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Coronavirus pandemic - Latest Updates

Senior ministers in Boris Johnson's government have rallied behind a top aide after it was reported he breached the country's coronavirus lockdown.

Dominic Cummings traveled across England to stay at his family's home while suffering from coronavirus symptoms, it has emerged.

His decision to travel out of London was “most unwise,” the acting Durham Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner, Steve White said on Saturday.

“Given the whole ethos of the guidance and regulations issued from the Government was to reduce the spread, regardless of reason, by traveling to County Durham when known to be infected was most unwise,” he said in a statement.

“To beat this crisis we need to be selfless as millions have been. The response by the people of County Durham and Darlington have been exemplary, which makes this most frustrating and concerning.

“Incidents such as this do not help, and I can appreciate that the longer this goes on the harder it gets.”

Cummings made the trip despite Johnson urging people to stay at home and banning people from visiting family members. The UK's self-isolation guidelines also state people with symptoms must not leave their home.

But Downing Street has nonetheless insisted that the aide did not breach lockdown guidelines, and a number of senior members of Johnson's Cabinet leapt to his defense on Saturday.

“Caring for your wife and child is not a crime," Michael Gove tweeted.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab added: “It’s reasonable and fair to ask for an explanation on this. And it has been provided: two parents with Coronavirus, were anxiously taking care of their young child. Those now seeking to politicise it should take a long hard look in the mirror.”

“Taking care of your wife and young child is justifiable and reasonable, trying to score political points over it isn’t," Chancellor Rishi Sunak added.

Pressure is nonetheless mounting on Johnson to sack Cummings. Days before he made the tip, the Prime Minister sent the UK into lockdown and gave the public "a very simple instruction -- you must stay at home."

"The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for Dominic Cummings," the Labour Party said in a statement.

The leaders of the Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats meanwhile called on Cummings, who played a senior role in the pro-Brexit campaign in 2016 and joined Boris Johnson in Downing Street last year, to resign or be sacked.

The Interior Ministry and faith representatives “have worked together to ensure that religious ceremonies resume, while ensuring the health protection of all,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said in a statement on Friday night. 

Mandatory health measures include wearing face masks during ceremonies and hand sanitization at the entrance, according to the Ministry. 

The French Council for the Muslim Faith announced on Friday that Eid al-Fitr celebrations would occur on Sunday, May 24, but that “given the pandemic, Eid prayer cannot be held in Mosques.”

The Bishop’s Conference of France welcomed the decision in a press release on Saturday morning, adding that each priest and their teams would be responsible for choosing which churches would be allowed to host ceremonies and the number of people allowed in.

French places of worship were never closed during the crisis, but restrictions were imposed on religious celebrations, the Interior Ministry said in the statement.

This decision was expected after the State Council, one of France’s highest jurisdictions, had ordered the government to lift the ban on religious gatherings.

Dominic Cummings (left) and Boris Johnson leave 10 Downing Street in November 2019.
Dominic Cummings (left) and Boris Johnson leave 10 Downing Street in November 2019.

The British Prime Minister’s office has denied that top adviser Dominic Cummings breached coronavirus guidelines, after it emerged he traveled across England to stay at his parents' home while showing symptoms of coronavirus.

“At no stage was he or his family spoken to by the police about this matter, as is being reported,” a spokesperson told CNN on Saturday. “His actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines. Mr. Cummings believes he behaved reasonably and legally.”

The spokesman claimed that Cummings went to a house close but separate to his family’s in northern England, in case help was needed. 

Boris Johnson is under pressure to sack Cummings after it was reported by The Guardian and The Daily Mirror that he and his wife made the trip while showing Covid-19 symptoms.

Around a week before the trip, Johnson sent the UK into lockdown and banned people from visiting other households.

"From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction -- you must stay at home," he said in his March 23 address to the nation. "You should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home."

The government's guidance on self-isolating also makes clear that people should stay at home if they have symptoms of the virus, and encourages people with children to do their best to stick to the guidance.

