Doctors and nurses work at the Intensive Treatment Unit at the Gilberto Novaes Municipal Field Hospital on May 21 2020 in Manaus, Brazil. The hospital built exclusively for coronavirus (COVID-19) patients, currently operates at full capacity with all 156 beds and 39 intensive treatment unit occupied. (Photo: Bloomberg)

New York eases ban on gatherings – Global virus update

Doctors and nurses work at the Intensive Treatment Unit at the Gilberto Novaes Municipal Field Hospital on May 21 2020 in Manaus, Brazil. The hospital built exclusively for coronavirus (COVID-19) patients, currently operates at full capacity with all 156 beds and 39 intensive treatment unit occupied. (Photo: Bloomberg)

Key Developments:

New York Eases Ban on Gatherings

New York’s order, issued on the eve of the Memorial Day weekend, represents one of the biggest steps yet the state has taken to loosen rules adopted in March that have barred anyone but essential workers from getting together unless they live in the same household.

China Won’t Return to Planned Economy

Chinese President Xi Jinping said he won’t let the world’s second-largest economy return to its days as a planned economy, pushing back against US criticism that the nation has failed to deliver on promised reforms.

“We’ve come to the understanding that we should not ignore the blindness of the market, nor should we return to the old path of a planned economy,” Xi told political advisers gathered in Beijing for their annual legislative sessions on Saturday, according to the official Xinhua news agency. He reiterated the government’s stance that markets should play a “decisive role” in the economy.

Spanish Soccer to Resume in June

Spain’s professional football league La Liga will be allowed to restart in June after a halt of more than two months, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday.A possible date is June 12

Germany’s Bundesliga was the world’s first major sports competition to emerge from the lockdown earlier this month by playing in empty stadiums.

Italy May Loosen Restrictions First in South

The next phase in Italy’s relaxation of emergency measures may proceed at different speeds in various zones, with some northern areas temporarily excluded from a reopening of borders between regions, la Repubblica reported.

It may prove “difficult” for northern territories — particularly the hard-hit Lombardy region around Milan — to be allowed to open their borders on June 3 as planned, the newspaper reported, citing government views on the most recent figures from public health authorities.

Several German Church Members Infected

Members of a Baptist church in Frankfurt were infected with the coronavirus following a service there on May 10, DPA reported Saturday, citing the deputy chairman of the local congregation.

The majority of worshippers who have tested positive are at home and six are currently in the hospital, deputy chairman Wladimir Pritzkau said. The total number of positive cases is unknown. Germany has permitted religious services that observe hygienic and social distancing rules since May 1.

U.S. President Donald Trump demanded on Friday that states allow houses of worship to reopen.

UK Aide ‘Believes He Behaved Reasonably’

UK government officials defended Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings, who is facing calls to resign after reports that he broke the UK government’s lockdown rules.

Cummings “believes he behaved reasonably and legally,” according to a statement from an unidentified spokesman for 10 Downing Street. He was seen more than 250 miles (400 kilometres) from his London home shortly after a government official said he was self-isolating with coronavirus symptoms.

South African Economy to Shrink 4.5%

The economic fallout will be “very difficult to handle” as South Africa entered the crisis in an already weak fiscal and economic position, according to S&P Global Ratings.

One of the strictest lockdowns in the world shuttered all activity except essential services for five weeks, and was only partly eased from May 1. The economy will contract 4.5% this year due to the restrictions, weak external demand conditions and tighter credit conditions, the ratings company said late Friday in a credit analysis.

EU Members Oppose Merkel Debt Plan

The opposition to plans for the European Union to collectively finance its response to the recession is taking shape after four members proposed a temporary fund for emergency loans as an alternative.

In a joint paper, the leaders of Austria, Denmark, Sweden and The Netherlands, sometimes dubbed the “Frugal Four,” reiterated their opposition to joint debt and any direct grants and to an increased EU budget, throwing cold water on the initiative set out by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Monday.

Iran Has Fewer Than 2,000 New Cases

Iran’s death toll reached 7,359 as 59 people died from the virus in the past 24 hours. The number of new infections increased by few than 2,000 for the first time in six days with 1,869 new infections, raising the total known cases to 133,521, with more than 104,000 recoveries.

Earlier, President Hassan Rouhani said office workers at government institutions and companies will be required to return to work from May 30, reversing a measure that allowed some employees to work remotely amid the outbreak. The government will also assess a plan to reopen mosques nationwide and extend the operating hours of shopping malls next week.

Indonesia Death Toll Climbs

Indonesia continues to see a mounting death toll and surge in cases of COVID-19 as authorities urge people to follow social distancing rules and refrain from travel. The total number of people currently infected with the virus stands at 21,745, after a spike of 949 cases, the government’s COVID-19 Task Force spokesman Achmad Yurianto said Saturday. Authorities also reported 25 additional deaths, taking the total number of fatalities to 1,351.

Russian Cases Rise 2.9%

Total cases in Russia rose to 335,882, according to data from the government’s virus response center, the second-highest number after the US Some 42% of new infections were asymptomatic. Moscow reported 3,190 cases, or 33.8% of the total.

The number of deaths increased by 139 in the past day to 3,388. In the same time 8,111 people recovered, bringing the total to 107,936.

Singapore Adds 642 New Cases

Singapore reported 642 cases, with migrant workers in crowded dormitories making up the “vast majority” of new infections. Citizens and permanent residents made up six of the new cases, the government said.

Singapore’s contact-tracing phone app, “Trace Together,” will remain voluntary for “as long as possible,” Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in an interview with Sky News Australia. About 1.5 million residents have downloaded the app, or between 20% and 25% of the city-state’s population. It’s considering other devices, such as a dongle that could boost participation by mitigating the loss of phone battery life.

Germany Infection Rate Falls One-Week Low

Germany’s infection rate — tracking the number of people infected by a single case — was below the key threshold of 1.0 at 0.85 on Friday, down from 0.89 the previous day, according to the Robert Koch Institute’s latest report.

The total number of cases increased 689 to 179,710 in the 24 hours through Saturday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University data, rising from the 548 cases in the previous day. The country also registered 25 deaths after reporting 59 fatalities the previous day, bringing the total to 8,228.

South Korea’s New Guidelines

Kwon Jun-wook, vice head of South Korea’s CDC said that the incubation period for infections through clubs in Itaewon from end-April and early May has practically ended as of May 21, but officials continue to monitor additional spreads stemming from patients in connection with secondary infections. South Korea reported 23 new coronavirus cases and 2 more deaths — a total of 11,165 cases have been confirmed nationwide with 266 total deaths.