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Friday, May 22, 2020

Independent scientists urge UK government to delay reopening schools

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Head teacher Charlotte Beyazian prepares a classroom for the return of teachers and students, at La Petite Ecole Bilingue at Kentish Town, north London

Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images

Latest coronavirus news as of 5 pm on 21 May

Delaying the reopening of primary schools in England on 1 June by two weeks could halve the risk to each child of being exposed to an infectious classmate, according to a report by the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, a recently-formed group of scientists that is seeking to provide alternative advice to the UK government. The group say that modelling suggests that waiting until September would reduce this risk further, to less than the risk to children of road traffic accidents.

The group is chaired by former government chief scientific advisor David King and is separate from the official SAGE committee that advises the UK government.

The crucial factor allowing school reopening around the world has been the presence of well-functioning local test, trace and isolate protocols something that is now accepted will not be in place in England by early June, the report says. It adds that before schools can reopen, it is important to confirm that daily new coronavirus infections are decreasing and that schools have access to personal protective equipment.

However, the models used by the independent group to calculate the risk to children have not yet been published in detail. Meanwhile, documents released by the official SAGE committee and the government today revealed that the UKs Department of Education did not model the impact of schools in England reopening on 1 June as part of work in which the department examined nine possible scenarios relating to schools for SAGE.

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Other coronavirus developments

An observational study published today in The Lancet found no evidence that either of the antimalarial drugs hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine are beneficial for covid-19. The study also suggests that using these drugs to treat covid-19 patients may be harmful, although randomised controlled trials are needed to confirm this. Several trials are currently underway.

The UKs R value the number of people each coronavirus case infects has been estimated to be between 0.7 and 1 for the second week in a row. Because of a lag in the data used to determine the R value, this reflects the situation about two or three weeks ago.

In the UK, some coronavirus tests are being counted more than once, the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England confirmed yesterday. According to the UK governments figures, 140,497 tests were performed on 21 May but only 80,297 people were tested. According to The Telegraph, the discrepancy may be due to counting nasal and saliva samples from a single person as separate tests. Earlier this month, UK prime minister Boris Johnson set a target of conducting 200,000 tests a day by the end of May.

People arriving in the UK from other countries could be fined 1000 if spot checks by health officials reveal they have failed to follow guidelines to self-isolate for 14 days after their arrival in the UK, the government announced today. The rule will come into force on 8 June, and will only have exceptions for lorry drivers, seasonal farm workers and medical officials with UK citizenship, and people arriving from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The Australian government has argued that its citizens should also be exempt. Australias successful containment of the virus means travellers coming from Australia would pose a low risk to the rest of the world, according to Australias trade, tourism and investment minister Simon Birmingham.

Brazil confirmed its highest number of daily new coronavirus cases so far, with 19,951 cases reported by the countrys health ministry today. Brazil has confirmed more than 310,000 cases since the outbreak began, the third-highest number of any country after the US and Russia. There are growing concerns that South America could be the new centre of the pandemic, as Mexico, Chile and Peru are also struggling to contain major outbreaks.

6088 new coronavirus cases were announced in India today, the highest number of daily cases the country has confirmed so far. This brings Indias total number of confirmed cases to more than 119,000. Meanwhile Amazon has announced it will hire 50,000 temporary workers in India to meet rising demand for online shopping during the countrys ongoing coronavirus lockdown.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 333,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 5.1 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Coronavirus drugs: Several hundred trials of potential treatments for the coronavirus are now underway around the world. Early results suggest a few might slightly reduce the risk of dying from covid-19, but we wont know for sure until larger trials have been completed.

How the coronavirus is affecting wildlife: While the lockdowns in many countries have allowed animals to roam more freely, they have also cut off crucial sources of funding for conservation work and given poachers free rein to operate.

Animals benefiting from lockdowns: There are some instances in which coronavirus restrictions may be benefitting certain species, such as bees and humpback whales.

Essential information about coronavirus

What is covid-19?

What are the worst symptoms and how deadly is covid-19?

You could be spreading the coronavirus without realising youve got it

What does evidence say about schools reopening?

What does the latest research suggest about the coronavirus in pregnancy?

What to read, watch and listen to about coronavirus

Covid-19 Fact Checkers, a podcast from Vice, pairs up young people with experts who can answer their questions relating to the pandemic. A recent episode focused on why people in the UK from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are being disproportionately affected by covid-19.

Can You Save The World? is a coronavirus social distancing game, where the player travels through a city and gains points for saving lives by practising social distancing correctly and collecting masks.

What coronavirus looks like in every country on Earth is a 28-minute film from Channel 4 News showing what daily life looks like in every country from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

Coronavirus, Explained on Netflix is a short documentary series examining the on-going coronavirus pandemic, the efforts to fight it and ways to manage its mental health toll.

Coronavirus: The science of a pandemic: As the death toll from covid-19 rises, discover how researchers around the world are racing to understand the virus and prevent future outbreaks in our free online panel discussion.

A day in the life of coronavirus Britain is an uplifting Channel 4 documentary shot over 24 hours which shows how the citizens of Britain are coping under lockdown.

New Scientist Weekly features updates and analysis on the latest developments in the covid-19 pandemic. Our podcast sees expert journalists from the magazine discuss the biggest science stories to hit the headlines each week from technology and space, to health and the environment.

The Rules of Contagion is about the new science of contagion and the surprising ways it shapes our lives and behaviour. The author, Adam Kucharski, is an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and in the book he examines how diseases spread and why they stop.

Coronavirus trajectory tracker explained, a video by John Burn-Murdoch for the Financial Times, uses data visualisation to explain the daily graphs that show how coronavirus cases and deaths are growing around the world.

Contagion: The BBC Four Pandemic is a sober documentary about the progression of a hypothetical pandemic which the BBC simulated in 2017. Fronted by science journalist and TV presenter Hannah Fry, and made with the support of some of the countrys best epidemiologists and mathematical modelers, its very relevant to todays covid-19 pandemic.

 

commuter in london train station

A commuter wearing a protective face shield at London Waterloo railway station in London.

Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty

22 May

Time is running out to prevent a second surge of infection in the UK

The NHS Confederation, a membership body that represents people who commission or provide NHS services, has warned of the urgent need for a UK contact tracing strategy. Our members are concerned that unless there is a clear strategy, then there must be a greater risk of a second wave of infections and serious health consequences, chief executive Niall Dickson wrote in a letter sent to the UKs health and social care minister Matt Hancock yesterday. We would therefore urge you to produce such a strategy with a clear implementation plan ahead of any further easing of the lockdown.

Dickson welcomed Prime Minister Boris Johnsons new commitment to trace 10,000 new coronavirus cases per day by 1 June, adding that delivery and implementation will be critical, and we await further details. However, he said that a strategy for tracing contacts should have been in place much sooner.

Other coronavirus developments

An international randomised controlled trial investigating whether hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can prevent people becoming infected with coronavirus began in the UK today. More than 40,000 healthcare workers in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America who regularly come into contact with covid-19 patients will receive either hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine or a placebo over the next three months. There is no clear evidence that either of these drugs are useful for covid-19, but Brazils health ministry issued new guidelines yesterday suggesting doses for their use in the treatment of coronavirus.

The rapid spread of coronavirus in the southern hemisphere means the US is likely to see a second flare up in the winter, according to Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The worldwide number of confirmed coronavirus cases passed 5 million today, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 328,000 people around the world are known to have died from covid-19.

Less than half of people aged 18 to 29 say they are completely complying with the UK governments social distancing rules, according to an ongoing online survey of more than 90,000 people in the UK by researchers at University College London. Self-reported levels of complete compliance were highest among people over the age of 60 at about 65 per cent. The average across all age groups was less than 60 per cent.

Hundreds of people in Dagestan in southern Russia have died with whats being reported as community-acquired pneumonia, a local doctor has told the BBC. Our hospital is full of covid cases, but only a tiny handful of patients have a confirmed diagnosis, he said. More than 317,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Russia so far, the second-highest number worldwide. More than 3000 covid-19 deaths have been reported.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 329,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 5 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

The coronavirus is evolving: Viruses, like the coronavirus causing covid-19, can evolve rapidly. Knowing how and why they change should help us beat this pandemic and prevent future ones.

Previous updates

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UK prime minister Boris Johnson in parliament today

JESSICA TAYLOR/UK PARLIAMENT HAN

20 May

UK aims to recruit 25,000 covid-19 contact tracers by June, as app is delayed

UK prime minister Boris Johnson told MPs today that he is confident that the government will have recruited 25,000 coronavirus contact tracers by the start of June, which he says will provide the capacity to trace the contacts of 10,000 new coronavirus cases per day. Johnson said 24,000 contact tracers have already been recruited.

In April, health secretary Matt Hancock said the government hoped to recruit 18,000 contact tracers by mid-May, to coincide with the planned release of the NHS covid-19 contact tracing app. But the widespread release of the app, currently being trialled on the Isle of Wight, has now been delayed until June. There are also ongoing concerns about privacy. In a recent report, security researchers wrote that there should be a legal requirement that all data collected by the app is deleted at the end of the coronavirus crisis, rather than being anonymised or repurposed.

Other coronavirus developments

The UK government prioritised coronavirus testing in hospitals over care homes because of limited availability of tests, the justice secretary Robert Buckland told Sky News today. We needed to make a choice, he said. According to the Office for National Statistics, there were more than 14,000 deaths involving covid-19 in care home residents in England between 13 April and 15 May.

The UK governments tally of daily coronavirus tests conducted includes diagnostic tests being performed by researchers to monitor the spread of coronavirus, rather than to confirm suspected cases. When these monitoring tests (and testing kits sent out to people by post) are discounted, only 69,900 tests were carried out on 15 May compared to the governments reported 136,486. The governments daily testing target is 100,000.

The UK governments policy to reopen primary schools in England on 1 June will not be followed by at least 18 local authorities, which have indicated they wont force schools in their area to reopen. A government spokesperson told The Guardian that there wont be sanctions for councils overseeing schools that dont reopen.

Shops and restaurants reopened today in the US state of Connecticut, the last state to partially ease coronavirus restrictions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published detailed guidelines on easing restrictions today, including advice for children at school to eat lunches in classrooms, buses to leave every other row empty and face coverings to be used when physical distancing is not possible.

Brazil recorded 1179 deaths from covid-19 in a single day, the countrys highest number of daily deaths so far. More than 271,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Brazil, and more than 17,000 people have died.

The president of the World Bank, David Malpass, said today in a statement that the pandemic and resulting economic slowdown could force up to 60 million people into extreme poverty, erasing much of the recent progress made in poverty alleviation.

New Zealands prime minister Jacinda Ardern has suggested that a four-day week or other forms of flexible working could encourage domestic tourism and help the country recover from the economic impact of the pandemic.

Coronavirus numbers

The worldwide death toll has passed 324,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 4.9 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Is it safe to ease lockdowns?: By April this year, around half of the worlds population was under some kind of lockdown. Such restrictions helped slow the spread of the coronavirus. As new cases decline in many places, countries are beginning to ease restrictions. How can we know it is safe to do so?

Drop in global emissions: Global carbon emissions are likely to see their steepest fall this year since the second world war, according to researchers who say coronavirus lockdown measures have already cut them by nearly a fifth. But the team warns that the dramatic drop wont slow climate change.

Your questions answered: Our reporters answer your questions on coronavirus and covid-19.

member of parliament in the house of commons

Greg Clark MP, chair of the UK House of Commons science and technology committee

Parliamentary Copyright

19 May

UK government advised to urgently build up contact tracing capacity

The UK House of Commons science and technology committee has made recommendations to the government based on evidence from its on-going inquiry into the role of science in the countrys pandemic response. These include a call for the government to urgently build up capacity for contact tracing. The committee emphasised the importance of contact tracing in easing UK lockdown measures and preventing a second wave of infections.

The committee also recommended that the government be more transparent about the scientific advice it receives, asking that the published list of Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) members be updated regularly. They also suggested the government set out a plan for tackling infections spread by people who do not have any covid-19 symptoms, and called for the systematic recording of the ethnicity of everyone who dies from the disease.

The committee also urged the government to publish its rationale for concentrating coronavirus testing in a limited number of Public Health England laboratories, rather than making use of testing capacity at a large number of public, private, university and research institute labs.

Greater transparency around scientific advice; putting capacity in place in advance of need, such as in testing and vaccines; collecting more data earlier and learning from other countries approaches are some of the early lessons of this pandemic that are relevant to further decisions that will need to be taken during the weeks and months ahead, said the committees chair, MP Greg Clark.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the UK rose to 2.1 million people in April, up from 1.2 million in March, according to the Office for National Statistics. April was the first full month of coronavirus social distancing restrictions in the UK. People on the government furlough scheme were not included in the total.

Other coronavirus developments

In a letter to the World Health Organization (WHO), US president Donald Trump accused the organisation of being a puppet of China and said he would permanently withdraw fundingunless it committed to substantive improvements. US health secretary Alex Azar told the UNs world health assembly today that the WHOs response to the pandemic had cost many lives. Zhao Lijan, a spokesperson from Chinas foreign ministry, said the US was trying to use China to shift the blame for its own mishandling of the crisis. Today Chinas president Xi Jinping pledged $2 billion to the WHO over two years to help fight coronavirus.

At a meeting of restaurant executives yesterday, Trump told reporters he is taking the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine to protect himself from the coronavirus. There is no evidence that the drug can protect people from getting infected and the drug can have dangerous side effects.

More than 11,600 people in care homes in the UK have died from covid-19. Martin Green of Care England, a charity which represents care homes, told MPs at the health and social care committee that planning for the pandemic had been inadequate and patients in hospitals with coronavirus symptoms had been discharged directly into care homes.

In Sweden, care home residents account for almost half the covid-19 deaths up to 14 May, according to the countrys public health agency. Sweden has imposed relatively few social distancing restrictions so far during the pandemic in comparison to many European countries.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 320,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 4.6 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Smoking and covid-19: A number of studies suggesting smokers are less likely to catch coronavirus have led to headlines saying that smokers are protected against covid-19 but this probably isnt the case.

Water quality tests stopped in England: People swimming at beaches and lakes across England this summer will probably never know if the water was dirty – officials have stopped routine testing because of the coronavirus crisis.

The R number: The basic reproduction number, also known as the R or R0, is the average number of people a person with an infectious disease is likely to infect in the future. Find out more about how it is calculated.

Lockdown cooking science: If youre looking for ideas for fun kitchen projects to amuse yourself during lockdown, here are 13 lockdown cooking projects along with the science of how they work.

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A trial participant receives a shot in the first-stage safety study of the Moderna Inc. clinical trial for a vaccine against coronavirus.

Ted S Warren/AP/Shutterstock

18 May

Mixed progress on coronavirus vaccines as US stocks jump

A preliminary test in only eight volunteers suggests the first coronavirus vaccine to be tested in people seems to be safe and can stimulate an immune response against the virus. Antibodies generated by the volunteers were able to stop the virus from replicating in human cells in the laboratory and the levels of antibodies in their blood were similar to those previously detected in recovered covid-19 patients. Tal Zaks of Moderna, the US firm developing the vaccine, said that if the next stages go well, it could be widely available by the end of this year or early next year.

The US stock market was up sharply today following the announcement. However, it remains to be seen if such speedy testing and manufacturing of a vaccine is really possible – no vaccine has ever been produced in less than five years.

Meanwhile, a trial of another vaccine, developed by researchers at the University of Oxford found it wasnt able to stop six rhesus macaque monkeys from becoming infected with the coronavirus. None of the vaccinated monkeys developed pneumonia, however, suggesting it may offer some protection against severe covid-19.

There are currently more than 100 vaccines for the coronavirus in various stages of early development.

Other coronavirus developments

The UK has added anosmia – loss of or change in sense of smell – to the list of coronavirus symptoms that warrant self-isolation. However, other symptoms such as muscle pain or a sore throat are still not included on the governments list.

The UK, the European Union, Australia and New Zealand are among those pushing for an independent inquiry into the World Health Organizations (WHO) handling of the coronavirus pandemic. WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the UNs World Health Assembly today that an investigation would be initiated at the earliest opportunity.

Brazil now has more than 241,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the highest number of any country after the US, Russia and the UK. Hospitals in Sao Paulo, Brazils largest city are running out of beds, according to the citys mayor, Bruno Covas. The countrys president, Jair Bolsonaro, participated in an anti-lockdown protest in Brasilia on Sunday.

Some countries across Europe have begun to ease travel and border restrictions as they prepare for a rise in domestic and international tourism. Italys prime minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree to allow tourists from abroad to enter the country from 3 June. Food and drink outlets, shops and some tourist attractions reopened today in Italy, as well as in Portugal, Belgium, Denmark and Poland, with social distancing measures in place.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 315,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 4.7 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

New coronaviruses: Seven new coronaviruses have been discovered in bats in Gabon, but their potential to spill over into humans and cause a covid-19-like pandemic isnt clear.

Global food crisis: The covid-19 pandemics impact on hunger around the world could be worse than when food prices spiked calamitously in 2007 and 2008, a leading food security expert warns.

We cant forget the climate: The coronavirus pandemic may be the biggest crisis most of us have faced, but we cant afford to tackle our crises one at a time and let politicians off the hook on climate change.

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Commuters exit the tube at West Ham station in east London

Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

15 May

UKs estimated coronavirus infection rate is now between 0.7 and 1

The UKs coronavirus R value the estimated number of people each person infects is now between 0.7 and 1, according to the governments scientific advisory group for emergencies (SAGE). Five days ago, UK prime minister Boris Johnson said R was between 0.5 and 0.9. The governments science advisors say the increase is not a reflection of coronavirus restrictions being eased in England this week, but rather due to a lag in the data that is used to model the R value. We wont know how easing restrictions has impacted the current R value for another three weeks.

Other coronavirus developments

Only 1500 of a total of 18,000 coronavirus contact tracers just over 8 per cent have been recruited by the UK government by its mid-May deadline, a cabinet minister said today. The government had previously refused to say exactly how many contact tracers it had employed.

Up to 8 million people could be on waiting lists for National Health Service (NHS) treatment by autumn, UK ministers heard yesterday. Hospital capacity could be cut by 30 per cent as trusts attempt to implement social distancing among staff and patients.

16 health unions have asked the UK government to provide rapid testing and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors and nurses before the NHS reopens services that were cancelled during the covid-19 peak. This comes as evidence has emerged suggesting some doctors were pressured by NHS managers not to share their concerns about PPE.

US citizens should prepare to face the darkest winter in modern history, according to a whistleblower who was recently removed from his position as a government public health official. Rick Bright, who was ousted from his role leading a federal agency in charge of vaccine development in April, told a US congressional committee that the window is closing to address this pandemic and criticised the Trump administrations lack of planning.

There have been no new covid-19 deaths announced in China for a month and only 91 patients are currently receiving treatment for the disease. 623 people are in isolation for suspected or confirmed coronavirus.

The first coronavirus cases have been detected in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. The densely populated camps are home to more than 1 million people, with an estimated 60,000 to 90,000 people per square kilometre living in small shelters.
Germanys economy shrank by 2.2 per cent in the first quarter of this year, according to data released by the countrys federal statistics authority, the biggest contraction since the 2008 financial crisis.

Slovenia has become the first country in Europe to declare its coronavirus epidemic over, after daily new confirmed cases remained below seven for the last two weeks.

Restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus were eased today in New South Wales, Australia, with pubs and clubs reopening.

Large areas of London will become car-free zones to facilitate social distancing by cyclists and pedestrians as coronavirus restrictions are eased, mayor Sadiq Khan has announced.

Coronavirus numbers

The worldwide death toll has passed 303,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 4.4 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

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Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

No evidence for Madagascar cure: The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that a herbal drink promoted by the president of Madagascar as a cure for covid-19 should be tested to see if it is effective. The WHO has no evidence the drink works, according to the head of the groups Africa office.

Coronavirus safety measures: Ventilation must be improved in buildings and aeroplanes to reduce the risk of covid-19 spreading via the air, according to recommendations from several organisations. But it isnt clear if this advice is being followed.

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Times Square during the coronavirus pandemic

Noam Galai/Getty Images

14 May

More than 36 million US citizens have filed for unemployment since start of pandemic

Another 3 million US citizens filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total to 36.5 million since mid-March, about 22 per cent of the US workforce. The total number of people who have lost their jobs is likely to be an underestimate because many states still have a backlog of claims to get through.

Other coronavirus developments

Brazil has become a hotspot for coronavirus infections as the country confirmed a record 11,385 daily coronavirus cases and 749 more deaths yesterday. The total number of confirmed cases is now more than 190,000, the sixth highest in the world. Doctors in the country say a lack of adequate testing means the true number of cases could be ten times higher.

A coronavirus antibody test developed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche has been approved for use by Public Health England. UK health minister Edward Argar said the test appears to be extremely reliable. Unlike other forms of testing, antibody tests detect whether someone has been previously infected with the coronavirus, rather than whether they are infected with it now. However, it remains unclear whether people who have recovered from the virus are immune to reinfection.

Provisional results of a random swab testing survey in England by the UKs Office for National Statistics estimates that 148,000 people (0.27 per cent) outside of hospitals and care homes had covid-19 between 27 April and 10 May.

The pandemic is affecting peoples mental health worldwide, UN secretary general Antnio Guterres said today, with frontline healthcare workers, older people and people with pre-existing mental health conditions particularly at risk. We must help them and stand by them, he said.

Japan has lifted the country-wide state of emergency that restricted peoples movements to tackle the spread of coronavirus. The order still applies in Tokyo, Osaka and other areas where new cases are still being detected daily.

Every country in Africa has now recorded at least one coronavirus case, with Lesotho becoming the final nation on the continent to confirm an infection.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 298,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 4.3 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Risks in planes and offices: Ventilation must be improved in buildings and aeroplanes to reduce the risk of covid-19 spreading via the air, according recommendations from several organisations, including the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.

Previous updates

commuters on a bridge

Commuters wearing cloth masks on London Bridge

TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

13 May

UK economy shrank 2 per cent in the first three months of 2020

UK GDP fell by 2 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, the most rapid contraction of the UKs economy since the 2008 financial crisis. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the exchequer, said, It is now very likely that the UK economy will face a significant recession this year, and were already in the middle of that as we speak. The Bank of England predicts that the UK economy could shrink by as much as 14 per cent in 2020.

In England some people who arent able to work from home returned to work today, as part of the governments recent easing of certain restrictions. Despite the government urging people to avoid public transport if they could, some commuters said buses and trains were too crowded to practice social distancing.

Other coronavirus developments

It could be as long as “four or five years” before covid-19 is under control and the pandemic could “potentially get worse”, according to the World Health Organization’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan. Speaking at an FT conference, she said a vaccine seems for now the best way out, but it could stop working if the virus mutates.

UK Labour Party leader Keir Starmer criticised prime minister Boris Johnson and the government about the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in care homes in parliament today. Starmer also questioned the decision to stop publishing international comparisons of covid-19 deaths at the governments daily TV briefing, shortly after the UK became the country with the second highest official death toll.

In the US, 25 million more people left their homes on an average day last week compared to the previous six weeks. Businesses in many states including Texas and Florida have started to reopen after governors allowed stay-at-home orders to lapse, often against government health advice.

Brazil recorded its highest daily increase in the number of covid-19 deaths. 881 new deaths were registered yesterday, bringing Brazils total death toll to more than 12,400.

The European Commission has outlined guidance for EU countries to reopen national borders, compensate people for cancelled flights and ensure social distancing at holiday resorts, in an attempt to support the travel and tourism industries.

One type of ventilator has been banned in Russia amid suspicion that it may be linked to two hospital fires in which six covid-19 patients were killed.

Indias prime minister Narendra Modi unveiled an economic stimulus plan worth 220 billion, equivalent to 10 per cent of the countrys GDP.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 293,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 4.2 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Coronavirus in pregnancy: A growing number of case studies suggest that, while pregnant people dont seem to be at greater risk of the coronavirus, covid-19 is linked to a higher rate of caesareans and preterm births, and the virus may be able to cross the placenta to a fetus.

Cheap and easy coronavirus test: Trials to develop a cheap and easy $1 coronavirus testing kit that produces results in less than 10 minutes are under way in Senegal. If it works, the test could be a vital tool in sub-Saharan Africa.

Covid-19 self test accuracy: Essential workers in the UK are now among those being sent home testing kits for coronavirus. This involves swabbing the inside of your own nose and the back of your throat, but how useful are the results?

Coronavirus in developing countries: The worlds richest countries are guilty of a myopic international response to the coronavirus crisis that will hurt the worlds poorest people and the global fight against the disease, warns David Miliband, CEO of the US-based International Rescue Committee (IRC).

UK chancellor of the exchequer

Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the House of Commons.

House of Commons/PA Wire/PA Images

12 May

UK job retention scheme for workers extended until October

The UKs job retention scheme, which pays 80 per cent of furloughed employees wages up to 2500 a month, will be extended for four months until October. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the exchequer, said that from August employees will be allowed to work part-time while furloughed, but the government will require companies to shoulder some of the costs of furlough payments. The scheme currently covers the salaries of 7.5 million workers, a quarter of the UKs workforce, and costs the UK government about 14 billion a month.

Other coronavirus developments

Head teachers have warned that the governments plan to reopen schools for some year groups in England on 1 June is not feasible. Paul Whiteman, head of the National Association for Head Teachers, told MPs that it wouldnt be possible to comply with the governments new guidance recommending a maximum class size of 15 pupils.

Northern Ireland has unveiled a five-stage plan for easing coronavirus restrictions, which includes advice for specific job sectors and is more cautious than the plan for England. Unlike England, Northern Ireland is sticking with the stay home messaging – along with Scotland and Wales – rather than switching to stay alert.

Russia now has 232,243 confirmed coronavirus cases, the second-highest after the US. The number of new covid-19 cases and deaths are also accelerating in Brazil.

White House staff have been told to wear face coverings at work after two members of staff tested positive for coronavirus, although administration officials said the rule isnt expected to apply to president Donald Trump or vice president Mike Pence.

US health adviser Anthony Fauci has warned of needless suffering and death and multiple new outbreaks of coronavirus if states allow businesses to reopen too soon. The World Health Organization has also asked countries to show extreme vigilance when easing coronavirus restrictions.

All 11 million residents of Wuhan in China, where the first coronavirus cases were confirmed, will be tested for the virus, according to Chinese state media. This comes after six new cases were confirmed there over the weekend.

Iran will reopen all mosques today, despite a rise in confirmed infections in some parts of the country.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 287,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 4.2 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

UK approach criticised: An independent group of scientists has published a damning assessment of how the UK government has handled the coronavirus.

Bluetooth contact tracing: Testing in real-world scenarios has raised doubts about whether apps will be able to use Bluetooth to reliably track people who have been in close proximity to covid-19 cases.

Drones enforce social distancing: In India, police are using AI-equipped drones developed by US start-up Skylark to monitor evening curfews and the distance between people who are outside during the day.

Coronavirus: can we trust the science? New Scientist is hosting a panel discussion on 18 May about the limits of science during the pandemic.

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Boris Johnson filming his address to the nation from Downing Street.

Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

11 May

People in England can return to work if they cant work from home

Restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus are being eased slightly in England this week, but many have criticised the government for creating confusion with a new slogan telling people to stay alert, which replaces previous advice to stay at home. In a video message broadcast on Sunday evening, prime minister Boris Johnson announced the following changes to the governments policy in England, which are listed in full online and will come into effect from Wednesday 13 May:

  • Employees can return to work if they cant work from home and if their work place is open, but they should try to avoid using public transport to get there. This applies to essential shops, but excludes restaurants, pubs, and gyms.
  • Face coverings are advised in places like shops or on public transport, but will not be made compulsory.
  • People will be able to meet with one person from a household other than their own, but only if they meet in a public place and stay at least two metres apart.

These new policies mean that social distancing rules in England are now different from the advice given to UK citizens in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotlands first minister Nicola Sturgeon said people should continue to stay at home, and Northern Irelands first minister Arlene Foster also rejected the new slogan.

Some London Underground platforms were packed with passengers this morning following last nights announcement.

Other coronavirus developments

Two people who work in close proximity to US president Donald Trump and vice president Mike Pence have tested positive for coronavirus, and several senior staff including government health adviser Anthony Fauci are now self-isolating for two weeks. The White House said that vice president Pence will not alter his routine or self-quarantine.

Doctors in the US have reported a wide range of possible effects of covid-19 on the body, including damage to the kidneys, heart and brain.

The death toll in the US could reach 137,000 by early August according to researchers at the University of Washingtons Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Many states are continuing to ease restrictions despite failing to meet White House criteria for reopening businesses.

The covid-19 pandemic is causing a decline in routine childhood vaccination in the US, according to a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parents concerns about potentially exposing their children to covid-19 may be a contributing factor.

Wuhan, China, has detected its first new cases of coronavirus since its lockdown lifted in early April. Five cases were confirmed in a single residential community on 10 May.

Coronavirus restrictions are gradually being eased in a growing number of European countries. People in France are now allowed to walk outside without a permit and in some parts of Spain people can now meet in bars and restaurants with outdoor spaces.

In New Zealand restrictions will be further eased this week with domestic travel resuming and restaurants, shops, gyms and playgrounds reopening. The country is very close to wiping out covid-19 entirely.

Coronavirus numbers

New Scientist Default Image

The worldwide death toll has passed 283,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 4.1 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Drones to enforce social distancing: In India, police are using AI-equipped drones developed by US start-up Skylark to monitor evening curfews and the distance between people who are outside during the day.

Easing coronavirus lockdowns in Africa: After many African countries took quick action to stop the coronavirus spreading, attention is now turning to what will happen as several nations begin easing lockdown restrictions in one of the worlds most vulnerable regions.

New Zealand close to wiping out coronavirus: New Zealand is tantalisingly close to wiping out covid-19, but does that mean that life there will be able to go back to normal?

nurse outside hospital

A nurse wears a protective face mask outside the Royal London Hospital on 18 April 2020.

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images

7 May

Black people in England and Wales almost twice as likely to die from covid-19

Black people in England and Wales are 90 per cent more likely to die with coronavirus than white people, according to a study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which combined census and covid-19 deaths data.

The study showed that even after accounting for age, levels of deprivation in different areas and how healthy people said they were at the time of the 2011 census, black people are still more likely to die of covid-19. People from Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities were found to have between a 30 and 80 per cent higher risk than white people.

Other coronavirus developments

US president Donald Trump has said the coronavirus pandemic is an attack on the US worse than Pearl Harbor or 9/11 and blamed China for not doing more to stop it. Trump and his secretary of state Mike Pompeo both recently claimed that the virus came from a laboratory in Wuhan. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this week that the virus was not manufactured, and that it “evolved in nature and then jumped species. The official daily death toll in the US is predicted to rise to more than 3,000 by 1 June.

Nearly 3.2 million US citizens filed for unemployment over the last week, bringing the total to 33 million since the countrys covid-19 shutdowns started in mid-March.

The Bank of England said that the UK economy could shrink by 14 per cent this year, the countrys sharpest ever recession.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson said the government will move cautiously in its consideration of easing coronavirus restrictions. Johnson will outline the governments plans for the next three weeks at 7PM BST on Sunday, but any changes are expected to be relatively minor.

400,000 personal protective equipment gowns flown into the UK from Turkey to meet NHS demand have failed to meet safety standards and will be returned.

The first of more than 60 flights to repatriate almost 15,000 Indian citizens from 12 different countries is expected to take off today. Citizens wishing to return will need to pay for their own tickets and will only be able to board if they arent showing covid-19 symptoms.

International Airlines Group, which owns British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus, has said there will be no meaningful return to service until July. Passenger demand is not expected to recover to 2019 levels until at least 2023.

Londons Notting Hill Carnival, one of the UKs largest annual events, has been cancelled for the first time since it began 54 years ago.

Coronavirus numbers

New Scientist Default Image

The worldwide death toll has passed 264,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 3.7 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Coronavirus studies: With researchers, journals, politicians, journalists and social media influencers all capable of espousing misleading or unverified scientific findings, it pays to be able to recognise the telltale signs of a study that might be poor.

Changing our behaviour: Human behaviour is key to the spread of coronavirus, so government scientists are trying to control our decisions. Does it work, and what happens when they get it wrong?

 

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Prime minister Boris Johnson during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London on 6 May.

6 May

UK coronavirus official death toll passes 30,000 – the second highest in the world

The UK now has the highest recorded death toll from covid-19 in Europe and the second highest in the world, according to the latest data. Total deaths in the UK have reached 30,076, compared to 29,684 in Italy, previously the highest in Europe. The number of deaths in care homes in the UK continue to rise, and today prime minister Boris Johnson said he bitterly regrets the situation there. He said a “huge effort” had been made to provide more personal protective equipment and he set a new target of 200,000 daily coronavirus tests by the end of May.

Other coronavirus developments

US president Donald Trump said the countrys coronavirus task force will keep working indefinitely. Yesterday he suggested that the group, led by vice president Mike Pence, would be phased out over the next few weeks. A statistical model created by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimated deaths in the US could double to 134,000 by 4 August if states continue to relax social distancing measures.

German chancellor Angela Merkel announced further easing of coronavirus restrictions today. Larger shops will now be allowed to reopen as long as they comply with strict hygiene rules, and people from two different households can now meet. Germany is now at a point where we can say that we have reached the goal of slowing down the spread of the virus, said Merkel.

Airbnb has seen a spike in bookings as people in Europe start planning holidays. If the outbreak remains under control, people in Germany may be able to take holidays abroad soon, according to the countrys federal tourism commissioner Thomas Bareiss. Italys prime minister Giuseppe Conte recently said Italians would be able to go on holiday this summer.

High school students have been allowed back to school in Wuhan, China for the first time since schools closed there in January. More than 57,000 students were allowed to sit university entrance exams but had to abide by social distancing rules, wear face masks and arrive at staggered times. Junior and middle school students have not yet returned. No new deaths from coronavirus have been reported in China since 27 April.

Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist advising the government whose research influenced changes to the UKs coronavirus policy, has resigned from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) committee after he broke social distancing rules.

Unemployment among under-25s in the UK could reach 1 million this year, up 640,000 people on last year, according to a report from the Resolution Foundation think tank.

Heathrow airport is to start checking the temperature of passengers in immigration and other areas of the airport, and is urging the UK government to come up with a list of common standards for airports to deal with coronavirus. The airports CEO John Holland-Kaye said, If you want to get the UK economy started again, you have to get the aviation sector started again. Heathrow said it expected passenger numbers in April to fall as much as 97 per cent compared to the same month last year.

More than two-thirds of people surveyed across 20 countries in Africa, including Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa, say they would run out of food and water if they had to stay at home for 14 days, research by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed.

The Australian government has admitted that their Covidsafe contact tracing app may not be recording all the data required on some iPhones.

Coronavirus numbers

New Scientist Default Image

The worldwide death toll has passed 258,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 3.6 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Deadly or harmless: Why is coronavirus deadly for some, but harmless in others? To figure out what makes some people more vulnerable to severe cases of covid-19, we need to rethink what we know about infection.

Testing for key workers: Many countries are focusing coronavirus testing on people who have covid-19 symptoms. But regularly testing all essential workers would have more of an impact.

Misleading science: Amid the global coronavirus outbreak, a second epidemic of preliminary, unverified and misinterpreted research has broken out. Can it be fixed?

Essential information about coronavirus

What is covid-19?

What are the worst symptoms and how deadly is covid-19?

You could be spreading the coronavirus without realising youve got it

What does evidence say about schools reopening?

How and when will the coronavirus lockdowns end?

What to read, watch and listen to about coronavirus

What coronavirus looks like in every country on earth is a 28 minute film from Channel 4 News showing what daily life looks like in every country from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

Coronavirus explained on Netflix is a short documentary series examining the on-going coronavirus pandemic, the efforts to fight it and ways to manage its mental health toll.

The science of a pandemic: As the death toll from covid-19 rises, discover how researchers around the world are racing to understand the virus and prevent future outbreaks in our free online panel discussion.

A day in the life of coronavirus Britain is an uplifting Channel 4 documentary shot over 24 hours which shows how the citizens of Britain are coping under lockdown.

