The global coronavirus pandemic has affected more than 5.6 million people, with over 349,000 deaths, according to a tracker. Here are coronavirus-related updates for May 26:

Workers disinfect each other after handling coffins with bodies of Covid-19 victims at El Angel crematorium, in Lima on May 21, 2020.
Workers disinfect each other after handling coffins with bodies of Covid-19 victims at El Angel crematorium, in Lima on May 21, 2020. (AFP)

WHO says Americas are new virus epicentre

The Americas have emerged as the new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a briefing, as a US study forecast deaths surging in Brazil and other Latin American countries through August.

"Now is not the time for countries to ease restrictions," Carissa Etienne, WHO director for the Americas and head of the Pan American Health Organization, said via videoconference.

The Americas have registered more than 2.4 million cases of the new coronavirus and more than 143,000 deaths from the resulting Covid-19 respiratory disease. Latin America has passed Europe and the United States in daily infections, she said.

"Our region has become the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic," Etienne said, as other PAHO directors warned there are "very tough" weeks ahead for the region and Brazil has a long way to go before it will see the pandemic end.

Also of concern to WHO officials are accelerating outbreaks in Peru, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

France's deaths reach more than 28,500, cases slow

France's death toll rose by less than a 100 for the sixth day, despite nursing home data being included again, raising hopes that the worst of the pandemic is over for the country.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is due on Thursday to detail new steps to lift the lockdown, which could entail the reopening of bars and restaurants in some parts of France, which has now reported 28,530 coronavirus deaths, the world's fourth highest.

The French health ministry said that the number of fatalities had risen by 83, or 0.3 percent, in hospitals, to 18,195. But it lowered the toll in nursing homes to 10,335, 10 fewer than when it was last published, after a technical revision.

South Africa to allow places of worship to operate from June

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that churches and other recognised places of worship will operate from June when the country eases lockdown restrictions further, but will be limited to 50 people or less.

"The faith community is an integral part of the South African life and has made a great contribution in the fight against the coronavirus," Ramaphosa said in a televised address. 

Significant number of patients recover in Turkey

Turkey is seeing a significant rise in the number of virus recoveries, the country's Health Ministry said.

The number of patients who recovered from the disease hit 121,507, as 1,492 more were discharged from hospitals over the past day, said Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Twitter.

Some 948 new cases of the virus were reported in the country, bringing the total to 158,762, Koca added.

The death toll from the outbreak rose to 4,397, as the country reported 28 new fatalities in the last 24 hours, according to ministry data.

Healthcare professionals also did over 19,800 more tests for the virus, raising the overall number to over 1.87 million.

Kansas City, St Louis leaders urge lakegoers to quarantine

Leaders in Kansas City, St Louis and the state of Kansas urged people who partied close together at Lake of the Ozarks over the Memorial Day weekend to self-quarantine for two weeks, amid fears that the gatherings documented in social media postings will lead to a resurgence of the virus.

Big crowds were reported at swimming pools, bars and restaurants at the central Missouri lake that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. 

Video and photos posted on social media showed people without masks partying and swimming together in close proximity, seemingly ignoring guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and from the state, to keep at least 6 feet apart. 

Spain declares mourning over virus deaths

The Spanish government declared a 10-day official mourning period from Wednesday to honour the nearly 30,000 people who died from the coronavirus pandemic in one of the world's worst-hit countries, government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero said.

During the mourning period, flags will fly at half-mast all over the country's public buildings and navy ships, she told a news briefing after a cabinet meeting.

The period will end with an official ceremony led by the head of state in remembrance of the 26,834 fatalities recorded in the country. Spain has reported a total of 235,400 confirmed cases of the disease.

Italy's records 78 new coronavirus deaths

Deaths from the virus epidemic in Italy climbed by 78, against 92 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, while the daily tally of new cases increased to 397 from 300 a day before.

The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on February 21 now stands at 32,955 the agency said, the third highest in the world after those of the United States and Britain.

France unveils $8.8B plan to revive auto sector

President Emmanuel Macron  announced an $8.8 billion (8-billion euro) plan to revive France's auto industry by making it the European leader in electric cars, in a boost for a sector brought to its knees by the coronavirus.

Macron said the package would include one billion euros in subsidies for electric and hybrid cars, adding France should be producing a million green cars annually by 2025.

Dutch PM did not visit dying mother until end due to coronavirus rules

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte did not visit his 96-year-old mother for more than eight weeks until hours before her death this month due to lockdown measures in the Netherlands, his office said.

Mieke Rutte-Dilling died on May 13, Rutte's office announced on Monday. She did not have the coronavirus, although there were Covid-19 infections at the nursing home where she lived.

