May 21 coronavirus news

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7:20 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Italy will open borders to EU countries in June without requiring quarantine

From CNN's Barbie Nadeau & Valentina DiDonato

Border guards work at the Italian-Swiss border in the Ponte Chiasso customs post between Como, Italy, and Chiasso, Switzerland, on March 9.
Border guards work at the Italian-Swiss border in the Ponte Chiasso customs post between Como, Italy, and Chiasso, Switzerland, on March 9. Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images

Italy will open its borders to all European Union countries with no mandatory quarantine required from June 3, as part of the efforts to “relaunch the economy,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told the country's lower house of parliament on Thursday.

On May 13 Conte blasted the EU's proposal to allow “tourist corridors” between nations in the bloc with similar epidemiological conditions.

“We will not accept bilateral accords within the European Union that might create privileged tourist channels,” he said at the time.
“That would leave us outside the European Union and we will never allow this.”

On May 16 Conte said that “if the data continue[d] to be encouraging” Italian borders would be open to those from within the EU’s Schengen Zone, but the country's stance on a mandatory quarantine for travelers was unclear.

Conte's announcement on Thursday clarifies the matter, extending the open borders policy to the entire EU bloc. Britons, who are now outside the EU, will also be included. He also confirmed that no quarantine would be necessary for EU travelers.

The Italian Prime Minister did not say what would happen if the contagion rate started to climb.

EU sources have confirmed to CNN that the point of mandatory quarantine has been the subject of behind-the-scenes debate in recent days. 

“We must accept this risk and we cannot stop and wait for a vaccine,” Conte said.
“Otherwise we would never be in a position to relaunch again and we would find ourselves with a productive and social fabric inevitably compromised.”

Everyone who enters Italy will have to wear face coverings and observe social distancing requirements, Conte added.

6:59 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

China claims Pompeo's "lies have bankrupted his credibility" amid clash between Beijing and Washington

From CNN's Isaac Yee and Shawn Deng

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian speaks in Beijing on May 12.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian speaks in Beijing on May 12. Kyodo News via Getty Images

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has lashed out at US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo amid a growing war of words between Beijing and Washington.

“[Pompeo] has played to perfection the part of an extremely irresponsible politician, but his numerous lies have bankrupted his credibility in the world,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Thursday. 

Zhao also questioned the US response to the coronavirus pandemic, asking “why didn’t the US government take any prevention measures from January through til March, why did it advise people not wear masks for so long, why did it fail to stem the spread of virus[?].”

Tensions over the pandemic and trade have reignited tensions between the US and China in recent weeks.

The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it had approved another potential arms sale to Taiwan.

Zhao said in response: “China is firmly opposed to the US arms sales to Taiwan and has made solemn representations to the US. We urge the US side to strictly abide by the one-China principle and the provisions of the three Sino-US joint communiques, and stop arms sales to Taiwan and military links between the United States and Taiwan to avoid further damage to Sino-US relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

President Trump criticized China's response to the pandemic in a series of tweets posted late Wednesday night, accusing Beijing of "trying desperately to deflect the pain and carnage that their country spread throughout the world."

He claimed the Chinese government "could have easily stopped the plague, but they didn’t!"

“The Chinese government has always adhered an open, transparent, and responsible attitude, and insisted on speaking with facts," Zhao responded on Thursday.
"Who is going all out to safeguard people's lives and health, and who is doing everything in their power to promote international cooperation? I believe that justice is [in] people’s heart[s], and the world will see [that] clearly."
6:20 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

British healthcare workers take part in global trial of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite and Lindsay Isaac

British healthcare workers are taking part in a global clinical trial to test the effectiveness of anti-malarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine against coronavirus.

About 40,000 frontline workers and staff from Europe, Africa, Asia and South America who have close contact with Covid-19 patients will take part in the study to test if the drugs are effective in preventing the virus.

A vendor displays hydroxychloroquine tablets at a pharmacy in Amritsar, India, on April 27.
A vendor displays hydroxychloroquine tablets at a pharmacy in Amritsar, India, on April 27. Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images

“Laboratory evidence shows that these well-established drugs might be effective in preventing or treating COVID-19 but there is no conclusive proof," the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) said Thursday in a statement.

“Covid-19 is a major risk for frontline healthcare workers around the world,” COPCOV Co-Principal Investigator Professor Nicholas White, of the University of Oxford who is based at MORU, said in the statement.
“We really do not know if chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine are beneficial or harmful against Covid-19. The best way to find out if they are effective in preventing Covid-19 is in a randomised clinical trial. That’s what COPCOV is – and why we’re doing this study,” Professor White said.

The first UK participants will begin enrolling in the trial Wednesday in three hospitals outside London. Participants will receive either chloroquine or a placebo (in Asia) or hydroxychloroquine or a placebo (in UK, Europe, Africa) for three months.

Results are expected by the end of 2020, the statement adds.

US President Donald Trump made headlines on Monday after he told reporters he was taking daily doses of hydroxychloroquine. At least one study has shown the drug does not work against Covid-19 and could cause heart problems.

