4.02am BST

More from Japan, where one of the country’s best-known comedians has apologised for suggesting that financial hardship caused by the coronavirus outbreak would force attractive women to work in the commercial sex industry once the crisis is over.

Takashi Okamura, one half of the comedy duo Ninety-nine, said he deeply regretted” the remarks, made late last week during his All Night Nippon radio show.
The 49-year-old said in a statement that he had made the comments “without considering circumstances around the world,” adding they were “extremely inappropriate towards people who are in a tough position”, according to the Kyodo news agency.

Okamura had been responding to a listener who complained that he was unable to visit commercial sex establishements during the pandemic. “After the coronavirus is over, something fantastic will happen,” Okamura responded. “You will think, ‘I’ve never seen girls like this’ … so please hold on, save your money and spend it (in the sex industry)“ once the pandemic has ended.

Nippon Broadcasting System, which airs the show, said Okamura’s remarks showed “a lack of understanding of the current coronavirus crisis, as well as a lack of respect for women”.

3.41am BST

Japan expected to extend state of emergency by a month

Japan’s government is expected to extend a nationwide state of emergency for another month, local media have reported, after the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, described the coronavirus outbreak as “severe”.

Abe declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other prefectures on 7 April, enabling local governors to request that people avoid unnecessary trips outside and that nonessential businesses close. There are no fines or other penalties for non-compliance, however.

The measures, which have since been introduced in all 47 of Japan’s prefectures, were due to stay in place until 6 May – the end of a series of public holidays known as Golden Week – but the Nikkei business daily said on Thursday that Abe was poised to extend them by another month.

A station staff wearing face mask to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus looks at a subway arriving at a station in Tokyo Thursday, 30 April 2020. Photograph: Eugene Hoshiko/AP

“It is still very uncertain whether we will be able to say, ‘It’s over,’ on 6 May,” Abe said in parliament on Wednesday, as local leaders voiced concern that infections could spread if people stopped socially distancing and started moving around again.

Abe is expected to announce the extension after meeting experts on Friday, the Nikkei said, adding that he would take into account how the virus was spreading, whether people were reducing their contact with others, and the state of the country’s health services.

While the number of daily cases in Tokyo appears to have stabilised since a peak of 201 on 17 April, a government official told the newspaper that the apparent slowdown in the capital and other areas did not warrant a relaxation of restrictions.
“We will have a hard time lifting the state of emergency unless we can bring new infections down to 20 or 30 people,”the official said.

Japan has reported just over 14,000 Covid-19 cases and more than 420 deaths.

3.35am BST

Podcast: Should the UK bail out Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic?

Guardian wealth correspondent Rupert Neate looks at why billionaire Sir Richard Branson is asking the UK government to give his Virgin Atlantic airline a £500m bailout to help it survive the economic fallout of the lockdown.

3.20am BST

Police called after New York funeral home puts bodies in trucks

Police were called to a Brooklyn funeral home Wednesday after it resorted to storing dozens of bodies on ice in rented truck, the Associated Press reports.

Police were called to a Brooklyn neighbourhood Wednesday after a funeral home overwhelmed by the coronavirus resorted to storing dozens of bodies on ice in rented trucks, and a passerby complained about the smell, officials said.

Investigators who responded to a 911 call found that the home had rented four trucks to hold about 50 corpses, according to a law enforcement official. No criminal charges were brought and the official, who was not authorised to speak publicly about the investigation, spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

A woman walks past trucks parked outside the Andrew Cleckley Funeral Home in Brooklyn, New York. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

The Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home was cited for failing to control the odours. The home was able to obtain a larger, refrigerated truck later in the day, the official said.

Workers suited up in protective gear could be seen in the afternoon transferring bodies into the refrigerated truck.

New York City funeral homes have struggled as at least 18,000 people have died in the city since late March.

The city set up temporary morgues. Hospitals used refrigerated tractor trailers to cart away multiple bodies at a time, sometimes loading them in public view on the sidewalk. Crematoriums have been backed up. Funeral directors across the city have pleaded for help as they have run out of space.

2.44am BST

A pregnant Native American woman incarcerated in a federal prison in Texas was diagnosed with coronavirus and died in federal custody on Tuesday, officials said.

Andrea Circle Bear, 30, had been sentenced to more than two years in prison on a drug charge this January. She delivered her baby by caesarean section while on a ventilator in a Texas hospital on 1 April, and died there on 28 April.

Circle Bear’s child survived, but officials declined to provide any additional information on the baby’s condition or where the child is now, “out of respect for the family and for privacy reasons”, a Bureau of Prisons spokesman said.

The 30-year-old woman “had a pre-existing medical condition” that made her more at risk for a severe case of coronavirus, according to federal officials, who did not specify what the condition was.

2.34am BST

Watch as Trump says coronavirus will be ‘eradicated’ – while US death toll passes 60,000:

Trump says coronavirus will be ‘eradicated’ as US death toll passes 60,000 – video

‘It’s going to leave. It’s going to be gone. It’s going to be eradicated,’ US president Donald Trump said of the coronavirus during a White House round table with business leaders. His comment comes as the number of Americans who have died of coronavirus passed 60,000. Trump was asked if he wanted the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help fast track the use of a closely watched intravenous therapeutic drug, remdesivir, currently undergoing trials for treating Covid-19 patients. ‘We want everything to be safe, but we would like to see very quick approvals, especially with things that work,’ Trump said. The US’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, has said that the antiviral drug remdesivir will become the standard of care for Covid-19 after early results showed it helped patients recover more quickly from the illness.

2.17am BST

President Donald Trump also told Reuters on Wednesday he does not believe opinion polls that show his likely Democratic presidential opponent, Joe Biden, leading in the 2020 race for the White House.

During an interview in the Oval Office, the Republican president said he did not expect the election to be a referendum on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and added he was surprised the former vice president was doing well.

“I don’t believe the polls,” Trump said. “I believe the people of this country are smart. And I don’t think that they will put a man in who’s incompetent.”

In case you missed it: in the interview Trump also said that coronavirus has “upset very badly” the US trade deal with China, and that China “will do anything they can to have me lose in 2020.”

at 2.20am BST

1.53am BST

Confirmed cases of coronavirus infection in Panama reached 6,378 on Wednesday, a rise of 178 from the previous day, and deaths climbed by two to 178, the health ministry said.

Director of Epidemiology Lourdes Moreno gave the Central American country’s latest data at a news conference.

Health workers participate in the blood donation campaign in Panama City, Panama, 27 April 2020. Photograph: Carlos Lemos/EPA

1.38am BST

China meanwhile has again reported zero new deaths from coronavirus.

There were four new imported cases, down from 21 the day before, and four local cases, down from 22 the day before. Asymptomatic cases increased by 33 new cases, a higher count than 26 cases the day before.

There are currently 82,862 confirmed cases and 4,633 deaths, according to government figures.

China is taking more steps indicating it feels the virus is under control. The country’s parliament is to hold its annual meeting from 22 May, and the Forbidden City will reopen on Friday in Beijing.

Tourists and clerks wear protective masks in a traditional souvenir shop near City God Temple on 29 April 2020 in Shanghai, China. Photograph: Yves Dean/Getty Images

1.23am BST

Trump says China wants him to lose 2020 election

US president Donald Trump, in an Oval Office interview with Reuters, has said he is looking into different options for the consequences China might face for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. “I can do a lot,” he said.

Trump said that coronavirus has “upset very badly” the US trade deal with China, and that China “will do anything they can to have me lose in 2020.”

Trump does not see the 2020 election as being a referendum on his handling of the pandemic, he said.

US President Donald Trump answers questions during an interview with Reuters in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, US, 29 April 2020. Photograph: Carlos Barría/Reuters

at 1.24am BST

12.56am BST

South Africa’s virus cases jump past 5,000 after highest daily rise

The number of coronavirus cases in South Africa surged past the 5,000 mark on Thursday after it saw the largest single-day jump to date, health ministry figures showed.

A total of 354 new cases were confirmed on Thursday, bringing the overall total to 5,350, and the number of fatalities spiked by 10 to 103.

“This is the highest number of cases in a 24 hour cycle recorded to date and represents a 73 percent increase relative to the day before,” said the ministry in a statement. The day before, a total 203 new cases had been reported.

South Africa remains the continent’s worst infected country, followed by Egypt.

It is due to start gradually easing its strict lockdown regulations from 1 May. The restrictions have been in place since 27 March.

South African children sit two metres apart as they wait for a meal in the informal settlement of Masincedane, a beneficiary of the 9 Miles Project and Hope Southern Africa (HOSA) COVID-19 feeding scheme in Cape Town, South Africa, 28 April 2020. Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA

12.47am BST

China to reopen Forbidden City

China’s Forbidden City will reopen on Friday, three months after it closed due to the coronavirus crisis – the latest signal that the country has brought the disease under control, AFP reports.

The sprawling imperial palace sitting across Tiananmen Square was shut down on January 25 as authorities closed tourist attractions and took other extraordinary measures to contain the virus, including locking down an entire province.

Security guards wearing a protective face masks stand near an entrance of the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, 20 April 2020. Photograph: Wu Hong/EPA

The Palace Museum, which manages the Forbidden City, announced Wednesday that it will reopen from May 1, with a daily limit of 5,000 visitors – down from 80,000 before the pandemic.

Authorities have implemented other measures to reduce risks of infections at the cultural site, which in normal times attracted huge crowds.

Visitors will have to wear masks and show health codes on a special mobile phone app that indicates if they are an infection risk before entering. Temperatures will be taken at the entrance and anyone coughing or showing a fever will be turned away. Visitors will have to stand one metre from each other.

Within half an hour of the announcement, around 2,500 tickets for 1 May were booked, according to the ticketing website.

at 12.47am BST

12.32am BST

A top World Health Organization official declined comment on Wednesday on reports that Gilead Science’s remdesivir could help treat Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but said that further data was needed, Reuters reports.

“I wouldn’t like to make any specific comment on that, because I haven’t read those publications in detail,” Dr Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergencies programme, told an online briefing in response to a question, adding it can sometimes take a number of publications to determine a drug’s efficacy.

“Clearly we have the randomised control trials that are underway both in the UK and US, the ‘Solidarity trials’ with WHO. Remdesivir is one of the drugs under observation in many of those trials. So I think a lot more data will come out,” he said.

Ryan added: “But we are hopeful this drug and others may prove to be helpful in treating Covid-19.”

12.20am BST

In case you missed it, here is our full story on the nearly 100 cases of a rare ‘Covid-linked’ syndrome in children reported in at least six countries.

The Guardian’s Ian Sample and Denis Campbell report:

Doctors around the world have reported more cases of a rare but potentially lethal inflammatory syndrome in children that appears to be linked to coronavirus infections.

Nearly 100 cases of the unusual illness have emerged in at least six countries, with doctors in Britain, the US, France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland now reported to be investigating the condition.

The first cases came to light this week when the NHS issued an alert to paediatricians about a number of children admitted to intensive care units with a mix of toxic shock and a condition known as Kawasaki disease, an inflammatory disorder that affects the blood vessel, heart and other organs. So far 19 children have been affected in the UK and none have died.

The French health minister, Olivier Veran, said on Wednesday that the country had more than a dozen children with inflammation around the heart, and while there was insufficient evidence to prove a link with coronavirus, he said the cases were being taken “very seriously.”

At least three children in the US aged six months to eight years are being treated for a similar condition.

at 12.21am BST

12.12am BST


Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Helen Sullivan, with you for the next few hours.

A reminder that tips, questions, comments and stories from your part of the world are welcome on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

Doctors around the world have reported more cases of a rare but potentially lethal inflammatory syndrome in children that appears to be linked to coronavirus infections.

Nearly 100 cases of the unusual illness have emerged in at least six countries, with doctors in Britain, the US, France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland now reported to be investigating the condition.

This worrying news comes as the UK has included deaths outside hospital in its official figure for the first time, bringing the toll to 26,166: higher than France and Spain’s tolls.

The official global death toll exceeded 225,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data, with the official toll at 226,771. At least 3,187,919 people have been infected worldwide.
Donald Trump has said the federal government will not be extending its coronavirus social distancing guidelines once they expire on Thursday. Meanwhile, the number of Americans who have died of coronavirus surpassed 60,000, a toll far higher than any other country.
US drug trial shows ‘clear cut’ effect, says top medic. While a Chinese trial demonstrated no “significant clinical benefits” to administering the antiviral drug remdesivir to Covid-19 patients, a separate trial in the US shows a “clear-cut” effect, according to the head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci.
More cases of ‘Covid-linked’ syndrome in children. Doctors around the world have reported more cases of a rare but potentially lethal inflammatory syndrome in children that appears to be linked to coronavirus infections. Nearly 100 cases of the unusual illness have emerged in at least six countries, with doctors in Britain, the US, France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland now reported to be investigating the condition.
Half world’s workers ‘at risk of unemployment’. The International Labour Organisation has warned that almost half the global workforce – 1.6 billion people – are in “immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed” by the economic impact of Covid-19, Philip Inman, a Guardian economics writer, reports.
Official UK death toll up by 4,419, after the government included deaths outside hospital for the first time. As of 5pm on Tuesday, total of 26,097 patients had died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK, according to Public Health England.
Brazil sees record increase in cases. Brazil has reported a record increase in cases, with its ministry of health confirming 6,276 more infections in a 24-hour period, taking the country’s total to 78,162.
Ireland looks set to extend its lockdown, despite growing calls to ease restrictions and salvage the economy.The taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said on Wednesday that new cases of Covid-19 infections, deaths and intensive care admissions appeared too high to start relaxing rules that are to expire on 5 May.
Swiss government extends ban on large public events. The Swiss government has extended its ban on public events exceeding 1000 people until the end of August, even as it announced the easing of some other restrictions on sporting events, shops, restaurants and museums.
Sweden passes 20,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus. The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Sweden rose past the 20,000 mark on Wednesday, after the Nordic country reported another 681 infections.
Five coronavirus cases have been reported in Aden, southern Yemen, by the country’s internationally recognised government, raising the prospect that the war-ravaged country will soon also have an outbreak of the new disease.
China’s parliament is to hold its annual meeting from 22 May – more than two months later than planned. Conditions for holding the meeting have been met as the coronavirus situation has improved, decision makers said.
Russia’s coronavirus case tally neared the 100,000 milestone, after the country reported 5,841 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing its overall nationwide tally to 99,399, Reuters reports.
UK government is still aiming for 100,000 daily tests by tomorrow, according to the environment secretary, George Eustice. He said the search for an effective antibody test was still under way and denied that earlier introduction of testing at care homes would have saved lives.
The coronavirus outbreak needs to be contained before 2021 Olympics can go ahead, the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said. “The Olympic Games must be held in a way that shows the world has won its battle against the coronavirus pandemic.”
The UK prime minister Boris Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds announced the birth of a baby boy. Johnson returned to frontline work on Monday after falling ill with coronavirus and spending time in intensive care.
Air passenger numbers are down 99% in the UK, the home secretary told MPs, as she defended the government’s decision not to test individuals entering the country. On Friday, a total of 9,906 people entered the country.

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