U.S. deaths top 66,000 as pandemic takes its toll on ordinary Americans

Here are the latest updates on the global pandemic.
Image: California's Huntington Beach pier is closed on May 2, 2020. Orange County beaches will remain closed after a judge rejected bids by Dana Point and Huntington Beach officials to lift Governor Gavin Newsom's temporary closure to curb the spread of c
California's Huntington Beach pier is closed to visitors on Saturday. Orange County beaches will remain closed after a judge rejected bids by Dana Point and Huntington Beach officials to lift Governor Gavin Newsom's temporary closure to curb the spread of coronavirus.Apu Gomes / AFP - Getty Images

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As the U.S. death toll tops 66,000, the strain the coronavirus pandemic is placing on ordinary Americans has started to emerge. Aging grandparents are being robbed of spending precious time with their families while millions of people are forced to adjust to life without a stable income for the foreseeable future.

As the number of confirmed U.S. cases hit 1.1 million, stores, restaurants and movie theaters began to reopen in Texas, despite a rise in cases, while in New York police dispatched 1,000 officers this weekend to enforce social distancing and a ban on congregating in public spaces. Beaches were also closed in California.

Meanwhile, as scientists work to find a vaccine for the virus, British scientists said Sunday that the potential vaccine they're developing could yield evidence to its efficacy by June.

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

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For LGBTQ youth, home might not be a safe place to self-isolate

For Fabliha Anbar, 20, her LGBTQ identity is an important part of her social and academic life. She's out to friends, on social media and at her progressive university, where she founded the South Asian Queer and Trans Collective.

But last month, when her campus closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Anbar returned home — and back to the proverbial closet.

Since schools across the U.S. started to close in mid-March to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, LGBTQ advocates say a number of queer youth and young adults have lost crucial support systems and have been forced to self-isolate with unsupportive family members.

Read the full story here.

Vienna Airport to offer virus tests to avoid quarantine

Vienna Airport will offer onsite coronavirus testing starting Monday to enable passengers entering Austria to avoid having to be quarantined for 14 days, according to a news release Sunday.

Passengers arriving at the airport in the country's capital have been required to present a health certificate showing a negative COVID-19 result which is no older than four days, or go into quarantine. Beginning Monday, passengers can have a molecular biological COVID-19 test at the airport, and get the result in about three hours, the airport said.

The airport tests — which cost 190 euros, or $209 — can also be taken by passengers leaving Vienna to demonstrate their virus-free status at their destination. Austria has reported more than 15,000 cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday. 

Pope says vaccine must be shared worldwide

Pope Francis called for international scientific cooperation to discover a vaccine for the coronavirus on Sunday and said any successful vaccine should be made available around the world.

In his address from the papal library, the pontiff encouraged international cooperation to deal with the crisis and combat the virus. "In fact, it is important to unite scientific capabilities, in a transparent and impartial way to find vaccines and treatments," he said.

Francis said it was also important to "guarantee universal access to essential technologies that allow each infected person, in every part of the world, to receive the necessary medical treatment."

World leaders pledged in April to accelerate work on tests, drugs and vaccines against COVID-19 and to share them around the globe, but the United States did not take part in the launch of the World Health Organization initiative.

As people get back to work, cities look for social-distancing solutions for the busy commute

Commuters wearing protective face masks make their way along a suburban train platform as they arrive at at the Gare du Nord RER station in Paris France, on Wednesday.Gonzalo Fuentes / Reuters

As coronavirus lockdowns ease and people around the world begin to escape from their homes, a new challenge emerges. How do you socially distance on the commute?

Stay two meters (6.5ft) apart on a bus in Berlin? Or on the subway in Seoul? Likely to be challenging.

While many may choose to continue working from home, others will face no choice but to travel to work.

And with transit systems in major cities notoriously overcrowded, a nervous public may look for alternatives in which social distancing can be maintained.

Read the rest here.

Nearly half of British doctors forced to find their own PPE, survey shows

Almost half of doctors in the U.K. have relied upon donated or self-bought personal protective equipment and two-thirds still don’t feel fully protected from coronavirus, a new survey by the British Medical Association showed on Sunday.  

More than 16,000 doctors answered the poll from the labor union which represents doctors in the U.K. It is believed to be the largest review of frontline National Health Service workers since the crisis began. As of Jan. 2020 there are a total of 125,308 doctors working for the country's National Health Service, according to its latest workforce statistics.  

