May 31 coronavirus news

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6:30 p.m. ET, May 31, 2020

Covid-19 cases continue to decline in Italy, despite loosened restrictions

From CNN's Nicola Ruotolo and Zahid Mahmood

People enjoy a gondola ride on May 30 in Venice, Italy.
People enjoy a gondola ride on May 30 in Venice, Italy. Andrea Pattaro/AFP/Getty Images

Despite four weeks of loosened restrictions, the number of Covid-19 cases in Italy continue to decline.

The number of active cases of coronavirus decreased by more than 1,600 over a 24-hour period, according to figures released by Italy’s Civil Protection Agency on Sunday.

The statement said that there has been a decrease of at least 1,616 cases since Saturday’s figures, bringing the total number to approximately 42,075.

The Covid-19 death toll in the country currently stands at approximately 33,415 – an increase of 75 deaths due to the virus since yesterday, according to the agency.

12:28 p.m. ET, May 31, 2020

Number of coronavirus deaths in New York state continues to drop, governor says

From CNN's Elise Hammond

State of New York
State of New York

At least 56 people died due to coronavirus in New York state yesterday –– a decrease from 67 deaths on May 29, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at his daily news briefing on Sunday.

"This reduction in the number of deaths is tremendous progress from where we were," he said.

The number of total hospitalizations, new hospitalizations and intubations have also all decreased, Cuomo said.

"All good news," he said.

10:38 a.m. ET, May 31, 2020

Spanish government will seek a further extension of the state of emergency

From CNN's Laura Pérez Maestro and Abel Alvarado

Mariscal/EFE Agency/Pool/Getty Images
Mariscal/EFE Agency/Pool/Getty Images

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez celebrated the “great results of the last few weeks” when it comes to coronavirus cases during a news conference on Sunday, but said "we can't relax" and said "the virus is still present in our country.”

The prime minister announced that his government will be seeking a further 15-day extension of the state of emergency.

“We need 15 more days to end this health emergency in a definite manner," he explained.

Sánchez also announced that starting June 8, the government will transfer the responsibility of the de-escalation process to the regional governments in regions in phase three.

The central government will only keep control on mobility once the regions reach phase three.

10:16 a.m. ET, May 31, 2020

It became clear to the White House last week that an economic summit in June is likely impossible

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

It became clear to the White House late last week that convening an in-person G7 economic summit on US soil would likely be impossible by the end of June, particularly with the addition of several other countries President Trump wants to include in the meeting, people familiar with the matter told CNN.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s announcement that she wouldn’t be able to participate due to concerns over coronavirus helped cement the decision, those people said. 

In a phone call with Trump on Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron argued that in order to convene in-person, the entire group needed to be present, one western official familiar with the matter said.

Macron and Merkel have been tightly aligned at past G7 meetings in representing European interests. 

The G7 brings together annually brings together the leaders of seven of the world’s leading economies.

10:10 a.m. ET, May 31, 2020

Jerusalem's holiest site reopens as coronavirus restrictions ease

From CNN's Oren Liebermann and Abeer Salman

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images
Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

One of the holiest sites in Jerusalem reopened Sunday morning for the first time in more than two months, in a further sign of the easing of coronavirus restrictions by the Israeli government.

The site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, is often a flashpoint in Jerusalem’s Old City, but the day passed with only relatively minor incidents under a heavy security presence.

Entering the compound, Muslim worshippers, many wearing the ubiquitous blue facemasks for protection, chanted, "God is the greatest. We sacrifice our blood and soul for you, al-Aqsa," referring to the compound’s mosque. 

A group of religious Jews later arrived at the site during morning visitation hours, escorted by Israeli security forces. The compound is the holiest site in the world for Jews and the third holiest site for Muslims.

Worshippers were allowed to enter the mosque building, as well as the Dome of the Rock shrine, but they were required to have their own prayer rug and mask. Approximately 4,000 people arrived for dawn prayers, the director of the mosque told CNN, a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands the compound can host on a busy day.

Some background: The compound is one of the last holy sites in and around Jerusalem to reopen. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also in Jerusalem’s Old City, reopened its doors last week, as did the Church of the Nativity in nearby Bethlehem. The Western Wall reopened earlier in May.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority have both begun to ease restrictions imposed as a result of coronavirus. The decision to impose tough restrictions early in the pandemic’s spread is seen as a key factor in why cases of coronavirus have stayed relatively low in both Israel and the Palestinian territories. 

But Israeli leaders have begun warning of a sudden rise in the number of new infections in the last few days, raising the possibility that restrictions could be re-imposed if the numbers continue to rise.

4:12 p.m. ET, May 31, 2020

Faithful return to St. Peter's Square to hear Pope Francis' words

From CNN's Delia Gallagher in Rome

Pope Francis delivers a blessing from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on May 31.
Pope Francis delivers a blessing from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on May 31. Vatican News via AP

In a small sign of life getting back to normal, crowds returned to St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City on Sunday as Pope Francis resumed his traditional greeting from his window, for the first time since lockdown began in Italy nearly three months ago.

The Pope said he hoped people would “have the courage to change, to be better than before and to positively build the post-pandemic world.”

He appealed for everyone, including the world's poorest people, to have access to health care and prayed particularly for those affected in the Amazon region of South America. “People are more important than the economy,” he said.

Tourists were noticeably absent and only several hundred people, mainly Italians, wearing masks and social distancing, gathered to listen to the Pope and receive his blessing. 

