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Coronavirus updates LIVE: Global COVID-19 cases surpass 5.6 million as Australian death toll stands at 103

NASA has urged spectators to stay away from the Kennedy Space Centre for the SpaceX launch, due to take place within the hour, to limit the spread of the coronavirus. But officials from cities and counties around the launch site, an area known as Florida’s Space Coast, are expecting large crowds to gather to watch the country’s first astronaut launch in nine years.

The size of the crowds could still be affected by the weather, local officials said. People would be less likely to make the trip if it looked like the forecast might delay the launch. But local news outlets reported launch viewers were already gathering along the beaches and roadways in prime viewing areas on Wednesday morning.

NASA had asked people to watch the launch from their homes.

NASA had asked people to watch the launch from their homes.Credit:AP

Last month, Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator, asked people to watch the launch from their homes.

“When we launch to space from the Kennedy Space Centre, it draws huge, huge crowds, and that is not right now what we’re trying to do,” he said.

The visitor centre at Kennedy, usually a prime spot for spectators, will remain closed to the public. The launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, carrying two NASA astronauts, Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, is scheduled for 4.33pm local time (6.33am AEST).

But outside Kennedy Space Centre, NASA has little control over crowds.

The New York Times

Five coronavirus patients died in a hospital fire in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka on Wednesday, a fire service official said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, said Zillur Rahman, a fire service director. Firefighters extinguished the flames in about an hour, Rahman said.

Five bodies were recovered from the makeshift isolation unit of the United Hospital treating COVID-19 patients, Rahman said. The dead included four men and a woman aged between 45 and 75, he said.

Hospitals are struggling to deal with a spike in coronavirus infections in recent weeks in Bangladesh, which has reported 38,292 cases and 544 deaths.

Some health experts are concerned that the real number of cases could be higher in a country of more than 160 million people where many have only limited access to healthcare.

Reuters

The European Union has proposed a €750 billion recovery fund to help countries weather a painful recession triggered by the coronavirus pandemic and has sought to bridge divisions over the conditions that should be attached for access to the money.

The fund, to be mostly made up of grants and tied to the common budget of the EU’s 27 member nations, comes as the world’s biggest trading bloc enters its deepest-ever recession, weighed down by the impact of the virus pandemic. Virtually every country has broken the EU’s deficit limit while spending to keep health care systems, businesses and jobs alive.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.Credit:AP

“Our unique model built over 70 years is being challenged like never before in our history,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told EU lawmakers as she unveiled the plan. “This is Europe’s moment. Our willingness to act must live up to the challenges we are all facing.”

As Europe’s residents slowly return to workplaces and classrooms, countries hit hardest by the pandemic such as Italy and Spain remain in desperate need of funds and want to avoid long-term wrangling. Barely off the press, the EU’s recovery proposal received mixed reviews, with Dutch officials notably cool on it.

Von der Leyen said the fund, which is dubbed Next Generation EU and must be endorsed by every country, is “providing an ambitious answer.” She urged European nations to set aside their divisions.

“We either all go alone, leaving countries, regions and people behind, and accepting a Union of haves and have nots. Or we take that road together, we take that leap forward. For me, the choice is simple. I want us to take a new bold step together,” von der Leyen said.

AP

The World Health Organisation has announced the creation of a foundation to tap new sources of funding that could help ease a potential cash shortage as it leads the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Announcing the creation of the WHO Foundation at a virtual briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus denied the move was related to “recent funding issues”, saying it had been in the works for years.

WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus.

WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus.Credit:AP

President Donald Trump has threatened to halt funding from the United States, the WHO’s biggest donor, after criticising its handling of the pandemic and accusing it of being China-centric. In a letter to Tedros last week, Trump called on the UN agency to initiate reforms within 30 days.

Tedros said the body had warned “many times” about a pandemic in recent years. Countries had identified gaps in their preparedness for fighting pandemics, but financing had not materialised, he said.

“Finance these plans, and make sure that countries are prepared to fight – to finish the current one, but to prepare for the next epidemic, which may happen because we are still vulnerable,” he said.

Reuters

Boeing has unveiled the first and deepest of its planned job cuts, saying it would notify 6770 employees in the US this week that their positions would be eliminated.

The collapse in air travel sparked by the coronavirus pandemic has sapped demand for jetliners, forcing Boeing to scale back its commercial business, Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun said on Wednesday in a message to employees. Cuts overseas will be communicated separately.

Boeing's stock has plunged 55 per cent this year.

Boeing’s stock has plunged 55 per cent this year.Credit:Bloomberg

Calhoun warned last month that Boeing would need to cut 10 per cent, or about 16,000 jobs, from its workforce as many of the company’s best airline customers fight for survival. Rival Airbus SE also has been contemplating steep payroll reductions after announcing plans to pare output by more than a third.

“The COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating impact on the airline industry means a deep cut in the number of commercial jets and services our customers will need over the next few years, which in turn means fewer jobs on our lines and in our offices,” Calhoun told employees. “I wish there were some other way.”

Boeing gained 1 per cent to $US146.23 at 12.14pm in New York. The stock has plunged 55 per cent this year, the worst performance in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The company plans to pare its workforce over several months through natural attrition and several waves of job cuts, a spokesman said. Another 5520 US employees have been approved to leave voluntarily with severance packages and will depart Boeing in the next few weeks.

