Covid-19 has now killed over 452,000 people worldwide since the outbreak started in China last year, according to tracking websites. Here are the developments for June 18:

Hundreds of people line up outside the Kentucky Career Center, over two hours prior to its opening, to find assistance with their unemployment claims, in Frankfort, Kentucky, US, June 18, 2020.
Hundreds of people line up outside the Kentucky Career Center, over two hours prior to its opening, to find assistance with their unemployment claims, in Frankfort, Kentucky, US, June 18, 2020. (Reuters)

Thursday, June 18

US virus layoffs top 45.7 million

Another 1.5 million US workers filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said, bringing the number of people laid off, at least temporarily, by Covid-19 to 45.7 million.

The level of new jobless claims was surprisingly high, a decrease of only 58,000 from the previous week's level, while the insured unemployment rate showing people still receiving aid as of the week ended June 6 was unchanged at 14.1 percent, with 20.5 million people continuing to receive benefits.

UK death toll rises by 135 to 42,288

The UK death toll from confirmed cases of the new coronavirus has risen to 42,288, an increase of 135, the latest daily figures from the government showed on Thursday. 

'Smart lockdowns' in Pakistan's Karachi begin

"Smart lockdowns" have been put in place in virus hotspots in various localities of Karachi, according to a notification issued by the Karachi Commissioner's Office late on Wednesday night, Dawn reported.

The lockdown started from 7pm (local time) on Thursday and will remain effective till July 2, it said.

EU lawmakers back green finance rules

European Union lawmakers approved green finance rules ensuring investments do not prop up polluting industries, requirements they and investors say should also guide spending of hundreds of billions of euros in coronavirus recovery funds.

The rules, known as the EU sustainable finance "taxonomy", will restrict which investments can be classed as green and force providers of financial products to disclose which investments meet the criteria, from the end of 2021.

Authorities blame football match as virus returns to Montenegro

Two weeks after Montenegro declared it was coronavirus-free, the small Adriatic country reported nine new infections, with authorities blaming citizens attending a football match in neighbouring Serbia.

The country's first new confirmed cases since May 5 were due to the "behaviour of some irresponsible individuals," he said.

Seven of the cases were Montenegro citizens who visited Serbia's capital Belgrade to attend a football derby between Partizan and Red Star on June 10.

UK expected to ditch its virus app after delays

Britain’s government is scrapping its existing coronavirus tracing smartphone app and switching to a model based on technology supplied by Apple and Google, the BBC reports.

The government’s app is being trialled on the Isle of Wight, and was expected to be rolled out in the rest of the country later. But the program, previously hailed as a fundamental pillar of the UK response to the pandemic, has been delayed.

On Wednesday, the official responsible for the app said it may not be ready until the winter and that it is not the “priority” at the moment.

Five more Iraqi lawmakers test positive for coronavirus

At least five more Iraqi members of parliament have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, local media reported on Thursday.

Mahasin Hamdun Dali, Alaa Nasi and Laith Dulaimi from Mosul are among the lawmakers tested positive for the virus, Hoshiar Karadag, the head of the parliament, told reporters.

The parliament would not be suspended due to the latest developments, Karadag added.

Bank of England pumps out extra $126B stimulus

The Bank of England on Thursday unveiled an extra £100 billion of cash stimulus to prop up Britain's coronavirus-hit economy, despite a slump less severe than first thought.

The BoE, reporting the outcome of a regular meeting, said policymakers voted by a majority of 8-1 to hike the central bank's quantitative easing stimulus by the equivalent of $126 billion or 112 billion euros.

Russia preparing for new wave of coronavirus in autumn

Russia said on Thursday it was already preparing for a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the autumn, after officials reported their lowest daily rise in new infections since May 1.

Russia has rapidly eased its lockdown restrictions in the past fortnight as it has reported a gradual decline in daily new infections, from a peak of 11,656 on May 11.

On Thursday, officials confirmed 7,790 new cases in the last 24 hours, pushing the nationwide tally to 561,091, as well as 182 deaths that brought the death toll to 7,660.

Hydroxychloroquine Covid-19 prevention trials incomplete – WHO

Hydroxychloroquine can be ruled out as a treatment for hospitalised Covid-19 patients – but the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was aware of ongoing trials into its value as a preventative measure.

A decades-old malaria and rheumatoid arthritis drug, hydroxychloroquine has been at the centre of political and scientific controversy.

On Wednesday, the WHO decided to halt its trials of the drug for novel coronavirus patients in hospital, after evidence from its own work and others that it had no effect on reducing the mortality rate.

But the UN health agency said that evidence from non-WHO trials into whether it might or might not be useful in preventing against the virus had not yet concluded.

British, Australian PMs agree investigation into origins of coronavirus outbreak needed

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussed the need for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak with his Australian counterpart, Downing Street said.

"The leaders discussed the coronavirus pandemic and agreed on the need for an independent investigation through the WHO into the origins of the outbreak," a spokeswoman for Johnson's office said in a statement.

"They committed to coordinate closely on this issue in the weeks and months ahead."

Iran reports 87 new virus deaths

Iran on Thursday announced 87 new deaths from the novel coronavirus as authorities moved to tighten measures to stop its spread in some of the country's worst-hit provinces.

Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said in a televised interview that the fatalities in the past 24 hours had taken the overall toll in Iran's outbreak to 9,272.

She added that another 2,596 people had tested positive for Covid-19, bringing to 197,647 the total number of confirmed cases since the outbreak emerged almost four months ago.

Japan Open tennis scrapped over coronavirus fears

The Japan Open tennis tournament, won last year by world number one Novak Djokovic, has been cancelled due to fears of a second coronavirus wave, organisers said on Thursday.

The scrapping of the tournament, scheduled to take place between October 5 and 11 in Tokyo, raises some doubts over the traditional "Asian swing", when the ATP tour takes in several tournaments in Asia.

According to a revised schedule published by the ATP to take account of coronavirus, tournaments were also due to take place in the Chinese cities of Chengdu, Zhuhai, Beijing and Shanghai.

Chinese county restricts travel as Beijing races to contain virus

Travel restrictions were placed on nearly half a million people near Beijing as authorities rushed to contain a fresh outbreak of the coronavirus with a mass test-and-trace effort and lockdowns in parts of the Chinese capital.

Another 21 cases of the virus were reported in the past 24 hours in Beijing, the National Health Commission said, taking the total to 158 since a fresh cluster was detected last week after months of no confirmed local transmissions.

England's Covid-19 test and trace system identifies 45,000 contacts in second week

The number of contacts of positive Covid-19 cases identified by England's test and trace system increased to 44,895 in its second week, Britain's health ministry said on Thursday.

The government's test and trace system is seen as key to helping to monitor the spread of the new coronavirus and ease lockdown measures.

The Department of Health said that 5,949 people who tested positive for coronavirus (Covid-19) had their case transferred to the contact tracing system in its second week of operation.

It said that 44,895 contacts were identified, up from nearly 32,000 last week.

Cases rise in Indonesia 

Indonesia reported 1,331 new coronavirus infections, its biggest daily increase since the outbreak started locally, taking its total number of cases to 42,762.

Health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said 63 more deaths were reported, with total fatalities now at 2,339, the highest coronavirus death toll in East Asia outside of China.

Indonesia on Wednesday overtook Singapore with the largest number of Covid-19 cases in Southeast Asia.

Military leader to oversee border measures in NZ

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern assigned a top military leader to oversee New Zealand’s border quarantine measures. 

She made the move after what she described as an “unacceptable failure” by health officials in allowing two travellers to leave quarantine before they had been tested for the virus. 

After the women tested positive, officials began contacting 320 people who may have come into contact with them. Before the two new cases were announced Tuesday, New Zealand had gone more than three weeks without reporting any new cases and was considered virus-free. 

Air Commodore Digby Webb, the assistant chief of defence, will oversee all quarantine and managed isolation facilities.

Ex-president of Kazakhstan infected with virus

The ex-president of Kazakhstan is infected with the new coronavirus.

His spokespeople say Nursultan Nazarbayev, 79, tested positive for the virus and remains in isolation. “There are no reasons for concern,” the statement said.

Kazakhstan has reported 15,877 confirmed cases of the virus and 97 deaths among its population of 18 million. The ex-Soviet nation lifted the state of emergency declared on March 16, but various lockdown restrictions remain in place in different regions of the vast country.

Greek community in lockdown after spike in cases

Greek civil protection authorities have imposed a seven-day complete lockdown on a community in northeastern Greece, after a spike in virus cases there over the past week.

Residents of the Echinos community in the province of Xanthi are forbidden from leaving the area, and are under a 24-hour curfew. They can leave their homes only to buy food or medication, and must wear a mask.

Only vehicles resupplying food stores and pharmacies are allowed into Echinos, while all other retail businesses have been shut.

The community has been the source of a localised outbreak before too.

Authorities said the area had registered 73 new coronavirus cases and four deaths over the past week. Health officials are intensifying testing in the area.

On Wednesday, the country announced 55 new cases, the highest daily number for weeks. The vast majority were in Xanthi.

Russia's new cases rise at lowest rate in six weeks

Russia reported 7,790 new cases, its lowest daily rise in infections in six weeks, bringing the nationwide total to 561,091.

Russia's coronavirus crisis response centre said 182 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 7,660 since the crisis began.

India reports highest one-day spike in cases

India recorded the highest one-day spike of 12,281 coronavirus cases, pushing its total past 366,000 even as the government ruled out reimposing a countrywide lockdown.

India’s death toll reached 12,237, a rise of 334 in the past 24 hours, according to the health ministry. The number of recoveries touched 52 percent at 194,325.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday rejected media reports that the government was considering reimposing lockdown but that India had to think about further lockdown-easing measures to minimise risk of spread. 

The March 25 lockdown is now restricted to high-risk areas.

The worst-hit states are Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and New Delhi.

Infections continue steady rise in South Korea

South Korea has reported 59 virus cases as infections steadily rise in the capital area where half the country’s 51 million people live.

The figures announced by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bring the national caseload to 12,257, including 280 deaths.

The agency says 39 of the new cases are in Seoul and the surrounding region, where authorities are trying to stem transmissions amid increased economic activity and eased attitudes on social distancing.

Thailand reports 6 new cases, no new deaths

Thailand reported six new virus infections and no new deaths, bringing its total to 3,141 confirmed cases, of which 58 were fatalities.

The new cases were quarantined Thais returning from Saudi Arabia and India, said Panprapa Yongtrakul, a spokeswoman for the government's Covid-19 Administration Centre.

Thailand has eased many of its restrictions and has recorded no new local transmissions for 24 days in a row, while 2,997 patients have recovered. 

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 580 to 187,764

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 580 to 187,764, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 26 to 8,856, the tally showed.  

Panama reports 635 new cases, 13 more deaths

Confirmed cases of coronavirus infection in Panama reached 22,597, up 635 from the previous day, and deaths climbed by 13 to 470, the health ministry said.

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

Jordanians struggle as country emerges from lockdown

Many people in Jordan are struggling to meet basic needs after a more than two-month lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) study said.

Jordan has contained the first virus wave and is now reopening most businesses but the full impact of the pandemic is still unfolding in the aid-dependent country of 10 million people, the UNDP study said.

Officials have adopted recent estimates by the World Bank that the economy was set to shrink by 3.5 percent this year, compared with an IMF estimate of 2 percent growth before the health crisis.

Lithuania ends three-month long lockdown 

Lithuania has ended its three-month long lockdown regime imposed due the virus pandemic but the government says the Baltic nation will continue its emergency declaration.

The quarantine that began March 16 was lifted on Wednesday and the Lithuanian government has halted most restrictions to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Among other things, larger public gatherings are allowed and protective face masks are no longer required in public places. Most European citizens are allowed to enter the country except residents of Britain, Portugal and Sweden.

Virus measures in place as Hong Kong Disneyland reopens

Hong Kong Disneyland opened its doors to visitors for the first time in nearly five months at a reduced capacity and with social distancing measures in place.

The theme park closed temporarily at the end of January due to the virus outbreak and is the second Disney-themed park to re-open worldwide after Shanghai Disneyland.

Small groups of visitors had lined up before the park's opening hours and Mickey and Minnie Mouse characters drove by in a large taxicab and waved at the eager crowd waiting to enter.

Brazil's deaths top 46,000

Brazil recorded 1,269 additional Covid-19 deaths, bringing its official death toll from the novel coronavirus to 46,510, the most in the world outside the US.

The health ministry also registered 32,188 new cases of the virus since its Tuesday update, bringing confirmed cases to 955,377, also second to the US globally.

Beijing reports 21 new cases

Beijing confirmed 21 new cases as of June 17, China's health authority has said, down from 31 a day earlier.

Beijing logged its first case in the current outbreak, the worst in the city since early February, on June 11. The total number of infections has risen to 158 over the past week.

Mexico sees 770 more fatalities

Mexico's total confirmed Covid-19 infections rose to 159,793, with 19,080 total deaths on Wednesday as the country's health ministry reported 4,930 new cases and 770 more deaths.

Masks mandatory in Istanbul, Ankara, Bursa

Turkish authorities have ordered that people wear masks in public in Ankara, Istanbul and Bursa.

The move was recommended by the scientific committee advising the government, local authorities said.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has urged citizens "not to let down your guard too much", while also reassuring them that the situation was "under control".

Wearing masks to help curb the spread of the virus has been obligatory for several weeks on public transport and in shops across Turkey.

With Wednesday's announcement, wearing a mask in public is now required in 48 of Turkey's 81 provinces.

Honduran president hospitalised

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez is undergoing treatment in hospital for pneumonia after he tested positive for Covid-19 this week, the government said 

Francis Contreras, a spokesman for Honduran health agency SINAGER, said that while Hernandez needed specialised medical care in a military hospital, including receiving medicines via an intravenous drip, he is generally in good health.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies