Brazil records big surge as global deaths approach 400,000

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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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87 Israeli schools forced to close after reporting outbreaks

Israel has been forced to close 87 schools and kindergartens, shortly after reopening, after 300 staff and students tested positive for coronavirus. 

The outbreaks mean almost 13,700 individuals have been placed into quarantine due to fears they've been exposed to the virus. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ruled Wednesday that schools would have to be closed whenever staff or students tested positive for the virus. 

Israel has reported over 17,000 cases of the virus to date with almost 300 fatalities.

The coronavirus emptied movie theaters. But it's resurrecting the drive-in.

Patrons watch "The Greatest Showman" at the Bel Aire diner parking lot in Queens, N.Y., in May.Timothy Fadek

The coronavirus has been a pox upon nearly the entire entertainment industry. But there is one pocket of the business that is undergoing a revival, even a reincarnation: the drive-in. Fueled by the need to socially distance and the collective nostalgia for happier times, the comfort food of show business is providing a much-welcome way to consume live entertainment.

Indeed, these strange, socially isolated times have led us to look back to find a path forward. And while drive-in movies — and their new partner, concerts — seem like a clever but temporary solution to the dearth of live events at present, drive-in theaters should continue to be embraced in American life long after COVID-19 is behind us.

Read the full article here.

Brazil reports its highest daily death toll, surpasses Italy's count

Brazil reported 1,473 new deaths from COVID-19 Thursday — the highest daily number to date — as the country's death toll reached 34,000, surpassing Italy to become the third highest in the world. 

The rate of new infections continues to remain high in Latin America's worst impacted nation, with over 30,000 new cases being reported in a single day. 

Brazil's controversial president Jair Bolsonaro has previously played down the risk posed by the coronavirus, and joined President Trump in promoting the use of the drug hydroxychloroquine — recently shown to be ineffective — against the virus. 

U.S. military commander says China pushing territorial claims under cover of coronavirus

Royal Australian Navy helicopter frigate HMAS Parramatta (top right) conducts officer of the watch manoeuvres with amphibious assault ship USS America (top middle), guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (top left) and guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (right) in the South China Sea, in April.Australia Department Of Defence / Reuters

TOKYO — China is using the coronavirus as a cover to push territorial claims in the South China Sea through a surge in naval activity meant to intimidate other countries that claim the waters, the commander of U.S. Forces in Japan said on Friday.

There has been a surge of activity by China in the South China Sea with navy ships, coast guard vessels and a naval militia of fishing boats in harassing vessels in waters claimed by Beijing, said Lieutenant General Kevin Schneider.

"Through the course of the COVID crisis we saw a surge of maritime activity," he told Reuters in a phone interview. He said Beijing had also increased its activity in the East China Sea, where it has a territorial dispute with Japan.

Beijing's increased level of activity would likely continue, predicted Schneider: "I don't see troughs, I see plateaus," he said.

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.