But the government spokesperson added: “Owing to his wife being infected with suspected coronavirus and the high likelihood that he would himself become unwell, it was essential for Dominic Cummings to ensure his young child could be properly cared for.

“His sister and nieces had volunteered to help so he went to a house near to but separate from his extended family in case their help was needed. His sister shopped for the family and left everything outside," the spokesperson added.

Russia reported 9,434 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, as questions continue to be raised about the safety of frontline workers and the country's official Covid-19 figures.

Russia now officially has 335,882 cases of Covid-19, making it the country with the second-highest number of confirmed cases. It has recorded 3,388 deaths attributed to the virus.

But there have been suggestions that even those numbers understate the true scale of the country's outbreak.

In an Instagram Live interview Sunday with a local journalist, the head of Dagestan's ministry of health gave figures far higher than Moscow's, saying the total number of people infected with coronavirus and community-acquired pneumonia in the southern Russian republic exceeded 13,000, with 657 dead.

Asked by journalist Ruslan Kurbanov to explain why Covid-19 and pneumonia cases were being counted separately, the health official, Dzhamaludin Gadzhiibragimov, responded that pneumonia patients are treated as if they have the virus, but not all cases are ascribed to coronavirus due to a lack of testing.

"Basically, the same [treatment] methodology is used for both," he said. "But because we do not have lab test confirmation, the statistics are being compiled in that way."

Doctors in the region have complained in the past weeks on social media about the lack of protective equipment, and some hospitals have not had space to treat their staff. A video of nurses hooked up to intravenous drips in a storage room in the city of Derbent went viral in early May.

Dominic Cummings outside Downing Street.
Dominic Cummings outside Downing Street.

Boris Johnson is under pressure to sack his chief aide after it was reported he and his wife breached the UK’s lockdown by traveling across England to stay with his parents, while showing symptoms of coronavirus.

Dominic Cummings drove more than 260 miles (420 km) from London to Durham, where he stayed with family members just days after Johnson put the UK into lockdown and banned family visits, an investigation by The Guardian and Daily Mirror found.

Police confirmed they attended a property in the area and spoke to an individual about the UK’s lockdown rules on March 31, PA Media reported. Downing Street has declined to comment.

“If (the media reports are) accurate, the Prime Minister’s chief adviser appears to have breached the lockdown rules. The government’s guidance was very clear: stay at home and no non-essential travel,” a Labour party spokesperson said.

"The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for Dominic Cummings. Number 10 needs to provide a very swift explanation for his actions.”

The leaders of the Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats called on Cummings, who played a senior role in the pro-Brexit campaign in 2016 and joined Boris Johnson in Downing Street last year, to resign or be sacked.

And David Lidington, Theresa May’s deputy while she was prime minister told the BBC: “There's clearly serious questions that Number 10 are going to have to address, not least because the readiness of members of the public to follow government guidance more generally is going to be affected by this sort of story."

The UK’s coronavirus restrictions made clear that people must not visit any other household, including second residences or family homes, and must not carry out any non-essential travel.

“You should not be visiting family members who do not live in your home,” the rules stated. “You should keep in touch with them using phone or video calls.” 

The country’s self-isolation guidance also states that if a person has symptoms of Covid-19, they must not leave their home for seven days.

On April 25, Cummings’ wife Mary Wakefield wrote a column in The Spectator magazine about the pair’s experience with Covid-19, but made no mention of traveling outside the capital.

“My husband did rush home to look after me,” she wrote in the piece. “After the uncertainty of the bug itself, we emerged from quarantine into the almost comical uncertainty of London lockdown,” she added.

Cummings showed symptoms shortly after Johnson revealed he had tested positive for the coronavirus. The PM later spent a brief period in intensive care with the virus. He has repeatedly urged people to stay at home.

Neil Ferguson, a leading epidemiologist who advised the UK government on its coronavirus response, was forced to resign earlier this month after it emerged he also broke the lockdown rules. 

Scotland's chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, also left her position last month after she was photographed by a Scottish newspaper near her family's second home, in a different part of the country to her Edinburgh address.

