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The public have been warned to “think carefully” before visiting beaches and beauty spots during the first weekend in partial lockdown, and Italy has announced planes to allow international travel from June 3.
According to the latest figures published on Friday afternoon 33,998 people have died in the UK after contracting coronavirus, and almost 237,000 people have tested positive.
Here’s the latest.
Public warned to ‘stay away’ from beaches and beauty spots over the weekend
The public have been asked to “think carefully” before visiting national parks and beaches on the first weekend since coronavirus lockdown measures were partially eased in England.
With the Met Office forecasting sunny conditions, people are being urged to continue observing social-distancing rules and avoid potentially contributing to crowded public spaces.
Since Wednesday, a slight relaxation of restrictions in England means people are no longer limited to one opportunity to exercise outdoors each day, and can now also drive to beaches and countryside beauty spots in England, alone or with members of the same household for exercise or relaxation.
But despite the new freedoms, police forces, tourist boards and park authorities across the country are urging caution.
On Thursday Cleveland Police and North Yorkshire Police issued statements alongside the North York Moors National Park Authority asking the public to avoid large gatherings and use open spaces near their homes.
Drivers are asked to “go elsewhere” if they arrive to find a lot of parked cars and people at a particular location.
Meanwhile, the South Downs National Park has asked people to help keep the local air cleaner by staying home as much as possible and keeping visits to the park car-free.
On a similar note, the Peak District National Park said that despite national guidance changing, people could help give the area “crucial breathing space to recover by staying local”.
It also warned that facilities such as toilets, visitor and information centres, cycle hire and hospitality businesses remain closed.
In a statement issued earlier this week, Richard Leafe, the Lake District National Park Authority’s chief executive, urge visitors “not to rush back” to the region to avoid putting pressure on the community and mountain rescue teams.
The teams are anticipating an increase in call outs as lockdown regulations are eased and there is a potential surge in visitors to national parks.
Earlier this week, Mike France, senior executive officer of Mountain Rescue England and Wales, said: “Just because the government says you can go out, it doesn’t mean you should.”
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has also urged people to stay safe as the majority of beaches will not have lifeguards.
The RNLI suspended lifeguard provision during lockdown and there are currently no lifeguards on the 240 beaches that it normally patrols.
Malcolm Bell, chief executive of tourism body Visit Cornwall, previously encouraged people not to travel more than an hour from their local area to enjoy the outdoors, and to avoid tourist “hotspots”.
In Brighton the local council is asking people to “stay away” from its sea-front.
Carmen Appich, chairwoman of Brighton and Hove City Council’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities & Culture Committee, said: “If thousands of people travel to our city on a sunny day and don’t or are unable to maintain safe physical distancing because of overcrowding, this increases the risk of a Covid outbreak and puts everyone at risk.”
Ministers and unions should ‘stop squabbling’ over school return, says England’s children’s commissioner
Ministers and teaching unions have been urged to “stop squabbling” and to work together to begin reopening schools in England.
Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, said many children were struggling away from the classroom and the lack of education would impact on future life chances.
Her intervention came amid fears that Boris Johnson – who wants primary schools to begin opening their gates from June 1 – has moved too quickly with measures this week to ease the coronavirus lockdown in England.
Meanwhile, a meeting on Friday between teaching unions and Government scientific advisers intended to reassure staff that it was safe to go back to the classroom ended inconclusively.
The union representatives said they had been left with more questions than answers, with one union leader describing the scientific evidence as “flimsy at best”.
They were backed by the doctors’ union – the British Medical Association – which said schools should not reopen until the numbers of coronavirus cases were “much lower”.
However, Longfield insisted the decision by ministers to start bringing back primary pupils was “sensible” and said there should be an “aspiration” to get all children back in school before the summer.
She pointed to data suggesting NHS nurseries that have remained open during the lockdown had not suffered coronavirus outbreaks as evidence it could be done safely.
“All sides need to show a greater will to work together in the interests of children,” she said.
“We cannot afford to wait for a vaccine, which may never arrive, before children are back in school.
“It’s time to stop squabbling and agree a staggered, safe return that is accompanied by rigorous testing of teachers, children and families.”
Concerns about Mr Johnson’s decision to begin easing the lockdown in England were heightened by the disclosure that the R number – measuring the transmission rate of the virus – has edged up.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the latest data suggested R in England was between 0.7 and 1.0 – compared to a previous estimate of 0.5 to 0.9.
