As it happenedended1590533737

Coronavirus news – live: England and Wales death toll passes 40,000 as WHO warns countries lifting lockdowns risk ‘immediate second peak’

All the latest developments on coronavirus pandemic as they happened.

Chris Baynes,Samuel Osborne
Tuesday 26 May 2020 16:20 BST
Coronavirus in numbers

The number of deaths linked to coronavirus in England and Wales has passed 40,000, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The death toll was announced after the World Health Organisation warned countries which lift their coronavirus lockdowns too early risk facing an “immediate second peak” of infections. Dr Mike Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies head, said the virus could “jump up at any time” even in countries where infections have been falling.

Meanwhile, the a clinical trial into a malaria drug touted by Donald Trump as a Covid-19 preventative has been halted over safety fears. The WHO said testings involving hydroxychloroquine had been suspended while “data is reviewed by the data safety monitoring board”.


Good morning and welcome to The Independent's live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Chris Baynes26 May 2020 08:13

Countries lifting lockdown could face 'immediate second peak'

Countries where coronavirus infections are declining could face an "immediate second peak" if they ease measures to halt the outbreak too early, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned.

WHO emergencies head Mike Ryan noted epidemics often came in waves, which means that outbreaks could come back later this year in places where the first wave has subsided. But he added the first wave of the disease could peak again before then if governments lift lockdowns too hastily.

"When we speak about a second wave classically what we often mean is there will be a first wave of the disease by itself, and then it recurs months later. And that may be a reality for many countries in a number of months' time," Ryan told an online briefing on Monday.

"But we need also to be cognisant of the fact that the disease can jump up at any time. We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now it is going to keep going down and we are get a number of months to get ready for a second wave. We may get a second peak in this wave."

Ryan also noted that while cases are declining in many countries they are still increasing in Central and South America, South Asia and Africa.

He said countries in Europe and North America should "continue to put in place the public health and social measures, the surveillance measures, the testing measures and a comprehensive strategy to ensure that we continue on a downwards trajectory and we don't have an immediate second peak."

Many European countries and US states have taken steps in recent weeks to lift lockdown measures that curbed the spread of the disease but caused severe harm to economies.

Chris Baynes26 May 2020 08:23

Hydroxychloroquine trial halted over safety concerns

A clinical trial of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine - promoted by Donald Trump as a potential coronavirus preventative or cure - has been suspended by the World Health Organisation amid safety concerns.

The move comes after a study published in the The Lancet medical journal found  use of the drug increased the risk of death by 34 per cent and caused a 137 per cent increased risk of serious heart abnormalities.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday the organisation's executive group had "implemented a temporary pause" on the trial "while the safety data is reviewed by the data safety monitoring board".

My colleagues Vincent Wood and Oliver O'Connell report the full story:

Chris Baynes26 May 2020 08:28

Spain calls for common EU rules on cross-border movement

Spain has urged its European Union partners to establish common rules to open borders and reestablish the freedom of movement as national coronavirus lockdowns are phased out.

"We have to work with our European partners to define the common rules that will allow us retake freedom of movement on European territory," the country's foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez told Cadena Ser radio station this morning.

Even though EU countries have set different dates for reopening borders, there must be common principles and rules throughout the Schengen Area to open internal borders and set up rules for external borders, she said.

Chris Baynes26 May 2020 09:02

Russia reports record daily rise in deaths

Russia has confirmed a further 174 people with coronavirus died in the past 24 hours, a record one-day rise that pushes the nationwide death toll to 3,807.

The country has also reported 8,915 new cases, pushing its overall case tally to 362,342.

Chris Baynes26 May 2020 09:27

UK deaths pass 40,000

The number of deaths linked to coronavirus in England and Wales has now passed 40,000, according to the Office for National Statistics.

In its latest analysis, the ONS said there had been 41,220 deaths registered between December and 15 May in which Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

There were 3,810 deaths involving coronavirus in England and Wales registered in the week ending 15 May, the lowest weekly number recorded in the last six weeks.

Chris Baynes26 May 2020 09:46

Minister resigns in protest over Dominic Cummings lockdown breach

A Conservative minister has resigned in protest over Dominic Cummings's breach of coronavirus lockdown rules.

Douglas Ross, a minister in the Scotland Office, said he was resigning after hearing Boris Johnson's chief adviser insist he did nothing wrong and refuse to apologise for his actions, which have also been defended by PM and much of his cabinet.

The Moray MP said in his resignation letter: "I have constituents who didn't get to say goodbye to their loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who did not visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of the government. I cannot in good faith tell them that they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the government was right."

Lizzy Buchan has the full story here:

Chris Baynes26 May 2020 10:03

Dutch PM did not see dying mother due to Covid-19 restrictions

Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, was unable to visit his dying mother in her final weeks because be obeyed coronavirus restriction, his office has said.

In news that emerged amid the row over lockdown breaches by Boris Johnson's adviser Dominic Cummings, Rutte announced the death of his 96-year-old mother Mieke Rutte-Dilling on Monday. She died at a care home in The Hague on 13 May, his office confirmed.

“The prime minister has complied with all directives”, Rutte’s spokesman told the news agency AFP, when asked about reports the PM had not seen his mother before she died due to a nationwide ban on visiting care homes.

Rutte-Dilling did not die of Covid-19, Dutch media reported.

Chris Baynes26 May 2020 10:09

Alarm in Italy at crowds over sunny weekend

Italian politicians have voiced alarm after huge crowds flocked to bars and beaches as the nation basked in sunshine and a celebratory mood over the weekend after the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.

Mayors of some cities and towns have implemented new restrictions aimed at limiting breaches of social distancing, amid fears the country could see a new surge in Covid-19 cases.

Milan has banned the sale of takeaway alcoholic drinks after 7pm while a mayor in southern Puglia said he was shutting down a beach until the end of the month “stem the invasion of last weekend”.

Another mayor, of the southern coastal town of Pulsano, said: “The appeal to common sense hasn’t worked."

Read the full story here:

Chris Baynes26 May 2020 10:30

Coronavirus cluster found on cargo ship in Australia

A cluster of Covid-19 infections have been detected on a freight ship berthed in the Australian west coast port of Freemantle.

Six of 48 crew members from the Al Kuwait tested positive for the virus four days after the livestock carrier arrived from the United Arab Emirates on Friday, Western Australia state premier Mark McGowan said.

The six infected crew were transferred to hotel quarantine in the nearby city of Perth while health officials consider what to do with the remaining 42 people on board, he said.

The ship's cargo of 56,000 sheep is being held at a facility near the port. They were to be loaded within days and cannot be returned to farms because of quarantine restrictions, Mr McGowan said.

Authorities expect more crew members will get sick and the ship will need a deep cleaning before it can leave.

Chris Baynes26 May 2020 10:57

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