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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8:36 a.m. ET, May 17, 2021

New US CDC mask guidance was "a little bit of whiplash" for the public, former US surgeon general says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Jerome Adams, the former US surgeon general, said on CNN’s New Day Monday that while new mask guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were the right call based on the science, the communication of them to the public was fumbled. 

“I think this was an appropriate call based on the science, the science is sound,” Adams said. “I think that the play call was right, but they fumbled the ball at the one yard line in terms of communicating this to the public, in terms of engagement.” 

Adams said that a lot of public health officials have told him that “they are upset, they were blindsided by this new information,” and that it missed the nuance of that this is guidance meant for individuals, not protecting an organization.

 “It was a little bit of whiplash for the American public in terms of them saying just a week before, keep your mask on and then all of a sudden they’re saying now you can take them off,” Adams said. 

The CDC said Thursday fully vaccinated Americans don't need to wear masks or social distance indoors or outdoors, with some exceptions. The move sparked nationwide announcements from state leaders and businesses who lifted their mask requirements for people who've gotten their Covid-19 shots.

8:40 a.m. ET, May 17, 2021

Indian minister denies oxygen supply shortages

From CNN's Esha Mitra 

Health workers unloaded oxygen cylinders from a van at a Covid-19 care center in New Delhi, India, on May 16.
Health workers unloaded oxygen cylinders from a van at a Covid-19 care center in New Delhi, India, on May 16. Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

India's Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said “there is no problem in oxygen supply anywhere,” while speaking at the unveiling of a new Indian anti-Covid drug Monday.

Singh said more than 9,500 metric tonnes of oxygen is being produced in the country as opposed to 4,739 metric tonnes being produced earlier in the year.

Singh added that there are “no major challenges” with respect to Covid-related medicines and drugs and the shortage of intensive care unit beds and ventilators has also been resolved.

In Delhi until May 8, there was still a shortage in supply, as the territory received 533 metric tonnes of oxygen despite the Supreme Court directing the central government to provide 700 metric tonnes, according to Delhi's oxygen bulletin, however the supply to the territory has since improved.

“From the last few days we have been receiving sufficient oxygen and have even had surplus to send to other states,” Raghav Chadha, a spokesperson for Delhi’s ruling Aam Admi Party, told CNN Monday. 

However, in other states like Goa, the situation continues to be “grim," according to an order of the Bombay High Court in Goa. 

In Goa state, more than 400 covid-related casualties have taken place at Goa Medical College Hospital — one of the largest government medical facilities in the state — between April 30 and May 13, the High Court noted in its orders on May 12 and May 13.

The High Court also noted on May 13 that the central government had increased supply to the state of Goa, however it asked the center to ensure that the allocated supply reaches the state.

India has reported at least 24,965,463 cases of coronavirus including 4,106 deaths, according to figures released by India's health ministry on Monday. In Goa state, there are 135,856 coronavirus cases, including 2,099 deaths, it said.

9:28 a.m. ET, May 17, 2021

Japanese poll shows over 40% favor canceling Olympics

Chie Kobayashi, Amanda Davies and George Ramsay

Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images
Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

A poll conducted by a major Japanese newspaper shows that 43% of respondents were in favor of canceling the Olympics and Paralympics this summer, while 40% of respondents believed that the games should be postponed again.

On Monday, a poll published in Asahi Shimbun newspaper showed only 14% of respondents believe Tokyo 2020 should be held this summer as currently planned.

The survey randomly reached out to 1,527 adults with the right to vote in Japan over the weekend.

World Athletics president Seb Coe told CNN on Monday he was confident the Games could go ahead in a safe way, despite the growing calls for them to be canceled.

"Should we have the Games? Yes, we should. Can we have them safely and secure? I believe we can," he said.

Japan has been experiencing a new wave of Covid-19 infections and Tokyo is currently under a state of emergency. 

