Coronavirus updates, May 23: Latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic from Pakistan and around the world

Nationwide death toll jumps past 1,100, confirmed cases breach 54,000; global coronavirus deaths near 340,000

Web Desk

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pakistan rose to 54,440 on Saturday after new infections were confirmed in the country.

The province-wise break up of the total number of cases as of 12:07am, May 24, is as follows:

Total confirmed cases: 54,440

• Sindh: 21,645

• Punjab: 19,557

• Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 7,685

• Balochistan: 3,306

• Islamabad Capital Territory: 1,457

• Gilgit-Baltistan: 619

• AJK: 171

Deaths: 1,131

• Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 389

• Sindh: 354

• Punjab: 332

• Balochistan: 39

• Gilgit-Baltistan: 4

• Islamabad Capital Territory: 12

• AJK: 1

Officials have recorded more than 5.1 million cases and more than 339,000 deaths since the virus emerged in China in December.

Read on for the latest updates from Pakistan and around the world.

Disclaimer: There may be some discrepancy in the number of confirmed cases reported at the country level due to differences in figures quoted by federal and provincial authorities.

Geo News is constantly gathering fresh information from concerned authorities and striving to keep our readers up to date with the most accurate information available.

Orange: General updates coming in from Pakistan

Red: Reports on new cases in Pakistan

Maroon: Reports on new deaths in Pakistan

Green: Reports on recovered patients in Pakistan


Live updates for May 24 to continue here.

12:07am (May 24) — Gilgit, Gilgit-Baltistan — Region reports 12 more cases

The Gilgit-Baltistan health department has reported 12 more cases in the region, taking the total to 619.

Three more people also recovered, taking the total recoveries to 430.

11:57pm — Quetta, Pakistan — 108 new cases diagnosed in Balochistan

The Balochistan health department has said that 108 new cases were diagnosed in the province in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of cases to 3,306.

The number of recoveries also rose by 98 to 860.

11:28pm — Lahore, Pakistan — Punjab reports eight more deaths, 827 more cases

The Punjab disaster management authority has reported eight more deaths in the province, which has taken the grim total to 332.

A rise in the number of cases, by 827 was also reported, taking the tally of infected to 19,557.

10:00pm – Islamabad, Pakistan - Pak Met Office study links decline in COVID-19 transmission rate to rise in temperature

A study conducted by the Pakistan Meteorological Department has found a link between the virus spread rate and temperature and humidity, according to a Radio Pakistan report.

The PMD apprised the National Command and Operation Centre today that its study has found a decline in COVID-19 transmission rate related to the rise in temperature and humidity.

The PMD official briefed the meeting headed by Minister for Planning Asad Umar through a video link that a deep study show the coronavirus spread mostly occurred in the mid-latitude which had cold and dry weather.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf said that there is 90% local transmission of COVID-19 at the moment and only 10% were foreign induced.

The forum agreed for a strict and proper screening of the passengers arriving at the airports.

09:40pm — Humans likely to develop immunity after contracting COVID-19 once

08:25pm – London, UK - One-hour COVID-19 test being trialed at hospitals around London

A COVID-19 test that gives results in just over an hour and which requires no laboratory, potentially allowing for swifter testing of much larger numbers of people, is being rolled out at a number of London hospitals after getting regulatory clearance.

Faster testing could allow more people to go back to work or permit testing on a more regular basis and could help Prime Minister Boris Johnson achieve his target of 200,000 tests a day, an important element in successfully ending the lockdown.

The new test, based on the design of a DNA test developed by a professor at Imperial College London, received approval for clinical use by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) at the end of April after successful trials.

With a sensitivity of over 98% and specificity of 100%, the DnaNudge test is being rolled out in cancer wards, accident and emergency, and maternity departments, as a prelude to possible wider application.

07:22pm — Gaza, Palestine — Gaza reports first death from virus

07:15pm — Madrid, Spain — La Liga can resume week of June 8: Spanish PM

07:11pm — Lisbon, Portugal — Portuguese soak up the sun on first state-sanctioned beach weekend

Surfboards, beach buckets and picnic baskets in tow, Portuguese flocked to the ocean in droves for their first state-sanctioned beach weekend of the year.

“It’s so great to see the sea and get some sun after two months,” said Catarina, who arrived to Carcavelos Beach, half an hour from Lisbon, at 9am with her husband and daughter.

But despite her relief, Catarina wasn’t sure this newfound freedom could last long.

“Most are behaving ... but there are a lot of groups, and that’s what causes contagion, isn’t it? I don’t know, by next month I think we’ll all be back in our homes,” she said.

The nation of 10 million people has reported just 30,471 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and 1,302 deaths, a small fraction of neighboring Spain’s 28,628 fatalities.

Restrictions imposed during a six-week state of emergency starting March 18 are being lifted in 15-day intervals, as long as the number of cases keeps falling.

06:07pm — Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — Second virus cluster breaks out at migrant detention centres

A new cluster of coronavirus infections has broken out in Malaysia at a detention centre for undocumented migrants, authorities say.

Malaysia has this month arrested more than 2,000 foreigners for not having permits that allow them to be in the country following raids in areas under lockdown. The centres they are detained in are often crowded, with dozens of migrants packed in a single cell.

The United Nations and rights groups have called on Malaysia to stop the crackdown and criticised authorities for going after a vulnerable community during the pandemic.

The Southeast Asian country has so far reported 7,185 virus infections and 115 deaths.

The health ministry said on Saturday that 21 cases were identified at the Semenyih detention center near the capital Kuala Lumpur, which houses around 1,600 detainees.

It is the second detention centre at which a cluster of virus infections has broken out. Around 60 cases were reported among the 1,400 detainees at the Bukit Jalil center earlier this week.

05:56pm — Madrid, Spain — Far-right protests erupt against coronavirus lockdowns

Thousands of cars and motor-bikes honking horns and waving Spanish flags drove in procession through Madrid as part of a nationwide protest called by the far-right Vox party against the country’s coronavirus lockdown.

Spain, which imposed one of Europe’s toughest lockdowns on March 14, has started to ease restrictions, but Madrid and Barcelona have remained in lockdown for longer because of more severe coronavirus outbreaks.

The protesters called for Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias, of the center-left Socialists and left-wing Podemos coalition, to resign over their handling of the coronavirus crisis, and, in particular, the lockdowns and the damage done to the economy and jobs.

Demonstrators carry Spanish flags during a drive-in protest organised by Spain's far-right party Vox against the government's handling of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Madrid, Spain, May 23. — REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Vox leader Santiago Abascal, who was leading the procession in Madrid, made a speech that was broadcast on EsRadio so people could listen in their cars. He said the government was “directly responsible for the worst management of this crisis on the entire planet.”

Madrid and Barcelona are preparing to ease their lockdowns from Monday as infections have slowed. This will allow outdoor dining and gatherings of up to 10 people.

Spain has registered 28,628 deaths from COVID-19 and 234,824 cases.

05:48pm — Quetta, Pakistan — Balochistan govt urges simplicity, warns against unnecessary travel on Eid

05:11pm — Peshawar, Pakistan — KP reports eight more deaths, 294 new cases

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department has reported eight more deaths in the province, which takes the grim total to 389 — the highest in any province.

A rise in the number of cases by 294 was also reported, taking the total to 7,685.

On a positive note, 99 more patients recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 2,396.

04:56pm — Lahore, Pakistan — Punjab govt reminds people 'this Eid is different'

Punjab's disaster management authority has released an awareness notice, urging people to remember to be "cautious" this Eid.

"If you have to go out shopping, then wear a mask, maintain 6 feet distance with others, do not shake hands, don't touch your face and shower, change clothes when you get home," says the message.

Florida shop makes face masks from pythons skin

3:50pm —  London, UK — UK opposition calls on PM to sack top adviser over 400 km lockdown drive

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted calls on Saturday from opposition parties to sack adviser Dominic Cummings after he travelled 400 km while his wife showed COVID-19 symptoms to ensure their son could be looked after by his parents.

"His actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines," a Downing Street spokesman said. "Mr Cummings believes he behaved reasonably and legally."

But opposition parties called for Johnson to sack Cummings.

Dominic Cummings, special advisor for Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Reuters

"Dominic Cummings should have done the right thing, he should have resigned but now that he hasn't, Boris Johnson must show leadership and he must remove him from office immediately," the Scottish National Party's parliamentary leader, Ian Blackford, said.

The Labour Party said there should not be one rule for politicians and another rule for the British people. The Liberal Democrats said that if Cummings broke the guidelines, he should resign.

In pictures: Businesses around the world reopen with social distancing measures in place

3:35pm — Multan, Pakistan — Punjab Energy Minister Dr Akhtar Malik tests positive for virus

Punjab Energy Minister Dr Muhammad Akhtar Malik has tested positive for the virus, his secretary said on Saturday.

According to the secretary, the minister underwent a test after complaining of a fever. “The minister is self-isolating at home,” the secretary said.

He added that the minister had met Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and other members of the cabinet a day earlier.

