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Rainy forecast leads to another boating advisory for Calgary’s rivers

Calgarians can expect more rain in the coming days. Environment Canada is forecasting almost an entire week of rain clouds and that means water on the Bow and Elbow rivers is expected to rise.

The City of Calgary issued yet another spring boating advisory for the rivers on Thursday, saying officials expect “higher than expected flow rates.”

“No flooding over riverbanks is expected, however, flows on the Bow and Elbow are expected to increase significantly due to anticipated precipitation,” the city said.

“This will make conditions on and near the rivers more dangerous.”

People are advised against boating or any other activity on the rivers, and Calgary Fire Department will have members patrolling both rivers through the duration of the advisory.

Officials are also reminding people to be careful while spending time near the rivers and offered the following safety tips:

  • Exercise caution around river banks as the fast-moving water can cause erosion and destabilization of river banks
  • Warn their children about the dangers of fast-moving water, particularly those residents who live near the rivers
  • Cyclists and pedestrians should watch for low-lying areas where the river can submerge the pathways
  • Keep pets away from fast moving water
  • Remove lawn furniture and other portable items off the river bank

Anyone using Calgary’s waterways are encouraged to be up to speed on the city’s safety bylaws and safety alerts listed online at calgary.ca/watersafety.

They can also check flow levels at rivers.alberta.ca.

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UK, EU kick off fourth round of post-Brexit trade talks

Trade negotiators from UK and EU begin four-day video conference to forge deal on future relations.

The European Union and the United Kingdom have kicked off a fourth round of talks on a post-Brexit trade deal and other aspects of their future relations.

The four-day negotiations by video conference began on Tuesday with officials trying to make headway after the last three rounds yielded little progress.

More:

  • Brexit Britain kicks off ambitious US and EU trade talks

  • Brexit: UK officially leaves the European Union

  • UK to start trade talks with Japan, with US and EU talks ongoing

The UK formally left the bloc on January 31 after a slim majority voted for Brexit in a 2016 referendum. Little has changed in practice during a planned 11-month transition period.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised not to extend this period, despite a lack of progress in talks that have been overshadowed by the coronavirus crisis.

The end of June is the deadline for the UK to ask for more time for talks, and both sides are due to take stock of the progress so far.

No-deal Brexit

Johnson suggested the country would accept a “no-deal” Brexit if London and Brussels cannot agree on new trade rules by December 31.

Meanwhile, calls from British opposition politicians to request an extension are growing louder. London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Monday urged the government to “put political ideology aside”.

Michel Barnier, EU chief Brexit negotiator, told the Sunday Times the UK had failed to meet its commitments to the negotiations on future trade and other arrangements.

London had taken “a step back – two steps back, three steps back – from the original commitments,” he said.

The British side rejected these accusations and charged the EU with wanting to keep it bound by the bloc’s EU rules in future.


The Stream

Will Brexit break up the UK?

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World News

Philippines backtracks on termination of US military deal

President Rodrigo Duterte suspends for at least six months the termination of a 21-year-old defence pact with the US.

The Philippine government has said it is temporarily suspending the termination of its military pact with the United States that allows joint military exercises with US forces.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr announced on Tuesday that due to the “political and other developments in the region”, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) had been extended for at least six months.

More:

  • Duterte: If my plane explodes, you can ask the CIA

  • Duterte to US forces: Get out of southern Philippines

  • Philippines bans US officials, mulls new visa rules for Americans

Locsin wrote on social media that the suspension was made upon Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s “instruction”.

“It has been received by Washington and well at that,” he added.

“The suspension shall start on even date and shall continue for six months, which period is extendible by the Philippines for another six months,” after which the countdown to termination “shall resume”, read a June 1 letter by Locsis to the embassy of the US in Manila.

In a statement on Tuesday, the US embassy said it welcomed the Philippine government’s decision.

“Our long-standing alliance has benefited both countries, and we look forward to continued close security and defence cooperation with the Philippines,” it added.

Signed in 1999, the agreement between the two countries provides a framework for the temporary entry of US troops to the Philippines for joint training exercises with Filipino forces.

The pact can be terminated through written notice from either party, which would take effect in 180 days after the notice is served. The Philippines issued the notice of suspension in February and the termination would have taken effect in August.

Maritime dispute

Locsin did not elaborate on the reason behind Duterte’s latest move. But in recent months, China has stepped up its activities in the disputed South China Sea, part of which is claimed by the Philippines.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, China started operating “research stations” on facilities built on Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef and landed special military aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef.

According to the US, China has also “continued to deploy maritime militia around the Spratly Islands”, which is also being contested by the Philippines and other neighbouring Southeast Asian countries.

Beijing has said it has the right to build in waters where it exercises sovereignty and has ignored and continued to defy an historic 2016 decision by an international tribunal that invalidated China’s claims of the entire South China Sea – one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

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World News

India: Unable to access online classes, Dalit girl kills herself

Fourteen-year-old daughter of daily wage worker in Kerala found dead near her home on the first day of new school term.

Students have protested in southern India after the suicide of a teenage girl who was unable to attend online classes because she did not have access to the internet or television.

Schools have been shut across India since the country locked down its 1.3 billion people on March 25 to curb the spread of the coronavirus, leaving millions of children whose families cannot afford expensive devices with no access to education.

More:

  • Coronavirus lockdown: How e-classes reveal India’s digital divide

  • My struggle for an education in Indian-administered Kashmir

  • Q&A: How communist-run India state became model in COVID-19 fight

Among them was Devika Balakrishnan, the 14-year-old daughter of a daily wage labourer in the southern state of Kerala who was found dead near the family home on Monday, the first day of the new school term, having apparently taken her own life.

Indian media reports said the teenager went missing from her house on Monday afternoon. Her burned body was later recovered from a deserted spot near her house.

An empty bottle of kerosene was found near her body.

“There is a television at home, but that has not been working. She told me it needed to be repaired, but I couldn’t get it done. I couldn’t afford a smartphone either,” said the girl’s father, who belongs to the underprivileged Dalit community (formerly referred to as “untouchables”), according to media reports.

“I don’t know why she did this. I said we could look at options, like going to a friend’s house.”

The young girl’s mother had given birth a few weeks ago, and the family was suffering financially, said a report by the NDTV network.

Suicide sparks protests

Student activists in Kerala took to the streets to protest her death, which has highlighted the inequalities of the lockdown, with pupils in poor, rural areas far less likely to be able to learn online.

“The government action has put the poor students under stress and pressure,” said Abhijith KM, who heads the Kerala Students Union and was among the protesters.

“It should enable the poor students to obtain computers at interest-free loans to avoid similar cases in future,” he told the Reuters news agency by phone from Kozhikode district.

He said the group had organised protests in all Kerala districts, but limited the number of protesters to 50 in each area so they could follow social distancing rules.

Police said they used batons to disperse protesters in northern Malappuram district, where the victim was from.

One officer was injured when about 28 students tried to enter the district education office, Malappuram superintendent of police Abdul Kareem said.

India has begun easing its coronavirus lockdown, which was among the strictest in the world and left millions without work.

But schools have not yet reopened, and Kerala began its academic year on Monday with classes broadcast on television and online for more than four million students.

The protesters accused the government of not checking whether all students had the means to attend them.

Kerala’s education minister expressed grief over the teenager’s death and ordered an investigation.

He said remote classes were being conducted on a trial basis and that students who missed them would be given opportunities to attend again.

Kerala is one of India’s wealthier states and more than half its inhabitants have access to the internet, according to a 2018 report by the Internet And Mobile Association of India.

It also has among the highest rates of internet use by women, the same report said.

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World News

Spain extends coronavirus emergency until June 21: Live updates

Spanish lawmakers vote to extend the state of emergency for the sixth time as cases surpass 240,300.

  • Mosques have reopened for daily prayers in the Gaza Strip. The besieged enclave has recorded 61 confirmed infection cases, and one death during the health crisis.

  • Sweden’s top epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has said there was room for improvement in the country’s controversial softer approach to curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

  • More than 6.4 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 381,000 people have died, including some 106,000 in the US. More than 2.7 million have recovered from the disease.

Here are the latest updates:

Wednesday, June 3

23:12 GMT – Mexican glass maker Vitro to shut two U.S. plants due to coronavirus

Mexican glass producer Vitro has announced that it will shut two plants in the United States before the end of the year after the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic hit demand from the automotive sector.

The two plants are in Evansville, Indiana, and Evart, Michigan, Vitro said in a statement to the Mexican stock exchange. Clients would not be affected, the firm added.

“The decision to permanently close all operations in these plants came because of the need to deal with the excess capacity caused by the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the automotive industry,” Vitro said.

20:50 GMT – Germany approves 130 bln euro coronavirus stimulus package 

Chancellor Angela Merkel said her conservatives and their Social Democrat coalition partners have agreed on a stimulus package worth 130 billion euros that is designed to speed up Germany’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The coalition partners resolved differences on incentives to buy new cars and relief for highly indebted municipalities, paving the way for a fiscal programme that is substantially bigger than similar packages by Germany’s euro zone partners. 

20:30 GMT – Democrats’ bid to immediately pass coronavirus small business bill stalls in US Senate 

US Republican Senator Ron Johnson on Wednesday stopped an attempt by Democrats to immediately pass a bill giving small businesses more flexibility in using new federal loans during the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson said the legislation, which overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives on May 28, possibly could be passed later on Wednesday or on Thursday pending closed-door negotiations that were continuing.

19:35 GMT – UK business minister tested after feeling unwell: BBC

British business minister Alok Sharma has been tested for coronavirus and is self-isolating after feeling unwell in parliament, the BBC has reported, citing a spokesman.

Britain’s lower house of parliament reopened to legislators on Tuesday after the government ended measures allowing them to vote remotely, forcing them to stand in long queues to vote on replacement measures.

19:25 GMT – WHO set to resume hydroxychloroquine trial in battle against COVID-19

The WHO will resume its trial of hydroxychloroquine for potential use against the coronavirus, its chief has said, after those running the study briefly stopped giving it to new patients over health concerns. 

The UN agency last month paused the part of its large study of treatments against COVID-19 in which newly enrolled patients were getting the anti-malarial drug to treat COVID-19 due to fears it increased death rates and irregular heartbeats.

But the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said its experts had advised the continuation of all trials including hydroxychloroquine, whose highest-profile backer for use against the coronavirus is US President Donald Trump.

19:05 GMT – Trump administration selects five vaccine candidates as finalists: Report 

The Trump administration has selected five companies, including Moderna Inc, AstraZeneca Plc and Pfizer Inc, as the most likely candidates to produce a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, the New York Times has reported, citing senior officials.

The other two companies are Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co Inc, according to the paper. The selected companies will get access to additional government funds, help in running clinical trials, and financial and logistical support, the paper reported.

