May 15 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 0055 GMT (0855 HKT) May 16, 2020
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7:58 a.m. ET, May 15, 2020

French vaccine company says CEO's comments about prioritizing US market were "misinterpreted"

From CNN's Pierre Bairin

Sanofi offices in Gentilly, France, on May 14.
Sanofi offices in Gentilly, France, on May 14. Lionel Guericolas/MPP/SIPA

French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi has said comments made by its CEO Paul Hudson indicating the US market could be prioritized for a Covid-19 vaccine were “misinterpreted”.

The company previously said its cooperation with the US’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) would allow it to initiate production as soon as possible. Sanofi added that it was exploring similar opportunities within Europe.

French President Emmanuel Macron summoned Hudson to a meeting on Tuesday to discuss his concerns.

The words of Paul Hudson were misinterpreted," Sanofi spokesman Jean-Baptiste Froville said in a statement Friday.

"The pre-order priority granted to the United States government only concerns the phase of production of the vaccine in the United States. Our goal is to produce this vaccine as soon as possible at all of our sites."

“The production of a vaccine with speed and in large quantity is a capital intensive operation that can only be financed with help of state funds. This is what happened in the United States, where we signed an agreement with the BARDA in February, covering funding of several hundred million dollars," he said.

Froville said that while there is no equivalent to BARDA outside the US, discussions in Europe -- with the European Union and a number of its members, including France -- were progressing.

"We're actually talking about a vaccine that doesn't exist. It usually takes ten years to research, develop and manufacture a vaccine. With the Covid-19, the goal is to be able to do it all in 18-24 months. This involves taking a financial risk, consisting of starting production before the end of the development phase, so before we know if the vaccine is even effective. This risk must be shared with countries,” he added.

“It would be unacceptable for Sanofi to reserve its Covid-19 vaccine as a priority, if it were to find one, to one country or another for financial reason,” France's Deputy Finance Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher said Thursday.
8:30 a.m. ET, May 15, 2020

More than 27% of care home deaths in England and Wales were caused by coronavirus

From CNN's Max Ramsay

UK Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick speaks during a coronavirus media briefing at Downing Street in London on May 13.
UK Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick speaks during a coronavirus media briefing at Downing Street in London on May 13. Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/AP

More than a quarter of all care home resident deaths recorded in England and Wales during March and April were caused by coronavirus, according to official data released Friday.

Between March 2 and May 1, Covid-19 was a cause for 27.3% of total deaths in English and Welsh care homes, according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS).

While it was the leading cause of death among male care home residents during this period, accounting for 30.3% of deaths, it was the second leading cause of death in female residents, at 23.5% of fatalities. 

ONS added that in the days up to Tuesday May 12, a higher proportion of care home deaths were due to coronavirus, at 40% of all deaths “in the most recent days.”

The UK government has been widely criticized over the spread of the disease in the country's care homes.

“I don’t deny that what is happening in care homes is absolutely terrible. It’s a huge challenge, but we are trying to put as much support as we can around care homes," UK Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC Radio on Thursday.

CNN reported on Thursday that a study from academics at LSE’s Care Policy and Evaluation Centre suggested the actual coronavirus death toll among care home residents in England and Wales could be over 22,000, based on calculations of excess deaths. 

The study found that official data on deaths in care homes directly attributed to coronavirus underestimates the impact of the pandemic, as the data does “not take account of indirect mortality effects of the pandemic and/or because of problems with the identification of the disease as the cause of death.”

8:31 a.m. ET, May 15, 2020

China calls for stable bilateral ties with US after Trump criticizes Beijing

From CNN's Isaac Yee

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian attends a press conference in Beijing on May 12.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian attends a press conference in Beijing on May 12. Kyodo/AP

China has called for stable bilateral ties to be maintained between Beijing and Washington after US President Donald Trump heavily criticized the country on Thursday.

"Maintaining stable development of bilateral ties serves the fundamental interests of both the Chinese and US people and is also conducive to world peace and stability," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said.
"Now China and the US should continue to enhance our cooperation against the novel coronavirus to defeat the virus as soon as possible and to treat patients and resume the economic development and production, but doing this also calls for the cooperation on the US side.”

Trump has repeatedly attacked China as coronavirus cases rise in the US.

The US has also increased military pressure on China over the last few weeks, amid increased tensions over the South China Sea and Washington has accused Beijing of seeking to leverage the coronavirus pandemic to extend its sphere of influence in the region.

