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    Nations Restart Economies as Search for COVID-19 Vaccine Continues (138)
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    The United States is leading the global coronavirus tally, with more than 3 million confirmed cases and over 132,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University count.

    The worldwide number of COVID-19 cases topped 12 million on Thursday, with over 540,000 fatalities reported.

    Brazil comes second, with over 1.7 million infections and almost 68,000 deaths. On Tuesday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

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    • 03:22

      Germany's Coronavirus Cases Grow by 442 to 197,783, Deaths Rise by 12 to 9,048 - Robert Koch Institute

      MOSCOW(Sputnik) – Germany has confirmed 442 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, with the total count reaching 197,783, the Robert Koch Institute said on Thursday.

      The death toll has grown by 12 to 9,048 people within the same period of time. Some 183,600 people have recovered since the start of the outbreak.

      A day earlier, the country confirmed 397 new cases and 12 fatalities.

    • 02:27

      China Reports 9 New Cases of Coronavirus in Past 24 Hours

    • 00:54

      Global Number of Coronavirus Cases Tops 12 Mln - Johns Hopkins University

      The exact number of the coronavirus cases stood at 12,007,327 as of 01:00 GMT on Thursday. More than 548,000 people have died of the disease, the university added.

    • 00:14

      US Registers New Single-Day Record of Over 57,000 Coronavirus Cases - Reuters Tally

    • 00:06

      Mexico's COVID-19 Tally Rises to 275,003, Deaths Rise to 32,796 - Health Ministry

      MEXICO CITY (Sputnik) – The number of people, who have died of COVID-19 in Mexico, has risen by 782 to 32,796 within the past 24 hours, Jose Luis Alomia, the director of epidemiology at the Health Ministry, said.

      He also said on late Wednesday that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases had increased by 6,995 to 275,003 within the same period of time.

      A day earlier, the Latin American nation recorded 6,258 new cases of the coronavirus, with 895 fatalities.

    • 22:55

      Nigeria's COVID-19 Cases Exceed 30,000 - Centre for Disease Control

    • 22:51

      Brazil's Coronavirus Cases Surpass 1.7 Mln, Deaths Exceed 67,900 - Health Ministry

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus disease in Brazil has increased by 44,571 over the past day - nearly as many as the day before (45,305) - to 1,713,160, the country's Health Ministry said.

      The death toll has gone up 1,223 (also nearly the same as yesterday - 1,254) to 67,964, the ministry said.

      A total of 1,020,901 people have recovered from the disease, according to the ministry.

      In line with Johns Hopkins University's data, the number of recoveries in Brazil stands at 1,117,029.

      Brazil is currently in second place globally in terms of the number of coronavirus cases and death toll.

    • 20:22

      Moscow's COVID-19 Death Toll Grows by 32 to 4,059 - Response Centre

      "As many as 32 patients died in Moscow, all of them had confirmed pneumonia and all of them had tested positive for the coronavirus infection", the city's response centre said on Wednesday.

      On Tuesday, the response centre reported 28 deaths.

    • 19:49

      WHO Reports Nearly 169,000 New COVID-19 Cases Globally as Total Surpasses 11.6Mln

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The global cumulative toll of confirmed coronavirus cases has surpassed 11.6 million, with 168,957 cases recorded over the past day, the World Health Organisation said in its daily situation report on Wednesday.

      Over the past 24 hours, 4,147 people died from COVID-19 worldwide, taking the death toll to 539,906 fatalities, according to the report.

      The cumulative global toll of confirmed cases has now reached 11,669,259, as stated in the report.

      Most cases and deaths — 6 million and nearly 269,000, respectively — remain concentrated in the Americas. The United States continues being the country with the highest single count of cases and fatalities — 2.9 million and nearly 130,000, respectively.

    • 19:42

      UK Records 126 New COVID-19 Deaths, Total Toll Rises to 44,517 - Health Ministry

      LONDON (Sputnik) - The death toll from the coronavirus in the United Kingdom has risen by 126 over the past 24 hours, down from 155 the day before, to 44,517, the UK Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

      According to the ministry, the number of those infected has increased by 630 over the past day, up from 581 the day before, to 286,979 since the start of the outbreak.

      Since the beginning of the outbreak, as many as 11,041,203 tests have been conducted in the UK with 240,340 of them being run over the past 24 hours. Of these, 8,378,199 tests were processed in total, the ministry added.

    • 16:46

      Will Russia's Anti COVID-19 Drug Avifavir Get Green Light For At-Home Use?

      An employee demonstrates packages with new antiviral drug Avifavir, produced by manufacturer ChemRar and approved by Russian authorities to treat patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a storage in Moscow, Russia, in this handout photo released June 10, 2020

      RDIF Asks Russian Health Ministry to Allow Outpatient Use of Avifavir Drug Against COVID-19

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) has asked the Ministry of Health to allow outpatient administration of the Avifavir medication, developed by RDIF and ChemRar pharmaceutical company, to coronavirus patients who undergo treatment at home, RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev said on Wednesday.
      Read more
    • 16:31

      NHS Pressure Group Calls Johnson's Care Home Remarks Blame Game Over Pandemic Failures

      LONDON (Sputnik) - UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's claim that care home workers had not followed the correct procedures on tackling the sizable coronavirus outbreak in the facilities is nothing but an attempt to deflect blame from the government, which itself initially left the largely private care sector with minimal advice and failed to foresee the risks of virus transmission, despite a 2016 pandemic report's warnings, Dr John Puntis, co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public (KONP), told Sputnik.

      Following the emergence of coronavirus in the UK, around 25,000 patients are believed to have been discharged from NHS hospitals into the largely private care sector prior to the government implementing proper testing schemes. The move was meant to free up much-needed bed space on NHS wards, but nearly 20,000 care patients have subsequently died from COVID-19. On Monday, Johnson said that "too many care homes didn't really follow the procedures in the way that they could have."

      "There's no doubt that they [the government] are gearing up to pass the blame on to others. We are seeing this repeatedly now. They're saying public health reacted slowly, civil servants didn't have a grip on the crisis and the problems with PPE were due to world-wide demand whereas the national audit office, I think, said actually it's because they didn't stockpile it," Puntis said.

      The cabinet, he went on, "tried shifting focus onto scientists to say their advice was wrong and also referred to previous governments not having reacted to previous research."

      "So there's a huge lot of blame shifting going on," the doctor added.

      Johnson notably told the parliament on Wednesday that he accepts "full responsibility" for the government's response to the coronavirus outbreak, an event that has led to over 44,500 deaths and controversy over the adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE). Although the prime minister was insistent that he was not seeking to blame care home workers themselves, he did omit an apology for his controversial remarks.

      According to Puntis, the cabinet itself left the care sector without proper advice on how to proceed, something that had led to obvious problems when patients were transferred out of hospitals into local care homes.

      "They'd been abandoned in many respects in terms of advice, PPE and testing ... something like 25 thousand people have been sent out of hospital into cares homes without being tested and the official government advice early on was that it would be very unlikely there would be an issue with Covid infections in care homes," the KONP co-chair said.

      Puntis argued that the apparent vulnerability of the care sector in the event of a pandemic was already known to the authorities, given previous anti-pandemic exercises such as 2016's Exercise Cygnus had uncovered them.

      The conclusive report had then apparently put forward a number of proposals specific to the care sector in the event of an influenza outbreak, recommending that both bed capacity and staffing levels be increased. The Cygnus conclusions are also believed to have stated issues would necessarily arise in the event of hospital patients being admitted into care homes, a point critics have repeatedly claimed the government failed to address.

      "The pandemic exercise in 2016 identified a potential problem with care homes and with also workers moving from one home to another and transmitting the infection. So the problem with care homes being effected in a pandemic was flagged up along with many other things. But nothing was really done about that," Puntis asserted.

      The doctor noted that it is "extremely sad" that about 20,000 coronavirus-related deaths out of a total of over 44,000 had been in care homes.

      "If you contrast that with Germany the proportion of patients dying in our care homes is 13 times higher than Germany. So there are places that have looked after care homes in a different way," Puntis said.

      As for the claims of Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock that the cabinet had "thrown a protective ring around care homes" since the onset of the pandemic, they are "about as far opposite of the truth as you could get," according to the doctor.

