U.S. death toll passes 80,000, U.K. to begin lifting lockdown

Here are the latest updates on the global pandemic.
Image: Customers buy balloons and flowers for Mother's Day at the Los Angeles Flower Market on May 10, 2020.
Customers buy balloons and flowers for Mother's Day at the Los Angeles Flower Market on Sunday. Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

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The U.S. death toll crossed 80,000 on Sunday, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Britain would begin easing its lockdown measures.

In Washington, Dr. Anthony Fauci on Saturday became the third member of the White House coronavirus task force to self-quarantine after possible exposure to the coronavirus.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has emerged as the most high-profile public health expert on President Donald Trump's task force, will follow a “modified” quarantine for the next two weeks after “low-risk” exposure to a White House aide who tested positive, an administration official confirmed.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will also self-quarantine for 14 days, and Stephen Hahn, the administrator of the Food and Drug Administration, has already gone into quarantine. Two other people with access to the White House have also tested positive for the coronavirus, including Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary, Katie Miller.

As of Sunday afternoon, the U.S. death toll was 80,032, with more 1.3 million cases reported, according to an NBC News tally.

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

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Pope calls for EU solidarity to deal with virus

Pope Francis celebrating a private morning mass at the Santa Marta chapel in The Vatican on March 31, 2020.Vatican Media / AFP - Getty Images

Pope Francis is calling on leaders of European Union countries to work together to deal with the social and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

The pope noted in his Sunday blessing that 75 years have passed since Europe began the challenging process of reconciliation after World War II. He said the process spurred both European integration and “the long period of stability and peace which we benefit from today.”

He prayed that the same spirit that inspired European integration efforts “not fail to inspire all those who have responsibility in the European Union” to deal with the coronavirus emergency in a “spirit of harmony and collaboration.”

Throughout his papacy, the pope has urged European countries to resist nationalism and instead pull together on issues like migration.

Why some nurses have quit during the pandemic

A nurse performs tests on a possible COVD-19 patient inside a tent on the grounds of the Sophiahemmet private hospital in Stockholm on April 22, 2020.Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP - Getty Images

For weeks, Kelly Stanton wasn’t sleeping. She lay in bed gripped with the anxiety of having to go to work at a Washington, D.C.-area hospital not knowing if she might bring home the coronavirus to her husband and their three children.

It was inevitable, she thought. She wasn’t protected.

Stanton, a veteran nurse of 28 years, had seen federal safety protocols for health care workers begin to crumble amid the global pandemic by early March.

Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding personal protective equipment, or PPEs, changed consistently. At Stanton’s hospital, nurses were told they would have limited access to an already low stockpile of PPEs and were being asked to reuse single-use masks multiple times, she said.

Read the full story here.

Russia surpasses 200,000 reported cases

Russia’s count of coronavirus infections has climbed above 200,000 after its highest daily tally of new cases. Figures released Sunday recorded 11,012 new cases of the virus for a total of 209,688, with 1,915 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Russian officials say the sharp rise in numbers can be attributed to increased testing, at least in part.

More than half the infection cases and deaths are recorded in Moscow, which will remain under a lockdown for the rest of the month. The total number of cases in the country overtook French and German infections earlier this week to become the fifth-highest in the world.

Churches in Lebanon welcome worshippers again

A worshipper lights a candle during mass at the Saint Nicolas Church in Beirut, Lebanon, on Sunday.Bilal Hussein / AP

Lebanon’s churches welcomed worshippers for the first time in nearly two months on Sunday. Most churches were closed to the public to limit the spread of the outbreak, but Lebanese authorities have started easing restrictions that were imposed in March.

Churches and mosques are now permitted to welcome worshippers for congregational prayers on Sundays and Fridays as long as capacities are limited and social distancing measures are respected. Many worshippers entering churches around Lebanon on Sunday were sprayed with disinfectant and had their temperatures checked before they were allowed in to sit at a distance from others.

Masses had been held in empty churches for the past weeks for the first time in Lebanon’s recent history. Even the country’s civil war from 1975-1990 did not stop its people from going to places of worship.

Lebanon has the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East — about a third of the country’s five million people. The country has recorded 809 cases of the virus with 26 deaths as of Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Japan looks to lift state of emergency in some areas

Japan's Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Sunday that the government is looking to lift the state of emergency in “many of 34 prefectures” that are not among the hardest hit by the pandemic before the nationwide deadline of May 31.

