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WHO halts hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 trials: Live updates

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  • The WHO said that it was discontinuing its trials of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and combination HIV drug lopinavir/ritonavir in hospitalised patients with COVID-19 after they failed to reduce mortality. 
  • Spain’s Catalonia region has placed restrictions on 200,000 people amid surge in new coronavirus cases.

  • People in Englad will be allowed to visit pubs, restaurants or get a haircut for the first time in more than three months as restrictions ease.

  • Brazil passes 1.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases, as cities reopen bars, restaurants and gyms sparking fears infections will keep rising.

Here are the latest updates.

Saturday, July 4

23:15 GMT – Brazil registers 37,923 new cases of coronavirus, 1,091 deaths

Brazil has recorded 37,923 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours as well as 1,091 deaths, Reuters news agency reported quoting the country’s health ministry.

Brazil has registered more than 1.5 million cases since the pandemic began, while cumulative deaths total 64,265, according to the ministry.

20:20 GMT – COVID-19 cases keep rising in Eurasia

In Azerbaijan, health officials reported that the total number of cases to date rose to 19,801 with 534 new additions in the past 24 hours. The tally of recoveries neared 11,300 and the death toll climbed to 241.

Health authorities in Belarus announced that they observed 273 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to over 63,000. While more than 50,000 people have recovered in the country, fatalities totaled 418.

As for Moldova, officials stated that official cases topped 17,650 with 227 new additions in the last 24 hours. The death toll stands at 580 in the country, where more than 2,500 health personnel have contracted the virus.

19:15 GMT – Coronavirus infections in occupied West Bank hit record level

Hebron closed to entry and exit due to COVID-19

Palestinian security forces control vehicles on the main roads of Hebron as the Palestinian Authority closed entrance and exits due to an increase in the number of coronavirus cases in Hebron, the occupied West Bank [Anadolu Agency]

The number of new coronavirus infections in the occupied West Bank hit a fresh high on Saturday, with 501 cases registered. 

The focus of infections was in the area of Hebron, where more than 400 of the new infections were recorded, according to the Palestinian health ministry. 

The novel coronavirus has so far been detected in 3,763 people in the occupied West Bank. Eleven people have died. 

18:50 GMT – eSwatini cabinet in isolation after minister contracts COVID-19

The 20-member cabinet in Africa’s last absolute kingdom of eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland, has been ordered into isolation after one minister contracted coronavirus, the government said.

Public Works and Transport minister Ndlaluhlaza Ndwandwe was found to be infected after a routine test on Tuesday. 

“Following this development, all cabinet members will isolate with immediate effect and work from home,” government spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini said in a statement.

18:33 GMT – Celebrating Liberation Day, Rwanda vows to defeat COVID-19

Rwandan President Paul Kagame arrives for a commemoration ceremony of the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide at the Genocide Memorial in Gisozi in Kigali, Rwanda April 7, 2019

Rwandan President Paul Kagame at a commemoration ceremony of the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide in Kigali [File: Baz Ratner/Reuters]

Rwanda’s president marked the country’s 26th Liberation Day with a pledge to defeat the coronavirus pandemic, urging citizens to stand together and protect each other. 

President Paul Kagame said the country was facing a difficult time but could overcome all odds by putting up a united front.

“The pandemic is a test for us. The way we address it shows our level of preparedness against anything that attempts to disrupt our lives and our progress,” he said.

18:00 GMT – WHO halts hydroxychloroquine, HIV drugs in COVID trials 

The WHO said that it was discontinuing its trials of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and combination HIV drug lopinavir/ritonavir in hospitalised patients with COVID-19 after they failed to reduce mortality.

“These interim trial results show that hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir produce little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalised COVID-19 patients when compared to standard of care. Solidarity trial investigators will interrupt the trials with immediate effect,” the WHO said in a statement, referring to large multi-country trials that the agency is leading.

The UN agency said that the decision, taken on the recommendation of the trial’s international steering committee, does not affect other studies where the drugs are used for non-hospitalised patients or as a prophylaxis.

17:46 GMT – WHO reports record daily increase in global coronavirus cases

The World Health Organization has reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases, with the total rising by 212,326 in 24 hours.

The biggest increases were from the United States, Brazil and India. The previous WHO record for new cases was 189,077 on June 28. Deaths remained steady at about 5,000 a day.

17:30 GMT – Tiafoe tests positive for COVID-19, withdraws from Atlanta event

US tennis player Frances Tiafoe has tested positive for COVID-19 and been forced to withdraw from the All-American Team Cup exhibition tournament in Atlanta.

Tiafoe played in the first session on Friday and beat Sam Querrey in straight sets at the event in which the top eight American players are participating.

“Unfortunately, I tested positive late Friday for Covid-19 and have to withdraw from the All-American Team Cup special event in Atlanta this weekend,” Tiafoe said on Twitter.

Unfortunately, I tested positive late Friday for Covid-19 and have to withdraw from the All-American Team Cup special event in Atlanta this weekend. Over the past two months, I have been training in Florida and tested negative there as recently as a week ago pic.twitter.com/DeqR3eBxQo

— Frances Tiafoe (@FTiafoe) July 4, 2020

17:00 GMT – Trump signs extension of COVID-relief fund for businesses

President Donald Trump has signed into law a temporary extension of a subsidy programme for small businesses battered by the coronavirus.

The legislation extends the June 30 deadline for applying for the programme to August 8, which was created in March and has since been modified twice.

About $130bn of $660bn approved for the programme remains eligible for businesses to seek direct federal subsidies for payroll and other costs such as rent, though demand for the Paycheck Protection Program has pretty much dried up in recent weeks.

16:45 GMT – Malawi’s election cheer dampened by coronavirus surge

Lazarus Chakwera - Malawi

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera said 100,000 face masks would be distributed in the capital Lilongwe [File: Eldson Chagara/Reuters]

Malawi’s new President Lazarus Chakwera has ordered his inauguration ceremony to be scaled down amid a surge of coronavirus cases, dampening excitement around his election win.

Chakwera was sworn in last Sunday for a five-year term, hours after unseating Peter Mutharika in a re-run election, and this Monday the country is holding a formal celebration.

Chakwera said capacity at the national stadium would be halved to 20,000 and at least 100,000 face masks would be distributed in the capital Lilongwe.

“We’re in a worse situation today than we were three months ago. Coronavirus is spreading everywhere in Malawi and it’s spreading to kill,” he said in a televised address.

16:20 GMT – Jordan slaps wristbands on arrivals to monitor virus quarantine

Jordan has begun putting electronic bracelets on travellers who have recently arrived in the kingdom to ensure that they observe home-quarantine against the spread of coronavirus, an official said.

People arriving in Jordan must isolate for 14 days at hotels designated by the authorities on the shores of the Dead Sea, west of the capital Amman.

After that period, they must self-isolate for an additional 14 days at home, according to Nizar Obeidat, spokesman for Jordan’s virus task force.

16:05 GMT – Greece extends migrant camp lockdown despite criticism

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak on Lesbos

A girl stands outside a tent at a temporary camp for newly arrived refugees and migrants, where coronavirus disease cases were detected, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, [File: Elias Marcou/Reuters]

Greece has announced a fifth extension of a coronavirus lockdown in its teeming migrant camps, despite allegations that it has used the pandemic to limit the movement of migrants.

The camp lockdown began on March 21 and is now extended until July 19, the migration ministry said.    

Migrants are allowed to leave the camps from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm only in groups of less than 10 and no more than 150 people per hour, it said.

15:55 GMT – Portugal denounces ‘absurd’ UK quarantine measures

Portugal has denounced as “absurd” the UK’s decision to exclude it from the list of countries to which Britons can travel without having to observe quarantine restrictions on their return.

The row comes as both countries record a coronavirus infections rate of 4,000 cases per million inhabitants, although Britain registers a significantly higher death rate.

“The question of quarantine is absurd,” said Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva in an interview with state television station RTP.

15:25 GMT – Florida sees coronavirus cases spike to new daily record

Fourth Of July Weekend In Florida Sees Some Beaches Open, Some Closed, As Coronavirus Cases Spike

A hostess waits for patrons at the entrance to restaurant in the South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach, Florida [Cliff Hawkins/AFP]

Florida’s confirmed coronavirus cases rose by a record 11,458 on Saturday, the state’s health department said, the second time in three days that its caseload increased by more than 10,000.

Florida’s record rise in cases was more than any European country’s daily peak at the height of the outbreak there.

