Coronavirus: latest global developments

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis:

– Hard times in Iran –

Iran says it cannot afford to shut down its sanctions-hit economy despite battling the most deadly COVID-19 outbreak in the Middle East, with record-high death tolls and rising infections.

The country must continue “economic, social and cultural activities while observing health protocols”, says President Hassan Rouhani during a televised virus taskforce meeting. 

– 560,000 deaths –

The pandemic has killed at least 561,551 people worldwide since it surfaced in China late last year, according to an AFP tally at 1900 GMT on Saturday based on official sources.

The United States is the hardest-hit country with 134,430 deaths. It is followed by Brazil (70,398), Britain (44,798), Italy (34,945) and Mexico (34,191).

– Bill Gates ‘optimistic’ –

American billionaire Bill Gates says in a video message he is “optimistic” about the battle against COVID-19 and calls for medicines and vaccines to be distributed to those who need them rather than to the “highest bidders”.

– Emirates layoffs –

The Middle East’s largest carrier Emirates has cut a tenth of its workforce during the pandemic and layoffs could reach 15 percent, or 9,000 jobs, its president says, according to a report.

– California prisons early release program –

The US state of California, one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, will release up to 8,000 more prisoners to stem the spread of the virus in its crowded jails.

The inmates could be eligible for early release by the end of August — joining 10,000 prisoners already freed in similar initiatives since the start of the crisis, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says.

– Cricket ground quarantine –

Kolkata’s legendary Eden Gardens 80,000 capacity cricket stadium is to be used as a quarantine centre for Indian police who have the virus.

Nearly 550 have tested positive and two have died. The beds will be put in galleries around the seating and not on the pitch.

– Bollywood’s Bachchan in hospital –

In Mumbai, Bollywood veteran megastar Amitabh Bachchan, 77, says on Twitter he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is in hospital.