US President Donald Trump has announced “a phased approach” to ease restrictions of movement on Americans, even as the coronavirus death toll in the country continues to rise nearing 35,000, and with cases soaring to 667,000 as of 01:00 GMT on Friday.
Trump’s move came on the same day the government reported 5.2 million more Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the four-week total to 22 million – the worst stretch of US job losses on record. The losses translate to about one in seven American workers.
Worldwide, the number of infections from the disease, also known as COVID-19, has now reached 2,152,000, with nearly 145,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally, prompting some governments, including that of the United Kingdom and Canada to extend the lockdown.
Meanwhile in Mexico, health officials reported 450 new cases of the coronavirus and 37 new deaths, bringing the country’s total to 6,297 cases and 486 deaths.
Here are the latest updates:
Friday, April 17
02:06 GMT – Australia may keep some coronavirus restrictions for a year
Australian public life could be constrained for another year because of the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned on Friday, as the country’s most populous state mulled sending children to school in shifts.
Morrison said some measures, like a rule requiring people to stand at least 1.5 metres apart, would likely remain for several months, given there was no guarantee a vaccine would be developed in that time.
“Social distancing is something we should get very used to,” Morrison told radio station 3AW. “It could be a year, but I’m not speculating about that.”
02:06 GMT – Japanese cabinet official tests positive of coronavirus
Japan’s cabinet announced on Friday that another official had tested positive for the coronavirus, making him the third case among officials at the cabinet office.
The infected cabinet official in his 50s works at the cabinet’s council for science, technology and innovation, but had no close contact with ministers around when he developed symptoms from April 10, an official at the cabinet office said. He was confirmed with the virus on April 16.
Two officials who worked with the man, and were within two metres, are staying at home but have not yet been tested, based on cabinet policy, according to the cabinet office.
As of Thursday, there were an estimated 9,000 infections in Japan and nearly 200 deaths.
01:40 GMT – Xi, Putin discuss coronavirus response of China and Russia
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, have spoken over phone to discuss the latest response of their countries against the coronavirus pandemic, the state-own Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.
According to the report, Xi and Putin rejected the “politicisation of the pandemic”, which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Xi was quoted as saying that Beijing is “confident” that under Putin’s leadership, Russia will “stem the spread” of the disease. It has been reported in recent days that several Chinese nationals who returned to their country through the Russian border had tested positive of the coronavirus.
01:28 GMT – Guatemala: 44 deportees from US positive of coronavirus
At least 44 of the 76 Guatemalans deported on one flight from the United States this week have tested positive for coronavirus, a Guatemalan government official with knowledge of the situation said, amid rising rejection of deportees due to virus fears.
Later, Guatemala Foreign Affairs Minister Pedro Brolo told The Associated Press news agency that the government had again suspended deportation flights. He did not explain why, but said the move was temporary.
00:32 GMT – Trudeau says Canada’s restrictions with US to remain
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that the country’s border restrictions with the US will remain in place “for a significant amount of time” as the two countries fight the coronavirus outbreak.
Washington and Ottawa agreed last month to clamp down on non-essential travel while allowing trade to continue across their long shared frontier.
“As we move forward, there will be special thought given to this relationship. But at the same time we know that there is a significant amount of time, still, before we can talk about loosening such restrictions,” Trudeau told a daily briefing.
00:21 GMT – Balkan states agree to coordinate coronavirus response
Health ministers of the Western Balkan countries have agreed to facilitate any joint action in the fight against the coronavirus, according to the Kosovo Health Ministry.
A statement on Thursday said Kosovar Health Minister Arben Vitia had telephone calls with his colleagues in the region in which they agreed that “transport routes for goods, health personnel and medical equipment remain free.”
All countries are in lockdown and only goods can cross their borders.
COVID-19 has infected 8,801 people and killed 233 in the six Western Balkan countries.
Hello, I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. You can find all the updates from yesterday, April 16, here.