    • 16:25

      US, EU Make Progress in Talks on Restarting Travel, Pompeo Says

      WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The United States and the European Union are making headway in negotiations about resuming travel, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Wednesday.

      The European Union has placed the United States on a blacklist of 14 countries whose residents are prohibited to travel to the bloc starting July 1 due to the high number of novel coronavirus infections.

      "With respect to the conversations with the European Union [about ending travel restrictions], we have made some progress," Pompeo said.

      The Secretary of State said the two sides are focused on a systematic approach that would allow resuming travel without a repeated pattern of shutdowns and restarts dependent on the course of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

      Pompeo also said that there is interest on both sides of the Atlantic for travel to recommence.

      The United States is designing a set of metrics upon which it will consider ending travel restrictions with individual nations and that each suspension would be reevaluated on a case-by-case basis, Pompeo added.

      As of Wednesday, US health officials have reported more than 2.99 million novel coronavirus cases and an excess of 131,000 virus-related fatalities, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

    • 15:57

      New COVID-19 Wave Could Stall V-Shaped Economic Rebound in US - White House Aide Kudlow

      WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - A new wave of COVID-19 infections could stall the V-shaped US economic recovery the Trump administration is counting on, although data thus far indicates a positive story, White House Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow said on Wednesday.

      "I don't see it yet, but one cannot rule out that," Kudlow told the CNBC network when asked if the COVID-19 would dash hopes for a V-shaped economic recovery. "There's a lot of scenarios here. And we really don't have any real experience of that kind of economic metric modeling for this type of thing, because so much is generated by the virus at the moment."

      The United States has been reporting some 40,000 new cases of coronavirus daily in the so-called "second-wave" of the US COVID-19 outbreak. Top US pandemics expert Anthony Fauci said recently the daily case growth could reach 100,000 without proper social-distancing and other safety measures.

      Data shows that some 3 million Americans have already been infected by the COVID-19, with a death toll exceeding 133,000. A new model by the University of Washington also predicts 200,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by October 1, casting further doubts on economic reopening from lockdowns.

      The US economy shrank 5 percent in the first three months of 2020 for its sharpest decline since the Great Recession of 2008/09, as most of the 50 states in the country went into lockdown to stem the outbreak of the virus. While most businesses have reopened over the past two months, economists still warn of a double-digit recession by the second quarter.

      Kudlow said data he had seen on the economy thus far - including gains on employment, retail sales and the number of applications to buy new homes - were encouraging and did not indicate that the second quarter would be as bad as prophesied by analysts.

      "I don't see any evidence of that from the monthly numbers we are seeing," he said.

      The US labor market added a surprise gain of 7.3 million jobs between May and June, data showed.

      Mortgage applications to purchase a home rose a seasonally adjusted 5 percent for the week ending July 3 compared with the previous week and were 33 percent higher than 2019,

      Retail sales jumped a record 17.7 percent in May, easily topping the record 6.7 percent from October 2001, the month after the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States.

    • 15:55

      Number of Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in US Exceeds Three Million - Johns Hopkins University

      WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States has exceeded three million, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University revealed on Wednesday.

      The data showed that there are now 3,009,611 COVID-19 cases in the United States. The United States is leading the world in the number of reported novel coronavirus cases as well as COVID-19-related deaths. To date, more than 131,521 deaths have been caused by the disease in the country.

    • 14:20

      Russian Health Ministry Approves R-Pharm's Koronavir Medication Against COVID-19

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - COVID-19 medication Koronavir, produced by Russian pharmaceutical company R-Pharm and known under international nonproprietary name Favipiravir, was approved by the Russian Ministry of Health, according to the state register of medical products.

      This is the third Favipiravir-based Russian medication approved b the Health Ministry since the end of May.

      According to the register, the medication can be used in hospitals exclusively. Contraindications include pregnancy and pregnancy planning, breastfeeding, kidney and heart failures, and age under 18.

      R-Pharm is also engaged in creating, jointly with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), a new coronavirus response foundation with investment exceeding 4 billion rubles ($56 million). In particular, R-Pharm and RDIF will focus on creating a vaccine against coronavirus and on expanding production of Olokizumab, a medical drug against coronavirus complications.

