Tourists may need ‘COVID-free’ certificates to travel
Tourists could soon need certificates proving they don't have coronavirus to be able to travel.
The COVID-free health documents would require holidaymakers to prove that they are not infected with the deadly virus.
Netither the UK nor Australia currently issues the documents, which would require the person to be tested for antibodies.
According to Euro News Weekly, The Madrid Association of Hoteliers (AEHM) are looking into a 'COVID-19 Free Hotel' certification, which would guarantee both guests and staff don't have the virus.
How this would work has not been explained, but guests of the hotel will likely have to be able to prove they do not have coronavirus to stay.
Many other countries banned travellers from entering the country if they didn't have COVID-free documents shortly before closing their borders.
Thailand ordered any non-residents last month to have proof from health authorities that they didn't have the virus to be allowed to travel through, with India issuing similar strict regulations.
The same measures could be re-introduced when lockdowns are slowly lifted.
While the doctors in the UK don't offer COVID-free documents, another alternative being looked into are Immunity Passports, which would prove the holder has had coronavirus and no longer does.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock previously explained on Question Time: "When the science is good enough to understand the immunity that people have after having had the disease, then we are looking at introducing something like an immunity certificate or maybe a wristband that says 'I've had it and I'm immune and I can't pass it on and I'm highly unlikely to catch it'.
But fears about been raised about the validity of these - with little known about the virus, they may not be able to determine if the person could be infected again.
Claire Standley, assistant professor at Georgetown University's Center for Global Health Science and Security, told France24 that not only could tests flag antibodies which are not related to coronavirus, but they aren't "sufficiently accurate".
She explained: "High false negative rates (lack of sensitivity) of the test mean that those currently available are not recommended for patient-level clinical diagnosis."
Other measures for travellers are currently being trialled - for example, Emirates recently introduced a compulsory blood test for passengers boarding a flight, with plans to roll it out on other flights.
The test determines if the passenger has coronavirus in just 10 minutes, although the airline didn't confirm if travellers would be banned from the flight if refusing the test.
Germany is also looking into immunity passports, which could also help end lockdowns.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is planning on issuing immunity certificates as researchers have begun testing 100,000 people a day for the disease.
The researchers will use antibodies tests which can tell if someone has already had COVID-19 and issue documentation to people to confirm their status.
MORRISON THREATENS MANDATORY MOBILE TRACING
Scott Morrison is threatening to make coronavirus surveillance software mandatory or keep strict social restrictions in place if not enough Australians sign up voluntarily.
The Prime Minister has also likened downloading the mobile phone tracing application to undertaking national service, saying "you'll be helping save someone's life".
Mr Morrison's comments came as a seventh person died from coronavirus in Tasmania, with Australia's death toll now at 65. Nationally, more than 6500 people have contracted the disease.
A cluster of cases in Tasmania's northwest is being held up as a demonstration of how the virus can flare up at any time.
Mr Morrison says the nation needs to have a broader testing regimen, better contact tracing and greater capacity to respond to local outbreaks before governments can look at easing restrictions.
The federal government is developing a contact tracing app that checks Bluetooth connections made by the phone of someone with the virus while they were contagious.
At least 40 per cent of the population would need to install it for the results to be effective.
Mr Morrison compared using the tracing app to national service.
"I know this would be something they might not normally do at an ordinary time but this is not an ordinary time," he told Triple M radio on Friday.
"If you download this app you'll be helping save someone's life."
He hopes some parts of the economy could be restarted in mid-May if the testing, tracing and response capacity goals are met.
But he refused to rule out making the phone tracing mandatory.
"This is the simple deal: if people download the app and more people have got it, the sooner we can start easing off on some of these restrictions," Mr Morrison said.
"My preference is to give Australians a go at getting it right.
"That's my plan A and I really want plan A to work.
"I know this would be something they might not normally do at an ordinary time but this is not an ordinary time."
However, Mr Morrison said he expects social distancing measures to remain in place until a vaccine is available.
Australia's deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly says the app's rollout will begin on a voluntary basis.
"The app would be an extra piece to this puzzle and that timeliness element is the crucial thing," Prof Kelly told reporters in Canberra.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said he is concerned about the prospect of forcibly being tracked.
"One of the things that would occur if that was the government response would be people would simply stop taking their phone to places," he told reporters.
It comes as the European Union urged its 27 member countries to make the use of mobile telephone tracing apps voluntary and to apply similar standards to ensure that national systems can work together in fighting the spread of the coronavirus.
The virus has infected more than 850,000 Europeans, killing some 90,000 people, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
'VERY UNHELPFUL': PM BLASTS HEALTH WORKER
There are fears a coronavirus outbreak among health workers in northwest Tasmania may have spread to three nursing homes.
A 72-year-old man died on Friday at the Mersey Community Hospital at Latrobe in the region.
It's been revealed a healthcare worker who tested positive for the virus did shifts at three aged care homes as well as the two hospitals in Burnie at the centre of the outbreak.
No virus cases have been confirmed at the homes but one resident with mild respiratory symptoms is expected to get test results back soon.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that worker's actions had been "very unhelpful".
"We've had someone down there not tell the truth to contact tracers about where they've been and who they've been with," he said.
"That means a lot of people have been put at risk in northwest Tasmania."
It came as a crew member from the coronavirus-plagued Artania cruise ship died in a Perth hospital, taking Western Australia's toll to seven.
The man was in his early 40s and died at Royal Perth Hospital on Thursday.
"His family have been notified and were put in contact with that crew member via translators … and they were able to reach out to him in his dying days," WA's Health Minister Roger Cook said.
CHINA REJECTS COVER UP AMID REVISED DEATH TOLL
China on Friday denied Western suggestions it had covered up the extent of its coronavirus outbreak and rejected US allegations it has an overly cozy relationship with the World Health Organisation.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian acknowledged that the virus's rapid spread had contributed to undercounting that resulted in China raising its death toll earlier Friday, but added "there has never been any concealment, and we'll never allow any concealment."
The allegations China is too close to the World Health Organisation (WHO), were an attempt at "smearing" Beijing, Zhao said.
US President Donald Trump has questioned China's handling of the pandemic and whether it had been completely transparent since the virus emerged in the central city of Wuhan late last year.
On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and French President Emmanuel Macron also expressed doubts about China's virus response.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton demanded China be more transparent about the origins of coronavirus.
Mr Dutton said the families of more than 60 Australians who have died from the disease deserve answers about how the outbreak originated.
"I think it is incumbent upon China to answer those questions and provide the information so that people can have clarity about exactly what happened," he told Nine on Friday.
It comes as the central Chinese city of Wuhan raised its number of COVID-19 fatalities by 1290, with state media saying the undercount had been due to the "insufficient admission capabilities" at overwhelmed medical facilities at the peak of the outbreak.
Wuhan's revised death toll of 3869 is the most in China. Numbers of total cases in the city of 11 million were also raised by 325 to 50,333, accounting for about two-thirds of China's total 82,367 announced cases.
The official Xinhua News Agency quoted an unidentified official with Wuhan's epidemic and prevention and control headquarters as saying that during the early stages of the outbreak, "due to the insufficiency in admission and treatment capability, a few medical institutions failed to connect with the disease prevention and control system in time, while hospitals were overloaded and medics were overwhelmed with patients.
"As a result, belated, missed and mistaken reporting occurred," the official was quoted as saying.
The new figures were compiled through a comparison of data from Wuhan's epidemic prevention and control big data system, the city funeral service system, the municipal hospital authority's information system, and the nucleic acid test system to "remove double-counted cases and fill in missed cases," the official was quoted as saying.
New death cases were added because non-hospitalised deaths had not been registered at the disease control information system and some confirmed cases had been reported late or not been reported at all by some medical institutions, the official said.
Questions have long swirled around the accuracy of China's case reporting, with Wuhan in particular going several days in January without reporting new cases or deaths.
That has led to accusations that Chinese officials were seeking to minimise the impact of the outbreak and wasting opportunities to bring it under control in a shorter time.
QUERIES OVER RUSSIA'S REPORTED DEATH TOLL
Russia confirmed 4070 new coronavirus infections on Friday, bringing the country's official number of cases to 32,008 and marking the latest one-day record in new cases.
But some suspect the number of deaths in Russia to be much higher, with experts saying that Russia's testing capacity is hampered by bureaucracy.
Moscow is the country's hotspot, and since March 30, all 12 miillion Muscovites have been order to follow stringent stay-at-home rules.
They are only permitted to leave their homes to go to work, walk their dogs, take out garbage or visit their nearest shop.
Moscow Deputy mayor Anastasia Rakova warned the city "will face difficult weeks" ahead.
"The peak in morbidity should arrive in the next two to three weeks," she said in a video released on social media.
President Vladmir Putin, meanwhile, has supported China and its president Xi Jinping, sharing details of a conversation he had with the Chinese president in a readout shared by the Kremlin.
"The Russian side highly appreciated the consistent and effective actions of the Chinese partners, which made it possible to stabilize the epidemiological situation in the country.
The counterproductiveness of attempts to accuse China of untimely informing the world community about the emergence of a dangerous infection was emphasized," the readout said.
"Both leaders expressed confidence that by continuing to work closely with each other, their countries will be able to successfully overcome the challenges associated with the pandemic," it said.
The countries' strategic partnership has been underlined by their declaration to "further strengthen cooperation in this area, including through the exchange of specialists, the supply of medical equipment, medicines and protective equipment."
UK'S VIRUS DEATH RATE 'HIGHEST IN EUROPE'
A leading public health expert says that Britain likely has the highest coronavirus death rate in Europe due to what he described as "system errors," while the government defended its record in responding to the pandemic.
Anthony Costello, director of the Institute for Global Health at University College London, said the UK "could see 40,000 deaths" by the time the first wave of the country's outbreak is over.
The British government reported that as of Friday (AEST), 13,729 people had died in UK hospitals after testing positive for the coronavirus.
The number does not include hundreds, and maybe thousands, of virus-related deaths in nursing homes and other settings.
Mr Costello has been a vocal critic of the government's strategy, saying it has not been doing enough testing for the virus and has failed to trace and isolate people who were in contact with infected individuals.
"What were the system errors that led us to have probably the highest death rates in Europe?" he said.
"We're going to face further waves and so we need to make sure we have a system in place … that enables you to test people rapidly in the community, in care homes and to make sure that the results are got back to them very quickly," Costello told a committee of British politicians.
Britain was slower than many other European countries to impose mandatory restrictions on business and daily life to slow the spread of the coronavirus. A lockdown ordered on March 23 was extended Thursday for at least three more weeks.
Schools, restaurants and most shops are closed, and most people are allowed to leave home only for essential errands or exercise.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended the government's record, saying "test, track and trace" was part of its strategy.
"I think we took the right measures at the right time," he said.
The government vowed to conduct 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of April, a more than five-fold increase on current rates.
It has also promised to include nursing home deaths in the official tally.
Meanwhile, Germany's health minister says the coronavirus outbreak in the country has become "manageable," with new data showing the rate of new infections has slowed significantly.
Jens Spahn told reporters in Berlin on Friday that the increase in COVID-19 cases isn't exponential anymore, but linear.
Figures released by the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's disease control centre, show that the number of people infected by every person with COVID-19 has fallen to 0.7, from over 1 just a few days ago.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said this week that this so-called reproduction rate was a key indicator the government would take into account when deciding whether to relax the lockdown.
Spahn noted that since April 12, the country has also had more people recovered from COVID-19 than active cases.
Experts say early and widespread testing has helped Germany keep a lid on the outbreak. Spahn said the country has so far conducted 1.7 million tests and is able to carry out 700,000 a week if necessary.
Meanwhile, Spain's death toll increased to nearly 19,500, government figures showed on Friday.
The country reported 585 new fatalities in the past 24 hours, but said it had revised its counting mechanism, making the figures difficult to compare with previous tolls.
The total number of deaths in Spain now stands at 19,478, the third-highest in the world after the US and Italy.
Overnight, the government issued revised guidelines for reporting deaths in order to homogenise data from the country's 17 autonomous regions in an apparent move to eliminate any deaths where the patient had not been tested for COVID-19.
TRUMP'S THREE-PHASE PLAN TO LIFT LOCKDOWN
President Donald Trump announced a three-phase plan to restart the US economy on Friday, declaring it the "next front in our war" against COVID-19.
Under the "Opening Up America Plan", states that have contained the virus will be able to re-open businesses such as restaurants, theatres and gyms as soon as May 1.
After signalling in recent days he would impose a mandatory lift of lockdown restrictions, Mr Trump stepped back from a looming battle with governors and said they would be in charge of their states.
"You're going to call your own shots," Mr Trump said.
"We're going to be standing alongside of you."
The new plan would focus on "sheltering the highest-risk individuals".
"Healthy Americans will now be able to return to work as conditions on the ground allow," Mr Trump said at the White House.
"Instead of a blanket shutdown we will pursue a focus of sheltering the highest-risk individuals."
Mr Trump conceded "the balance is delicate", with the US still having by far the highest reported number of infections.
"We must have a working economy," Mr Trump said.
"We can get it back very, very quickly and that's what's going to happen.
"I believe its going to boom.
"A prolonged lockdown combined with a forced economic depression would inflict an immense toll on public health."
Mr Trump earlier told states they would have control over how and when they would lift restrictions.
"Bottom line, if you're ready and you have those beautiful, low numbers like some of you have, let's get going, let's open up your state," Mr Trump said.
The US economy has been rocked by the coronavirus, with more than 22 million applying for unemployment benefits in the past four weeks, and there are fears the unemployment rate will hit 15 per cent by the end of April, on its way to 20 per cent or more.
But a new model predicts the US could see a surge in coronavirus cases if state lockdowns are eased too soon despite Donald Trump's plans to reopen some states.
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) released a model on Thursday that depicts the spread of the killer virus using data from China, Italy, South Korea and the US.
Any immediate or near-term relaxation of mitigation measures already in place nationwide would lead to an "exponential explosion" in coronavirus cases, the authors say.
"This is a really crucial moment of time. If we relax quarantine measures, it could lead to disaster," said MIT Professor George Barbastathis.