8:22 a.m. ET, May 17, 2021

Covid-19 vaccine shortage leaves Delhi with four days' worth of supplies

From CNN's Manveena Suri in New Delhi

A health worker prepares a Covid-19 vaccine dose in New Delhi, India, on May 16.
A health worker prepares a Covid-19 vaccine dose in New Delhi, India, on May 16. Imtiyaz Khan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Delhi government said it has just four days' worth of Covid-19 vaccines left.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia made the announcement during a virtual news conference on Monday, saying the central government has refused to provide the union territory, which includes the capital New Delhi, additional vaccines this month.

Quoting a letter sent by the central government, Sisodia said Delhi will receive 383,000 doses for those over the age of 45 in May but would not be supplied with vaccines for people aged between 18 to 44 years.

“We currently have vaccine stocks that will last for four days for people above the age of 45 while for those aged 18-44, only three days’ worth of vaccine is left," Sisodia said.

Citing the export of vaccines as the reason behind the shortage, Sisodia said he had written to the government asking for more vaccines.

In his letter, Sisodia also requested that data on vaccine allocation by the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech, the respective manufacturers of Covishield and Covaxin, be made public.

"This is so we know how many vaccines have been given for people between 18 and 44 years old and what has been allocated for those above the age of 45. It is also necessary for Delhi to know how many people are going to government clinics and how many to private hospitals for vaccinations," Sisodia added, stating this data should be made transparent.

India launched its vaccination drive on January 16, first prioritizing heath care and frontline workers, followed by people above the age of 60 and those over 45 with existing health conditions. 

On May 1, the drive was extended to include everyone above the age of 18. However, several states have faced challenges due a shortage of vaccine supplies.

There are currently two vaccines being administered in India: the homegrown Covaxin, manufactured by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, and Covishield, developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.

7:53 a.m. ET, May 17, 2021

India acknowledges the bodies being pulled from the Ganges could be Covid-19 victims

From CNN’s Swati Gupta and Manveena Suri

Relatives carry a body past shallow graves of suspected Covid-19 vicitims near a cremation ground on the banks of the Ganges River in Shringverpur village, India, on May 15. 
Relatives carry a body past shallow graves of suspected Covid-19 vicitims near a cremation ground on the banks of the Ganges River in Shringverpur village, India, on May 15.  Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images 

The Indian government has described the discovery of bodies of suspected Covid-19 victims dumped in the Ganges River as "undesirable and alarming," in a press release Sunday night, acknowledging the practice for the first time.

Scores of bodies have washed up along the banks of the Ganges river or been found in shallow graves along the riverbed, as the country's second wave continues to devastate much of the country.

"The country is facing an extraordinary situation wherein a number of COVID-19 cases and consequential deaths have been on the rise in many States and UTs in the recent past," the government press release read. "Dumping of dead bodies/partially burnt or decomposed corpses in the river Ganga and its tributaries have recently been reported. This is most undesirable and alarming."

Over the past 10 days, villages situated along the river in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in eastern India have reported badly decomposed corpses washing ashore.

In Bihar's Buxar district, at least 71 bodies were recovered last week. The cause of death has not been determined as the corpses are in poor condition but all of them are now being cremated, district officials said.

In the Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh, officials discovered an excessive amounts of shallow graves dug in the riverbed.

"They were buried along in the sand and it has been done in the past... It is not clear that they are Covid patients. They are not confirmed cases from hospitals. This is from the villages. We can’t say if they are people who never got tested for Covid," said Suresh Kulkarni, senior police official, Unnao.

Kulkarni confirmed that nearly 60 bodies were recovered from one section of the riverbank but Indian media has estimated the numbers to be much higher.

Authorities in Bihar state set up a net across the river, according to a tweet from the state’s Minister for Water Resources, Sanjay Kumar Jha last Thursday.

The government has asked states along the river to patrol the banks to ensure no bodies are immersed and officials have been directed to arrange wood for proper cremations, especially for families which may not be able to afford them.