"The prime minister complied with all the coronavirus restriction measures and didn’t visit his mother for (more than 8) weeks," the premier's office said in a statement.

British PM Johnson invites Putin to online vaccine summit

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend an online summit on the development of a coronavirus vaccine.

The British Embassy says Johnson has officially invited Putin to attend the Global Vaccine Summit 2020 hosted by Britain on June 4.

The embassy statement indicates the summit will focus on securing the critical support required for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to “continue its vital work and to help ensure that any vaccine developed for Covid-19 is available for the whole world.”

Britain’s medicines agency OKs use of remdesivir

Britain’s medicines agency has authorised the use of the experimental drug remdesivir for Covid-19 patients, in a move that may shorten the time some patients spend in the hospital.

Clinical trials testing the antiviral to determine whether or not it is effective are still under way globally, but initial results have suggested it can speed up the recovery time for people infected with the new coronavirus.

In a statement on Tuesday, the UK’s Medicines and Health Regulatory Agency said it would support the use of remdesivir, made by Gilead, to treat adults and teenagers hospitalised with severe Covid-19.

Spain coronavirus deaths total 27,119, cases at 236,259

Spain's Health Ministry reported that a total of 27,119 people had died from the virus since the beginning of the outbreak.

Confirmed cases of the virus reached 236,259, the ministry said.

On Monday the government revised down the country's cumulative death toll by nearly 2,000 after checking data provided by regions, a move which drew sharp criticism from political opponents. 

WHO says hydroxychloroquine safety findings expected by mid-June

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that a safety team would review data on hydroxychloroquine by next month, a day after officials cited safety concerns that prompted them to suspend use of the malaria drug in a global trial in virus patients.

The WHO called time on using the drug in its multi-country trial, called Solidarity, after a study published in British medical journal The Lancet found patients randomised to get hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) had increased mortality rates and higher frequency of irregular heartbeats. US President Donald Trump and others have pushed HCQ as a possible treatment for the disease.

UK minister quits over Cummings lockdown trip

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government was hit by its first resignation over the controversy surrounding top aide Dominic Cummings' cross-country trip during the virus lockdown.

Undermining attempts by ministers to try and move on from the crisis which has dominated British politics for days, Douglas Ross, a minister for Scotland, quit in protest.

The resignation will pile more pressure on Cummings, who held an extraordinary press conference Monday to justify driving his wife and young son on a 425-kilometre trip from London to Durham in the northeast of England during the height of the coronavirus crisis.

Turkey sends medical aid to Chad

A Turkish plane carrying medical supplies departed from the capital Ankara for Chad on Tuesday in the wake of the virus pandemic.

The boxes containing the aid carried a message for the people of Chad.

"After hopelessness, there is so much hope, and after darkness, there is the much brighter sun,” it said, quoting the words of 13th century Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi which have been inscribed on all aid from Turkey.

Turkey has helped dozens of countries, including Italy, Spain and the UK, and remains the world's third-largest provider of humanitarian aid during the pandemic.

Indonesia reports 415 new cases, 27 new deaths

Indonesia reported 415 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections to 23,165, its health ministry said.

Indonesia also confirmed 27 new deaths, bringing the total fatalities to 1,418, health ministry official Achmad Yurianto told reporters.

As of Tuesday, 188,302 people have been tested and 5,877 have recovered.

Singapore confirms 383 more cases

Singapore's health ministry confirmed 383 more cases of the new coronavirus, taking the city-state's tally to 32,343.

The lower number of cases was partly due to fewer tests being conducted, it added.

Russia reports another record rise, this time in deaths

Russia said 174 people with the coronavirus had died in the past 24 hours, a record one-day amount that pushed the nationwide death toll to 3,807.

Officials reported 8,915 new cases on Tuesday, pushing its overall case tally to 362,342.

Cases in India surge

For a seventh consecutive day, India has reported a record single-day jump in new virus cases. The health ministry counted 145,380 cases, a one-day gain of 6,535, and said 4,167 people had died. 

Most of the cases are concentrated in two neighbouring states in central India, Maharashtra, home to financial hub Mumbai, and Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state.

An uptick of cases has also been reported in some of India’s poorest eastern states as migrant workers returning to native villages from India’s largest cities have begun arriving home on special trains. 

India has been easing its lockdown, with domestic flights resuming Monday at a fraction of normal.

Australia's borders will not open 'anytime soon' – Morrison

Australia will not open the country's borders "anytime soon", Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, but added the country will continue its discussions with neighbouring New Zealand for a trans-Tasman safe travel zone.

"I was speaking with Prime Minister Ardern this morning, and we'll continue to have our discussions about the trans-Tasman safe travel zone," Morrison told the National Press Club in Canberra, referring to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Thailand reports three new cases

Thailand reported three new coronavirus cases and no new deaths, bringing its total to 3,045 confirmed cases and 57 fatalities.

