May 19 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 8:02 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021
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9:44 a.m. ET, May 19, 2021

CDC forecast predicts Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths will continue to drop

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

A nurse holds a nasal swab to test for coronavirus on April 27 in New York.
A nurse holds a nasal swab to test for coronavirus on April 27 in New York. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Ensemble forecasts published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention project that the number of newly reported Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths will likely continue to decrease over the next four weeks.

The forecast predicts a total of 594,000 to 604,000 US Covid-19 deaths reported by June 12.

The previous ensemble forecast, published May 12, projected up to 602,000 deaths would be reported by June 5.

8:35 a.m. ET, May 19, 2021

Some Indian states face Black Fungus treatment shortage as cases in Covid-19 patients rise

From Esha Mitra in New Delhi 

Several Indian states are facing a shortage of an antifungal drug used to treat Black Fungus, or Mucormycosis, a disease Indian Health officials have increasingly been detecting among patients who have recovered from Covid-19.

At least 52 people have died from Black Fungus in the state of Maharashtra, where the disease is on the rise among patients who have recovered from Covid-19, Dr Tatyarao Lahane, a senior state health official told CNN on Wednesday.

At least 2,000 cases of Black Fungus have been detected in Maharashtra, according to a statement from the Ministry of Health on Friday. 

“We are now getting 100 cases daily on average...there was a shortage (of the drug for treating black fungus) initially because it was not expected, but that’s been resolved now, 16,000 doses arrived just yesterday,” Lahane added. 

Maharashtra’s health minister Rajesh Tope said last Wednesday an order had been placed for 100,000 vials of Amphotericin B, a drug used to treat Black Fungus. 

“There are very few districts where there aren’t patients (of Black Fungus),” Tope also said, as states across the country, such as Uttar Pradesh, Maydhya Pradesh, Delhi and Telangana have made appeals for deliveries of the drug as they face shortages.

“Currently there is a sudden demand surge,” a statement from the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers said on Tuesday, adding that “the Government is committed to making all possible and necessary efforts to make it available to needy patients...the shortage is expected to get resolved at the earliest.” 

The western Indian state of Gujarat is also facing an increase in Black Fungus cases. The local government has placed an order for 100,000 vials of Amphotericin B and Liposomal injections used to treat the disease, after Gujarat’s High Court issued an order on Monday noting “the rapid increase in the cases of flesh eating Black Fungal infection called ‘Mucormycosis’".

“The shortage of injections being administered for the said disease and the cost of its treatment are also the issues which deserve to be seriously and immediately considered by the State,” the order added. 

Mucormycosis is commonly found among patients of diabetes or those with weakened immune systems. While the disease is not caused by Covid-19, Indian health officials have increasingly detected it among Covid-19 patients, according to a statement from the Ministry of Health on Friday

“This fungus infection is caused by a fungus called is found on wet surfaces...when there is uncontrolled diabetes mucor attacks,” V K Paul, head of India’s covid task force said on Friday.

“If someone has a disease or takes medication which suppresses the immune system. or is exposed to wet surfaces they can contract the disease…(for Covid-19) we are using drugs which suppress our immune system...when Covid-19 patients receive oxygen which has a humidifier which has water collection which can increase the tendency of the fungus,” Paul added. 

8:24 a.m. ET, May 19, 2021

People are misinterpreting the updated US CDC mask guidance, Fauci says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, arrives for a hearing on May 11 in Washington, DC.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, arrives for a hearing on May 11 in Washington, DC. Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Axios that people are “misinterpreting” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new mask guidance by thinking the guidelines say no one needs to wear a mask.

“I think people are misinterpreting – thinking that this is a removal of a mask mandate for everyone. It’s not,” Fauci said. “It’s an assurance to those who are vaccinated that they can feel safe, be they outdoors or indoors.”

Fauci said that this wasn’t their fault.

“People either read them quickly, or listen and hear half of it. They are feeling that we’re saying: ‘You don’t need the mask anymore.’ That’s not what the CDC said. They said: If you are vaccinated, you can feel safe – that you will not get infected either outdoors or indoors. It did not explicitly say that unvaccinated people should abandon their masks.”

7:47 a.m. ET, May 19, 2021

European Union takes step toward easing travel restrictions for vaccinated visitors

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite and Stephanie Halasz

The European Union will begin to ease travel restrictions to the bloc, with the EU Council agreeing on measures to allow fully vaccinated foreign visitors in. 

The bloc's 27 ambassadors green-lit a plan to implement waivers for vaccinated people and relax criteria to lift restrictions for third countries on Wednesday. The proposal also includes an emergency brake mechanism that would allow the EU to react quickly to variants of interest or concern, an EU Portuguese presidency spokeswoman said on Twitter.

