Coronavirus is continuing its spread across the world, with more than three million confirmed cases in 185 countries and more than 200,000 deaths.
The United States alone has more than one million confirmed cases – four times as many as any other country.
This series of maps and charts tracks the global outbreak of the virus since it emerged in China in December last year.
How many cases and deaths have there been?
The virus, which causes the respiratory infection Covid-19, was first detected in the city of Wuhan, China, in late 2019.
It is spreading rapidly in many countries and the number of deaths is still climbing.
Note: The map and table in this page uses a different source for figures for France from that used by Johns Hopkins University which results in a slightly lower overall total.
The US has by far the largest number of cases, with more than one million confirmed infections, according to figures collated by Johns Hopkins University. With more than 60,000 fatalities, it also has the world’s highest death toll.
Italy, the UK, Spain and France – the worst-hit European countries – have all recorded more than 20,000 deaths.
In China, the official death toll is approaching 5,000 from about 84,000 confirmed cases. Numbers for deaths jumped on 17 April after what officials called “a statistical review” and critics have questioned whether the country’s official numbers can be trusted.
Note: The past data for new cases is a three day rolling average
The outbreak was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March. This is when an infectious disease is passing easily from person to person in many parts of the world at the same time.
More than three million people are known to have been infected worldwide, but the true figure is thought to be much higher as many of those with milder symptoms have not been tested and counted.
While the US and much of Europe has been hit hard by the virus, some countries have managed to avoid similar death tolls.
New Zealand, for instance, says it has effectively eliminated the threat for now after fewer than 1,500 cases and just 19 deaths.
The country brought in some of the toughest restrictions in the world on travel and activity early on in the pandemic but is now relaxing some of these. This week some non-essential businesses will be reopening but most people will still have to stay at home and avoid all social interactions.
While some countries are beginning to ease restrictions, others are only now starting to impose them as cases and deaths begin to rise.
Across Latin America, where many economies are already struggling and millions live on what they can earn day-to-day, there are concerns about the strain the growing number of virus cases could put on health care systems. Of particular concern are Ecuador and Brazil.
Ecuador has already seen its health system collapse – thousands have died from the virus and other conditions that could not be treated because of the crisis. While Brazil has also seen a steep rise in both cases and deaths, with every state in South America’s largest country affected.
Across the world, more than 4.5 billion people – half the world’s population – are estimated to be living under social distancing measures, according to the AFP news agency.
Those restrictions have had a big impact on the global economy, with the International Monetary Fund saying the world faces the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The UN World Food Programme has also warned that the pandemic could almost double the number of people suffering acute hunger.
Europe beginning to ease lockdown measures
The four worst-hit countries in Europe are Italy, the UK, Spain and France – all of which have recorded at least 20,000 deaths.
However, all four countries appear to have passed through the peak of the virus now and the number of reported cases and deaths is falling in each.
Germany and Belgium also recorded a relatively high number of deaths and are now seeing those numbers decrease, though as Belgium has a far smaller population than Germany the number of deaths per capita there has been higher.
How countries across Europe are deciding to move out of lockdown varies, with the EU saying there is “no one-size-fits-all approach” to lifting containment measures.
Spain has announced a four-phase plan to lift its lockdown and return to a “new normality” by the end of June. Children there under the age of 14 are now allowed to leave their homes for an hour a day, after six weeks in lockdown.
In Italy, certain shops and factories have been allowed to reopen and the prime minister says further measures will be eased from 4 May.
In France, the prime minister said this week that non-essential shops and markets will open their doors again from 11 May, but not bars and restaurants. Schools will also be reopened gradually.
Other European countries easing restrictions include Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Germany, where children’s play areas and museums have been told they can reopen and church services can resume, under strict social distancing and hygiene rules.
In the UK, where there have been more than 170,000 confirmed cases and at least 26,000 deaths, lockdown measures are still in full effect. The prime minister has promised a “comprehensive plan” in the next week on how the government will get the country moving again.
New York remains epicentre of US outbreak
With more than one million cases, the US has the highest number of confirmed infections in the world. The country has also recorded more than 60,000 deaths.
The state of New York has been particularly badly affected, with 18,000 deaths in New York City alone, but Governor Andrew Cuomo says the toll “seems to be on a gentle decline”.
Mr Cuomo has suggested some parts of his state could begin to reopen after the current stay-at-home order expires on 15 May.
At one point, more than 90% of the US population was under mandatory lockdown orders, but President Trump has stated that he will not be renewing his government’s social distancing guidelines once they expire on Thursday and some states have already begun to lift restrictions.
Georgia, Oklahoma, Alaska and South Carolina have all allowed some businesses to reopen in recent days following official unemployment figures that showed more than 30 million Americans have lost their jobs since mid-March.
But public health authorities have warned that increasing human interactions and economic activity could spark a fresh surge of infections just as the number of new cases is beginning to ease off.
White House coronavirus taskforce coordinator Dr Deborah Birx has said social distancing should remain the norm “through the summer to really ensure that we protect one another as we move through these phases”.
A prisoner who died inside a privately-run jail may have cut his own throat, the Met police said.
The inmate, in his 40s, died after his throat was slashed at HMP Thameside in Greenwich, south-east London, at about 02:30 GMT on Sunday.
He was pronounced dead at the Category B prison run by the private company Serco, which holds some 1,200 inmates.
Police said a male prisoner in his late 30s arrested on suspicion of murder has been released, under investigation.
“Officers are working to establish the full circumstances, including whether the deceased’s injuries were self-inflicted or the result of an assault,” the Met Police said.
Earlier, officers said the inmate was discovered “suffering from a slash injury to his throat” and he was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
“Officers are working to inform his next of kin. Formal identification and a post-mortem examination will take place in due course,” a spokesperson added.
Trish Mitchell, Serco contract director at HMP Thameside, said: “Sadly there has been a death at HMP Thameside. A man has been arrested and our staff are working closely with the police.”
HMP Thameside, which opened in 2012, serves courts in east and south-east London and has an “extremely high turnover of prisoners” with the average stay a “mere 36 days”, according to an inspection report in 2017.
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke found the jail had a “generally settled and respectful atmosphere” but noted that “levels of violence were high” although not as high as “the huge rises in violence” at other jails.
Jordan Ayew’s deflected equaliser earned Crystal Palace a point at home against Arsenal, who had goalscorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sent off by the video assistant referee (VAR).
Captain Aubameyang had put his side ahead with a well-worked team goal as Mikel Arteta’s side dominated the first half.
But Ayew brought Palace level after the break, his goal-bound effort leaving Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno with little chance after bouncing off David Luiz.
Aubameyang was then sent off following a lunging tackle which caught Max Meyer on the left ankle, VAR overturning the initial yellow card he was awarded by referee Paul Tierney.
This fixture had heralded 28 goals in the previous seven meetings between the two sides but little could separate them this time around, though both James Tomkins and Nicolas Pepe went close to winners for their respective teams.
The Eagles could consider themselves lucky to end the match with 11 players with Tomkins narrowly avoiding a red card after a late challenge on Gabriel Martinelli, in what was a feisty first London derby of 2020.
Arsenal manager Arteta – who was not even born when Palace boss Roy Hodgson started his managerial career – remains without an away win in the league since taking over as manager on 20 December.
Palace, meanwhile, remain ninth in the Premier League table, one place above the Gunners.
Arsenal let dominance slip
Just seven days ago, Arsenal had been stunned by a dominant Leeds United in the first half of their FA Cup third round win, but the opening 45 minutes at Selhurst Park couldn’t have been more different.
Unchanged from the win over Manchester United on New Year’s Day, they dictated the opening exchanges at Palace, enjoying almost 80% of possession during the first 10 minutes.
That was rewarded when clever link-up play between Luiz, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette helped Aubameyang open the scoring, a punt from Lacazette putting the Gabon striker through with only Vicente Guaita to beat for his 14th league goal of the season.
After the break, Luiz could do little about his helping hand in Palace’s goal but he almost immediately made up for it, heading onto the roof of the net from a corner.
But Arsenal suffered a huge blow when top scorer Aubameyang was sent off for the tackle that left Meyer unable to continue, loan signing Cenk Tosun coming on in his place.
There was an audible gasp inside Selhurst Park when a replay was shown on the big screens after the VAR decision had been made.
Pepe thought he had hit the winner with 10 minutes remaining but his blistering left-footed effort was superbly tipped on to the post by Guaita who then spread himself at the feet of Lacazette when the ball rebounded back into the middle of the penalty box.
In the end, this match echoed the last time these teams met, Arsenal letting a two-goal cushion slip as Palace fought back to draw 2-2 in October. Arsenal have now failed to win five league matches this season after leading at half-time.
