Coronavirus world round-up: Countries easing lockdown could face 'immediate second peak', warns WHO

Verity Bowman

Countries with declining coronavirus infections could face an "immediate second peak" if they let up on lockdown measures too quickly, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned. 

"We need also to be cognizant of the fact that the disease can jump up at any time," said WHO emergencies head Dr Mike Ryan on Monday. "We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now, it is going to keep going down."

Nurses and doctors rescue a woman in critical conditions after being infected by coronavirus in Brazil  - Getty Images South America 

Meanwhile, the WHO also announced it was suspending trials for a drug touted by Donald Trump as a cure for the coronavirus.

The US President revealed he was taking hydroxychloriquine, an anti-malarial drug, last week. The nation has by far the world's highest death toll, reaching 98,218 on Monday, with more than 1.6 million confirmed infections.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has also heavily promoted hydroxychloroquine while the virus has exploded across nation, which this week became the second most infected in the world after the US.

But the WHO decided to cancel trials after studies questioned the drug's safety, including one published Friday that found it actually increased the risk of death.

Lockdowns eased around the world

In the past 24 hours, lockdown measures have been eased in Spain's two biggest cities Madrid and Barcelona, where people can now meet in groups of up to 10 in their homes or in parks or on the terraces of bars and restaurants. Beaches also reopen in parts of the country after months-long closures.

Italy has reopened swimming pools and gyms, while Greece has done the same with restaurants and cafes. In Ukraine, citizens of Kiev can take the metro for the first time in 10 weeks.

Iran has reopened its main shrines, India has resumed domestic flights and Japan has stressed caution but lifted a nationwide state of emergency.

Masked Biden makes first public appearance in months

Joe Biden made his first public appearance in more than two months on Monday as he marked Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a veterans park near his Delaware home.

Since abruptly cancelling a March 10 rally in Cleveland at the onset of the pandemic, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has waged much of his campaign from his home in Wilmington.

When Biden emerged on Monday, he wore a face mask, in contrast to President Donald Trump, who has refused to cover his face in public as health officials suggest.

Democratic US presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill visit the War Memorial Plaza during Memorial Day - Reuters

Mr Biden and his wife, Jill, laid a wreath of white flowers tied with a white bow, and bowed their heads in silence at the park. He saluted. "Never forget the sacrifices that these men and women made," he said after. "Never, ever, forget."

"I feel great to be out here," Mr Biden told reporters, his words muffled through his black cloth mask. His visit to the park was unannounced, and there was no crowd waiting for him.

Though low-key, the appearance was a milestone in a presidential campaign that has largely been frozen by the outbreak. While the feasibility of traditional events such as rallies and the presidential conventions are in doubt, Mr Biden's emergence suggests he won't spend the nearly five months that remain until the election entirely at home.

Saudia Arabia announces an end to curfew

An aerial view of Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca taken during the early hours of Eid al-Fitr - AFP

Saudi Arabia will begin easing restrictions on movement and travel this week, more than two months after stringent measures were introduced to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Restrictions will be lifted in three phases, culminating in the curfew completely ending - with the exception of the holy city of Mecca - from June 21, the state news agency reported in a statement early on Tuesday.

The Hajj and Umrah pilgrimmages - which attract millions of travelers from around the world - will remain suspended until further notice.

The kingdom has so far recorded 74,795 cases of Covid-19 with 399 deaths. More than 2,000 cases are still being reported daily.

Saudi Arabia had imposed 24-hour curfews on most towns and cities but eased them for the start of the fasting month of Ramadan. The 24-hour curfew was reimposed during the five-day Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, which began on Sunday.

Angry protests in Ecuador

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.

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

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

Coronavirus has caused at least 3,200 deaths in the country, making it South America's worst hit nation per capita. Authorities say more than 2,000 further deaths are likely linked to the virus.

A protester kicks a burning tyre at a police barricade in Quito - AP

What you might have missed

  • Lufthansa struck a €9 billion (£8.04 billion) rescue deal with the German government with Berlin taking a 20pc stake in the faltering airline

  • Italy wants to recruit an army of 60,000 volunteers to help enforce social distancing rules, amid fears that a second wave of infections could be looming.

  • French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said that health workers will soon get hefty pay increases as part of an overhaul of the country's hospital system in response to the coronavirus crisis

  • Brazil daily deaths were higher than fatalities in the US for the first time over the last 24 hours, according to the country's Health Ministry. Brazil registered 807 deaths in the past day, whereas 620 died in the US

  • New York is struggling with the city's 16,000 dead resorting to cardboard coffins and drive-thru funerals. While the US as a whole is fast approaching the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths

  • The Dutch PM Mark Rutte has revealed he didn't see mother before her death because he followed virus lockdown rules