May 18 coronavirus news

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7:55 a.m. ET, May 18, 2020

France's President Macron says human health "cannot be bought and sold"

From CNN's Max Ramsay

French president Emmanuel Macron takes part in a videoconference with region prefects at the Crisis Center of the French Interior Ministry in Paris, on Wednesday, May 13.
French president Emmanuel Macron takes part in a videoconference with region prefects at the Crisis Center of the French Interior Ministry in Paris, on Wednesday, May 13. Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron has expressed support for the World Health Organization and called for equal access to any vaccine for coronavirus, while speaking in a pre-recorded statement played out at the World Health Organisation’s 73rd World Health Assembly.

"If we do discover a vaccine against Covid-19, it will be a global public good, and everyone must have access to it," Macron said. He called this a question of effectiveness as well as of principle. "Human health cannot be quarreled over, cannot be appropriated, and cannot be bought and sold," he continued.

"We need a strong WHO to tackle Covid-19, and the WHO is us, its member states," Macron added.

Merkel urges unity: Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the coronavirus pandemic "a global crisis" and urged international cooperation to defeat it, in a speech at the WHO’s World Health Assembly on Monday.

"We are experiencing a global crisis with hundreds of thousands of people who have been infected, and affected with social and economic consequences that show that virtually no country has been spared by this pandemic," Merkel said.

"So no country can solve this problem alone," she added. "We must work together."

Merkel voiced her support for the World Health Organization, calling it "legitimate," and said its financing needed to be "sustainable."

"I am convinced we will be able to overcome this pandemic when we work together," she added.

7:40 a.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Loss of sense of smell added to UK's official list of Covid-19 symptoms

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy and Rob Picheta

Loss of sense of smell or taste have been added to the official list of coronavirus symptoms in the UK, the Department of Health and Social Care said Monday.

A government statement said "from today all individuals should self-isolate if they develop a new continuous cough or fever or anosmia."

Anosmia refers to the loss of or changes in a person's sense of smell. According to the department of health, "it can also affect your sense of taste as the two are closely linked."

The Chief Medical Officers for the four nations of the United Kingdom endorsed this expansion of symptoms, saying that they "have been closely monitoring the emerging data and evidence on Covid-19 and, after thorough consideration… are now confident enough to recommend this new measure," the statement said.

Anosmia emerged as a potential Covid-19 symptom in March, when doctors in the United States called for it to be added to the "list of screening tools" for Covid-19.

Around the same time, ENT UK, a professional organization representing UK ear, nose and throat surgeons, said in a statement on its website that anosmia could be another symptom of infection with the virus.

Up to 70,000 cases could have been undiagnosed: The announcement comes after the head of the UK’s coronavirus symptom app, Professor Tim Spector, criticized the government’s failure to expand their list of symptoms. Spector estimated that an additional 50,000-70,000 cases in the UK have gone undiagnosed due to the lack of recognition of other symptoms such as anosmia.

7:36 a.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Bolsonaro greets large crowds as Brazil overtakes Spain and Italy in coronavirus cases

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio in London and Daniel Silva in Miami

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro holds a child in a military costume as they both wave during a rally in Brasilia, on Sunday, May 17.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro holds a child in a military costume as they both wave during a rally in Brasilia, on Sunday, May 17. Sergio Lima/AFP/Getty Images

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro joined a large rally outside his official residence, the Alvorada Palace, in Brasilia on Sunday to greet supporters, according to video posted on his official social media accounts.

Video streamed on Bolsonaro's YouTube page showed him wearing a face mask while walking close to a large crowd. At least four ministers accompanied Bolsonaro as he shook hands with those in the crowd and even carried several children in his arms. 

Bolsonaro addressed the media during the rally, saying "it is very gratifying, honorable for me, for my cabinet, to receive a demonstration of support in this sense."

"We will be able to change the fate of Brazil, despite this crisis that has been affecting the whole world," Bolsonaro added.

Shortly after the rally, Bolsonaro welcomed a group of men wearing military outfits at the Presidential Palace. The men said they were paratroopers from the Brazilian army, and wanted to show support for Bolsonaro.

