The global coronavirus pandemic has affected more than five million people, with over 340,000 deaths, according to a tracker. Here are coronavirus-related updates for May 23:

A protester of the
A protester of the "Mascherine Tricolore" movement wearing a protective mask in the colours of the Italian flag participates in a demonstration against the economic measures adopted by the government, amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, in Rome, Italy, May 23, 2020. (Reuters)

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Italy's daily death toll eases

Italy recorded 119 new deaths from the pandemic against 130 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, while the daily tally of new cases rose marginally to 669 from 652 on Friday.

The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21 now stands at 32,735, the agency said, the third highest in the world after those of the United States and Britain.

The Civil Protection Agency said the total number of confirmed cases in Italy since the start of its outbreak now amounts to 229,327, the sixth highest global tally behind those of the United States, Russia, Spain, Britain and Brazil.

Spain's toll climbs by 48

Spain's overnight death toll from the coronavirus rose by 48 to a total of 28,678, the seventh straight day that the fatality rate has been less than 100, while the total number of cases rose to 235,290.

Spain will reopen its borders to tourists in July and its top soccer division will kick off again in June, the Prime Minister said, marking another phase in the easing of one of the world's strictest lockdowns.

Turkey's test numbers up, virus cases stay low

Turkey confirmed 1,186 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total to 155,686, continuing the trend of low case numbers in recent days, according to Health Ministry data posted on Twitter.

Recoveries from the disease hit 117,602 as 1,491 more patients were discharged from hospitals over the past day, said Health Minister Fahrettin Koca .

The death toll from the outbreak rose to 4,308 as the country reported 32 new fatalities in the last 24 hours, according to ministry data.

Number of patients in France continues to slide

The number of people in hospital in France fell by 205 to 17,178, continuing a gradual decline that has lasted more than five weeks since a high of 32,292 on April 14.

The number of people in intensive care fell by 36 or 2.1 percent to 1,665.

France did not publish a revised number of deaths and said the toll will be updated on Monday. As of Thursday, a total of 28,215 people had died from the virus. 

Groups of up to 10 must aim to stay "safe" - NY governor

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo advised people to exercise good judgment and social distancing when gathering in groups of up to 10 people as allowed in an executive order loosening restrictions issued late on Friday.

In his daily briefing, he said New York recorded 84 coronavirus deaths on May 22 compared with 109 the day before, continuing a downward trend in the state's toll from the pandemic.

"You can have a safe gathering of 10 people or you can have a wholly unsafe gathering of 10 people," said Cuomo. "If you don't have to be with a group of ten people don't be with a group of ten people." 

Palestinians report first death in Gaza

A woman has died in Gaza Strip after contracting coronavirus, the Palestinian enclave's first fatality from the global pandemic, the health ministry said.

It said the 77-year-old woman had suffered from a prior chronic illness and had travelled to Gaza through neighbouring Egypt on May 19. She had been quarantined as a precaution since then, the ministry said.

UK death toll up by 282

The United Kingdom's death toll from confirmed cases of Covid-19 rose by 282 to 36,675, the government said.

"Tragically, 36,675 people have now died," Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told reporters at a Downing Street briefing. 

Soccer-La Liga season can resume from June 8 

Spanish soccer's top flight division La Liga can return to action from June 8 after being disrupted by the pandemic, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said.

All organised soccer in Spain was provisionally suspended on March 12 although clubs in the top two divisions have since returned to group training. 

Pandemic spreading in Bangladesh's Rohingya camps

Bangladesh’s crammed Rohingya camps are threatened with the outbreak as the infection tally rose to 21 with eight new cases reported on Friday, a government official said.

The first case in the world’s biggest refugee camps was recorded on May 14 and it took one week to push the infection tally to the second digit mark.

Iran's death toll rises to 7,359

Iran confirmed 59 more fatalities over the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide death toll to 7,359. 

A further 1,869 people tested positive for virus, raising the overall count to 133,521, said the Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour. 

He said 104,072 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals so far, while 2,633 patients remain in critical condition.

China reports zero cases

China reported no new confirmed infections or deaths and only two suspected cases during the past 24 hours. That added to evidence that the country has largely overcome the epidemic that began in the central industrial city of Wuhan.

The National Health Commission said 79 patients were still being treated as of Friday. Some 376 others are in isolation and being monitored as either suspected cases or for testing positive without showing symptoms. 

China has reported a total of 82,971 cases, including 4,634 deaths.

Russia reports 9,434 new infections

Russia said 9,434 new cases of the novel coronavirus had been reported during the past 24 hours, pushing its nationwide tally to 335,882.

The country's coronavirus crisis response centre reported 139 new fatalities after a record of 150 deaths the day before, bringing the death toll to 3,388.

Malaysia reports 48 new cases, no new deaths

Malaysia reported 48 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 7,185.

