The latest on the coronavirus pandemic

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Zamira Rahim, and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:42 a.m. ET, September 19, 2020
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9:31 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Rising Covid-19 hospitalizations could overburden health systems as countries enter flu season, WHO says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Medical workers tend to a Covid-19 patient at a hospital in Strasbourg, France, on September 15.
Medical workers tend to a Covid-19 patient at a hospital in Strasbourg, France, on September 15. Jean-Francois Badias/AP

The worrying Covid-19 trends in Europe includes an increase in hospitalizations and people who are needing intensive care treatment, according to Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for coronavirus. 

The UK has doubled hospitalizations every eight days or so, Van Kerkhove said on CNN’s New Day on Friday, and there are parts of France that are reaching ICU capacity. 

Given that the northern hemisphere hasn’t yet really hit autumn or winter or even started to hit the flu season, “we’re worried that these increasing numbers of hospitalizations and ICU are really going to overburden an already burdened system,” Van Kerkhove said. 

“And again, this is really worrying, because as we hit the flu season, as we start to see other viruses circulating, respiratory viruses circulating, it’s very difficult to distinguish Covid from flu from other respiratory pathogens that are circulating,” she said. “And if the beds are full with Covid patients, it will be very challenging for the health care system to deal with other respiratory diseases.” 

Flu vaccines will be key this year, she said.

“So we really need to see flu vaccination uptake increased across the northern hemisphere this year, especially this year,” she said. “Because we have a tool against flu, we don’t yet have that for Covid, but we have it for flu. And that will help, and it will particularly help vulnerable populations.” 

8:55 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Weekly Covid-19 cases in Europe are spiking. Here's the latest on the pandemic from the continent.

People walk in downtown Madrid on September 17.
People walk in downtown Madrid on September 17. Bernat Armangue/AP

The World Health Organization yesterday warned that coronavirus cases are surging alarmingly in Europe, as a "very serious situation" unfolds across the continent.

Weekly cases are now more than those reported at the peak of the pandemic in Europe, WHO said.

With cases spiking around Europe, some areas are implementing new restrictions to fight the pandemic. Here's what you need to know about this morning about in coronavirus in Europe:

  • New restrictions in parts of the UK: The British government has announced further restrictions for certain parts of England, including the North West, West Yorkshire and Midlands to tackle rising Covid-19 infection rates. Residents from these areas will be banned from socialising with people outside of their household and support bubble.
  • French city limits gatherings: Local authorities in Nice have banned public gatherings of more than 10 people on beaches and in parks, as part of new measures to fight the spread of coronavirus. All bars and restaurants will have to close their doors at 12.30 a.m. local time and all visits in Nice’s public care homes have been suspended.
  • Record numbers in the Netherlands: For the fourth-straight day in a row, the Netherlands has reported record new coronavirus infections. New reported infections in the past 24 hours total at least 1,977, according to the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). The "first wave" record for single-day reported infections was 1,335, set on April 10.
  • The situation in Spain: Authorities in the Spanish capital of Madrid are to announce new coronavirus restrictions on Friday as the country also responds to an uptick in the number of cases. Spain has now recorded more than 30,000 deaths since the start of the outbreak, with more than 600,000 total cases.
  • Vaccine deal: The European Union has signed a contract to purchase 300 million doses of the potential Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Sanofi-GSK, the European Commission announced in a statement on Friday.
9:40 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

CDC testing guidance was published outside normal review process, sources say

From CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Ben Tinker

“A heavily criticized recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month about who should be tested for the coronavirus was not written by C.D.C. scientists and was posted to the agency’s website despite their serious objections,” according to a report published Thursday by The New York Times.

A source has now corroborated this story to CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, confirming that the document regarding testing was sent to the CDC by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The document was supposed to go through a vetting process that includes a director of science, fact-checking, cross-checking and several back-and-forths for scientific review. As it was going through the process – which can take several days – the source tells CNN that they woke up the next morning and saw that the document had been posted on the CDC’s website unaltered, in its original form and including some errors.

In a statement Thursday night, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told CNN, “The guidelines, coordinated in conjunction with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, received appropriate attention, consultation and input from task force experts.”

Redfield testified this week that the testing guidelines are expected to be updated soon to offer more clarity.

White House testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir said in a previous briefing that the entire Coronavirus Task Force had signed off on this document. CNN has also previously reported that Dr. Anthony Fauci was under general anesthesia for vocal cord surgery during this particular task force meeting. 

Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports:

8:35 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

WHO epidemiologist says increase of hospitalizations in Europe is "worrying"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Maria Van Kerkhove on CNN's "New Day" on September 18.
Maria Van Kerkhove on CNN's "New Day" on September 18. CNN

There is a “worrying trend” of increased hospitalizations and intensive care unit rates in some European countries, according to Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme Covid-19 technical lead.

“We haven't even started to hit the flu season yet. So we're worried that these increasing numbers of hospitalizations and ICU are really going to overburden an already burdened system,” said Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist.

She said there is an increase of circulation of the virus, with outbreaks in younger people as societies open up.

The United Kingdom has a doubling of hospitalizations about every eight days, and parts of France are reaching ICU capacity, she said. 

“If the beds are full with Covid patients, it will be very challenging for the health care system to deal with other respiratory diseases,” she said, encouraging people to get their flu shots as fall and winter approach. 

Some background: Van Kerkhove's comments come after WHO warned yesterday that coronavirus cases are surging alarmingly in Europe, as a "very serious situation" unfolds across the continent.

As Covid-19 infections spike to record numbers, European governments are imposing strict local measures and weighing up further lockdowns in a bid to halt a second wave of the pandemic.

But WHO regional director Hans Kluge said at a Thursday news conference that the increase in cases should serve as a warning of what is to come.

"Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March," Kluge said. "Last week, the region's weekly tally exceeded 300,000 patients."

Watch the interview:

With reporting from CNN's reporting Laura Smith-Spark and Vasco Cotovio

8:36 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

As cases surge, England announces further restrictions

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio

A woman uses hand sanitizer in Leeds, England, on September 11.
A woman uses hand sanitizer in Leeds, England, on September 11. Danny Lawson/PA/AP

The UK government has announced further restrictions for parts of England -- including in the country's northwest, West Yorkshire and Midlands -- to tackle rising Covid-19 infection rates. 

Residents in these areas will be banned from socialising with people outside of their household and "support bubble." 

In the northwest, specifically in Merseyside, Warrington, Halton and Lancashire, hospitality for food and drink will be restricted to table service, while restaurants, pubs and cinemas will be required to close by 10 p.m.

These measures do not apply to Bolton or Greater Manchester where separate restrictions are already in place.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said these areas had seen “cases of coronavirus rise fast,” and that the government was acting to support local leaders, who had “asked for stronger restrictions.

“I know these restrictions will make every-day life harder for many, but I know that residents will work together and respect the rules so we can reduce rates of transmission,” Hancock said Friday.

England has reported 329,213 coronavirus cases overall, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.

The United Kingdom has officially reported more than 41,000 fatalities from the pandemic, the fifth-highest death toll in the world.

8:12 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

French city limits gatherings to 10 people in beaches and parks as cases soar

From Pierre Buet, Ivana Saric and Eva Tapiero in Paris

People visit a beach in Nice, France, on August 27.
People visit a beach in Nice, France, on August 27. Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Local authorities in the French city of Nice have banned public gatherings of more than 10 people on beaches and in parks, as part of new measures to fight a surge of cases in the country.

All bars and restaurants will have to close their doors at 12.30am and all visits in Nice’s public care homes have been suspended.

The authorities have banned public events of more than 1,000 attendees and canceled the ‘European Heritage Days’ celebration, a series of cultural events set for this weekend.

On Thursday, health minister Olivier Veran warned of an “increasingly deteriorating situation,” and asked local authorities in the cities of Lyon and Nice to propose new measures by Saturday “to halt the virus circulation”.

The two cities are facing an incidence rate way above the alert threshold, which set at 50 cases per 100,000 people.

Nice is currently at a rate of 150 cases per 100,000 and Lyon is at 200 per 100,000.

8:08 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Dubai suspends Air India Express flights for 15 days

From CNN's Manveena Suri in New Delhi

Dubai's Civil Aviation Authority has suspended Air India Express flights until October 2 after two passengers who tested positive for coronavirus arrived in the emirate on two separate flights from the airline.

In a Friday press release, Air India Express, a budget subsidiary of the national carrier Air India, confirmed it had received a notice of suspension from the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority on Thursday.

The airline’s operations to Dubai Airport will be temporarily suspended “on account of erroneous acceptance of one Covid positive passenger by the airline’s ground handling agents at Delhi and Jaipur on Air India Express flights to Dubai on August 28 and September 4 respectively,” the statement said.

Travelers who were seated in close proximity to the passengers have undergone tests and been placed in quarantine.

Ground staff handling agencies have taken “appropriate punitive action against their employees who have been held accountable for the lapse at Delhi and Jaipur," the statement added.

8:03 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

It's just past 1 p.m. in London and 8 a.m. in New York. Here's the latest on the pandemic

The novel coronavirus has now infected more than 30 million people worldwide and killed more than 946,000. Here's what you need to know

  • US reports more than 44,000 new cases Thursday: At least 6.6 million cases, including 197,633 fatalities, have now been recorded in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • UK announces new restrictions: Further restrictions will be put in place in the country's northwest, Midlands and West Yorkshire as infection rates surge.
  • French city limits gatherings: Nice has banned groups of more than 10 from meeting in parks and beaches as France struggles to contain a second wave.
  • No new cases in New Zealand: The country reported no cases for the first time in five weeks after officials scrambled to contain a cluster in the city of Auckland.
  • Dutch king's brother in isolation: Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands announced he was self-isolating after coming into close contact with a person who had tested positive for Covid-19.
  • London cancels NYE fireworks: A New Year's Eve firework display which traditionally takes place in the British capital has been canceled this year due to the pandemic said Sadiq Khan, the city's Mayor.

7:52 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

In-person voting has begun in the US. There's several ways of reducing the Covid-19 risk

From CNN's Sandee LaMotte

In-person voting has officially started in some parts of the United States for the November 2020 election, with at least 10 states allowing residents to begin casting their votes in September.

Alabama was first out of the gate, allowing voters to cast an absentee ballot in person as of September 9. Pennsylvania followed on September 14, and Minnesota, South Dakota, Virginia and Wyoming started on September 18.

Delaware, Vermont, Illinois and Michigan round out the September calendar. In October, voters in at least 35 states and DC can begin voting early or absentee in-person.

Voting in person is a cherished right for many Americans -- and for people concerned that their ballot might be lost in the mail, delivering their mail-in or absentee ballot may be their preferred option this year.

Standing in long lines at the polling center with people who may or may not be wearing masks, often inside buildings without good ventilation, certainly raises your risk of catching Covid-19.

But there are things you can do to reduce risk if you vote in person.

Read more: