Covid-19 took hold relatively late in Russia, but is now growing fast, with the country showing the second-highest spread of the disease in the world. A record 9,623 new cases on Saturday indicated infections have not yet reached a plateau.
If Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin’s estimate is correct, that would mean more than 240,000 people may have the virus, four times official figures for the city. Hospitals in the capital are already at capacity, with television footage showing ambulances forced to wait for hours to deliver the infected.
On Friday authorities announced the housing minister was the latest top official to test positive. Vladimir Putin has not been pictured in public for nearly a month and is working from his residence outside Moscow.
There are fears outbreaks may have festered undetected in other areas that initially appeared to have escaped the worst ravages of the disease.
In Somalia, medics, funeral workers and gravediggers have reported an unprecedented surge of deaths in recent days in the capital Mogadishu, suggesting official counts of Covid-19 deaths — currently just 601 confirmed cases and 28 deaths — reflect only a fraction of the virus’s toll.
Mohamed Osman Warsame, an ambulance driver, said he had transported between 15 and 18 corpses to cemeteries in the capital every day for the last two weeks, many times above the usual daily figure of between two and four. “There are a lot of deaths. It is like we are in a deadly war. People are dying so fast,” Warsame said.
On the island of Bali, an entire hamlet has been locked down after rapid testing showed hundreds of residents were probably infected, the Jakarta Post reported. Out of 1,200 initial tests, 400 returned a reactive result; authorities will follow up with swab tests to confirm infection rates.
Increasingly intense efforts to stop the spread of the disease have raised concerns about human rights and civil liberties. Malaysia has been criticised by the UN after detaining hundreds of undocumented migrants, including young children and Rohingya refugees, as part of its efforts to contain coronavirus.
The UN said the arrests could push vulnerable groups into hiding and prevent them from seeking treatment, and warned that overcrowded detention centres carried a high risk of increasing the virus’s spread.
Privacy advocates in India have also attacked a government order that all public and private sector employees should use a government-backed Bluetooth tracing app, as New Delhi begins easing some of its lockdown measures in lower-risk areas.
Critics warn that it is unclear how the data will be used. They stress India lacks privacy laws to govern the app. New Delhi has said the app will not infringe on privacy as all data is collected anonymously.
Worldwide there are now 3.4 million cases of coronavirus and more than 238,000 deaths, although many countries that have passed the peak of their infections are now working on relaxing their lockdown restrictions.
Singapore’s health minister said on Saturday that it will start easing some curbs after a second wave of the coronavirus concentrated in the state’s crowded migrant worker dormitories appeared to subside, with some students allowed back to school later this month.
In Spain on Saturday adults were allowed out to exercise for the first time since March; as the country goes back to work, the government has made facemasks compulsory on buses, tubes and trains. Nearly 15 million will be handed out by authorities and charities.
All governments, however, are moving cautiously, for fear of a second wave. In China the northeastern city of Harbin shut-dine in services at restaurants and cafes as the rest of the country was easing restrictions for the May Day holiday.
Mainland China reported only one new case on Saturday, but Heilongjiang province is currently dealing with the country’s biggest remaining coronavirus cluster, with half of 140 recent local transmissions, according to a Reuters tally.
In the US, Australia and the UK, there has been a focus on how and why residential facilities have become deadly incubators for the disease.
A nursing home in New York has reported a “horrifying” death toll of 98 people from the coronavirus, one of the worst outbreaks in the country and a shock even in hard-hit New York. An official state tally of nursing home deaths had previously listed only 13 as of Friday.
In the UK, the coronavirus death toll increased sharply this week after officials began counting fatalities from the country’s nursing homes alongside deaths in hospitals. Britain now has the third highest number of deaths in the world, 27,510, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, behind only the US and Italy.
In Australia, although the virus has been brought under control far more quickly, deaths also continued to mount at a care home in western Sydney. Thirteen residents account for over 10% of the total national death toll of only 93, and it is threatening to overtake the Ruby Princess cruise ship as the single biggest source of deaths in the country.
Elsewhere around the world, key developments include:
- The US Federal Drug Administration has given approval for the experimental drug remdesivir to be used in an emergency on patients suffering from Covid-19.
- Also in the US, the White House has barred the administration’s top pandemic expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, from giving evidence at a Congressional hearing. It said it was not appropriate for a member of the pandemic response team to testify.
- Europe’s tourism industry, and its host economies such as Spain, Italy and Greece, face being ruined by the shutdown driven by the virus. The European Commission estimates that the EU’s hotels and restaurants will lose half their income this year.
The UK government has been urged to prioritise spending on the poorest areas of the country after official statistics revealed that those regions have borne the brunt of the deaths from Covid-19. Read our report on life in one of the nation’s poorest boroughs, Newham in east London.
The economic toll of the crisis has continued as stock markets fell sharply on Friday, largely thanks to the ongoing war of words between the US and China. In the UK, the Financial Times has reported that Rolls-Royce plans to shed 8,000 of its 52,000-strong workforce.
California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, promised to make “meaningful” changes to stay-at-home orders in the coming days as thousands of protesters gathered across the state to condemn the lockdown, and in defiance of its ordnances.
Donald Trump has told Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, that she should “make a deal” with anti-lockdown protesters after groups of heavily armed men swarmed the state capitol. Whitmer rejected making a deal during a public health emergency, but said some outdoor work will be allowed to resume next week.