“On the one-hand it shows how resourceful they have been and how much support there has been from the general public in providing kit; but far more importantly, it is a damning indictment of the government’s abject failure to make sure healthcare workers across the country are being supplied with the life-saving kit they should be,” Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, the BMA council chair said as the data was released.  

The U.K. government has faced continued criticism from health workers over a lack of sufficient protective gear, as well as complaints surrounding low levels of virus testing. Britain has so far reported more than 180,000 cases.

Spain reports lowest daily death toll in nearly seven weeks

Spain has reported its lowest number of deaths in almost seven weeks, with 164 recorded on Sunday by the country's Health Ministry. While it was the lowest single-day increase since March 18, it nonetheless brought the total number to 25,264. 

The ministry also reported 838 new cases on Sunday, marking the first time the daily figure has dipped below 1,000. Spain has a total of 217,466 cases, the highest number in Europe and second only in the world to the United States.

“Experts say a vaccine for coronavirus could be available by the end of the year. We know that towards the end of 2020, we’ll have a very low transmission rate. But we could have a COVID-19 resurgence in October,” Fernando Simon, the head of Spain's Emergency Coordination Centre, said in a press briefing Sunday.

The declining death rate is an encouraging sign for Spain, which on Saturday took a large step towards loosening its lockdown by allowing adults to exercise outdoors for the first time in seven weeks.

U.K.'s Boris Johnson says doctors prepared to announce his death as he fought COVID-19

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson displaying his Get Well Soon cards sent in by children while he was ill with COVID-19, at his office in central London last Tuesday.Andrew Parsons / AFP - Getty Images

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has revealed that doctors prepared to announce his death as he battled coronavirus, ending up in intensive care, last month.

Johnson said that he was given “litres and litres of oxygen” to keep him alive as he recounted his life-or-death experience with the virus.

“It was a tough old moment, I won’t deny it,” the prime minister, who only days ago announced the birth of his son with partner Carrie Symonds, said in an emotional interview to Britain’s The Sun on Sunday newspaper. “They had a strategy.”

Read the whole story here.

Travel in China surges as residents flock to tourist sites during 5-day holiday

Chinese people are flocking to tourist sites — many of which have recently reopened — during a five-day holiday that runs through Tuesday. 

Nearly 1.7 million people visited Beijing parks on the first two days of the holiday that began on May 1, and Shanghai’s main tourist spots welcomed more than a million visitors, according to Chinese media reports.

The surge comes after a relaxation of domestic travel restrictions as the outbreak slows in mainland China and the government tries to reboot the economy. The country reported just two new cases as of Sunday and no new deaths. The number of confirmed cases stands at 82,877. Most of the patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals.

The number of people traveling and visiting sites remains lower than an average year. Many sites are requiring advance reservations and limiting the number of daily visitors to 30 percent of capacity or less. Popular destinations such as the Forbidden City, the ancient imperial palace in Beijing, are sold out.

Visitors wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus walk through the Forbidden City in Beijing on Friday.Mark Schiefelbein / AP

South Korea reports no new deaths as social distancing rules to be relaxed

South Korea reported no new deaths for the first time since February on Sunday.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the death toll remained at 250. It also reported just 13 new cases on Sunday, bringing the total 10,793. In total, 9,183 of those cases have recovered, the KCDC said. 

As infections continue to wane, South Korea will further relax social distancing rules starting on May 6, allowing a phased reopening of businesses, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun confirmed Sunday.

The government "will allow businesses to resume at facilities in phases that had remained closed up until now, and also allow gatherings and events to take place assuming they follow disinfection guidelines," he told a televised meeting of government officials.

Indian Air Force showers flower petals to thank health workers

The Indian Air Force showered flower petals on hospitals across different cities including the national capital of New Delhi in a series of flypasts on Sunday, as part of the Armed Forces’ efforts to thank doctors, nurses and police who have been at the forefront of the country’s battle against the pandemic.

Almost 40,000 cases have been recorded in the the country of 1.3 billion as it enters the 40th day of a nationwide lockdown to contain the virus. The country’s official death toll has reached 1,301.

The almost six-week lockdown, which was scheduled to end Monday, has been extended another two weeks with a few relaxations. The lockdown has slowed the spread of the virus, but has come at the enormous cost of upending lives and millions of lost jobs across the country.