Covid-19 wrap: Global deaths pass 390 000, Australia bans anti-racism protest, vaccine alliance gets $8.8bn

Keeping you up to date on the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.

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Coronavirus toll at 11:00 GMT Friday

Paris – The novel coronavirus has killed at least 390 868 people since the outbreak first emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 11:00 (GMT) on Friday.

At least 6 640 290 cases of coronavirus have been registered in 196 countries and territories. Of these, at least 2 867 400 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organisation (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. Many countries are testing only symptomatic cases or the most serious ones.

The United States is the worst-hit country with 108 211 deaths from 1 872 660 cases. At least 485 002 people have been declared recovered.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Britain with 39 904 deaths from 281 661 cases, Brazil with 34 021 deaths and 614 941 infections, Italy with 33 689 deaths from 234 013 cases, and France with 29 065 deaths and 189 441 cases.

 - AFP

Iran daily virus cases drop back to under 3 000

Tehran – The number of daily new coronavirus cases in Iran has fallen back to under 3 000, the health ministry said on Friday, a day after hitting a new peak.

Authorities registered 2 886 new cases of infection, health ministry spokesperson Kianoush Jahanpour said, bringing the total number to 167 156 since the start of the outbreak in February.

The Islamic republic on Thursday announced a record 3 574 daily infections, passing a high point set in March, after breaching the 3 000-mark for several days.

Jahanpour said on Friday that 63 more people had died, with the official death toll now at 8 134, the highest in the Middle East.

There has been some scepticism at home and abroad about Iran's official figures, with concerns the real toll could be much higher.

 - AFP

Australia bans anti-racism protest citing virus

Sydney – An Australian court on Friday banned a Black Lives Matter protest planned in Sydney, backing government claims it could risk spreading the coronavirus.

Up to 10 000 people were expected to march in Sydney on Saturday to express solidarity with US protestors and demand an end to frequent Aboriginal deaths in custody in Australia.

On the eve of the protest, the police – backed by prominent local conservative politicians – launched legal action to ban the rally on health grounds.

Justice Desmond Fagan agreed, ruling that the march should be prohibited because health concerns outweighed any deferment of the right to protest.

"Everybody has given up a lot in order to defeat this disease," Fagan said, "it's not a time to throw out our caution."

Australia has detected a sustained drop in the number of Covid-19 cases, but social distancing rules remain in force and mass gatherings are not permitted.

 - AFP

Global vaccines programme gets $8.8bn shot in the arm

London – Governments around the world on Thursday pledged $8.8 billion for global vaccines alliance Gavi to help immunisation programmes disrupted by coronavirus, prompting calls for global cooperation to ensure a potential Covid-19 vaccine is available to all.

The online meeting beat a target to raise $7.4 billion to provide vaccines at a much-reduced cost to 300 million children worldwide over the next five years.

More than 50 countries took part as well as individuals such as billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, whose foundation pledged $1.6 billion.

Gavi also launched a new initiative to purchase potential Covid-19 vaccines, scale-up production and support delivery to developing nations, which raised $567 million in seed money.

"Together, we rise to fulfil the greatest shared endeavour of our lifetimes – the triumph of humanity over disease," said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who hosted the summit. "Today we make the choice to unite, to forge a path of global cooperation."

 - AFP

Indonesian capital opens mosques as lockdown eased

Jakarta – Indonesia's capital opened mosques on Friday for the first time in nearly three months, as the megacity loosens a partial lockdown despite coronavirus cases mounting in the world's biggest Muslim majority nation.

Churches and other houses of worship also resumed service after Jakarta's governor on Thursday announced an easing of restrictions, with shuttered offices, restaurants, shopping malls and tourist attractions slated to start operations in the coming weeks.

Mosques have remained open in some other parts of the Southeast Asian archipelago, the world's fourth most populous country.

But for many residents of Jakarta – home to some 30 million – it was the first time in months that Muslims have been able to attend Friday prayers to mark Islam's holy day.

Mohamad Fathi said he was "full of happiness" at the news after mass prayer was banned in mid-March, including in his at-risk district.

 - AFP

Switzerland to open EU borders from 15 June

Geneva – The Swiss government said on Friday it will accelerate plans to open its borders, allowing people travelling from all European Union countries and Britain to enter from 15 June.

Swiss authorities had already announced in mid-May plans to reopen the country's borders with its immediate neighbours, except Italy, on that date, and to the rest of the Schengen passport-free area by early July.

But with most European countries appearing to gain significant control over their Covid-19 outbreaks, Bern said in a statement that the "epidemiological situation" made a faster and broader opening possible.

The non-EU member said it would now be possible to welcome travellers from the bloc along with those from fellow members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

 - AFP

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