June 18 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Peter Wilkinson, Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 1:26 a.m. ET, June 19, 2020
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7:06 a.m. ET, June 18, 2020

Argentina's president enters self-isolation as preventive measure against Covid-19 

From CNN Espanol's Daniel Silva

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez is pictured speaking at a press conference about coronavirus lockdown measures in Olivos, Argentina, on May 23.
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez is pictured speaking at a press conference about coronavirus lockdown measures in Olivos, Argentina, on May 23. Alejandro Pagni/AFP/Getty Images

Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez is self-isolating from Wednesday at his official residence Quinta de Olivos, according to a statement released by the Casa Rosada, seat of executive power in the country.

The measure was recommended by Dr. Federico Saavedra from Argentina's Presidential Medical Unit.

According to a statement released by Saavedra, Fernandez will "continue to carry out his usual tasks in his residence and to restrict as much as possible interpersonal contact." 

Face-to-face meetings will only be held if they are matters of vital importance.

As part of the isolation measures Fernandez will not travel to the port city of Rosario to attend celebrations marking the Day of the Flag, a traditional Argentinian holiday.

Several Argentinian politicians have tested positive for coronavirus, including several mayors who were supposed to meet Fernandez last week.

Argentina currently has more than 35,500 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 913 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University

5:58 a.m. ET, June 18, 2020

Germany's Angela Merkel urges EU leaders to agree on pandemic recovery plan

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses parliament in Berlin, Germany, on Thursday, June 18.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses parliament in Berlin, Germany, on Thursday, June 18. Markus Schreiber/AP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the coronavirus pandemic has deepened inequality within the European Union (EU) and has called on member states to agree on an economic recovery package before the end of July.

Speaking in Germany's lower house of parliament -- the Bundestag -- on Thursday, Merkel said the EU's approach to the crisis will determine the region's place in the world. 

“Europe needs us as much as we need Europe,” she said, adding: “The virus has revealed how fragile our European project is.”

Merkel also laid out her vision of Germany's presidency of the European Union in the second half of this year.

She said the coronavirus pandemic and economic fallout remains “the biggest challenge in the EU’s history.” The German leader also warned that the union needs to work together to keep EU member states from drifting apart.

“The pandemic has also made it clear that Europe is dependent on other countries when it comes to medicines and protective equipment. This situation has laid bare deficits in terms of sourcing, stocking and distributing medical supplies,” she said.

Merkel added that the situation has also exacerbated differences in EU member states’ economies and budgets.

“As well as that, there is also the fact that while the pandemic has also affected everyone -- some have been more affected than others,” she said.
“The medical and economic consequences of the crisis have deepened inequalities within the European community. The pandemic has shown us, our Europe is vulnerable." She added that "unity and solidarity" is more important than ever.

EU leaders are debating a proposal for a 750 billion euro aid package designed to help the 27 member states to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. 

European finance ministers have previously struggled to agree a response to the economic impact of Covid-19.

Merkel said she would join her counterparts on a video conference on Friday to debate the proposal, which needs the backing of all individual EU member states. The German Chancellor said she was expecting an agreement on the recovery plan in July. 

Merkel warned that the bloc must also take on more global responsibility and speak with one voice to China to represent its values. 

“At this time, the world needs Europe's strong voice for the protection of human dignity, democracy and freedom,” Merkel said.

8:24 a.m. ET, June 18, 2020

Amazon indigenous chief Paulinho Paiakan dies during hospitalization for coronavirus

From CNN's Jonny Hallam and Maija Ehlinger

Indigenous leader Paulinho Paiakan of the Kayapo community takes part in a demonstration for indigenous people's rights in Brasilia, Brazil, in April 2017.
Indigenous leader Paulinho Paiakan of the Kayapo community takes part in a demonstration for indigenous people's rights in Brasilia, Brazil, in April 2017. Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

A chief of Brazil's indigenous Kayapó community has died, according to advocacy group Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB). 

Paulinho Paiakan, 66, died Wednesday in Redenção, a town in Brazil's southern Pará state. He had recently been hospitalized for coronavirus, Brazil’s Health Ministry said.

Several tribal elders have died of coronavirus in the state and the disease has been spreading among indigenous communities there, according to CNN Brasil. It is not known whether Paiakan died of coronavirus.

Paiakan was known for his environmental activism, particularly for drawing attention to the cost of building the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant on the Amazon's Xingu River in the 1980s. 

"His legacy leaves in the history and in the lives of peoples a lot of strength. Internationally recognized as a great advocate for the forest and its peoples, Paiakan was a source of inspiration in the struggle for all of us," APIB said in a statement.

Brazil's indigenous people are dying at an alarming rate from Covid-19. The mortality rate is double that of the rest of Brazil's population, according to APIB, which tracks the number of cases and deaths among the country's 900,000 indigenous people.

The country has the second-highest number of cases globally. At least 955,377 coronavirus cases have been recorded in Brazil and 46,510 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

5:20 a.m. ET, June 18, 2020

How female scientists are losing out during the pandemic 

From CNN's Katie Hunt

Many diseases, including Covid-19, can attack men and women in different ways. Why this is depends on a complex mix of biology and behavior that can be difficult to untangle.

But we do know that these differences are more likely to be considered if medical research involves female scientists, which makes the current state of scientific endeavor on Covid-19, where women are more underrepresented as authors than ever, all the more worrying.

The numbers are clear: Some 1,370 papers have been published in medical journals about Covid-19 involving 6,722 authors but only 34% of these were female, according to research published last week by Ana-Catarina Pinho-Gomes, a researcher at The George Institute for Global Health at the University of Oxford.

It's a problem that goes beyond gender equity and fairness. It could impact how we understand the coronavirus itself, said Pinho-Gomes.

"Women's voices are being heard less in the scientific response to the pandemic," she said.
"Under-representation of female researchers tends to create under-representation of issues that are relevant to women in research — in our current situation this may create important gaps in our understanding of Covid-19," the paper said.

The numbers skew a playing field that wasn't level before the pandemic. And it's not just female scientists underrepresented — even the lab rats are likely to be male.

Read more here.

5:12 a.m. ET, June 18, 2020

A passenger was removed from a flight for refusing to wear a face mask

From CNN's Christina Zdanowicz and Marnie Hunter

An American Airlines plane at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on March 20, 2020 in Dallas, Texas.
An American Airlines plane at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on March 20, 2020 in Dallas, Texas. Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Tension over wearing face masks led to a passenger's removal from an American Airlines flight as airlines enforce stricter safety measures.

Passenger Brandon Straka was asked to get off a flight from New York to Dallas after he refused to wear a face covering as required by American Airlines policy, the airline confirmed in a statement. 

This is the first known incident of this type since the airlines announced plans to more strictly enforce mask wearing. 

Wearing face coverings on planes is not mandated by law, but airlines have instituted their own mask requirements for crew and passengers. This week, several major US carriers, including American Airlines, pledged that they will take a harder line on enforcing their policies.

"This is insane. Absolutely insane," Straka said in a Periscope post on social media. "We don't even have a choice anymore."

Read the full story:

4:45 a.m. ET, June 18, 2020

Russia trying to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic, says UK Foreign Secretary

From CNN's Simon Cullen in London

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that Russia and others are trying to exploit the opportunities and challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic.

But he said that he doesn't think their actions have had an impact in the UK.

“I don’t think they’ve made a material difference to our response in health terms, but certainly Russia and other countries – and indeed non-state actors – see the challenges that Covid has created and are trying to exploit it,” Raab told Sky News.
“We’re making sure we’ve got the resilience and the defenses and capabilities to prevent them from doing so," he said.
4:35 a.m. ET, June 18, 2020

Former Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev tests positive for coronavirus

From CNN's Nathan Hodge

Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first president of Kazakhstan, is self-isolating after testing positive for coronavirus, his office said in a statement today.

“Unfortunately, the last test of Elbasy for coronavirus infection showed a positive result,” the statement read, referring to Nazarbayev by his formal title, Leader of the Nation. “There is no cause for concern.”

The statement added that Nazarbayev is working remotely.

Nazarbayev has dominated politics in the Central Asian republic for three decades. The Kazakh leader stepped down as president in 2019 but retains the chairmanship of the country's Security Council and wields substantial power behind the scenes. 

4:19 a.m. ET, June 18, 2020

Germany to ban large events until at least end of October

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a sitting of the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament in Berlin on June 18.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a sitting of the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament in Berlin on June 18.

Germany will keep its social distancing rules in place and extend the ban on large events until at least the end of October to curb a potential second wave of coronavirus infections, Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

She was speaking after a meeting in Berlin with the premiers of Germany's 16 states. Merkel urged caution as the country moved toward further easing of coronavirus restrictions. 

Physical distancing rules will remain in place across Germany and large events -- where contact tracing and distancing are not possible -- will remain banned until at least the end of October, the chancellor said.

Merkel added that infection numbers have stabilized at low levels.

“I am actually pretty satisfied that the rate of infections is at a constant and I say again, we are watching things very closely. We are very far from an exponential growth. We are constantly around R factor (reproduction factor) 1. Sometimes a bit above, sometimes a bit under,” she said.

Outbreak at a meat plant: In northern Germany, Toennies -- the owner of one of the country's biggest meat processing plants -- said it was closing after an abattoir registered that some 400 of its workers tested positive for the virus. The local authority closed schools and kindergartens as a precaution.

Economic woes: Merkel said that the pandemic has hit the German economy hard. “The negative impact on the economy is the most serious we have ever experienced in the history of the federal republic,” Merkel said.

Germany has managed to keep its coronavirus death toll relatively low despite a high number of cases. The country's Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases reported 580 new cases within the past 24 hours and 26 deaths.

The number of confirmed cases in Germany stands at 187,764, with 174,100 recoveries, according to the institute.

3:56 a.m. ET, June 18, 2020

A new threat to global trade: Exhausted crews want off cargo ships now

From CNN's Hanna Ziady

Global trade is facing another coronavirus crisis just as economies begin to reopen: 200,000 seafarers stranded for months by port closures and the collapse in long-haul aviation could refuse to keep working.

Many seafarers extended their contracts by several months to keep supplies of food, fuel and medicine flowing around the world during the pandemic, according to shipping companies and labor unions. 

But the months at sea without a break are taking their toll on crews. Fatigue and mental illness is a growing threat to safety and many seafarers now want off their ships.

Richard Barnes, the captain of a chemical tanker, said he is fortunate to work for a "very good" European shipping company, but that the conditions and atmosphere onboard ships vary, and people may suffer loneliness if they don't feel they can talk to their captain or crew.

"If you're not on a good ship, I would think it's very easy to slip into depression," he told CNN Business.

The International Transport Workers' Federation, which represents about half the world's seafarers, said emergency extensions to contracts expired on Tuesday and the organization will now do everything it can to help crew exercise their legal rights to stop working and return home.

About 80% of world goods trade by volume is carried on ships, according to the United Nations World Conference on Trade and Development. The pandemic has thrown the shipping industry into chaos.