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Friday, May 22, 2020, 23:12
Spain eases Madrid lockdown, letting outdoor dining resume
By Agencies
Friday, May 22, 2020, 23:12 By Agencies

A woman wearing a mask buys an ice-cream in Madrid on May 21, 2020 as wearing masks became obligatory in public where social distancing is not possible. (PHOTO / AFP)

MEXICO CITY / ROME / SANTIAGO / PARIS / LONDON / RIO DE JANEIRO / UNITED NATIONS / MADRID / TIRANA / HARARE / MOGADISHU / BERLIN / CAPE TOWN / OTTAWA / CAIRO / SOFIA / NAIROBI / WARSAW / MOSCOW  Coronavirus lockdowns will be eased in Spain’s capital Madrid and second city Barcelona from Monday to allow outdoor dining and gatherings of up to 10 people as infections have slowed sufficiently there, the government said.

Restrictions will be relaxed even further in other regions comprising about half of Spain’s population.

Spain started phasing out one of Europe’s toughest lockdowns earlier this month, but full restrictions had remained in both Madrid and Barcelona because their outbreaks were so severe.

In Barcelona, beaches were opened for walking this week, but public swimming and sunbathing will remain banned.

“Each step we make, must be a safe one,” Health Minister Salvador Illa said. “Since the phase-out process is complex, I want to call for individual responsibility.”

Bars and restaurants in Madrid and Barcelona will be allowed to reopen on pavements and terraces at half capacity from Monday, churches can also throw open their doors again, and people will be free to travel outside the cities.

Other areas of Spain will move to another phase of the return to normality.

Theatres, cinemas, art galleries, museums can reopen there from Monday at no more than a third of capacity, some schools will restart, and some outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing will be allowed again.

Trips between provinces are still banned, however.

Spain, one of the world’s worst-hit countries with 27,940 registered fatalities and 233,037 infections, introduced its lockdowns on March 14.

As people have been confined at home, the rate of new fatalities has steadily fallen to fewer than 100 deaths a day.

Though phasing out the lockdown, the government has imposed a 14-day self-quarantine on the few overseas travellers allowed in to try and avoid a second wave of COVID-19.

This handout photo released by Heathrow Airport on May 21, 2020 shows a thermal screening trial taking place at Terminal 2 in Heathrow, west London. (PHOTO / HANDOUT / LHR AIRPORTS LIMITED / AFP)

The United Kingdom will later on Friday spell out details of its plans for a COVID-19 quarantine for travelers arriving from overseas, a measure that airlines have warned will devastate their industry.

The government is expected to announce that all international arrivals, including returning Britons, will be required to self-isolate for 14 days and provide details of where they will be staying to the authorities.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that those who breached the quarantine would be fined 1,000 pounds (US$1,217) with health and border officials carrying out spot checks.

The government has indicated that only those arriving from the Irish Republic would be exempt from the quarantine along with those in a number of specific jobs, such as freight drivers. Transport Minister Grant Shapps has also suggested the government would seek to negotiate "air bridges" for travelers coming from countries with low virus infection rates.

Meanwhile, British mortgage borrowers will be allowed to skip payments for three more months as regulators aim to ease coronavirus-driven stress on the economy

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said full details of the plan, which aims to try to prevent a second peak of the coronavirus pandemic, would be outlined by Interior Minister Priti Patel later.

In another development, British mortgage borrowers will be allowed to skip payments for three more months as regulators aim to ease coronavirus-driven stress on the economy.

On Thursday, Health Minister Matt Hancock said the health service's COVID-19 smartphone app was working on the Isle of Wight, where it is being trialed, and the country's test and trace operation would be ready to launch on June 1 when the lockdown is further eased. 

The UK's death toll from confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose by 351 to 36,393 as of 1600 GMT on May 21, the health ministry said.

A total of 254,195 people had tested positive for the coronavirus as of 0800 GMT on May 22.

Hancock said that antibody tests suggest that 17 percent of people in London may have had the novel coronavirus. The figure for the rest of the country is 5 percent.

The government has signed a deal with Roche and Abbott that will lead to 10 million antibody tests being available in Britain, which will be rolled out with National Health Service (NHS) and care staff and patients being tested first, said Hancock. 

