- The UK lowers its coronavirus alert level from four to three
- The new level means the epidemic is in "general circulation" and allows social distancing to be relaxed
- South Asian people are most likely to die from coronavirus in hospital in Great Britain, a major analysis shows
- Leading US government expert Dr Anthony Fauci tells AFP news agency he doesn't see the country returning to lockdowns
- Chinese officials say a coronavirus strain in an outbreak in Beijing may have come from Europe
- The World Health Organization hopes millions of vaccines can be produced this year and 2bn by the end of 2021
- Japan allows more businesses back to work and Singapore also lifts some restrictions
- Globally, there are almost 8.5m cases and more than 453,000 deaths with the coronavirus
Hello, and welcome back to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. As ever, we'll be bringing you the latest developments across the world throughout the day, with analysis from our correspondents and other experts, links to our stories about the coronavirus and information about how you can protect yourself and each other.
The main developments today:
- The top US health expert Dr Anthony Fauci has said the US does not need to enforce more lockdowns to contain the virus
- Singapore moves into "phase 2" of its partial lockdown on Friday, with shops opening and gatherings of up to five people allowed
- Widespread testing has found no further cases in New Zealand after two people tested positive this week
- A study in Great Britain finds that among people admitted to hospital with Covid-19, South Asian people are most likely to die
- Johns Hopkins University's latest count says there have been almost 8.5m cases worldwide and more than 453,000 people with coronavirus have died.
UK Covid-19 alert levels drops from four to threeThe UK Covid-19 Alert level has moved down from four to three, BBC home affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford reports.
Level four represents a high or rising level of transmission, while level three means the virus is in general circulation.
Steady decrease in cases across UK - medical officersMore now on the news that the UK Covid-19 alert level has moved down from four to three.
In a statement, the chief medical officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland say they have reviewed the evidence and agree with the recommendation to lower the alert level.
"There has been a steady decrease in cases we have seen in all four nations, and this continues," the statement says.
"It does not mean that the pandemic is over. The virus is still in general circulation, and localised outbreaks are likely to occur.
"We have made progress against the virus thanks to the efforts of the public and we need the public to continue to follow the guidelines carefully to ensure this progress continues."
How does the Covid-19 alert level system work?The Covid-19 alert level, which has just been reduced from level four to three, is designed to help the UK government decide how tough social-distancing measures should be.
- Level five (red) - a "material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed" - extremely strict social distancing
- Level four - a high or rising level of transmission - enforced social distancing
- Level three - the virus is in general circulation - social distancing relaxed
- Level two - the number of cases and transmission are low - minimal social distancing
- Level one (green) - Covid-19 is no longer present in the UK - no social distancing
The level is determined by the reproduction R number, a scientific measure of how fast the virus is spreading as well as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases at any one time.
All four chief medical officers of the UK nations opposed the prime minister's hopes of lowering the Covid-19 alert level last month, according to BBC economics editor Faisal Islam.
The government pressed on with the modest easing of the lockdown, even after the Boris Johnson promised that any relaxation would be conditional on a lowering of the alert level.
Read more on how the alert system works here
Fauci doesn't see the US returning to lockdownsUS top coronavirus expert Dr Anthony Fauci can't see the country returning to lockdowns despite the country's infection rate remaining high.
"I don't think we're going to be talking about going back to lockdown," he told news agency AFP. "I think we're going to be talking about trying to better control those areas of the country that seem to be having a surge of cases."
While the former US epicentre in New York appears to have controlled the outbreak, infection rates are still rising in other states.
Dr Fauci said there should be a localised approach to reopening the country, so that areas where there's no new cases could reopen schools, while other parts of the country should wait.
The White House adviser on the pandemic also said he was optimistic there would be a vaccine soon, describing early trial results as "encouraging".
WHO hopes for millions of vaccine doses soonThe World Health Organization (WHO) hopes that hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses could be produced by the end of the year and be targeted at those most vulnerable to the virus.
There is no vaccine yet, but WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said experts worldwide were working on more than 200 possibilities. Around 10 potential vaccines are currently undergoing human trials.
"I'm hopeful, I'm optimistic," she explained.
"But vaccine development is a complex undertaking, it comes with a lot of uncertainty The good thing is, we have many vaccines and platforms so even if the first one fails, or the second ones fails, we shouldn't lose hope, we shouldn't give up."
"If we're very lucky, there will be one or two successful candidates before the end of this year," she said. The priority recipients would probably be frontline workers such as medics, those vulnerable because of age or illness and those who are in high-transmission settings like care homes or prisons.
New Zealand goes back to being virus-freeIt's back to zero new virus cases for New Zealand today - days after two women who travelled from the UK were found positive, ending a previous 24-day clean streak.
Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said 6,273 tests had been carried out across the country on Thursday in response to those cases but none were positive.
However a man in his 60s who was in an isolation facility after arriving from overseas had yesterday been found positive. All arrivals in New Zealand are required to quarantine for 14 days.
The three cases are the only active virus cases in the country - and bring the total number of confirmed cases to 1,507.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had earlier this week slammed the "unacceptable failure of the system", after finding out about the country's two new cases. They had been given permission to leave quarantine early for family reasons but then travelled across the country before falling ill.
"It should not have happened and it cannot be repeated," she said
California makes face masks compulsoryIf you're in California remember to put your mask on before stepping out - because they've just been made compulsory.
Under a new law passed on Thursday by Gov Gavin Newsom, residents have to mask up while in public or high-risk settings - including when shopping, on public transport or in medical care.
Children under two are exempt from the rules, as are people eating or drinking in restaurants.
"Our numbers are going up, not down. Hospitalisation numbers are starting to creep back up and I'm very concerned by what we're seeing," Newson told news outlet ABC7.
It's not clear how this will be enforced but it's likely to be met with some pushback.
Take note guy in white shirt - you'll now have to wear a mask in public
American Airlines removes non-masked passengerNot everyone is embracing the idea of face masks. American Airlines removed a passenger from one of its flights after he refused to wear a mask in compliance with its Covid-19 policy.
Brandon Straka, who had been on a flight from New York to Texas, said there was no federal law that required him to wear a face covering.
He added that it was the first time something like this had happened to him.
American Airlines said it would ban him until "face coverings are no longer required for customers".
Face masks are currently not compulsory under federal law, but all major US airlines have been enforcing face covering rules for passengers and crew since mid-May.
Read more about the mask row here
Restaurants, gyms resume as Singapore reopensYvette Tan - BBC News, Singapore
It's the start of a brand new day in Europe but here in Singapore, people have already been rushing out as the country starts re-opening.
Under Singapore's "Phase 2" non-essential retail stores, gyms and most businesses that had been shut for more than two months are allowed to re-open. Dine-in services in restaurants and cafes will also resume.
Gatherings of more than five people however, aren't allowed, and people still have to don their masks and stick to social distancing rules.
But it's likely these measures aren't going to deter most from going out this weekend. There's a triumphant mood in the air - many seem eager to make up for two months' worth of inactivity.
I'm not sure if I'll be one of those rushing out, however - part of me genuinely wants to join a queue for bubble tea, but at the same time, I don't want to invalidate the last few months we've spent in lockdown. The number of locally transmitted cases are low, but they are still present.
That said, I am still very much tempted by my favourite restaurant that's now re-opened. I might just don my mask and take my chances - we'll see.
S Asian people most likely to die in GB hospitalsJames Gallagher - Health and science correspondent, BBC News
South Asian people are the most likely to die from coronavirus after being admitted to hospital in Great Britain, major analysis has shown.
It is the only ethnic group to have a raised risk of death in hospital and is partly due to high levels of diabetes.
The study across England, Scotland and Wales is hugely significant as it assessed data from four in 10 of all hospital patients with Covid-19.
The researchers said policies such as protecting people at work and who gets a vaccine may now need to change.
Read more here
South Korea's battle against virus continuesIt once looked like the worst was over, but the virus is very much still present in South Korea.
The country recorded 49 new cases on Friday - 32 of which were local infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 12,306.
Most of the locally transmitted cases were recorded in the capital, Seoul, and its nearby metropolitan areas, where around half of the country's 50 million population lives.
And according to news site Yonhap, infections in the region are showing no clear signs of a slowdown.
South Korea's health minister has warned the country could return to tough social distancing measures if cases remain high.
South Korea had eased its strict social distancing rules in early May after cases started to fall. But a rise in infections - linked to a nightclub district and one distribution centre - meant cases quickly began stacking up again.
Latest from EuropeAs the day begins in Europe, we bring you the latest of what's happening around the continent in the fight against coronavirus.
- Leaders of EU countries are to hold a videoconference later on Friday to try to resolve divisions over a coronavirus recovery fund. Several northern European nations are opposing part of the EU Commission plan which involves offering €500bn (£450bn) in grants to countries worst affected by the pandemic
- Hungary's PM Viktor Orban says he will not hesitate to take the necessary steps in case of a second wave of the virus, Reuters reports. Hungarian lawmakers voted in favour of repealing extraordinary powers granted to Mr Orban to fight the virus on Tuesday
- In the UK, after people experienced shortages of toilet rolls, hand sanitiser, pasta and flour, it seems bikes are now the latest item to be in short supply .
Retail sales jump up as lockdown easesUK retail sales volumes jumped 12% in May compared with the all-time record falls in April during lockdown, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Sales were still down by 13.1% on February, before the coronavirus lockdown began.
Non-food stores saw the biggest jump in sales - up 42% as DIY stores and gardening centres opened their doors in May.
Meanwhile, online sales rose to their highest proportion on record. They accounted for 33.4% of total spend, compared with 30.8% in April, the ONS said.
Delhi out of lockdown but fear keeps us homeKrutika Pathi - BBC News, Delhi
As I write this from my home in Delhi, I have the air conditioning and fan on at full blast. The sun is beaming harshly as temperatures have been touching 45C recently.
But this is what's expected for summers here - another sign that normality is seeping back into our lives after India eased out of its stringent lockdown earlier this month.
Things have jumped back into action - cars have started clogging the roads as more and more shops open, drawing customers in. And yet, at least in my apartment in Delhi, it feels like the lockdown is still very much in place.
The situation continues to be unrelenting in Delhi, which has nearly 50,000 cases. Technically, I can step out, hop in a taxi and go wherever I'd like to in the city - but I don't. It feels even scarier to do so now, as infections have only been climbing, raising our anxieties as they go up.
And so the days roll by as they did under lockdown - weekdays are consumed by working from home while weekends are spent staying indoors at home. The only difference is the constant thrum of the AC, which is switched on all day and night now.
Beijing cluster 'may be European strain'Chinese officials have released genome data for the coronavirus traced to a recent cluster in Beijing, saying they noted similarities to a European strain.
China has shared the data with the World Health Organisation amid pressure to make the findings public.
This comes after Beijing reported nearly 200 fresh Covid-19 infections after months. Tens of thousands are being tested in the city, where neighbourhoods are under lockdown and schools shut. The cluster has been traced to a sprawling wholesale market in the city.
But scientists are cautious over drawing early conclusion about the link.
"It is possible that the virus now causing an outbreak in Beijing travelled from Wuhan to Europe and now back to China," Ben Cowling, a professor at the University of Hong Kong's School of Public Health, told AFP news agency.
But he added that patient zero hadn't been identified yet and that it may be too late to find out how the latest cluster started.
UK banks told to extend credit card 'holidays'Simon Gompertz - Personal finance correspondent
Banks have been told to give even more time to millions of people struggling with credit as a result of the coronavirus.
Credit card, store card, catalogue credit and personal loan customers will be able to ask for a further three-month deferral of repayments and interest. The help was first given in April.
Although the deferrals have been called payment holidays, the money will have to be paid back after the end of the deferral period.
So the financial regulator, the FCA, says if borrowers can resume their payments they should, to avoid getting into more serious difficulty later on.
Current account users have been offered interest-free overdrafts of up to £500. These have been extended for three months as well – and applications can now be made up to 31 October.
Banks have until Monday to comment on the plans, which will be implemented soon after.
More lockdown restrictions to be lifted in WalesWales' First Minister, Mark Drakeford, says lockdown measures have been succeeding, meaning more restrictions can be eased over coming weeks.
From Monday, non-essential retail shops will be allowed to open, provided they can do it safely and on 29 June, schools in Wales will reopen.
From 6 July, the "stay local" guidance to only travel within a five-mile area will be lifted, provided coronavirus cases continue to reduce. In the meantime, if people have a "compassionate reason" to visit a family member who doesn't live locally they can do so, the first minister says.
From 13 July, self-contained accommodation, such as cottages and static caravans, will be able to start taking bookings.
More details will be given at Wales' daily press conference later, Drakeford tells BBC Radio Wales' Breakfast programme.
Irishwoman emerges from 79 days on life supportA woman in the Republic of Ireland has been moved out of intensive care after spending 79 days on a ventilator.
Mary Sullivan was admitted after suffering a heart attack on 11 March and tested positive for Covid-19. She then developed respiratory failure and her condition deteriorated, leading her to require life support.
Doctors at the hospital in Cork where she is being treated believe she has spent the longest time on a ventilator of any Covid-19 patient in Ireland or the UK.
Broadcaster RTE showed staff applauding her as she left the hospital's intensive care unit on Thursday.
South Asians on Covid wards 'much likelier' to have diabetesWe've been hearing this morning that people with South Asian heritage are more likely to die from coronavirus after being admitted to hospitals in Great Britain compared with other ethnic groups, according to a new study.
Dr Ewen Harrison, professor of surgery and data science at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study, says: "We have shown a clear 20% increase in the risk of death in South Asian people who are in hospital with Covid-19.
"South Asian people look very different in hospital to other groups, in particular, white people," he tells BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"They're younger - 12 years younger on average - less likely to have pre-existing conditions such as lung disease, dementia or obesity, but much more likely to have diabetes.
"In fact, 40% of the South Asians in hospital with Covid-19 have diabetes. We think this is quite a significant contributor to their increased likelihood of death."
The findings were made public online ahead of being formally published in a medical journal.
EU giant rescue plan faces heated debateEU leaders are gathering virtually for a video summit focused on an ambitious €750bn (£676bn; $840bn) EU recovery fund to deal with the coronavirus crisis.
Several northern European nations are resisting part of the EU Commission plan because it involves collectively raising €500bn as grants for countries worst hit by the pandemic, notably Italy and Spain.
The BBC’s Gavin Lee in Brussels says this fund, called Next Generation EU, is unprecedented in scale.
Traditionally the EU helps member states through loans, which have to be paid back, though the terms can be generous.
A group known as the “frugal four” - Sweden, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands - have made clear their continued opposition to grants. There are also divisions over the proposed €1.1 trillion EU budget.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron however firmly back the Commission’s plan.
Diplomats say there will be no real compromise until leaders are able to meet face to face, in July.
Questions over Pakistan's 'smart lockdowns'M Ilyas Khan - BBC News, Islamabad
Countrywide "smart lockdowns" have been put in place in Pakistan to combat coronavirus spread, but the country’s medical community is questioning just how smart the lockdowns are.
Starting on Tuesday, the government has enforced the lockdowns in hundreds of places with high Covid-19 rates. Those under lockdown have been asked to stay at home, and all businesses have been ordered to be closed, except for essential services like pharmacies and food shops.
But many opposition groups and healthcare workers point out that tens of thousands of other areas remain open.
Dr Qaisar Sajjad, secretary of the Pakistan Medical Association, has called the move a “non-serious measure”.
Doctors’ associations and opposition groups are instead pushing for a countrywide lockdown. And the World Health Organization has suggested a 15-day on, 15-day off lockdown across Pakistan.
But Pakistan’s battle against the coronavirus has been mired in controversy right from the start. When the Sindh local government – which is the only provincial government run by an opposition party – went for a province-wide lockdown in March, Prime Minister Imran Khan famously warned that "if you try to save people from corona, they will die of hunger".
Khan also controversially claimed that Covid was only a form of flu, and was seen to favour the concept of herd immunity as a way to defeat the virus.
It is widely believed that when infection rates rose, it was the military that stepped in to impose lockdowns, but those lockdowns were undermined by consistent opposition from the prime minister.
Critics say his wavering attitude rendered lockdowns a controversial and non-serious measure in the eyes of the general public. And they fear, as the virus now spreads, that those in the least affected areas will not take notice until it arrives on their doorstep.
Virus 'was already in Italy in December'Coronavirus was already present in northern Italy in December 2019, some two months before the first known case was diagnosed, according to a study by Italy's national health institute , the ISS.
Traces of the virus were detected in samples of waste water in the cities of Milan and Turin at the end of last year, and in Bologna in January, the ISS said.
The institute carried out an analysis of waste water collected from October 2019 to February 2020 before Covid-19 officially hit Italy.
Samples from October and November 2019 were negative, showing the virus had yet to arrive, ISS water quality expert Giuseppina La Rosa said.