There is no approved vaccine for COVID-19 caused by the new coronavirus, and drugmakers as well as research organisations are racing to develop a vaccine.

18:40 GMT – Turkey not planning keeping weekend stay-at-home order

Turkey’s health minister has said his team would not recommend extending a weekend stay-at-home order nearly two months after it was imposed as the government continues to ease coronavirus containment measures.

Turkey has rolled out a series of measures against the outbreak since April 11, including weekend lockdowns, closure of shops and restaurants, intercity travel restrictions and more.

Speaking after a meeting with his coronavirus science team, Koca said the lockdown rule, due to expire on June 6, could be reimposed in certain provinces depending on the infection rate.

18:12 GMT – France death toll passes 29,000

France’s death toll has risen by 81 or 0.3 percent, to reach 29,021, which is the fifth-highest death toll in the world.

The rate of increase has decreased compared to Tuesday, when fatalities were up 0.4 percent, and the number of people hospitalised has continued its long-running decline, the health ministry said in a statement.

18:05 GMT – Dutch study: children are not big spreaders

A study by the Netherlands’ National Institute for Health (RIVM) has concluded that children under the age of 12 play little role in transmitting the new coronavirus.

The study in the country’s leading medical journal Nederlands Tijdschrift Voor Geneeskunde followed the progress of the disease in 54 families, including 227 people in all.

Studies in other countries have previously found that children are less often infected by the virus and, once infected, less often become seriously ill.

“Yes, children can become infected, but transmission takes place primarily between adults of similar age, and from adults to children,” the study said in its conclusion.

17:46 GMT – Mexico’s death toll could surpass 30,000: deputy health minister

Mexico’s death toll may reach 30,000, a senior health official has said in a newspaper interview, while suggesting fatalities could be even higher if social distancing measures were relaxed too fast.

With 10,637 deaths registered so far, Mexico has the seventh-highest coronavirus death toll in the world.

Hugo Lopez-Gatell, an epidemiologist, said the pandemic is “not yet (tamed), neither in Mexico nor in the world” and urged local governments and citizens to stick to social distancing.

“It is a range between 6,000 to 30,000, with an average of 12,500,” Lopez-Gatell told the El Universal newspaper in an interview, while cautioning that the death range would not hold if local governments opened up bars or businesses too quickly.

17:43 GMT – Spain extends emergency until June 21

Spanish lawmakers have voted to extend the state of emergency a final time through to June 21.

It is the sixth time the measure has been renewed, meaning the restrictions will remain in force, although they have been eased since the start of the lockdown in mid-March.

17:28 GMT – Qatar announces easing of coronavirus restrictions

Starting June 4, people can exercise outdoors without wearing a mask, and up to four people can be in the same vehicle.

Read more here.

17:16 GMT – UK’s Johnson tells EU workers to come back but to quarantine

Workers from the EU who left Britain while the lockdown shut much of the economy should come back, but must quarantine like other travellers, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

“What I’d say to our Italian friends, Italians who’ve been living and working in the UK who now want to come back, I say come back,” Johnson said at a daily news conference in answer to an Italian journalist who asked about the impact of quarantine plans on EU workers.

“You’ve got to quarantine… but we want you back.”

17:13 GMT – Italy will receive 20 billion euros from EU job insurance plan

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said Italy would receive some 20 billion euros ($22.47bn) from a new European scheme to mitigate the impact on jobs caused by the epidemic.

Conte added at a news conference that Italy would also benefit from funds made available by the European Investment Bank, as part of a wider EU package designed to boost the bloc’s economic recovery.

More:

  • Novel coronavirus losing potency, top Italian doctor says

  • Coronavirus: Travel restrictions, border shutdowns by country

  • Which countries have made wearing face masks compulsory?

16:12 GMT – Italy records 71 more deaths, 321 new cases

Coronavirus-related deaths in Italy has climbed by 71, compared with 55 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, while the daily tally of new cases was roughly stable at 321 versus 318 on Tuesday.

The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on February 21 now stands at 33,601, the agency said, the third-highest in the world after the US and the UK.

There are 233,836 confirmed cases, the sixth-highest global tally behind the US, Brazil, Russia, Spain and the UK.

15:55 GMT – Afghanistan testing just 20 percent of suspected cases

Afghanistan is testing only about 20 percent of its daily suspected coronavirus cases, officials and experts have said, as infections surpassed 17,000 on Wednesday.

“The health ministry is really concerned about the spread of the virus,” Deputy Health Minister Waheed Majroh told reporters.

“Unfortunately, the number of cases nationwide is more than what we record daily. We have capacity to conduct up to 2,000 tests a day, but the demand is way more.”

15:44 GMT – UK doctors to trial ibuprofen in patients with breathing difficulties

UK doctors are trialling a formulation of anti-inflammatory ibuprofen to see if it reduces respiratory failure in patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19.

The trial involves a particular formulation of ibuprofen, which researchers said had been shown to be more effective than standard ibuprofen for treating severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a complication of COVID-19.

The formulation is already licensed for use in the UK for other conditions.

15:36 GMT – Spain reports first new COVID-19 death since Sunday, total at 27,128

Spain has reported its first death from the coronavirus since Sunday, health ministry data has showed, bringing the country’s total death toll to 27,128.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by 219 from the previous day to 240,326, according to the ministry.

15:17 GMT – UK death toll rises by 359 to 39,728

The UK’s coronavirus death toll has risen by 359 to 39,728, the government has said.