READ MORE: Virus: UK healthcare workers begin hydroxychloroquine trial

UN

The United Nations (UN) on Thursday launched an initiative called "Verified" to counter COVID-19 misinformation by increasing the volume and reach of trusted, accurate information.

"We cannot cede our virtual spaces to those who traffic in lies, fear and hate," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who announced the initiative. 

The initiative, led by the UN Department for Global Communications (DGC), will provide information focusing on three themes: science, solidarity and solutions. It will also promote recovery packages that tackle the climate crisis and address the root causes of poverty, inequality and hunger, said the UN in a press release.

COVID-19 is not just this century's largest public health emergency, but also a communication crisis, said the UN's undersecretary-general for global communications

People around the world are called on to sign up to become "information volunteers" to share trusted content to keep their families and communities safe and connected. 

The DGC will partner with UN agencies and UN country teams, influencers, civil society, business and media organizations to distribute trusted, accurate content and work with social media platforms to root out hate and harmful assertions about COVID-19.

COVID-19 is not just this century's largest public health emergency, but also a communication crisis, Melissa Fleming, UN undersecretary-general for global communications, said at a virtual press briefing.

Over a quarter of the most viewed videos on Youtube about COVID-19 contained misleading information, Fleming said, quoting a recent study of the British Medical Journal. "Fiction is often circulating faster than fact."

Global tally

Confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide has surpassed 5.1 million while the death toll topped 333,000, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

The United States is the hardest-hit country, with more than 1.57 million confirmed cases and a death toll of over 94,000, according to the CSSE. Countries with over 200,000 cases also include Russia, Britain, Brazil, Spain and Italy, according to the data.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across Africa surpassed 95,000 and the death toll surged to almost 3,000 as of Thursday afternoon, the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

Albania

Albania will reopen its borders this month and prepare to welcome back tourists, Prime Minister Edi Rama told parliament on Thursday, with the country reporting no additional deaths for more than three weeks.

"If a second wave comes, it will be much more grievous than the one we overcame. We'll to cope with it with the same seriousness," Rama said.

With five new reported infections in the last 24 hours, there are now 167 people infected with COVID-19 in Albania. The country has reported 969 confirmed cases, including 31 deaths.

A woman pushes a baby stroller past a mural that reads "Coronavirus kills" in Portugese and features outdated statistics on COVID-19 deaths. In the Alemao Complex favela of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on May 21, 2020. (SILVIA IZQUIERDO / AP)

Brazil

Brazil registered a record of 1,188 daily coronavirus deaths on Thursday, with more than 20,000 total fatalities from the coronavirus outbreak, the health ministry said.

Brazil now has 310,087 confirmed cases, the ministry said, just a few thousand fewer than world No. 2 hot spot Russia, which trails the United States.

ALSO READ: Brazil passes Italy and Spain in confirmed virus cases

President Jair Bolsonaro said he will sign off on Thursday or Friday a 60 billion-real (US$10.72 billion) federal aid program for states and cities hit by coronavirus, but asked governors for support freezing public sector pay increases.

Meanwhile, Bolsonaro said on Thursday he knew there was no proof that the malaria drug chloroquine works, but said there are cases in which it appears to have been successful.

The Brazilian health ministry on Wednesday loosened protocols for the use of chloroquine, indicating it even for mild cases of the coronavirus.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria, which has started to ease its lockdown, has scrapped a ban on the entry of visitors from the European Union (EU) and Schengen visa zone countries, the health ministry said in a statement late on Thursday.

The health ministry said that the lifting of the ban also covers San Marino, Andorra, Monaco and Vatican City.

The ministry said that people arriving in Bulgaria would continue to spend 14 days in quarantine. But the 14-day period will no longer apply to Bulgarian citizens and citizens of other EU countries who are travelling for humanitarian reasons and those who are "representatives of the trade, economic and investment activities".

The quarantine will also not apply to people directly related to construction, maintenance, operations, and ensuring the safety of the strategic and critical infrastructure of Bulgaria, the ministry said.

As of Thursday, Bulgaria had 2,331 confirmed coronavirus cases and 120 deaths.

Canada

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday urged Canadians to continue taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously as a possible second wave of the deadly disease is looming ahead.

Trudeau repeated his government' recommendation for Canadians to wear non-medical masks in a situation where physical distancing can not be maintained.

Trudeau promised that his government was willing to help the provinces and territories in the country increase their testing and contact tracing capabilities against the COVID-19.

As of Thursday afternoon, a total of 81,277 confirmed cases have been recorded in the country, including 6,145 deaths.

Chile

Chile on Thursday said the country has recorded a total of 57,581 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 589 deaths.

According to the latest report from the health ministry, in the past 24 hours ending 9 pm Wednesday, authorities detected 3,964 new cases and another 45 fatalities, the most deaths recorded in a single day since the outbreak began in Chile.

Out of the new cases, 3,538 displayed symptoms and 426 were asymptomatic, while 23,992 patients have recovered.

Chile is still working to increase the number of ventilators available, Health Minister Jaime Manalich told reporters. "We have brought six new ventilators. In the next few days, four more, and next week, an additional 10 ventilators, and then 10 more the following week, to meet the needs of the region," said Manalich.

Djibouti

Djibouti's Ministry of Health on Thursday announced 219 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 2,047 as of Thursday afternoon.

The ministry said one more death was registered, raising the death toll to 10.

Three more cases of recovery was recorded in the past 24 hours, according to the ministry.

Ecuador

Ecuador detected 452 new COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total caseload to 35,306, the Public Health Ministry said on Thursday.

In the past 24-hour period, 51 more COVID-19 patients have died, taking the death toll to 2,939.

Ecuador's actual death toll from COVID-19 could be closer to 5,000 as some 1,880 deaths are believed to be due to the virus, but have not been verified.

The epicenter of the national outbreak is the southwest province of Guayas, which has seen 13,482 confirmed cases and 1,284 fatalities.

Egypt

Egypt on Thursday saw a record 774 single-day new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections in the country to 15,003, according to the health ministry. It was the third consecutive day for Egypt's COVID-19 daily infections to exceed 700.

Another 16 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 696, according to Khaled Megahed, the health ministry's spokesman.

Meanwhile, 223 patients discharged from hospitals on Thursday, raising the total number of recoveries to 4,217, Megahed said.

Earlier in the day, Egyptian Higher Education Minister Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar said that the actual number of COVID-19 infections in Egypt could be five times that of confirmed ones.

"The actual figure of coronavirus infections in Egypt could be more than 71,000," the minister said in a televised conference attended by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.

Citing data analysis, Abdel-Ghaffar expected the number of infections to start declining in Egypt from mid-July.

People stroll along the Seine river bank in Paris on May 21, 2020 as France gradually lifts its COVID-19 lockdown. (MICHEL EULER / AP)

France

The growth rate of new confirmed COVID-19 cases in France slowed slightly on Thursday, with health authorities reporting an additional 318 known infections, an increase of 0.2 percent over 24 hours.

The rate of increases in reported deaths also slowed a little, with 83 COVID-19 fatalities in the past day, bringing the total to 28,215. That represented a rise of 0.3 percent.

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

Germany


Preventive COVID-19 tests should be carried out in hospitals and nursing homes in Germany on a large scale, German Minister of Health Jens Spahn said on Friday.

"My goal is to present a regulation before the end of May that will enable preventive serial tests in hospitals and nursing homes," Spahn told the German newspaper Die Welt on Friday. "When patients and residents are hospitalized or transferred, SARS-CoV-2 (or novel coronavirus) testing should be the norm."

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased  by 460 to 177,212, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Friday.

The reported death toll rose by 27 to 8174, the tally showed.


The German Council of Economic Experts (GCEE) announced on Friday that it has proposed an economic stimulus package that would support structural change in the country during the coronavirus pandemic.

The government should refrain from introducing a large number of sector-specific measures, such as a purchase premium for vehicles, which is currently being discussed in Germany, the experts wrote in an article for the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Friday.

Instead, GCEE suggested three measures "to support economic recovery and accompany structural change" in Germany, including more possibilities for tax loss carryback and carryforward.