“You know that from a crisis like this, you don’t come out of it the same as before. You come out either better or worse,” he said.

“The human family needs to come out of this crisis more united and not more divided.“

Italian and Vatican Police were stationed at all entrances and people entering St. Peter’s Basilica had their temperatures checked.

The Vatican museums will open on Monday, by online reservation only. Museums and other cultural sites throughout Italy will also reopen this week.

7:53 a.m. ET, May 31, 2020

Bars, gyms and restaurants in South Korea to keep a QR-code log of customers

From CNN's Jake Kwon in Seoul

People walk past a restaurant in the Itaewon district in Seoul, South Korea, on April 24.
People walk past a restaurant in the Itaewon district in Seoul, South Korea, on April 24. SongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Recreational venues in South Korea, including bars, nightclubs and indoor gyms, will be required to keep a QR code-based customer log from June 10, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said Sunday.

This data will be automatically erased after four weeks to safeguard customer information.

The minister also outlined several other disease prevention guidelines required from June 2. Operators must regularly disinfect the premises, check customers for symptoms and ensure customers wear masks.

Those who violate the guidelines, including customers, could be subject to fines, and businesses could be forced to close.

As of 12 p.m. local time on Sunday, 111 cases were linked to the Coupang logistics center cluster and 270 cases were linked to the Itaewon nightclub cluster in Seoul, according to the Health Ministry.

The total number of confirmed cases in the country stands at 11,468, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been 270 deaths in total.

Some context: South Korea has used technology to help it contain the coronavirus pandemic through aggressive testing, contact tracing and quarantine measures, without ordering a widespread lockdown.

After cases emerged linked to three venues in Seoul's Itaewon nightlife district, city authorities tried to trace those who were potentially exposed. But they found that some clubgoers avoided calls or had given false details on the door, the mayor said.

The city had to use phone signal tower records and credit card records instead to track some people down.

6:24 a.m. ET, May 31, 2020

UK at "sensitive moment" as it relaxes coronavirus measures

From CNN's Simon Cullen and Martin Goillandeau

Tourists enjoy the hot weather at Bournemouth beach on May 25, after some coronavirus restrictions were eased.
Tourists enjoy the hot weather at Bournemouth beach on May 25, after some coronavirus restrictions were eased. Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images 

The UK is at a “sensitive moment” as it eases coronavirus restrictions, the country’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Sunday, adding that not all scientists will agree with the government’s decisions.

England is relaxing some restrictions from Monday, including allowing groups of up to six people to meet in outdoor settings.

Schools will also begin to reopen to some pupils, and extremely vulnerable people who have been "shielding" -- staying at home at all times and avoiding any face-to-face contact -- have been told they can go outdoors again from Monday.

“If we had a second peak in the virus, we would end up back in lockdown and that would be bad for public health reasons but also for the economy,” Raab told Sky News on Sunday.

“So we’re taking measures now which are based on both on the public health considerations, but they’re also crucial for the economy. But it’s true to say -- the scientists do not always agree.

“In fact that's not what we want. We don’t want them all to agree. We want them to test the evidence. That’s the way we get better advice from them.”

Raab said that if new restrictions were needed to control a second outbreak, the government had the capacity to “target very carefully” different localities or situations.

Prominent scientists have voiced skepticism in recent days about the steps the government is taking.

“The announcement of relaxed measures for those most at risk from severe Covid-19, the shielders, seems to lack any obvious rationale other than to add to an ongoing 'good news' narrative that appears to have little grounding in reality," Dr. Stephen Griffin, Associate Professor in the School of Medicine, University of Leeds, told the UK's Science Media Centre.

Professor Sally Bloomfield, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, warned that relaxing several measures at the same time was risky.

"If the situation deteriorates it will be impossible to know which measures need to be re-imposed and we will just have to go back to lockdown," she told the Science Media Centre. 

"This does not look like gently lifting the lid -- and from what I have seen these past three days, I fear that our desire to socialize means that the critical nature of our situation is being forgotten."

8:57 p.m. ET, May 31, 2020

Scotland’s First Minister warns coronavirus still poses “significant risk” as England prepares to lift restrictions

From CNN's Nada Bashir, London

Nicola Sturgeon attends First Minister's Questions at Holyrood on May 13 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon attends First Minister's Questions at Holyrood on May 13 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Fraser Bremner/Pool/Getty Images

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned that coronavirus still poses a “significant risk,” calling on citizens to not become complacent as the UK government prepares to lift some lockdown restrictions in England on Monday. 

“We have got to be very cautious. The virus has not gone away, there is still a significant risk that it could run out of control again,” Sturgeon said Sunday during an interview with Sky News.

“In Scotland, we are moving very slowly, very cautiously. We’ve just gone into Phase 1 of our route map out of lockdown, and that expressly recognizes that, in that phase, there is a significant risk that the epidemic is not fully contained,” she added. 

On Thursday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that Britain would begin the gradual process of easing the lockdown restrictions on Monday, despite concerns expressed by members of SAGE, the government’s scientific advisory board. Some fear transmission rates remain too high and that the government's new test and trace system is still being rolled out.

"We're entering a period where there is a risk of increasing transmission, but we don't have that safety net yet fully in place,” Professor Peter Horby said during an interview with BBC Radio 4 on Saturday.  

During her interview with Sky News, Sturgeon urged citizens in Scotland to continue to follow the guidance issued by the government, including continued social distancing measures.

“The virus has not gone away, and it’s important that we do not become complacent,” she added.