15:14 GMT – Deaths in Canada rise to 7,414

Canada’s coronavirus death toll has risen to 7,414 from 7,344 a day earlier, according to official data.

14:56 GMT – Belgium to reopen businesses on June 8, borders on June 15

Belgium will allow almost all businesses to reopen on June 8, including cafes and bars, following its lockdown to combat the coronavirus, the country’s prime minister has said, although social distancing measures will remain.

Belgium will reopen its borders on June 15. However, cultural activities will continue without any public until July 1, when cinemas and other cultural spaces can open with a maximum of 200 people, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes told a news conference.

14:54 GMT

Hi, this is Mersiha Gadzo in Doha, taking over the live updates from my colleague Elizabeth Melimopoulos.

13:00 GMT – Saudi Arabia records 30 new deaths, 2,171 new infections 

Deaths from the coronavirus pandemic in Saudi Arabia has climbed by 30, the Ministry of Health has reported, while it registered 2,171 new infections. 

The total death toll stands at 579, with 91,182 confirmed cases.

12:40 GMT – UN accuses Asian nations of censorship during pandemic

The United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet has warned that China and other Asian countries are using the coronavirus crisis as an excuse to clamp down on free expression and to tighten censorship.

The UN rights office said it had received information on “more than a dozen cases of medical professionals, academics and ordinary citizens who appear to have been detained, and in some instances charged, for publishing their views or other information on the situation related to COVID-19”, or for being critical of the government’s response to the crisis.

12:10 GMT – Japanese sportsmen test positive for COVID-19

Two Japanese baseball players and a striker in the J League have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, their clubs have announced, in a major blow for professional sport attempting to restart in the country.

Football team Nagoya Grampus announced that forward Mu Kanazaki tested positive for the virus, less than a week after the J League announced plans to restart the campaign on July 4, albeit without fans in stadiums, and as many clubs returned to full training.

Later on Wednesday, the Tokyo-based Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) team Yomiuri Giants announced that two players, shortstop Hayato Sakamoto and catcher Takumi Oshiro, had also tested positive.

More:

  • Global sports face ‘unprecedented’ test amid coronavirus outbreak

  • Coronavirus: What sporting events are affected by the pandemic?

  • ‘Playful escape’: How sport is tackling coronavirus pandemic

11:55 GMT – UK PM Johnson says quarantine vital to prevent COVID-19 reinfection

Quarantine measures the UK plans to introduce for almost all international travellers from June 8 are vital to ensure the country’s rate of COVID-19 infection does not increase again, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

Asked by a lawmaker in Parliament why the UK was introducing the steps now, just as many other countries are lifting quarantine rules, Johnson said: “As we get the rate of infection down, with the efforts that we are making as a country, it is vital that we avoid reinfection.”

11:30 GMT – Mosques and nursery schools reopen in Gaza

Mosques have reopened for daily prayers and children returned to nursery schools in an easing of coronavirus restrictions in the Gaza Strip.

The enclave, whose borders are tightly controlled by Israel and Egypt, has recorded 61 confirmed infection cases, all in quarantine facilities, and one death during the health crisis.

Two million Palestinians live in Gaza.

More:

  • ‘I feel lost’: Palestinians stranded abroad urge for repatriation

  • Palestinian Authority rejects UAE aid sent via Israeli airport

  • Gaza reports first COVID-19 death amid outbreak fears

11:15 GMT – Novavax partners with contract drugmaker for vaccine manufacturing

US biotech firm Novavax Inc has entered into a deal with contract drugmaker AGC Biologics to manufacture its experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

An add-on component of Novavax’s vaccine that could help enhance the immune response against the coronavirus would be manufactured by privately held AGC Biologics, the contract drugmaker said.

11:00 GMT – Spain seeks to open up to some foreign tourism from June 22

Spain is working to gradually open up to tourists from countries considered more secure in the fight against COVID-19 from June 22, a tourism ministry spokesman has said.

Madrid has previously set July 1 as the date to reopen its borders to tourism, which accounts for some 12 percent of the country’s economy, after a months-long shutdown due to the pandemic.

Separately, Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya tweeted that Germany would lift a recommendation to its nationals to avoid travelling to Spain as soon as the country lifts restrictions on travel from abroad.

10:30 GMT – Austria to scrap controls at all land borders except Italy

Austria is lifting all coronavirus-related border restrictions including quarantines for new arrivals from all of its neighbouring countries except Italy as of Thursday, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has said.

“We will lift all the coronavirus-related border and health checks in relation to seven bordering countries – those are Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

“We are thereby returning to the pre-corona situation regarding these countries,” he told in a news conference.

10:15 GMT – Putin declines UK invitation for coronavirus summit: Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin does not plan to take part in an online summit on a possible coronavirus vaccine being organised by the British government this week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said.

Putin received an invitation to take part in the summit from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week, the Kremlin had said.

Scheduled to take place on June 4, the Global Vaccine Summit 2020 is designed to mobilise resources needed to ensure universal availability of the vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

10:00 GMT – Sweden should have done more to combat coronavirus, health chief says 

Sweden should have done more to combat the coronavirus and prevent a much higher national COVID-19 death rate than in neighbouring countries, the man behind the Public Health Agency’s pandemic strategy has said.

Nearly 4,500 Swedes have died in the outbreak, a higher mortality rate than in Denmark, Norway and Finland, and criticism has been growing over the government’s decision not to impose lockdown measures as strictly as elsewhere in Europe.