Bloomberg

One of the biggest mysteries of the new coronavirus is its relative harmlessness in most children who get infected.

At least part of the explanation may be in the cells lining their noses, according to a new study by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

Most children do not develop severe symptoms from the new coronavirus.

Most children do not develop severe symptoms from the new coronavirus.Credit:Edwina Pickles

The researchers started with archived samples of cells from the nasal lining, or epithelium, of people ages 4 to 60. Then they measured the activity of a gene that directs production of ACE2, a protein that helps coronavirus enter the body.

It turned out that ACE2 gene “expression” – the DNA instructions that are converted into a functional molecule – was lower in young children, and that expression increased with age.

“Few studies have examined the relationship between ACE2 in the airway and age,” the team wrote in a letter published in JAMA Network. “The results from this study show age-dependent expression of ACE2 in nasal epithelium, the first point of contact for (the coronavirus) and the human body. “

The implications of that are intriguing, but not yet clear, said Ishminder Kaur, an epidemiologist and infectious-disease specialist at St Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. The reduced ACE2 gene expression in children suggests, but doesn’t prove, that children create less of the protein that the virus uses as its gateway, or receptor.

“It’s a signal, but does that translate to lower protein production, or less receptor activity?” Kaur asked. “Like any good study, it generates its own set of questions.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer

An international hydroxychloroquine trial led by the University of Oxford has been paused, Britain’s pharmaceutical regulator said on Wednesday, less than a week after the trial started, amid fresh safety concerns over the drug.

The French government on Wednesday cancelled a decree allowing hospital doctors to administer hydroxychloroquine as a treatment to patients suffering severe forms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

On Monday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) paused a large trial of the malaria drug on COVID-19 patients due to safety concerns. British medical journal The Lancet has reported that patients getting hydroxychloroquine had increased death rates.

“The COPCOV trial, led by the University of Oxford and Wellcome-supported MORU in Bangkok, has been paused,” the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said in a statement about the trial, which started last Thursday.

“All hydroxychloroquine trials in COVID-19 remain under close review,” it added.

US President Donald Trump and others have pushed hydroxychloroquine in recent months as a possible coronavirus treatment.

Reuters

The placentas of 16 pregnant women found to have COVID-19 during routine testing at a Chicago hospital all showed evidence of injury, indicating that women infected with coronavirus may need close monitoring during pregnancy, researchers said.

Fifteen of the women delivered healthy babies, while one miscarried. None of the live babies tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology, found that 12 of the women, or 80 per cent, had a type of injury that can impair blood flow from the mother to the fetus called vascular malperfusion. Six of them, or 40 per cent, had blood clots in the placenta. An historical comparison group showed vascular malperfusion in 55 per cent of patients and placental blood clots in 9 per cent of cases.

The research involved women who gave birth at Northwestern Medicine Prentice Women’s Hospital between March 18 and May 5.

“These findings support that there might be something clot-forming about coronavirus, and it’s happening in the placenta,” Dr. Jeffery Goldstein, a Northwestern pathologist and study author, said. He said issues with placental blood flow could lead to fetal growth restriction, low levels of amniotic fluid or even fetal demise.

There have been reports of blood clots in adult COVID-19 patients that caused strokes.

In this study, however, none of the 15 live babies appear to have any health problems.

Reuters

Flights between Sydney and Melbourne are much cheaper during the July school holidays than they have been in April and May as travel restrictions ease and airlines try to lure passengers back on board.

With all state borders closed except the one between NSW and Victoria, travel between the two states looks set to be the only option for residents seeking domestic travel during the mid-year school break.

Qantas flights between Sydney and Melbourne in July start at $160 and Jetstar at $79.

Qantas flights between Sydney and Melbourne in July start at $160 and Jetstar at $79.Credit:Louis Douvis

Although tickets on the route are reaching $1000 in the next fortnight, come July Virgin is selling one-way tickets between Sydney and Melbourne from $149 while Qantas flights start at $160 and Jetstar at $79.

We asked how keen our readers were to get on a flight, with cheap deals in place between Melbourne and Sydney in July.

The answer is: not very. Just 41 per cent of you said you would be comfortable flying this winter break.

Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic for Thursday, May 28, 2020.

The global death toll from coronavirus has passed 352,000 and there are more than 5.6 million known cases of infection, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally. More than 2.3 million people have recovered from the illness, the tally shows.

Here’s a recap of some of the major developments from Wednesday:

  • Australia’s death toll reached 103 after a 30-year-old Queensland man, Nathan Turner, tested positive for COVID-19 after his death
  • A travel industry group working to establish a ‘Trans-Tasman bubble’ says it will present a plan to both governments early next month, and flights could resume as early as September
  • The $3 billion laboratory testing firm ALS sees a “likely prolonged” impact from COVID-19 globally, and has stepped up work on surface testing products, which it sees in high demand as companies adjust to the new normal of the pandemic
  • The Berejiklian government’s proposal to save $3 billion by freezing public sector wages hinges on support in the NSW upper house, as the Treasurer prepares to make last-ditch appeals for support from key crossbenchers
  • NRL fans will be able to order $22 cardboard cut-outs of themselves to be set up permanently in crowd-less stadiums as the code pulls out all the stops to generate an atmosphere for the season reboot

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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