    • 14:10

      Austria Not Yet Planning to Open Borders for Non-EU States Due to COVID-19 - Ministry

      Austria is currently not planning to open the borders for non-EU countries despite a recommendation of the Council of the European Union, Austrian Foreign Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said on Wednesday, speaking on the easing of the entry restrictions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

      "We are not planning any measures regarding third countries so far," Schallenberg said at a press conference.

      According to the minister, Austria was originally focused on the intra-European zone and views the list of the EU Council regarding third countries as a recommendation.

      The United States, Brazil and Russia are not on the list.

    • 14:10

      Georgia to Open Borders to Citizens of 5 EU Member States Without Limits

      Georgia is ready to resume direct air traffic and open the borders with Germany, France, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia without limitations amid the coronavirus pandemic, Irakli Chikovani, the prime minister's spokesman, said on Wednesday at a press conference.

      The decision was made after the European Union in late June included Georgia on the list of safe countries and issued a recommendation on the possible reopening of borders to these countries.

      "As of today, of the countries who have opened their borders to Georgia without reservation, Georgia, on the decision of the Interagency Coordination Council, will unconditionally open its borders to the following 5 countries: 1) Germany 2) France 3) Latvia 4) Lithuania 5) Estonia," Chikovani said, as quoted in the government's press release.

      According to the spokesman, citizens of the countries in question will not be required to quarantine upon their arrival in Georgia and can use direct flights to the country for any type of visit. However, they will be obliged to fill out a special e-form, noting their travel history over the past 14 days, as well as the location of their stay in Georgia and contact information. If they have visited countries with an unfavorable epidemiological situation or have a high temperature upon their arrival, they are to be tested for the coronavirus.

      "In addition, negotiations are underway with international airlines to resume air travel and regular flights with the 5 EU member states who have unconditionally reopened their borders to Georgia. In particular, an agreement has been reached with Lufthansa to carry out 2 flights a week to Munich starting in August. We are also negotiating with Air Baltic and Air France," Chikovani said.

    • 14:09

      Tourists From 12 States Required to Provide Negative COVID-19 Tests for Emirates Flights

      Foreign tourists from 12 countries, including Russia, are required to provide a negative test for COVID-19 for traveling to Dubai by Emirates Airlines, the UAE flag carrier said on Wednesday.

      "Starting from 10 July, if you are flying with Emirates from the countries or airports specified below, you must carry a negative COVID-19 test certificate issued by a local government approved laboratory to be accepted on the flight. Where specified, a certificate from a UAE government designated laboratory in the country of origin is also acceptable. Certificates must be issued no more than 96 hours before departure," the company said in a statement.

      Apart from Russia, the list includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sudan, Tanzania, as well as some US states and cities.

      Dubai opened for foreign tourists on Tuesday.

    • 13:40

      Moscow Theaters to Open August 1, But Only 50% of Seats May Be Occupied

      Theaters will be allowed to open in Moscow starting August 1, with the number of occupied seats in an auditorium due to be restricted to no more than 50 percent, Russia's presidential representative for international culture cooperation, Mikhail Shvydkoi, said on Wednesday.

      "We have good news for theater enthusiasts: Moscow theaters will be allowed to open, but the number of spectators in auditoriums should not exceed 50 percent. This will happen on August 1," Shvydkoi said at a press conference.

      The presidential representative expressed hope that more spectators would be let in by September.

      Cinemas across Russia will open on July 15 after months of suspended operation due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    • 13:12

      Russia to Continue Providing Assistance to Africa in Fight Against COVID-19 - Lavrov

      Russia will further assist Africa in combating the spread of the coronavirus, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday at press conference after a meeting with foreign ministers of the African Union troika, comprising the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt and South Africa.

      According to the minister, during the meeting, the participants paid special attention to humanitarian issues, with an emphasis on the spread of the coronavirus.

      "It was agreed that we would continue efforts to assist in the fight against coronavirus, including through multilateral structures, both African and global," Lavrov said.

      In particular, Moscow will promote decision-making, in which African countries are interested, within the UN, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the diplomat said.

      During the meeting, the ministers also noted the mutual interest in the continued collaboration on vaccine production against such pandemic threats, Lavrov said.

      "Gratitude was expressed to the Russian Federation for the assistance that our respective agencies have already provided to African countries," Lavrov added.

      The minister also said that Moscow had already received relevant requests for additional assistance from over 30 countries.

      So far, Africa has confirmed as many as 382,563 cases of the coronavirus infection, including 7,139 fatalities, according to the World Health Organization.

    • 12:54

      Panic-Buying Grips Melbourne Ahead of Second Coronavirus Lockdown - Reports

      Stores in Austria's second-largest city of Melbourne have been struggling to manage a spike in demand for essential goods ahead of a six-week lockdown that takes effect on Wednesday night, media said.

      Some stores have already sold 80 percent of their goods, according to the 7 News channel, while others have imposed limits on purchases of most popular foods, hand sanitizer and toilet paper rolls.

      Australians in Victoria state rushed to the stores to stock up on supplies after state premier Daniel Andrews announced on Tuesday that Melbourne and the surrounding area would be forced back into lockdown to prevent the second wave of coronavirus.

      The state reported 134 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, after seeing a daily high of 191 on Tuesday. Travel to and from the state will also be restricted starting at midnight. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his administration would look into capping inbound flights.

    • 12:44

      Denmark Increases Allowed Limit of Public Assembly to 100 People - Reports

      Authorities in Denmark have lifted the coronavirus-related ban on assembly in groups of up to 100 people, Danish media reported on Wednesday.

      Denmark went from setting the assembly limit on up to 10 people in mid-March to up to 50 people in early June. The limit is expected to be raised to 200 people on August 8.

      The Copenhagen Post reported that the easing of the assembly ban is the result of a political agreement that Denmark's parties reached last month as part of a gradual reopening plan.

      According to the report, the limit is not going to apply to political demonstrations such as the recent Black Lives Matter protests.

      As of Wednesday, Danish health authorities confirmed 12,900 coronavirus cases, including 609 deaths and 12,001 recoveries.

    • 12:43

      Israeli Defense Minister Self-Isolates After Suspected Contact With COVID-19 Patient

      Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Wednesday that he had decided to self-quarantine after possibly being in contact with an individual who had tested positive for COVID-19.

      "There is a suspicion that I had contact with a coronavirus-infected patient late on Sunday. After consultations with medical officials, I will go into isolation," Gantz wrote on Twitter.

      The minister said he would be quarantined until his test for the coronavirus was ready and the epidemiological analysis was completed.

      According to Gantz, he is "in excellent health" and will continue to work as always, but remotely.

      The daily increase in the number of coronavirus cases in Israel has risen acutely over the past week, more than doubling the number since reopening to steadily over 1,000 per day.

      Due to the sharp increase in new COVID-19 cases, the country’s government has decided to again close event venues, clubs, bars and gyms. Restaurants are required to limit the number of visitors over the outbreak.

    • 11:21

      France's Castex Says No Full Lockdown Upon New COVID Wave as Economy Unlikely to Survive

      The French government is preparing a plan for a possible new COVID-19 outbreak in the country in the coming months, but it excludes a second national lockdown as a measure to prevent it from spreading further, as the country’s economy would not "endure" its consequences, newly appointed Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Wednesday on the BFMTV and RMC broadcasters.

      "Yes, a rescue plan [for the possible second wave of COVID-19] is ready but we are not going to impose a general lockdown as we did in March," Castex said, adding that his main goal is to prepare the country for the new virus outbreak with the maximum efforts given to "preserve economic and social life".

      The minister added that France would not "endure" a second nationwide lockdown, as its economy faces a long-term recovery after having suffered from the coronavirus-related restrictions.

      Castex also said that he will travel to Guiana on Sunday, the French overseas territory in South America, where the COVID-19 disease has accelerated over the last few days. The authorities reported 124 new cases in the department on Tuesday, bringing the total number to nearly 5,200, as the healthcare system reported a significant workload.

      France’s previous government led by Edouard Philippe introduced a strict two-month lockdown from mid-March until May 11 amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Although France is continuing to emerge from the restrictive measures, some related controls are still in effect, including social distancing rules, the mandatory wearing of face masks in public places and a ban on mass gatherings.

      As of Wednesday, the French authorities have reported 206,072 COVID-19 cases and 29,936 related fatalities.

