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A nurse puts on his Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before starting to work in the Intensive care unit for patients infected by the novel coronavirus at the Policlinico di Tor Vergata hospital, in Rome on April 8.

Infections breach 7 million; some curbs eased: Global virus update

A nurse puts on his Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before starting to work in the Intensive care unit for patients infected by the novel coronavirus at the Policlinico di Tor Vergata hospital, in Rome on April 8.

Key Developments:

  • Virus Tracker: Cases pass 7 million; deaths exceed 402,000
  • Big pharma looks beyond COVID-19 with AstraZeneca eyeing Gilead
  • Italy’s cancelled crisis risks moral hazard for laggard of euro
  • Mask or no mask? And which kind? What the experts say: QuickTake

Moscow to Ease Many Restrictions

Moscow will start lifting most of the remaining virus-related restrictions starting Tuesday, accelerating plans to lift the lockdown as the infection rate has fallen and the Kremlin lays plans for a vote that could extend President Vladimir Putin’s rule.

People will again be allowed to travel around the city without a digital pass, while hair dressers and other services can open for the first time since late March on Tuesday, according to Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin’s blog. Restaurants will be allowed to open verandas next week and by June 23 kindergartens, sports facilities and playgrounds will open.

Moscow, where the epidemic in Russia is concentrated, has seen the 7-day moving average of the new infection rate fall to 1.1% from about 20% in early April. The city of 12.5 million has recorded nearly 200,000 cases.

Singapore to Hand Out Virus Tracing Devices This Month

Singapore expects to deliver the first batch of portable contact-tracing devices in the latter half of this month.

The device, to be distributed to everyone in the country of 5.7 million, will not be used for location tracking, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a briefing on Monday. The move to introduce the device met resistance among some Singaporeans, with a petition gaining 35,000 signatures. The country has among the most coronavirus cases in Asia, with more than 38,000 confirmed as of Monday.

UK Teachers’ Union Faults Safety in School Opening

The NASUWT, a UK teachers’ union, said it has been inundated with reports from teachers and school leaders whose employers are forcing them to work in ways that are unsafe.

The government allowed a phased reopening of schools earlier this month, starting with nurseries and primary school pupils in reception, year 1 and year 6. From June 15, secondary schools, sixth forms, and further education colleges can begin offering some face-to-face support to year 10 and 12 pupils.

The union said that staff from minority communities “continue to search in vain” for any recognition by the Department for Education of the higher levels of risk they face.

Iran Reports Increase in Infections, Deaths

Iran reported 70 deaths and 2,043 new coronavirus cases overnight, taking the total number of fatalities to 8,351 from 173,832 known infections.

Malaysia Cases Rise by Least Since March

Malaysia saw the smallest increase in virus cases since March as it prepared to further ease restrictions on people’s movement. The country reported seven new cases on Monday, bringing the total to 8,329, according to the health ministry. There were no new deaths on the day, with the total remaining at 117.

Poland to Halt 12 Coal Mines to Contain Outbreak

The European Union’s biggest coking coal producer, JSW, will close two mines, while the bloc’s largest thermal coal miner PGG will close 10 as Poland’s government steps up efforts to contain Covid-19 in the Silesian region, Deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin said at a conference in Warsaw.

French Economic Activity at 80% of Normal: Labor Minister

French Labor Minister Muriel Penicaud said the economy is running at 80% of normal. Speaking on France Info radio, Penicaud said industry is running at about 60% of normal and that the long-term furlough program being discussed by unions could last for as long as two years.

Pakistan Crosses 100,000 Cases, Surpasses China

Pakistan has become the latest nation to cross 100,000 cases, after surpassing China in the past few days. The nation’s health-care system has been stretched as the largest hospitals in Karachi have run out of space and patients are being put on a waiting list. Prime Minister Imran Khan continued to open its economy after a two-month lockdown by allowing tourism to resume last week. It has already opened most markets including shopping malls.

Sweden’s PM Rebuked as Deaths Ignite Anger

The prime minister of Sweden was forced to defend his COVID-19 strategy after opposition parties mounted a scathing attack on his government amid signs its handling of the pandemic has been fatally flawed.

With more than 4,500 Swedes now dead as a result of the coronavirus, and Sweden’s chief epidemiologist admitting mistakes, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven was the target of a series of rebukes during a debate among party leaders broadcast on Sunday night.

Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the main opposition party known as the Moderates, said “there have been obvious, fundamental failures” in Sweden’s response to Covid-19.

German Industrial Slump Hits Bottom With Record Output Drop

German industrial production took a record hit in April, before a gradual easing of lockdown restrictions set off an ever-so-slow recovery. Output slumped 17.9% during the month that saw unprecedented closures of factories and shops, with manufacturers of investment goods particularly badly affected. Even though activity has started to pick up since then, Europe’s largest economy is still set to shrink nearly 10% in the second quarter.

South Korea Confirms 38 More Cases

South Korea reported 38 more coronavirus cases in 24 hours, bringing the total tally to 11,814, data from the Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention show.

About 800 people are being tested for possible infection from a student who visited the Lotte World theme park, though there have been no confirmed cases yet. Infections related to a logistics center rose to 138, while the number of confirmed cases from Seoul metropolitan region churches rose by four to 86.

Denmark Eases Restriction as Infection Rate Drops

Denmark continued to roll back its restrictions on Monday, after dramatically reducing its Covid-19 infection rate. Danes can once again visit gyms, public pools and amusement parks. And a ban on groups of no more than 10 was lifted, with the new limit set at 50.

Hong Kong to Relax Rules for Some Listed Companies

The Hong Kong government said directors or executives of certain companies listed on the city’s stock exchange may apply for exemption from the compulsory quarantine arrangement when they arrive at Hong Kong from mainland China, according to an official announcement Monday.

The program covers companies listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange and included in the Hang Seng Index, Hang Seng China Enterprises Index or Hang Seng Composite LargeCap, MidCap or SmallCap Index, representing around 95% of the total market capitalization in Hong Kong.

Protests Break Out in Brazil Amid Data Controversy

Anti-government demonstrations broke out in several Brazilian cities on Sunday as President Jair Bolsonaro suffers a growing backlash against his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Protesters carrying signs in defense of democracy and against racism gathered in Brazil’s largest cities despite medical recommendations of social distancing, many encouraged by US demonstrations that followed the death of George Floyd. Pro-Bolsonaro marches also took place in some cities, in smaller numbers.

As the number of deaths from COVID-19 soars and Brazil becomes a global hot spot for the virus, the government faced increased criticism over the weekend when it decided to limit the amount of data published about the pandemic. In response, health secretaries from all Brazilian states began compiling and releasing their own numbers for total cases and deaths.

Japan’s Economy Shrank Less Than Estimated

Japan’s economy contracted less than initially estimated last quarter, after revisions showed stronger capital investment, even as the coronavirus pandemic pushed the country into a recession.

The Cabinet Office’s revised report showed gross domestic product shrank an annualized 2.2% compared with the last quarter of 2019, better than an initial estimate of a 3.4% contraction. Economists had expected a revision to minus 2.1%.

UK Quarantine May Further Slam Airlines

The UK will impose a two-week quarantine on arriving international passengers, a move British Airways and other carriers say will devastate tourism and wreck any chance the summer holiday season could spark a recovery from a virus-induced slump.

BA, along with EasyJet Plc and Ryanair Holdings Plc, threatened to sue the government over the policy, which takes effect Monday, saying restrictions will be ineffective while threatening thousands of jobs. The airlines fear the move will make lockdown-weary customers put off bookings just as carriers add capacity.