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[00:00:00]

Hello, this is the global news podcast from the BBC World Service with reports and analysis from across the world. The latest news, seven days a week. BBC World Service podcasts are supported by advertising. This is the Global News podcast from the BBC World Service.

[00:00:19]

I'm Alex Ritson. And at 13 hours GMT on Monday, the 17th of August, these are our main stories. President Lukashenko of Belarus faces unprecedented pressure to step down after the disputed election. So far, he's not yielding.

[00:00:35]

But nationwide demonstrations and strikes are building coronavirus delays, New Zealand's general election.

[00:00:42]

And in Milwaukee and online, I supported Donald Trump in 2016. I voted for him and I will vote for Joe Biden in 2020. And the reason for that is it's anybody but Trump.

[00:00:58]

The Democrats are holding their delayed convention this week, but will the conference suffer from being virtual?

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Also in this podcast, Japan's economy has shrunk at its fastest rate on record because of covid-19. And British police raided several weddings in the north of England for breaking lockdown restrictions. It seems more and more likely that the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, is approaching the end of his time in office, elections a week ago have been widely seen as fraudulent.

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And today, after days of growing protests, the woman he said he beat, Svetlana, taken off Skya, offered to lead the country. You've got the opportunity to see that.

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I'm prepared to take responsibility and act as the nation's leader during this period so the country can settle down and get back to normality, so that we can release all political prisoners and prepare a legal framework and conditions to hold a new round of presidential elections quickly. Genuine, fair and transparent elections that will be accepted without question by the international community.

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She also called on the security forces to take the side of protesters and for her fellow citizens to be united and peaceful. And that international community, with the exception for now of Russia, is certainly throwing its weight against Mr. Lukashenko. Britain today rejected the reported election result as fraudulent, while a German government spokesman said more punishment was coming. Mr. Lukashenko is way closer.

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It will start no intention of within the EU. We've already agreed on sanctions against those responsible for these human rights violations. How these sanctions will be designed and whether further restrictive measures will be taken will depend on the future behavior of the Belarussian authorities. Of course, we're also considering extending sanctions to other leading figures.

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Mr. Lukashenko has already taken quite a battering from the people he hoped would support him. This was him visiting a factory earlier today. It's possible, yes.

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Because I also wanted to to. He may have recognized the familiar sounds of people chanting, leave, leave, many workers at state television have gone on strike, too. Our correspondent Abdul Jalil Abdu Rasoulof filed this report from outside its headquarters. Many of its employees are now on strike.

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One of their demands is to end censorship and have an objective coverage of the events in Belarus. Hundreds of people came here to support them also across the country and a number of factories and plants like major factories, including like Belarus, Karlee potassium plant that makes fertilizers and Beller's track the plant, they are also on strike. These are key factories and plants that are very important for the economy of Belarus. And the workers are demanding Mr Lukashenko to leave. They want to have a rerun of the vote because they believe the elections were rigged.

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And they are saying that all political prisoners, including detainees, were arrested during the violent crackdown on protesters. They must be released as well. It is really hard to imagine how President Lukashenko will be able to continue ruling this country because the image of his popularity, the image of his legitimacy, has been shattered.

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Abdul Jalil Abdu Rasoulof in Minsk. Natalia Denisova is a Belarusian lawyer from Minsk who was herself arrested and imprisoned after she complained about election fraud. The BBC's Shawn Ley asked her what she thought of the large demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands of people across the country over the weekend.

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I think very inspired and proud of our people because they are not afraid anymore. Everybody risks their freedom, their lives. They can be tortured in prisons, but they still come out to demonstrate peacefully what they think, what they need, and all they need is democracy. We don't need any violence, any blood anymore on the streets. All we need is honest elections.

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You say we don't need any more blood. Can I put to you what President Lukashenko is said to have told workers at a tractor plant have said there's some debate about whether he actually was able to speak to some or whether he left without speech. That will be perhaps come clearer later. But the quote does come from Reuters news agency is that we had elections already. Until you kill me, there will be no other elections.

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We don't want to kill each other. We just want him to leave. And we want democracy and honest elections. We don't want blood and violence.

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Is it in your view, though, down to the president to avoid that outcome?

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I hope that will be able to avoid this because we're normal people. We don't want anybody to be killed anymore.

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You had the very frightening experience of being detained and detained for questioning, intimidated. What was the worst moment for you in that?

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For me, you know, the worst moment was when I was made to stand twice naked in front of the lady who made a search for me. She made me to stay naked before her for several times as a kind of pressure. This is like my personal experience. I know that I was lucky I wasn't beaten. I wasn't tortured because one of the girls who was sitting with me in the same cell, she was sent again to this. How on the earth are crazy tonight?

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It's the biggest prison in Minsk. And she told me she was released yesterday, that at night she heard men were screaming horribly. They were tortured and the floor on the corridor was covered with blood and urine. So for me, everything was fine. I was humiliated, of course, but it was not such a bad thing as happened to other people. And there are a lot of people who are inside prisons right now. They're tortured right now.

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One of my colleague was arrested a couple of days ago. He was just monitor at the ball station and he was accused of organizing civil disorder. And this is a crime. And he faces now five to 15 years of imprisonment. Personally, I'm scared. I'm hiding now. I'm not at home. I'm not with my little boy, so I'm scared. But yesterday I was out. I participated in this demonstration and. I really hope the situation will improve.

[00:08:17]

Natalia Denisova, so what is likely to happen next? That partly depends on whether the security forces remain loyal to President Lukashenko. Europe regional editor Mike Sanders gave us this assessment of President Lukashenko. His personal position, I think pretty friendly, really.

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He is very, very old style. He's been in power for 26 years. He's a former collective farm manager. Russian service colleagues say that even in Russia, he's treated with some disdain by President Putin. Now, that's not to say that President Putin wouldn't offer him some kind of refuge if it did come to a transition of power. That's what he did, after all, for Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian leader, when the maiden demonstrations ousted him in Ukraine in 2014.

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There is some I think, interestingly, Mr. Lukashenko has been seen with his young son, Nikolai, by his side. Now, Nikolai turns 16 at the end of this month. And it looks to me as if he's preparing possibly to leave hastily, but with his youngest son in protection, our Europe regional editor, Mike Saunders.

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This obviously a moving story. Full updates on our website at BBC News dotcom as it develops in the coming hours.

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New official figures show that the economies of Japan and Thailand contracted sharply in the second quarter of the year as the pandemic hit a wide range of commercial activity. The decline in Japan was seven point eight percent, compared with the first three months of the year. In Thailand, it was nine point seven percent. Most analysts expect the Japanese economy to show subdued signs of recovery later in the year. People on the streets of Tokyo explain their views on the changing economic landscape.

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That's when the new coronavirus spread in February.

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I personally expected a Great Depression would hit us.

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I think the depression is not ending so soon.

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Now, Japan is in a rather good condition compared to other countries. The economy is moving at least even if the coronavirus situation slows it down.

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Japan's quarterly decline was less severe than the double digit contractions felt across Europe and the United States between April and June. Here's our economics correspondent Andrew Walker.

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The pandemic has had a particularly marked impact on international trade, and that was one of the key factors behind the sharp declines in economic activity in both Japan and Thailand. Both countries saw exports fall sharply. Thailand is especially exposed to the disruption that has hit global tourism, and that was reflected in dramatic falls in business for its transport, accommodation and food service sectors. Spending by consumers in both countries also declined. The percentage falls were less sharp than for international trade, but the impact was still severe as household spending is a large share of both economies.

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Our economics correspondent Andrew Walker. In the United States, the Democrats are holding their delayed convention this week. Well, virtually at least not even Joe Biden is going to be in Milwaukee in person. With America still in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, the former vice president has a big lead in the polls. And the rollout of his vice presidential running mate, Kamala Harris was widely deemed a success. It will now have to break, cover and end what's been called his bunker strategy since the cold pandemic bought normal campaigning to a halt.

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Our North America correspondent Nick Bryant reports.

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We're seeing it again. The virus spreading out of control. The president once again failing to act.

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This has become a covid election, and that's provided the most morbid of boons for the challenger, Joe Biden.

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Joe Biden knows we need to listen to medical experts and take action now.

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For months, he's been an almost invisible candidate, hunkered down in the basement of his Delaware residence while the virus rechter once strong American economy, the ace card of any presidential incumbent seeking re-election.

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You know, I wish we could all be together in person, but I'm grateful we're able to connect.

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Virtually being sequestered away helped conceal his own political vulnerabilities.

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Our next president, Joe Biden.

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But what we discovered early in the campaign was that the more voters saw of the former vice president, the less likely they were to vote for him. Hello, hello. Hello, hello, hello. In Iowa and New Hampshire, Joe Biden performed disastrously.

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Speeches became rambling soliloquies. It sounded like he'd done his dash. And while the moderate 77 year old was offering soft jazz after the round the clock heavy metal of the Trump years, a presidency you could have on in the. The problem was he struggled to hold a shoe. We're going to the well, we're just a divided country.

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What's better, sleepy Joe Wislow.

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Joe, tell me. Donald Trump has been merciless, dubbing his opponents Sleepy Joe and essentially claiming he's seen their messengers.

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Sleepy Joe. He doesn't know it's his message. He has no idea what the message is. But he's going to do whatever they tell him to do. You know it because he's not all there.

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Folks don't just feel like they know Joe the politician. They feel like they know the person.

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But it's hard to demonize somebody as genial as Barack Obama's former running mate, whose smile is almost his philosophy. And in the midst of so much mourning and bereavement, he finds himself on the same emotional plane as so many voters.

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And through his life, he has never once forgotten the values and the moral fiber that made him who he is.

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He has the empathy of a father who lost his first wife and young baby in a car crash in the early 70s and his grown up some beau from cancer while he was serving as vice president.

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I supported Donald Trump in 2016. I voted for him and I will vote for Joe Biden in 2020. And the reason for that is it's anybody but Trump.

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Gary Graham Biden is a working class voter from Pennsylvania, a state Hillary Clinton was expected to win four years ago. A one time Trump supporter, he now describes himself as a devout Trump hater. He's precisely the kind of disgruntled voter Biden has always claimed he could win back.

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He seems like he would possibly bring the country together better than Donald Trump. And he seems like he cares a little bit more than Donald Trump cares.

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Often, elections are a choice between continuity and change. But Biden offers a version of both a course correction from the political chaos of the Trump years, but a return to a conventional presidency that adheres to traditional norms of behavior.

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How are you going to be watching the Democratic Convention? This will be a convention season like no other streamed online, like a glorified zoom call I'm watching on Amazon fire TV on Apple TV.

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For Joe Biden, it carries the potential risk of greater exposure and all the scrutiny that comes with it, especially from campaign reporters itching to inject more drama into this race. As one well-connected Democrat told me last week, just because it looks like Donald Trump is losing it doesn't mean that Joe Biden is winning.

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Thank you so much. Appreciate the time. And I'm getting out of here. Thank you.

[00:15:58]

That report compiled by our North America correspondent, Nick Bryant. It's not the first time and likely not the last that conference is of this magnitude will be forced online thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

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But do virtual events really work, in other words, to people tune in or just tune out once they've logged on? The BBC's Jane Wakefield has been finding out.

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It is often said that some big events are weather deals that shape our world are done entrance to conferences such as TED, in which the technology elite mingle with academics and thought leaders come with a hefty price tag. The starting price for TED is 5000 dollars. So is 2020, the year that networking has stopped?

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We just held an event that usually takes place in Toronto, online and successfully for the first time. That's Paddy Cosgrave.

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He's the chief executive of Web Summit, a giant technology conference held annually in Lisbon, Portugal. Until this year, at its website and its sister conferences rise in Hong Kong and collision in Toronto have gone online this year.

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We had just over 32000 people from almost every country in the world. We decided to charge about a quarter of what we would usually charge. I don't think you need to charge as much as an offline conference because a lot of the costs don't exist.

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Chris Anderson runs Ted. His conference attracts the richest people on the planet.

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What should a virtual conference look like? Do a little bit every day for a longer period of time. So we had this eight weeks virtual TED experience. Probably the most interesting thing we tried was just a what we called IDEO speed dating, where you could select a moment just to meet someone at random for five minutes. That was definitely a hit.

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I spoke to attendee Anna Turkle, who was excited to be attending her first ever Ted and disappointed when it went virtual.

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When you attend a conference, you naturally click with some people. I don't feel that we've been able to build those long lasting human connections that would stay with us. And to me, that's a pity and it's not a head at all. But it's this sad, you virtual reality that we're living in these days.

[00:18:06]

That report by the BBC's Jane Wakefield, South Africa's police minister, has said the suspect who. Killed himself while in police custody, has confessed to the murders of several women in rural KwaZulu-Natal, the bodies of five women were found between April and August. Here's Nomsa Maseko.

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Hundreds of community members gathered outside the Mumbai Magistrates Court hoping to catch a glimpse of the suspects who were arrested for the murders of five women whose bodies were found on a sugarcane farm. People who live here were angered when they were told that the main suspect killed himself in custody. Some were even demanding to see his body as proof. Police minister basically addressed the crowd. He told them that the suspect who killed himself had confessed to the crimes while a second accused was beaten up by inmates.

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The minister also revealed that police believe there might be more women whose bodies have not yet been found.

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Nomsa Maseko in Johannesburg. Still to come in this podcast, Come Jesus Christ, make theatres work in the pandemic.

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The thing that I found the most difficult is not being able to talk to anybody. We have to say two metres apart, if we're singing with someone, we have to say three minutes to.

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Police in the northwest of England, so they had to break up two weddings at the weekend because they were breaching coronavirus restrictions which are enforced in parts of the area. A senior officer has also expressed concern that genuine emergencies may not be able to get through to officers because of the number of people dialing 999 to report others for ignoring social distancing rules.

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More from Danny Savage.

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The two weddings where police told people to disperse were in Lancashire and Greater Manchester. In Blackburn last night, more than 100 guests complied with orders to stop their celebrations in Waddi Range in Manchester. The organiser of another wedding with more than 50 guests who'd also put up a marquee, was given a fixed penalty notice. It was one of 54 reported incidents in the area yesterday afternoon and evening. Both Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire have local restrictions in place to prevent people socialising with other households.

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Police say they are also concerned that responses to serious emergencies are being delayed because of the number of 999 calls about social distancing breaches.

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Danny Savage. New Zealand's general election has been postponed because of the recent outbreak of covid-19 in Auckland. The poll had been due to take place in September, but the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has announced that the date will be pushed back by four weeks.

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Ultimately, the 17th of October, in approximately nine weeks time, provides sufficient time for parties to plan around the range of circumstances we could be campaigning under for the electoral commission to prepare and for voters to feel assured of a safe, accessible and credible election.

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Joe Lynham asked Amelia Wade from the New Zealand Herald if this was being seen as an appropriate measure by New Zealanders.

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We actually ran a poll ahead of just androgens decision and found that 60 per cent of Kiwis actually did want to see a change in the election date. And this jumped up to 85 per cent of people in Auckland, which is obviously the city which is locked down. Meanwhile, sort of the majority of political parties in parliament also wanted to see a delay to the election, given the disruption to the campaign period. And also they want for the government to focus on the public health response.

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So no doubt this will be a decision that most will support from this perspective here in Europe.

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New Zealand had built up a very strong reputation for its handling of the covid-19 crisis.

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Is there any chance that that reputation and Jacinta Ardern reputation for handling it is in jeopardy now?

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I think the strength of our response here, instead of what the perception was overseas, was that we went hard and that we went early. And that is, again, what our government has done with this recent outbreak. And so they've moved to lock down Auckland, which is a larger city and a third of the population. So they're essentially in lockdown while the rest of New Zealand is still under restrictions, is they've gone to do that for two weeks.

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And in that case and that time, they're able to rapidly identify, trace and come out and test to try to work out the source of this infection and limited as much as possible. And it does seem to be working. However, what we know, there is no doubt that people will this will make people rethink about what whether it is possible to live a completely normal life in a pandemic of absolutely epic proportions.

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Remind us of the number of cases that New Zealand has had and the death toll.

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So we have now had nine new cases reported today in the community, which brings this recent cluster an outbreak to about 58. They are able to connect all of those dots, which is good news. In our previous outbreak, we had about 20 deaths there and we're now about one thousand five hundred cases. But the good news is, so we are still able to link all of the cases. So this outbreak is contained. However, the source of the infection and how it got into New Zealand is still a mystery.

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And that's what officials are trying to wait to get to the bottom of.

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Joe Lieberman speaking to Amelia Wade from the New Zealand Herald. State officials in Australia have apologised for their failings over the handling of a huge covid-19 outbreak on the Ruby Princess cruise ship last week. An inquiry found New South Wales health authorities made serious mistakes in allowing more than two and a half thousand people to disembark when the ship docked in Sydney in March. They were not tested for the virus, despite there being suspected coronavirus cases on board. The ship was ultimately linked to at least 900 infections and 28 deaths.

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Meanwhile, 25 people have died with the coronavirus in the Australian state of Victoria, a record daily high for the country. A lockdown, including in the state's capital, Melbourne, has been in.

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For three weeks, our correspondent Shima Halil says there are signs that the measures are starting to work in terms of the new cases recorded in the last 24 hours, that's now more than one day where you get the number below 300. So in a way, there is a cautious optimism that the number of new cases recorded in 24 hours is now looking down. So they're hoping that means that the state and the city is past the peak time.

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Shaimaa Khalil in Australia. Slowly but surely, English venues are reopening after months of lockdown caused by the coronavirus. The latest indoor theaters and concert halls, which from Friday will be welcoming back audiences socially distanced, of course, perhaps the most ambitious production in terms of audience and cast sizes, says the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. Our arts correspondent Vincent Doud examines what it's like to put on a big show in the pandemic era.

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A baking hot afternoon in Regent's Park, London. Up in the open fan shaped auditorium, choreographer Drew Marcone is rethinking where some of superstar's casts of 22 should dance.

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Last year after six Marling's all is Charlotte's five.

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And each performer has a space defined by numbers on the stage, which imply a two metre grid, one to the same tomorrow for tomorrow.

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Think about two things that Tim Sheida runs the venue as a whole and he's directing this show.

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I mean, it's so terribly exciting that indoor theater is going to be able to reopen. But the thing that I've learnt the most is working on the set itself is essential and socially dist. them getting on and off the stage sounds so simplistic, but actually is incredibly complicated.

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But she says Superstar was the one show they'd done recently, which he knew he and the cast could rework to face coronavirus realities.

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We're taking each challenge as a creative exercise and a use via imagination's, which we're all very happy to be using again, and to entertain people and allow people to be transported to a different existence for a while. So we're trying to keep coronavirus things off stage as much as possible. Masks appear at the beginning of the show, and then they come off in a particular famous fanfare of music.

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Tim, you just had to accept an audience cap of around 400, a third of what it was when the show was done here in 2017.

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It's not that I object to. She doesn't fit in well on stage, Ricardo Afonso is dusting down his performance as Judas, who in the Gospels portrays Jesus that should involve a maliciously planted kiss. But physical contact, of course, is about Judas.

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Must you betray me with a kiss? The line that Jesus says to do that, how are we going to do that? We have to do it from to me to decide becomes more metaphorical and less literal. We prove that it can be done. And in many cases, the tension in the numbers because of the spacing being so precise raises the temperature that added pressure in each number. And I think it works.

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I don't know how to tell. Mimouna Mayman is back to rehearse her former role as Mary Magdalene.

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I mean, the thing that I probably found the most difficult is not being able to talk to anybody. We have to say two metres apart when we're rehearsing on stage. If we're singing was something we have to say three months apart, you're projecting a lot. You're using your whole lung capacity. And sometimes you might cut yourself getting a little bit too close and you've just got to make sure that you don't, but hopefully will be able to show other theatres that it is possible to do something like this.

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You just have to be so careful.

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Some performances are already sold out. That's good news for non-OPEN. Our theatres elsewhere, hoping their audiences permitted at last to return to much loved auditoriums will feel confident about doing so soon. Our arts correspondent Vincent Doubt, and that's all from us for now, but there'll be an updated version of the Global News podcast later. If you want to comment on this podcast or the topics covered in it, you can send us an email. The address is global podcast at BBC dot com dot UK.

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I'm Alex Ritson. Until next time. Goodbye.