“Lifting the state of emergency in many of 34 prefectures that exclude those under specific cautions will likely come in sight as many prefectures have been seeing no fresh infections lately,” Nishimura said in a debate on public broadcaster NHK.

Japan reported more than 15,000 total cases and 613 deaths as of Sunday, according to the country's health ministry.

China reports first double-digit rise in new cases in 10 days

China reported its first double-digit rise in new cases in 10 days on Sunday, the country's National Health commission said. In total, 14 new cases were reported, 12 of them were domestic infections and two from abroad.

Eleven of those domestic case were in the northeastern province of Jilin and one in Hubei — whose capital Wuhan was the epicenter of the global pandemic. Jilin shares the border with North Korea, where the virus situation is unclear.

While China has reported a total of 4,633 deaths and 82,901 cases as of Sunday, the country has reported no new virus deaths for weeks.

The jump in new cases, however, could fuel concerns over how quickly to lift strict social distancing measures and reopen schools and other public institutions. Widely disseminated photos of people socializing in Shanghai’s bar district over the weekend drew some criticism online, according to the Associated Press.

Indian Navy warship returns with stranded citizens

An Indian navy warship carrying some the country's citizens who were left stranded in the Maldives because of the coronavirus lockdown has docked at a port in Kochi, a port city in the southernmost state of Kerala.

The INS Jalashwa had 698 returning citizens on board. It was the first vessel to arrive Sunday as part of the country’s massive repatriation mission. India is also using national carrier Air India to bring back thousands of stranded citizens from the Persian Gulf, the U.K. and elsewhere in Asia.

Sea and air passengers have been charged a fare to return to India, but hundreds of thousands have nonetheless signed up for additional repatriation journeys planned this month.

India’s lockdown entered a sixth week Sunday, though some restrictions have been eased for self-employed people unable to access government support to return to work. India has so far reported 60,829 positive cases and 2,109 deaths.

South Korea reports highest number of a cases in a month

South Korea reported its highest number of cases in a month on Sunday, with 34 recorded after a small outbreak emerged in the country’s capital linked to nightclub-goers. 

The governor of the province that surrounds Seoul ordered a two-week shutdown of all nightclubs on Sunday to guard against a possible new surge, according to the Associated Press.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in warned of a second wave of the epidemic later this year, saying the recent cluster underscored the risks that the virus can spread widely again at any time.

“It’s not over until it’s over. While keeping enhanced alertness till the end, we must never lower our guard regarding epidemic prevention,” he said in a televised speech on Sunday, marking the third anniversary of his inauguration.

The new cases bring the total to 10,874. The country also recorded no new deaths for the fourth day in a row, so the death toll remained at 256, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

U.K. commuters urged to cycle or walk to work once lockdown is eased

More commuters should cycle or walk when Britain’s lockdown is eased to take the pressure off public transport, U.K. Transport Minister Grant Shapps said on Saturday, as he announced a £2 billion-package ($2.4 billion) to put cycling "at the heart of our policy."

“Even with public transport reverting to a full service, once you take into account the two-meter social distancing rule, there would only be effective capacity for one in 10 passengers in many parts of our network, just a tenth of the old capacity,” said Shapps.

He urged people to continue to work from home when possible, but urged those who had to commute to consider cycling or walking rather than using cars.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce the next phase of Britain’s coronavirus measures on Sunday, as the country’s lockdown has been in place for nearly seven weeks.

Australia's biggest state to ease lockdown next week

Australia's biggest state, home to Sydney, will allow cafes and restaurants, playgrounds and outdoor pools to reopen on Friday as extensive testing has shown the spread of the virus has slowed sharply, New South Wales state's premier said on Sunday.

The state has been worst hit by the virus in Australia, with about 45 percent of the country's confirmed cases and deaths. However it recorded just two new cases on Saturday out of nearly 10,000 people tested, clearing the way for a cautious loosening of lockdown measures.

"Just because we're easing restrictions doesn't mean the virus is less deadly or less of a threat. All it means is we have done well to date," Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Sunday.

The moves are in line with a three-step plan to relax lockdown measures outlined by the Australian government on Friday, which would see nearly 1 million people return to work by July. The country has reported nearly 7,000 cases as of Sunday with 97 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.