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at 7.23am BST
Global report: Wuhan lab says its bat strains were not Covid-19 as US nears 100,00 deaths
The virology lab in Wuhan, the city at the heart of the outbreak, was working on three live strains of bat coronavirus, but none of them match the one that has caused the Covid-19 pandemic, its director has said.
Wang Yanyi told Chinese state broadcaster CGTN that the closest genetic match to the virus spreading around the world was only 79.8%, adding that claims made by US president Donald Trump and others that the virus could have leaked from the facility were “pure fabrication”.
She said: “Our institute first received the clinical sample of the unknown pneumonia on December 30 last year … We didn’t have any knowledge before that, nor had we ever encountered, researched or kept the virus. In fact, like everyone else, we didn’t even know the virus existed. How could it have leaked from our lab when we never had it?”
The attempt by the laboratory to refute the claims is nevertheless likely to add more fuel to the conspiracy rumours.
The interview came amid fears the US will suffer a second wave of coronavirus infections as it opens up for summer, just days away from the grim milestone of 100,000 Covid-19 deaths.
The New York Times marked the looming threshold with a front page listing nearly 1,000 Covid-19 death notices, gleaned from hundreds of US papers. The headline spoke of an “incalculable loss”.
Charities call for new youth corps to tackle UK virus jobs crisis
A coalition of British youth charities is urging the government to back a “national youth corps” to create opportunities for school and university leavers facing the toughest labour market for decades. The alliance of 12 organisations argues that decisive intervention can “turn this looming disaster into an opportunity”.
The new youth corps would guarantee at least the minimum wage for 16- to 25-year-olds in a range of work and training opportunities until the end of 2021.
US has seen at least nine separate coronavirus-related shootings
There have been at least nine separate shootings in the United States linked to conflicts over coronavirus public health restrictions, from mask-wearing to social distancing rules, according to The Trace, a nonprofit news outlet focused on gun violence.
At least four people have died and seven have been wounded in the shootings, The Trace found, looking at data from the Gun Violence Archive, which assembles real-time data on shootings based on news reports.
The coronavirus-linked incidents include arguments over mask-wearing on public transit and in businesses, including a man in Colorado who reportedly shot and wounded a Waffle House employee who confronted him over not wearing a mask, and a man in Texas who reportedly shot a bus passenger after being told he could not board the bus without a mask.
Coronavirus-related restrictions have led to at least 9 shootings across the U.S., according to an analysis of @GunDeaths data.
One sociologist isn’t surprised: “There is a lot of anger, frustration, stress, despair, depression, fear, and hopelessness.” https://t.co/KHIximftsl
May 22, 2020
Thailand on Sunday reported no new coronavirus cases and no new deaths, with a total of 3,040 confirmed cases and 56 fatalities since the outbreak began in January.
Sunday was the fourth day in this month that there were no new daily cases, said Panprapa Yongtrakul, a spokeswoman for the government’s coronavirus task force.
There are 2,921 patients who have recovered and returned home since the outbreak started.
Thai Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr at The Foundation of the Islamic Centre of Thailand to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan on 24 May 2020 in Bangkok, Thailand. Photograph: Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images
at 6.50am BST
Verna Yu reports for the Guardian:
In Hong Kong, small groups of activists and pro-democracy politicians have begun marching to China’s liaison office, arranging themselves in groups of eight in order not to breach the government’s social distancing rules.
Local district councillors tear a poster depicting Winnie the Pooh tearing up the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, during a protest against a newly proposed national security law outside the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong, China, 24 May 2020. Photograph: Jérôme Favre/EPA
“A characteristic of a dictatorial country is that they use national security as a pretext to suppress freedom of speech,” Roy Tam, a district councillor shouted through a loud hailer.
Eight activists from another group, League of Social Democrats, arrived to demonstrate in front of the office minutes later.
“Hong Kong people defending our human rights,” they chanted. “Don’t forget the June 4 massacre! Human rights are higher than the regime! Down with Communist Party dictatorship!”
You can read the full report here:
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Australian mining magnate Clive Palmer will lodge documents with the country’s high court this week, arguing Western Australia’s border closure is unconstitutional, as the state again recorded no new cases of Covid-19, AAP reports.