The new record came a day after seven other states also reported record rises in cases of COVID-19,which has killed nearly 130,000 Americans.

14:50 GMT – Bajaj Auto unions demand factory halt after 250 workers catch COVID-19

Workers at Bajaj Auto, India’s biggest exporter of motorbikes, have demanded the temporary closure of one of its plants after 250 employees there tested positive for coronavirus, its unions said.

The Bajaj Auto factory affected is located in western Maharashtra, the state with the highest number of cases of COVID-19. The company said in a letter to employees this week that those who do not show up for work will not be paid.

The company went on to say that 140 of the roughly 8,000 staff at the factory had caught the virus and two had died. It also said work there would not be stopped, however, as the company wanted to learn to “live with the virus”.

14:35 GMT – No positive cases from more than 4,000 Formula 1 coronavirus tests

F1 Grand Prix of Austria - Qualifying

Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Scuderia Ferrari SF1000 on track during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria [Bryn Lennon/Getty Images]

Formula One has shared some welcome news ahead of the season restart in Austria, as it confirmed that there has been no positive cases from more than 4,000 coronavirus tests carried out on F1 personnel over the past seven days.

Everyone entering the track at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg had to have tested negative before travelling and everyone – from drivers to team members, track staff and media – must be tested every five days by private medical teams on site.

Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix comes four months after the opening race in Australia was cancelled and the season postponed.

14:20 GMT – 5 Iranian lawmakers contract COVID-19 as cases surge

At least five members of Iran’s newly elected parliament have contracted the new coronavirs disease.

MPs Mohammad Tala Mazloomi, Syed Mohammad Mohid, Hosseinali Haji Dalegani, Ali Asgar Zaheri, and Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi all tested positive for COVID-19, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

Iran saw a significant drop in new virus infections in April, prompting the government to ease pandemic-related restrictions. The decision, however, boomeranged as a second wave of the disease engulfed different parts of the country a few weeks later.

14:00 GMT – South Africa reopens restaurants even as virus cases rise

A slot machine displays an amount ahead of the opening of the Sun International's Times Square Casino, in Pretoria

A slot machine displays an amount as South Africa eases some aspects of a stringent nationwide coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown in its administrative capital Pretoria [File: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters]

South Africa has reopened its restaurants and casinos as part of a gradual loosening of lockdown, even as the number of coronavirus continues to rise.

Saturday marked the 100th day of lockdown for South Africa, which has imposed some of the strictest stay-at-home measures in the world since March 27 in a bid to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Nevertheless, the number of infections is rising daily by the thousands and the country now has the highest number of cases on the continent — 177,124, including 2,952 deaths.

13:45 GMT – Mexico steps up border checks to keep COVID-19 at bay over July 4 holiday

Mexican officials will install health checkpoints at various entry points along its northern border this weekend, as both Mexican and US officials fear a surge of crossings for the July 4 holiday could spread the coronavirus.

Mexican consulates across the US issued warnings last week on social media of the ramped-up measures scheduled for July 2 through July 5, and urged people to refrain from crossing for recreation or tourism.

A ban on non-essential border travel has been in place since March in an attempt by both governments to limit coronavirus infections, yet cross-border traffic has been busy.


Hi, this is Linah Alsaafin in Doha, taking over from my colleague Usaid Siddiqui.


12:40 GMT – Protest at slaughterhouse at centre of German virus cluster

Animal rights activists in Germany attempted to block access to a slaughterhouse at the center of a large coronavirus outbreak.

The slaughterhouse, owned by the Tonnies Group, has been linked to more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases in the region, triggering a partial lockdown of two counties.

Police confirmed that about 20 people were protesting outside the entrance to the site.

Martin Landray: World needs a vaccine and treatments for COVID-19 | Talk to Al Jazeera

12:15 GMT – Barcelona basilica reopens for health workers

Barcelona’s iconic La Sagrada Familia basilica has reopened its doors for visits exclusively for health workers after nearly four months of being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The basilica invited a first group of health workers to visit the temple designed by architect Antoni Gaudí. More will be able to visit on Sunday and on July 11-12 during a reopening phase the church is calling an “homage” to doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.

11:50 GMT – Tunisia’s tourism earnings drop 47 percent amid virus spread

Tunisia’s revenues fromáthe vital tourism industry dropped by 47 percent in the first half of this year amid an outbreak of the new coronavirus, figures from the country’s central bank showed.