The health ministry also said no new deaths were recorded, with the number of fatalities remaining at 115.

China's Wuhan says conducted 1,470,950 tests

The city of Wuhan, the original epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in China, conducted 1,470,950 nucleic acid tests for the virus on Friday, the local health authority said, compared with 1,000,729 tests the previous day.

Wuhan kicked off a campaign on May 14 to look for asymptomatic carriers - infected people who show no outward sign of illness - after confirming on May 9-10 its first cluster of Covid-19 infections since its lockdown was lifted on April 8.

Protests in Spain against government's handling of Covid-19

Thousands of cars honking horns and flying Spanish flags out of their windows drove in procession through Madrid as part of a nationwide anti-government protest called by the far-right Vox party.

Protesters called for Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias to resign over their handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Iran to reopen religious, cultural sites - president

Iran moved to open businesses, religious and cultural sites as it eases restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Museums and historical sites are to reopen on Sunday to coincide with the Eid al Fitr celebrations that end the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, President Hassan Rouhani said on state television.

Holy shrines — some of which became focal points of the coronavirus epidemic in Iran - will reopen Monday.

Rouhani had said last week that the shrines would open for three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon. Some areas of the shrines such as narrow corridors will stay shut. All workers in the country will return to work next Saturday.

Singapore's health ministry confirms 642 more cases

Singapore's health ministry said it had confirmed 642 more coronavirus cases, taking its tally of infections to 31,068.

The vast majority of the newly infected people are migrant workers living in dormitories, the ministry said in a statement. Six are permanent residents.

Thailand reports three new cases, no new deaths

Thailand reported three new coronavirus cases and no new deaths, bringing the country's total to 3,040 confirmed cases and 56 fatalities since the outbreak started in January.

The new cases are two Thai nationals recently returned from overseas and under quarantine and a 49-year-old Italian man living in Phuket, said Panprapa Yongtrakul, a spokeswoman for the government's coronavirus task force.

There are 2,916 patients who have recovered and returned home since the outbreak started, Panprapa said.

UN warns cybercrime on rise during pandemic

The UN disarmament chief says the Covid-19 pandemic is moving the world toward increased technological innovation and online collaboration, but “cybercrime is also on the rise, with a 600 percent increase in malicious emails during the current crisis.”

Izumi Nakamitsu told an informal meeting of the UN Security Council that “there have also been worrying reports of attacks against health care organisations and medical research facilities worldwide.”

She said growing digital dependency has increased the vulnerability to cyberattacks, and “it is estimated that one such attack takes place every 39 seconds.”

South Korea reports 23 new cases

South Korea reported 23 new cases of the coronavirus, mostly from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area where authorities have shut down thousands of nightclubs, bars and karaoke rooms in a desperate attempt to stem transmissions.

Figures announced by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought national totals to 11,165 cases and 266 deaths. Thirteen of the new cases came from Gyeonggi province surrounding capital Seoul, which issued an administrative order to ban gatherings at an additional 2,629 bars and karaoke rooms, bringing its number of shut-down entertainment venues to 8,363.

The country was reporting around 500 new cases a day in early March before using aggressive tracing and testing to stabilise its outbreak. 

But there’s growing concern over the steady rise of infections in the greater capital area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live, which came after health authorities relaxed social distancing guidelines and allowed a phased reopening of schools, starting with high school seniors on Wednesday.

Germany's cases rise by 638 to 177,850

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 638 to 177,850, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 42 to 8,216, the tally showed.

Australia calls on younger people to get tests

Australia's most populous state said it recorded just three new cases of the coronavirus the previous day and urged younger people to get tested as it prepares to further loosen restrictions on pubs and restaurants.

New South Wales (NSW), which includes the city of Sydney, is home to nearly half Australia's roughly 7,100 coronavirus cases and plans to let pubs and restaurants host up to 50 seated patrons from June 1, from 10 now.

That has prompted health officials to remind people to maintain social distancing measures and increase testing to prevent a "second wave" of infections.

Australia's low number of Covid-19 infections and deaths, relative to many other countries, has been attributed mostly to a closure of national and state borders and a nationwide stay-home order now being unwound by states under a three-step federal plan.

US to exempt foreign athletes from virus-related entry bans

The United States will exempt some foreign athletes who compete in professional sporting events in the United States from entry bans imposed because of the novel coronavirus epidemic, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said on Friday.

"In today’s environment, Americans need their sports. It’s time to reopen the economy and it’s time we get our professional athletes back to work," Wolf said in a statement issued by the department announcing he had signed an order for the exemption.

Mexico reports another single-day record for virus deaths

Mexico on Friday registered a record for coronavirus deaths on a single day, posting 479 more deaths along with 2,960 new infections, according to data from the health ministry.

Authorities have now reported 62,527 total cases of the coronavirus and 6,989 deaths since detecting the first cases in Mexico in late February.

