Stay-at-home protests held across the country

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Image: Protest To Reopen California Businesses, Beaches, And Parks Held In Huntington Beach
Protestors gather in a demonstration in Huntington Beach, California on May 1, 2020.Apu Gomes / Getty Images

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Protests against stay-at-home orders were held across the country Friday amid mounting frustration over the economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic.

Rallies were scheduled in at least 10 states. Outside the Capitol building in Albany, New York, protesters chanted "USA! USA!" as they flew American and "Don't Tread on Me" flags. Counterprotesters scheduled their own rallies in support of keeping non-essential businesses closed.

Some states started to slowly reopen Friday, including Texas, where retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls were allowed to open for business. In Louisiana, restaurants (except those in hard-hit New Orleans) are allowed to add outdoor tables.

The calls to reopen business come as meat processing plants struggle with widespread outbreaks that have slowed or halted production. At a Tyson Foods pork-processing plant in Indiana, nearly 900 employees, 40 percent of the workforce, tested positive for the coronavirus.

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

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WHO official says agency not invited to take part in China's virus investigation

China has not invited the World Health Organization to take part in an investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to the global health authority's representative in the country.

Dr. Gauden Galea told Sky News on Friday: "We know that some national investigation is happening but at this stage, we have not been invited to join."

"The origins of virus are very important, the animal-human interface is extremely important and needs to be studied," he added. "The priority is we need to know as much as possible to prevent the reoccurrence."

Read the rest here.

South Africa eases lockdown of battered economy

South Africa took its first shaky steps on Friday towards rolling back one of the world's strictest lockdowns, seeking a balance between containing the disease and providing much-needed relief for the economy.

While South Africa has recorded relatively low numbers of 5,647 coronavirus cases and 103 deaths so far out of a population of 58 million, the economic hardship has been severe in a country that was in recession even before the pandemic. The National Treasury forecasts the economy will contract 5.8 percent this year. 

The five-week shutdown Africa's most advanced economy has threatened to send already rampant unemployment soaring and reopening the economy is proving harder than closing it down.

New regulations were finalized only on Wednesday and led to some confusion. Under the first phase of easing, only some sectors may restart operations, and with limited staff. Restaurants, for example, can now resume business but only for food deliveries. Many businesses are weighing whether to reopen at all.

India extends lockdown by two weeks

India said it would extend its nationwide lockdown for another two weeks on Friday after it was originally set to end May 4, but would allow "considerable relaxations" in lower-risk districts marked as green and orange zones, according to government officials.

India's biggest and most economically-important cities — including New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Ahmedabad — will all be classed as red zones, infection hotspots, and kept under strict lockdown. To qualify as a green zone, eligible for quicker lifting of restrictions, an area would have had to report no new infections for three weeks.

India has reported more than 35,000 cases and 1,147 confirmed deaths from the virus. The official toll is far lower than in the U.S. and many European countries, although the true extent of infection may be higher in a country where millions of people do not have access to sufficient healthcare.

The world's biggest lockdown — imposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 25 — has pummeled India's economy, depriving millions of day laborers of income and stranding rural migrants in cities where they can no longer afford rent or food. The government also issued an order on Friday to provide special trains for stranded migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists and students to return home.

Using plastic markers, Greek workers defy ban to mark Labor Day

Greek workers wearing protective masks and respecting social distancing measures protest in front of the Greek Parliament in Athens on Friday.Aris Messinis / AFP - Getty Images

Greek workers and students wearing masks and gloves lined up outside parliament to commemorate May Day, defying a government ban on movement imposed to fight the coronavirus.

Using colorful plastic markers placed on the ground to help them observe distance rules, hundreds of protesters joined a rally organized by the Communist-affiliated group PAME. The protesters waved flags, chanted slogans and held banners reading "No sacrifice for the bosses."

Movement restrictions in Greece — imposed in March as part of a nationwide lockdown — will be gradually eased starting on Monday like many other countries in Europe. The conservative government has promised to work to protect jobs in a country that has only just emerged from a decade-long debt crisis that wiped out a quarter of its economic output. The country has reported 2,591 cases and 140 deaths as of Friday.

Russia records record rise in new coronavirus cases for third day in a row

Russia recorded a record number of new coronavirus cases for the third day in a row on Friday, as 7,933 people tested positive, bringing the total to almost 115,000. Russian authorities urged people to resist the temptation to flout lockdown measures, as May 1 marks the beginning of 11 days of celebration across the country.

The figures mean Russia now ranks eighth worldwide for the number of confirmed cases, though it has so far recorded far fewer deaths than many of the most hard-hit countries. It has a death toll of 1,169 as of Friday.

This comes a day after Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said he tested positive for virus. Last week, President Vladimir Putin warned the peak of the outbreak in Russia has yet to come.

Remdesivir maker 'moving very quickly' with FDA on possible coronavirus use, CEO says

The company that makes remdesivir, an experimental drug for treatment of the coronavirus, is moving very quickly with the FDA on possible emergency authorization to get the drug to patients, the CEO said.

"I expect that they're going to act very quickly," Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O'Day said of the FDA, "and we’re prepared as a company to make sure we get this medicine to as many patients as possible, as soon as possible after that approval."

Gilead is also working to expand its capacity for producing remdesivir, O'Day said. The company thinks it could make millions of treatment courses available by the end of the year.

O'Day noted that remdesivir currently is for "severe" coronavirus patients who are hospitalized, but he said the company's scientists are exploring if the medication could work to treat patients who are in earlier stages of the illness.

Read the full story here.

Three-year-old girl shows off sheep in online agricultural show

With livestock shows around Britain canceled due to COVID-19, farmers are finding innovative ways to still present their prized livestock. A video of 3-year-old Barley Brook Sellar presenting Ethel, her prized Border Leicester sheep, has been watched more than a million times on Twitter.  

Filmed at the family's farm in Norfolk, England, the video shows Barley introducing Ethel, walking her in a short circle and commanding her to stand. It was shared on Twitter by one of the judges for the Young Handlers Under 8 Years Old category. 

"What kind of sheep is this?" Barley's mother, Caitlin Jenkins, can be heard asking. "A white one," replies Barley. The Greatest Online Agricultural Show, which is donating money raised to British farming charities, opens Saturday. 

Target, Walmart workers and others plan 'sickout' protests over coronavirus safety

A Target worker in Virginia wearing his own mask, gloves and safety glasses said he felt helpless recently when customers swarmed him as he organized a clearance area. Another Target worker, a cashier in North Carolina, said he welcomed the installation of plexiglass partitions at the registers over a week ago, but said they should have come sooner. A Whole Foods worker in Portland said she and some of her colleagues are feeling "scared, angry and devastated" after a fellow employee died from the coronavirus last week.

To convey their concerns, they plan to call out of work Friday as part of a nationwide employee "sickout" involving Target and Whole Foods, as well as AmazonInstacartFedEx and Walmart.

The grassroots effort — the latest example of a wave of worker activism during the coronavirus crisis — is asking customers to boycott those companies' local stores and services Friday to coincide with International Workers' Day, also known as May Day, which in a normal year is marked by massive labor rights demonstrations in major cities.

Read the full story here.

Some minority groups in UK have higher death rate than white Britons, study finds

Per-capita hospital deaths are the highest among the black Caribbean population in England and Wales, who are dying at triple the rate of white Britons, a new study found on Friday. Other minority groups — including Pakistanis and black Africans — have seen similar numbers.

The impacts of the COVID-19 crisis are not uniform across ethnic groups, and show clear disparities in their mortality rates, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said in the report. Merely aggregating all minorities together when examining data misses important differences, it said. As of Friday, more than 26,000 people across Britain have died from coronavirus.

The British research institute suggested that occupational exposure partially explains disproportionate deaths for some groups. More than two in 10 black African women of working age, for example, are employed in health and social care roles. Indian men are 150 percent more likely to work in health or social care roles than their white British counterparts. While the Indian ethnic group makes up 3 percent of the working-age population of England and Wales, they account for 14 percent of doctors.