“If we were to run into the same disease, knowing exactly what we know about it today, I think we would end up doing something in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done,” Anders Tegnell, the chief epidemiologist at the Public Health Agency, said

“Yes, I think we could have done better in what we did in Sweden, clearly.”

09:30 GMT – Germany to lift travel ban for EU, Schengen countries and UK 

Germany will lift a travel ban for European Union member states along with the UK, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland from June 15 as long as there are no entry bans or large-scale lockdowns in those countries, the foreign minister has said.

Speaking to reporters, Heiko Maas said all countries concerned met those criteria except Norway due to an entry ban, and Spain, where he said parliament was deciding whether to extend an entry ban.

09:00 GMT – US embassy declines UAE offer to test staff for COVID-19: FT

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has offered the US embassy hundreds of tests to screen embassy staff, but the gesture was “politely declined”, due to privacy concerns, the Financial Times reported. 

According to a US official, the offer raised a “red flag” due to the involvement of Chinese firms and technology. 

The UAE testing facility opened in late March by a joint venture between Chinese genomics company BGI and artificial intelligence group G42, which has links to the Abu Dhabi ruling family. 

08:45 GMT – Air Arabia lays off more staff due to COVID-19 impact

Air Arabia, the only listed carrier in the UAE, has made further job cuts due to the business impact of COVID-19, a spokesman has said. 

The Sharjah-based airline, which has about 2,000 employees, did not say how many employees had been affected. It laid off 57 employees in May.

The latest job cuts were a “last alternative” after the airline took a series of steps in past months to protect jobs, the spokesman said without elaborating.

08:30 GMT – Coronavirus pushes up German unemployment 

The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to another rise in unemployment in Germany in May.

Some 169,000 people were added to the jobless list between April and May, with the total number of unemployed now at 2.8 million, according to official figures.

08:15 GMT – Russia’s coronavirus case tally passes 430,000

Russia has reported 8,536 new cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing its nationwide tally to 432,277, the third-highest in the world.

The death toll reached 5,215 after the authorities said they had recorded another 178 deaths from the virus in the past day.

08:00 GMT – Kyrgyzstan to resume domestic flights, allow Chinese charter flights

Kyrgyzstan will resume domestic flights and bus service between its provinces and allow charter flights from China this month to bring in staff for numerous Chinese investment projects, the government in Bishkek said. 

Kyrgyzstan will also resume domestic flights and public transit between its provinces from June 5.

Employees of Chinese companies will be tested for novel coronavirus before and after the flights, Deputy Prime Minister Erkin Asrandiyev said.

07:45 GMT – NZ sport set for fans boost with end to COVID-19 curbs in sight

Professional sport in New Zealand could welcome fans back to stadiums as early as next week with the government set to decide whether to lift all social distancing restrictions imposed to due the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will decide on Monday whether the country is ready to bring its alert system down to level 1, which would lift limits on mass gatherings that were imposed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

That would open the door for fans to attend the opening round matches of New Zealand’s “Super Rugby Aotearoa” tournament starting on June 13. 

07:30 GMT – Myanmar court denies bail to Canadian preacher who defied virus ban

A Myanmar court has denied bail to a Canadian Christian preacher who held church services in defiance of a ban on gatherings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that led to infections in dozens of people including himself.

David Lah, a Canadian of Burmese origin, and another man, Myanmar national Wai Tun, are facing up to three years in prison under a disaster management law over church services held in the city of Yangon in early April.

07:15 GMT – Lufthansa reports net loss of $2.3bn

German airline giant Lufthansa has said it will undergo “far-reaching” restructuring as it posted a first-quarter net loss of 2.1 billion euros ($2.3bn), hammered by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Global air traffic has come to a virtual standstill in recent months. This has impacted our quarterly results to an unprecedented extent.

“In view of the very slow recovery in demand, we must now take far-reaching restructuring measures to counteract this,” Chief Executive Carsten Spohr said in a statement.

07:00 GMT – Italy reopens to tourists from Europe

Italy has reopened to travellers from Europe, three months after the country went into coronavirus lockdown, with all hopes pinned on reviving the key tourism industry as the summer season begins.

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus and has officially reported more than 33,000 deaths. It imposed an economically crippling lockdown in early March and has since seen its contagion numbers drop off dramatically.

06:45 GMT – Study shows coronavirus antibodies in 5.5 percent of Dutch blood donors

A study of Dutch blood donors has found that about 5.5 percent of them have developed antibodies against the new coronavirus, blood donation firm Sanquin revealed.

The study, conducted among 7,000 donors between May 10 and 20, gives an indication of what percentage of the Dutch population may have already had the disease.

A similar study in April showed antibodies in 3 percent of Dutch blood donors.

06:30 GMT – Pakistan provincial minister dies from coronavirus

Ghulam Murtaza Baloch, the Sindh provincial minister for human settlement in Pakistan, has died after  contracting the novel coronavirus.

Cases in the South Asian country have been spiking as the government has lifted restrictions on public gatherings and businesses.

On Tuesday, the country saw its highest single-day spike in cases for the second consecutive day, with 4,065 new cases taking the country’s tally to 80,463. 

06:15 GMT – India’s coronavirus cases cross 200,000 

India’s coronavirus infections have crossed 200,000, the health ministry said, and a peak could still be weeks away in the world’s second-most populous country.

Cases jumped by 8,909 over the previous day in one of the highest single-day spikes, taking the tally to 207,615. Six other nations, from the United States to the United Kingdom and Brazil, have a higher caseload.