New Scientist Weekly features updates and analysis on the latest developments in the covid-19 pandemic. Our podcast sees expert journalists from the magazine discuss the biggest science stories to hit the headlines each week from technology and space, to health and the environment.

The Rules of Contagion is about the new science of contagion and the surprising ways it shapes our lives and behaviour. The author, Adam Kucharski, is an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and in the book he examines how things spread and why they stop.

Coronavirus trajectory tracker explained, a video by John Burn-Murdoch for the Financial Times, uses data-visualisation to explain the daily graphs that show how coronavirus cases and deaths are growing around the world.

Contagion: The BBC Four Pandemic is a sober documentary about the progression of a hypothetical pandemic which the BBC simulated in 2017. Fronted by science journalist and TV presenter Hannah Fry, and made with the support of some of the countrys best epidemiologists and mathematical modelers, its very relevant to todays covid-19 pandemic.

Previous updates

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The golden statues of the Trocadero esplanade, in front of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, are covered with protective face masks.

CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

5 May

Europes first known coronavirus case may have been in December

A man who was treated at a hospital in France for suspected pneumonia may have had covid-19 as early as 27 December, according to a retest of old samples. France reported its first cases of coronavirus on 24 January, and these were among the first that were detected in Europe. World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Christian Lindmeier has now urged countries to check their records for similar cases in order to provide a clearer picture of how and when outbreaks began. The testing result may not be conclusive however – it could possibly be a false positive.

Other coronavirus developments

Anthony Fauci, a lead member of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, has warned that any easing of restrictions in the US could lead to a dire increase in the countrys covid-19 death toll. How many deaths and how much suffering are you willing to accept to get back to what you want to be some form of normality, sooner rather than later? he said.

India eased some of its coronavirus lockdown restrictions yesterday, despite an increase in new confirmed cases. The countrys strict five week lockdown has particularly affected the countrys 40 million migrant workers, preventing many from working in cities or from travelling home.

The UKs NHS coronavirus contact tracing app is being trialled on the Isle of Wight. If successful, the app could be made available across the UK within weeks, although concerns have been raised over privacy and the ability of the app to detect covid-19 outbreaks.

The popular COVID symptom tracker app developed by Kings College London and a team of international researchers predicted two spikes in confirmed coronavirus cases in southern Wales five or more days in advance. Nearly 3 million users regularly report their health using the app every day.

The UK governments chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance has said that face masks could be beneficial in some settings. The UK government does not currently recommend face masks for the general public, in accordance with WHO guidance, but the Scottish government has suggested that people cover their faces in shops and public transport. More than 50 countries including Austria and Germany have made cloth face masks mandatory for the general public in some scenarios including visiting shops or using public transport.

Coronavirus numbers

The worldwide death toll has passed 252,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 3.6 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Contact tracing app: The UK government will begin trials of its coronavirus contact tracing app this week, but officials yesterday declined to say how much impact it would actually have on slowing the spread of covid-19.

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Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty (left) and Chief Scientific Officer, Sir Patrick Vallance arrive at 10 Downing Street ahead of the daily COVID-19 briefing on 9 April 2020 in London, England. Both are key members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

Peter Summers/Getty Images

4 May

Scientists advising UK government coronavirus response revealed

The names of scientists advising the UK government on the covid-19 pandemic were revealed today, including 50 of the 52 scientists who sit on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) committee. The government had previously been criticised for a lack of transparency about who has been providing the scientific advice that has been informing its response to the pandemic.

Of the 50 named scientists, 38 have expertise in virology, infectious diseases, epidemiology, medicine, public health or statistics, according to New Scientist analysis. Five people with expertise in psychology or behavioural science have also been involved.

Over the weekend, David King, a former scientific adviser to the UK government, announced that he has convened an independent panel of experts, prompted by concerns over a lack of transparency. The panel, which is calling itself the Independent SAGE, held its first meeting live on YouTube today.

Other coronavirus developments

In Italy, 4.4 million people returned to work today as the country eased restrictions after a two month lockdown which began on 9 March. Italy was the first country in Europe to have a serious covid-19 outbreak and there have been at least 28,000 deaths due to coronavirus there. Yesterday there were 174 deaths, the lowest daily count since 10 March, the day after the lockdown went into effect.

Researchers in Germany estimate that only one in 10 of the countrys coronavirus cases have been diagnosed. 1.8 million people in Germany may have contracted the virus to date, about 10 times the official number, according to their study.

The European Commission has launched a global coronavirus research fund focused on developing a vaccine and plans to host a virtual fundraising event to encourage donations from philanthropists and other governments. It aims to raise more than 6.6 billion (7.5 billion) to make up for a funding shortfall for the World Health Organization and other organisations that are fighting the pandemic.

The number of people reporting deep levels of concern and stress in a regular wellbeing survey has more than doubled since late 2019, according to the UKs Office for National Statistics. Between 20 and 30 March this year, more than 20 per cent of people reported low levels of happiness. Peoples main concerns were personal wellbeing, their jobs and the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on their finances.

A draft of the UK governments plan to ease social distancing restrictions and allow more people back to work has been published by Buzzfeed, which includes staggered working hours and relaxing the requirement to stay more than 2 metres away from other people.

Londons NHS Nightingale hospital is expected to be placed on standby. The converted ExCeL conference centre in east London has the capacity to treat up to 4000 people, but a maximum of only 100 people have been treated there at one time so far. A spokesperson for Londons NHS Nightingale said the fact that it was never close to full capacity was a “mark of success”. Its one of ten temporary hospitals built to deal with the covid-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus numbers

The worldwide death toll has passed 248,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 3.5 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Contact tracing app: The UK government will begin trials of its coronavirus contact tracing app this week, but officials today declined to say how much impact it would actually have on slowing the spread of covid-19.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock arrives at 10 Downing Street on 1 May 2020

Alberto Pezzali/AP/Shutterstock

1 May

UK government hits 100,000 daily tests target by including unanalysed tests

UK health secretary Matt Hancock said that the government carried out 122,347 coronavirus tests yesterday, hitting his target of performing 100,000 daily coronavirus tests by the end of April. However, according to Health Service Journal, the government changed the count to include tests that havent yet been taken or analysed. As many as 52,000 of the tests which the government said happened on 30 April were merely sent out by post.

According to the governments own numbers, the actual number of people who were tested yesterday was 73,191. The government states that the 122,347 figure includes tests processed through government laboratories, plus tests sent to satellite labs or posted to individuals.

Other coronavirus developments

The coronavirus pandemic is likely to last as long as two years, according to researchers at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in Minnesota. They suggest the fact that people without symptoms can spread the virus means the pandemic might not be under control until about two-thirds of the worlds population is immune to the virus. It still isnt clear how long any immunity to the coronavirus might last, however.

More than 1 million people with confirmed cases of covid-19 have recovered, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University. This figure doesnt include people who werent tested and then recovered.

The UN has warned that millions of children are at risk of missing essential vaccines because the pandemic has delayed shipments by air. “Unicef is calling for support to unlock a massive backlog in vaccine shipments,” said Unicef spokesperson Marixie Mercado.

The covid-19 death rate for people from black African backgrounds is 3.5 times higher than for white people in England and Wales, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Emerging data suggests the UK epidemic is hitting ethnic minorities harder.

The number of covid-19 deaths per capita are twice as high in the poorest areas of England and Wales compared to the least deprived areas, according to the UKs Office for National Statistics. The deprived areas had 55.1 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 25.3 in affluent areas.

The US director of national intelligence has confirmed that the coronavirus wasn’t man-made or engineered, contradicting president Donald Trump who repeated his claim to have seen evidence that that coronavirus came from a Chinese laboratory.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said he is considering extending the countrys state of emergency for another month. The current emergency will expire on 6 May. Abe said he will rely on expert advice.

Coronavirus numbers

The worldwide death toll has passed 233,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 3.2 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Coronavirus dreams: If you feel youve been dreaming a lot more recently, the coronavirus crisis and lockdown measures could be to blame. Changes in sleep patterns may mean that many of us are dreaming more or remembering more of the dreams that we have, while the looming threat of the virus may have affected the nature of the dreams themselves.

Australia: Lockdown measures designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus in Australia seem to also be suppressing the countrys flu season.

freeway in los angeles

An empty 110 freeway looking south towards downtown Los Angeles

Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

30 April

Global CO2 emissions could fall 8 per cent in 2020 due to drop in energy demand

The economic effects of the pandemic could cause a record 8 per cent annual decline in global carbon emissions, according to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). This is a historic shock to the entire energy world. Amid todays unparalleled health and economic crises, the plunge in demand for nearly all major fuels is staggering, said IEA director Fatih Birol. It is still too early to determine the longer-term impacts, but the energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before.

In Europe, a report out today estimates that there were 11,000 fewer deaths due to air pollution in the 30 days ending 24 April.

Other coronavirus developments

South Korea reported no new confirmed coronavirus cases today for the first time since February, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hong Kong reported no new confirmed coronavirus cases for the fifth day running.

More than 30 million US citizens have claimed unemployment benefits in the last six weeks. State agencies are so overwhelmed with requests that many millions more may have been unable to claim.

