May 18 coronavirus news

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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

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

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."

6:34 a.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Nearly 1.5 million coronavirus cases reported in US; death toll approaches 90,000

There are at least 1,486,742 cases of coronavirus in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally of cases in the United States, and at least 89,564 people have died in the US from the virus. 

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases.

6:33 a.m. ET, May 18, 2020

UK missing between 50,000-70,000 Covid-19 cases, says head of symptoms study

King's College London a public research university located in London, England, on April 23.
King's College London a public research university located in London, England, on April 23. Richard Baker/In Pictures/Getty Images

The UK is likely missing between 50,000-70,000 Covid-19 cases because it has not updated its list of coronavirus symptoms, a professor who leads the Kings College London Covid Symptom Tracker app said Monday.

Professor Tim Spector told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that his team's app has listed "about 14 symptoms which [they] know are related to having a positive swab test and these are not being picked up by the NHS." These include symptoms such as the loss of smell and taste and severe muscle pain and fatigue.

Professor Spector said the app is the "largest source of data" in the UK, with more than 1.5 million signed up to offer information about their response to the virus.

Citizens in the dark about symptoms: He said that UK citizens are not aware of the full spectrum of symptoms due to the lack of testing and the advice to only self-isolate if they have a high-fever or cough.

"There's no point telling people to be alert if they don't know the symptoms," he added.

Other countries expand lists: Professor Spector noted 17 other countries, the WHO, the EU and even the CDC altered and expanded their list of symptoms a few weeks ago.

Since the UK began testing, 243,695 people have tested positive for the virus, according to the latest figures from the Department of Health and Social Care.

Spector advised that "Public Health England ... get in line with the rest of the world and make people more aware."

He estimated that there are 100,000 cases of infected people in the UK at present and stressed that "there are still people out there who can infect others and we do have to be very vigilant," as some parts of the UK begin to ease their lockdown.

6:04 a.m. ET, May 18, 2020

New coronavirus clusters found in France

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.
This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Some 69 out of 209 employees at an agricultural producer near St. Brieuc in northwestern France have tested positive for coronavirus following a mass screening, according to the local health authority.

An employee at the unnamed factory in Brittany was admitted to the local hospital on May 13, the health authority says.

Meanwhile, 34 employees have tested positive for coronavirus at the Tradival slaughterhouse in Fleury-les-Aubrays south of Paris, according to the local health authority.

Initially, the French government contact tracing app flagged three employees there for possible symptoms. A wider testing campaign is now underway at the factory and several subsidiary companies, the health authority says.

News of the two clusters of cases comes as France enters its second week of "deconfinement," as the measures which had seen people confined to their homes, only allowed to leave when carrying a form justifying their movements, are relaxed.

5:04 a.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Singapore reports 305 new coronavirus cases

A man wearing a protective mask has his temperature taken before entering a McDonald's restaurant in Singapore, on May 12. 
A man wearing a protective mask has his temperature taken before entering a McDonald's restaurant in Singapore, on May 12.  Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

Singapore confirmed 305 new coronavirus cases as of 12 p.m. local time today, the country's Ministry of Health said.

The vast majority of new infections are work permit holders living in foreign workers dorms. Two cases are Singaporeans or permanent residents.

On Sunday, Singapore reported 682 cases. The Ministry of Health said the lower number of cases today is due to "fewer tests being processed as one testing laboratory is reviewing its processes following an earlier apparatus calibration issue."

Singapore has a total of 28,343 reported cases and 22 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.

Making up a significant portion of the Singaporean workforce, 1.4 million migrant workers live in the city-state, mostly employed in construction, manual labor and housekeeping. Of these, about 200,000 live in 43 dormitories, according to Minister of Manpower Josephine Teo.

Read more about the plight of Singapore's migrant workers:

4:36 a.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Wuhan has tested more than 400,000 people for Covid-19 since citywide campaign began

Medical workers take swab samples from residents to be tested for coronavirus on May 15 in Wuhan, China.
Medical workers take swab samples from residents to be tested for coronavirus on May 15 in Wuhan, China. Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

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.

The testing drive comes after several new local cases were reported this month, sparking concern that the coronavirus could still be spreading in the city of 11 million people, where the virus emerged at the end of last year.

The number of tests conducted daily has also steadily increased from 72,791 on May 14 -- when the campaign began -- to 222,675 on May 16, local health authorities said. 

Who is being tested? The Wuhan government said that the citywide tests will apply to most permanent and temporary residents who were never tested before, and will exclude children under the age of 6. 

How will it work? The tests are conducted free of charge, and only those who test positive will be notified by authorities, the local government said. All samples will be stored in a secure and independent server to safeguard privacy, authorities added.

Last Thursday, leading Chinese business publication Caixin reported that Wuhan will carry out the citywide testing in waves. Over a period of 10 days, each district will stagger their tests in an effort to prevent a resurgence of the virus.