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Britons told not to expect big changes in lockdown as death toll passes 31,000

By
Darryl Coote & Don Jacobson
Britons applaud during the Clap For Our Carers campaign in support of the National Health Service outside the Chelsea and Westminster hospital in London on Thursday. Photo by Will Oliver/EPA-EFE
Britons applaud during the "Clap For Our Carers" campaign in support of the National Health Service outside the Chelsea and Westminster hospital in London on Thursday. Photo by Will Oliver/EPA-EFE

May 8 (UPI) -- There are no major changes coming to Britain's current coronavirus lockdown orders anytime soon, a government official said Friday as health officials reported 626 more deaths from COVID-19.

British Environment Secretary George Eustice, delivering the government's daily coronavirus pandemic update, dampened speculation that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce an easing of restrictions in an address scheduled for Sunday.

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"There isn't going to be any dramatic overnight change," Eustice said. "We will be very, very cautious as we loosen the restrictions we have. As the data that we're outlining on a daily basis shows, we are not out of the woods, there are still major challenges with this virus for sometime to come."

The country's overall toll rose to 31,241 with the new deaths -- the most of any European nation during the health crisis.

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Worldwide, there have been almost 4 million coronavirus cases and 270,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In Spain, the national government on Friday rejected a request by the Madrid region to advance to the next phase of a coronavirus reopening plan.

Local officials in the epicenter of Spain's pandemic argued Madrid should be among areas of the country allowed to move on to a new phase of the lockdown starting next week in which restrictions on social mobility will be eased.

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The request was made over strong objections from health officials in the Spanish capital.

National health officials rejected Madrid's petition, opting to wait until the region's testing capabilities are "more robust."

At the United Nations, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on world leaders, news media and the public Friday to put forth efforts to end hate speech worldwide.

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Guterres tweeted that the pandemic has caused a "tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scaremongering" and urged an "all-out effort to end hate speech globally."

Political leaders should work to create social cohesion, news media should do more to flag and remove hateful content and civil society should strengthen outreach to vulnerable people, he said in a video message.

"I ask everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity and take every opportunity to spread kindness," he said. "As we combat the pandemic, we have a duty to protect people, end stigma and prevent violence."

In Russia, clusters of the virus continued to grow at a quick pace Friday with 10,700 new cases. The tally moved Russia ahead of France as the fifth-highest number of cases worldwide.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said Thursday the city lockdown will be extended to May 31 and industry and construction work may resume Tuesday, when public transit passengers will be required to wear face coverings and gloves.

In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison detailed a three-step plan Friday to achieve "a COVID-safe economy and society" by the end of July.

The nation has been experiencing a drop in cases since a peak of hundreds per day in March and has been recording about 20 cases or fewer a day since mid-April.

Australian states have eased restrictions and Morrison said last week national measures could soon be relaxed. Six of the nation's eight states have had multiple days recording no new cases.

Morrison said Friday the next step is to restart the economy at a gradual pace.

"In this plan, we walk before we run," he said at a news conference. "We know we need to be careful to preserve our gains, but we also know that if we wish to reclaim the ground we have lost, we cannot be too timid."

World moves to reopen amid COVID-19 pandemic

Visitors wear face masks as they tour the Whitney Museum of American Art as it reopens on September 3. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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