The global coronavirus pandemic has affected more than five million people, with some 330,000 deaths. Coronavirus-related updates for May 21:

A man wearing a masks wait to cross the street near Puerta de Alcala gate in Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2020.
A man wearing a masks wait to cross the street near Puerta de Alcala gate in Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2020. (Reuters)

France's death rate, new cases slow

The growth rate of new confirmed cases in France slowed slightly, with health authorities reporting an additional 318 known infections, an increase of 0.2% over 24 hours.

The rate of increases in reported deaths also slowed a little, with 83 fatalities in the past day, bringing the total to 28,215. That represented a rise of 0.3%.

The number of new cases and deaths increased by 0.3% and 0.4% respectively on Wednesday.

Thursday is a public holiday in France.

Nursing homes in particular can be slower to report fatalities and cases on weekends and national holidays.

In the last two weeks of the lockdown, the daily rise in the number of confirmed cases was on average 0.8%.

The indicator is being closely watched by the government to ensure the gradual relaxation of lockdown measures does not trigger a feared second wave of the disease.

Italy's daily death toll and new cases broadly stable

Italy recorded 156 new deaths from the Covid-19 epidemic, against 161 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, while the daily tally of new cases also declined slightly to 642 from 665 on Wednesday.

The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on February 21 now stands at 32,486, the agency said.

The number of confirmed cases amounts to 228,006, the sixth highest global tally behind those of the United States, Russia, Spain, Britain and Brazil.

People registered as currently carrying the illness fell to 60,960 from 62,752 the day before.

There were 640 people in intensive care on Thursday, down from 676 on Wednesday, maintaining a long-running decline. Of those originally infected, 134,560 were declared recovered, against 132,282 a day earlier.

The agency said 2.079 million people had been tested for the virus as of Thursday, against 2.038 million on Wednesday, out of a population of around 60 million.

Covid-19 tests no longer required to enter Serbia

Covid-19 tests are no longer required to enter Serbia.

The government made the decision as part of an easing of lockdown measures. 

Previously, a negative test no older than 72 hours was necessary to avoid self-isolation for two weeks.

Serbia closed its borders during a state of emergency when infections surged in March. Experts say the situation has stabilised despite clusters in the south of the country.

The Balkan country Thursday reported 86 new cases. Authorities say 10,919 have been infected and 253 have died.

Critics have warned that the government has been too quick to lift protection measures.

Some rules remain, such as a ban on large gatherings.

Japan's Abe wants "fairly" accessible vaccine

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is urging international cooperation in combating the virus, saying any drug or vaccine must be “fairly” accessible and nations must assist less developed countries.

The prime minister spoke by videoconference during a ceremony led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to mark a hospital opening.

The 2,600-bed Basaksehir Pine and Sakura City Hospital in Istanbul was built by Turkey’s Ronesans Holding in partnership with Japan’s Sojitz Corporation.

Turkey is separately constructing two other hospitals in Istanbul, including one on the site of the now-closed Ataturk Airport, as part of plans to turn the nation into a major destination for medical tourism.

Trump urged to fly flags at half-mast when death toll in US reaches 100,000

The top Democratic leaders are urging President Donald Trump to fly flags at half-staff on public buildings across the country when the virus death toll reaches 100,000.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer made the request in a letter sent to Trump on Thursday. 

They say the gesture would “serve as a national expression of grief so needed by everyone in our country.”

There have been more than 95,000 Covid-19 deaths in the US.

The White House had no immediate response to the letter.

Lithuania uses mannequins to keep social distancing in bars and restaurants

Restaurants and bars in Lithuania’s capital have found a way to pack the house while maintaining social distancing: mannequins in seats that must remain closed to customers.

The faux customers are dressed casually or with an artistic flair, sometimes even for a ball, and some wear masks. They sit at selected tables, ensuring that actual customers are kept at a proper distance during the pandemic.

“Empty tables inside our restaurant look rather odd,” said Bernie Ter Braak, the owner of the downtown restaurant “Cosy.” 

“We don’t have any way to remove them.”

Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Simasius on Thursday called the initiative a “perfect match of communal spirit and creativity working side by side”.

Lithuania, a nation of some 2.8 million, is one of the European Union countries least affected by the coronavirus. 

Social distancing is in force until May 31.

Tyson Foods in US reports 570 cases

Meat producer Tyson Foods is reporting 570 cases at a poultry processing complex in North Carolina.

Tyson said in a statement it tested more than 2,000 staff members and contractors who work at its facility in Wilkesboro. 

Tyson said that most of the 570 didn’t show symptoms.

The company said it is increasing testing and health care options at 30 of its facilities. Tyson said it’s also providing face masks, putting physical barriers between workstations and implementing social distancing.

Tyson had temporarily closed parts of the North Carolina complex that houses multiple plants for deep cleaning, including a multiday closure announced last week.

Surrounding Wilkes County health officials said that as of Thursday the area had about 450 Covid-19 cases, including two deaths and 20 current hospitalisations.

Austria prepares for summer tourist season

Austria is preparing for a summer tourist season while taking extra precautions to ensure the virus does not pick up again.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Thursday that people from countries where Covid-19 has stabilised could count on summer holidays with “maximum safety and maximum enjoyment.”

There is an agreement with Germany, Liechtenstein and Switzerland to fully open borders next month. 

Kurz was optimistic similar arrangements could be reached with Austria’s eastern neighbors in the coming week.

He says negotiations have begun with Austrian Airline’s parent company Lufthansa for holiday flights.

Distancing measures in Austria will remain in place and hotel staffers will be tested regularly for Covid-19.

“We need to ensure that the infection rate remains low,” Kurz said. “The lower the infection numbers the more people will go out.”

Cyprus lifts most restrictions

Cyprus is lifting most restrictions of a two-month stay-at-home order.

The decision allows for the reopening of primary schools, hair salons and outdoor cafes.

People will no longer need permission forms or electronic approval to move outside their home or heed a night curfew.

Public parks and squares are now open, but groups of more than 10 are prohibited.

Beginning Saturday, sunbathers may go to the beaches on this east Mediterranean island, and the faithful can attend services at churches, mosques and other places of worship.

Libraries, museums and archaeological sites reopen June 1 when ports will also resume operations, although cruise ship passengers won’t be permitted to disembark.

Africa needs more testing

The African continent needs to test about 10 times the number of people it has already tested for the coronavirus.

That’s according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Director John Nkengasong says Africa should strive to test at least 1% of the population of 1.3 billion people, or 13 million people, but so far 1.3 million to 1.4 million tests have been conducted. 

Africa’s number of virus cases is above 95,000 and could surpass 100,000 by the weekend. 

The continent has seen roughly the same number of new cases in the past week as the week before, and Nkengasong says that “we hope that trend continues.”

While early lockdowns delayed the pandemic, he says “that doesn’t mean Africa has been spared.” But he says health officials are not seeing a lot of community deaths or “massive flooding of our hospitals” because of Covid-19.

Countries with fragile health systems and a recent history of conflict like Somalia and South Sudan, however, remain “very concerning” as cases rise quickly. Somalia has reported more than 1,500 cases but aid groups worry the real number is far higher. South Sudan has more than 280 cases.

Mandatory mask law comes into effect in Spain

Spaniards are going about their restricted lives wearing masks in compliance with a government order that comes into force Thursday.

Masks are now mandatory for people over 6-years-old in all public spaces, including outdoors when they can’t keep a distance of 2 metres between them.

The new ruling affects approximately 45 million people. It departs from earlier recommendations to make the masks compulsory only for health workers and those with Covid-19 compatible symptoms.

Last month the government extended their obligatory use to public transport.

Bank employee Carlos Garcia in Madrid welcomed the new regulation but said it was coming too late.

“It has been very confusing: one day yes, one day no.

I think we are going slowly with this, like with so many other things,” the 23-year-old said.

Iran says 10,000 health workers infected with Covid-19

Around 10,000 Iranian health workers have been infected with the new coronavirus, the semi-official ILNA news agency quoted the deputy health minister as saying.

"Around 10,000 health workers have been infected with the deadly disease in Iran and some of them have died," Qassem Janbabai said, according to ILNA.

US orders 300M doses of potential Covid-19 vaccine

The US government has ordered 300 million doses of a potential Covid-19 virus being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and hopes first doses can be made available by October, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said.

"This contract with AstraZeneca is a major milestone in Operation Warp Speed’s work toward a safe, effective, widely available vaccine by 2021," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. 

Russia's virus death toll passes 3,000 mark

Russia’s official coronavirus death toll rose to 3,099 after officials said 127 people had died in the last 24 hours.

Russia’s authorities reported 8,849 new cases of the novel coronavirus, pushing the nationwide case tally to 317,554.

UK says Covid track and trace system will be ready soon

Britain is dealing with technical issues of its track and trace app that it hopes will help it keep the coronavirus outbreak under control, but will use traditional tracking means until it is rolled out, the security minister said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday a "world-beating" programme to test and trace those suspected of having been in contact with people who have tested positive for Covid-19 would be in place by June 1.

The test and track programme is seen as a key measure to reopen the country.

EasyJet to restart some flights in June with compulsory masks

British low-cost airline easyJet said it would restart a small number of flights on June 15, becoming the latest airline to plan for the return of European travel by making face masks mandatory onboard.

EasyJet's planes have been grounded since late March when the coronavirus spread across Europe. The airline said it would restart primarily domestic flights in Britain and France, before adding other destinations.

Flights would restart with new safety measures including the wearing of masks by passengers and cabin crew, enhanced cleaning of aircraft and no food service onboard.

Airlines to follow price rules as India resumes some flights

Airlines should stick to ticket price guidelines issued by India's civil aviation ministry when they restart some domestic flights, the ministry said.

Airlines should adhere to the lower and upper limits of fares set by the ministry, it said in a notice, but it did not give details on the amounts.

The gradual opening up of air travel comes as India's cases of coronavirus hit 112,359, according to the health ministry, increasing 5,609 over the previous day – one of the highest single-day rises in recent weeks. Deaths stood at 3,435.

Philippines reports four new coronavirus deaths

The Philippines' health ministry reported four new coronavirus deaths and 213 additional confirmed cases.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total deaths because of the pandemic had increased to 846, while infections had risen to 13,434. But 68 more patients have recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 3,000.

Singapore confirms 448 more cases

Singapore's health ministry said it confirmed another 448 coronavirus cases, taking the city-state's tally of infections to 29,812.

The country’s health ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that the country is planning to lift the coronavirus lockdown in three phases starting on June 2.

Malaysia reports 50 new coronavirus cases

Malaysian health authorities reported 50 new coronavirus cases, raising the cumulative total to 7,059 cases.

The health ministry also reported no new deaths, keeping total fatalities at 114.

Germany's cases rise by 57 to 176,752

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 745 to 176,752, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 57 to 8,147, the tally showed.

Thailand reports three new cases, no new deaths

Thailand reported three new coronavirus infections and no new deaths, bringing the total to 3,037 confirmed cases and 56 fatalities since the outbreak started in January.

The new cases included two domestic transmissions and one infection found in quarantine in an individual returning to Thailand from the Philippines, said spokesman for the government's coronavirus task force, Taweesin Wisanuyothin.

Japan ending state of emergency in three prefectures

Japan’s Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura says experts have approved a government plan to remove a coronavirus state of emergency in Osaka and two neighbouring prefectures

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared the state of emergency on April 7 in parts of Japan including Tokyo and later expanded it to nationwide.

Japan has about 16,424 confirmed cases and 777 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the health ministry.

China reports two new cases

China recorded two new coronavirus cases for May 20, down from five a day earlier, the National Health Commission (NHC) reported.

The NHC reported 31 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases, up from 16 a day earlier.

The total number of Covid-19 infections in China to date now stands at 82,967but the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

Brazil sees record of nearly 20,000 new cases

Brazil's coronavirus outbreak worsened on Wednesday and the South American nation could soon have the second-highest number of cases in the world as the health ministry reported 888 new deaths and nearly 20,000 new cases in a single day.

Brazil could soon have more coronavirus cases than any nation in the world except the United States. Russia currently has the second highest number of cases.

Brazil's confirmed case tally now stands at 291,579, according to the ministry.

Peru passes 100,000 cases, 3,000 dead

Peru has become the second Latin American country after Brazil to reach 100,000 coronavirus cases, according to health ministry figures out Wednesday.

The number of dead from Covid-19 has also passed 3,000, with only Brazil and Mexico having suffered more.

Both cases and deaths have tripled since April 30.

The dire statistics come even though Peru has been in lockdown for nine weeks, paralysing the economy.

The vast majority of cases are in Lima and its port Callao, where one third of the country's 32 million people live.

Mexico registers record one-day toll with 424 fatalities

Mexico's health ministry registered 2,248 new coronavirus infections and an additional 424 fatalities, a record one-day death toll since the start of the pandemic.

The new infections brought confirmed coronavirus cases to 56,594 and 6,090 deaths in total, according to the official tally.

WHO records highest daily number of cases

The World Health Organization said Wednesday it had registered a new daily record number of Covid-19 cases as it quickly neared the "tragic milestone" of five million total infections.

The UN agency's chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that on Tuesday, there were "106,000 cases reported to WHO –– the most in a single day since the outbreak began" in December.

The Geneva-based WHO's coronavirus disease dashboard said that 106,662 confirmed cases had been reported to the agency from around the world.

Trump says his malaria drug regimen finishes in next day or two

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday the regimen of an anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine that he is taking to ward off the coronavirus finishes in the next day or two.

Trump revealed this week he was taking the drug despite medical warnings about potential serious side effects and questions about its effectiveness in preventing Covid-19.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies