in the U.S. and globally, are probably far higher, in part because of testing limitations and the large number of people without symptoms.

Beaches are closing and beer is going untapped as Florida, Texas and other states backpedal on their reopenings, ordering mandatory wearing of masks in public and closing down restaurants and bars.

India’s 20,000 new infections were another record. Several Indian states reimposed partial or full lockdowns after the total number of cases jumped by nearly 100,000 in one week to about 548,000.

In China, nearly 8.3 million out of about 21 million have undergone testing in recent weeks in Beijing after an outbreak centered on a wholesale market. The country reported just 12 new cases Monday, including seven in Beijing.

South Korean authorities reported 47 new cases as they struggled to curb outbreaks that have spread from Seoul to other regions.

Widespread testing and contact tracing helped South Korea contain its initial outbreak in which it was finding hundreds of new cases a day in late February and early March. Most of those cases were in the area surrounding the city of Daegu, where many were linked to a single church with thousands of members.

Tracing recent transmissions in the Seoul metropolitan area, home to about about half of the country’s 51 million people, has proved to be more difficult.

South Korean officials have said they are preparing to impose stronger social-distancing measures — including banning gatherings of more than 10 people, shutting schools, halting professional sports and restricting nonessential businesses — if the daily increase in infections doubles more than twice in a week.

Health authorities are using what they describe as the world’s first saliva test for the coronavirus in Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, in the state of Victoria, where the disease is spreading at an alarming rate.

Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said Monday that 75 people had tested positive in the state in the latest 24 hours, bringing the total to about 2,100.

Brett Sutton, Victoria’s chief health officer, said the outbreak could surge out of control as restrictions ease elsewhere in Australia.

“I think we’re right at the edge in terms of being able to manage it,” Sutton said.

In the Philippines, a Southeast Asian coronavirus hot spot with more than 35,000 confirmed infections, local officials were under fire for allowing a street parade and dance during a weekend religious festival to honor St. John the Baptist despite prohibitions against public gatherings.

Performers in native wear and face masks danced during the night procession, which drew a large crowd in Basak village on Cebu. Restrictions have been eased in many places to help salvage the ailing Philippine economy, but Cebu resumed a strict lockdown this month after new cases spiked.

The European Union is preparing a list of 15 countries whose citizens will be allowed to visit the bloc beginning Wednesday, Spain’s foreign minister, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, told the Cadena SER radio network. Because of the resurgence in the U.S., America may not be on that list.

“This is not an exercise to be nice or unfriendly to other countries. This is an exercise of self-responsibility,” she said.

Travelers at Frankfurt airport, Germany’s biggest, will be able to get an on-site coronavirus test before jetting off. The walk-in testing center opened Monday.

Fast-track tests providing results within two to three hours will cost 139 euros ($156). Regular tests with results available within six to 12 hours cost 59 euros ($52).

Join our Facebook group for the latest updates on coronavirus in Colorado.

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Merkel, Macron meet as Germany takes on high-stakes EU presidency

BERLIN (AFP) – Chancellor Angela Merkel hosts French President Emmanuel Macron for talks on Monday (June 29), days before Germany takes on the rotating presidency of the European Union with the economy in the throes of the most severe storm since World War II.

Berlin’s chairing of the 26-member bloc will be its last with Merkel in charge, and could be the one that defines the legacy of the leader dubbed the “eternal chancellor”.

With the future of the bloc’s relationship with Britain to be determined, a crucial shift to a lower carbon world in the balance and crises from Libya to Syria all jostling for attention, there is no shortage of burning issues to tackle.

But the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic devastation it has wrought have become a bull in the painstakingly arranged EU china shop.

“This crisis that we’re currently experiencing is different compared to any other we have experienced since the founding of Europe,” Merkel, in power since 2005, told parliament in an address laying out priorities for the EU presidency.

“Alone in Europe, it has claimed more than 100,000 lives. A few weeks of economic standstill was enough to endanger what we have built up over years.”

With all to play for, member states are anxiously looking to Europe’s biggest economy to take charge.

In an interview published on Saturday (June 27), European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said it was “very fortunate that Germany is taking over the presidency at this time of a major crisis.” Merkel’s long experience and credibility “helps enormously”, she told the Handelsblatt newspaper.

So high are the expectations that Germany’s EU ambassador Michael Clauss said in jest they are making him “sleep badly, because I think the expectations are already a bit overstretched.”

“We have to act as honest brokers, otherwise we won’t have the support of the council.”

Besides its geopolitical weight and economic heft, Germany is taking on custodianship of the bloc with a strong hand as it has so far withstood the health emergency better than most other member states.

Its economy also entered the crisis well-endowed to fight the impact.