This measure would provide companies with "direct, short-term liquidity" and increase the incentive to invest today, according to GCEE, which was established in the 1960s and is an academic body that advises the German government on economic policy issues.

Furthermore, a "quick and comprehensive reform of energy prices" in Germany would provide noticeable relief for households and businesses alike, the experts noted.

Ghana

Ghana has reported 217 more confirmed COVID-19 cases, moving the national tally up to 6,486 as of Friday morning, according to data from the Ghana Health Service (GHS).

Data on the GHS COVID-19 portal said the number of recovered cases has risen by 53 to reach 1,951, while the death toll remains at 31.

GHS Director-General Patrick Kuma-Aboagye said on Thursday that the infection rate was beginning to slow down in the west African country.

Greece

The Greek health ministry said on Thursday that three new COVID-19 cases and two deaths were recorded in the past 24 hours, bringing the tally to 2,853 and the death toll to 168.

Nikos Hardalias, deputy minister for Civil Protection and Crisis Management at the Ministry of Citizen Protection, stressed that depending on developments, travelers from countries with high epidemiological evidence will not be allowed to visit Greece this summer.

The tourism sector will gradually restart in June and as of July 1 international flights to airports across Greece will start.  Enditem

Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau reported 20 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total number of infections to 1,109.

The health authorties of Guinea-Bissau carried out a total of 92 tests in the past 24 hours, Dionisio Cumba, coordinator of the Center for Emergency Health Operations (COES) said during the daily briefing, adding that 20 positive cases were detected.

He said that more patients would be declared cured of COVID-19 if their second tests results would still be negative as their first ones.

So far, Guinea-Bissau has reported 1,109 cases, including six deaths and 42 recoveries since March 25.

Italy

Italy recorded another 156 deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic on Thursday, 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 now stands at 32,486, the agency said, the third highest in the world after those of the United States and Britain.

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.

READ MORE: Beaches, parks busy as Europe heat wave & US spring test virus rules

Kenya

Kenya's Ministry of Health on Thursday confirmed 80 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the tally in the country to 1,109.

Mutahi Kagwe, cabinet secretary for health, said a total of 3,102 samples were tested in the last 24 hours, "the largest sample size tested so far".

Kagwe said that nine patients were discharged from hospitals, bringing the the total number of recoveries reached 375. The death toll remained at 50.

Kagwe said that the government has increased testing capacity by about 40 percent and intend to continue expanding the capacity. 

The Ministry of Health's Director General Patrick Amoth said the coronavirus peak in Kenya will be in August and September.

Libya

Libya's National Center for Disease Control on Thursday reported two new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the country's total tally to 71.

The center said in a statement that it received 326 suspected samples, two of which tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and that the two were people who recently returned from abroad.

There have so far been 35 recoveries and three deaths out of the confirmed cases in Libya, according to the center.

A supervisor inspects new face masks being made at a new factory in Mexico City, May 21, 2020. An initiative by Mexico's National Autonomous University (UNAM) and Mexico City's government aims to fill the gap of the protective equipment desperately needed by doctors and nurses fighting the pandemic with this new factory to make N95 masks. (FERNANDO LLANO / AP)

Mexico

Mexican health authorities on Thursday reported 2,973 more coronavirus cases, a daily record for new infections, bringing the country's total tally to 59,567 cases.

Mexico also registered another 420 deaths, just slightly lower than its record one-day death toll the prior day, pushing the death toll to 6,510.

Morocco

The Moroccan health ministry on Thursday announced 78 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 7,211.

Two more deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours, pushing the death toll to 196, according to Mohamed El Youbi, director of epidemiology at the Ministry of Health.

The number of the recovered cases rose by 182 to 4,280.

Panama

Fifty-nine migrants in Panamanian migration centers have tested positive for the coronavirus, of which 24 of them have recovered, a health official said.

More than 2,500 migrants became stranded in Panama in March when the border with neighboring Costa Rica was closed in an attempt to contain the rapidly spreading coronavirus, according to figures from Panamanian migration authorities.

Nearly 2,000 of those migrants are being held in migration centers in the Darien province, located on the edge of a remote swath of jungle that separates Panama and Colombia, according to migration officials.

A number of migrants in the centers are considered to be at high risk for the virus, including 78 pregnant women.

Poland

Poland plans to extend a ban on international flights by two weeks until June 6 due to the coronavirus pandemic, state-run news agency PAP said on Friday citing infrastructure ministry documents.

A ban on domestic flights will be extended by eight days until May 31, PAP also said.

The Polish health ministry announced on Thursday that 405 new COVID-19 cases were reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the country's tally to 20,143, including 972 deaths.

Russia

Russia on Friday reported 150 fatalities from the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, a record daily rise, taking the country's official nationwide death toll from the virus to 3,249.

The country's coronavirus crisis response centre reported 8,894 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infections to 326,448.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s southern region of Chechnya, is suspected of having contracted the new coronavirus and is receiving treatment in a Moscow hospital, three Russian new agencies reported.

The TASS news agency, quoting an unnamed medical source, said the condition of Kadyrov, who is 43, was stable, but provided no further details. Chechen authorities have not confirmed or denied the reports and officials including Kadrov’s spokesman Ilman Vakhidov did not answer telephone calls.

Serbia

Proof of a negative COVID-19 test will no longer be mandatory for travelers who wish to enter Serbia, the government decided at a session on Thursday.

The proposal to reopen border crossings enabling free entry of all people to Serbia without coronavirus testing was proposed by the COVID-19 crisis response team two days ago, and was justified with the low ratio of infection among the tested.

According to a statement by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on Wednesday, the government's decision was made as Europe is slowly normalizing its air traffic. 

So far, 10,919 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed with 203,799 tests. In the past 24 hours, 86 new cases were confirmed while two people died.  

Somalia

Somalia’s health ministry on Thursday confirmed 21 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the tally in the country to 1,594.

Health Minister Fawziya Abikar said 16 more patients have recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 204.

The death toll remains at 61 as no additional deaths were reported, the minister said.

South Africa

South Africa on Thursday reported 1,134 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the highest daily record since the country recorded its first case in early March, bringing the country's tally to 19,137, the highest on the African continent.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in his daily update that another 30 deaths were reported, raising the death toll to 369. It was the highest number of daily deaths reported since March 5 when the country's first infection was detected.

The Western Cape province remains the epicenter of the pandemic with 12,153 cases, the highest among all the nine provinces.

According to Western Cape Governor Allan Winde, the the province is scaling up isolation and quarantine off-site, but this will reach its limit soon as the number of infections rise in line with the ascending curve.

The number of undetected cases will continue to grow unless major increases in testing capacity is provided, Winde said. 

READ MORE: Spain imposes quarantine on incoming overseas travelers

Sudan

Sudan on Thursday announced 410 new COVID-19 cases and 10 more deaths in the past three days, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 3,138 and the death toll to 121.

Twenty-three more patients have recovered from the disease, taking the total number of recoveries to 309, the health ministry said in a statement.

Health Minister Akram Ali Al-Tom attributed the intensive transmission of the disease to the slack implementation of the health ban.

"There is a noticeable slack in controlling the curfew which made the city full of movement as if a ban order has not been issued," Al-Tom said in a separate statement. "There is easy inter-state travel by private vehicles and easy movement between the different areas of the capital, particularly during the night," he added.

In this photo taken on May 18, 2020, people wash their hands at a hand-washing station installed for members of the public entering a market in Dodoma, Tanzania. (PHOTO / AP)

Tanzania

Tanzanian President John Magufuli ordered a phased reopening of schools and resumption of foreign tourist flights starting next week, touting the “herd immunity” strategy that’s been rejected by other nations including Singapore, where one official called it “too big a price for us to pay.”

“If you lock people inside, their immunity falls by 30 percent, according to the literature that I have seen,” Magufuli, an opponent of lockdowns, said in a televised speech, flanked my government officials without face coverings. 

The strategy allows for more than 60 percent of the population to gain some resistance to the virus by becoming infected, then recovering. The government also scrapped plans to build a 1,000-bed medical center as hospitalizations fell sharply.

Tunisia

A Tunisian offical announced on Thursday new measures to revive the economy as the COVID-19 pandemic winds down.