Palmer wanted to visit WA for meetings with businesspeople, senator Mathias Cormann and potential 2021 state election candidates for his United Australia party, but was rejected due to coronavirus restrictions.
Businessman Clive Palmer wanted to visit Western Australia, which has border restrictions in place. Photograph: Dan Peled/AAP
“Closing down the border is not only an act of stupidity by WA premier Mark McGowan, but it is against the Australian constitution and I am confident the high court will see it that way as well,” Palmer said in a statement on Sunday.
“The WA premier needs to act now to ensure a successful future beyond Covid-19 by opening his borders to allow trade and travel from Australian states into WA. It is a matter of national importance that the borders be open.”
Palmer said he would lodge the legal documents on Monday and hoped to have a directions hearing in the high court by the end of the week.
McGowan said on Friday that he endorsed the WA police commissioner’s decision not to grant Palmer an exemption from the travel ban.
The premier has continued to insist WA’s interstate borders will remain closed for months, despite criticism from some, including NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian.
WA’s coronavirus tally remains at 560, including just two active cases.
at 7.36am BST
Morrison dismisses calls for treasurer to face questioning over AU$60bn jobkeeper
The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has dismissed calls for his treasurer to face questioning before a Senate inquiry over the AU$60bn (US$39bn) reduction in the estimated cost of the government’s jobkeeper wage subsidy program.
In a press conference, Morrison denied the revision – along with the new estimate only 3.5 million workers will be covered by the scheme, not 6.5 million – raised any issue with the government’s overall economic competence.
He said when the Treasury had calculated its original estimate that the program would cost $130bn over six months, they were very uncertain economic times, and the government had moved very quickly to launch the scheme.
“On the day it was a big gulp for the government to understand what we needed to do but we didn’t flinch. We knew this was necessary and we responded quickly. We made the estimates based on the best information we had available to us and that provided to be overly cautious.”
He said there had been no loss to the taxpayer – “in fact it’s been the reverse”.
Morrison said the move by Labor senator Katy Gallagher to call the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, to appear before the Senate Select Committee on Covid-19 was “a political stunt”.
A government spokesperson said the arrangements for the Covid-19 committee were for ministers who served in the lower house to be represented by their Senate representative ministers, akin to Senate estimates hearings.
Here are the most important developments in the pandemic in Australia so far today:
Scott Morrison urges state leaders to justify economic damage from ongoing border restrictions. In Australia, Scott Morrison has urged several state leaders who are still maintaining domestic border restrictions to justify the potential economic damage. The prime minister did not go as far as some of his Coalition colleagues in calling for premiers such as Annastacia Palaszczuk in Queensland to swiftly lift border restrictions, but he emphasised that the national cabinet had never agreed to internal border closures and leaders should be accountable to their voters.
Pompeo implies Belt and Road projects may threaten US info sharing with Australia. The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has implied information sharing with Australia may be put at risk if the Australian state of Victoria proceeds with any Belt and Road projects that jeopardise communications networks. Issuing the highly qualified warning during an interview with Sky News Australia, the News Corp-owned channel, Pompeo urged Victoria to scrutinise any proposals “incredibly closely” because Belt and Road projects could “build up the capacity of the Chinese Communist party to do harm”.
Beauty salons to reopen in New South Wales from 1 June. State health minister, Brad Hazzard, has announced that beauty, tanning, nail and waxing salons will all be open from 1 June. “Of all of the requests I’ve had as health minister in the last three months, this has been the one that I think has topped the barrel … I didn’t even know there was such a thing as acrylic nails, but I’m very pleased to say that they are now open,” Hazzard said. He said salon operators would have to have a Covid-safe plan and stick to physical distancing measures.
Six million Australians download tracing app. Six million Australians have now downloaded the Covidsafe app, less than a month after it was launched to help health authorities trace coronavirus infections.
In Australia, Victorian state premier, Daniel Andrews, has announced Victorians will be allowed to have 20 people in homes and outdoors as well as overnight stays in hotels from next month, AAP reports. Victoria will further ease restrictions by the end of May, as schools and some outdoor facilities go back to a new normal from Tuesday. The total number of coronavirus cases in Victoria is 1,603.
at 5.59am BST