7:11 a.m. ET, May 15, 2020

Outcry from unions over plan to reopen England's schools in June

From CNN's Max Ramsay

UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson answers questions in the House of Commons on May 13 on the plans for reopening schools.
UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson answers questions in the House of Commons on May 13 on the plans for reopening schools. House of Commons/PA Wire/AP

Britain's largest trade unions have called on the government to reconsider its plan to partially open English schools on June 1, over health and safety concerns for teachers.

The UK government currently hopes to partially reopen schools in England next month but its clash with unions over the issue has become a tense political issue in the country.

“We all want schools to re-open, but that should only happen when it is safe to do so,” the unions said in a statement.
“The government is showing a lack of understanding about the dangers of the spread of coronavirus within schools, and outwards from schools to parents, sibling and relatives, and to the wider community.”

The joint statement released on Wednesday was signed by major trade unions, including the National Education Union which describes itself as the largest education union in Europe, with more than 450,000 members.

The groups are calling for a set of principles over safety to be met including: additional resources for PPE, local autonomy to close schools with clusters of cases, a taskforce to produce statutory guidance and no increase in pupil numbers until a national test and trace scheme is implemented.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson accused the unions of “scaremongering” in parliament on Wednesday, but struck a conciliatory tone in a op-ed published in the Daily Mail newspaper on Friday.

Williamson said he had organized for union leaders to meet with the UK’s Chief Medical Officer and other experts to be briefed on the scientific advice.

“I know some teaching unions still have concerns, just as I know parents and teachers have some worries,” Williamson wrote. “I intend to carry on talking to all of them and working with them on any issues they may have.”
“All of us in education have a duty to work together to get children back to school,” he added.

Details on the reopening of schools in other parts of the UK will be decided by their devolved governments. Read more here.

6:45 a.m. ET, May 15, 2020

How hair salons are adapting to the "new normal"

From CNN's Allyssia Alleyne

A nurse from the Pitie Salpetriere Hospital gets a haircut at the "Hovig Etoyan" salon on May 12, in Paris.
A nurse from the Pitie Salpetriere Hospital gets a haircut at the "Hovig Etoyan" salon on May 12, in Paris. Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

The hair salon has always been an especially intimate environment. It is a place where close contact is non-negotiable -- a hair stylist massages your scalp with the pads of their fingers; a barber leans in close to shape up your hairline.

All that stopped when the coronavirus forced salons and barbershops in many countries to close, temporarily breaking the bond between stylist and loyal client, and curtailing the camaraderie and community of many barbershops.

And as lockdowns ease around the world, salon owners and employees are returning to workplaces that have been crucially transformed.

"It's like opening a brand new salon," said colorist Maria Dowling, whose namesake salon in Dubai reopened on April 26 after a month-long shutdown. "It's the new era."

Under Dubai's rules, she is only allowed to operate with 30% of her workforce, which means a maximum of five of her 17 employees can be on the salon floor at a given time.

At Delphine Courteille's salon in Paris, which reopened on May 11, she says stylists must not only wear masks, but also protective visors. Clients must bring their own masks to appointments (two if they're coming in for a lengthy color service) or risk being turned away. Complimentary magazines and beverages -- a mainstay of high-end salons -- have been removed indefinitely.

At Chinese branches of the global salon chain Toni & Guy, clients who have recently traveled overseas must show proof of a recent medical report.

Read the full story here.

6:06 a.m. ET, May 15, 2020

Germany enters recession as economy shrinks 2.2% in first quarter of 2020

From CNN's Robert North and Nadine Schmidt

An aerial view of Berlin beer garden closed during the coronavirus pandemic on May 13.
An aerial view of Berlin beer garden closed during the coronavirus pandemic on May 13. Christian Ender/Getty Images

Germany is in recession after its economy saw two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

The country's GDP shrank 2.2% in the first quarter of 2020, the German economy's worst performance since the financial crisis.

Growth for the fourth quarter of 2019 was also downgraded to -0.1%.

At a press briefing on Friday, Federal Statistics Office official Albert Braakmann warned that the country's economic downturn due to the coronavirus pandemic is expected to accelerate in the current quarter.

Most forecasts predict the economy contracting by about 10% in the second quarter of 2020, although Braakmann said the final result will depend on how coronavirus restrictions are eased.

6:08 a.m. ET, May 15, 2020

US House to vote on $3 trillion aid package and historic rules change to allow remote voting

From CNN's Clare Foran, Haley Byrd and Manu Raju

The US Capitol in Washington DC on May 13.
The US Capitol in Washington DC on May 13. Graeme Sloan/Sipa/AP

The United States House of Representatives will vote on Friday on a $3 trillion Covid-19 aid package and a historic rules change to allow lawmakers to vote remotely during the pandemic.

The legislation, which provides funding for state and local governments, coronavirus testing, and a new round of direct payments to Americans, sets up an immediate clash with the Senate, where Republican leaders have said another round of emergency funding is not yet needed.

The partisan debate: The legislation, which reflects Democratic priorities and was not a product of bipartisan negotiations, would stand as the largest relief package in US history.

House Republican leaders have voiced opposition to both the relief package and the rules change for remote voting. House Democrats' leaders have expressed confidence that both measures will pass the House on Friday. The relief package is not expected to be taken up by the Senate, however, due to Republican opposition.

What's in the stimulus package?

  • Nearly $1 trillion for state and local governments
  • A $200 billion fund for essential worker hazard pay
  • $75 billion for Covid-19 testing, tracing and isolation efforts
  • Direct payments to Americans of up to $6,000 per household

Democrats are also pushing for temporary remote voting: This would authorize temporary implementation of remote voting by proxy in the event of a public health emergency due to the coronavirus. It also allows for remote committee proceedings during the pandemic.

Once enacted, the authorization for remote voting and remote committee work would remain in place for a 45-day period, after which it could be extended if the public health emergency persists.

Read more here.

5:42 a.m. ET, May 15, 2020

Spanish island says Germans may be able to visit in June

From CNN's Al Goodman

People sit on the terrace of the bar El Pe-on in Mallorca, Spain, on Monday, May 11.
People sit on the terrace of the bar El Pe-on in Mallorca, Spain, on Monday, May 11. Clara Margais/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

Spain's Mallorca island in the Mediterranean plans to welcome a limited number of Germans and other travelers in late June in a "pilot project" to restart tourism that has been halted due to coronavirus, Francina Armengol, the Regional President of the Balearic Islands said Thursday.

The plan would have the large German tour operator TUI fly in Germans or others from European countries or regions that, like Mallorca, have low infection rates, Armengol told CNN and other journalists on a video call.

"We are ready to do the pilot project at the end of June, so that groups can come assured of health safety," Armengol said, speaking from Palma de Mallorca, the island's capital. "We have to learn how to live with Covid-19 and how to do that safely."

In Germany, TUI confirmed that it sees renewed tourism in Mallorca and beyond.

"We are in constructive talks with a number of local governments where we believe there may be summer holidays," Martin Riecken, TUI's Head of Communications, told CNN by phone. "We don't believe that Spain as a whole, but the Balearics, also the Canary Islands, with low infection rates, where local governments have made good progress."

TUI, he added, is also in talks with tourist destinations in Greece, Cyprus, Croatia and Bulgaria.

The restart of tourism will depend on national governments re-opening borders and lifting 14-day mandatory quarantines for travelers, where they are in effect, Riecken said.

Spain has announced mandatory 14-day quarantines for all international travelers to the country, starting May 15, and the rule will last through Spain's state of emergency.

Read more here.

4:44 a.m. ET, May 15, 2020

China says Wuhan needs citywide testing so schools and work can resume

From CNN's Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

Residents wearing face masks wait in a line to be tested for Covid-19 in a neighborhood in Wuhan, China on May 15.
Residents wearing face masks wait in a line to be tested for Covid-19 in a neighborhood in Wuhan, China on May 15. Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

Chinese health officials said Friday that citywide testing is needed in Wuhan to identify the scope of the local outbreak there and allow work, school, and business to resume.

Eleven new asymptomatic cases were found in Wuhan today, according to city health officials. The city of 11 million people, capital of Hubei province in central China, is considered ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic.

“The main purpose is to further identify the scope of the epidemic, initiate searching efforts, strengthen detection and inspection,” said Vice Minister Zeng Yixin of the National Health Commission on Friday.

He added that expanding the scope of testing would also promote the “comprehensive recovery of social, economic and living order.”

Officials in Wuhan have already started testing residents, but other cities can also “adjust testing strategies and the scope of testing based on local needs and testing capabilities,” he said.

Fears of a second wave: Zeng’s comments come after China's National Health Commission said yesterday that the country needs to expand coronavirus testing to prevent a resurgence in cases.

After several new local transmissions were detected in Wuhan, officials there said they would test every resident within 10 days.