An EU official told CNN that if member states accept proof of vaccination to waive travel restrictions, such as testing or quarantine, they should in principle lift restrictions on non-essential travel for third-country visitors. The EU will also take into account reciprocity, according to the EU official, who asked not to be named as the recommendation had not yet been adopted.

The EU Council is expected to formally adopt the recommendations, which are not legally binding for member states, on Thursday, the EU official added. 

8:03 a.m. ET, May 19, 2021

Kenyan health minister: Vaccine nationalism is to blame for country running out of doses

From CNN's Bethlehem Feleke, Larry Madowo and Saskya Vandoorne in Nairobi

A nurse prepares a Covid-19 vaccine dose in Nairobi, Kenya, on April 21.
A nurse prepares a Covid-19 vaccine dose in Nairobi, Kenya, on April 21. Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

Kenya is just days away from running out of Covid-19 vaccines with only about 100,000 AstraZeneca doses left, the country's health minister Mutahi Kagwe told CNN, blaming vaccine nationalism for eroding supply chains and triggering shortages.

"As a continent, we must stop believing that there is anybody out there who is a Good Samaritan, a biblical Samaritan who is just about to come and help us. It's everyone for himself or for herself," Kagwe said. "Going into the future, the local production, local manufacturing of pharmaceutical commodities and products is an absolute must."

Many African countries like Kenya had relied heavily on vaccines from the global vaccine sharing initiative, COVAX, which largely depended on vaccine supplies from the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's largest vaccine manufacturer. But a vicious second wave of coronavirus in India has led to an export restriction by the country, and the SII said Tuesday they will be unable to ship vaccines until the end of 2021.

To cope with shortages, Kenya's health ministry will take back doses from regions where uptake has been slow and redistribute them to begin the process of second jabs by the first week of June. Kenya is expecting an additional 150,000 doses from neighboring countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there is no capacity to administer doses before they expire in June.

"We are still vaccinating, but we are at the tip, we need vaccines like, yesterday," Kagwe said.

Less than 2% of Kenya’s population of more than 52 million have had their first shot, according to Our World in Data.

After ongoing delays in shipments from India, AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine is unlikely to remain the "vaccine of choice for the African continent," Kagwe said.

"It is very likely that we are going to discuss and agree on Johnson & Johnson. First it is being produced here in Africa and secondly, there is an arrangement for a number of doses that are going to come to (the) Africa platform."

Kenya has ordered 30 million vaccines from Johnson & Johnson. The health minister hopes the majority of the adult population will be vaccinated by next year, urging, "the sooner we have our 30 million doses, the sooner we finish."

Leaders across the globe have decried the inequity of vaccine nationalism in light of Africa having only carried out fewer than 1% of the global vaccinations, according to the WHO.

On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron said the setup was "unfair and inefficient" and called for patents on vaccines to be lifted so countries in Africa could manufacture them locally.

6:48 a.m. ET, May 19, 2021

African countries have struggled to secure enough Covid-19 vaccines. So why are thousands of doses going to waste?

From CNN's Nimi Princewill in Abuja and Eliza Mackintosh in London

Numbers are handed out to people waiting to receive the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at a health center in Blantyre, Malawi, on March 29.
Numbers are handed out to people waiting to receive the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at a health center in Blantyre, Malawi, on March 29. Thoko Chikondi/AP

While many African nations are still struggling to get enough Covid-19 vaccines to protect their populations, those that have managed to shore up doses are struggling to administer them in time. Now they're facing the bitter reality of having to destroy thousands of expired doses.

South Sudan has announced plans to discard about 59,000 of 191,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine it received in donations. In Malawi, at least 19,000 expired doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be publicly incinerated on Wednesday, the country's health ministry said in a statement to CNN. Meanwhile, more than 1 million AstraZeneca doses acquired through vaccine-sharing facility COVAX have been returned by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), following concerns that the shots may expire before they make it into arms.

A spokesperson for GAVI, the vaccines alliance that runs COVAX with the World Health Organization, told CNN that vaccines were only delivered through the scheme to countries who were ready to hit the ground running with immunizations and that all COVAX participants were informed of vaccine expiry dates in advance.

But African nations trying to scale up rollouts against the backdrop of weak health infrastructures, hard-to-reach rural areas and vaccine hesitancy are facing an uphill battle.

WHO told CNN that the destruction of expired vaccines was "deeply regrettable," especially in a context where doses are already scarce. But that the move was ultimately justified, especially in trying to build confidence among the public that vaccination programs are safe and effective.

"Discarding vaccines is deeply regrettable in the context of any immunization program," said Kate Ribet, spokesperson for WHO Africa's Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

"However, given the complex process required to verify their stability, and the risk of negative perception related to the use of expired doses, WHO recommends that COVID-19 vaccines already in the distribution chain should not be used beyond their labeled expiry date and should be safely disposed of."

Read more about the African nations having to dispose of Covid-19 vaccines:

5:45 a.m. ET, May 19, 2021

President Macron enjoys a "café en terasse" as restrictions begin to ease in France

From CNN's Barbara Wojazer in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and French Prime Minister Jean Castex (L) are having coffees at a cafe terrace in Paris, France on May 19.
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and French Prime Minister Jean Castex (L) are having coffees at a cafe terrace in Paris, France on May 19. Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron hailed a return to normal life over a "café en terasse" in Paris on Wednesday as bars, restaurants and cultural venues reopened at partial capacity for the first time in six months.

"Here we are! Terraces, museums, cinemas, theaters … Let's find what makes our way of life. While respecting social distancing," Macon said on Twitter, sharing a video of himself laughing and chatting with French Prime Minister Jean Castex at one of the city's beloved café terraces.

Wednesday marked a key step in government plans to carefully ease restrictions, six months after a second nationwide lockdown was issued in October amid mounting Covid-19 cases.

Infections have continued to drop since France hit the peak of its third Covid-19 wave in late April, falling to 14,000 daily cases over the last week compared to nearly double that figure three weeks ago. On Tuesday, France recorded 4,352 patients hospitalized in intensive care units, down from 6,001 patients at the peak.

3:52 a.m. ET, May 19, 2021

Taiwan tightens Covid-19 restrictions as it fights its biggest outbreak of the pandemic

From CNN's Eric Cheung in Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced tightened Covid-19 restrictions on Wednesday after the island reported 275 new cases.

Some 267 of the infections were locally transmitted, with around 70 in the capital, Taipei, and 129 in the surrounding New Taipei City.

The Covid-19 alert level for the whole island will be raised to level 3, the second-highest grade, Taiwan's Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said. Taipei and New Taipei City were already placed under level 3 since last weekend.

Chen said Covid-19 cases have been detected in more cities across the island, which made it necessary to raise the alert level.

Changhua county on the island's central west coast reported 28 new cases Wednesday, the highest number it has seen since the pandemic began.

Under the new restrictions, no more than five people may gather indoors at any one time, and no more than 10 people may gather outdoors. Some non-essential facilities will also be closed.

The island's current Covid-19 outbreak is relatively small compared to those in other parts of the world, but is an unfamiliar situation for Taiwan, which has until now managed to avoid a serious spike in cases.

Taiwan is expected to receive 400,000 additional doses of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines from the Netherlands on Wednesday, according to the official Central News Agency.

The island has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the world, with fewer than 1% of its 23 million-strong population inoculated, according to data compiled by CNN. 

3:33 a.m. ET, May 19, 2021

IOC chief says Olympics will be held safely despite Japan's Covid surge

From CNN's Carly Walsh

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach (on screen) delivers an opening speech at a meeting of the IOC Coordination Commission for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, in Tokyo, Japan on May 19.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach (on screen) delivers an opening speech at a meeting of the IOC Coordination Commission for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, in Tokyo, Japan on May 19. Yoshikazu Tsuno/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Less than 10 weeks out from the postponed start to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, organizers have promised athletes they are doing everything they can to ensure the Games take place safely.

Japan is struggling with a renewed outbreak of coronavirus, with only about 1% of the population vaccinated -- renewing calls for the Olympics to be canceled.

Speaking at a meeting of the coordination committee Wednesday, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said Japanese and Tokyo 2020 officials would make the right decision on managing the situation, and the risks had been managed well so far.

Bach and other officials -- both from the IOC and Japanese sporting bodies -- pushed back against critics, with the IOC president saying his organization has offered to provide additional medical personnel to help pull off strict anti-Covid measures alongside the Tokyo government.

He added that 75% of people who plan on being in the Olympic Village have already been vaccinated, while organizers hope the final number will be more than 80%.

Bach said the existing plans have been tested with foreign athletes in several test events -- none of which turned into super spreader events.

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto, also speaking at the opening of the meeting, said the purpose of Wednesday's session was to focus on the protection of athletes and the public. She said the two main focuses would be the frequent testing of athletes and separating them from the Japanese public.

Earlier this month, an online petition calling for the Games to be canceled garnered 350,000 signatures in nine days, while the CEO of leading Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten has called plans to host the Games a "suicide mission."

Read more: