Armed anti-lockdown protesters in Michigan, beaches closed in California

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Seattle
A physician administers a test for COVID-19 at a mobile testing site Wednesday in Seattle. David Ryder / Reuters

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As states around the U.S. consider reopening, the country's death toll topped 61,000, according to an NBC News tally. Globally, there have been more than 232,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Protesters, some armed, demonstrated on Thursday against the Michigan lockdown on the steps of the state capitol building. And in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom shut down beaches in Orange County after seeing what he called "disturbing" images of crowds from over the weekend.

Florida on Wednesday announced that it would slowly reopen. Gov. Ron DeSantis said the plan to lift restrictions "in a very measured, thoughtful and data-driven way," will go into effect Monday in every county except the three where most of the state's COVID-19 cases have been reported.

Meanwhile, South Korea recorded no new domestic COVID-19 cases for the first time in 72 days. The country dealt with the first major outbreak outside China, but brought the crisis under control with a massive testing campaign and intensive contact tracing.

Here's what to know about the coronavirus, plus a timeline of the most critical moments:

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U.S. Intelligence Community examining whether outbreak came from animals or laboratory accident

The United States Intelligence Community agrees with the scientific consensus that COVID-19 was "not manmade or genetically modified," according to a statement by the office of the Director of National Intelligence published Thursday morning.

The U.S. Intelligence Community is comprised of 17 federal government intelligence-gathering agencies and offices. Together, they have been providing national policymakers and responders with information about the virus by "surging resources and producing critical intelligence on issues vital to U.S. national security."

The community is continuing to examine "whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan,” according to the DNI statement.

Not taking public transit during the pandemic? France offers 50 euro to fix up your bike

In an effort to encourage socially distant forms of transportation in the COVID-19 era, the French Ministry of Ecological and Inclusive Transition announced Thursday that it would be putting forward a 20 million euro ($21.7 million) plan to improve bicycle infrastructure, but notably would also include a one-time 50 euro ($54) subsidy that cyclists can use toward bike repair.

In a news release, Minister Elisabeth Borne said that 60 percent of trips in France during the pre-pandemic era are under 5 kilometers (3.1 miles). “The weeks to come represent an opportunity for many French people, whether they are already cyclists or not, to choose their bike to get to work or to get around nearby,” she said.

The Ministry is calling it a “bike repair boost” that will cover many minor bike repairs, including a new chain installation, new brakes, tires, derailleur and more. It can be used only among the network of 3,000 bike mechanics who are members of a French bike advocacy group known as FUB. The French government agency also intends to use the funds to improve bike parking and bike lanes, and to set up bike training classes nationwide.

Germany warns of second or third virus wave in the fall

Germany is still at the  “beginning of a marathon” when it comes to the outbreak, according to Lothar Wieler, the president of Germany’s public health institute. He stressed that some experts expect a second or even a third wave of coronavirus infections in the country — particularly in the fall.

Wieler said Thursday that recent developments are “pleasant” given that daily new cases in Germany this week stand at around 1,000 (compared to around 2,000 daily cases last week), but he asked citizens to continue to adhere to all social distancing measures.

The comments come a week after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the campaign against the outbreakwas in its early stages and warned that Germany was still on "thin ice." Germany has fared better than most European nations in terms of its death toll, but it has the fifth-highest caseload in Europe with almost 160,000 confirmed as of Thursday.

Surge of masks and gowns coming to New York City, de Blasio says

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference on Thursday that a factory in Vietnam is producing a mass supply of surgical gowns. 

One million gowns are on the way to the city with 900,000 more being loaded onto a plane, he said. The city has purchased an additional 3 million gowns that are in production. 

"We are now confident that we will have enough surgical gowns to get us through the middle of May," he said. 

De Blasio also said Thursday that 100,000 face masks will be distributed this week free-of-charge in parks. He said they will focus on communities that have been hard-hit by the virus and parks where there is heavy traffic. 

Hundreds of thousands of masks have been donated to the city, de Blasio said. American Eagle donated 175,000 surgical masks and the NBA contributed 35,000 masks, including N95 respirators. The Consulate General of Egypt donated 200,000 masks and 5,000 protective gowns and suits. 

De Blasio said he was "very appreciative" of all of the donations. 

Photo: Masked monks pray in South Korea

Buddhist monks pray during the Buddha's birthday at the Gwanghwamun Plaza in Seoul on Thursday.Ahn Young-joon / AP

Iraqi government will fine citizens for not wearing masks

Iraq tightened restriction measures to contain the spread of the virus by expanding its curfew on Wednesday evening, warning it may re-impose a full curfew as many citizens have failed to abide by the measures, according to government officials. 

Iraq’s Higher Committee for Health and National Safety will also impose a fine of 10,000 Iraqi dinars (around $8) on those who refrain from wearing masks or ignore social distancing measures.

The committee also ordered the health authorities to assess the extent of compliance with the measures by the citizens and report on that within seven days. Iraq has reported more than 2,000 virus cases and 92 deaths as of Thursday.

Cleaner air in Europe leads to 11,000 fewer deaths, study shows

An improvement in air quality from coronavirus lockdowns over the past month avoided 11,000 deaths from pollution across Europe, a study showed Thursday.

The measures to combat the virus have led to an approximately 40 percent reduction in average level of nitrogen dioxide pollution and a 10 percent reduction in average level of particle matter pollution across Europe over the past 30 days, the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air said in a briefing. These pollution reductions have led to the substantial depletion in deaths caused by asthma, strokes and other pre-existing conditions.

The decrease in air pollution resulted from unprecedented reductions in coal and oil burning in Europe, the study said. This has also helped to generally alleviate pressure on the health care system during this crisis, it said, noting the analysis highlighted “the tremendous benefits for public health” that could be achieved by “rapidly reducing fossil fuels in a sustained and sustainable way."

NYC man stole over $12,000 in stimulus checks from mailboxes, prosecutors say

A New York City man was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly stealing nine coronavirus stimulus checks worth more than $12,000 from mailboxes, federal prosecutors say.

Feng Chen, 31, was spotted by police early Tuesday morning looking inside mailboxes in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.

Chen was seen searching a medical-collection bin and looking at mail left at a door, according to the complaint and court statements. After leaving a different building with what appeared to be mail, Chen saw the police officers and “tossed the mail on the sidewalk,” prosecutors say.

Read the full story here.

Jobless claims top 30 million as coronavirus continues to devastate economy

Around 3.8 million more workers filed for first-time employment benefits last week, bringing the national jobless total to a staggering 30 million — or around 18 percent of the workforce.

Nationwide lockdowns led to the abrupt shutdown of the economy in mid-March, leaving millions of people scrambling to file for unemployment insurance. The sheer volume of applicants has overwhelmed the system, with many states reporting website outages and hourslong delays on telephone helplines.

That has led to inaccurate accounting of the jobless, as many people report waits of six weeks or more to even file their claim. States are working to correct this, by adding thousands more workers to process applications.

Data to be released May 8 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is likely to elucidate the full number of unemployed in America.

Read the full story here.

Swedish town uses chicken manure to deter gatherings

Garden workers fertilize lawns in an attempt to prevent residents from gathering to mark Walpurgis Night amid the spread of the coronavirus disease in Lund, Sweden on Thursday.Johan Nilsson / Reuters

A town in southern Sweden has turned to chicken manure in order to try to prevent the spread of coronavirus during an annual festive event on Thursday.

The manure bought from a local farm will serve dual purpose: “It will both fertilize the lawn of the park for the summer, at the same time, it will stink,” Lund's Mayor Phillip Sandberg said. The town council on Thursday morning used one ton of the fertilizer in the university town's central park that often hosts “Sweden’s largest picnic” of about 30,000 people on April 30 each year.

Walpurgis Night is typically celebrated with picnics, parties and bonfires across the country, and regularly attracts thousands of students. As it’s an informal event without any formal organizing part, it cannot be cancelled based on the current national recommendations banning official gatherings over 50 people.

Drug dealers using food delivery services to traffic substances, police say

Criminals have been using food delivery services to transport and distribute drugs in several countries worldwide amid coronavirus lockdowns, Interpol warned on Thursday.

The France-based police agency said it received reports from Ireland, Malaysia, Spain and the United Kingdom about delivery drivers transporting illicit substances including cocaine, marijuana, ketamine and ecstasy. 

In one incident, Irish Gardai officers recovered nearly 18 pounds of cocaine and two handguns hidden in pizza boxes. In another, a Malaysian food delivery rider contacted police after being tasked to deliver a single order of Indian flatbread that suspiciously weighed 24 pounds. Interpol has issued the notice to its 194 member countries to increase cooperation between police agencies and better tackle the drug trade during the global health crisis.