The previous peak in fatalities was May 20, when authorities reported 424 deaths.

Brazil rises to No. 2 in coronavirus cases

Brazil overtook Russia on Friday in terms of the number of coronavirus cases, having registered 330,890 people who have contracted the virus, second only to the United States.

Brazil registered 1,001 daily coronavirus deaths on Friday, taking total deaths to 21,048, according to the health ministry.

However the true number - both of cases and deaths - is likely higher as Latin America's top economy has been slow to ramp up testing. 

NBA great and Georgetown coach Ewing hospitalised with Covid-19

NBA Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing, now the head basketball coach at Georgetown University, is in hospital with Covid-19.

Ewing, 57, said on Twitter on Friday he had tested positive for the virus.

France allows faith gatherings

France is to allow the resumption of religious gatherings after a two-month hiatus caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, but worshippers will have to wear face masks, the French interior ministry announced.

The ministry said late on Friday that it would issue a decree setting out the new rules for religious gatherings.

Under the decree, a ban on gatherings imposed in March, as part of government efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus, would be rescinded. But collective worship would have to observe conditions, including the wearing of masks, a distance of at least one metre between worshippers and hand-washing, the ministry said in a statement.

Latin America named virus epicentre as Trump demands churches reopen

The World Health Organization declared Latin America "a new epicentre" of the coronavirus pandemic Friday as US President Donald Trump demanded churches reopen despite the ongoing Covid-19 threat.

Mexico cancels football season

The remainder of the season of Mexican top-tier football division was cancelled Friday in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Liga MX said the league agreed to conclude the 2020 Clausura season for health reasons and no club will be declared winner.

The top two teams, Cruz Azul and Leon, are eligible to join the CONCACAF Champions League next season.

Mexico says it has avoided coronavirus 'deluge' even as cases mount

Mexico's government said on Friday it had the coronavirus outbreak under control even as the country becomes one of the global hotspots for the pandemic.

The health ministry had forecast the outbreak could peak two weeks ago, but Mexico has posted its highest totals of deaths and infections in the past two days, trailing only the United States and Brazil for fatalities on Wednesday and Thursday.

Coronavirus brought EU, Turkey ‘closer’

The European Union and Turkey got closer during the fight against novel coronavirus, which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, a senior Turkish official said Friday.

“I think coronavirus crisis brought Turkey and the EU closer to each other but also demonstrated what Turkey can do in crisis times for the good and benefit of all of us in Europe,” said Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs & Director for EU Affairs Ambassador Faruk Kaymakci.

Cuba credits two drugs with slashing coronavirus death toll

Communist-run Cuba said this week that use of two drugs produced by its biotech industry that reduce hyper-inflammation in seriously ill Covid-19 patients has sharply curbed its coronavirus-related death toll.

Health authorities have reported just two virus-related deaths over the past nine days among more than 200 active cases on the Caribbean's largest island, a sign they may have the worst of the outbreak under control.

The government, which hopes to increase its biopharmaceutical exports, has touted various drugs it produces for helping prevent infection with the new coronavirus and treating the Covid-19 disease it causes.

Peru extends protracted national lockdown until end of June

Peru on Friday extended its state of emergency and a nationwide lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic until the end of June, marking one of the longest periods of mandatory isolation in the world.

The Andean nation, which began the lockdown in mid-March, will have lived under it for more than 3-1/2 months by a June 30 expiration, outlasting restrictions in Italy, Spain and China, some of the hardest hit countries in the pandemic.

Friday's extension, announced by President Martin Vizcarra, came as Peru's confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 111,698, the second highest total in Latin America.

The death toll stood at 3,244 on Friday.

Africa coronavirus cases top 100,000

Africa has now recorded more than 100,000 cases of coronavirus, according to an AFP tally drawn from official figures on Friday.

Across the continent, a total of 100,002 cases had been registered as of 1100 GMT Friday, of which 3,095 were fatal.

Countries in northern Africa have the highest death tolls, led by Egypt (696 deaths from 15,003 cases) and Algeria (575 deaths from 7,728 cases).

South of the Sahara, the highest tolls have been in South Africa (397 deaths out of 20,125 cases) and Nigeria (211 deaths, 7,016 cases).

The continent-wide figure is far behind that of the United States, with 1,577,758 cases, 96,978 of them deaths, and Europe, with 1,974,501 cases and 171,011 deaths.

Turkey imposes 4-day curfew across country

Turkey imposed a four-day nationwide curfew during the Muslim Eid holiday beginning Friday midnight to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic that has claimed over 4,200 lives in the country.

Markets, grocery stores, greengrocers, and butchers will continue to operate from 10 am to 5 pm local time (0700-1400GMT) on May 23, but they will be closed on May 24-26.

Also, bakeries will remain open during the four-day curfew.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies