Coronavirus live updates: US cases top 735,000, South Korea relaxes some social distancing rules

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This is CNBC’s live blog covering all the latest news on the coronavirus outbreak. All times below are in Eastern time. This blog will be updated throughout the day as the news breaks. 

  • Global cases: More than 2.3 million
  • Global deaths: At least 161,262
  • US cases: More than 735,200
  • US deaths: At least 39,090

The data above was compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

8:44 am: Putin says coronavirus crisis under full control despite record rise in cases

A police officer with flu masks on the faces seen at a chekpoint on the road from Riga at the entrance to Moscow, Russia, April,15,2020.

Mikhail Svetlov

President Vladimir Putin said that Russian authorities had the coronavirus crisis under full control and that everything would work out with God’s help, even as the country on Sunday registered a record daily rise in cases of the new virus.

Russia on Sunday reported 6,060 new cases in the previous 24 hours, bringing its nationwide tally to 42,853, though the official death toll of 361 remains relatively low compared with other countries with a similar number of cases.

In a video message to congratulate Christians on the Orthodox Easter, Putin said the religious festival would strengthen Russians’ hope and faith because the resurrection of Christ was a powerful symbol of rebirth and a reminder that life goes on.

The Russian leader, who looked relaxed as he sat in front of a fireplace at his out of town Moscow residence, said his country had all the necessary resources to do what was needed for people’s health and the economy.

“All levels of power are working in an organized, responsible and timely way,” said Putin, who was flanked by painted Easter eggs, a traditional Orthodox Kulich sweet bread, and a big pot of tea.

“The situation is under full control. All of our society is united in front of the common threat.” —Reuters

8:26 am: Australia demands coronavirus inquiry, adding to pressure on China

Australia on Sunday added to growing pressure on China over its handling of the novel coronavirus, questioning its transparency and demanding an international investigation into the origins of the virus and how it spread.

The coronavirus is believed to have emerged in a market selling wildlife in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. It has spread around the world infecting some 2.3 million people and killing nearly 160,000 of them, according to Reuters calculations.

Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne, said her concern about China’s transparency was at “a very high point”.

“The issues around the coronavirus are issues for independent review, and I think that it is important that we do that,” Payne told ABC television. —Reuters

8:14 am: South Korea relaxes some social distancing rules as new virus cases fall

A South Korean woman wears plastic gloves and has her temperature checked upon arrival to cast her vote for Parliamentary election amid the coronavirus outbreak on April 15, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.

Chung Sung-Jun | Getty Images)

South Korea extended its social distancing policy for another 16 days on Sunday but offered some relief for churches and sporting fixtures, as it reported just eight new coronavirus infections, the lowest in two months.

The slightly relaxed guidelines mean high-risk facilities like churches will no longer have to close, while sports matches such as soccer can resume without an audience. “It is safest to maintain the intensive social distancing, but it isn’t easy realistically. We need to find a middle ground,” Prime Minister Chung Sye Kyun told a televised meeting of government officials.

“If we can maintain a stable management at the current level, we will shift to ‘routine social distancing’ from May 6,” Chung said.

Health authorities have said this would allow a reopening of the economy while maintaining guidelines on disinfection and preventing the spread of the virus in people’s daily lives.

It was the first time since Feb. 18 that South Korea reported a single-digit daily rise in new infections. The figure brings its total cases to 10,661. —Reuters

Read CNBC’s coverage from CNBC’s Asia-Pacific and Europe teams overnight here: Spain sees lowest death count rise in a month, global death toll tops 160,000

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