Coronavirus update: Boris Johnson admits public frustration with new ‘complex’ restrictions
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has admitted there is public frustration with his government’s measures to ease the coronavirus lockdown following widespread criticism of the new rules, which have been lashed for being confusing and containing mixed messages.
Meanwhile, Australia’s milling companies have switched to 24-hour operations and add new staff to keep up with the demand that saw supermarket shelves around the country stripped of all flour.
Sunday’s key moments:
Boris Johnson admits public frustration with England’s new ‘complex’ restrictions
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has admitted that there is public frustration with his government’s measures to ease the coronavirus lockdown following widespread criticism of the new rules, which he admitted were more complex.
As a poll for the Observer newspaper indicated growing dissatisfaction with Mr Johnson’s handling of the crisis, he wrote in the Mail on Sunday paper: “I understand that people will feel frustrated with some of the new rules.”
On Wednesday, ministers began a gradual easing of restrictions in England, with people who could not work from home encouraged to return to their jobs whilst being told to avoid using public transport if possible.
The changes do not apply to people in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, whose semi-autonomous governments have not eased the lockdown.
There has been criticism that the government’s message is confusing and sent out mixed messages. People are still forbidden to invite friends and relatives into their homes, for example, but can allow in prospective home buyers for property viewings.
Sunday’s Observer poll showed 42 per cent now disapproved of the government’s handling of the crisis — a fall of nine points from last week. That compared with 39 per cent who approved, the first time more people were unhappy with the government’s performance than supportive.
“We are trying to do something that has never had to be done before — moving the country out of a full lockdown, in a way which is safe and does not risk sacrificing all of your hard work,” Mr Johnson said in the Mail on Sunday.
“I recognise what we are now asking is more complex than simply staying at home — but this is a complex problem and we need to trust in the good sense of the British people.”
Millers work overtime as Australians bake through quarantine
Panic buying during the coronavirus crisis saw the country’s supermarkets stripped of flour as people rediscovered the “lost art of baking”.
Australia’s milling companies struggled to keep shelves restocked and have been working overtime to keep up with demand.
Australia’s biggest miller Manildra turned to 24-hour production and hired some new staff.
It says it won’t get caught out again.
“The retail has just been ridiculously high, about 70 per cent over normal volume,” mill manager John Brunner said.
“We moved immediately to a 24-seven operation, that is we used existing staff and employed some more staff to spread right across the full week.
“That was 10 weeks ago and we’re still doing that now and endeavouring to supply all the supermarkets and the people with all the flour they have to have.”
Manildra also plans to increase its output with new equipment.
“It’ll be able to produce, by itself, 50 million 1-kilo bags of flour every year,” Mr Brunner said.
Kialla Foods, an organic miller based in Toowoomba, Queensland, hired seven new staff and switched to double shifts to keep up with demand.
“In March and April, we were about 300 per cent up on those retail-type products,” miller Quentin Kennedy said.
“Our social media people … have certainly seen a massive uplift in people skiting about their latest cooking creation and that’s people rediscovering the lost art of baking.
“And they’re falling in love with that activity again.”
Brazil passes Italy and Spain in confirmed coronavirus cases
Brazil’s confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus have risen past those of Spain and Italy, which was once the epicentre of the pandemic, making Brazil’s outbreak the fourth largest in the world, according to official figures.
Brazil’s Health Ministry registered 14,919 new confirmed cases in the prior 24 hours, taking the total to 233,142, behind the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom. Brazil has done just a fraction of the testing seen in those three countries.
The global distinction is likely to pile pressure on President Jair Bolsonaro, who lost his second health minister in a month on Friday — the first was sacked, and the second quit the post over disagreements with their leader — as he defies public health experts and calls for widespread use of unproven drugs.
Mr Bolsonaro has been fiercely critical of the orders by many of Brazil’s state governors for strict social isolation and quarantine to combat the spread of the virus, including the closure of schools, shops and restaurants.
Mr Bolsonaro argues that the toll on the economy is becoming unbearable and businesses must be allowed to reopen as soon as possible.
The Government now expects Brazil will post its biggest annual economic contraction this year since records began over a century ago.
Hopes South Korean nightclub outbreak may be contained
South Korea has reported 13 new cases of the coronavirus over a 24-hour period, raising hopes that a new outbreak linked to nightclubs in Seoul may be waning.
The additional figures released by the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention brought the national tally to 11,050 with 262 deaths.
The agency says 9,888 of them have recovered and that 17,660 were under tests to determine whether they’ve contracted the virus.
After weeks of a slowdown of new cases, South Korea’s daily jump marked an average of about 30 for several days, mostly associated with nightclubs in Seoul’s Itaewon entertainment district. But the daily increase marked 19 on Saturday.
The disease control agency didn’t immediately say how many of the 13 new cases were linked to nightlife spots in Itaewon.
Mexico records 2,112 new cases of coronavirus
Mexico has registered 47,144 cases of coronavirus, with the country’s death toll rising by 278 to 5,045, health authorities say.
There were 2,112 new cases registered over the past 24 hours.
Mexico has seen a slightly higher death rate from coronavirus than the global average so far due to the widespread presence of pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity, experts say.
‘They aren’t even pretending to be in charge’: Obama publicly rebukes coronavirus response
Former US president Barack Obama has criticised some officials overseeing the coronavirus response, telling college graduates in an online commencement address that the pandemic shows many officials “aren’t even pretending to be in charge”.
