Coronavirus world round-up: Travel may be 'impossible', yet holiday bookings climb

Jordan Kelly-Linden
It's unlikely Britons will be holidaying in Nice this year, even if the French government ease travel restrictions -  VALERY HACHE / AFP

​The number of people booking holidays for this year leapt in May, despite warnings that they may not be able to travel and get their money back.

Since the start of May, millions of pounds have been spent on holidays that may not take place, with many customers being lured in by the huge discounts currently being offered by travel providers. 

But tens of thousands of customers are still waiting to get their money back for holidays already cancelled, meaning that those booking now may find themselves at the back of a very long queue for refunds.

They are also unlikely to be able to now buy insurance that would cover them for disruption caused by coronavirus, as many insurers have added Covid-19 restrictions to their policies

How to stay protected: Holiday bookings climb despite warnings that travel is 'impossible'

Meanwhile the global case count passed six million infections yesterday, with no sign of the virus letting up in a number of countries, including the US where mass gatherings have upended coronavirus control.

Over the past week, protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pinned a knee to his neck, have involved thousands of people gathered tightly together in large crowds in more than 20 cities nationwide.

It's unclear if the protests themselves will trigger large new outbreaks. But, still, experts worry that public efforts to contain the disease in the future could be undermined.

Protests have erupted across the US and the rest of the world in response to George Floyd's death - KEREM YUCEL / AFP

White Helmets accuse WHO of failing to protect Syrians from coronavirus threat

The White Helmets have accused the World Health Organization of failing to help Syria’s most vulnerable people from the coronavirus pandemic as doctors brace themselves for catastrophe.

The White Helmets, best known for rescuing civilians from buildings bombed by the Syrian regime or its Russian backers, have turned their focus to preparing the country for a predicted tsunami of coronavirus cases.

Syrian regime and Russian airstrikes have destroyed the majority of Syria’s hospitals, and some 70 per cent of doctors that lived in Syria before the outbreak of war have fled. The remaining hospitals lack equipment and the medics needed to operate it.

The UN’s humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock has warned that Syria can’t be expected “to cope with a crisis that is challenging even the wealthiest nations.”

A member of the Syrian civil defence, also known as the White Helmets, sprays disinfectant on washing hanging outside a tent - MUHAMMAD HAJ KADOUR / AFP

Lifting travel restrictions creates rifts in Italy

The Italian government’s decision to lift any restriction on travel between regions from June 3 opened a rift among regional governors, worried about a possible spread of coronavirus contagions.

Italy confirmed the date planned for allowing free movements across the country, as it also reopens its borders to international tourism.

The decision - announced on Saturday by Health Minister Roberto Speranza - came after the government reviewed the latest regional data on contagions, which were considered reassuring.

Protests erupted in Milan and Rome over the response by the Italian government to the economic crisis caused by Covid-19 - Antonio Masiello / Getty

Spain's worst-hit region leads way out of pandemic

Health authorities in La Rioja, famous for its rich red wine, are toasting a remarkable turnaround from becoming Spain’s worst-hit region in terms of Covid-19 contagion to a sign of hope that the country’s epidemic can be kept under control by testing and tracing.

Far from Madrid and Barcelona, Spain’s densely populated largest cities that have hosted massive outbreaks, the scenic wine region of La Rioja with its scattered hilltop villages might have seemed a less-than-likely location for coronavirus to take root.

But with more than 4,000 confirmed cases among a population of just 315,000, La Rioja has the highest concentration of positives among all of Spain’s regions, although its total deaths of 360 is proportionally a better figure than badly hit Madrid and Castilla-La Mancha.

A health worker performs a coronavirus test to a local resident in Spain - Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty

Belgian prince tests positive for Covid after high-society party

A Belgian man who tested positive after attending a party in Spain is the country’s Prince Joachim, it emerged on Saturday.

The 28-year-old, 10th in line to the Belgian throne, attended a party in the southern Spanish city of Cordoba, which is now being investigated by authorities.

He is the younger son and third child of Prince Lorenz and Princess Astrid and the nephew of the current Belgian monarch, King Philippe.

Prince Joachim has lived in Spain for several years with his girlfriend, Victoria Ortiz Martinez-Sagrera.

The party where he contracted coronavirus was reportedly organised in his honour a day after he returned to Spain on Monday after two months in Belgium.

The event was held in a private house amid conflicting local reports up to 30 high-society people may have attended the bash in breach of strict conditions linked to Spain’s lockdown.

Prince Joachim has lived in Spain for several years with his girlfriend Victoria Ortiz Martinez-Sagrera - Patrick van Katwijk / Getty

What you might have missed

  • Hong Kong has confirmed its first locally transmitted coronavirus cases in more than two weeks, fuelling concerns over its spread as restrictions on movement are relaxed.
  • China reported the highest daily increase in coronavirus cases in nearly three weeks with 16 new infections discovered on May 31, as the number of so-called imported cases jumped in southwestern Sichuan province.
  • Peru reported 8,800 new Covid-19 infections on Sunday, setting a new daily record for a country that already has the second highest number of cases in Latin America after Brazil.
  • Turkey re-opens restaurants, cafes and parks today and lifts inter-city travel curbs as the country eases restrictions taken to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Japan is considering re-opening its borders to travellers from selected countries which have low levels of coronavirus infections. The government also gave the green light for the country's much-loved karoke bars to reopen, too.
  • Shopping centres and parks are set to reopen in Moscow on Monday as the Russian capital eases restrictions despite having the world's third-largest caseload.