US rental-car company Hertz becomes latest casualty of pandemic, files for bankruptcy

Car rental firm Hertz Global Holdings filed for bankruptcy protection after its business all but vanished during the coronavirus pandemic and talks with creditors failed to result in needed relief.

The firm is reeling from government orders restricting travel and requiring citizens to remain home. A large portion of Hertz's revenue comes from car rentals at airports, which have all but evaporated as potential customers eschew plane travel.

With nearly $19 billion of debt and roughly 38,000 employees worldwide as of the end of 2019, Hertz is among the largest companies to be undone by the pandemic.

3:20pm — Beijing, China — China's top disease control official accepts criticism of virus response

China's top disease control official has said that public criticism over the initial coronavirus outbreak was understandable, but defended Beijing's response to the crisis.

"With such a large epidemic in China and the world, it is very normal to receive criticism from the public," Gao Fu, director of China's disease control and prevention centre told reporters.

"We accept them with humility," Gao said.

With such a large epidemic in China and the world, it is very normal to receive criticism from the public, Gao Fu, director of China's disease control and prevention centre told reported. Photo: Reuters

Gao said China's disease control centre should improve its epidemic reporting mechanism and address the severe talent drain in the wake of the virus outbreak.

But despite some of the weaknesses that were exposed in his agency during the epidemic, which first emerged in China late last year, Gao said the nation's response was "good" compared with other countries as it had to handle a "closed-book exam."

Anti-viral drug 'remdesivir' effective against coronavirus, study finds

Anti-viral drug remdesivir cuts recovery times in coronavirus patients, according to the full results of a trial published Friday night, three weeks after America's top infectious diseases expert said the study showed the medication has "clear-cut" benefits.

Complete results from the research, which was carried out by US government agency the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), were published by leading medical periodical the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study found that remdesivir, injected intravenously daily for 10 days, accelerated the recovery of hospitalized COVID-19 patients compared to a placebo in clinical tests on just over a thousand patients across 10 countries.

2:45pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Death toll from virus rises to 1,115

The death toll from the novel coronavirus rose to 1,115 on Saturday after Sindh reported new deaths.

Fourteen new deaths were reported in the province in the last 24 hours to take the provincial tally to 354.

2:45pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Sindh reports 762 new cases

Confirmed cases in the county jumped past 53,000 on Saturday after new cases were detected in Sindh.

According to Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, 762 new cases were reported in the province in the last 24 hours to take the provincial tally to 21, 645.

“Till now we have conducted 123,902 tests in the province,” Shah said, adding of the 762 cases reported, 618 were recorded in Karachi.

He added there were 14,078 patients under treatment in the province at the moment with 155 patients in a critical condition of which 34 were on a ventilator.

"Of the patients under treatment, 12,424 are at home isolating, 794 are at isolation centers while 860 are are in the hospitals," Shah said. 

The chief minister added so far 7,213 people had recovered from the virus in Sindh.

2:30pm — London, UK — UK to require employers to pay 20-30% of furloughed wage cost: The Times

The United Kingdom has drawn up plans to require employers to cover 20% to 30% of furloughed employees' wages from August to reduce the vast burden of the coronavirus crisis on government finances, The Times newspaper reported.

"The Treasury has drawn up plans that would require employers to cover between 20 and 30% of people’s wages," The Times said. "They would also be required to cover the cost of employer’s national insurance contributions, on average five per cent of wages."

WATCH: Afghan cyclist pedals across rural areas to raise coronavirus awareness

2:10pm — Islamabad, Pakistan — 112 stranded Pakistanis in Afghanistan returned via Torkham border

One-hundred and twelve Pakistanis stranded in Afghanistan returned home via Torkham border on Saturday, reported Radio Pakistan.

The returning citizens would all be sent to quarantine centres in Landi Kotal where they will be tested for coronavirus, the additional assistant commissioner said.

He added another batch of 400 Pakistanis will return to the country by end of the day.

WHO declares South America as new coronavirus epicenter

The World Health Organisation on Friday declared South America "a new epicentre" of the coronavirus pandemic as the number of cases continue to rise in Brazil.

Brazil this week become the latest flashpoint as its death toll surged past 20,000 — and with 310,000 cases the Latin American giant is now the third most affected country behind the United States and Russia.

"In a sense, South America has become a new epicenter for the disease," said WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan.

"Clearly there is a concern across many of those countries, but clearly the most affected is Brazil at this point," he said.

Read more here.

1:30pm — Sargodha, Pakistan — 13 police official test positive for virus

Thirteen police officials have tested positive for the virus in Sargodha, DC Abdullah Nayyar Shaikh said on Saturday.

“DPO Faisal Gulzar’s driver and telephone operator have also tested positive for the virus,” he said.

DPO Gulzar has gone into quarantine at his home for 14 days,” he added.

1:20pm — Moscow, Russia — Russia reports 9,434 new coronavirus infections

Russia said on Saturday that 9,434 new cases of the novel coronavirus had been reported in the last 24 hours, pushing its nationwide tally to 335,882.

The country's coronavirus crisis response centre reported 139 new fatalities after a record of 150 deaths the day before, bringing the death toll to 3,388.

Even small group activities can lead to the spread of virus: WHO

Last day to submit applications on Ehsaas Labour Portal is Monday: Sania Nishtar

Special Assistant to PM on Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar has said that Monday is the last day to submit applications on Ehsaas Labour Portal.

The Ehsaas Labour portal was launched by Prime Minister Imran Khan to provide financial assistance of Rs12,000 to those rendered jobless by the lockdown. The funds for this purpose will be provided from PM's COVID-19 Relief Fund.

1:00pm — Tehran, Iran — Iran to reopen religious, cultural sites: President Rouhani

Iran on Saturday moved to open businesses, religious and cultural sites as it eases restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Museums and historical sites are to reopen on Sunday to coincide with Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations, President Hassan Rouhani said.

Holy shrines — some of which became focal points of the coronavirus epidemic in Iran — will reopen Monday.

An Iranian woman wears a protective face mask and gloves, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as she shops in Tehran, Iran. Photo: Reuters

"We can say we have passed the three stages regarding the coronavirus," Rouhani said.

The president said last week that restaurants would reopen after Ramadan and sports activities would resume without spectators. Universities, but not medical schools, will reopen on June 6.

According to health ministry figures, more than than 7,000 have so far died from the pandemic in Iran and more than 130,000 have been infected.

12:40pm — Singapore, Singapore — Health ministry confirms 642 more coronavirus cases

Singapore's health ministry said on Saturday it had confirmed 642 more coronavirus cases, taking its tally of infections to 31,068.

The vast majority of the newly infected people are migrant workers living in dormitories, the ministry said in a statement. Six are permanent residents.

World Bank approves $500mn loan for Pakistan in fight against COVID-19

The World Bank has approved a $500mn loan programme for Pakistan to provide better opportunities for women, strengthen its social safety nets and improve access to quality healthcare and education, as the country continues to bear the brunt of the coronavirus.

“The global COVID-19 pandemic is impacting day-to-day life in Pakistan – not solely from economic disruptions but also an additional stress on public services that jeopardise human capital accumulation,” said World Bank Country Director for Pakistan Illango Patchamuthu.

“This programme underscores the criticality of universal healthcare and social protection services that are durable to exogenous shocks such as Pakistan is facing now,” he added.

Read more here.

Five worst-hit countries by COVID-19

Nearly 13% of museums around the world may never reopen

11:20am — Paris, France — France allows faith gatherings, but worshippers must wear masks

France is to allow the resumption of religious gatherings after a two-month hiatus caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, but worshippers will have to wear face masks, the French interior ministry announced.

The ministry said late on Friday that it would issue a decree setting out the new rules for religious gatherings.

Under the decree, a ban on gatherings imposed in March, as part of government efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus, would be rescinded. But collective worship would have to observe conditions, including the wearing of masks, a distance of at least one metre between worshippers and hand-washing, the ministry said in a statement.

A distance of at least one metre has to be maintained between worshippers. Photo: AFP

The ministry statement said it expected worship to resume from the start of June, but that in some cases faith groups could worship together once the new rules were published, which it said would be "in the coming hours."

Muslims — who make up around 9% of France's population, according to a 2017 report by the Pew Research Center — are this weekend celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr, the festival marking the end of Ramadan.

Leaders of Mumbai’s Muslim community urge members to forgo Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations

Leaders of the Muslim community in the Indian city of Mumbai have urged its members to forgo Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations and instead support those affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Mumbai is the worst-hit part of the country, recording 20% of India’s nearly 120,000 infection cases and almost a quarter of its 3,600 deaths related to COVID-19.

“We want to urge Muslims to think about the poor and needy by providing rations or even giving cooked food to those struggling in their neighbourhoods. Help should be rendered not only to Muslims but to anyone who needs it,” Maulana Mahmood Daryabadi, secretary-general of the All India Ulema Council, told Arab News.

10:40am — Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — Brazil jumps to world No 2 in coronavirus cases, behind the US

Brazil became the world No 2 hotspot for coronavirus cases, second only to the United States after it confirmed that 330,890 people had been infected by the virus, overtaking Russia, the Health Ministry said.

Brazil registered 1,001 daily coronavirus deaths on Friday, taking total deaths to 21,048, according to the Health Ministry.

The outbreak is accelerating. On Monday, Brazil overtook Britain to become the country with the third-highest number of infections. It surpassed Russia on Friday but is unlikely to pass the United States soon. The world's No 1 economy has more than 1.5 million cases.

WATCH: No paper menus at this Italian eatery. Scan a QR code instead

10:20am — Berlin, Germany — Confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 638 to 177,850

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 638 to 177,850, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday.

The reported death toll rose by 42 to 8,216, the tally showed.

9:50am — Islamabad, Pakistan — Death toll from virus jumps to 1,101

Death toll from the novel coronavirus jumped to 1,101 in the country after new deaths were reported in Punjab.

According to the national dashboard, 14 new deaths were reported in Punjab, taking the provincial tally to 324.

9:40am — Islamabad, Pakistan — Confirmed cases in Pakistan soar to 52,000

The nationwide tally of confirmed coronavirus rose to 52,437 after 1,743 new cases were reported in the country in the last 24 hours.

According to the national dashboard, 275 new cases were reported in Punjab, 131 new cases in Islamabad Capital Territory and 13 new cases in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Sindh leads the tally with the highest number of reported cases in the province, 20,883 followed by Punjab which has reported 18,730 cases so far. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has reported 7,391, Balochistan 3,198, Islamabad, 1,457, Gilgit Baltistan 607 and AJK has reported 171 cases of the virus.

US COVID-19 death toll rises to 95,921

Death toll from the novel coronavirus rose to 95,921 in the US on Saturday after a further 1,260 deaths from COVID-19 were recorded. 

The US has reported more than 1.6 million cases of the virus, far more than any other nation, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

8:40am — Shanghai, China — No new coronavirus cases for first time since pandemic began

China recorded no new confirmed COVID-19 cases on the mainland for May 22, the first time it had seen no daily rise in the number of cases since the pandemic began in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

The National Health Commission (NHC) said in a statement on Saturday that this compared to four new cases on the previous day. It said, however, there were two new suspected cases: an imported one in Shanghai and locally transmitted case in the northeastern province of Jilin.

China has seen a sharp fall in locally transmitted cases since March as major restrictions on people movement helped it to take control of the epidemic in many parts of the country.

The number of confirmed cases in the mainland stood at 82,971 and the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634

8:30am — Mexico City, Mexico — Mexico reports another single-day record for coronavirus deaths

Mexico on Friday registered a record for coronavirus deaths on a single day, posting 479 more deaths along with 2,960 new infections, according to data from the health ministry.

Authorities have now reported 62,527 total cases of the coronavirus and 6,989 deaths since detecting the first cases in Mexico in late February.

The previous peak in fatalities was May 20, when authorities reported 424 deaths

8:20am — Buenos Aires, Argentina — Argentina hits 10,000 cases, outpaced by LatAm neighbours

Argentina surpassed 10,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Friday, after recording the highest single-day increase since the start of the pandemic.

There are 10,649 cases, up by 718 from a day earlier, mostly in capital Buenos Aires, government data showed. The death toll is at 433.

Argentina has been under a mandatory lockdown in most parts of the country since March 20 and has one of the strictest travel bans in the world, blocking the sale and purchase of flights until September.

9:12pm/May 22 — New York, US —Two regions close to New York City almost ready to reopen: governor

The two regions closest to New York City could start the process of reopening their economies next week if deaths from the novel coronavirus continue to decline and a tracing program is up and running, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Cuomo told a daily briefing the Long Island region, which includes Nassau and Suffolk counties, and the Mid-Hudson region, which includes Dutchess, Orange and Westchester counties, were close to reopening.

9:05pm/May 22 — London, UK — George Soros says EU may not survive coronavirus crisis

Billionaire financier George Soros said the European Union could break apart in the wake of the new coronavirus pandemic unless the block issued perpetual bonds to help weak members such as Italy.

Soros, 89, said the damage to the euro zone economy from the new coronavirus would last “longer than most people think”, adding that the rapid evolution of the virus meant that a reliable vaccine would be hard to develop.

The hedge-fund veteran and chairman of Soros Fund Management LLC said perpetual bonds, used by the British to finance wars against Napoleon, would allow the European Union - itself created out of the ashes of World War Two - to survive.

“If the EU is unable to consider it now, it may not be able to survive the challenges it currently confronts,” Soros said in a transcript of a question-and-answer session emailed to reporters. “This is not a theoretical possibility; it may be the tragic reality.”