May 17 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Brad Lendon, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Veronica Rocha, Livvy Doherty and Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN

Updated 0002 GMT (0802 HKT) May 18, 2021
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5:47 a.m. ET, May 17, 2021

Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble delayed again

From CNN's Pauline Lockwood in Hong Kong 

People are seen walking around the departure hall of Changi International Airport in Singapore on March 15.
People are seen walking around the departure hall of Changi International Airport in Singapore on March 15. Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images

A much anticipated travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore has been delayed for a second time amid a rise of Covid-19 cases in Singapore. 

The travel bubble was due to launch on May 26 and would have allowed quarantine-free travel between the two cities. It has now been delayed till June 13 at least, when Singapore’s current pandemic measures will end. 

“In view of the recent COVID-19 epidemic situation in Singapore, the Governments of the HKSAR and Singapore have decided to defer the target date of the inaugural flights under the bilateral Air Travel Bubble (ATB),” a press release from the Hong Kong government explained Monday.

“During this period, both sides will continue to maintain communication, exchange relevant data and statistics, and review developments closely before deciding on the way forward with the inaugural flights under the ATB. A further announcement will be made on or before June 13.”

The two cities previously postponed plans to implement the travel bubble back in November due to a rise in Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong at the time.  

5:16 a.m. ET, May 17, 2021

Germany starts to open up

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

The employee of a pub rolls a stack of chairs onto the market place in Heidelberg, on May 15, as coronavirus restrictions starts to loosen in parts of Germany.
The employee of a pub rolls a stack of chairs onto the market place in Heidelberg, on May 15, as coronavirus restrictions starts to loosen in parts of Germany. Uwe Anspach/dpa/AP

Germany’s incidence rate is sinking, and the country is slowly opening up. People living in areas with a lower incidence rate – under 100—can enjoy some new freedoms.

The state of Schleswig-Holstein, with an incidence rate of 35.1/100k inhabitants according to the state’s official website, is opening its beaches for early Pentecost holiday makers as of Monday, today.

Now, restaurants and pubs are allowed to open their doors, if guests can show proof of a negative test or are fully vaccinated, according to the northern German state’s website.

Hotels and bed and breakfast establishments can open their doors, again with a negative test, while all guests would be asked to repeat further proof every three days.

The state of Baden-Wuerttemberg in southwest Germany is taking careful steps to open up as well. As of last Saturday, several districts in the state have opened up restaurants and hotels in areas where the seven-day-incidence rate is lower than 100. Outdoor cultural events are now possible again in those districts in Baden-Wuerttemberg. And swimmers can dip into an outdoor pool.

The all-important national seven-day-incidence rate stands at 83.1/100k inhabitants Monday morning, according to the Robert Koch Institut, the national agency for disease control and prevention.

So far, 36.5% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine, and 10.9% are fully vaccinated, according to the vaccine dashboard of the German Ministry of Health.

11:02 a.m. ET, May 17, 2021

Kenya weeks away from running out of vaccines with less than 2% of population given first shot

From CNN’s Saskya Vandoorne in Nairobi

Medical personnel at the Nairobi National Vaccine Depot checks on Kenya's first batch of Covid-19 vaccines on March 4.
Medical personnel at the Nairobi National Vaccine Depot checks on Kenya's first batch of Covid-19 vaccines on March 4. Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

Kenya will run out of Covid-19 vaccines “anytime between the end of May and the first week of June,” according to the chair of Kenya’s vaccine taskforce.

“We have used up 91% of our doses,” Dr. Willis Akhwale said.

The vaccine campaign was launched at the beginning of March prioritizing frontline essential health workers, teachers, people over the age of 58 and security personnel. But less than 2% of Kenya’s population of more than 52 million have had their first shot, according to Our World in Data.

The East African nation had received just over 1 million of the 3.6 million AstraZeneca doses promised by the global vaccine-sharing alliance COVAX by May, that’s less than half of the vaccines Kenyan officials were expecting. The Health Ministry had initially planned to administer second doses after eight weeks. But in April, they pushed this back to 12 weeks.

COVAX — the initiative that provides discounted or free doses for lower-income countries -- is largely reliant on India's vaccine manufacturers. But with India facing its own crisis, it’s halted all vaccine exports.

On Monday the executive director for UNICEF -- which distributes vaccines for COVAX -- urged EU states and G7 nations to share their doses.

“G7 nations and ‘Team Europe’ group of European Union Member States could donate around 153 million vaccine doses if they shared just 20 percent of their available supply over June, July and August”, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement.

“Sharing immediately available excess doses is a minimum, essential and emergency stop-gap measure, and it is needed right now,” she added.

The call echoes WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who last week said wealthy countries should reconsider plans to vaccinate children against Covid-19 and instead donate their shots to poorer nations.

High- and upper-middle income countries represent 53% of the world’s population, but have received 83% of the vaccines, while low- and lower-middle income countries -- which account for 47% of the global population -- have received just 17% of the vaccines, according to new WHO data.

"Yes, vaccines are reducing severe disease and death in countries that are fortunate enough to have them in sufficient quantities, and early results suggest that vaccines might also drive down transmission,” Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week. “But the shocking global disparity in access to vaccines remains one of the biggest risks to ending the pandemic.”

G7 leaders are due to meet in the UK next month. By then, COVAX will find itself 190 million doses short of its planned target, according to UNICEF.

Doctors in Kenya say a vaccine shortage will cost lives. Kenyans eager to get vaccinated have been turned away from vaccine centers in recent week after a number of hospitals and facilities ran out of doses. The country has recorded over 3,000 deaths in total during the pandemic, Health Ministry data shows.

As a result of the shortage, the government is working on securing 30 million Johnson and Johnson doses by August.

Though the first African countries started vaccinating their populations in early March, the World Health Organization says fewer than 1% of global vaccinations have been carried out on the continent and that at least eight African countries have exhausted their supplies from COVAX.

Last week the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a Covid-19 variant first identified in India has now spread to six African nations. Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda have reported the B.1.617 strain that is fueling India's crippling second wave and which initial studies show spreads more easily.

3:15 a.m. ET, May 17, 2021

Vaccination drives suspended in Mumbai and Gujarat as Tropical Cyclone Tauktae strengthens

From CNN’s Esha Mitra in Delhi

Covid-19 vaccination drives were suspended in the city of Mumbai on Monday and in Gujarat state for Monday and Tuesday as Tropical Cyclone Tauktae bears down on southern and western states in India, officials said.

The storm intensified from "very severe" to "extremely severe" on Monday, according to the Indian Meteorological Department.

At least two people were killed on Sunday as a result of the storm, which caused heavy rainfall in Goa, the chief minister of the state, Parmod Sawant, said at a press conference.

“One boy died due to a tree falling on his head, and the second death, two people were on a motorcycle when an electric pole fell on them and one died on the way to the hospital,” Sawant said.

A total of 101 teams of India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed across six states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Goa and Maharashtra, and 22 teams have been readied for back up, according to Satya Pradhan, director general of the NDRF.

“The main impact state will be Gujarat, and that’s where we expect maximum impact,” Pradhan said, adding that more than 50 teams had been deployed to that region alone.

The Indian Coast Guard and Navy have also deployed ships and helicopters for search and rescue operations and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed senior officials to take “every possible measure to ensure that people are safely evacuated by the State Governments and to ensure maintenance of all essential services,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s office on Saturday said.

Modi, who reviewed preparedness for the cyclone on Saturday, also directed officials to “ensure special preparedness on COVID management in hospitals, vaccine cold chain and other medical facilities on power back up and storage of essential medicines and to plan for unhindered movement of oxygen tankers,” according to a statement Saturday.

In Mumbai, 580 Covid patients from “jumbo centers” -- the city’s makeshift covid care centers -- were shifted to various hospitals ahead of the storm on Friday and Saturday, a statement from the city’s municipal corporation said.

3:58 a.m. ET, May 17, 2021

Taiwan reports 335 new cases as schools closed in Taipei

From CNN’s Beijing bureau and Sophie Jeong in Hong Kong

Taiwan Medical Staff provide guidelines to residents willing to undergo a Covid-19 screening process at Bopiliao Historical Blockin Wanhua District of Taipei City. Taiwan on May 15.
Taiwan Medical Staff provide guidelines to residents willing to undergo a Covid-19 screening process at Bopiliao Historical Blockin Wanhua District of Taipei City. Taiwan on May 15. Jose Lopes Amaral/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Taiwan reported 335 new coronavirus cases Monday, all but two of which were domestically transmitted, officials from the Central Epidemic Command Center told reporters. This is the second record-breaking day in a row for the island, which had until now largely avoided the pandemic.

All schools from kindergarten to high school level in Taipei and New Taipei cities will be closed for two weeks starting Tuesday, the two city governments said earlier.

The suspension of on-site classes from May 18 to 28 includes elementary, junior and senior high schools, kindergartens, nurseries and cram schools, according to the two city governments. During that time, online learning platforms can be used to continue classes, the two city governments said.

Several local councils have also been suspended. Taipei City Council has been suspended from Monday until June 8, while Yilan County Council has been suspended from Monday until further notice, according to announcements on councils’ websites. Taichung City Council will also be suspended from Tuesday until May 31.

On Saturday, Taiwan raised its Covid-19 alert for Taipei and New Taipei to level 3, under which people are required to wear masks at all times and indoor gatherings of more than five people and outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited until May 28.

2:21 a.m. ET, May 17, 2021

India's Covid-19 cases drop below 300,000 for first time in 25 days

From CNN’s Swati Gupta in Delhi

India recorded 281,386 cases of Covid-19 today, bringing the number of daily cases below 300,000 for the first time in 25 days.

However, it is unclear how the approaching Cyclone Tauktae and heavy rainfall could be affecting testing numbers in southern and western parts of the country.

Monday's tally brings the nation’s total number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 24,965,463, according to figures released by the Indian Health Ministry. The country also reported 4,106 new deaths.

The number of deaths reported each day have been consistently above 3,000 since April 28, with the total death toll now standing at 274,390.

On April 22, India recorded the highest daily increase of coronavirus cases in the world since the start of the pandemic with 314,835 new cases. Since then, the country had added more than 300,000 cases each day, breaking its own record tallies, including 414,188 new cases on May 7 alone.

A slight drop in cases has continued since Friday, with 326,098 cases reported on Saturday and 311,170 cases on Sunday.

To date, 182.9 million vaccinations have been administered in India, with 691,211 people receiving their doses on Sunday, according to the Health Ministry.

2:21 a.m. ET, May 17, 2021

Indian government announces plans to contain Covid-19 in rural areas

From CNN's Swati Gupta in New Delhi

The Indian government has announced a three-tier plan Sunday to combat the spread of Covid-19 in rural and tribal areas across the country.

The country's Health Ministry has directed states to set up coronavirus care centers which would cater to mild and asymptomatic cases. Health centers would be in charge of managing moderate cases, while dedicated hospitals would handle severe cases.

Rural health clinics, also known as primary health centers, will be equipped with a minimum of 30 beds along with oxygen support to treat Covid-19 patients.

More severe patients will be transferred to district or private hospitals with dedicated coronavirus blocks. 

Experts in India have cautioned that the current surge in cases will likely move slowly from cities to rural India, the portion of the country that is least equipped to deal with the pandemic.

The Health Ministry has also asked India's states to mobilize their social and community workers to spread information, detect emerging cases and provide basic monitoring equipment, like pulse oximeters, to those living in smaller villages.

4:26 a.m. ET, May 17, 2021

China suspends spring climbing season at Everest due to coronavirus concerns

From CNN’s Shawn Deng in Beijing, Bex Wright and Akanksha Sharma in Hong Kong and journalist Kosh Raj Koirala in Kathmandu

Flags fly at base camp on the north slope of Mount Everest on May 9, 2021 in Shigatse, Tibet Autonomous Region of China.
Flags fly at base camp on the north slope of Mount Everest on May 9, 2021 in Shigatse, Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Ran Wenjuan/China News Service/Getty Images

China has decided to suspend the 2021 spring climbing season from the Tibetan side of Mount Everest due to concerns over coronavirus, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said Saturday.

A total of 21 Chinese climbers had obtained climbing permits in the spring climbing season of 2021 before the cancellation, according to Xinhua. 

On May 9, Chinese state media reported that the country was planning to set up a “line of separation” at the summit of Mount Everest to avoid climbers from the Nepal side mingling with those ascending from the Tibetan side, as a way to deter the spread of the coronavirus.

Coronavirus cases have been surging in Nepal, with roughly 20% of the country's total cases reported in the last 19 days. More than 8,000 were reported Friday, according to the Nepal Ministry of Health.

Covid-19 cases are also reportedly increasing at Mount Everest base camp, according to an Austrian expedition organizing company called Furtenbach.


2:01 a.m. ET, May 17, 2021

Taiwan reports 207 new coronavirus cases, highest since the pandemic began

From journalist Andrew Lee in Taipei and Akanksha Sharma in Hong Kong

Taiwan reported 207 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, Health Minister Chen She-Chung said, the highest single-day total since the pandemic began.

All but one of those cases were locally transmitted.

The democratic island of 23 million has had one of the world's most effective responses to the coronavirus pandemic, at one point going more than 250 days without a case.

Taiwanese authorities began screening passengers on direct flights from Wuhan, where the virus was first identified, on December 31, 2019 -- back when the virus was mostly the subject of rumors and limited reporting.

To date, Taiwan has recorded 1,682 cases of coronavirus, and the overall death toll stands at 12, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.

Authorities are investigating whether the recent spike in cases is tied to airline employees who stayed at the same hotel, according to CNA.