All three new cases were Thai nationals who recently returned from overseas and are currently in quarantine, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government's coronavirus task force said.

There are 2,929 patients who have recovered.

South Korea reports 19 new cases

South Korea has reported 19 new cases of the coronavirus, most from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where officials have been actively tracing transmissions linked to nightclubs and other entertainment venues.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported two more deaths, bringing national totals to 11,225 cases and 269 fatalities. Officials linked three of the new cases to international arrivals.

Germany's confirmed coronavirus cases rise to 179,002

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 432 to 179,002, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 45 to 8,302, the tally showed.

China reports seven new cases on the mainland

China reported seven new cases in the mainland as of end-May 25, up from 11 a day earlier, the National Health Commission reported.

The commission said in a statement all of the new infections were imported cases, involving travellers from overseas.

It also reported 29 new asymptomatic cases, patients who are infected but do not show symptoms, versus 40 a day earlier.

The total number of cases to date in the mainland stands at 82,992. 

The death toll remains unchanged at 4,634

Mexico's daily figures

Mexican health officials reported 2,485 new cases of coronavirus and 239 deaths, bringing the country's totals to 71,105 and 7,633, respectively.

Pandemic brings smaller, subdued Memorial Day observances

Americans settled for small processions and online tributes instead of parades Monday as they observed Memorial Day in the shadow of the pandemic, which forced communities to honour the nation’s military dead with modest, more subdued ceremonies that also remembered those lost to the coronavirus.

On the weekend that marked the unofficial start of summer, authorities warned people heading to beaches, parks or backyard barbecues to heed social-distancing rules to avoid a resurgence of the disease. These were not heeded as photographs emerged of crowded gatherings, especially in Missouri.

Memorial Day commemorations were cancelled or toned down across the country. 

Veterans, along with nursing home residents, have made up a significant portion of those who died in the US outbreak.

Australia to outline economic plans as lockdowns ease

Morrison will outline his government's plans to revive the sputtering economy, but is expected to warn a recovery will take between three to five years.

Australia has reported just over 7,100 Covid-19 infections, including 102 deaths.

That is well below numbers reported by many other developed countries, an achievement it attributes to tough social distancing rules, which have prevented local hospitals from being swamped but taken a heavy toll on the economy.

With Australia confident it has suppressed the spread of coronavirus, Morrison will turn to how to revive the country's economy as debt levels rise to about 30 percent of GDP.

Protests in Ecuador against job, wage cuts, over virus

Demonstrators defied restrictions to march in cities across Ecuador on Monday in protest against President Lenin Moreno's drastic economic measures to tackle the crisis.

Moreno last week announced public spending cuts including the closure of state companies and embassies around the world, but trade unions Monday said workers were paying a disproportionate price compared to Ecuador's elite.

"This protest is because the government is firing workers to avoid making the rich pay," Mecias Tatamuez, head of the county's largest union, the Unitary Front of Workers, told reporters at a march in Quito.

Around 2,000 people marched in the capital, waving flags and banners and shouting anti-government slogans.

Brazil daily deaths higher than US

Brazil daily virus deaths were higher than fatalities in the United States for the first time over the last 24 hours, according to the country's health ministry.

Brazil registered 807 deaths over the last 24 hours, whereas 620 died in the US.

Brazil has the second-worst outbreak in the world, with 374,898 cases, behind the US with 1,706,150 million cases. 

Total deaths in the US has reached 99,804 compared with Brazil at 23,473.

California reopens places of worship, in-store retail

California says churches can resume in-person services but the congregations will be limited to less than 100 and worshippers should wear masks, avoid sharing prayer books and skip the collection plate.

The state Department of Public Health released a framework for county health officials to permit houses of worship to reopen.

Most have been limited to online and remote services since March, when Governor Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order took effect to slow the spread.

With progress being made, Newsom has been relaxing those restrictions for restaurants, stores and other businesses.

Several thousand churches had vowed to defy Newsom’s order on May 31, which is Pentacost Sunday, a major holiday for many Christians.

US issues travel ban on those coming from Brazil

A ban on foreign travellers arriving in the US from Brazil due to the surge in virus cases there will now take effect late Tuesday, two days earlier than previously announced.

The ban had been set to go into effect late Thursday. The White House announced the change Monday without explanation.

Brazil is second to the US in the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases.

The White House cited Brazil’s status as Latin America’s hardest-hit country on Sunday when it announced the ban, saying it would prevent additional infections in the US

Foreign nationals who have been to Brazil in the two weeks before they attempt to enter the USare to be turned back under the ban. 

The ban does not apply to US citizens or legal permanent residents, and their spouses, parents or children.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies