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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Concerns mount about two studies on drugs for coronavirus

Concerns are mounting about studies in two influential medical journals on drugs used in people with coronavirus, including one that led multiple countries to stop testing a malaria pill.

The New England Journal of Medicine issued an "expression of concern" Tuesday on a study it published May 1 that suggested widely used blood pressure medicines were not raising the risk of death for people with COVID-19.

Read the full story here

NIH director say warm weather unlikely to stop spread of coronavirus

Warmer weather is unlikely to slow or stop the spread of coronavirus, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said in a blog post on Tuesday

Dr. Collins’ post on the NIH website was based on a new study published in Science, by scientists with the Princeton Environmental Institute. In this study, researchers developed three mathematical models to simulate how temperature changes may affect the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, in cities around the world. All three scenarios showed that climate would only be an important factor when large proportions of a community are already immune to COVID-19.

“The team found that, even if one assumes that SARS-CoV-2 is as sensitive to climate as other seasonal viruses, summer heat still would not be enough of a mitigator right now to slow its initial, rapid spread through the human population,” Dr. Collins explained, referencing the rapid spread of the virus in warm tropical climates like Brazil and Ecuador. 

There is, however, one glimmer of hope in one of the group’s models, the blog post said. One of the models included control effects, most notably, social distancing in its study, which showed that a combination of warm weather and social distancing may slow the spread of the virus.

Protesting in a pandemic: COVID-19 testing sites shut down amid national unrest

Just as access to COVID-19 tests was ramping up in many areas across the country, some testing sites have been forced to suspend operations because of violence and protests in recent days.

The temporary closures — from California to Florida — are sure to hamper efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus, particularly as social distancing has given way to mass gatherings of potentially contagious people who don't know they're infected.

Read more. 

Group of attorneys general ask Walmart to step up protection for workers and public

Walmart is under pressure from a group of state attorneys general to improve paid time off rules for staff and prevent overcrowding in stores in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

California’s Xavier Becerra is the latest to add his name to a letter to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon asking the country's largest employer to improve protections against the coronavirus.

Walmart only offers half pay to workers who are infected, according to the letter, which also claims employees are not being informed about their potential exposure to people who have tested positive. The letter asks Walmart to install shields to separate cashiers, have employees wipe down carts and hand baskets, reduce customer counts, and inform state officials about the number of cases in each store. 

The states backing Becerra’s letter include: Illinois; Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Washington and the District of Columbia.

Walmart did not immediately respond to an email for comment.

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.