Palace fight back
Injury-hit Palace came into this match above Arsenal in the Premier League table, having lost only one of their previous eight league matches, but looked far from settled as they struggled to cope with their revitalised opponents in the first half.
Their frustration was evident but they started to show signs of getting back into the game later in the half, having a penalty appeal waved away after claiming Cheikhou Kouyate’s attempted cross struck Luiz on the arm. Kouyate then went close to an equaliser as half-time approached, his powerful effort parried away by Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno.
Hodgson’s side started the second half just as they had finished the first, and deserved Ayew’s equaliser.
Played in by Kouyate, Ayew’s effort took a huge deflection of Luiz’s boot as he became the first Palace player to score home and away against Arsenal in a single season since John Craven during the 1971-72 campaign.
Prior to the match, anti-VAR t-shirts had been sold outside Selhurst Park and Palace fans displayed a banner stating it was “killing the game”, yet it was the hosts who benefitted from the technology when Aubameyang was dismissed, handing them a man advantage.
They tried to make it count too, with Tomkins – captain in the absence of the suspended Luka Milivojevic – having a header cleared off the line.
Tomkins was booked after a poor challenge on Arsenal substitute Gabriel Martinelli, while Wilfried Zaha had a penalty shout waved away as the clocked ticked over into injury time.
The draw means the Eagles have now lost only one of their 14 league fixtures this season against teams below them in the table.
Man of the match – Jairo Riedewald (Crystal Palace)
- Crystal Palace have gone four consecutive league games without defeat against Arsenal for the first time (W1 D3).
- Arsenal have failed to win any of their last 15 Premier League away games against sides starting the day above them in the table (D4 L11), since a 5-2 victory at Leicester back in September 2015.
- 95% of Crystal Palace forward Jordan Ayew’s Premier League goals have been scored in the second half (21/22) – the highest percentage of any player in the competition to have scored at least 10 goals.
- Arsenal pair Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette have combined for 10 Premier League goals since the Gabonese striker’s debut in the competition – only Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson (13) have combined for more in that time (since Feb 2018).
- Arsenal named the same starting XI (against Man Utd and Crystal Palace) in consecutive Premier League games for the first time since January 2019 (against Fulham and West Ham).
Crystal Palace travel to Manchester City and Arsenal host Sheffield United on Saturday, 18 January (both 15:00 GMT).
Saracens have named lawyer Neil Golding as their new chairman as they look to recover from the salary cap scandal.
The club were deducted 35 points and fined £5.36m after an inquiry into business dealings between ex-chairman Nigel Wray and some Sarries players.
Wray retired after guiding the club to five Premiership and three European titles, but they are now bottom of the table following November’s ruling.
“I recognise I am joining at a time of significant change,” Golding said.
“We, as a board, are strongly committed to introducing new robust processes and working together with other Premiership Rugby Limited stakeholders in the best interests of Saracens and English rugby.”
Saracens said Golding’s “immediate priority” would be to “lead and oversee new governance measures including steps to ensure regulatory compliance.”
Wray first invested in the club in 1995 and reclaimed full control in April 2018 by buying back a 50% stake sold to South African firm Remgro.
On Monday interim chief executive Edward Griffiths said the Saracens squad could be dismantled for the club to comply with salary cap rules this season.
Griffiths is leading a “scoping exercise” as the first step in making the club “whiter than white”, and has not ruled out the possibility of letting star players go.
The London side are bottom of the Premiership on -7 points, 18 points behind 11th-placed Leicester.
One of London’s most famous music venues has been badly damaged in an overnight blaze.
The dome on the roof of Koko in Camden has been destroyed by fire, according to the London Fire Brigade.
Sixty firefighters helped fight the flames after the blaze broke out just before 21:00 GMT on Monday and no injuries have been reported.
The venue which began life as the Camden Theatre in 1900 has hosted stars including Madonna, Coldplay and Prince.
Station commander Jon Lewis said the fire was brought under control at about 02:30 on Tuesday, adding: “Firefighters’ quick action and hard work in the early stages meant the fire was contained to the roof and saved the rest of the building.”
Koko owner Olly Bengough said he was “deeply saddened” by the blaze, adding: “We’ll be doing our best to get the redevelopment of this iconic building back on track.”
Crews will remain at the scene throughout the day and have warned people to stay away from the area.
Koko which was closed for refurbishment, was also previously known as the Camden Palace and Camden Hippodrome and has been one of the capital’s most iconic live music venues for decades.
The Rolling Stones, The Clash and Ed Sheeran are among other star names to have performed at the venue, which is close to Mornington Crescent underground station.
It was reportedly the last venue where AC/DC’s Bon Scott was seen drinking before his death from alcohol poisoning in 1980.
In the early 80s it served as a major venue for the punk and New Romantic scene, with singer Steve Strange of the band Visage holding club nights.
Members of the public have been sharing their Koko memories on Twitter.
Marc Rustic was “absolutely gutted” having seen his first grime gig at Koko.
“MoStack was performing and it was honestly the best night of my life,” he added.
Veteran DJ Tony Blackburn who held his legendary soul nights Shakatak also tweeted about the fire.
Koko and the nearby Roundhouse effectively “bookended” Camden’s music scene, according to music writer Carl Allen.
In between the two are 60 music venues including the Dingwalls and Electric Ballroom, as well as restaurants and pubs.
On Twitter the Roundhouse said it was “really sad” to hear the news about our Camden neighbours.
Camden Council leader Georgia Gould said: “Heartbreaking watching the Camden Palace/Koko up in flames this evening, a building that holds so many memories and means so much to us in Camden.”
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan thanked the fire brigade for its quick response.
The venue was set to reopen in the spring after a “major state-of-the-art” refurbishment, after the purchase of two adjacent buildings.
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Ethical veganism is a “philosophical belief” and so is protected in law, a tribunal has ruled for the first time.
The landmark legal case was brought by vegan Jordi Casamitjana, who claims he was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports because of his ethical veganism.
His former employer says he was dismissed for gross misconduct.
The judge ruled that ethical vegans should be entitled to similar legal protections in British workplaces as those who hold religious beliefs.
He is yet to rule on Mr Casamitjana’s dismissal – which is due later.
Mr Casamitjana, 55, who lives in London, said he was “extremely happy” with the ruling – which is ongoing – adding that he hopes fellow vegans “will benefit”.
The tribunal centres on his claim that he was sacked by the animal welfare charity League Against Cruel Sports after disclosing it invested pension funds in firms involved in animal testing.
Mr Casamitjana says when he drew his bosses’ attention to the pension fund investments, they did nothing so he informed colleagues and was sacked as a result.
The League Against Cruel Sports says it is “factually wrong” to link Mr Casamitjana’s dismissal to his veganism. The charity did not contest that ethical veganism should be protected.
All vegans eat a plant-based diet, but ethical vegans try to exclude all forms of animal exploitation.
For instance they avoid wearing or buying clothing made from wool or leather, or toiletries from companies that carry out animal testing.
“Religion or belief” is one of nine “protected characteristics” covered by the Equality Act 2010.
The judge Robin Postle ruled that ethical veganism qualifies as a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010 by satisfying several tests – including that it is worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not conflicting with the fundamental rights of others.
At the tribunal in Norwich on Friday, the judge said in his ruling that ethical veganism was “important” and “worthy” of respect in a democratic society.
He said: “I am satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute a philosophical belief.”
Analysis: Far-reaching effects
By BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman
Though a ruling from an employment tribunal does not amount to binding legal precedent, this one will have important and far-reaching effects.
Employers will have to respect ethical veganism and make sure they do not discriminate against employees for their beliefs.
So, for example, could a worker on a supermarket checkout refuse to put a meat product through the till?
The implications are considerable, not least because the legal protection will apply beyond employment, in areas such as education and the supply of goods and services.
It could also encourage others to seek similar protection for their philosophical beliefs.
I would be surprised, for instance, if there is not a challenge brought by someone who claims they have been discriminated against for their beliefs on climate change.
Refusing to travel on work business by car rather than a less carbon heavy alternative, the train?
Speaking to the BBC outside the tribunal, Mr Casamitjana said he was “extremely happy”.
“I’m really, really satisfied and I hope all the vegans out there that have been supporting me – there have been many helping me in my crowdfunding – I hope they now feel their little donation has been properly used and all the vegans will benefit.”
He added: “Veganism is a philosophical belief and when you look at my life and anybody else’s life who is an ethical vegan, you will see it.
“This is a positive belief, it’s not a negative belief. And therefore a positive belief is bound to be protected.”
He added that he is “passionate” about veganism, which “gives you hope”. Mr Casamitjana also said he was feeling “optimistic” for the ruling on his dismissal – which is due later.
Mr Casamitjana describes himself as an ethical vegan and campaigns to get his message to others.