Mr Obama spoke on Show Me Your Walk, HBCU Edition, a two-hour livestreaming event for historically black colleges and universities broadcast on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
His remarks were surprisingly political and touched on current events beyond the virus and its social and economic impacts.
“More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” he said.
“A lot them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”
Obama did not name President Donald Trump or any other federal or state officials.
New COVID-19 cases in New York coming from people leaving home: Cuomo
New York’s new confirmed COVID-19 cases are predominantly coming from people who left their homes to shop, exercise or socialise, rather than from essential workers, Governor Andrew Cuomo says.
“That person got infected and went to the hospital or that person got infected and went home and infected the other people at home,” Mr Cuomo said during his daily news conference on the coronavirus outbreak.
State data showed the number of new cases statewide had fluctuated between 2,100 and 2,500 per day. On Saturday (local time), the number of new cases decreased to 2,419, from 2,762 on Friday.
Mr Cuomo said while last week he had theorised that new cases were coming from essential workers: “That was exactly wrong.”
“The infection rate among essential workers is lower than the general population and those new cases are coming predominantly from people who are not working and they are at home,” he said.
Chinese officials fail to call Australia back as coronavirus trade tensions bubble over
High-ranking calls to China have gone unanswered amid an escalating trade dispute with Australia that’s been fuelled by calls to investigate the origins of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has been seeking to speak with his counterpart since China threatened to impose an 80 per cent import tariff on Australian barley.
China will make its final decision on the tariff on Tuesday. If it follows through with the threat, Australian exporters fear it will cripple a once-lucrative market.
“We’ve made a request for me to be able to have discussions with my Chinese counterpart,” Senator Birmingham told Insiders.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s calls for an investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak, which Australia attributes to a wildlife wet market in Wuhan, China, further escalated the tension.
China’s ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye had previously threatened his country would impose economic sanctions if Mr Morrison continued to push for the probe.
Two women arrested in NSW over alleged coronavirus and bushfire fraud
Two women at Port Macquarie on the New South Wales mid-north coast have been arrested for bushfire and coronavirus welfare assistance fraud.
Police say the women aged 27 and 24 used false identities to try to claim more than $27,000 in payments to which they were not entitled.
They had been paid more than $10,000 of the money.
The women have been granted bail and will face court in July.
Heavy police presence at anti-lockdown protests across UK and Europe
Police in London arrested 19 people for deliberately breaking social distancing guidelines in protest against the rules, on the first weekend since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a slight loosening of England’s lockdown.
The Metropolitan Police said that a group in central London’s Hyde Park had been protesting about the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and had failed to comply with repeated requests to disperse.
“It was disappointing that a relatively small group in Hyde Park came together to protest the regulations in clear breach of the guidance, putting themselves and others at risk of infection,” Laurence Taylor, Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, said in a statement.
Police officers were seen taking away protesters, including the brother of Britain’s former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Piers Corbyn.
In Poland, police used tear gas against protestors demanding the Government act faster to allow businesses to reopen.
Hundreds of protestors gathered in Warsaw’s Old Town in the early afternoon, carrying signs saying, “Work and bread” and “It will be normal again.”
Poland has been steadily loosening coronavirus restrictions in recent weeks in an effort to cushion the economy. Hair salons and restaurants are expected to reopen with new safety measures in place on Monday.
But the protestors, who have gathered repeatedly in recent weeks, say restrictions need to be lifted further in order for them to sustain their livelihoods.
Police blocked the planned march, saying in a statement published on Twitter that public gatherings are still banned under the government restrictions.
“Unfortunately we are dealing with cases of aggression towards police. Due to the attacks on civil servants, we used methods of direct confrontation such as physical force and [tear] gas,” the Warsaw police said in a tweet.
Germany’s death toll from the virus has been lower than most of its European neighbours and some lockdown measures have already been relaxed, but still thousands of protesters gathered across the country for the second weekend in a row.
Derided on social media as “covidiots” who risk causing a second wave of infections that could lead to a tightening of restrictions, protesters staged demonstrations against restrictions battering the economy and a perceived loss of civic freedom at several locations across the capital Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg.
In some places, people also voiced conspiracy theories and anti-vaccination views.
Spain extends state of emergency one last time
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has announced his Government will seek to extend its coronavirus state of emergency for the last time until late June.
“The path that we are taking is the only one possible,” Mr Sanchez said, adding that the end of June should be when most of the hard-hit nation can begin returning to normality.
“It should be the last state of emergency [period] and will continue until the end of the rollback. For that reason, instead of being a 15-day [extension] it will be for about a month.”
Spain first introduced a state of emergency decree on March 14. Officials say that while the outbreak has been brought largely under control, restrictions must stay in place a bit longer as the lockdown is gradually phased out.
The country’s COVID-19 death toll rose by 102 to 27,563 overnight, the lowest 24-hour increase since March 18. Confirmed coronavirus cases climbed by roughly 500 to 230,698 total.
After pushing four previous extensions through parliament, support for Mr Sanchez’s left-wing coalition is waning among lawmakers and voters.
Some small protests against the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout sprang up around Madrid this week, with demonstrators gathering to bang pots and pans and calling for the Prime Minister to resign.
“It doesn’t matter what the demonstrations are about. The important thing is to maintain social distancing,” Mr Sanchez said.