May 24 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Jenni Marsh, Rob Picheta and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 10:04 p.m. ET, May 24, 2020
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5:31 a.m. ET, May 24, 2020

The row over Dominic Cummings isn't going away: what the papers say

From CNN's Rob Picheta

Cummings outside his London home on Saturday.
Cummings outside his London home on Saturday.

The saga engulfing Downing Street dominates newspaper front pages in the UK, as anger grows over reports that Boris Johnson's top aide ignored lockdown rules to make multiple trips across England.

The government spent Saturday batting the first round of stories about Dominic Cummings, after it emerged he went from London to Durham while his wife was sick with Covid-19 symptoms.

Ministers said Cummings, who is often painted as the mastermind behind the Brexit campaign and Boris Johnson's premiership, had merely traveled to his parents' home to get help with childcare -- despite the trip clearly going against the guidance that people do not travel to see family members and self-isolate in one place if they have symptoms.

But much of that defense appeared to be crafted based on the idea that Cummings had only made the one trip. The Observer and Daily Mirror reported on Saturday evening, however, that witnesses had seen Cummings near Durham again on multiple dates in April, after he had recovered from his Covid-19 symptoms.

Both papers, which worked on the story together, led their Sunday editions with the new claims and the calls for Johnson to sack Cummings.

Downing Street said in a fiery response to the latest stories that it "will not waste our time answering a stream of false allegations about Mr Cummings from campaigning newspapers" -- a remarkable attack on two national papers that suggests they are not backing down in their defense of the aide.

But the calls for him to quit only grew louder on Sunday, when Conservative MPs began to break with the party line and call for Cummings to go. Influential backbencher Steve Baker said it is "intolerable" that Johnson's government is giving up so much political capital to save Cummings' job.

Simon Hoare added on Twitter: “Lockdown has had its challenges for everyone. It’s his cavalier “I don’t care; I’m cleverer than you” tone that infuriates people. He is now wounding the PM/Govt & I don’t like that.”

Cummings' anti-establishment message, rough-and-ready demeanor and ruthless reputation have made him a controversial figure at the best of times.

But it is the manner in which the government is defending him -- and the potential that they are severely undermining their own lockdown measures to save his job -- that has angered critics.

"What worries me most is that some of the most senior politicians in the government have spent the weekend undermining laws and public health messaging designed to protect the public in the pandemic. All to defend their friend. This is what matters," Labour's shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy said on Sunday.

And the government is feeling the heat even from papers traditionally sympathetic to Boris Johnson.

The Telegraph, which counts the Prime Minister among its former columnists, splashed on the second claims -- which were revealed just in time on Saturday night to cause a new wave of questions on Sunday.

The Mail on Sunday meanwhile dedicated several pages of coverage to the scandal, while the Sunday Times led on Johnson's defense of his aide but noted that "voters demand Cummings resign" in its subhed.

Johnson has personally kept quiet during the weekend row, giving no interviews and making no public statements about Cummings. But it is increasingly evident that this political row has become a defining moment in the UK's coronavirus response.

4:06 a.m. ET, May 24, 2020

Conservative lawmaker calls on Boris Johnson's embattled aide to resign

From CNN's Simon Cullen

Dominic Cummings faces reporters at his London home on Saturday.
Dominic Cummings faces reporters at his London home on Saturday. Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

One of Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party lawmakers has called on the Prime Minister’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings to resign for breaching coronavirus rules.

“Enough is enough,” Steve Baker wrote in an opinion piece for The Critic website. “Dominic Cummings must go before he does any more harm to the UK, the Government, the Prime Minister, our institutions or the Conservative Party.”

Baker said it is “intolerable” that Johnson’s government is losing so much political capital at the moment.

“Time is up. It is time for Dom to resign so Boris can govern within the conventions and norms which will see us through.

“It is time to get competing expert advice, decent software and better decisions, end the lockdown and start a long, hard recovery.”

A former adviser for Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, has also called on Cummings to resign.

“I think the second incident… if true, does it. I don’t think there’s any way around it,” Tom Swarbrick told Sky News.

“It’s very clear he broke the rules anyway and the mitigation that was being offered doesn’t stack up when you’ve had this second incident.”

The Guardian and Mirror newspapers are reporting that Cummings made a second trip from London to Durham during the coronavirus lockdown.

Downing Street said in response to the latest stories: “We will not waste our time answering a stream of false allegations about Mr. Cummings from campaigning newspapers.”

They follow earlier reports that Cummings made an initial journey to his parents for childcare while sick with Covid-19 symptoms.

4:15 a.m. ET, May 24, 2020

It's gone 9 a.m. in London and 4 p.m. in Hong Kong. Here's what you may have missed

There are more than 5.3 million cases of Covid-19 reported worldwide, and at least 342,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Here's the latest developments on the pandemic.

  • UK PM aide in hot water: Boris Johnson is under pressure to sack a top aide over multiple reported lockdown breaches. British police have confirmed that an officer made contact with the father of Dominic Cummings regarding his trip to Durham, PA Media reported. This information contradicts an earlier statement from Downing Street, which said police had made no contact with Cummings or his family. 
  • Plasma study: Hospitalized Covid-19 patients appear to fare better when they receive infusions of antibody-filled convalescent plasma, according to a study released on Friday. The study hasn’t been peer reviewed or published in an academic journal, but researchers said the findings are a good sign for the plasma therapy.
  • In the US: North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum made an emotional plea with residents to not divide themselves over mask wearing or shame those who choose to wear masks, but to instead be empathetic. The country has more than 1.6 million cases, of which 21,361 were reported on Saturday.
  • India cases: India reported 6,767 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours -- the country's biggest one-day surge so far, said officials there on Sunday.
  • China lab: The director of Wuhan Virology Institute told Chinese state media that the institute did not have any knowledge of and had not encountered the coronavirus that caused this Covid-19 pandemic before December 30 last year.
  • Brazil cases spike: Brazil has overtaken Russia to have the second-highest total of confirmed cases, after the US. On Saturday, Brazil reported 16,508 new cases.
  • Indigenous bearing the brunt: That spike comes as a report said the mortality rate for Brazil's indigenous people is double that of the rest of Brazil's population, according to advocacy group Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB).

3:04 a.m. ET, May 24, 2020

What we know about Dominic Cummings -- Boris Johnson's chief aide who may have broken lockdown orders

Dominic Cummings arrives at Downing Street on February 12 in London, England.
Dominic Cummings arrives at Downing Street on February 12 in London, England. Peter Summers/Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure to sack his chief aide after it was reported he and his wife breached the UK’s lockdown by traveling across England to stay with his parents, while showing symptoms of coronavirus.

Here's what we know about the controversy:

What happened: An investigation by the Guardian and Mirror newspapers revealed that Dominic Cummings had been spotted in late March in Durham, more than 250 miles from his London home — seemingly in contravention of the government's lockdown regulations. 

Why that's significant: The UK’s coronavirus restrictions made clear that people must not visit any other household, including second residences or family homes, and must not carry out any non-essential travel.

What has Downing Street said? The British Prime Minister’s office has denied that top adviser Dominic Cummings breached coronavirus guidelines by traveling from London to Durham. Downing Street has called the reports in the Guardian and Mirror "false allegations" and "inaccurate stories" about Cummings. British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the Prime Minister has given his full support to Cummings, saying the decision was within the guidelines and aimed to provide his child with the necessary support.

"The reality of the matter is the 4-year-old child’s welfare is I think the important thing," he said. "It was a straightforward arrangement which meant that he stayed in the same place and prevented the possibility of a child, in this case, not having support around him."

What has Cummings said? The senior adviser said he “behaved reasonably and legally” when he travelled from London to Durham and will not consider resigning. Responding to a question about it not being a "good look" for the prime minister’s adviser to travel to Durham, Cummings replied: “Who cares about good looks. It’s a question about doing the right thing – not what you guys (journalists) think."

British police are involved: UK police confirmed that an officer made contact with the aide's father regarding his trip, the Press Association reported Saturday. That contradicts an earlier statement from Downing Street, which said that police made no contact with Cummings or his family.

Cummings' father told an officer that his son had traveled to the northeast of England and was "self-isolating in part of the property," according to Durham Police, the PA reported Saturday. 

2:46 a.m. ET, May 24, 2020

Cases in Seoul nightclub cluster increase to 225

From CNN's Yoonjung Seo

Pedestrians walk past a now closed nightclub in Itaewon, the nightlife district of Seoul, South Korea, on May 12.
Pedestrians walk past a now closed nightclub in Itaewon, the nightlife district of Seoul, South Korea, on May 12. Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

The number of cases linked to a nightclub cluster infection in South Korea has risen to 225, according to a press release by the KCDC on Sunday.

