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Record surge in Brazil, Mexico coronavirus cases

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  • The United States government plans to stockpile hundreds of millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines that are currently under development, in hopes of having a successful vaccine ready for mass distribution as soon as possible, a health official said. 
  • Brazil posted another daily record for coronavirus cases as Health Minister Nelson Teich resigned after less than a month on the job.
  • Germany’s coronavirus-hit economy contracted by 2.2 percent in the first quarter of the year in its steepest three-month slump since the 2009 financial crisis.
  • Globally, more than 4.5 million people have been infected and more than 306,000 have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. About 1.6 million people have recovered.

Here are all the latest updates:

Saturday, May 16

02:05 GMT – US House passes $3 trillion coronavirus aid bill

The United States House of Representatives narrowly passed a $3 trillion bill aimed at salving the heavy human and economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill, crafted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats, passed mostly along party lines in a 208-199 vote.

The enormous measure would cost more than the prior four coronavirus bills combined. It would deliver almost $1 trillion for state and local governments, another round of $1,200 direct payments to individuals and help for the unemployed, renters and homeowners, college debt holders and the struggling US Postal Service.

But Republicans, who control the Senate, have promised it will be “dead on arrival” in their chamber.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walks past the Statuary Hall at the US Capitol on May 15, 2020 in Washington, DC, the United States [Olivier Douliery/ AFP]

01:53 GMT – US deaths projected to exceed 100,000 by June 1

Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says forecasting models indicate the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the US will increase in the coming weeks.

The total death toll is projected to surpass 100,000 by June 1, he added in a tweet.

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01:34 GMT – Air Canada to lay off more than 20,000 people

Canada’s largest airline said it plans to lay off at least 20,000 employees because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Air Canada said the cuts affect more than half of the company’s 38,000 employees.

The airline said the pandemic has forced it to reduce scheduled flights by 95 percent, and it does not expect normal traffic to return anytime soon.

“We therefore took the extremely difficult decision today to significantly downsize our operation to align with forecasts, which regrettably means reducing our workforce by 50 to 60 percent,” the airline said in a statement.

INSIDE STORY | What’s the fallout from the pandemic wave of unemployment? (25:26)

01:09 GMT – LATAM Airlines to cut 1,400 jobs

LATAM Airlines said it would lay off 1,400 employees in Latin America, blaming a drastic slump in business due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Despite all the efforts we have made to take care of jobs, we are forced to make this difficult decision,” said Roberto Alvo, executive director of the Chilean-Brazilian carrier.

“The effects of COVID-19 are profound and make reducing the size of the LATAM group inevitable to protect its sustainability in the medium term,” Alvo said in a statement.

The jobs will be cut from operations in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, it said.

00:39 GMT – ‘Most difficult moment’ as Mexico reports record daily cases

Mexico’s health ministry reported 2,437 new coronavirus infections on Friday in a fresh one-day record rise in cases.

The new infections brought confirmed coronavirus cases in the country to 45,032. The death toll rose by 290 to 4,767. Mexico’s highest daily toll was on Tuesday, when health authorities reported 353 fatalities.

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“We are at the moment of the fastest growth in new cases,” said Assistant Health Secretary Hugo Lopez-Gatell. “This is the most difficult moment.”

Brazil’s president defiant as coronavirus death toll soars (2:41)

00:28 GMT – Brazil reports 15,305 infections

Brazil’s health ministry confirmed 15,305 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday in a record for a 24-hour period.

It also reported 824 related deaths. Brazil has registered 218,223 confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic and 14,817 deaths.

00:04 GMT – US House allows proxy voting

The US House of Representatives approved a historic change to its rules allowing legislators to vote by “proxy” from remote locations temporarily.

The change, proposed by Democrats and passed in a 217-189 vote, upends more than 200 years of precedent in Congress. Proxy voting has been allowed before within committees but not for votes in the full House or Senate.

Under the new rules, House legislators will no longer be required to travel to Washington, DC to participate in floor votes. They will be allowed to vote by proxy – assigning their vote to another legislator who will be at the Capitol to cast it for them. Eventually, a provision allows for direct remote voting, once the technology is approved.

Just as important, the House committees – the bread and butter of legislative work – will be able to fully function remotely.

House Democrat Jim McGovern said “convening Congress must not turn into a super-spreader event”.

“You can respect tradition without blinding yourself of the need to make temporary changes when necessary. And today is one of those times.”

The new rule will remain in place only for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.

Republicans, however, attacked the move, with Representative Debbie Lesko warning it sets “a terrible example”. She added: “This has never been done in the history of the United States – not during the Civil War, not during previous pandemics.”

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives.

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