The North African country’s tourism sector has felt the brunt of lockdown measures imposed more than three months ago in Tunisia to contain the spread of the virus.

11:23 GMT – Iran imposes new curbs as coronavirus toll rises

Iranians who do not wear masks will be denied state services and workplaces that fail to comply with health protocols will be shut for a week, President Hassan Rouhani said as he launched new measures to try to curb the coronavirus.

Iran has been battling the spread of the coronavirus, with the total number of cases hitting 237,878 on Saturday and a further 148 deaths bringing the country’s toll to 11,408, Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state television.

Nrses work in a COVID-19 ward of the Shohadaye Tajrish Hospital in Tehran, Iran. After months of fighting the coronavirus, Iran only just saw its highest single-day spike in reported cases after Eid a

 Wearing masks becomes mandatory from Sunday in covered public places, President Hassan Rouhani said on state television [Vahid Salemi/AP]

10:55 GMT – Ugandan dies after setting fire to himself over motorcycle impounded over COVID-19 violations

A Ugandan man has died after setting fire to himself in a police station when officers allegedly demanded a bribe to release his motorcycle, which he was using as a taxi and which had been impounded over violation of coronavirus restrictions.

The case has provoked anger among Ugandans who say it reflects widespread abuse by security personnel, including beatings, detentions and extortion that in the current climate are often disguised as enforcement of coronavirus regulations.

10:15 GMT – Catalonia places 200,000 people under lockdown

Spain’s north-east Catalonia region has placed restrictions on 200,000 people near the town of Lleida amid surge in new COVID-19 infections.

From 4 pm local time (6 pm GMT) onwards, no one will be able to enter or leave the region, Al Jazeera’s Nadim Baba reported from London, adding the move comes as a surprise.

The move comes as Spain’s hospitality sector was hoping to salvage what remains of the all-important summer season. Regional health ministry data showed there were 3,706 cases in the Lleida region on Friday, up from 3,551 the previous day.

09:55 GMT – Tokyo seeks travel curbs as new infections top 100 for third day

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on Saturday urged residents of the Japanese capital not to travel beyond its borders as new coronavirus infections topped 100 for a third day, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Tokyo confirmed 131 new cases of infections of the coronavirus, NHK said.

Cases in Tokyo have risen to a two-month high, driven by the spread of the virus in the capital’s nightspots. Of Saturday’s tally, 100 were in their 20s and 30s, Kyodo news agency said, citing Koike.

Japan Tokyo

 Cases in Tokyo have risen to a two-month high, driven by the spread of the virus in the capital’s nightspots [Charly Triballeau/AFP]

09:30 GMT – ‘Eat out to help out’, finance chief tells Britons

The British finance minister has urged people to “eat out to help out” the economy claw its way from a historic decline sparked by the coronavirus crisis.

The comments by Chancellor Rishi Sunak were published on the day England finally reopened its beloved pubs and the rest of the hospitality sector after more than three months of lockdown.

The United Kingdom’s shutdown has been one of Europe’s longest because of a high death toll of 44,131 – that only trails those of the United States and Brazil.

08:55 GMT – England’s pubs, restaurants and hairdressers reopen

People were finally allowed to drink in a pub, have a meal in a restaurant or get a haircut for the first time in more than three months as England took its biggest steps yet towards the resumption of normal life.

Pubs were permitted to start serving from 6am, sparking worries of over-indulgence on what the media dubbed a “Super Saturday” of coronavirus restrictions being eased. Some hairdressers were reported to have opened at the stroke of midnight.

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Chester

A woman gets her hair coloured at Blow by Suave as it reopens following the COVID-19 outbreak, in Chester, UK [Molly Darlington/Reuters]

08:25 GMT – Louvre Museum to reopen on Monday after crippling losses

The Louvre in Paris, the world’s most visited museum and home to the Mona Lisa, reopens on Monday but with coronavirus restrictions in place and parts of the complex closed to visitors.

The Louvre has been closed since March 13 and this has already led “to losses of over 40 million euros”, its director Jean-Luc Martinez said.

Among more than 10 million visitors in 2018, almost three quarters were tourists.

07:54 GMT – Russia’s coronavirus cases near 675,000, death toll passes 10,000

Russia reported 6,632 new cases of the novel coronavirus, raising the nationwide tally of infections to 674,515.

The authorities said that 168 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 10,027.

Grave diggers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) bury a person, who presumably died of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the special purpose section of a

Russia has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world after the US and Brazil [Anton Vaganov [Reuters]

07:28 GMT – Dominican Republic vote goes ahead despite virus threat

Voters in the Dominican Republic are set to defy rising coronavirus infections on Sunday to choose a new president in an election that could end 16 years of unbroken rule by the centre-left Dominican Liberation Party.

Opposition candidate Luis Abinader is favourite, having taken a commanding lead in opinion polls despite being forced to abandon his campaign after he tested positive for COVID-19.

Abinader, a 52-year-old businessman, had recovered sufficiently to close out his campaign at a rally on Wednesday.

07:02 GMT – New highest daily jump in India with 22,772 cases

India reported its biggest single-day spike of 22,772 coronavirus cases and 442 deaths, according to the country’s Ministry of Health.

The coronavirus positive cases now stand at 648,315, while 18,655 people have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

06:40 GMT – Victoria reports 108 new cases, biggest jump in three months

Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria, reported its biggest jump in coronavirus cases since late March on Saturday, forcing it to expand stay-at-home orders to two more suburbs and sending nine public housing towers in a complete lockdown.

The southeastern state recorded 108 new cases, up from 66 on Friday and more than 70 new cases in each of the previous four days, forcing authorities to reimpose lockdowns in more than 30 suburbs earlier in the week.

06:16 GMT – South Africa reports record daily infections

South Africa has announced another record daily number of confirmed coronavirus cases with 9,064, as Africa’s most developed country shows signs of strain in coping with the pandemic.

Thirty percent of South Africa’s more than 177,000 cases are now in Gauteng province, which contains Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Langa township in Cape Town

More than 2,900 people in the country have died [File: Mike Hutchings/Reuters]

05:55 GMT – Bolsonaro waters down Brazilian mask-wearing law

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has watered down a law that would require widespread mask-wearing in the country to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to the Diario Official government journal.

He approved the law on wearing protective masks in public, but weakened it by vetoing language that would have required Brazilians to cover their faces in places like schools, shops and churches.

05:30 GMT – Donald Trump Jr’s girlfriend tests coronavirus positive

The girlfriend of President Donald Trump’s eldest son has tested positive for coronavirus, US media reported.

Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News television personality who is dating Donald Trump Jr, had travelled to South Dakota to see the US president’s Fourth of July speech and celebration fireworks at Mount Rushmore.

Guilfoyle, 51, was immediately isolated after discovering she had the virus in a routine test conducted on anyone expected to come in close contact with the president, the New York Times reported.

Kimberly Guilfoyle and Donald Trump Jr. speak at a press conference in Des Moines

Guilfoyle, left, is the third person close to the US president to return a positive COVID-19 test [File: Carlo Allegri/Reuters]


Hi, this is Usaid Siddiqui in Doha, taking over from my colleague Zaheena Rasheed.


04:10 GMT – Sixty-three new cases in large cities in South Korea            

South Korea reported 63 new cases of the coronavirus, continuing a weeks-long resurgence as new clusters pop up in various parts of the country.

The figures announced by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday brought national totals to 13,030 infections, including 283 deaths.

Twenty-eight of the new cases were reported from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live. Infections were also reported in large cities such as Busan, Daegu, Daejeon and Gwangju, where hundreds of schools have been shut and social restrictions elevated.

Spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Seoul, South Korea

Infections were reported in large cities such as Busan, Daegu, Daejeon and Gwangju, where hundreds of schools have been shut and social restrictions elevated [Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters]

03:40 GMT – US marks another new daily record for infections

The United States reported 57,683 COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, a tally by Johns Hopkins University showed, making Friday the third consecutive day the country logged more than 50,000 new cases.  

The Baltimore-based university’s tracker showed the total number of cases since the pandemic reached the US at 2,793,022.    

The university also recorded a further 728 fatalities, bringing the total US death toll to 129,405.

02:48 GMT – Colombia judge bans special restrictions for the elderly

A Colombian judge has prohibited the government from subjecting those aged 70 or older to special restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

The judge described as discriminatory the measures which prescribe quarantine for the elderly until the end of August while lifting movement restrictions on the rest of the population in mid-July.

01:17 GMT – Brazil surpasses 1.5 million coronavirus cases

Brazil reported 42,223 additional coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Health said, bringing the total tally to 1,539,081.

The number of coronavirus deaths rose by 1,290 to 63,174, according to the ministry.

A member of Brazilian Armed Forces medical team examines a man from the indigenous Yanomami ethnic group

A member of the Brazilian armed forces’ medical team examines a man from the Indigenous Yanomami ethnic group [Adriano Machado/ Reuters]

01:13 GMT – Air France, Hop! to shed 7,580 jobs

Air France management said it planned to eliminate 7,580 jobs at the airline and its regional unit Hop! by the end of 2022 because of the coronavirus crisis.

The planned job cuts amount to 16 percent of Air France’s staff and 40 percent of those at Hop!

“For three months, Air France’s activity and turnover have plummeted 95 percent, and at the height of the crisis, the company lost 15 million euros a day,” said the group, which anticipated a “very slow” recovery.

00:46 GMT – Global coronavirus cases rise to more than 11 million

Global coronavirus cases have exceeded 11 million, according to tallies by Reuters news agency and the Johns Hopkins University, marking another milestone in the spread of the disease that has killed more than half a million people in seven months.

The number of cases is more than double the figure for severe influenza illnesses recorded annually, according to the WHO.

Many hard-hit countries are easing lockdowns put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus while making extensive alterations to work and social life that could last for a year or more until a vaccine is available.

Some countries are experiencing a resurgence in infections, leading authorities to partially reinstate lockdowns, in what experts say could be a recurring pattern into 2021.

00:13 GMT – Several US states hit highs in COVID-19 cases

Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Alaska reported record increases in coronavirus cases on Friday as Florida’s most populous county imposed a curfew in advance of the Independence Day weekend.

The surge in cases, most pronounced in southern and western states, has alarmed public health officials, who urged caution before a July 4th holiday weekend that in normal times would feature big gatherings of families and friends.


Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives. 

You can find all the key developments from yesterday, July 3, here.

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The poisoning of Alexey Navalny: Five key things to know

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What happened on the day Navalny fell ill?

On August 20, a Thursday, Alexey Navalny, Russia’s leading Kremlin critic, had finished up campaigning for opposition politicians in Siberia for local elections, which were taking place from September 11 to 13. 

He left Xander Hotel and headed for the Tomsk Bogashevo airport. There, he drank a cup of tea. He was on the way to Moscow.

In the first half-hour of the flight, he fell ill and witnesses said he screamed in pain. He was later in a coma.

He was airlifted to Germany’s capital, a six-hour flight, to the Berlin Charite hospital.The plane made an emergency landing at Omsk. He received treatment in the Russian city, where doctors said he was too unwell to be moved, but two days later on August 22, a Saturday, they said his life was not in danger.

Was he poisoned? 

Navalny’s team believes he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent, a claim several European countries support.

A laboratory in Germany said it had confirmation on September 2, followed by laboratories in France and Sweden on September 14.

Samples from Navalny have also been sent to the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague for testing.

Russia says there is no evidence to prove Navalny was poisoned, while its ally Belarus has also doubted the claim. The doctors in Omsk said they had not detected poisonous substances in Navalny’s body. 

US President Donald Trump has been criticised for towing Russia’s line, saying on September 4 – two days after Germany’s claim to have “unequivocal evidence” – that “we have not had any proof yet”.

How is Navalny’s condition now?

On September 7, more than two weeks after falling ill on the plane, Navalny’s doctors in Germany said he was out of a coma and that his condition was improving. His spokeswoman said, “Gradually, he will be switched off from a ventilator.”

On September 15, Navalny posted on Instagram that he was breathing alone. He has said he plans to return to Russia. 

If he was poisoned, who may have poisoned him and where?

Navalny’s team believes he was poisoned at the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin – a claim the Kremlin has strongly denied. 

Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh had initially said she believed Navalny’s tea at the airport was poisoned, but on September 17, his team said the nerve agent was detected on an empty water bottle from his hotel room in the Tomsk, suggesting he was poisoned there and not at the airport. 

What effect has the alleged poisoning had?

The alleged attack has widened a rift between Europe and Russia, with Germany and France leading calls for a full investigation but stopping short of outrightly blaming the Russian government. 