More:

  • India to ease coronavirus lockdown despite record new cases

  • India now world’s No 7 in coronavirus cases as lockdown eases

  • A toddler trying to wake up dead mother shocks Indians

Hi, this is Elizabeth Melimopoulos in Doha taking over the live updates from my colleague Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.

05:30 GMT

I’ll be handing over the blog to my colleagues in Doha shortly. Before I go, a quick recap of what happened over the past few hours. Brazil has reported a record number of coronavirus deaths for a single day; overall, it has the fourth-highest number of deaths in the world with little sign the outbreak is easing.

There have also been a couple of interesting developments in scientific studies – The Lancet is conducting an audit of the supporting data in a recent study on the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine, while scientists whose funding was pulled by the US have published the preliminary findings on bats and coronaviruses.

And in today’s “positive” news, it looks like New Zealand could lift the last of its coronavirus restrictions as early as next week. That means a return to normal life although New Zealanders still will not be able to travel overseas because borders will remain closed.

05:10 GMT – Recession alert: Australian economy shrank in the first quarter

Australia’s economy shrank in the first three months of 2020, setting the country up for its first technical recession in 30 years.

Official data shows the economy contracted 0.3 percent in the three months ended March 31, compared with the last three months of 2019, the first decline in nine years.

Read more on that story from our AJ Impact team here.

04:20 GMT – Mumbai braces for cyclone as coronavirus cases top 200,000

At least 100,000 people, including coronavirus patients, have been moved out of the path of Cyclone Nisarga, which is threatening India’s west coast and the city of Mumbai.

The cyclone is expected to make landfall on Wednesday afternoon, just south of Mumbai, which has not been hit by a cyclone in 70 years.

The Health Ministry said the number of coronavirus cases in the country has exceeded 200,000 with a rise of 8,909 cases in a single day.

“We are very far away from the peak,” said Dr Nivedita Gupta of the Indian Council of Medical Research.

01:05 GMT – Bolivia feels coronavirus strain as cases exceed 10,000

Authorities in Bolivia are making door-to-door checks in regions with severe coronavirus outbreaks to try and stem the spread.

The landlocked country registered its first cases on March 10, and until May 21 had reached 5,000 cases. That number has since doubled, government data shows.

More on that story here.

00:00 GMT – Brazil sets another daily record for coronavirus deaths

Some 1,262 people in Brazil died from coronavirus in the 24 hours to Tuesday evening, the country’s Health Ministry said.

It is another daily record for the South American country where the outbreak shows no sign of slowing down.

Brazil also confirmed 28,936 additional infections, bringing the total cases to 555,383. A total of 31,199 people in Brazil have died from coronavirus.

COVID-19 began in the country’s wealthy neighbourhoods and large cities where there were links with international travellers, but it is now making its way to poorer and more isolated areas to devastating effect. You can read more on that here.

23:30 GMT (June 2) – The Lancet raises new questions about hydroxychloroquine study

The Lancet has commissioned an independent audit of the data behind a study it published last month that found hydroxychloroquine increased the risk of death in COVID-19 patients.

The May 22 study was based on data provided by healthcare analytics firm Surgisphere and not a traditional clinical trial that would have compared hydroxychloroquine to a placebo or other medicine.

The editors of the British medical journal said serious scientific questions had been brought to their attention.

Several clinical trials into the use of the drug, including one by the WHO, were suspended after the paper was published. Hydroxychloroquine is usually prescribed for illnesses such as malaria or lupus, but has been trumpeted as a COVID-19 treatment by US President Donald Trump and other right-wing leaders.

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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 (June 1) here.

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South China Sea crisis: Beijing accuses US Air Force of conducting spy missions

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Tensions between the US and China have escalated over recent weeks with both states increasing military powers in the disputed region. But now a Chinese think tank claims the US are undertaking surveillance missions in the region.

According to the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI) – which operates out of Peking University – three US warplanes flew over the Bashi Channel and South China today (June 25).

In a tweet, the organisation said: “On the morning of June 25, US P-8A and RC-135 are conducting reconnaissance in the South China Sea, staying focused on the waters east of Bashi Channel, meanwhile, a C-17A Globemaster III is flying over the South China Sea.”

The P8-A Poseidon is an aircraft designed for anti-submarine warfare and is said to have flown towards the Pratas Islands, which are owned by Taiwan, before flying close to mainland China.

The other two planes have reportedly been sighted in the region since mid-June.

Relations between the US and China have also become strained over recent weeks due to military action in the region.

Earlier this week, the US Navy and the Japanese military conducted bilateral exercises while sailing together in the South China Sea.

The USS Gabrielle Giffords and Japan’s JS Kashim and Shimayuki met at sea on June 23 where they reportedly practiced and enhanced bilateral interoperability between the two navies.

Last month, Independence-class US Navy littoral combat ships were spotted patrolling the much-disputed region.

The US Air Force and Marines conducted training exercises in the area with three submarines joining ships and aircrafts in the nearby Philippine Sea.

The actions are thought to be a reaction to Chinese harassment of ships drilling for resources in nearby waters.

Back in April, three US ships joined the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Parramatta and sailed to the region to demonstrate a commitment to keeping the sea open.

The South China Sea region is a highly contested territory where it faces rival ownership claims from China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.

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Although China is reportedly years away from controlling the highly disputed region, Taiwanese officials recently warned of the threat posed by the Chinese air defence identification zone (ADIZ). Beijing is working to establish a framework to assert control.

Military news site US Navy Institute (USNI) reported China hinted at an ADIZ over the South China Sea for years.

