Over 76,000 dead as 33 million file for unemployment in U.S.

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Demonstrators holding signs demanding their church to reopen, protest during a rally to re-open California and against Stay-At-Home directives on May 1, 2020 in San Diego, Calif.Sandy Huffaker / AFP - Getty Images

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The U.S. economy continues to look bleak after more than 3 million workers filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, according to federal labor data released Thursday.

Although that figure is down slightly from the week before, over 33 million Americans have now filed for initial jobless claims as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has routed some industries to Depression-era levels.

Yet even as the economy begins to slowly fire up again state by state, economists expect unemployment levels to continue rising — and to extend across a broader swath of industries.

Meanwhile, the debate over state reopenings goes on — and coronavirus cases show no sign of slowing down. As of Thursday evening, the death toll in the U.S. is over 76,000 and there are more than 1.2 million confirmed cases, according to NBC News' count.

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

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Air France says it won't return to 2019 levels until at least 2022

Air France-KLM forecast a "prolonged negative impact on passenger demand" in a statement on Thursday, after the company lost 1.8 billion euros, or $1.9 billion, in the first quarter.

"We're not seeing a return to 2019 levels until, at a minimum, 2022 — an absolute minimum," Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith said according to Reuters. Current forecasts indicate that Air France is expecting European borders to reopen in September at the earliest, resulting in a 40 to 50 percent decrease in activity compared to the same period in 2019.

The partner airlines expect that the second quarter of this year will be far worse, with traffic down 95 percent. Air France has implemented protective measures in its flights to keep activity going, notably the mandatory wearing of masks to take effect from May 11.

'Superhero' health workers hailed in new Banksy painting

The largely black and white painting shows a child holding aloft a doll in a superhero cape and an apron with a red cross. The toy nurse's right fist thrusts forward in a flying Superman pose.

Banksy’s latest piece, which went on display at Southampton General Hospital in the south of England on Wednesday, marks the spirit of gratitude for healthcare workers that has swept across Britain during the coronavirus pandemic.

Read the full story here.

Duchess Kate launches coronavirus photography project, talks lockdown with the kids

Britain's Prince George wants to do his sister Charlotte's school projects instead of his own work, his mother Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, said Thursday in an interview with ITV. 

Kate appeared on the show "This Morning" to launch a photography project designed to capture "the spirit, the hopes, the fears and the feelings" of the U.K. during the coronavirus crisis. In collaboration with London's National Portrait Gallery, the "Hold Still" will crowd-source 100 of the best photos submitted by the public to provide "a snapshot of the people of the U.K. at this time." 

"That’s the power of photography, it can capture a moment and tell a story," said Kate, the wife of Queen Elizabeth II's grandson, Prince William. She added that her three children check in daily with family members they can't see in person, and that they are having "in some ways a lot more contact than perhaps we would have done before." 

Black people more than four times as likely to die from coronavirus than white people, U.K. data shows

Black people in Britain are more than four times as likely to die from coronavirus than white people, according to data published Thursday by the U.K.’s Office of National Statistics, which analyses population data for England and Wales.

The analysis showed that even when accounting for socio-economic factors along with age and health, black people are still 1.9 times more likely to die from coronavirus. People of Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, or mixed ethnicity also had what the ONS calls a “statistically significant” rise in risk of death from coronavirus, versus those of white ethnicity.

“These results show that the the difference between ethnic groups in COVID-19 mortality is partly a result of socio-economic disadvantage and other circumstances, but a remaining part of the difference has not yet been explained,” the report said.

A graph from U.K.'s Office of National Statistics showing the mortality rate from coronavirus for ethnic minority males.ONS / Office of National Statistics

China says it's open to cooperating with WHO on virus tracing

China is open to cooperating with the World Health Organization on a virus tracing investigation, Hua Chunying, a Chinese political spokesperson said at a press conference on Thursday. Chunying emphasized, however, that the country is opposed to an investigation where China is already presumed to be guilty. 

"China remains open to all kinds of cooperation with WHO on issues including virus tracing, as long as it is conducive to better cope with major infectious diseases," she said. China opposes that the United States and other countries can't wait for a "presumed international investigation of guilt" on the issue of traceability, she added. Recently, U.S. officials have offered differing claims on the virus' origins.

On Wednesday, the head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, said the organization was in talks with China to send a follow-up mission to the country to investigate the animal source of the pandemic. This comes just days after the WHO said China had not invited the organization to take part in an investigation into the origins of the virus.

Russia surpasses France and Germany in total number of coronavirus cases

Russia's number of total confirmed cases of coronavirus overtook France and Germany on Thursday, reaching 177,160 infections. There was also a new record for the daily number of confirmed infections, with official government numbers showing 11,231 new cases, the fifth day in a row with more than 10,000.

These milestones come a day after President Vladimir Putin asked regional leaders to prepare plans for a gradual easing of lockdown starting May 12. Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said Thursday 300,000 people have likely been infected in Moscow, despite an official tally of 92,676 cases in the city. 

Sobyanin said the growth in new cases is due to expanded testing, which has allowed for the identification of more asymptomatic cases. 

London to fast-track cycle lanes after predicting tenfold increase in biking

London will fast-track the construction of new cycle lanes to facilitate a predicted ten-fold increase in biking as a result of the coronavirus crisis, Mayor Sadiq Khan announced. The city's public transit system will only be able to run at a fifth of pre-crisis capacity due to social-distancing requirements, the mayor said, adding that if just a fraction of transit journeys are taken in cars instead, "London risks grinding to a halt, air quality will worsen, and road danger will increase."

The "streetspace" program will see temporary bike lanes installed quickly on some of London's busiest roads and sidewalks widened to allow more space for pedestrians to socially distance. The new lanes could be made permanent, the mayor indicated. 

London is the latest city to turn to more space for cycling and walking as a result of the coronavirus crisis. New York, Milan and Paris have already announced big plans to turn over street space to walking and cycling. Columbia University’s Purnima Kapur — until recently the executive director of the New York City Department of City Planning — suggested that city planners could now find they have the political will to push through progressive changes that would have seemed too radical just a few months ago.

Tracking apps and thermal scanners: Life in post-lockdown South Korea

South Korea ended its stringent social distancing policies Wednesday after halting the spread of the coronavirus. But although sports fans will soon be allowed to return to stadiums and as museums and libraries began to reopen, life remains far from normal.

Thermal scanners at theme parks, shopping for makeup while wearing masks and constant tracking of people's whereabouts through apps and credit card data are markers of the new post-pandemic world in the country leading the way in its response to the virus.

"Everyday distancing does not mean returning to life before COVID-19," Kim Kang Lip, vice minister of health and welfare, said Tuesday at a news briefing. "It means building new social norms and a culture based on exercising social distancing."

Read full story here.

Frontier Airlines will drop open-seat fee that drew attacks

Frontier Airlines is dropping plans to charge passengers extra to sit next to an empty middle seat after congressional Democrats accused the airline of trying to profit from fear over the new coronavirus.

“We recognize the concerns raised that we are profiting from safety and this was never our intent,” Frontier CEO Barry Biffle said late Wednesday in a letter to three lawmakers. “We simply wanted to provide our customers with an option for more space.”

Biffle said the airline will rescind the extra fee, which Frontier called More Room, and block the seats from being sold.

Earlier in the day, Democrats had railed against Frontier's plan to charge passengers at least $39 per flight to guarantee they would sit next to an empty middle seat. The offer was to begin with flights Friday and run through Aug. 31.

Read the full story here