Lockdowns ease across the world as U.S. protests continue

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: FRANCE-HEALTH-VIRUS
Costumers take drinks at the terrace of a cafe-restaurant in Paris on June 2, 2020, as cafes and restaurants reopen in France, while the country eases lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of the COVID-19.Christophe Archambault / AFP - Getty Images

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Protests over the death in police custody of George Floyd in Minneapolis continued throughout the U.S. overnight, raising fears of a wave of new infections. According to NBC News' tally there have been 1.8 million coronavirus infections in the U.S. and 105,000 related deaths, the highest of any country on both counts.

Meanwhile, countries across the world were lifting lockdown measures, with schools and businesses opening as a new way of life after the coronavirus pandemic emerges. Paris' famous street-side cafes will reopen Tuesday, while restrictions are also being eased in parts of Latin America.

Schoolchildren returned to classes in Singapore Tuesday, all wearing face masks, following the United Kingdom on Monday and several other European and Asian countries last month.

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

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How China blocked WHO and Chinese scientists early in coronavirus outbreak

Throughout January, the World Health Organization publicly praised China for what it called a speedy response to the new coronavirus. It repeatedly thanked the Chinese government for sharing the genetic map of the virus “immediately,” and said its work and commitment to transparency were “very impressive, and beyond words.”

But behind the scenes, it was a much different story, one of significant delays by China and considerable frustration among WHO officials over not getting the information they needed to fight the spread of the deadly virus, The Associated Press has found.

Read more. 

Whitmer slams Trump's use of Defense Production Act, calls for national testing plan

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday blasted the Trump administration for its response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying that the U.S. "lost valuable time in the early days of COVID-19."

"When we could have been planning, when there could have been a national strategy, when the use of the DPA could have been used not for meat production, but for swabs, which we still don’t have enough of," Whitmer said at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the states' responses to the pandemic, referring to President Donald Trump's use of the Defense Production Act to ensure continued operation of meat production plants.

Whitmer, a Democrat, said supply shortages "continue to significantly restrict Michigan's testing capability." Right now, the state is able to conduct about 15,000 tests a day, but the goal is 30,000 a day. In March, the federal government made several allocations of personal protective equipment, but they were "dangerously insufficient," Whitmer said. 

The governor called on the White House to "create a specific, long-term plan outlining how the federal government will ensure we've got adequate testing supplies." 

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NYC mayor worried about potential spike in coronavirus cases if protests continue

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday he was concerned that more days of protests would lead to an increased spread of coronavirus as the city looks to begin the first phase of reopening next week. 

"The message has been heard loud and clear ... but I’m very worried, also, that protest is leading to the potential of the spread of the coronavirus," de Blasio said. 

"This is not a minor matter at this point. One day, two days — that’s one thing. As it continues, that danger is increasing ... particularly if people are not keeping distance, particularly if people are not wearing face coverings. You're endangering yourself and your family. Please think about that now."

New York City has "a lot to do on criminal justice reform" and "healing wounds," de Blasio acknowledged. "But the pandemic is still here, and we must address that."

A citywide curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. will be in place until Sunday. The city is supposed to enter phase one of reopening the next day.

Filming to resume for "Mission: Impossible" — with 'limited contact between actors'

The seventh installment of "Mission: Impossible,” starring Tom Cruise, is set to resume production in September, according to comments made by the film’s first assistant director, Tommy Gormley, to BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday.

News that the Paramount Pictures series is returning to production will give the motion picture industry a boost. Many TV and movie producers have been without work after a COVID-19 related shutdown. It’s not clear where filming would resume, though shooting was interrupted in Venice in February. Paramount Pictures was not immediately available to comment. 

Meanwhile, the production business submitted labor safety plans to California Gov. Gavin Newsom and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The plans include limiting crowd sizes, testing crew as a condition of employment and minimizing “close contact” between performers, leaving questions open about how directors will execute fight scenes and kissing between co-stars.

Two Americans facing charges for violating Singapore's social distance rules

An American man and woman accused of violating social distancing regulation designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus in Singapore faced the charges in court on Tuesday. 

Court documents identified Jeffrey Brown, 52, and Bao Nguyen Brown, 40, for allegedly meeting at a restaurant with Austrian citizen Michael Czerny, 45, who does not live in their household, to socialize on May 16. 

Four other foreigners faced similar charges for meeting at another restaurant the same evening. If convicted, they face up to 6 months in jail and a fine up to $7,100. 

British lawmakers criticize plans forcing them to vote in person

Members of parliament spaced out on the benches in the House of Commons in London on June 2, 2020 to maintain social distancing as parlaiment reconvened.Parliamentary Recording Unit / AFP - Getty Images

Many British lawmakers returned to parliament Tuesday after the government put an end to arrangements — in place since April — that had allowed them to debate and vote in a "virtual" parliament.

But social distancing requirements mean that just 50 out of 650 parliamentarians will be allowed to be present in the House of Commons chamber at any one time, and MPs will be asked to form a long queuing system to vote.

The opposition Labor Party condemned the plans to force MPs with "shielding responsibilities" to vote in person, while opposition lawmaker Tulip Siddiq tweeted that the situation in parliament was "chaos."

"Westminster has been the seat of our democracy for centuries. It will take more than the coronavirus to change that," said Jacob Rees-Mogg, the ruling-Conservative party lawmaker responsible for the changes.

Report: Ethnic minorities in England up to twice as die from COVID-19 as white people

Black and Asian ethnic minorities in England are up to twice as likely to die after contracting COVID-19 than white British people, the country's health authority said Tuesday.

After accounting for sex, age, deprivation and region, people of Bangladeshi descent faced twice the risk of death when compared to white British people, Public Health England said in a delayed report. People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani and Caribbean ethnicity were at between 10 percent to 50 percent higher risk of death, the report said.

The report does not account for occupation, which may help explain the disparity: Pakistani, Indian and black African men are vastly more likely to work in health care than white British men.

CBO projects virus impact could trim GDP by $15.7 trillion

The Congressional Budget Office said Monday that the U.S. economy could be $15.7 trillion smaller over the next decade than it otherwise would have been if Congress does not mitigate the economic damage from the coronavirus.

The CBO, which had already issued a report forecasting a severe economic impact over the next two years, expanded that forecast to show that the severity of the economic shock could depress growth for far longer.

The new estimate said that over the 2020-2030 period, total GDP output could be $15.7 trillion lower than CBO had been projecting as recently as January. That would equal 5.3% of lost GDP over the coming decade. After adjusting for inflation, CBO said the lost output would total $7.9 trillion, a loss of 3% of inflation-adjusted GDP.

The office forecasts that the GDP, which shrank at a 5% rate in the first three months of this year, will fall at a 37.7% rate in the current April-June quarter, the biggest quarterly decline on record.

Read more about the economic impact.

Humanitarian disaster looms in Afghanistan, charity warns

A humanitarian crisis is brewing in Afghanistan with the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increasing almost seven-fold in May, according to the International Rescue Committee, which works across the country.

The charity said in a statement Monday that cases in Afghanistan had increased 684 percent in the last month and warned that many more were going undetected due to poor testing facilities. The charity said the Ministry of Health only had capacity to test 2,000 people a day, but was receiving between 10,000 and 20,000 samples per day.

“Four decades of war has devastated the health care system in Afghanistan and left more than five million Afghans, especially women and children, living in fear of abuse, neglect, conflict, exploitation and violence, " said Vicki Aken, Afghanistan Country Director at the IRC. "The COVID-19 outbreak is making the already terrible situation much worse."