Lobna Jribi, the minister in charge of major national projects, said at a press briefing that 75 percent of activities in the industrial, services and construction sectors will resume activity on May 26. Nurseries and kindergartens will also reopen at 50 percent of their capacities on May 26, according to Jribi.

Jribi added that baccalaureate students will resume classes from May 28 while the reopening of mosques and the resumption of training for elite athletes involved in international competitions, as well as the activities of cultural centres, museums, archaeological sites and tourist restaurants, are scheduled for June 4, at 50 percent of their capacities.

Travel between governorates during the Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, will not be allowed, said Jribi.

As of Wednesday night, Tunisia has reported one new COVID-19 case, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 1,045, including 47 deaths. 

US

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the United States would not close in the case of a second coronavirus wave.

"A permanent lockdown is not a strategy for a healthy state or a healthy country. Our country wasn't meant to be shut down," Trump during a tour of a Ford manufacturing plant in the state of Michigan. "A never-ending lockdown would invite a public health calamity. To protect the health of our people we must have a functioning economy."

Trump said he may support another fiscal stimulus bill to help prop up the economy during the outbreak, though he did not provide any details on what he would like to see in such legislation.

Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that 27 antibody tests will no longer be distributed in the US, part of a previously announced crackdown on the tests.

Antibody tests look for markers in the blood that indicate exposure to the novel coronavirus. However, unlike diagnostic tests, they can’t determine whether a patient has an active COVID-19 infection. The FDA’s previous policy allowed hundreds of antibody tests to be sold without its oversight, prompting criticism of the tests’ accuracy.

The 27 tests either had “significant problems” identified with them or their manufacturer didn’t seek authorization, according to the FDA. 

In the US, more than 1.5 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus and more than 90,000 people have died. 

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe reported three new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the nationwide tally to 51.

To date, a total of 18 recoveries and four deaths have been reported in the country.

Zimbabwe has so far conducted 34,707 tests for COVID-19.  

Botswana 

Botswana will begin reopening schools in stages from June 2 for final year students, an official said Thursday.

Bridget John, permanent secretary for the ministry of basic education, said that classes will start across the southern African country for learners from Standard Seven, Form Three and Five, and primary, junior and senior secondary schools, respectively.

Schools have been closed in the country since March 20, when the government implemented nationwide precautionary measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Botswana, which introduced measures such as temperature checks and reduced class sizes like many other countries across the globe, has registered just 29 confirmed cases, with 19 recoveries and only one death.

Nigeria

The Nigerian government has warned against taking antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as treatment against COVID-19 cases, saying the drug had not been certified for such use.

The warning followed a large purchase of hydroxychloroquine by some citizens, said Boss Mustapha, chairman of Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in a statement reaching Xinhua on Friday.

He said through the surveillance system set up by the PTF, it has received reports that Nigerians have been purchasing Hydroxychloroquine in large quantities to treat COVID-19.

Late Thursday, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) reported 339 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, bringing the total to 7,016 and the death toll to 211.

Belarus

Belarus reported 932 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Friday, taking its total to 34,303.

Of all confirmed cases, 12,833 people have recovered so far, while 190 people with chronic diseases have died, according to the country's health ministry.

As of Friday, over 419,000 tests for COVID-19 have been conducted across the country, the ministry said.

Portugal 

Portugal on Friday reported 288 new cases of coronavirus infection in the last 24 hours, raising the tally to 30,200 cases, health authorities confirmed.

A further 12 people had died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in the 24-hour period, taking the death toll to 1,289 in Portugal.

Ukraine 

Ukraine and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have reached an agreement on a new 5-billion-US-dollar aid program to help the country cope with impacts of COVID-19 pandemic, the Interfax-Ukraine News Agency reported Friday.

The deal was based on the so-called Stand-By Arrangement, an economic program of the IMF involving financial aid to help countries in need during an economic crisis.

The program will ensure Ukraine's ability to continue moving along the growth path and resume wider reforms when the crisis ends, said Ivanna Vladkova Hollar, mission chief for the Ukraine IMF office.

Kiev expects to receive the first funds before the end of this month or in early June.

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