MEPs have called for sanctions against Russia, saying on September 17, “The poison used, belonging to the ‘Novichok group’, can only be developed in state-owned military laboratories and cannot be acquired by private individuals, which strongly implies that Russian authorities were behind the attack.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has summoned Germany’s ambassador to Moscow, while the United Kingdom has summoned the Russian envoy over the incident.

For its part, Moscow rejects what it called the politicisation of the issue.

Significantly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under pressure to halt the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, which transfers Russian gas to Germany. Once again, the Kremlin has warned not to involve the Navalny case in any discussion about the pipeline, with Dmitry Peskov saying on September 16, “It should stop being mentioned in the context of any politicisation.”


A timeline of events surrounding the alleged poisoning attack on Navalny: 

August 20 – Navalny falls ill on flight; plane makes emergency landing in Omsk; his spokeswoman says he was poisoned, perhaps by the tea he drank at the airport

August 22 – Navalny airlifted to Berlin Charite hospital 

September 2 – Germany says it has ‘unequivocal evidence’ Navalny was poisoned, Russia responds by saying the claim is not backed by evidence

September 4 – US President Donald Trump says ‘we do not have any proof yet’

September 6 – Heiko Maas, German foreign minister, threatens action over gas pipeline project, saying, ‘I hope the Russians don’t force us to change our position on Nord Stream 2’

September 7 – German doctors say Navalny is out of an artificial coma

September 11-13 – Russia holds local elections; Navalny’s allies make gains in Siberian cities

September 15 – Navalny posts on Instagram that he is breathing alone

September 16 – Kremlin spokesman warns against politicising Navalny issue in discussions over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Germany

September 17 – Navalny’s team now suspects he was poisoned in his hotel room, not the airport, citing traces of nerve agent on an empty water bottle

September 17 – MEPs call for sanctions against Russia 

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Former Canada PM Turner, in office for just 11 weeks, dies

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John Turner, Canada’s 17th prime minister who held the office for just 79 days in 1984, died on Saturday aged 91.

Former Canadian Prime Minister John Turner, who was in office for only 11 weeks in the 1980s, has died at age 91, Canadian media outlets reported on Saturday.

Turner served as the country’s 17th prime minister and, despite his short tenure at the helm of a Liberal Party government in 1984, he spent decades in Canadian federal politics.

Turner took over from Pierre Elliott Trudeau – current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s father – in late June 1984 at a time of increasing voter fatigue with the Liberals, who had been in power for 20 of the previous 21 years.

At that point, he had already held the posts of finance and justice minister.

But his 79-day tenure as prime minister was the second shortest in Canadian history. He resigned as Liberal leader in 1990 and was replaced by Jean Chretien, who led the party to victory in 1993.

Turner’s time in federal politics was perhaps best remembered for his battles with former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, especially over free trade with the United States, CBC News reported.

‘Distinguished service’

On Saturday, legislators from across the Canadian political spectrum shared their memories of Turner, whom many described as being deeply devoted to the public service, and sent their condolences to his family.

Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who held the post from 2006 to 2015, said Turner “served his family and country with great dignity”.

“His legacy and commitment to public service will be remembered for generations,” Harper tweeted.

Liberal parliament member Yvan Baker said Turner was one of his early political role models.

“Canada meant everything to him, and he will be remembered for his life-long & distinguished service to this country,” Baker wrote on Twitter, alongside an image of himself with the late former prime minister.

Deeply saddened to learn former PM John Turner has passed away. He was one of my first political role models. Canada meant everything to him, and he will be remembered for his life-long & distinguished service to this country. My sympathies to his family at this difficult time. pic.twitter.com/U1Mq6pX1ZE

— Yvan Baker, MP (@Yvan_Baker) September 19, 2020

Bob Rae, a longtime politician and now Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, said Turner was many things – a lawyer, Rhodes scholar, athlete – but a “believer above all in the public service”.

Canada’s Minister of Indigenous-Crown Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, said she would miss Turner’s “wise counsel”.

“He cared deeply about this country and our democratic institutions. We must now all carry his torch as we build an even better Canada,” she tweeted.

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Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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Trump bans TikTok over security concerns

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More than 100 million Americans will not be able to download two of the world’s most popular apps from Sunday.

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