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People wearing protective masks listen to instructions at a Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens pop-up food pantry in the Brooklyn borough of New York, US, on Friday, May 29, 2020.

Coronavirus cases top six million – Global virus update

People wearing protective masks listen to instructions at a Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens pop-up food pantry in the Brooklyn borough of New York, US, on Friday, May 29, 2020.

Key Developments:

UK Scientists Criticise Easing Plan

The UK government came under pressure from its own scientists to show caution in easing the pace at which it’s lifting the lockdown, as the behaviour of the prime minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings faced fresh criticism from senior scientists and academics. More than 38,000 have died with COVID-19 in the UK, the most after the US.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab defended the decision to allow some loosening of restrictions after a group of more than 20 experts wrote a letter to the Observer newspaper flagging their concerns and arguing that public faith in the government’s handling of the virus has been badly damaged by Cummings, who has been accused of flouting the lockdown rules he helped create. Scientists don’t always agree, leading to better advice, Raab told Sky News.

Russia Approves COVID-19 Treatment

Russia’s Health Ministry granted a temporary registration certificate to the country’s first COVID-19 medicine, a generic version of the Japanese flu drug Avigan, the country’s wealth fund said in statement late Saturday. On Sunday, Russia said cases rose by 2.3% to 405,843.

Avifavir, developed by a joint venture of the Russian Direct Investment Fund and ChemRar Group, is designed to disrupt the novel coronavirus’s ability to reproduce and has proven effective in clinical trials. A researcher sounded a note of caution while the head of the wealth fund said it’s a potential breakthrough.

Australia Urges Caution as Lockdowns Ease

Australian state health authorities have urged residents to exercise caution with lockdown measures set to be relaxed across the nation on Monday.

The two most-populous states will lift several restrictions as they continue to grapple with isolated coronavirus outbreaks. New South Wales reported three new cases on Sunday, all of them travelers in hotel quarantine, while Victoria extended its state of emergency to allow the chief health officer to keep issuing safety directives.

New South Wales will permit pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants to allow entry to as many as 50 customers from June 1 as authorities try to breathe life back into the economy. In Victoria, as many as 20 people will be able to gather inside a home or outside. Queensland will allow travel within the state starting from midday Monday. The state’s borders will remain closed and will be reviewed at the end of June, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters Sunday.

Japan Mulls Easing Some Entry Limits

Japan is considering easing entry restrictions on people from Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand because of signs that novel coronavirus infections are declining in those countries, the Yomiuri newspaper reported, citing government officials.

The government may relax the limits from as early as summer, the newspaper said Sunday. The visitors would be required to carry documentation showing that they had tested negative for the virus before leaving their countries, and would need to be re-tested when they arrive in Japan, according to the report.

Tokyo found five new cases of coronavirus, Jiji reported Sunday.

Indonesia Further Eases Lockdown

Indonesia is easing restrictions further a day after saying it will allow malls, restaurants and entertainment sites to reopen after imposing some form of a lockdown nationwide.

Religious gatherings will now be permitted, along with the reopening of shops and restaurants, though the easing will be kept to just 102 towns where the pandemic is under control, the government said. Each town will still be required to conduct massive testing as part of their health protocols, Doni Monardo, the nation’s COVID-19 task force chief, said on Saturday.

South Korea’s Numbers

South Korea reported one new coronavirus-related death for a total of 270. The country reported 27 new cases in 24 hours for a total of 11,468.

The nation has had a spate of virus cases linked to a distribution center of the largest e-commerce company, Coupang, as well as to a nightclub. The Coupang-linked cases rose to 111.

Trump Postpones, Expands G-7 Meeting

President Donald Trump said he’s planning to host an expanded Group of Seven leaders meeting in the autumn, postponing efforts to hold the event in June at Camp David.

Trump, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, said he would extend an invitation to leaders from Russia, Australia, India and South Korea as well the current participants. The coronavirus and relations with China are likely to be major topics.

The move to invite Russia will be controversial. Russia was suspended from what was then the Group of Eight major economies in 2014 after its annexation of Crimea. Trump has mused before about bringing Moscow back into the fold.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel indicated this weekend that she was hesitant to travel to the U.S. in June for a physical G-7 meeting, one that Trump saw as a sign of normalization after the coronavirus pandemic shut down major economies.

Brazil Passes France to Rank Fourth in Deaths

Brazil reported a 3.4% rise in new deaths on Saturday, to 28,834. It surpassed France and now has the fourth-most fatalities worldwide. The Latin American nation’s toll trails the U.S., U.K. and Italy. France has 28,774 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins data.

New cases increased 7.2% to 498,440, trailing only the U.S.

NYC Subway to Be Ready: Cuomo

The New York subway system will be prepared when the city reopens on June 8, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, although transit officials have yet to provide detailed plans to reduce risks to public health.

“They’re disinfecting trains like never before but they have another week of work to do and they will be ready,” he told reporters Saturday. Mayor Bill de Blasio was less sure on Friday, saying the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that oversees subways and buses hasn’t provided enough information.

City officials expect 200,000 to 400,000 workers back in construction, manufacturing, wholesale and curbside retail jobs when reopening begins.

US Cases Rise 1.7%, Above Week’s Average

US cases increased 1.7% from the same time Friday, to 1.76 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The national increase exceeded the average daily increase of 1.3% for the past week and was the biggest percentage rise since May 22. Deaths climbed 1.2% to 103,389.