"A suitable awareness generation program needs to be taken up against the ill effects of such practices," the government press release read. "Support for cremation needs to be given top priority for safe and dignified cremation. Effective implementation of the Govt orders needs to be ensured and no loss of time should take place in implementation."

India has been battling a devastating second wave of Covid-19 for over one month during which tens of thousands of people have died.

The National Human Rights Commission issued an advisory Friday asking states and the federal government to ensure dignity and rights of the dead.

Read more on India's coronavirus crisis here:

7:07 a.m. ET, May 17, 2021

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline report positive results from Phase 2 vaccine trial

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

French and British pharmaceutical giants Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate showed a strong immune response in adults ages 18 to 95 and no safety concerns in its Phase 2 trial, the companies said in a news release Monday. A large Phase 3 trial of the vaccine is expected to begin in the coming weeks, they said.

The trial enrolled 722 volunteers in the United States and Honduras who received two injections 21 days apart and at three different dose levels. The companies said the vaccine triggered neutralizing antibodies comparable to those generated by natural infection, with higher levels among people ages 18 to 59. Participants who had previously been infected with Covid-19 showed high levels of neutralizing antibodies after a single dose, suggesting the shot may work as a booster, the companies said. 

The Phase 2 results have not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal.

What's next: The companies said they will soon start a global Phase 3 trial, which is expected to enroll more than 35,000 adults from a range of countries. The trial will use the 10 microgram dose of the protein-based vaccine in combination with GSK’s immune-boosting adjuvant. The companies will also conduct studies with various variant formulations to assess the vaccine as a booster, regardless of the initial vaccine a person received. 

With positive Phase 3 results and regulatory reviews, the vaccine could be approved for use in the fourth quarter of 2021, the companies said.

“Our Phase 2 data confirm the potential of this vaccine to play a role in addressing this ongoing global public health crisis, as we know multiple vaccines will be needed, especially as variants continue to emerge and the need for effective and booster vaccines, which can be stored at normal temperatures, increases,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and global head of Sanofi Pasteur, said in the release.

“With these favorable results, we are set to progress to a global Phase 3 efficacy study. We look forward to generating additional data and working with our partners around the world to make our vaccine available as quickly as possible.”

Late last year, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline delayed release of their vaccine after interim results showed insufficient immune responses in the elderly.

6:14 a.m. ET, May 17, 2021

Thailand reports record Covid-19 cases as outbreaks in prisons rise

From CNN’s Kocha Olarn in Bangkok

A field hospital is prepared to treat inmates who have tested positive for Covid-19 in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 8. 
A field hospital is prepared to treat inmates who have tested positive for Covid-19 in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 8.  Department of Corrections

Thailand is seeing a record number of new daily coronavirus infections, apparently driven by cases emerging in jails around the country.

The Southeast Asian country on Monday reported 9,635 new coronavirus cases -- the highest number of new infections since the pandemic began, according to Thailand's Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA). 

Of those cases, 6,853 were found in eight prisons and detention facilities across the country, the CCSA said. 

As of 6:00 p.m. (7:00 a.m. ET) on Sunday, a total of 10,748 inmates and prison staff across the facilities had been found to be infected with Covid-19 between May 1 and 16, according to Thailand’s Communicable Disease Department. 

More than 300,000 inmates are held in prisons across Thailand. CNN cannot yet confirm when the prison cases emerged.

International rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement on Thursday warning the country's “overcrowded prisons and detention facilities are at grave risk from Covid-19 outbreaks.”  

“The Thai government needs to be forthright about the Covid-19 outbreaks in its prison system and how it intends to avoid disastrous consequences for those held,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW.
“Many people warned the Thai authorities that they needed to act proactively to avoid such a situation, but it seems they got caught sleeping at the switch.”  

As of Monday, Thailand had recorded 111,082 cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began and the total number of fatalities stands at 614, according to the CCSA. 

At least 1,843 cases from Monday’s new infections were found in Bangkok, the CCSA said. Most of the new cases found in the capital on Monday are from housing facilities at construction sites, it added. 

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.