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Coronavirus: latest global developments

DESERTED: People are no longer buying non-essentials in many markets.

AFP – Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis:

– More than 260,000 dead –

At least 260,546 people have died of the novel coronavirus since the epidemic surfaced in China late last year, according to an AFP tally at 1900 GMT Wednesday based on official sources.

There have been more than 3,710,240 officially recorded cases spanning 195 countries and territories.

The United States is the worst-hit country, with 71,982 deaths out of 1,214,572 cases. Britain follows with 30,076, then Italy with 29,684 deaths, Spain with 25,857 and France with 25,809.

– Back to school in Wuhan –

Senior school students in 121 institutions in the Chinese city of Wuhan — ground zero of the pandemic — return to class, wearing masks and walking in single file past thermal scanners.

Only the oldest students in the province of Hubei have returned to school — vocational students and seniors due to take the make-or-break university entrance exams.

Return dates have generally not been confirmed for junior and middle school students.

– Bundesliga is back –

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders give the Bundesliga the green light to restart behind closed doors from mid-May, making it the first of Europe’s five major football leagues to return to the playing field.

Belgium however announces it will suspend all sporting competitions until July 31, effectively putting an end to its football season.

– Nearly normal in South Korea –

South Korea returns largely to normal as workers go back to offices, and museums and libraries reopen under eased social distancing rules.

– Recession ‘of historic proportions’ –

The EU forecasts that the eurozone economy would contract by a staggering 7.7 percent in 2020, calling it a “recession of historic proportions”.

The 19-member single currency zone would rebound by 6.3 percent in 2021, the EU says, but in a recovery that would be felt unevenly across the continent.

Italy for example would see a cataclysmic recession of 9.5 percent in 2020, and only a 6.5 percent recovery next year, according to data from the European Commission.

– China hits back at lab leak claims –

China dismisses claims made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the virus originated in a lab in Wuhan, saying he “doesn’t have any” evidence.

Beijing’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva says China will not prioritise inviting international experts in to investigate the source of the virus until after the pandemic is beaten.

Pompeo later renews his lab leak charge, but acknowledges there is no certainty.

– Airbnb slashes staff –

Home-sharing platform Airbnb says it will slash one fourth of its workforce — some 1,900 people — due to the collapse of the travel industry.

– Kenya seals off hotspots –

Kenya’s health minister announces that one suburb of the capital Nairobi, as well as a part of the port city of Mombasa, will be cordoned off due to skyrocketing cases in those areas.

– Celebs call for radical change –

A host of celebrities and scientists including Madonna, Robert de Niro and a clutch of Nobel Prize winners sign an open letter calling for radical change in the world rather than “a return to normal” after lockdowns.

Hollywood stars Cate Blanchett, Jane Fonda and Marion Cotillard are also among the 200 signatories of the letter published in French daily Le Monde, pleading for an end to unbridled consumerism and a “radical transformation” of economies to help save the planet.