NEW YORK TESTING SITES TO LAUNCH MONDAY
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has stressed that widespread coronavirus testing is key to any prospect of eventually relaxing restrictions that have largely shut down city life, and he announced a step in that direction. Five new walk-in testing sites will be open by Monday, with a focus on residents ages 65 and older in areas with high numbers of cases of the COVID-19 virus.
The sites will initially offer a total of 2400 tests a week, but the city aims to double that quickly.
"Everyone's important," the Democratic mayor said, but "this is about sharp, clear disparities." "It is not a statement about anything but focusing on people whose lives are in the greatest danger."
Separately, five other new testing sites will be available to health care workers who are members of a major union that represents nurses, aides and many others.
Those sites, offering a total of 3500 tests per week, also will be open to other essential workers, including those who work at adult care facilities, and to city residents 65 and older with underlying medical conditions.
Nursing homes in New York state have been hardest hit by coronavirus. One New Jersey nursing home reported that at least 57 residents had died, while another venue in Queens has lost at least 29 residents to the virus, with some staff saying it might have killed as many as 60 people in the nursing home.
NEW YORKERS MUST WEAR MASKS OUTSIDE
As of 8pm Friday night Eastern Standard Time, New Yorkers must wear face masks in public where it's not possible to maintain a six foot (183cm) distance from other people.
While the number of seriously sick and dying people in New York has been levelling off, state governor Andrew Cuomo sees the masks as crucial to containing the virus, which has continued to spread in spite of the shutdown and social distancing measures.
41,000 people in New York state tested positive to coronavirus this week, about the same number that has been recorded for the previous two weeks.
This works out to around 8000 positive results per day.
Everyone in buses, on subways, and in Ubers and taxis must wear face masks at all times, Mr Cuomo says, including children as young as two years old.
The official death toll in New York City soared by more than half earlier this week when health authorities began including people who probably had COVID-19 but died without being tested.
Nearly 3800 deaths were added to the city's count.
Such figures can have a huge influence on governments' actions, as medical staffs struggle to figure out how to cope with surges of sick people and officials make crucial decisions about where to devote resources and how to begin easing lockdowns to resuscitate their economies.
Mr Cuomo has said his state will remain on lockdown until May 15.
AFRICA COULD SEE 300,000 CORONAVIRUS DEATHS
Africa could see 300,000 deaths from the coronavirus this year even under the best-case scenario, according to a new report released on Friday that cites modelling from Imperial College London.
Under the worst-case scenario with no interventions against the virus, Africa could see 3.3 million deaths and 1.2 billion infections, the report by the UN Economic Commission for Africa said.
Even with "intense social distancing." under the best-case scenario the continent could see more than 122 million infections, the report said. Any of the scenarios would overwhelm Africa's largely fragile and underfunded health systems, experts have warned.
The continent as of Friday had more than 18,000 confirmed virus cases, but experts have said Africa is weeks behind Europe in the pandemic and the rate of increase has looked alarmingly similar.
The new report is the most detailed public projection yet for coronavirus infections and deaths in Africa, where more than 1.3 billion people are bracing for the pandemic.
Poverty, crowded urban conditions and widespread health problems make Africa "particularly susceptible" to the virus, the UN report said.
TOKYO RECORDS HIGHEST NUMBER OF CASES IN A DAY
Tokyo had 201 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, setting a new record of daily rise, bringing a prefectural total to 2796, with 56 deaths, according to Gov. Yuriko Koike.
The Japanese capital has seen its new cases shoot up since late March, raising concerns about the infections becoming explosive.
Friday's rise in the cases comes 10 days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a month-long state of emergency in Tokyo and six other urban prefectures, a measure he expanded to all of Japan on Thursday.
Koike has requested the residents to stay at home and non-essential businesses to shut down. But social distancing was not fully followed, with many people still commuting on trains to work in Japan where remote working is slow to come.
"We are continuing to face a critical situation," Koike said.
She also said she secured a third hotel for slightly-sick patients to stay and make room at overburdened hospitals as Tokyo faces fear of the collapse of medical systems.
Abe expanded the state of emergency to step up measures ahead of a major holiday week coming up in early May so that people won't travel around and possibly spread the virus.
The ongoing state of emergency runs through May 6.
Nationwide, Japan has nearly 9900 cases including about 700 from a cruise ship quarantined earlier this year, with about 160 deaths.
Meanwhile, South Korea says it's continuing to see a rise in patients who test positive for the coronavirus for a second time after being diagnosed as recovered.
However, the risk of transmissions from such cases so far appears to be low.
Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the country's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Friday at least 163 people have tested positive again after their initial release from hospitals, accounting for more than 2 per cent of the country's 7829 recoveries.
Originally published as Tourists may need 'COVID-free' certificates to travel