His beliefs affect much of his everyday life. He will, for instance, walk rather than take a bus to avoid accidental crashes with insects or birds.
Peter Daly, the solicitor for Mr Casamitjana, said the ramifications of this judgement for companies that employ vegan staff are “potentially significant”.
He said any abuse directed at ethical vegans “might be seen to be harassment in the same way a racist or sexist slur might be discriminatory action”.
Rhys Wyborn, acting for the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “Although an interesting point of law, this hearing was preparation for the real crux of the matter: why Jordi Casamitjana was dismissed.
“In view of its animal welfare value, the League did not contest the issue of whether ethical veganism itself should be a protected belief, with the League maintaining that it’s irrelevant to the core reason for the dismissal.”
The tribunal will now consider whether Mr Casamitjana was treated less favourably because of his ethical veganism belief.
A mother was stabbed three times in front of her child in an unprovoked attack in south London.
The victim, 36, was pushing her child in a buggy when a man attacked her from behind in Downton Avenue, Streatham Hill, on Monday.
The knifeman did not speak to the victim before he stabbed her at about 17:20 GMT then ran off.
Police said the woman’s injuries were not believed to be life-threatening. The child was not hurt.
Neighbours told the BBC they heard the woman screaming and came out to help.
A man first on the scene said the victim told him: “I’ve been mugged.”
Two people said the wounds looked as if they were to the victim’s face or head area.
It is understood the woman was on the phone to her husband at the time and that he arrived soon afterwards.
No-one has been arrested. The Met said the suspect was a black man, about 6ft tall and wearing dark clothing.
Officers have been examining CCTV footage and are appealing for witnesses.
Chelsea overcame an “awful” start, said boss Frank Lampard, as they staged a stunning late comeback to snatch victory and wreck Mikel Arteta’s return to Emirates Stadium as Arsenal manager.
Arteta, taking charge of his first home game since succeeding the sacked Unai Emery, looked on course for three important points after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s early header put the Gunners in front.
Chelsea, with Lampard making a first-half tactical switch when he introduced Jorginho for the struggling Emerson, were gifted an equaliser seven minutes from time when goalkeeper Bernd Leno hopelessly misjudged Mason Mount’s free-kick to leave the substitute with a simple finish.
Arsenal were doubly frustrated because Jorginho was fortunate to escape a second yellow card earlier for a cynical foul on Lucas Torreira – but Arteta’s home bow was to get even more painful.
Chelsea struck again with three minutes of normal time left, Tammy Abraham turning Arsenal substitute Shkodran Mustafi far too easily in the area to beat Leno and complete the smash-and-grab raid.
“We were so awful for the first 30 minutes; slow, lethargic, nervous,” Lampard told BBC Sport.
“We gave Arsenal everything they wanted. We made the change early, felt it had to be done, and second half we dominated.
“You can accept a miss-pass but you can’t accept lethargy in a London derby. The players were told that and they delivered. The second half was nothing to do with tactics it was all to do with spirit and desire.”
Arsenal, who lost defender Calum Chambers to injury in the first half, will start 2020 11 points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and without a Premier League home win since 6 October.
It is the first time they have lost four consecutive home matches in all competitions since December 1959.
Arteta learning the hard way
Arteta understandably looked downcast as he and his players took sympathetic applause from their fans after they were left stunned by Chelsea’s late surge.
For the first half-hour Arsenal dominated a desperately poor Chelsea and there was much to encourage everyone inside a vibrant Emirates Stadium as the new era kicked into life.
The Gunners, however, ran out of steam towards the end of the first half as Chelsea, helped by Lampard removing Emerson and sending on Jorginho, started to dominate and continued to do so after the break.
Arsenal were resilient but were hanging on and ultimately it was a calamitous individual error and familiar defensive fragility that was to prove their undoing.
Leno’s rush of blood left Jorginho with the easiest of finishes, although Arsenal certainly had a case to complain about his continued presence on the pitch after escaping that second yellow card.
And then Mustafi, on for the injured Chambers, was at fault when he allowed Abraham far too much time to control, turn and score the winner.
Arteta will have seen some good signs but ultimately old faults let Arsenal down. There is going to be no quick fix.
Lampard finds a way as Chelsea win
Chelsea boss Lampard clearly felt he got his team selection wrong, as he ditched his three-man central defence and introduced Jorginho after 34 minutes – and deserves great credit for seeing it was not working and putting it right.
It did improve Chelsea but in reality they could not get any worse in a feisty London derby which saw nine players booked.
They took complete control of possession and territory after the break, with Lampard’s subsequent substitutions also having an impact.
Teenager Tariq Lamptey was a lively presence down Chelsea’s right flank on his Premier League debut after replacing Fikayo Tomori while Callum Hudson-Odoi did well when he came on for Matteo Kovacic.
Lampard looked like he was going to be frustrated by Chelsea’s lack of end product once more but they were given that late lifeline by Leno’s dreadful error as well as the generosity of referee Craig Pawson in allowing Jorginho to stay on.
Abraham completed the comeback for a dramatic win.
There is a rollercoaster nature to this Chelsea side, as proved by their results, a home defeat by Southampton sandwiched in between wins at Tottenham and Arsenal, but they got the job done to cement their place in the Premier League’s top four.
Man of the match – Jorginho (Chelsea)
‘It was very cruel’ – Arteta reaction
Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta: “It was very cruel the way we lost it, in the first half we saw a lot of positives and saw what we are trying to implement. But the way we conceded was disappointing.
“It was clear why it was disappointing, I don’t need to say any more.
“Our reaction was right, we were doing the right things, it is hard to dominate all periods of the game against this team. We started to defend too deep and our energy levels are in a different place to Chelsea’s.
“We need to sustain those periods for longer periods in the game and against top sides. Individual errors cost you games but I can’t fault the effort, commitment and for putting in place what we practised.”
Leno’s costly errors – the stats
- Chelsea are the first team to win five away Premier League games against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium.
- Since his Premier League debut in February 2018, Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored 45 league goals – 22 more than any other Gunners player in that time.
- Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno has made more errors leading to goals than any other Premier League player since August 2018 (seven).
- Only Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling and Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy (nine each) have scored more away Premier League goals than Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham (eight) this season.
- Chelsea became the first team to come from behind at half-time to win away at Arsenal in the league since Tottenham in November 2010.
- There were nine yellow cards in this match, the most in a Premier League game this season and most since February, when there were nine in Bournemouth’s game against Wolves.
- After taking the lead in the 13th minute, Arsenal had just three shots, and none on target.
Arsenal have another heavyweight home game on New Year’s Day when Manchester United visit Emirates Stadium (20:00 GMT) while Chelsea are away at Brighton on the same day (12:30 GMT).
George Michael’s sister, Melanie Panayiotou, has died aged 55, exactly three years after her brother.
The family confirmed in a statement that Melanie “passed away suddenly” over Christmas.
Her brother, pop icon George Michael, died on Christmas Day 2016 at his home in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.
“We would simply ask that the family’s privacy be respected at this very sad time,” the family said in a statement released through lawyer John Reid.
“There will be no further comment,” they added.
The Metropolitan Police also confirmed confirmed the death in a statement, which read: “Police were called by London Ambulance Service at approximately 1935hrs on Wednesday, 25 December to reports of the sudden death of a woman, aged in her 50s.
“The death is not being treated as suspicious by police.”
Melanie and George – whose mother Lesley died in 1997 – are survived by their father Kyriacos, known as Jack, and their oldest sister Yioda, 57.
Andrew Ridgeley, George’s former Wham! bandmate, described the news as “utterly tragic” and said his thoughts were with her family.
In last month’s edition of The Big Issue, Melanie spoke about her hopes for the recently-released romantic comedy Last Christmas, which was inspired by George’s music.
“My family and I hope you all enjoy the film, and Yog’s [George’s] music old and new, woven beautifully into this fun, easy tale of love and self-love,” she said.
“As many of you know, Yog adored Christmas and he loved the idea of this film. I am sure he will be enjoying seeing Emilia [Clark]’s amazing light bulb smile, something they share, across the celestial miles!”
In 1985, Melanie gave an interview to No.1 Magazine, in which she described what her brother was like growing up.
“I don’t think you could say that he was your regular sort of boy,” she said.
“I mean, from what I remember, he was never interested in the kind of things the rest of the fellas were, like football and cars and things like that. He wasn’t an introvert and I wouldn’t say he was shy like some people have made out. He definitely knew what he wanted to do at an early age!”
Melanie added that she and her brother were very similar. “We can be quite honest with each other and we share the same sense of humour,” she said, revealing that fans would pester her for locks of George’s hair.
But “it goes in the bin like everyone else’s,” she noted.