Hong Kong orders pubs and bars to close
Hong Kong has ordered pubs and bars to close for two weeks from 6 pm on Friday as the financial hub steps up social distancing restrictions and joins cities around the world in the battle to halt the spread of coronavirus.
Reuters reports that anyone who violates the new law faces six months in jail and a fine of HK$50,000 ($6,450).
The extraordinary move comes a week after the government stopped all tourist arrivals and transit passengers at its airport and said it was considering suspending the sale of alcohol in some venues.
“Any premises (commonly known as bar or pub) that is exclusively or mainly used for the sale or supply of intoxicating liquors … must be closed,” the government said in a statement late on Thursday.
It added that 62 confirmed coronavirus cases in the city had been linked to bars, leading to 14 further infections, including a 40-day-old baby.
Hong Kong has 802 cases of coronavirus and four deaths from the disease.
Alcohol will still be available in supermarkets and convenience stores.
Here are some of the images from Fort Lauderdale, where the Zaandam cruise liner has finally docked. It’s a salient reminder of the human cost of this tragedy.
Virus-stricken Zaandam cruise liner docks in Florida
The Zaandam cruise line, on which four people have died, has docked in Fort Lauderdale, after previously being denied entry. Dozens of other passengers are sick with flu-like symptoms on the vessels.
Earlier this week the ship offloaded its healthy passengers onto its sister-ship, the Rotterdam, which has now also been given permission to dock in Florida’s Port Everglades.
The Zaandam cruise liner last entered port in Valparaíso, Chile, more than two weeks ago and has been stranded at sea with a Covid-19 outbreak onboard worsening after several Latin American countries refused to let it dock.
The agreement to let both ships dock in Florida comes after opposition from the state governor Ron DeSantis and several Broward county commissioners who feared that they could not cope with an influx of sick passengers.
You can read our full story here
Risk in Wuhan remains high, says party chief
Residents of the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus began, have been told to strengthen self-protection measures and avoid going out unless it is necessary.
The City’s Communist party chief, Wang Zhonglin, was quoted as saying in a statement published by the Wuhan city government that the risk of a rebound in the city’s coronavirus epidemic remained high due to both internal and external risks and that it must continue to maintain prevention and control measures.
UK to build two temporary hospitals
Britain will build a further two temporary hospitals to treat coronavirus patients, the National Health Service said as its first field hospital prepares to open in London on Friday.
The NHS said it would build a 1,000-patient facility at a university in Bristol, south-west England, and a 500-bed facility at a conference centre in Harrogate in the north of the country.
That means it is now planning to open five field hospitals in the coming weeks. The first, the NHS Nightingale in east London will receive its first patients next week. It will be located in Docklands and will eventually be capable of providing support for up to 4,000 coronavirus patients if required. It will initially provide up to 500 beds
Prince Charles will open the hospital via video link from his Scottish residence, where he is recovering from Covid-19.
Iran’s parliament Speaker tests positive
In case you missed it, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani, has contracted the coronavirus, the highest-ranking official among several senior government figures to catch the disease, the Associated Press reports.
The parliament in Iran announced Larijani’s illness on its website, saying he was receiving treatment in quarantine.
Iran’s health ministry said Thursday the coronavirus had killed another 124 people, pushing the country’s death toll to 3,160.
‘Worrying spike’ in cases and deaths in Middle East, says WHO
Governments in the Middle East need to act fast to limit the spread of the coronavirus after cases rose to nearly 60,000, almost double their level a week earlier, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.
“New cases have been reported in some of the most vulnerable countries with fragile health systems,” said Ahmed Al-Mandhari, the WHO’s director for the Eastern Mediterranean region, which includes Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Djibouti, as well as Middle Eastern states.
“Even in countries with stronger heath systems, we have seen a worrying spike in the numbers of cases and deaths reported,” he said in a statement.
Outside of Iran, which has reported just over 50,000 cases, confirmed coronavirus numbers have been relatively low in the Middle East compared to Europe, the United States and Asia.
But health officials fear that cases of the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the virus are under-reported and that many countries with weak governments and health systems eroded by conflict will struggle to cope.
“I cannot stress enough the urgency of the situation,” said Mandhari. “The increasing numbers of cases show that transmission is rapidly occurring at local and community levels.”
“We still have a window of opportunity, but this window is slowly closing day by day,” he added.
Heathrow to close one runway due to drop in air traffic
In a sign of the sizeable impact that this pandemic is having on travel, London’s Heathrow airport has said it will close one of its runways from Monday because of a fall in traffic.
The airport has two runways and will alternate which one they keep open on a weekly basis, a spokesman said.
They added: “Although we are seeing significantly fewer flights at the moment, Heathrow will remain open so that we can continue to play a crucial role in helping to secure vital medical goods and food for the nation during this unprecedented epidemic.”
On Thursday BA suspended 30,o00 staff from cabin crew to ground staff, engineers and head office employees, until the end of May under the government furlough scheme for companies hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2018, Heathrow served 80.1 million passengers, according to their website. A total of 475,624 flights took off from the west London site in the same year.
Gatwick Airport has also significantly scaled back its operations, closing one of its two terminals on Wednesday and its runway will only be open for scheduled flights between 2pm and 10pm. The measures will be in place for a minimum of one month.
Gatwick recorded 47 million passengers last year.
Trump blames states for lack of supplies
For those of you who may not have seen some of our coverage of President Trump’s recent press conference, there were a few key lines:
- The president blamed the states for lack of supplies in fighting the virus.
- One of the key medical faces of the virus fight, Dr Deborah Birx, said not everyone was adhering to social distancing rules: “I can tell by the curve as it is today that not everyone is following the social distancing guidance,” Birx said. “We can bend our curve, but everyone has to take responsibility as Americans.”
- Newly approved testing kits will be able to give results in 15 minutes, Birx said.
- Trade and economic adviser, and Defence Production Act policy coordinator, Peter Navarro, said that the bidding on supplies inside the US is due to a “black market” of bidders driving up prices. He said domestic supplies are being bought up and sent abroad.
- Vice president Mike Pence said the US had the “greatest healthcare system in the world”.
- Jared Kushner addressed the briefing but said very little, other than people were working hard and doing a good job.
You can stay up to date on all of our live coverage from the US on our US blog:
Hello and welcome to the Guardian’s live coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic. I’m Alison Rourke and will be steering our coverage for the next few hours.
As the number of infections rose past one million, and deaths passed 50,000, countries, including the United Sates, are taking increasing measures to combat the virus. New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, has warned his state will run out of ventilators in six days.
Donald Trump has issued orders to use the defence production act to make ventilators. The president has also confirmed in his daily press briefing that he has tested negative for Covid-19. The US now has just under 240,000 infections and 5, 798 deaths according to the Johns Hopkins university tracker.
Here’s a summary of the other top points:
- Global cases of the virus have passed one million, according to figures collected by researchers from Johns Hopkins University. Deaths worldwide have passed 50,000.
- In terms of deaths, Italy remains the country worst affected by the outbreak, with 13,915 fatalities, followed by Spain, with 10,003 deaths. The US is now the third worst affected country, with 5,316 total deaths.
- Governments in the Middle East need to act fast to limit the spread of the coronavirus after cases rose to nearly 60,000, almost double their level a week earlier, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.
- The UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, said the government was hoping to build an “at-scale” diagnostics industry to reach 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month, as he unveiled his five-pillar strategy. Just 5,000 NHS staff have been tested so far.
- More than 6.65 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in the US last week, according to the latest official figures, highlighting the devastating economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the American economy.
- The pro-independence leader of Catalonia, the region of Spain hardest hit by the coronavirus after Madrid, has abandoned his government’s initial reluctance to seek help from the Spanish army, saying any assistance would be gratefully received.
You can get in touch with me via email email@example.com. For now, let’s get underway.