However, despite other nations declaring ADIZ’s, experts believe China is not ready to declare a zone over the region.

Diplomatic relations between the nations, which have laid claim to the islands, are already extremely strained and all nations have extended their military arms.

This week, Taiwan deployed marines to the Pratas Islands amid reports China will conduct drills in the area.

According to a Ministry of National Defense (MND) official, a number of Taiwanese marines have been deployed to the region as a training mission. China is reportedly planning large-scale beach landing exercises on the islands.

The source told Focus Taiwan the mission is aimed at strengthening the defence capabilities as well as improving logistical and equipment maintenance skills of the Taiwanese Coast Guard officers.

However, no more information about the number of marines deployed or how long they will stay were revealed.

The recent construction of bunkers on some of the atolls point to China preparing to “protection against air or missile strikes”, raising the prospect of a conflict which could spark World War 3.

The islands and surrounding reefs have been the subject of a bitter and long-running territorial dispute, with China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines all laying claim to parts of the archipelago.

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Elijah McClain case: Polis appoints state AG as special prosecutor

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis designated Attorney General Phil Weiser on Thursday as a special prosecutor to investigate the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain following a violent encounter with Aurora police last year.

The governor’s office said that if the facts support prosecution, Weiser would also criminally prosecute any individuals whose actions caused McClain’s death.

“I was moved by speaking with Elijah’s mother and her description of her son as a responsible and curious child who became a vegetarian to be healthier, and who could inspire the darkest soul,” Polis said in a statement. “His friends describe him as a gentle peacemaker who worked as a massage therapist and enjoyed playing the violin. Elijah McClain should be alive today, and we owe it to his family to take this step and elevate the pursuit of justice in his name to a statewide concern.”

Earlier Thursday, Dave Young, the prosecutor who determined there was no criminal wrongdoing by Aurora police officers or medical responders in McClain’s death, released a statement defending his decision as the case receives national attention and renewed calls for justice.

On Aug. 24, Aurora police officers responded to a call about a “suspicious person” wearing a ski mask and waving his arms while walking along Billings Street. Family members said McClain often wore masks when outside because of the blood condition anemia, which made him become cold easily.

McClain, who was unarmed, refused to stop when police first approached him. The 140-pound man was tackled and pinned to the ground, with officers using a “carotid control hold” on him. McClain asked police to stop, informing officers he couldn’t breathe and vomiting multiple times.

Medical responders then injected McClain with the heavy sedative ketamine, and he suffered cardiac arrest during the ambulance ride to a local hospital. McClain was declared brain dead a few days later and died.

“As a father, my heart breaks for the McClain family,” Polis said in a statement. “All Coloradans should be safe walking home from the convenience store, or just being in their own neighborhoods listening to headphones. Unfortunately, I know that is not how many people — especially young people of color — feel in our state today, because I’ve heard it from them directly. We need to do a better job, and at a bare minimum they deserve a thorough review of the case.”

Renewed interest in McClain’s death, including celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres tweeting about the case, comes amid nationwide reckonings with police brutality against Black communities and racial inequities following massive protest movements sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police last month.

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Denmark’s PM cancels wedding to attend EU summit

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has postponed her wedding for a third time, in order to attend an EU summit.

The summit on proposals for a Covid-19 recovery fund will take place on 17 and 18 July. It is the first meeting that leaders will attend since countries enforced coronavirus lockdowns.

Ms Frederiksen was set to marry her partner, Bo Tengberg, on 18 July.

She said on Facebook that she had to “protect Denmark’s interests”.

Denmark has opposed the fund over plans to offer grants to countries badly affected by the crisis.

Denmark along with Sweden, Austria and the Netherlands say the proposed €750bn (£676bn; $840bn) fund is too large and insist any money given out must eventually be repaid.

The date of the summit, which will be held in Brussels, was announced over the past couple of days.

Writing on Facebook, Ms Frederiksen said: “I am so looking forward to marrying this amazing man. But obviously it shouldn’t be easy, and now the Council meeting in Brussels has been convened precisely on Saturday in July, when we had planned a wedding.”

She said they will get married soon and her partner is fortunately “very patient”.

Jeg glæder mig så meget til at blive gift med den her fantastiske mand. Men helt let skal det åbenbart ikke være, og nu…

End of Facebook post by Mette Frederiksen

Another date has not yet been announced.

The pair were originally set to marry in summer 2019 however they postponed their wedding due to the general election.

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US health officials: 20 million Americans may have had COVID-19

Many infections were not caught in early testing when supplies were limited and testing was prioritised on symptoms.

US officials believe as many as 20 million Americans have contracted the coronavirus, suggesting millions had the virus and they never knew it.

That is nearly 10 times as many infections as the 2.3 million cases that have been confirmed and comes as the Trump administration works to tamp down nationwide concern about the COVID-19 pandemic as about a dozen states are seeing a worrisome increase in cases.

The administration also looks to get its scientific experts back before the public more as it tries to allay anxieties about the pandemic while states begin reopening. Since mid-May, when the government began stressing the need to get the economy moving again, the panel’s public health experts have been far less visible than in the pandemic’s early weeks.

Twenty million infections would mean about 6 percent of the nation’s 331 million people have been infected, leaving a majority of the population still susceptible to the virus. Previously, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, have said as many as 25 percent of infected people might not have symptoms.

Well in hand

The new estimate is based on CDC studies of blood samples collected nationwide. Many infections were not caught in early testing, when supplies were limited and federal officials prioritised testing for those with symptoms.

