World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned of a “new and dangerous phase” in the accelerating coronavirus pandemic after 150,000 new cases were reported worldwide on Thursday – the highest in a single day.
Brazil has passed one million coronavirus cases and approached 50,000 deaths, making it second only to the United States in both infections and deaths.
German biopharmaceutical company CureVac has started a clinical trial for a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.
More than 458,000 people have died as a result of the new coronavirus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. At least 8.6 million people have been confirmed to have the coronavirus around the world and more than 4.2 million have recovered.
Here are the latest updates:
Saturday, June 20
06:10 GMT – Guatemala replaces health minister mid-pandemic
Guatemala replaced its health minister Friday amid the rising pace of COVID-19 infections and deaths in the Central American country.
President Alejandro Giammattei pushed out Health Minister Hugo Monroy and named Amelia Flores, a former vice minister of health in an earlier administration, as his replacement.
Monroy, who had held the position since January, had been harshly criticized for his management of the pandemic. Federal lawmakers called him in multiple times for questioning and complained that the Health Ministry was spending too little of its budget during the pandemic.
05:50 GMT – Navy upholds firing of carrier captain in virus outbreak
The two senior commanders on a coronavirus-stricken aircraft carrier didn’t “do enough, soon enough,” to stem the outbreak, the top U.S. Navy officer said Friday, a stunning reversal that upheld the firing of the ship’s captain who had pleaded for faster action to protect the crew.
Capt. Brett E. Crozier and Rear Adm. Stuart Baker, commander of the carrier strike group, made serious errors in judgment as they tried to work through an outbreak that sidelined the USS Theodore Roosevelt in Guam for 10 weeks, said Admiral Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations.
The Crozier decision was a surprise since Gilday had recommended that the captain be restored to his command less than two months ago after an initial inquiry.
The pandemic set off a dramatic series of events that led to Crozier’s dismissal, the abrupt resignation of the acting Navy secretary who fired him and the push for a broader review of the Pacific fleet’s top commanders and how they handled the virus outbreak.
05:30 GMT – Pakistan to resume international flights
Pakistan resumed international flight operations in the country, after months of a suspension imposed to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.
The government “is pleased to authorize international flight operations to and from Pakistan from all international airports from June 20,” Abdul Satttar Khokhar, spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement late Friday.
The permissions may be subject to restrictions from time to time based on the evolving Covid-19 scenario and implementation of health protocols.
Hello, this is Usaid Siddiqui taking over from my colleague Zaheen Rasheed in Male.
I’ll now be handing over this blog to my colleagues in Doha.
Here’s a quick summary of the latest developments: Costa Rica and Mexico are delaying reopening of their economies amid a rise in infections, while a court in the US has rejected a bid to make face masks mandatory at President Donald Trump’s upcoming campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
China’s capital, Beijing, reported a further drop in locally transmitted cases but Pakistan registered a new daily record for deaths.
04:58 GMT – Pakistan reports highest daily death toll
Pakistan has reported 153 fatalities in a new daily record for COVID-19 deaths as infections across the country continued to spiral.
The total death toll now stands at 3,382. Hospitals are filling up and in many cities across the country and COVID-19 patients are being turned away as new infections pushed the overall number of confirmed cases to 171,665.
In a country of 220 million people, Pakistan has fewer than 3,000 ICU beds – among the world’s lowest number. Ventilators are being distributed to some of the worst-hit areas and the government has sealed more than 800 residential and business areas where clusters of infections have surfaced.
Yet despite urging from medical professionals and the WHO, Pakistan has refused to impose strict lockdowns.
04:31 GMT – US rejects Chinese airlines’ request for additional flights
Washington rejected a request by four Chinese airlines for additional weekly flights between the two countries, but said the decision was not meant to escalate tensions over travel restrictions in the midst of the new coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, the US Department of Transportation said the decision was made to “maintain the parity” in scheduled passenger services between the two countries, adding it was willing to review the decision if Chinese aviation authorities adjusted their policies affecting US carriers.
Earlier this week, the US and China said they would each allow four weekly flights between the two countries.
How can the aviation industry weather the coronavirus storm? (24:22)
04:21 GMT – US to release Hezbollah financier
The US will release convicted Hezbollah financier Kassim Tajideen three years into his five-year sentence due to his poor health and risks of COVID-19 infection from prison, according to court documents.
On May 28 Washington Federal District Court Judge Reggie Walton granted Tajideen’s emergency request for compassionate release, which said his age and “serious health conditions” leave him particularly vulnerable as the coronavirus spread through the US prison system.
Tajideen, 64, could be back in Lebanon within weeks.
According to a June 11 court filing by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he was released from the federal prison in Cumberland, Maryland after a two-week coronavirus quarantine and moved to a county detention centre while awaiting departure.
“At this time, a charter flight to Lebanon has been scheduled for July 2020 and Mr Tajideen is on the manifest,” ICE said in a court filing.
04:11 GMT – South Korea logs biggest daily rise in three weeks
South Korea reported its largest 24-hour increase in confirmed coronavirus cases in about three weeks amid an uptick in imported cases.
Officials said the 67 additional cases raise the country’s total to 12,373, with 280 deaths.The new figure is the largest daily increase since South Korea reported 79 cases on May 28.
Officials say 31 of the new cases came from outside the country and the other 36 were locally transmitted.
South Korea is seeking to contain a spike in fresh virus transmissions since early May when it eased social distancing rules. The new cases have been linked to nightlife establishments, church services, a big e-commerce warehouse and door-to-door sellers.
03:38 GMT – Novartis halts malaria drug trial amid participant shortfall
Swiss drugmaker Novartis is halting its trial of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) against COVID-19 after struggling to find participants, it said on Friday, as data emerged from other studies raising doubts about the drug’s efficacy.
Novartis’s trial began in April and sought to test the drug in 440 hospitalised patients. But the project only managed to recruit a handful.
“The recruitment challenge facing our hydroxychloroquine trial has made it unlikely that the clinical team will be able to collect meaningful data in a reasonable time frame to determine the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in treating patients with COVID-19,” Novartis said in a statement.
02:53 GMT – Beijing reports further drop in new cases
China’s capital recorded a further drop in new confirmed coronavirus cases as tightened measures to contain the spread remain in place.
Officials reported 22 new cases in Beijing, along with five others elsewhere in the country. No new deaths were reported and 308 people remain hospitalised for treatment for COVID-19.
One of the Beijing cases is a nurse at a hospital in the suburban Changping district. The Peking University International Hospital where she worked is now under tightened restrictions, along with residential communities in the surrounding area.
A total of 205 people have been diagnosed with the virus in Beijing since the outbreak began last week, with at least two of them critically ill and 11 others in serious condition.
02:19 GMT – Pandemic could worsen Haiti’s ‘already alarming humanitarian situation’
Helen La Lime, the United Nations Special Representative for Haiti, said the coronavirus pandemic is worsening the country’s “already alarming humanitarian situation”, something that could see an increasing number of citizens flee the island to seek a better life abroad.
And unless more help was offered to tackle Haiti’s economic recession, ”a primarily domestic problem could transform into a regional issue,” she warned during a virtual meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday.
She added: “A vicious circle of mistrust, recrimination and ultimately violence, is once again starting to define the dynamics of Haitian politics at a time when the entire society should be unified in its response to the pandemic”.
Haiti has a population of 11 million people and has so far recorded 4,900 coronavirus cases and 84 deaths.
01:57 GMT – Mexico City delays reopening as cases continue to surge
Authorities in Mexico City delayed a planned reopening of the economy as new confirmed cases and deaths reported nationwide continued at near-record levels.
Claudia Sheinbaum, mayor of the 11 million strong city, said hospital occupancy and case numbers had not decreased to the point where reopening malls and street markets would be possible. About 70 percent of the city’s hospital beds are occupied.
Mexico’s Health Department reported 5,030 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 647 more deaths, both numbers down just slightly from Thursday. Total cases now stand at 170,485, with 20,394 fatalities.
01:35 GMT – US court rejects bid for mandatory masks at Trump rally
Oklahoma’s Supreme Court rejected an effort to require everyone attending US President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa this weekend to wear a face mask and maintain social distancing to guard against spreading the coronavirus.
In a concurring opinion, two justices said the local residents asking for precautions at Trump’s rally – the US’s largest indoor gathering in months – could not establish their legal right to the relief they sought.
The petition was filed by two people described as having compromised immune systems and at particular risk from COVID-19.
The ruling came as Oklahoma reported its second-biggest increase in new infections on Friday, logging 359 cases of COVID-19 and one death. That brings the state’s total caseload to 9,706 and number of deaths to 367.
01:10 GMT – Costa Rica halts reopening
Costa Rica is halting the reopening of its economy after registering on Friday a record 119 new coronavirus infections – a figure that brings the country’s total number of confirmed cases to 2,508.
“These are not numbers to think that nothing is wrong and that we can continue with the reopening,” Health Minister Daniel Salas told reporters.
“Stores and shopping malls, beaches, churches and other activities will have to wait until we have a sustained decrease in cases,” he said, adding that the country’s national soccer league is also suspended “until further notice”.
At least 12 people have died from COVID-19 in Costa Rica.
00:23 GMT – Brazil surpasses one million coronavirus cases
Brazil passed one million coronavirus cases and approached 50,000 deaths in a new nadir for the world’s second-worst-hit country.
The country’s health ministry reported 1,032,913 confirmed cases on Friday, with 1,206 new deaths that took the total official death toll to 48,954.
Friday also saw a new record daily number of cases, with 54,771 infections, a jump the health ministry said was largely due to “instability” in its reporting system, which meant some states were reporting figures from multiple days.
Brazil is likely to surpass 50,000 deaths on Saturday, although weekend reporting can be lower.
Read more here.
00:16 GMT – Zimbabwe health minister arrested over coronavirus supplies scandal
Zimbabwe’s health minister Obadiah Moyo was arrested on Friday for alleged corruption related to the supply of medical materials to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s anti-graft agency said.
He was being held at a Harare police station and is likely to appear in court on Saturday.
“I can confirm that the minister of health and child welfare has been arrested and is being detained at Rhodesville police station,” John Makamure, spokesman for the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, told the AFP news agency.
“It’s to do with the procurement of COVID-19 materials,” he added.
The government did not immediately comment on the arrest, which came a day after the country’s main opposition condemned alleged corruption following suspicions about a two-million-dollar payment to a medical company contracted to provide anti-coronavirus equipment.
Harare has come under fire for granting two-month-old company Drax Consult SAGL a contract to supply $20m worth of drugs, personal protective equipment and COVID-19 test kits.
The deal was allegedly signed without the consent of Zimbabwe’s procurement registration authority.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives.
You can find all the key developments from yesterday, June 19, here.