However, some civic leaders in northern England, including Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, have voiced concerns it is still spreading more quickly in their areas and it was too soon for any easing.
In Liverpool, the city council confirmed that it would continue to allow only the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils to attend school from June 1.
Italy to allow international travel from June 3
The Italian government has announced plans to allow international travel to and from Italy from June 3.
A decree announced early on Saturday set out details of a loosening of travel restrictions, with people allowed to move freely within their own region as of Monday, and between regions on June 3.
Italy imposed nationwide lockdown rules in early March after it became the first country outside Asia with a major outbreak of coronavirus.
More than 31,000 people have died, leaving Italy with the highest death toll after the United States and Britain. But the government led by premier Giuseppe Conte has gradually reopened the country as the rates of infections and deaths have fallen.
Shops and restaurants across the country are preparing to reopen on May 18 under strict social distancing and hygiene rules, as recommended by health authorities.
“The challenge is huge, so big it is hard to quantify, and most of all there is uncertainty. The sense of uncertainty is dominating everything,” Alberto Volpe, manager of a clothing shop in central Rome, told Reuters.
Trump pledges to reopen US ‘vaccine or no vaccine’
Trump has pledged to reopen the US – the nation with the highest coronavirus death toll in the world – ‘vaccine or no vaccine’.
The US president announced “Operation Warp Speed” effort to create a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of 2020, despite warnings from experts that a breakthrough on the scale required could take more than 18 months.
Trump said: “That means big and it means fast. A massive scientific, industrial and logistical endeavour unlike anything our country has seen since the Manhattan Project.”
“Its objective is to finish developing and then manufacture and distribute a proven coronavirus vaccine as fast as possible. Again, we’d love to see if we can do it prior to the end of the year.”
He appeared alongside infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci who – according to the Guardian – wore a face mask and glanced down at the ground as the president spoke. Trump did not wear a mask.
Trump has repeatedly undermined his top expert on the virus in recent weeks, contradicting Fauci earlier in May when he claimed coronavirus “will go away without a vaccine”. Fauci said just days earlier that the virus is “not going to be over to the point of our being able to not do any mitigation until we have a scientifically sound, safe and effective vaccine.”
The US president appeared to once again break from his planned script during Friday’s conference, telling reporters: “I just want to make something clear. It’s very important.
“Vaccine or no vaccine, we’re back and we’re starting the process and, in many cases, they don’t have vaccines and a virus or a flu comes and you fight through it.”
Meanwhile, Democrats pushed a massive $3tn (£2.48tn) coronavirus relief bill through the US House of Representatives, an election-year measure designed to fortify a US economy in freefall and a health care system struggling to contain the pandemic crisis.
The 208-199 vote, with all but one Republican opposed, advances what boils down to a campaign-season display of Democratic economic and health-care priorities.
It has no chance of becoming law as written – and Trump has previously indicated he could veto it – but will likely spark difficult negotiations with the White House and Senate Republicans.
Brazil’s health minister quits after refusing Bolsonaro’s chloronique push
Brazilian health minister Nelson Teich abruptly resigned on Friday after refusing to endorse right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro’s efforts to expand the use of the controversial and unproven drug hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19.
Teich had been in the role for less than a month, sparking upheaval within the nation’s cabinet just as Brazil emerges as one of the biggest hot spots in the global virus outbreak.
The country now has more than 200,000 confirmed cases and nearly 14,000 confirmed deaths, according to the Ministry of Health. Researchers suspect that the numbers of cases and deaths may be far higher than the official count due to a lack of testing.
Teich, an oncologist, is the second health minister to leave the government since mid-April, when Bolsonaro fired Luiz Henrique Mandetta for backing social distancing measures and an aggressive response to the virus.
Bolsonaro has dismissed the virus as a “tiny flu” and blamed the media for stoking panic about it. He also began pushing chloroquine as a potential treatment for Covid-19 shortly after Donald Trump, a model for Bolsonaro’s own presidency, suggested the drug as a possible coronavirus solution in the US.
There is no evidence that hydroxychloroquine is a useful treatment for coronavirus, and preliminary studies have shown it to be ineffective against the virus, but Trump warmed to the idea after it spread from conspiratorial right-wing social media circles to Fox News.
On Thursday, Bolsonaro pushed to change protocol surrounding the use of chloroquine to allow for its expanded use against the virus ― a move Teich refused to endorse, HuffPost Brazil reported.