The group said a prayer for Brazil, at one point shouting "Bolsonaro is us." They also did several rounds of push-ups with the Brazilian President.

The demonstration took place just hours after Sao Paulo's mayor, Bruno Covas, warned that his city's health system is on the brink of collapse due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The country's Ministry of Health has so far reported 241,080 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 16,118 deaths.

Brazil has the fourth-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins University in the US. The latest spike in cases pushed Brazil's count past Spain and Italy.

 

7:25 a.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Spanish soccer allows players to begin training in groups of 10

From CNN’s Al Goodman in Madrid

Juan Soriano of CD Leganes in practice during a training session at Leganes Training Centre in Leganes, Spain, on Friday, May 15.
Juan Soriano of CD Leganes in practice during a training session at Leganes Training Centre in Leganes, Spain, on Friday, May 15. Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Clubs in Spain’s top two soccer divisions can begin training in groups of up to 10 players from today, La Liga has announced.

The return to group training follows a government announcement on Saturday allowing professional sports clubs to return to activities, regardless of the status of the lockdown in their own region.

Previously, only teams from regions that were in "Phase One" of the de-escalation were permitted to train in groups.

Major clubs can return to training: The announcement means the likes of Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid will be able to train in groups of 10, despite both the Madrid and the Barcelona metropolitan areas remaining in "Phase Zero" of Spain's lockdown.

"It's very important that every club has the same chance to be in good shape. It’s not essential, but it’s very important and we’re grateful that it will be like that," La Liga President Javier Tebas told Movistar TV on Sunday.

Move to second phase: Once "Phase One" has been successfully implemented, "Phase Two" will allow clubs to move to full training, before resuming matches without spectators in stadiums – a decision which must first be approved by the government's department for health.

All professional soccer in the country has been indefinitely suspended since Thursday 12 March.

7:31 a.m. ET, May 18, 2020

China rejects "unilateral interpretation" of proposed WHO resolution

From CNN’s Steven Jiang in Beijing

China says it supports the resolution put forward to a World Health Organization meeting on finding the origins of Covid-19 and calling for an inquiry into the global response, but insists the draft resolution "is a totally different thing from what’s been called an independent international inquiry."

Speaking at a daily press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: "As the virus continues to spread across the world, passage of this resolution is aimed at supporting the key leadership role of the World Health Organization and focusing on international cooperation."

Zhao said China rejects "unilateral interpretation" of the resolution and believes that the focus should remain on the containment of Covid-19, and that most member states agree it is not an appropriate time for an investigation due to the state of the pandemic.

Here's some background: About 100 countries have backed a resolution at the World Health Assembly (WHA), calling for an independent inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic.

The European Union-drafted resolution comes on the back of a push by Australia for an inquiry into China's initial handling of the crisis.

Zhao dismisses Pompeo's comments: When asked to comment on remarks by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that appeared to backtrack on a theory that the virus originated in a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Zhao said: “This US politician has been spreading all kinds of lies for some time. Responding to his lies is a waste of everyone’s time.”

7:39 a.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Xi addresses WHO at opening of World Health Assembly

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers remarks during the opening ceremony of the World Health Assembly.
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers remarks during the opening ceremony of the World Health Assembly. World Health Organization

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered remarks at the opening ceremony of the World Health Assembly, making the case for the country’s transparency over the virus, proposing a series of steps to deal with the virus and pledging US$2 billion over two years to the WHO.

Xi expressed condolences for the lives lost due to the pandemic before saying the country had acted with openness and transparency and provided the international community with information in a timely fashion.

Investigation after pandemic is contained: China proposed a series of steps to battle the pandemic, including taking measures to curb the spread of the virus; ensuring the WHO takes the lead; providing greater support for developing countries – particularly in Africa; restoring economic development and strengthening international cooperation. He also stressed the need for an investigation into the response to Covid-19 but said it should be done after the pandemic is contained.

Calls for unity: The World Health Organization’s 73rd World Health Assembly opened with calls for unity from the President of the Swiss Confederation, and the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The World Health Organization is "irreplaceable," said UN Secretary-General Guterres, calling for an investigation into the origins of the virus’s spread to take place at a later date. "Now is a time for unity," he added. "Either we stand together or we fall apart."

7:09 a.m. ET, May 18, 2020

It's just after 7 a.m. in New York and 12 p.m. in London. Here's the latest on the pandemic

A worker wearing a protective mask cleans a divider at the entrance of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, on May 18.
A worker wearing a protective mask cleans a divider at the entrance of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, on May 18. Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 4.7 million people, killing at least 315,000 worldwide. If you're just joining us, here's what you may have missed:

  • WHO meets today: More than 100 countries have proposed a draft resolution calling for an independent "evaluation" into the coronavirus pandemic. It will be presented to the World Health Organization during its 73rd World Health Assembly today. The draft does not single out China, but Beijing is facing mounting international scrutiny for its initial handling of the Covid-19 outbreak.
  • Taiwan not on the agenda: The self-ruled island's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Monday that it had agreed to shelve the issue of its participation at the WHA until next year, due to the shortened nature of the current meeting and the pressing issue of the pandemic.
  • Greece reopens some of its most famous cultural sites: The Acropolis in Athens reopened for visitors today after temporarily closing due to the coronavirus outbreak. More than 200 archaeological sites across the country will resume business today, according to the Greek Ministry of Culture.
  • Wuhan tests more than 400,000 people: The Chinese city of Wuhan has conducted more than 400,000 nucleic acids tests within the first three days of a citywide campaign to test all residents for Covid-19, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said today.
  • UK could be missing up to 70,000 Covid-19 cases: Meanwhile, the UK could be missing between 50,000 to 70,000 coronavirus cases because it has not updated its list of coronavirus symptoms, a professor who leads the King's College London Covid Symptom Tracker app said Monday.
  • Spanish soccer stars can train in groups of 10: Clubs in Spain’s top two soccer divisions can begin training in groups of up to 10 players from Monday, La Liga announced on Sunday. The return will mean players from the likes of Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid will be able to train in small groups.
7:17 a.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Czech Republic lifts state of emergency

From Tomas Etzler in Prague

The Czech government has lifted the country's coronavirus state of emergency, which had been in place since March 12.

Some restrictions will, however, remain:

  • face masks must be worn in public
  • restaurants' indoor sections are to stay closed
  • gatherings of more than 100 people are banned
  • border controls remain in place

The Czech Republic has so far recorded 8,475 coronavirus cases, with 298 deaths, according to the country’s health ministry. 

7:15 a.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Taiwan postpones bid to join WHO

From CNN's Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

The Taiwan United Nations Alliance Chairman Michael Tsai, center, and Minister of Health Chen Shih-Chung, right, attend a conference on Taiwan's efforts to enter the World Health Assembly hosted by the World Health Organization in Taipei, Taiwan, on Friday, May 15.
The Taiwan United Nations Alliance Chairman Michael Tsai, center, and Minister of Health Chen Shih-Chung, right, attend a conference on Taiwan's efforts to enter the World Health Assembly hosted by the World Health Organization in Taipei, Taiwan, on Friday, May 15. Walid Berrazeg/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Taiwan has said it will postpone its bid to join the World Health Organization, after the secretariat did not invite the island to attend the World Health Assembly, which takes place Monday, according to the island’s Foreign Minister Joesph Wu.

"After careful deliberation, we have accepted the suggestion from our allies and like-minded nations to wait until the resumed session before further promoting our bid," Wu said at a press conference on Monday.
Wu noted that the length of the meeting had been shortened this year due to Covid-19 and that "understandably, countries want to use the limited time available to concentrate on ways of containing the pandemic."

"Deep regret": He added that "the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses deep regret and strong dissatisfaction that the World Health Organization Secretariat has yielded to pressure from the Chinese government and continues to disregard the right to health of the 23 million people of Taiwan."

Taiwan said 29 countries had "expressed support for Taiwan’s WHO participation" with officials including Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters speaking out for the island.

"Our actions speak for themselves—Taiwan can help, and Taiwan is helping," said Wu, adding that Taiwan "took the initiative to provide epidemic prevention and containment supplies to countries in need."

Taiwan says it will continue its bid to join the World Health Organization "later this year when meetings will be conducted normally, to make sure there will be full and open discussion."