The eurozone economy shrank at the fastest pace on record in the first quarter of 2020, as countries around the world introduced restrictions to combat coronavirus. A preliminary estimate of GDP between January and March suggests a contraction of 3.8 per cent, worse than during the 2008 financial crisis.

The UK government said it carried out 81,000 coronavirus tests in the last 24 hours, missing its target of carrying out 100,000 daily coronavirus tests by the end of April.

Pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca has agreed to help manufacture and distribute the experimental coronavirus vaccine currently being developed by researchers at the University of Oxford in the UK if it is found to be effective.

66,000 tonnes of plastic waste from single-use masks could be produced in the UK, unless there is a switch towards reusable masks, according to a report from researchers at University College London, UK.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg has donated 80,000 ($100,000) to the United Nations Childrens Fund to help protect children from the consequences of the pandemic. Thunbergs foundation was awarded the money by the Danish NGO Human Act for her global activism.

Coronavirus numbers

New Scientist Default Image

The worldwide death toll has passed 228,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 3.2 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Covid-19 and air pollution: Are you more likely to die of covid-19 if you live in a polluted area?

UK contact tracers: The UK government has refused to say how many covid-19 contact tracers it has employed, with less than three weeks to go until its target of recruiting 18,000 of them by mid-May.

Coronaviruses from history: Four coronaviruses cause around a quarter of all common colds, but each was probably deadly when it first made the leap to humans.

Consumerism and pandemics: Hyperconsumption adds to environmental destruction, bringing people into contact with animal viruses that can spark pandemics. We have to avoid the temptation to rely on it to get us out, writes Graham Lawton.

Fruit vendor in Amritsar India

A fruit vendor waits for customers during the nation-wide lockdown in Amritsar, India

RAMINDER PAL SINGH/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

29 April

Nearly half the global workforce could lose their livelihoods due to the pandemic

Nearly half the global workforce – more than 1.6 billion people – could lose their livelihoods due to coronavirus restrictions and lockdowns, according to a UN International Labour Organization report. These include many informal workers, such as domestic workers, agricultural workers and street vendors, who may not have worker benefits or social protection.

For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future, said the organisations director general Guy Ryder. As the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the most vulnerable becomes even more urgent, he said.

Other coronavirus developments

A new coronavirus antibody test has been certified as compliant with European Union safety standards. The company which developed the antibody test, Abbott, claims it is highly sensitive when used 14 days after a person first developed symptoms. It is still not clear whether people with antibodies are protected from reinfection and how long such protection might last.

US GDP fell 4.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, the largest quarterly fall since the 2008 financial crisis and exceeding economists forecasts of a 4 per cent decline.

US president Donald Trump signed an executive order yesterday to compel meat-processing plants to stay open during the pandemic, despite hundreds of workers falling ill. Unions and worker advocates argue that closures are necessary to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The US now has more than 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases, making up about a third of confirmed cases worldwide. More than 58,000 people have died from covid-19 in the US, more than the number of US citizens killed during the Vietnam war.

Millions of women will be unable to access contraceptives and face unwanted pregnancies, gender-based violence and other harmful practices over the next few months due to the pandemic, according to new projections from the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.

The UK has expanded the list of people eligible for coronavirus testing to include care home residents and staff. People over 65 and those who have to leave home for work will also be eligible for testing if they develop covid-19 symptoms. The UK government says it is still aiming to hit its target of 100,000 daily coronavirus tests by tomorrow. About 43,000 people were tested in the 24 hours up to 09.00 on 28 April.

Germany has extended its ban on international travel until 14 June. It was originally due to end on 3 May.

Coronavirus numbers

New Scientist Default Image

The worldwide death toll has passed 218,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 3.1 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Coronavirus vaccine: Trials of experimental coronavirus vaccines are already under way, but its still likely to be years before one is ready and vaccination may not even be possible.

How many people have really died?: Looking at how many more people are dying than usual gives an idea of the coronavirus pandemics true effect and suggests a far higher death toll.

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A family plays in the street in Barcelona. Spain’s children have been allowed out to run, play or go for a walk this week after six weeks of being made to stay indoors.

JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

28 April

Worldwide confirmed cases pass 3 million

There have been more than 3 million confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide and more than 211,000 deaths, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Almost a third of the confirmed cases are in the US, which remains the worst affected country with more than 56,000 deaths. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) modelling indicates that deaths are likely to continue to rise in the US in coming weeks but could be substantially slowed by increased social distancing. Several states including Georgia, Texas, Michigan, Hawaii and Alaska have already begun to ease social distancing restrictions.

Other coronavirus developments

A third of all coronavirus deaths in England and Wales are happening in care homes, according to figures from the UKs Office for National Statistics for the week ending 17 April. The daily death toll in hospitals has been falling since 8 April.
Scotlands first minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that all people aged over 70 who are admitted to hospital will now be tested for covid-19. Sturgeon also said that face masks should be worn while shopping or using public transport.

France will only ease coronavirus restrictions on 11 May if the number of new confirmed coronavirus cases falls to less than 3000 per day, French prime minister Edouard Phillippe told parliament today. There were 3743 new confirmed cases in France today, although the average number of daily confirmed cases over the past 2 weeks is 2162.

The postponed Tokyo Olympics will be cancelled if they cannot take place in 2021 because it will be too difficult to hold the games unless the pandemic is over in the rest of the world”, according to Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori. The games are currently scheduled to run from 23 July to 8 August next year.

Germany has agreed a 7.8 billion (9 billion) rescue package to help the airline Lufthansa, which, like many other airlines, has been affected by pandemic travel restrictions.

Coronavirus numbers

New Scientist Default Image

The worldwide death toll has passed 211,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 3 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Long-term mental health: Lessons from natural disasters and the military can help guide our responses to help peoples long-term mental health during the covid-19 pandemic.

UK contact tracing target: The UK government has set a new target of recruiting an army of 18,000 coronavirus contact tracers by the middle of May, to be in place for the launch of the NHS contact tracing app.

workers on a building site in Wuhan

Construction workers on the site of the Wuhan Greenland Center on 24 April 2020.

STR/AFP via Getty Images

27 April

All covid-19 patients discharged from Wuhan hospitals

Wuhan, where the coronavirus pandemic began, has discharged the outbreaks last covid-19 patient. The whole of China reported fewer than 12 new coronavirus cases on Saturday. Social distancing restrictions are still in place, but are being gradually reduced, with almost 50,000 high school students returning to class in Beijing today.

Since the outbreak began, China has reported more than 83,000 cases and more than 4,600 deaths, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Other coronavirus developments

An analysis by the Financial Times suggests the global death toll for covid-19 may be almost 60 per cent higher than official counts according to excess death statistics from 14 countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says immunity passports, which would allow people who have been been infected with coronavirus to move around after they recover, are a bad idea. There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection, according to a WHO statement.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will focus almost entirely on the coronavirus pandemic in the near future. This has the foundations total attention, Bill Gates told the FT. The foundation, which has a $40 billion endowment, has already committed $250 million to fighting the pandemic.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson returned to work today, more than three weeks after testing positive for covid-19. He said it is still too risky for the country to relax restrictions.

Doctors in the UK have been alerted to an inflammatory syndrome appearing in children that may be related to covid-19 after a rise in cases in the last few weeks.

Italys prime minister Giuseppe Conte has said that people will be able to visit their families and factories will be allowed to reopen from 4 May, in a step towards ending the lockdown that has been in place there since early March.

People in Germany are now required to wear cloth face masks on public transport and, in most regions, within shops. German authorities across the country are beginning to ease restrictions by re-opening certain shops and schools.

New Zealand says it has stopped community transmission of the coronavirus. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the virus was currently eliminated, with new confirmed cases in single figures for several days and only one new confirmed case reported on Sunday.

More than 1 million Australians downloaded a coronavirus contact tracing smartphone app called COVIDSafe within hours of its release by the government.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 207,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 2.9 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Coronavirus genetic risk: Half a million people who have volunteered their genetic information for scientific research will not be informed if researchers discover that they are genetically vulnerable to the coronavirus.

UK’s coronavirus science advisors to be revealed: A list of people who have been giving scientific advice to the UK government during the coronavirus crisis is set to be published imminently, following concerns over a lack of transparency.

Italian prime minister at his desk on video call

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte attends an EU summit held via video conference to discuss the covid-19 plan.

Filippo Attili/DPA/PA Images

Latest coronavirus news as of 5 pm on 24 April

World leaders launch covid-19 plan without US involvement

Global leaders are launching an initiative with the World Health Organization (WHO) to accelerate the development of coronavirus drugs, tests and vaccines and ensure equal access to all countries, but the US is not involved. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel were among leaders participating in a video conference to announce the plan. US president Donald Trump recently criticised the WHOs handling of the pandemic and announced a withdrawal of US funding to the organisation.

The world needs these tools and needs them fast, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the group. We are facing a common threat which we can only defeat with a common approach, he said.

Other coronavirus developments

The company that owns Dettol and Lysol has issued a strong warning not to inject or ingest its products under any circumstance after Donald Trump falsely suggested disinfectants could be used as a treatment for coronavirus. Disinfectants are hazardous substances, which can be poisonous if ingested.

The US state of Georgia has controversially re-opened hair salons, gyms and other non-essential businesses, even as coronavirus deaths continue to rise.

A new website for essential workers in the UK to book coronavirus tests reached capacity and was temporarily closed within hours of being opened by the government.

The Czech Republic has re-opened its borders for outbound travel after official figures showed a decline in the rate of confirmed covid-19 cases. The country was among the first in the Schengen area to close its borders on 16 March.

In Iran and Pakistan there are concerns about the reluctance of officials to enforce social distancing rules for large gatherings now that the holy month of Ramadanhas begun. Many Muslims in the US are opting for video conferencing instead of meeting in person for meals and prayers.

Japanese officials are investigating an unexpected outbreak of coronavirus on a cruise ship which has been docked in Nagasaki for almost three months. As of yesterday 47 crew have tested positive for the virus but it remains unclear how the outbreak started.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 192,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 2.7 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Contact tracing: Many countries are using covid-19 contact tracers to help tackle the pandemic. But what is it like to be a contact tracer and what do they do?

Antibody testing: A few initial surveys looking at how many people have antibodies against the coronavirus have suggested that far more people have been infected than previously thought. But we need to be very cautious about these preliminary results.

Coping with lockdown: The coronavirus pandemic is likely to be bad for our mental health, as many people are now experiencing the effects of social isolation, financial distress and the potential loss of loved ones. Virtual sessions and mental health apps have been touted as a potential solution.

Putting things into perspective: The coronavirus pandemic is making life feel slower than ever, but observing timescales across the universe can bring us some comfort, writes Chanda Prescod-Weinstein.

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Retirement home residents in Brandenburg, Germany on 16 April 2020

Christoph Soeder/DPA/PA Images

Latest coronavirus news as of 5 pm on 23 April

Up to half of Europes coronavirus deaths have been in care homes

Up to half of those who have died from covid-19 in Europe were in care homes, according to Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Europe. Describing the finding as deeply concerning, Kluge said that many care homes may be providing pathways for the virus to spread and the problem has been made worse because care home workers are overstretched, underpaid and unprotected.

Yesterday, the UK governments chief medical adviser Chris Witty said it was hard to prevent deaths in care homes sadly because this is a very vulnerable group.

Other coronavirus developments

Deaths due to malaria could double in sub-Saharan Africa this year compared to 2018, because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on access to mosquito nets and anti-malarial drugs. Countries have a critical window of opportunity now to ensure malaria services are maintained even as the virus spreads, said WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

More than 15 per cent of the US workforce has now filed for unemployment benefits. An additional 4.4 million US citizens filed jobless claims in the last week, bringing the total since mid-March to 26.4 million. The US house of representatives will vote today on an additional $480 billion coronavirus relief package for small businesses and hospitals.

The UKs budget deficit is expected to see an absolutely colossal increase to a level not seen in peacetime, according to Paul Johnson, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank. The deficit is expected to reach as high as 260 billion, he said.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany is ready to make significantly higher EU budget contributions to help member states cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. EU leaders are expected to sign off a new 540 billion emergency fund for the most severely affected countries but details are yet to be finalised.

China has pledged to donate an additional $30 million to the WHO to help support the global fight against the covid-19, according to a spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Ryanairs chief executive Michael OLeary has said Ryanair will not return to flying if the airline is forced to leave the middle seat empty to comply with social distancing rules. Either the [Irish] government pays for the middle seat or we wont fly, he said.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 185,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 2.6 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Coronavirus in waste water: We dont know exactly how many people have been infected with the coronavirus due to a lack of comprehensive testing, but we could begin monitoring about 2 billion people worldwide right now, simply by looking for the pathogen in sewage.

BCG vaccine trial: A trial is planned to test whether the BCG vaccine, used by some countries to protect against TB, may also offer some protection against covid-19.

Essential information about coronavirus

What is covid-19?

What are the worst symptoms and how deadly is covid-19?

Can you catch the coronavirus twice?

You could be spreading the coronavirus without realising youve got it

How and when will the coronavirus lockdowns end?

What to read, watch and listen to about coronavirus

The science of a pandemic: As the death toll from covid-19 rises, discover how researchers around the world are racing to understand the virus and prevent future outbreaks in our free online panel discussion.

A day in the life of coronavirus Britain is an uplifting Channel 4 documentary shot over 24 hours which shows how the citizens of Britain are coping under lockdown.

New Scientist Weekly features updates and analysis on the latest developments in the covid-19 pandemic. Our podcast sees expert journalists from the magazine discuss the biggest science stories to hit the headlines each week from technology and space, to health and the environment.

The Rules of Contagion is about the new science of contagion and the surprising ways it shapes our lives and behaviour. The author, Adam Kucharski, is an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and in the book he examines how things spread and why they stop.

Coronavirus trajectory tracker explained, a video by John Burn-Murdoch for the Financial Times, uses data-visualisation to explain the daily graphs that show how coronavirus cases and deaths are growing around the world.

Contagion: The BBC Four Pandemic is a sober documentary about the progression of a hypothetical pandemic which the BBC simulated in 2017. Fronted by science journalist and TV presenter Hannah Fry, and made with the support of some of the countrys best epidemiologists and mathematical modelers, its very relevant to todays covid-19 pandemic.

Previous updates

 

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Nurses part of National Nurses United, the largest nurses union in the US, protest in front of the White House about the lack of personal protective equipment on 21 April 2020 in Washington, DC.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

22 April

Warning of a second coronavirus wave in the US

A second wave of coronavirus cases in the US could be even worse than the first, according to the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Robert Redfield. He said a second wave would coincide with the flu season and put unimaginable strain on the US healthcare system.

The US has more than 820,000 confirmed cases and more than 45,000 deaths from covid-19, the highest in the world, according to the most recent figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Other coronavirus developments

The pandemic has already caused at least 41,000 deaths in the UK, according to a Financial Times analysis of excess deaths data from the countrys Office for National Statistics. The government death toll stands at 18,000 deaths as of 22 April.

About 50 patients have been turned away from the NHS Nightingale hospital, a temporary hospital for covid-19 patients in London, UK, due to there not being enough nurses.

The US state of Missouri is attempting to sue the Chinese government over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt says residents have suffered significant economic damages because China did not do enough to stop the spread of the virus. A spokesperson from Chinas foreign ministry says US courts have no jurisdiction over the Chinese government.

Spains parliament is debating whether to extend the countrys state of emergency for a third time to 9 May. Prime minister Pedro Sanchez says the lockdown could start to be gradually phased out towards the end of May. Spain has the most confirmed coronavirus cases of any European country.

A potential vaccine for covid-19 developed by Pfizer and BioNTech has been given regulatory approval for human testing. There are at least 70 vaccine candidates at exploratory or pre-clinical stages, but only a small number have been given the greenlight for clinical testing, and development of a viable vaccine is expected to take at least a year.

Netflix gained nearly 16 million new subscribers in the first quarter of 2020, twice as many as predicted by analysts, as people turned to streaming to provide entertainment amid coronavirus travel restrictions.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 179,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 2.5 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Mental health during the pandemic: From social isolation to working on the front line, the mental health challenges of the pandemic are wide reaching. We ask experts how to protect ourselves.

Protect chimps, says Jane Goodall: We must protect chimpanzees from being exposed to covid-19, Goodall told New Scientist. It is a big worry, she says. Once the virus gets into them, which I pray it wont, then I dont know what can be done.

Zoom call misunderstandings: Video calling on platforms like Zoom is growing in popularity as the world adapts to travel restrictions. But not getting enough sleep may make you misread emotions on video calls.

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A worker carries a sack of wheat flour at a World Food Programme food aid distribution centre in Sanaa, Yemen on 11 February 2020

KHALED ABDULLAH/Reuters/PA Images

21 April

Pandemic likely to increase the number of people facing hunger

The covid-19 pandemic will double the number of people with acute hunger, according to the United Nations World Food Programme. If no action is taken to support people in low and middle-income countries, more than 265 million people will be in crisis and will find it difficult to source or pay for food by the end of 2020, up from 135 million in 2019.

Other coronavirus developments

US president Donald Trump has said that immigration to the US is to be temporarily suspended due to the pandemic, but its unclear whether Trump would be legally allowed to carry out the order.

Confirmed cases of coronavirus have more than doubled in Singapore since last week, rising to more than 9000, the highest in southeast Asia. Many of the new infections have been reported in government-built dormitories that house up to 200,000 migrant workers, some with up to 20 people in a single room.

More than 28,000 coronavirus deaths may be missing from official government death tolls, according to a New York Times analysis of data from 11 countries and regions including Spain, England, Wales, France and New York City.

The UKs Office for National Statistics said there were 18,516 deaths of all causes in the week that ended on 10 April, the highest figure for any week since a winter flu outbreak in 2000.

Milan has announced a new scheme to reduce car use after lockdown by reallocating 35 km of street space from cars to cyclists and pedestrians.

Oil prices continue to fall worldwide, with the price of a barrel of Brent crude falling to below $20 today, the lowest price since 2002.

Australias second biggest airline Virgin Australia has entered administration due to the impact of the coronavirus but is continuing to operate all scheduled flights. In the UK, entrepreneur Richard Branson, a 10 per cent owner of Virgin Australia, is seeking financial aid from the UK government to support Virgin Atlantic.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 171,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 2.5 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Covid-19 is hitting ethnic minorities harder: People from an ethnic minority are disproportionately affected by covid-19. Researchers say the reasons are rooted in existing social and healthcare inequalities.

Can breathing exercises help?: Deep breaths and forced coughs might help clear mucus but are unlikely to help people with a dry cough and mild cases of covid-19 contrary to much advice circulating on social media.

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Social distancing protesters carry rifles near the steps of the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan on Wednesday 15 April 2020.

Paul Sancya/AP/Shutterstock

20 April

Pro-gun groups promote social distancing protests in the US

On Friday, US president Donald Trump posted a series of tweets endorsing protests against social distancing measures in Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia. Over the weekend, more protests took place, including in Denver, Colorado, where nurses stood in the road to block drivers on the way to gatherings.

An investigation by the Washington Post found that the protests were promoted using Facebook groups set up by a small group of far-right, pro-gun activists with ties to the husband of education secretary Betsy DeVos. More than 95 per cent of Democrat and 70 per cent of Republican voters support stay-at-home measures, according to recent polling.

More than 760,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 40,000 deaths have been reported in the US, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University, although this will be an underestimate.

Other coronavirus developments

The drop in demand for transport caused by the pandemic helped US oil prices fall to below $3 a barrel today, down from pre-pandemic prices of $60 a barrel.

No new coronavirus cases were recorded in Hong Kong yesterday for the first time since 5 March.

Spains daily death toll has fallen below 400 for the first time since 11 March. 399 people were confirmed to have died of covid-19 yesterday, the lowest number in four weeks.

The UK government has been criticised for its response to the coronavirus pandemic after the Sunday Times reported that Boris Johnson missed five Cobra meetings about the virus between January and the start of March. The Department of Health and Social Care has issued a lengthy response.

The governments coronavirus job retention scheme, which covers up to 80 per cent of employee wages up to a limit of 2500 per month, opened this morning. Up to 8 million people are predicted to apply for the scheme.

People who have recovered from coronavirus in the UK are being asked to donate blood plasma as part of a potential clinical trial to learn whether their antibodies could help fight the disease.

Non-essential shops in some German states including car dealers, book and bicycle shops reopened today, as the country continues to gradually ease some of its restrictions.

Millions of people in India working in farming, fisheries and plantations were allowed to return to work as the government eased some coronavirus restrictions in order to avoid food shortages.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 166,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 2.4 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Game-changing treatment: We keep hearing claims that this or that drug will be a game changer in the coronavirus pandemic. But what would a treatment really need to do to be a true game changer?

End-of-life decisions: The coronavirus pandemic is forcing people to confront dilemmas around how much medical care should be given at the end of life. The emergency situation means doctors and patients are having to rush controversial decisions about turning down certain treatments, say palliative care experts.

UK coronavirus science advice: Key scientific data and advice the UK government is using to guide its covid-19 response wont be published until the pandemic ends, according to Patrick Vallance, the governments chief scientific adviser.

How is the pandemic affecting men and women differently? Caroline Criado Perez speaks to New Scientist about gender biases in the time of coronavirus on the Big Interview podcast and our YouTube channel.

Previous updates

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Medical workers at Wuhan Union Hospital during a three minute national memorial on 4 April 2020.

Wu Yili/China News Service via Getty Images

17 April

Death toll in Wuhan revised up by 50 per cent

China has revised the covid-19 death toll in Wuhan up by 50 per cent to 3869 from 2579, saying the total number now accounts for deaths at home and delays in reporting. The Chinese government has denied any cover-up in its handling of the crisis or sharing of data.

French president Emmanuel Macron has questioned Chinas management of the outbreak, saying there are clearly things that have happened that we dont know about.

UK social distancing extended

The UK has confirmed that its social distancing measures will last for at least another three weeks and financial support for furloughed employees will be extended for an additional month until the end of June.

Foreign minister Dominic Raab outlined five conditions that need to be met before restrictions will be eased including a “sustained and consistent” fall in the daily death rate and adequate testing.

Health minister Matt Hancock said that 18,000 coronavirus tests are being carried out in the UK each day. The country is now less than two weeks away from the governments target of doing 100,000 daily tests. Hancock said the vast majority of the tests so far were NHS swab tests for patients and key workers, and that antibody tests which could show a person has had the virus and is immune were still not ready for clinical use. In March, the government paid 16 million up front to two Chinese companies for untested antibody tests which were subsequently found not to work.

The public will not be told to wear cloth face masks unless scientists say it is necessary, according to transport minister Grant Shapps. It is unclear whether cloth face masks minimise the spread of the coronavirus, but many places around the world, including New York, have made it mandatory to wear them outside.

Other coronavirus developments

Chinas economy shrank by nearly 7 per cent in the first quarter of this year, as factories and businesses were forced to close due to the coronavirus outbreak. This is the first reported drop in the countrys GDP since the 1970s.

Donald Trump has issued guidance to state governors recommending a three-phase approach to reopening their economies, but acknowledged that it is up to individual state governors to decide how to relax restrictions.

Germanys health minister Jens Spahn has said the countrys coronavirus outbreak is now controllable and that the German healthcare system has at no time been overwhelmed.

The worlds biggest trial of drugs to treat covid-19 patients, with over 5000 participants, has been set up in the UK and hopes to have answers about whether or not some drugs improve outcomes within weeks.

Coronavirus numbers

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This chart is the latest count of deaths as reported by different governments, not the actual number of deaths in the last 24 hours. The UK is now shown with two lines: one shows the number of deaths in all locations with a significant lag; the other, deaths that occurred in hospitals. Recent US and China numbers include revisions to include previously uncounted deaths in care homes.

Matthew Rowett

The worldwide death toll has passed 147,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 2.1 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Contact tracing apps may not work: As countries search for ways to exit lockdown and avoid or manage a second wave of covid-19 cases, many have turned to the promise held by contact tracing apps. But there is growing evidence that it will be difficult to make them work.

Covid-19 in men: We know that older people are more vulnerable to covid-19, but another major risk factor has emerged: being male. Why are men more likely to get worse symptoms and die from covid-19?

UKs coronavirus science advice wont be published until pandemic ends: Its disgraceful, says Allyson Pollock, director of the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University, UK, who was one of dozens of experts who published a letter inThe Lancet medical journal last month arguing that government advisors should be more transparent.

Coronavirus crisis could cut UK electricity needs: The coronavirus-led shutdown of large parts of the economy is likely to cut the UKs electricity needs dramatically this summer, potentially by as much as a fifth.

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Protesters in North Carolin want the state economy to be opened up no later than April 29.

LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images

16 April

Millions more claim unemployment benefits in the US

Another 5.2 million US citizens filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total for the last four weeks to 22 million claims. Thats about 13 per cent of the countrys entire workforce, the highest unemployment rate since the start of the second world war.

President Donald Trump is expected to announce guidelines on re-opening the US economy later today but many state leaders have said they are not ready to relax restrictions and that the decision on how best to proceed without causing a second wave of infections depends on testing capacity

Yesterday the US reported 4811 deaths, the highest daily death toll of any country. More than 640,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 31,000 deaths have been reported in the US according to John Hopkins University data.

Other coronavirus developments

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, offered an apology to Italy on behalf of Europe for not offering enough support at the start of the countrys covid-19 crisis. Italy has reported more than 21,000 deaths from coronavirus, the highest number in any European country. Too many were not there on time when Italy needed a helping hand, she told the European Parliament.

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, has said that the UK and European Unionshould not refuse to extend the negotiating period for a post-Brexit trade deal, as this would add to uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic. If a deal is not signed by 31 December 2020, the UK and EU would trade on World Trade Organization terms which would include new taxes and restrictions on traded goods.

The UK will need to keep a significant level of social distancing until a coronavirus vaccine has been found, according to Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist advising the government whose research previously influenced changes to the UKs coronavirus policy. However, Mark Woolhouse, an epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh, UK, recently told New Scientist that waiting for a vaccine wasnt a good plan: I do not think waiting for a vaccine should be dignified with the word strategy. Its not a strategy, its a hope.

A new type of ventilator to support covid-19 patients has received regulatory approval in the UK, and the government has confirmed an order for 15,000.

Germany has become the latest of several European countries to announce a gradual easing of coronavirus lockdowns in coming weeks. Stores up to 800 square metres will be allowed to reopen as long as they follow strict hygiene measures, according to chancellor Angela Merkel.

EasyJet is exploring the option of keeping certain seats empty to stay in line with social distancing rules once coronavirus travel restrictions are lifted. EasyJets entire fleet of aircraft have been grounded since 30 March. It is unclear whether such measures would do anything to lessen the spread of the virus on board planes.

Coronavirus numbers

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The number of deaths reported in the UK only includes deaths in hospitals.

Matthew Rowett

The worldwide death toll has passed 139,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 2 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Intensive care doctors share their stories: Three doctors reveal what it was like at the heart of Hubei provinces coronavirus crisis, as the epidemic peaked in Wuhan and spread across the world.

Why are men more likely to get worse symptoms and die from coronanvirus? The difference does not appear to be caused by differential rates of infection: a New York study, for example, found that equal numbers of men and women catch the virus. But men are more likely to progress to severe illness and death.