Putin says Russia past pandemic peak

  • President Putin said Russia has passed the peak of the outbreak but stressed that all precautions should be taken to hold the annual Red Square parade next month.

  • A global campaign to fund the development of vaccines and therapies against COVID-19 has so far raised $10.4bn, the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said.
  • The WHO warned of the risks of an “immediate second peak” as countries ease up on lockdowns, urging governments in Europe and the US to step up surveillance, testing and tracking measures.

  • Public anger continues to simmer in the UK over Dominic Cummings, PM Boris Johnson’s chief political adviser, who apparently flouted lockdown to drive from his London home to his parents’ house in the north when he suspected he had coronavirus.

  • More than 5.5 million cases of coronavirus have been confirmed around the world, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. More than 346,000 people have died, while more than 2.2 million have recovered.

    Tuesday, May 26

    14:35 GMT – Hungarian PM’s power to rule by decree to end on June 20 -government

    Hungary aims to lift a state of emergency spurred by the coronavirus crisis on June 20, its justice minister has said, as the government prepared a bill ending the power to rule by decree which drew international condemnation.

    Right-wing nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban obtained the powers without a time limit in a vote by parliament where his party holds a two-thirds majority, drawing European Union criticism about democratic backsliding in Budapest.

    Orban said earlier that parliament could at any time cancel the special powers to manage the country without parliament’s consent, which he said were necessary to curb the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fall-out.

    14:30 GMT – Brazil police raid Rio governor’s residences amid COVID-19 probe

    Brazilian federal police raided the residences of Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel as part of a COVID-19 corruption probe, targeting one of President Jair Bolsonaro’s political foes as the pandemic sweeps the nation.

    Two sources and a statement from the federal police said the search warrants were part of an investigation into alleged corruption involving the use of public money destined to fight the coronavirus pandemic in Rio de Janeiro state. No arrest warrants were issued, a source said.

    In a statement, Witzel said he was innocent and accused Bolsonaro of “interference” in the probe. He said he was “surprised and outraged” to see social media posts that suggested the president’s allies in Congress had prior knowledge of the operation, suggesting leaks and the “construction” of a false narrative against him.

    14:12 GMT – Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic to mutually open borders

    Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic will open their borders to each others’ citizens from midnight on Tuesday, with some conditions, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has said.

    Cross-border travel without having to undergo mandatory quarantine amid the coronavirus pandemic will be allowed for Hungarians, Slovaks and Czechs whose stay in the other country does not exceed 48 hours.

    In addition, Hungarians can travel to the Czech Republic by crossing Slovakia but cannot cross Slovakia on their way back; they will have to detour through Austria, Szijjarto said. The same applies to Czechs returning home from Hungary. Hungary had also opened its southern border for Serbs from Monday morning.

    14:00 GMT – No reason to keep Swedes out when Nordics reopen borders: Swedish Minister

    Excluding Sweden from moves to open borders across the Nordic region as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic would be a political decision and not justifiable on health grounds, Foreign Minister Ann Linde has said.

    With many European countries looking to ease travel restrictions ahead of the summer, there are concerns elsewhere in the Nordic region that allowing Swedish tourists in could increase the risk of new infections.

    More than 4,000 Swedes have died from COVID-19, nearly four times the combined total of the other Nordic countries. Still, Linde said the disease had mostly hit the capital with border areas such as Skane, in the far south, much less affected.

    Sweden, which has not closed its borders to neighbours, opted against the hard lockdowns imposed by other Nordic countries and has kept most schools, bars and restaurants open.

    13:46 GMT – Saudi Arabia allows mosques to open for Friday prayers

    Saudi Arabia will allow mosques to open for Friday prayers, state TV has reported, as the kingdom eases restrictions on movement to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

    Mosques will be authorised to open 20 minutes before Friday prayers and should close 20 minutes after they finish, state TV said on Twitter, citing the ministry of Islamic affairs.

    Saudi authorities said on Monday that restrictions would be lifted in three phases, culminating in a curfew ending – with the exception of the holy city of Mecca – from June 21.

    13:23 GMT  – Mosques in West Bank reopen after virus closure

    Mosques in the West Bank have welcomed worshippers as the Palestinian authorities lifted most of the restrictions put in place to fight the virus outbreak.

    The reopening was welcomed by many Muslim faithful celebrating the last day of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

    “I felt a great relief, and I’m very very happy as the Eid’s celebration is now complete with the reopening of the mosque today,” said Mahmoud Adawi told the Associated Press news agency, one of the worshippers who prayed at a Bethlehem mosque.

    13:20 GMT – Putin says Russia has ‘passed peak’ of coronavirus infections

    President Vladimir Putin said Russia has passed the peak of coronavirus infections as he told his defence minister to prepare a postponed World War II parade in June.

    “According to experts the peak can be considered passed,” Putin told Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, ordering him to begin preparations for the parade marking 75 years since the defeat of Nazi Germany.

    “We will do it on June 24, the day the legendary historic victors’ parade took place in 1945,” Putin said.

    13:05 GMT – WHO warns that 1st wave of pandemic not over

    As Brazil and India struggle with surging coronavirus cases, a top health expert is warning the world is still smack in the middle of the pandemic, dampening hopes for a speedy global economic rebound and renewed international travel.

    “Right now, we’re not in the second wave. We’re right in the middle of the first wave globally,” said Dr Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s executive director. “We’re still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up,” Ryan told reporters, pointing to South America, South Asia and other areas where infections are still on the rise.

    India saw a record single-day jump in new cases for the seventh straight day. It reported 6,535 new infections Tuesday, raising its total to 145,380, including 4,167 deaths.

    13:00 GMT – Qatar Airways plans summer flights to over 80 destinations

    Qatar Airways said it plans to fly a summer schedule to over 80 destinations worldwide.

    The airline announced recently customers will be able to make unlimited changes with no fees. Date changes and even destination and origin changes will be allowed free of charge, as long as the booking is made before September 30.

    Qatar Airways also pledged to give away complimentary roundtrip airline tickets as “a thank you” to 100,000 healthcare workers across the globe who put themselves in danger while fighting coronavirus.

    12:55 GMT – Virus heightens heatwave health risks, UN warns

    The UN’s weather agency warned COVID-19 would amplify the risks of what was expected to be a record-breaking hot summer in the northern hemisphere.

    The World Meteorological Organization urged governments to make plans to keep people safe during heatwaves without spreading the coronavirus. This year is expected to be “another record-breaking heat season in the northern hemisphere”, WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis Kapp told a virtual briefing in Geneva.

    “We’re currently experiencing one of the hottest years on record. COVID-19 amplifies the health risks of hot weather for many people, and it complicates the task of managing it.”

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