    • 10:55

      Number of Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in US Rises by Record 60,000

    • 10:29

      Over 40 Serbian Policemen Injured in Riots in Belgrade Over COVID-19 Response, Police Say

      As many as 43 Serbian police officers were injured and 24 activists were detained during mass riots in Belgrade in front of the parliament building due to the government’s plans to impose a curfew over the weekend amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and related deaths, Serbian police director, Vladimir Rebic said on Wednesday.

      Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced on Tuesday that a curfew would be introduced in the country again, between Friday and Monday, amid the deteriorating COVID-19 situation. In the wake of the announcement, some 5,000 people gathered in central Belgrade to protest the new coronavirus-related measures. The most radical demonstrators, led by opposition activists, attacked police cordons, were able to enter the lobby of the Serbian parliament, and burned down three police cars and several garbage containers. In response, the police used tear gas and other riot gear.

      "Police officers were trying to pull the rioters out from the building. For an hour and a half, the officers withstood the attacks and [protesters] were trying to exercise physical dominance and break into the parliament for four times. The police showed restrain all the time and did not use force ... After that, protesters began throwing stones, bottles, cans and other hard objects into the police, that put the lives and health of officers at risk. After that, other riot dispersal means were used, including tear gas, service horses, and the police managed to repel the attacks of hooligans," Rebic said at a press conference.

      According to the police director, 43 officers asked for medical help after the attacks, which lasted for several hours, one of them received a skull fracture and concussion. A total of 24 people were detained, including those suspected of arson of two police cars.

    • 10:16

      Thirty-Five of Russian State Duma Members Had COVID-19, Possess Antibodies - Speaker

      Thirty-five members of Russia’s State Duma have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have antibodies, lower house speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said on Wednesday.

      "To date, we have 35 people who have had [coronavirus] or have antibodies, but have not been previously hospitalized. This is a lot, so let us take care of each other," Volodin said at a plenary session.

      The speaker noted that there are lawmakers who are now being treated for coronavirus in medical facilities.

      "The insidiousness of the virus should not be underestimated. Regularly, our colleagues are found to have antibodies," Volodin warned.

      As of Wednesday, Russia’s COVID-19 tally has surpassed 700,000. Over 472,500 people have recovered, and more than 10,600 have died.

    • 07:33

      Russia Records 6,562 COVID-19 Cases in 24 Hours, Total Exceeds 700,000, Response Centre

      Russia has recorded 6,562 COVID-19 cases in 24 hours, with the total reaching 700,792, the response center said Wednesday.

      "In the last 24 hours,  6,562 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in 84 regions, including 1,812 (27.6 percent) without symptoms," the center said.

      There have been no new cases in the city of Sevastopol. Moscow and surrounding regions continue to show the lowest case count increase rate.

      Russia has recorded 173 deaths of patients with the coronavirus in 24 hours, which brings the total to 10,667.

    • 04:37

      Protesters Break Into Serbian Parliament Over Plans to Impose COVID-Related Restrictions

      Riots occurred in the centre of Belgrade on Wednesday after Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced plans to impose new restrictions to fight the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, a Sputnik correspondent reported.

      The most radical demonstrators attacked police cordons, were able to enter the lobby of the Serbian parliament, burned down three police cars and several garbage containers. In response, the police used tear gas and other riot gear.

      According to the Interior Ministry, about 5,000 people gathered in front of the parliament building, a smaller part of which, led by opposition activists, broke through a police cordon and broke into the hall of the National Assembly, but were later detained.

      “A group of protesters chose unacceptable behaviour that could be called disorderly conduct and attacked police officers who were there on duty and threw stones at them,” police director Vladimir Rebic said on national television.

      "At some point, the available number of officers became insufficient to counter the mass of citizens who attacked and wanted to illegally enter the Assembly and [the officers] retreated under pressure, and when they consolidated with additional forces, they were able to oust the hoodlums from the Assembly," the head of the police department said.

      There have been no reports on those detained and injured.

      According to the Health Ministry, 13 coronavirus patients died in Serbia in the past 24 hours, which represents the maximum for the entire pandemic. Thus, the death toll reached 330 people, and the overall case tally since the beginning of the pandemic stands at 16,719.

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