Cuba May day coronavirus
A man wearing a military uniform salutes during the playing of Cuba's national anthem on May Day, or International Workers' Day, outside a health center in Havana, Cuba, Friday, May 1, 2020. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Cuban government called off May Day celebrations, an event that showcases a huge rally and march in Revolution Square. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Where did the virus originate?

US President Donald Trump says he has seen evidence the new coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab. The assertion has threatened to turn a global health emergency into a diplomatic crisis.

The virus has killed more than 230,000 people worldwide, including more than 61,000 in the US, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Confirmed infections globally topped 3.2 million, with 1 million of them in the US.

Trump’s statement was immediately undermined by intelligence officials and top diplomat Mike Pompeo, who said: "We don't know precisely where it began."

But the claim - already denied by Beijing - could stir tensions even as the World Health Organisation asks to be allowed to take part in a Chinese investigation into the "animal origins" of the pandemic.

China, Australia ties threatened

The echoes of the claim have reached across the world. China has accused Australia of parroting the United States in its call for an inquiry independent of the World Health Organization to determine the origins of COVID-19 and how the world responded to the emerging pandemic.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday stood firm on his call for an inquiry and denied any motivation other than to prevent such a pandemic happening again, agencies reported.

India extends lockdown

In India, the countrywide lockdown was extended for a further period of two weeks with effect from May 4 to contain the Covid-19 outbreak. The third phase of the lockdown will continue till May 17.

All domestic and international air travel, movement of trains, metro and inter-state buses for public transport, except those permitted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), will be prohibited during lockdown 3.0.

Cautious reopenings

May is bringing cautious reopenings from coronavirus lockdowns, from Beijing's Forbidden city to shopping malls in Texas, as the grim toll from the pandemic ticks higher.

Many communities are inching toward normalcy without certainty over whether they've vanquished outbreaks of the virus.

China's ancient, majestic Forbidden City reopened on Friday with all tickets for the May 1-5 holiday sold out, and a limit of 5,000 visitors a day, down from the earlier maximum of 80,000., Reuters reported. The Chinese capital reopened its parks and museums, with controlled entries, about three months after hundreds of millions of people were ordered into a near lockdown as the coronavirus outbreak erupted in the central city of Wuhan.

China on Friday reported 12 new cases, six of them brought from overseas, and no new deaths for the 16th day.

Hope in Spain

Health workers Spain
Health workers wearing protective face masks react after last patients were discharged from a temporary hospital set up at IFEMA fairgrounds, before it's closure, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Madrid, Spain May 1, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

In Spain, a temporary hospital that had become a symbol of Madrid’s fight against the coronavirus closed on Friday as people prepared to emerge from their homes for walks in the street after seven weeks of strict lockdown.

The developments showed that Spain was pulling out of the crisis that has now claimed the lives of 24,824 people. The death toll rose by 281 overnight, according to the health ministry.

Ukrainian team reaches Antarctica

Ukraine Antarctica
This handout picture taken on April 20, 2020 by Yevgen Prokopchuk, a member of the 25th Ukrainian Antarctic Expedition, shows the group on the way to the Akademik Vernadsky research base on Galindez Island in the Antarctic. Image Credit: AFP

Amid the lockdown globally, a 10-member team of scientists from Ukraine reached the research base in Antarctica after many false starts and four weeks of travel. “It was the longest and most difficult journey to Antarctica over the years,” the scientists said.

First steps towards reopening in South Africa

South Africa took its first steps on Friday towards rolling back one of the world’s strictest COVID-19 lockdowns. Five weeks ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa had ordered most citizens to remain indoors and shuttered all but essential businesses as part of a response to the pandemic that has won praise from the World Health Organization.

- With inputs from Reuters