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May 20 coronavirus news
By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton and Rob Picheta, CNN
Brazil set a record high for new coronavirus cases within 24 hours, the country's Health Ministry announced on Wednesday.
Brazil reported 19,951 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 291,579 confirmed cases.
This new surge tops the previous record set on Tuesday.
Deaths caused by coronavirus increased by 888, bringing to the country's total to 18,859, the ministry said.
Tedros Adhanom-Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, on Wednesday said that more cases had been reported to the agency in the last 24 hours than any time since the novel coronavirus outbreak began.
“We still have a long way to go in this pandemic,” Tedros said at a briefing in Geneva. “In the last 24 hours, there have been 106,000 cases reported to WHO – the most in a single day since the outbreak began. Almost two-thirds of these cases were reported in just four countries.”
Those four countries, WHO infectious disease epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove confirmed to CNN in an email, are: the United States, Russia, Brazil and India.
It is important to note: There can be delays in reporting at many points in the process, so this single-day record does not mean that these 106,000 people were infected, tested or counted in the last 24 hours.
CNN exclusively relies on Johns Hopkins University for its case and death counts, but the world’s preeminent health agency making this announcement today is newsworthy.
The European Union’s health and aviation bodies have issued a new set of guidelines for air travel, recommending the use of face masks and the practice “scrupulous and frequent” hand hygiene on flights in order to ensure safety of travelers and aviation personnel amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) also recommend that social distancing be observed whenever possible.
“Passengers have to have confidence that taking to the skies again in a confined space with other people poses the minimum possible risk to their health,” European Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean said in the statement. “The protocol released today will reassure passengers that it is safe for them to fly and so help the industry recover from the effects of this pandemic.”
In a tight vote, the Spanish Parliament on Wednesday narrowly approved the fifth extension of the country’s state of emergency for another two weeks.
The state of emergency will last until June 7.
Now in its tenth week, the extended state of emergency, which has been in place since March 14, will allow the Spanish government to continue regulating restrictions on movement with the aim of controlling the coronavirus for a total of 12 weeks.
Some context: The lengthy state of emergency has widened political rifts in Spain, with the right and far right accusing the government of ineptitude in handling the Covid-19 pandemic, blaming it for tens of thousands of deaths, and holding it responsible for the country’s economic nosedive.
Speaking ahead of the vote in Spain’s lower chamber, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that in the fight against Covid-19, "the state of emergency and de-escalation have worked, the state of emergency will not last one day longer than it needs to."
Sánchez was firm in his position that “there is no alternative to the state of emergency” and lifting it now “would be an extraordinary irresponsibility."
Spain imposed some of Europe’s strictest confinement and de-escalation measures, gradually lifting restrictions asymmetrically across the country starting in early May, depending on infection rates and the capacity of health institutions in its territories.
The prime minister said the country is “in the last few meters [yards] of the state of emergency."
Spain is among countries with the world’s highest coronavirus infection and death numbers; but has managed to significantly bring those down in recent weeks.
France reported an additional 110 people died from Covid-19, the country’s Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday.
The total number of deaths in France is at least 28,132.
The country also reported an additional 418 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 143,845.
Greece says it is ready to reopen the country to some foreign visitors on June 15.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis announced in televised speeches a roadmap to kickstart the country’s tourism sector, which accounts for roughly 20% of Greece's GDP.
On June 15, some international flights will resume, but only to and from Athens International Airport.
In this first stage, only visitors from specific countries with low infection rates will be allowed in. The Greek tourism minister said the list of countries will be published by the end of this month but cited Germany, Israel, Cyprus and countries in the Balkan and Nordic regions as examples.
On July 1, after the first phase has been evaluated, all airports will be open to international travelers from all countries with some potential exceptions for countries with high infection rates.
Visitors will not be required to take a compulsory coronavirus test before entering the country and they will not have to remain in quarantine. Greece, however, retains its ability to subject travelers to sample coronavirus testing once they have arrived.
Some more details: The Greek prime minister announced a 24 billion euro ($26 billion) package to boost the country’s economy and tourism industry. The plan includes, among other measures, lowering the VAT in transport fares from 24% to 13%.
Theoharis said the government will strengthen the health infrastructure and capacity in popular tourism destinations to cover every possible need.
Italy will start reopening all its airports starting June 3, Transport Minister Paola de Micheli announced on Wednesday during a parliamentary session.
"It will be possible to proceed to the reopening of all airports starting from June 3, when transfers are again permitted," the minister said.
De Micheli added that current interregional and international limitations will also end for public transport within the country.
Flights were suspended in all major Italian airports on March 14, except for essential flights. Rome's Ciampino and Florence's airports were allowed to reopen on May 4, but the Milan hub remained closed due to the lack of air traffic, the minister said.
Canada’s top doctor is now recommending that everyone wear a non-medical mask when leaving home, especially when social distancing may not be possible.
“From our perspective, it’s an added layer of protection. It is for you to protect others. So if two people are wearing masks, I’m protecting you and you’re protecting me. So I think as more people do go out in the community, you can imagine there will be more people on public transport, or maybe more people at some of the retail,” said Dr. Theresa Tam at a news conference in Ottawa, adding that it will be hard to determine if and when you can social distance, so it’s best to wear a mask.��
Canada’s recommendation on masks has changed over the past few weeks with early directives in March saying that masks did not play a significant role in controlling the transmission of Covid-19. Tam said she had no regrets about those early recommendations, saying the science on the virus is evolving daily.
“So it’s when we got more evidence about asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals, although we don’t fully understand their role in transmission, it is an added layer of protection,” Tam said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that he will wear a mask when leaving his home and when he cannot social distance in order to protect himself and others.
Tam went a step further and suggested mask-wearing may soon become a social and cultural norm in Canada, with more and more people open to wearing masks when in public.
The Canadian government, however, stopped short of mandating that everyone wear masks, saying that individual jurisdictions in Canada and some businesses can implement that on a case-by-case basis.
“For Canadians, thinking of it as I’m protecting you, you’re protecting me, is a very key concept. We have to again the trust of the Canadian public and get their buy in to do all of this. Mandating is one measure that some jurisdictions might take if they have to,” Tam said.