6:04 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Some US states are combining results from two types of tests. That's potentially misleading

From CNN's Faith Karimi and Steve Almasy

A health volunteer uses a swab to collect a sample from a Richmond area resident in Virginia on April 28.
A health volunteer uses a swab to collect a sample from a Richmond area resident in Virginia on April 28. John McDonnell/The Washington Post/Getty Images

A series of US states have been combining two different types of coronavirus test results in their total numbers, potentially providing a muddled picture of the pandemic as the nation eases restrictions.

Virginia, Texas, Georgia, and Vermont have said they've been adding two numbers to their daily totals: viral test results and antibody test results.

  • Viral tests are taken by nose swab or saliva sample, and look for direct evidence someone currently has Covid-19.
  • Antibody tests use blood samples to look for biological signals that a person has been exposed to the virus in the past.

Why this is a problem: Combining the two types of tests overstates a state's testing ability, a crucial metric as nearly all states ease coronavirus restrictions. Experts have consistently emphasized that for states to reopen, there has to be adequate testing and tracing.

"Public health officials need to know how many people in my state or my community currently have Covid-19. They also need to learn how many people had it in the past and potentially are immune to it," said Elizabeth Cohen, CNN's senior medical correspondent. "Those are two completely different things."

States' response: Texas, Virginia and Vermont said they've recognized the data issue and moved to fix it in the past few days.

Georgia health officials said they've been adding both tests to their daily totals since April in line with the methodology from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more here:

5:35 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Here's how Covid-19 could change the way we fly

From CNN's Paul Sillers

Qatar Airways has introduced PPE suits for its crew.
Qatar Airways has introduced PPE suits for its crew. Courtesy Qatar Airways

As the world slowly eases its way out of the Covid-19 lockdown, we're on the verge of a new era in air travel.

We could soon encounter armies of robotic cleaners patrolling airport concourses, disinfecting check-in counters and ticket kiosks. We might see passengers wafting through security and baggage checkpoints without touching anything.

And we might be boarding aircraft where hand gestures and eye movements open overhead stowage bins and navigate our inflight entertainment screens.

Everything could become touch-free. Out go the tailored uniforms, in come astronaut-style anti-Covid-19 flight attendant suits.

Most of these concepts are trials but could soon morph into realities that become as ubiquitous as the biometric gates and body scanners to which we've already become accustomed at airport terminals.

Read more here.

5:25 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Death toll in the US rises to 93,439

From CNN's Joe Sutton

Hospital personnel are seen through a barricade transporting deceased individuals to an overflow morgue trailer outside the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York on May 7.
Hospital personnel are seen through a barricade transporting deceased individuals to an overflow morgue trailer outside the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York on May 7. Bryan Thomas/Getty Images

At least 93,439 people have died in the US from coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University's latest tally.

There are at least 1,551,853 cases of the disease in the country. The US has the highest number of cases in the world.

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

CNN is tracking coronavirus cases across the US here.

5:05 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

UK case-tracking app will roll out "in coming weeks," security minister says

From CNN's Max Ramsay in London

Britain is planning to roll out a mobile app to track and trace coronavirus cases “in the coming weeks,” security minister James Brokenshire said today.

The app will involve 24,000 people already recruited to individually track the contacts of individuals who develop symptoms, Brokenshire told UK broadcaster Sky News.

“The priority being to get these track and tracers trained, in place, that’s what the prime minister is very confident about,” Brokenshire said. “We’re confident the system will be able to track and trace around 10,000 people from June 1.”

The app would provide "extra support" on top of a human-conducted manual contact tracing operation, he said.

Brokenshire also said the UK was looking to put in place restrictions on overseas arrivals “early next month”. He did not give details on the restrictions, though CNN has previously reported on the UK government’s plan to impose a 14-day quarantine for international arrivals “as soon as possible."

4:45 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

New Zealand's prime minister floats "4-day week" as a way to help the economy

From CNN's Michelle Toh

The four-day work week has been touted as a way to improve work-life balance. Now it's getting a boost from New Zealand's leader, who recently raised the idea as one that might help the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a Facebook Live video posted earlier this week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shared the suggestion while discussing ways to revive domestic tourism in her country. Over the past few months, the coronavirus crisis has forced people around the world to lock down and decimated global demand for travel.

"I've had lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day week," Ardern said.

She added that such a measure would ultimately be up to employers -- but said it might give domestic travelers "flexibility in terms of their travel and their leave." Ardern noted that 60% of New Zealand's tourism industry comes from locals.

"There's lots of things we've learnt about Covid and just that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that can be driven out of that," she continued.

The prime minister encouraged employers to consider allowing more flexible work set-ups -- including remote work and putting in longer hours on fewer days -- if possible, "because it certainly would help tourism all around the country."

Read the full story:

4:33 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Russia records more than 8,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Darya Tarasova in Moscow

People wait at a public transport stop amid the pandemic in Moscow on May 20.
People wait at a public transport stop amid the pandemic in Moscow on May 20. Mikhail Japaridze/TASS/Getty Images

Russia recorded 8,849 new Covid-19 cases and 127 deaths in the past 24 hours, according to a statement from the country’s coronavirus response headquarters.

That raises the national total to 317,554 cases and 3,099 deaths.

Russia is the country with the second-highest number of coronavirus cases, behind the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University.