‘We could have done better,’ says Sweden’s chief epidemiologist
Sweden’s chief epidemiologist and the architect of its light-touch approach to the coronavirus has acknowledged that the country has had too many deaths from Covid-19 and should have done more to curb the spread of the virus. Nearly 4,500 Swedes have died in the outbreak, a higher mortality rate than in Denmark, Norway and Finland, and criticism has been growing over the government’s decision not to impose lockdown measures as strictly as elsewhere in Europe.
Known deaths pass 380,000
Johns Hopkins University figures show the toll currently standing at 380,662. Confirmed infections are nearing 6.4 million, with 6,399,876 so far. However, the true number of infections is likely to be much higher, as many of those with symptoms have not been tested for the virus.
Germany updates travel advice, warns against trips to Britain
Germany will continue to warn against non-essential travel to Britain while the UK maintains its 14-day quarantine rules, despite removing curbs for travel to the rest of Europe. Speaking a press conference on Wednesday morning, the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said his government would scrap general travel warnings for 30 countries including Britain from 15 June, replacing it with daily travel advice for each country that reflects the current development of the pandemic. The 30 countries include the 26 member states of the European Union as well as four countries that are part of Schengen but not the EU: Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The UK meanwhile is close to agreeing an “air bridge” linking the country to Portugal, allowing tourists to bypass quarantine restrictions.
Brazil deaths pass 30,000
A record 1,262 Covid-19 deaths have been recorded in Brazil - taking the country’s total death toll to 31,199 - but the president continues to downplay the pandemic. The figures were announced on Tuesday evening by Brazil’s health ministry, which also said the number of coronavirus cases had risen to 555,383, second only to the United States. The South American country is now on the verge of overtaking Italy, where 33,530 deaths have been recorded, as the country with the third highest number of deaths.
Lufthansa announces first-quarter loss of €2.1bn
Lufthansa has announced it will undergo “far-reaching” restructuring as it posted a first-quarter net loss of €2.1bn (£1.9bn/$2.3bn) today, hammered by the coronavirus pandemic. “Global air traffic has come to a virtual standstill in recent months. This has impacted our quarterly results to an unprecedented extent. In view of the very slow recovery in demand, we must now take far-reaching restructuring measures to counteract this,” chief executive Carsten Spohr said in a statement.
Air pollution in China returns to pre-pandemic levels
Air pollution in China has climbed back to pre-pandemic levels, and scientists say Europe may follow suit. Data from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (Crea) shows concentrations of fine particles (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) across China are now at the same levels as one year earlier. At the height of the country’s coronavirus response in early March, NO2 levels were down by 38% from 2019 and levels of PM2.5 were down by 34%.
Vietnam’s Patient 91 starts to recover
Vietnam’s most gravely-ill Covid-19 patient, a British pilot who works for its national airline, has started to recover from the illness and may no longer require a lung transplant, state media said today. Vietnam, which has reported no deaths from the coronavirus, has mounted an all-out effort to save the 43-year-old man, who has been identified officially by the government as “Patient 91”. Until recently, the Vietnam Airlines pilot was thought by doctors and officials to be in urgent need of a lung transplant. The fate of “Patient 91” has received unprecedented national attention, with more than 50 people in Vietnam offering themselves as potential lung donors, according to state media.
Australia’s economy is in recession
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has confirmed Australia is now in a recession as the economy reels from the coronavirus pandemic. His confirmation came after the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported the economy shrank by 0.3% in the March quarter, on the back of the bushfires, drought and coronavirus pandemic. Asked whether the country was now in recession, he said: “Well, the answer to that is ‘yes’. And that is on the basis of the advice that I have from the Treasury department about where the June quarter is expected to be.”
New Zealand has 12th day with no new cases
The government is considering abandoning as early as next week all remaining restrictions on the country except stringent border controls. Just one person is still recovering from the illness, health officials said on Wednesday. They are not in hospital. There have been fewer than 1,500 confirmed cases of the virus in the country, with 22 deaths.