Crucially, compared to the debt crisis that threatened to sink the single currency zone in 2009-2010, Germany looks very different today – it’s out with Scrooge and in with Lady Bountiful.

Once an obstinate champion of budgetary rigour, Merkel’s government has ditched its no-new-debt dogma to throw resources at the crisis.

At home, its programme to shore up the economy totals more than a trillion euros (S$1.56 trillion) in spending, loans and guarantees.

Together with Macron, Merkel had sketched out the backbone of the 750 billion-euro fund proposed by von der Leyen to bolster the bloc’s economy.

The fund would offer grants – with no repayment obligation – to countries hardest hit by the pandemic, a major policy U-turn for Berlin.

With an eye on the devastating blow taken by the worst-hit countries like Spain or Italy, Merkel explained that it was “imperative that Germany not only thinks of itself but is prepared for an extraordinary act of solidarity”.

“In such a crisis, everyone is expected to do what is necessary. And what is necessary in this case is rather extraordinary,” she told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

The recovery fund is likely to be among the key points raised when Merkel and Macron hold talks at German government retreat Meseberg on Monday, with frugal nations such as Austria and the Netherlands sharp critics.

But observers believe that the EU’s biggest paymaster Berlin will ram through a yes.

“When the Germans are certain they are right, it’s very bulldozer, there is no margin for discussion,” a high-ranking EU official said.

An EU diplomat agreed, saying: “On the recovery fund, I expect Germany to dictate the whole process. Merkel is holding all the cards and (EU Council chief) Charles Michel will follow that.

“She also wants to get Brexit out of the way and she will always go for the deal as she wants to keep the West together. Third leg will be restoring ties with US after the election there.”

Merkel, who has ruled out running for a fifth term next year, won’t have much time.

Brexit talks will have to be done by the end of the year, while in November, focus will be on whether US President Donald Trump, whose relationship with Merkel has been frosty at best, manages to hold on to his job.

What is clear is that Merkel’s fingerprints will be all over the EU’s roadmap through the next six months.

“This will be a very Merkel presidency, her swan song,” said the EU diplomat, adding that she would be using it “to craft her legacy”.

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World News

Statue honoring Christopher Columbus in Denver’s Civic Center torn down overnight – The Denver Post

A statue erected in Denver’s Civic Center in the mid-1970s to honor Christopher Columbus was torn down by protesters overnight, just a day after the state’s Civil War monument — which included a commemoration of the Sand Creek Massacre — met a similar fate.

Video tweeted around 12:40 a.m. Friday by a group called the Afro Liberation Front shows a number of people pulling on ropes attached to the 15-foot bronze statue, which sat on a pedestal bearing a plaque with the inscription “In Honor of Christopher Columbus.”

The statue was found on its side on the sidewalk Friday morning, Denver7 reported.

The plaque on the statue’s base says the sculpture was created by William F. Joseph and gifted to the city of Denver by Alfred P. and Anne E. Adamo on June 24, 1970. The statue, “reminiscent of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man,” was installed atop a concrete pedestal south of the park’s memorial gateway in 1975, according to the document filed to nominate Denver’s Civic Center as a National Historic Landmark.

The removal of both the statue honoring Columbus and the sculpture of a Union soldier atop the Civil War monument at the state Capitol come amid a national movement to tear down memorials honoring the perpetrators of racist acts — part of the growing push for racial justice and police reform sparked by the death last month of George Floyd, a Black man, after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The Columbus memorial has drawn criticism for years, and, more recently, increased scrutiny from a Denver City Council member and local activists — including Denver school board member Tay Anderson, who initially called on Mayor Michael Hancock to remove the statue before learning of the Vitruvian Man connection.

“I’m hoping that, one, we are able to take the plaque down,” Anderson told The Denver Post this week. “And two, we can be able to decide as a community: Is this the statue we want in Civic Center, and what can we replace it with?”

The city already had announced the creation of a commission to “evaluate Denver landmarks and public spaces, including public art, associated with racist groups or ideologies,” according to a news release. The Columbus memorial was slated to be discussed at a July 7 meeting with the American Indian Commission and the Italian Consulate, the city said.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, Denver police said, a group of four people pulled down the soldier atop the state’s Civil War monument on the west side of the Capitol.

That statue, erected in 1909, commemorates battles fought by Colorado soldiers and memorializes those who died. The last of the 22 battles listed on the statue’s base is Sand Creek — which was not a battle at all, but a massacre of more than 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians, mostly women and children, by Col. John Chivington and his Colorado Volunteers.

Without acknowledging the memorial’s ties to the Sand Creek Massacre, Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday decried the removal of the statue, saying in a statement, “We will use every tool at our disposal to work with Denver police and to hold accountable those responsible for the damage whether they are hooligans, white supremacists, confederate sympathizers or drunk teenagers.”

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