Among the 225 confirmed cases, 96 are believed to have contracted the virus from visiting the clubs and the 129 others are believed to have been infected by coming into close contact with confirmed cases, according to the release.

What happened: On May 9, reports started emerging of cases spiking in the South Korean capital of Seoul.

It immediately raised alarm. South Korea had just started loosening restrictions and opening up some businesses after largely regaining control of the outbreak that had peaked in February and March.

Authorities quickly identified that the cases were concentrated in Itaewon, the entertainment district popular for bars and nightclubs. A 29-year-old man infected with Covid-19 had visited several clubs, where he transmitted the virus to dozens more people.

The numbers: South Korea now has 11,190 cases nationwide, including 266 deaths. according to the KCDC.

Read more about the cluster:

2:21 a.m. ET, May 24, 2020

Two hairstylists with coronavirus served 140 clients while symptomatic in US, officials say

From CNN's Faith Karimi

Two hairstylists in the US state of Missouri potentially exposed 140 clients to coronavirus when they worked for up to eight days this month while symptomatic, health officials said. 

The Springfield-Greene Health Department announced Saturday that a second hairstylist tested positive for coronavirus, and may have exposed 56 clients at the same Great Clips salon.

A day earlier, it had said another hairstylist with coronavirus at the same salon potentially exposed 84 customers and seven coworkers. 

Both stylists had symptoms while at work, officials said. They did not provide details on the symptoms they had or when they tested positive.

The case highlights the dangers of community spread in the United States as businesses reopen after weeks of restrictions to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Read the full story:

1:56 a.m. ET, May 24, 2020

Director of Wuhan lab says they never encountered virus before the pandemic, state media says

From Alex Lin in Hong Kong

Wang Yanyi, the director of Wuhan Virology Institute, told Chinese state media CGTN that the institute did not have any knowledge of or encountered the coronavirus that caused this Covid-19 pandemic before December 30 last year, when they received its first clinical sample.

“We didn’t have any knowledge before that, nor had we ever encountered, researched or kept the virus. In fact, like everyone else, we didn't even know the virus existed. How could it have leaked from our lab when we never had it?" she said.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been caught up in speculation that the virus was leaked from its laboratory -- a claim that was promoted by US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The claim has drawn fierce rebuttal from the Chinese government, which described the accusation as "smear" intended to bolster Trump's reelection chances.

Wang also refuted assertions that the pandemic was caused by two other novel coronaviruses originating from bats that the institute had carried out research on, one of which has a 96.2% similarity with the SARS-CoV-2.

She said although from the perspective of many non-professionals, the similarity rate of 96.2 percent is fairly high, “In the natural world, it takes a long period of time for a virus to naturally evolve and mutate to become SARS-CoV-2,” she added.

Read more about the Wuhan Institute of Virology:

1:28 a.m. ET, May 24, 2020

US reports 21,361 new coronavirus cases

From CNN's Alta Spells

People wait in line to be tested for coronavirus on May 23 in Annandale, Virginia.
People wait in line to be tested for coronavirus on May 23 in Annandale, Virginia. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

There are at least 1,622,612 cases of coronavirus in the United States and at least 97,087 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally of cases.

On Saturday, JHU reported 21,361 new cases and 1,086 new deaths in the US.

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

CNN is keeping track of cases in the US with an interactive map using JHU's tally:

12:56 a.m. ET, May 24, 2020

A new movement is connecting those who need help with financial donors

From CNN's Christopher Dawson

Shelly Tygielski, founder of Pandemic of Love
Shelly Tygielski, founder of Pandemic of Love Courtesy Shelly Tygielski

The coronavirus pandemic has inspired a grassroots movement that is connecting people who need help with donors who can offer financial assistance.

So far, contributors have passed $13 million through more than 100,000 matches. 

Shelly Tygielski came up with the idea that she named Pandemic of Love. The mindfulness teacher in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was looking for simple ways people in her community could take care of each other. 

"As the pandemic started, I started to see the fear bubble up on my social media feeds and from friends," Tygielski told CNN. "I wanted to turn from this environment of fear to an opportunity for us to create connection, community and strengthen the bonds of love between us."

What is Pandemic of Love? Tygielski describes Pandemic of Love as a mutual aid organization designed to be a bridge for people to connect.

"It is pairing up two individuals who are going to initially have a financial transaction, but also connect with one another, to be seen and heard and loved," Tygielski said.

Read the full story: