Brazil records big surge as global deaths approach 400,000

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.

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Fears continue to grow over the growth of COVID-19 in Latin America, with the number of confirmed cases in Brazil passing that of Italy to make it the second worst-affected country, after the United States.

Brazil recorded 1,349 deaths in a single day Thursday — only the U.S. and the U.K. have declared more COVID-19 related deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. President Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of minimizing the effects of the crisis.

Elsewhere, more shops, businesses and places or worship are opening up. The Las Vegas strip was abuzz this week with tourists and revelers after some casinos reopened. Across the Muslim world, from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia, Friday prayers are starting again after weeks of mosques being off-limits.

Meanwhile authorities across the world are struggling to ensure that people attending protests sparked by the death of George Floyd practice social distancing.

More than 1.84 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the U.S. along with more than 107,000 deaths.

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Friday prayers return across the Middle East

Friday prayers at mosques in countries across the Middle East have been permitted today following the lifting of restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. 

In Jordan, mosques — closed since March — were allowed to reopen Friday although the elderly and worshipers with pre-existing conditions were warned not to attend. Faithful were also told to wear face masks and gloves. The Prophet's Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia, was also permitted to reopen for Friday prayers with capacity to be limited to 40 percent of the Mosque's usual capacity. 

In Egypt — which has had its worst week for deaths from the virus — the Al Azhar Mosque will hold Friday prayers with only imams and workers present, but it will be broadcast nationwide.

Police try to stop Black Lives Matter rally in Sydney due to coronavirus fears

Protesters hold an Aboriginal flag in Canberra, Australia on Friday.Rod McGuirk / AP

Police challenged whether a Black Lives Matter protest planned for Saturday in Sydney is too much of a virus risk. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is among those who criticized the plans, saying of the protesters: “I say to them, don’t go.”

Outdoor gatherings in Australia's largest city are restricted to 10 people, while up to 50 people can go to funerals, places of worship, restaurants, pubs and cafes.

In Canberra, organizers of a rally Friday that attracted about 2,000 demonstrators handed out masks and hand sanitizer. Most protesters kept a recommended social distance but drew closer to hear speeches. Public gatherings are limited to 20 in Canberra, but police did not intervene.

School teacher Wendy Brookman, a member of the Butchulla indigenous people, said Australia should not accept more than 430 indigenous Australians dying in police custody or prison in the past three decades. “We’re not here to jump on the bandwagon of what’s happened in the United States,” Brookman said. “We’re here to voice what’s happening to our indigenous people.”

Face coverings to be made mandatory on public transit in England

Face coverings will be mandatory for all passengers using public transit in England from June 15, the U.K. government announced Thursday. 

All bus, train, streetcar, subway, ferry and aircraft passengers will be asked to wear face coverings as a condition of carriage in plans designed to reduce the transmission of coronavirus as the U.K's lockdown continues to ease. The official advice, however, remains for people to avoid travelling on transit and to continue to work from home if possible.

While the rate of infection continues to decline, The U.K. has reported almost 40,000 deaths in hospital or nursing homes from COVID-19 to date giving it the highest official death count in Europe. 

Minnesota Gov. Walz: 'Anyone who demonstrated should receive a test for COVID-19'

New York governor to protesters: Get tested

In New York, which once had the highest coronavirus infection rate in the U.S., the total number of hospitalizations are down and the state is seeing a continued decline in deaths, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a briefing Thursday. At the same time, protests against the murder of George Floyd have continued in New York’s largest cities, worrying officials about a resurgence in infections. An estimated 30,000 people have marched across the state, with 20,000 protesters in New York City.

“With the protesters, they could actually compound the situation,” Cuomo said. The state plans to open testing facilities for all protesters to avoid a super-spreader event, he said. 

 “As fast as the numbers come down is as fast as the numbers can go up,” Cuomo warned. 

USDA issues $545 million in COVID-19 assistance for food producers

The United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA) has issued its first payments to farmers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), the agency announced Thursday.

The agency began taking applications on May 26 and has already made payments to more than 35,000 producers, totaling more than $545 million, the USDA said in a news release. The states that have received the most CFAP payments include Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, Nebraska and South Dakota. 

“The coronavirus has hurt America’s farmers, ranchers, and producers, and these payments directed by President Trump will help this critical industry weather the current pandemic so they can continue to plant and harvest a safe, nutritious, and affordable crop for the American people,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said.

The FSA is accepting applications for up to $16 billion in aid to farmers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic through Aug. 28.

The Lancet retracts large study on hydroxychloroquine

The medical journal The Lancet on Thursday retracted a large study on the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 because of potential flaws in the research data. The study, published two weeks ago, found no benefit to the drug — and suggested its use may even increase the risk of death.

Thursday's retraction doesn't mean that the drug is helpful — or harmful — with respect to the coronavirus. Rather, the study authors were unable to confirm that the data set was accurate.

Read more.