Covid-19 wrap | Over 246 000 deaths worldwide, Europe begins easing lockdowns and Iran to reopen mosques

Keeping you up to date on the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.

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‘Enormous evidence’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says there is “enormous evidence” the pandemic originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, adding to the diplomatic tensions with Beijing over its handling of the outbreak.

He declines to say whether he thinks the virus was intentionally released.

Europe begins easing lockdowns

Several countries in Europe begin on Monday the first phase of lifting their lockdowns.

Italians will be allowed to meet with family or gather in limited numbers. In Spain some small businesses such as hairdressers will open for individual customer appointments. And in Germany, schools will start opening in some regions.

Over 246 000 deaths

At least 246 893 people have died worldwide since the epidemic surfaced in China in December, according to an AFP tally at 03:00 GMT on Monday based on official sources.

In all, 3 500 517 cases have now been reported in 195 countries and territories.

Europe is the continent most affected with more than 1.5 million cases and over 143 000 fatalities.

In the United States, which has the highest toll of any country, 67,680 people have died. Italy is the second hardest-hit country, with 28 884 dead, followed by the United Kingdom with 28 446, Spain 25 264 and France 24 895.

Rolls-Royce fears massive jobs losses

British aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce warns thousands of jobs could be at risk as it holds talks with unions about the impact of the outbreak on operations.

As many as 8 000 jobs could be affected, according to one person familiar with the matter.

Missing out on other vaccines

UNICEF warns the pandemic could jeopardise vaccination campaigns in the Middle East and North Africa. Millions of children could miss out on polio and measles immunisations, the UN agency says.

A researcher works on virus replication in order to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus Covid-19. (Getty Images)

Iran to reopen mosques

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says mosques will reopen across large parts of the country on Monday.

The measure is not expected to be implemented in the capital, Tehran, or in the main Shiite holy cities of Mashhad, which are among those most affected by the outbreak.

Boost for German football

Germany’s minister for the interior and sport says he supports a resumption of the country’s football season this month, as long as teams and players respect several hygiene conditions.

Portugal limits capacity on planes

Portugal will limit as of Sunday the passenger numbers on its planes to two thirds of their capacity in order to respect social distancing.

The national carrier TAP will resume its first international flights on Thursday.