The World Health Organization has announced that testing of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in its large multi-country trial of treatments for COVID-19 patients had been halted after new data and studies showed no benefit.
A genetic analysis of COVID-19 patients suggests that blood type might influence whether someone develops severe disease, according to a New England Journal of Medicine report. Scientists who compared the genes of thousands of patients in Europe found that those who had Type A blood were more likely to have severe disease while those with Type O were less likely.
More than 8.3 million people have been confirmed to have the new coronavirus around the world. More than four million have recovered, while 447,000 have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The United States has the most cases and deaths, followed by Brazil.
Here are the latest updates:
Thursday, June 18
09:11 GMT – Japan to ease entry for Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, NZ
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the country would ease entry restrictions for people coming from Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam, according to a Jiji news agency report.
09:02 GMT – Czechs lay ground for further easing of coronavirus measures
The Czech Republic will loosen many remaining restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the coming weeks, allowing larger crowds to gather, people to mostly ditch face masks and zoos and museums to return to normal operations.
Health Ministry Adam Vojtech said the country, which has kept the daily rise in new infections to below 100 for the past two months, was moving away from blanket nationwide measures to a localised approach and individual responsibility.
“The virus is still here, it has not disappeared anywhere,” he told a news conference.
08:42 GMT – Beijing residents rush coronavirus test clinics as emergency rules expand
China’s capital has mandated coronavirus tests for hundreds of thousands of people as it widens measures against a new outbreak of the disease that has sent anxious residents flooding to clinics for voluntary tests.
“It’s very difficult right now,” said musician Chen Weiwen, 31, whose plans to visit the southwestern city of Chengdu faced a delay because of the wait for a test.
“I don’t mind waiting, but after the test I need to leave in 7 days and there may not be a flight I can get then.”
08:15 GMT – Russia’s new coronavirus cases rise at lowest in six weeks
Russia reported 7,790 new cases of the novel coronavirus, its lowest daily rise in infections in six weeks, bringing the nationwide total to 561,091.
Russia’s coronavirus crisis response centre said 182 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 7,660 since the crisis began.
07:45 GMT – Kazakh leader Nazarbayev, 79, has coronavirus: official website
Kazakhstan’s 79-year-old former president and official ‘Leader of the Nation’ Nursultan Nazarbayev has tested positive for the coronavirus, a statement on his official website said.
“Currently, the First President of Kazakhstan is in self-isolation. Unfortunately, the last test… for the coronavirus infection showed a positive result. There is no cause for concern,” the statement said.
07:20 GMT – UK says China and Russia trying to exploit coronavirus crisis
The United Kingdom said that China, Russia and Iran were looking to exploit weaknesses shown by the coronavirus outbreak.
“We certainly know Russia is engaged systematically in misinformation and propaganda, through cyber and other ways.
“Others engage in the same too, China and Iran, but I don’t think it had any outcome on the electoral process in the UK,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky.
06:56 GMT – Kazakhstan to tighten COVID-19 restrictions as outbreak worsens
Kazakhstan will close shopping malls, markets and parks in major cities on June 20-21 and make additional hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients, the Central Asian nation’s government said.
The government said the restrictions were needed due to a worsening of the outbreak there. It also ordered all provinces of the country to broaden their coronavirus testing.
06:40 GMT – Qatar Airways says no new planes in 2020 or 2021
Qatar Airways has said it will not take any new aircraft in 2020 or 2021, deferring orders with Boeing and Airbus as demand diminishes amid the coronavirus crisis.
“Quite a lot of (deliveries) will be deferred,” Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar al-Baker told Britain’s Sky News on Wednesday.
“We have already notified both Boeing and Airbus that we will not be taking any aeroplanes this year or next year.
“And all the other aircraft that we have on order, that were supposed to be delivered to us within the next two or three years, will now be pushed back to as long as nearly eight to 10 years.”
06:10 GMT – German travel sector down 23% in Q1 over pandemic
Sales of the German travel industry declined by 23 percent in the January-March period compared to the previous quarter, Germany’s statistics office said, as the sector came to a virtual halt in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It was the largest drop since the financial crisis in 2008, the office added.
I’m Arwa Ibrahim in Doha, Qatar, taking over the blog from my colleague Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
05:21 GMT – Pakistan to repatriate all stranded citizens
Pakistan has announced plans to repatriate all of its those citizens stranded around the globe, including in the Middle East, as a result of the pandemic, AP news agency reported.
Between 40,000 and 45,000 of their nationals will be brought home every week, starting June 20, the government said.
About 120,000 Pakistanis are expected to return in the coming weeks and they will have to quarantine themselves at homes for 14 days.
Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari, an adviser of Prime Minister Imran Khan, said all international passenger flights are being allowed to resume their operations at 25 percent capacity as per social distancing regulations.
In recent months, about 75,000 Pakistanis have already returned home through special and regular flights amid a surge in COVID-19 deaths and infections.
05:00 GMT – Hong Kong sends special flight to India
The Hong Kong government has sent a special flight to India to take residents back to the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
The flight is expected to arrive in Hong Kong at around 08:00 GMT on Thursday, according to a statement from the Hong Kong government. It is unclear how many Hong Kong residents are taking the special flight.
04:42 GMT – China to offer some debt relief to African countries
China will exempt some African countries from repaying zero-interest rate loans due at the end of 2020, Reuters news agency reported quoting President Xi Jinping.
Under the framework of the China-Africa cooperation forum, China will further extend loan payment forbearance for some countries including African countries, Xi told the China-Africa summit.
“I am confident that humanity will ultimately defeat the virus, and Chinese and African people will embrace better lives in future,” said Xi when making remarks on China-Africa’s joint efforts to fight against the coronavirus.
China is willing to give priority to African countries once COVID-19 vaccines are ready to use, Xi added.
04:08 GMT – Australia to fly foreign students from Singapore
The two universities in Australia’s capital plan to fly in 350 foreign students as the country’s international education sector reopens after the coronavirus lockdown, AP news agency reported.
Australian National University and Canberra University said Thursday they expect the chartered aircraft to fly to Canberra from Singapore in late July.
Priority will be given to students involved in research that cannot be done online. The students will be quarantined at a hotel for two weeks. They are likely to be the first foreign students to return to Australian campuses since the lockdown.
03:40 GMT – Virus infections continue steady rise in South Korea
South Korea has reported 59 COVID-19 cases as infections steadily rise in the capital area where half the country’s 51 million people live, according to the Associated Press.
The figures announced on Thursday by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bring the national caseload to 12,257, including 280 deaths.
The agency says 39 of the new cases are in Seoul and the surrounding region, where authorities are trying to stem transmissions amid increased economic activity and eased attitudes on social distancing.
Eight new cases were linked to international arrivals. The country has at least 12,257 cases and 280 deaths.
03:08 GMT – Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 580 to 187,764
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 580 to 187,764, Reuters news agency reported on Thursday quoting data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases.
The reported death toll rose by 26 to 8,856, the tally showed.
02:51 GMT – Trump: US will not lock down again amid rising coronavirus cases
President Donald Trump has said the United States would not close businesses again as several states reported rising numbers of new coronavirus infections.
“We won’t be closing the country again. We won’t have to do that,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Channel.
Trump’s comments come after White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin both said the United States could not shut down the economy again.
Restaurants, gyms, schools and other locations closed down in March as the country braced for the coronavirus, which has so far sickened 2.16 million Americans and killed nearly 118,000.
02:22 GMT – Wuhan study: There may be no immunity against COVID-19
A new study conducted by Chinese and American scientists said that humans may never develop immunity against the coronavirus, the South China Morning Post reported.
The conclusion was based on a non-peer reviewed study looking at whether hospital workers in Wuhan, where the infection was first reported, developed antibodies, after being exposed to the disease.
The report said only 4 percent of the samples studied had developed antibodies as of April. This was based on the assumption that at least a quarter of the more than 23,000 samples tested were infected.
02:02 GMT – UN: Many Jordanians struggling as country emerges from lockdown
Many people in Jordan are struggling to meet basic needs after a more than two-month lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic, a UN Development Programme (UNDP) study said, with reports of unemployment expected to rise to 19 percent.
Although Jordan has contained the first wave of COVID-19 and is now reopening most businesses, the full impact of the pandemic is still unfolding in the aid dependent country of 10 million people, the UNDP study said.
Officials have adopted recent estimates by the World Bank that the economy was set to shrink by 3.5 percent this year – the first such contraction since 1990 – compared with an IMF estimate of 2 percent growth before the health crisis.
01:37 GMT – Beijing reports 21 new COVID-19 cases in city as of June 17
Beijing confirmed 21 new COVID-19 cases as of June 17, China’s health authority said on Thursday, down from 31 a day earlier.
Beijing logged its first case in the current outbreak, the worst in the city since early February, on June 11. The total number of infections has risen to 158 over the past week, according to Reuters news agency.
01:25 GMT – Study shows how quickly coronavirus spreads at home
The novel coronavirus is twice as infectious within households than similar diseases such as SARS, with a substantial number of additional infections spreading before a COVID-19 sufferer shows any symptoms, AFP news agency reported on Thursday quoting a new study.
Using data on 350 COVID-19 patients and nearly 2,000 of their close contacts in the city of Guangzhou, China, the researchers from US and China found that while the average patient had just a 2.4 percent chance of infecting someone they did not live with, that figure jumped to 17.1 percent – around one in six – among cohabitants.
The overall chances of infecting a family member or live-in partner with COVID-19 are twice as high as with SARS, and three times higher than MERS, another coronavirus, they found.
The study suggested that quarantine of asymptomatic patients can help prevent transmission.
00:51 GMT – WHO stops hydroxychloroquine trial
The World Health Organization has halted the trial test of the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus.
According to the WHO recent trials showed that the anti-malaria drug does not result in the reduction of mortality of hospitalised COVID-19 patients.
“Patients who have already started hydroxychloroquine but who have not yet finished their course in the trial may complete their course or stop at the discretion of the supervising physician,” the WHO statement said.
00:36 GMT – Qantas halts most international flights until October on border closure
Qantas Airways Ltd said on Thursday it had cancelled most international flights until late October after the Australian government indicated its border closure because of the coronavirus was likely to extend to 2021.
“We will still have some flights scheduled across the Tasman in the coming months with the expected travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand,” the airline said in a statement, referring to the Tasman Sea between the countries.
“Should travel between Australia and other countries open up and demand return, we can add more flights back into our schedule,” it added.
00:15 GMT – Mexico reports 4,930 new coronavirus cases, 770 more deaths
Mexico’s health ministry has reported 4,930 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and 770 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 159,793 cases and 19,080 deaths.
The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases, according to Reuters news agency.
00:08 GMT – Biden calls on Trump to ‘wake up’ to havoc caused by virus
Joe Biden unleashed a stinging critique of President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus, calling on Trump to “wake up” to the havoc caused by the pandemic and do more to prevent further harm, AP news agency reported.
“Donald Trump wants to style himself as a wartime president,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said at a recreation centre in the Philadelphia suburbs. “Unlike any other wartime leader, he takes no responsibility; he exercises no leadership. Now, he has just flat surrendered the fight.”
Biden has steadily stepped up his attacks on Trump’s leadership in recent weeks. But his remarks Wednesday were especially sharp, trying to counter the populism Trump hopes to ride to reelection with stern warnings about how dangerous such an approach would be.
The US has topped 2.16 million confirmed coronavirus infections with at least 117,000 deaths, and some states are reporting increases in cases after reopening their economies.
00:01 GMT – Honduran president hospitalised for COVID-19, treated for pneumonia
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, is undergoing treatment in hospital for pneumonia after he tested positive for COVID-19 this week, Reuters news agency reported quoting a government spokesperson.
Francis Contreras, a spokesperson for Honduran health agency SINAGER, said that while Hernandez needed specialised medical care in a military hospital, including receiving medicines via intravenous drip, he is generally in good health.
The health news is a fresh blow to the 51-year-old Hernandez, who has come under increasing pressure at home as one of his brothers was swept up by a drug trafficking probe in the United States which has threatened to engulf him too.
“His general health status is good,” Contreras told reporters outside the military hospital. However, he said X-rays of Hernandez have revealed lung problems.
Hernandez’s wife, Ana Garcia, also tested positive for the coronavirus, along with two presidential aides, but has not presented any symptoms of the disease, Contreras said.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Read all the updates from yesterday (June 17) here.