As summer approaches, temperatures are starting to rise in Europe, and citizens are looking towards their next vacations after months stuck at home under lockdown restrictions.

Just last week, the European Union unveiled a plan to "offer people the chance to get some well-needed rest, relaxation and fresh air," which included recommendations to open internal borders, revive rail, road, air and sea connections and reinvigorate its hospitality sector to boost tourism.

But authorities are already struggling to deal with an influx of tourists and locals to one of summer's most coveted locations: The beach.

On Wednesday, just days after France's lockdown restrictions eased to open hundreds of beaches, Brittany's northwest prefecture of Morbihan closed five beaches following "unacceptable behavior" and failure to comply with social distancing measures.

Meanwhile, authorities in the Dutch coastal province of Zeeland on Wednesday temporarily closed roads into the town for every weekend until June 1 because of predicted good weather and an expectation that emergency measures could be violated.

In Barcelona, Spain, officials have warned citizens to stick to timeslots when visiting the beach, and in the UK, ahead of a public holiday on Monday, councils for seaside towns and cities have issued pleas for crowds to stay away.

Read more here

Great Clips in Springfield, Missouri.
Great Clips in Springfield, Missouri. Google Maps

A hairstylist with coronavirus worked for eight days this month while symptomatic, exposing as many as 91 customers and coworkers in the US state of Missouri, health officials said.

The case highlights the threats of community spread in the US as businesses start to reopen after weeks of shutdown to combat the spread of coronavirus.

In this instance, 84 customers exposed got services from the hairstylist at Great Clips, said Clay Goddard, director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. In addition to the customers, seven colleagues were also notified of exposure.

"The individual and their clients were wearing face coverings. The 84 clients potentially directly exposed will be notified by the Health Department and be offered testing, as will seven coworkers," the Springfield-Greene County Health Department said in a statement. "It is the hope of the department that because face coverings were worn throughout this exposure timeline, no additional cases will result."

Goddard did not provide details on the identity or the condition of the stylist. He said health officials have reached out to the people who were exposed, adding that the hairstylist had kept impeccable records that made contact tracing possible.

Read the full story here.

After weeks spent holed up indoors to stop the spread of coronavirus, Americans will emerge from lockdowns to venture outdoors for Memorial Day this coming Monday.

There will be beach days, cookouts and park visits. And with the large gatherings, the risk for community spread outbreaks will be high, health officials warn.

"We'll be having people who want to get out there and get fresh air," Dr. Anthony Fauci said at a CNN coronavirus town hall. "You can do that."

But that does not mean let your guard down as coronavirus spreads.

"Go out, wear a mask, stay six feet away from anyone so you have the physical distancing," he said. "Go for a run. Go for a walk. Go fishing. As long as you're not in a crowd and you're not in a situation where you can physically transmit the virus."

Enforcing the rules: Paul Kanitra, the mayor of Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, said police will be on the beach this weekend to enforce social distancing by giving warnings or asking people to leave.

"Nobody wants to be the mayor from 'Jaws' who lets everyone back in the water a little too soon, right?" he said.

Read more here:

People wait in line to take tests for Covid-19 at a virus testing station in the nightlife district of Itaewon in Seoul on May 12.
People wait in line to take tests for Covid-19 at a virus testing station in the nightlife district of Itaewon in Seoul on May 12. Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

On May 9, reports started emerging of cases spiking in the South Korean capital of Seoul.

It immediately raised alarm; South Korea had just started loosening restrictions and opening up some businesses after largely regaining control of the outbreak that had peaked in February and March.

Authorities quickly identified the cases as concentrated in Itaewon, the entertainment district popular for bars and nightclubs. A 29-year-old man infected with Covid-19 had visited several clubs, where he transmitted the virus to dozens more people.

There have now been 219 cases linked to the nightclub cluster, Kwon Jun-wook, deputy director of Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Saturday.

The KCDC said yesterday that the man had infected 95 people in Itaewon, who then spread the virus further.

The numbers: South Korea now has 11,165 cases nationwide and 266 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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