Administration officials are pointing to the new data to allay public anxieties, claiming that while there have been significant spikes, they have the outbreaks well in hand.

President Donald Trump, who refuses to wear a face mask in public, has been playing down the virus threat, insisting recently that “it’s fading away, it’s going to fade away”.

Senior administration officials maintained they were not trying to minimise a public health crisis. But they insisted the nation was in a markedly different place with the virus now than when the US last saw similar infection numbers in mid-April, when testing infrastructure was weaker. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter candidly.

The administration officials did not provide full results of their blood sample collections, and several independent experts said the methods and locations of sampling are key to interpreting their meaning.

Dr Thomas Tsai, a Harvard University health policy researcher, said 20 million seems reasonable, but “most of these estimates exist in a range” and it is important to know how wide that is.

“It’s hard to interpret this just from a single number and without the context for it,” such as what locations were sampled and whether it was truly a random slice of a population or areas of low or high prevalence, which can skew the results.

Despite the phase-out of daily White House coronavirus briefings, the administration has been closely monitoring data on the spread of COVID-19 and has been deploying teams from the CDC to identify and stem outbreaks around the country.

A dozen states in recent weeks have seen a worrisome uptick in new cases, as well as in the more critical measure of the percentage of positive cases discovered in tests performed. Seven states have seen more than 10 percent of tests come back positive. And troublesome spikes in Sun Belt states have dominated news coverage in recent days, to the consternation of Trump administration officials.

They point instead to more nuanced county-level data, which shows positivity rates exceeding 10 percent in just 3 percent of the nation’s counties. Yet they acknowledge that some of the areas with the highest transmission rates are generally the most populous, suggesting tens of millions of Americans could be living in areas with spiking infections.

Tracing

As states reopen, the administration says it is up to governors and local officials to determine how to respond to the spikes. Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott, for example, recommended that most residents remain home for their safety, as his state sees virus infections increasing in major metro areas.

The CDC teams, officials said, are working to trace new outbreaks and reinforce protective measures like social distancing and mask wearing in hard-hit areas and to remind vulnerable populations to take extreme precautions. The administration says those efforts have helped slow new infections in North Carolina and Alabama, where they were deployed earlier this month.

One of the hard-hit areas is Phoenix, where Trump held an event on Tuesday with thousands of young attendees, nearly all of whom were without masks.

The officials say the nature of the outbreak now is different from months ago, when deaths topped more than 1,000 per day for weeks and hospitals were stretched beyond capacity across the country. The new increase in positive cases, they said, is capturing what has long been there. They say it is only now showing up in data because the US has increased testing and surveillance.

Meanwhile, mortality data has steadily declined, as have hospitalisations in all but a few hotspots.

To the administration officials, that reinforces their hypothesis that millions unknowingly had the virus earlier this year. Through early May, federal guidelines prioritised testing for symptomatic people, those exposed to a positive case and those in high-risk environments.

With testing far more widespread now, officials believe 50 percent of the new cases in Florida and Texas are among people ages 35 or younger, and most of them are asymptomatic.

The White House removes states with the limited spread of COVID-19, like Hawaii and Wyoming, from its list of places of concern, despite their high percentage increases, because they are seeing just several dozen cases.

The US is testing about 500,000 patients per day. On a per-capita basis, the US rate falls behind several other countries, including Spain, Australia, Russia and Iceland, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

There is no scientific consensus on the rate of testing needed to control the virus. But many experts say the US should be testing roughly one million to three million people daily to catch new cases and prevent flareups.

Administration officials said they expect to be able to run 20-40 million tests per month beginning this fall.

Testing is constrained by laboratory supplies needed to run the tests but also lack of demand for tests in some areas.

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U.S. urges Russia, China to give Venezuela more aid in COVID fight

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United States called on Russia and China on Thursday to provide more humanitarian aid to their ally Venezuela in its fight against the growing COVID-19 epidemic.

Venezuela, which has so far reported 4,048 cases of COVID-19 and 35 deaths to the World Health Organization (WHO), has jailed doctors and journalists for trying to expose the true extent of infections, Special Representative Elliott Abrams told a diplomatic event organised by the U.S. mission to the United Nations in Geneva.

“We do think the numbers are tragically a good deal higher,” Abrams added.

Referring to China and Russia, he said: “We would like to see them contribute more on the humanitarian side. There has been, I believe, some contribution of goods with respect to COVID-19 by Russia and China.

“But the scale, the dollar amount of this aid, is really quite low in comparison to the needs,” he said.

The OPEC member’s economy is reeling from a six-year recession and a prolonged political crisis that has driven at least 4.5 million Venezuelans to flee abroad.

Abrams said opposition leader Juan Guaido and his interim government – recognised by more than 50 countries – would soon provide $20 million in assets to the Pan-American Health Organisation – the WHO’s regional office – and other aid groups.

Abrams said the government of President Nicolas Maduro holds 450 political prisoners and has sought to usurp institutions, including the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court is now completely subservient to the regime,” he said.

Abrams reiterated a U.S. offer of March 31 for a power-sharing deal under which it would begin lifting sanctions – including against Venezuela’s oil sector – if the opposition and members of Maduro’s Socialist Party form an interim government without him.

“That framework is not an ultimatum, it is not a take it or leave it. It is a proposal that clarifies the conditions under which U.S. sanctions would be lifted and provide a starting point for Venezuelans to discuss a pathway forward,” he said.

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