Fears raised about distancing at George Floyd protests as global death toll nears 400,000

North Carolina sets record for new cases for third straight day

North Carolina reported 1,370 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday — the third straight day the state has set a record for new cases. 

State officials reported 1,189 new cases on Thursday and 1,289 on Friday.

The numbers bring the state’s total coronavirus cases to 34,625, with 992 deaths, including 26 new deaths reported Saturday.

The spike comes more than two weeks after North Carolina lifted its stay-at-home rules, allowing for limited social gatherings and letting restaurants reopen to customers with reduced capacity.

Iraq faces record spike in coronavirus cases

Iraq recorded 1,252 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, its highest daily total yet, the Ministry of Health said. 

The total number of cases in the conflict-torn country now stands at 11,098, with 318 deaths, according to the ministry.

Health officials fear the deadly virus may be sweeping through the Middle East as part of a broader second wave, with neighboring Iran and Gulf countries also experiencing a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases. 

Reopened beaches, relaxed guidelines may be to blame for uptick in coronavirus cases

Beijing’s municipal government lowering its emergency response level

Beijing’s municipal government on Saturday is lowering its emergency response level to the second-lowest as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The change will lift most restrictions on people traveling from Wuhan and the surrounding province of Hubei — where the virus first appeared late last year. Beijing residential compounds will not be required to conduct temperature checks and masks no longer must be worn for outdoor activities. Kindergartens will reopen and other grades still suspended will restart classes.

Beijing has reported no new cases of local transmission in at least 50 days, and as many as 90 days in some districts.

China recorded three new confirmed cases of the virus as of Saturday — down from five the day before — and no new deaths, the National Health Commission reported. All three of the cases were imported, the commission said, bringing its national total to 83,030.

Greta Thunberg helps to launch fundraiser for ‘disproportionately hit’ Brazil rainforest

Greta Thunberg helped to launch a crowdfunding campaign to buy medical supplies and provide telemedicine services to residents in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, she tweeted on Saturday, where a lack of robust health services has made the coronavirus outbreak particularly devastating.

The campaign “aims to help traditional communities of the Amazonian territory battle COVID-19 – who are disproportionately hit by the pandemic,” the tweet said.

This comes one day after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro threatened to pull Brazil out of the World Health Organization after the agency warned Latin American governments about the risk of lifting lockdowns before slowing the spread of the outbreak.

Bolsonaro has faced continued criticism for his response to the outbreak, as Brazil now has the second-highest number of infections globally — behind only the U.S. As of Saturday, the country has reported more than 646,000 cases and 35,000 deaths.

Iranian wedding party fueled new COVID-19 surge, president says

A wedding party contributed to a new surge in coronavirus infections in Iran, President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday, but insisted the country had no option but to keep its economy open despite warnings of a second wave of the epidemic.

Iran, which has been gradually relaxing its lockdown since mid-April, has reported a sharp rise of new daily infections in recent days. Thursday’s toll of 3,574 new cases was the highest since February — when the outbreak was first reported.

“At one location, we witnessed a peak in this epidemic, the source of which was a wedding that caused problems for the people, health workers and losses to the economy and the country’s health system,” Rouhani said on state TV. He did not say when or where the wedding took place.

New cases dipped to 2,886 on Friday, bringing Iran’s total cases to more than 167,000, with over 8,000 deaths. Health officials have been warning of a second wave of the outbreak, but say a reason for the surge in new cases could be wider testing.

Outbreak may transform the way America’s spies do their jobs

Coronavirus is shaping up to be a watershed for the American intelligence community.

In the two decades after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the CIA and other spy agencies made terrorism their top priority, with the goal of preventing another 9/11. For the most part, they succeeded.

Now a pandemic has killed more Americans in four months than died in all the wars in the last half-century — 35 9/11’s and counting — while inflicting trillions of dollars in economic damage.

It’s a disaster that is already changing how the intelligence community views health threats — and how it defines national security.

Read more here.

China orders protection for pangolins amid pandemic

A Malayan pangolin, also known as a scaly anteater, climbing a tree. China’s demand for pangolins is threatening the survival of the pest-eaters in Southeast Asia.BJORN OLESEN / WWF via AFP – Getty, file

China is ordering its highest level of protection for the armadillo-like pangolin as part of its crackdown on the wildlife trade following the global pandemic.

While the virus is believed to have originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, most scientists say it was most likely transmitted from bats to humans via an intermediary animal such as the pangolin.

The order on Friday from the National Forestry and Grassland Administration does not explicitly mention the virus outbreak as a reason for the measure, but the timing appears to indicate that was a consideration. 

Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy by some Chinese and its scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Other animals protected at China’s top level include giant pandas, Tibetan antelopes and red-crowned cranes.

Hong Kong black lives matter event cancelled due to coronavirus and politics, organizers say

HONG KONG – Organizers of a black lives matter solidarity protest in Hong Kong, planned for Sunday, cancelled the event amid fears that other groups may use it to “push their own agenda” and worries over breaching social distancing rules in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the event organizers Max Percy told NBC News that there was large interest in the event meant to honor George Floyd. 

“It has come to our attention that due to the number of people trying to use this event to push their own agenda, there are concerns that the event will no longer abide by the terms set by the Hong Kong Police and we have been forced to cancel,” Percy wrote on a now deleted Facebook page.

“This is an enormous shame that people have lost sight of the reason why we were doing this event in the first place … We are saddened by the state of Hong Kong.”

Protesters have taken to the streets of Hong Kong multiple times this year to challenge Beijing-led security laws and to mark the recent anniversary of the 1989 quashing of demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.