May 21 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 7:56 p.m. ET, May 21, 2021
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11:23 a.m. ET, May 21, 2021

More than 3 million excess deaths in 2020 could be attributable to Covid-19, WHO report says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

More than 3 million excess deaths in 2020 could be related to Covid-19 – over a million more deaths than what was reported globally, according to preliminary data from the World Health Organization.

“Preliminary WHO estimates suggest the total global excess deaths attributable to Covid-19, both directly and indirectly, amounts to at least 3 million in the year 2020,” according to WHO’s World Health Statistics 2021 report published Friday. “This is 1.2 million more than the reported 1.8 million global Covid-19 deaths.” 

The report says that preliminary assessments of excess mortality estimate that during 2020, there were 1.34 to 1.46 million excess deaths in the region of the Americas and 1.11 to 1.21 million in the European region. This is 60% more than the reported deaths in the Americas and double the reported deaths in the European region. 

WHO points out there are “significant data gaps” in the other regions: the African region, Eastern Mediterranean region, Southeast Asia region and the Western Pacific region, with only 16 of the 106 member states that make up these regions have enough data to calculate 2020 excess mortality empirically.

Excess deaths provide “a more accurate picture of the full impact of the pandemic as it accounts for both the total COVID-19 deaths directly attributable to the disease as well as the indirect impacts of the pandemic and responses to it, such as travel restrictions,” the report says.

The report describes the 3 million excess deaths as coming from a “tentative extrapolation of the results from the Americas Region and the European Region.” It also notes that further data collection and additional statistical modeling is needed to refine the estimate. 

9:36 a.m. ET, May 21, 2021

J&J will supply up to 200 million doses of its single-shot Covid-19 vaccine to COVAX by end of 2021

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Paul Stoffels, chief medical officer of Johnson & Johnson, speaks at the G20 Health Summit on May 21.
Dr. Paul Stoffels, chief medical officer of Johnson & Johnson, speaks at the G20 Health Summit on May 21. EbS+

Dr. Paul Stoffels, chief medical officer of Johnson & Johnson, said during the G20 Health Summit Friday that the company has entered an agreement with GAVI to supply up to 200 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to COVAX by the end of the year, will the possibility of more next year. 

“We strongly support the mission of COVAX and we are pleased to announce that we have entered into an agreement with GAVI with the goal to supply up to 200 million doses to COVAX by the end of 2021 and will stay in close discussion with GAVI on the potential supply of an additional 300 million doses in 2022 for a combined total of up to 500 million doses,” Stoffels said. 

The Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine is a single-shot vaccine. 

Stoffels described the GAVI partnership as “the single greatest step” J&J has taken to ensure its vaccine is accessible to everyone, everywhere.

Some more context: COVAX is an entity run by a coalition that includes the Vaccine Alliance known as Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), and is funded by donations from governments, multilateral institutions and foundations.

Its mission is to buy coronavirus vaccines in bulk and send them to poorer nations that can't compete with wealthy countries in securing contracts with the major drug companies.

9:44 a.m. ET, May 21, 2021

EU pledges to supply 1.3 billion vaccines to low and middle income countries

From CNN's Sebastian Shukla

European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stands after reviewing the honor guard during the Global Health Summit in Rome on May 21.
European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stands after reviewing the honor guard during the Global Health Summit in Rome on May 21. Gregorio Borgia/AP

The European Union has pledged to supply 1.3 billion vaccines to low and middle income countries, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced Friday. 

One billion will be from the two billion doses announced by BioNtech/Pfizer, 200 million from Johnson & Johnson and 100 million from Moderna, der Leyen said on Twitter. 

An initiative to boost manufacturing capacities in Africa has also been launched, she announced. 

“Together with our African partners, we will develop regional hubs across the continent, so all countries can benefit” she said.

The pledges were first announced as part of the Global Health Summit held in Rome Friday, which is co-hosted by the European Commission and Italy.

9:11 a.m. ET, May 21, 2021

Thailand reports 15 cases of Covid-19 variant first detected in India

From CNN's Kocha Olarn in Bangkok

A healthcare worker collects a nasal swab at a mobile Covid-19 testing center in Bangkok, Thailand, on Thursday, May 20.
A healthcare worker collects a nasal swab at a mobile Covid-19 testing center in Bangkok, Thailand, on Thursday, May 20. Chaiwat Subprasom/SOPA Images/Getty Images

Thailand has reported 15 cases of the B.1.617 Covid-19 variant first detected in India, according to Thailand's Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) spokesperson Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin. 

"It was found that there is a high number of infections in worker dormitories in Laksi District. There are 15 workers found infected with variant found in India or B.1.617.2. They are all receiving good medical care,” Dr. Visanuyothin said in a press conference Friday. 

A disease investigation team was dispatched to the area to investigate the outbreak in the district, the spokesperson added.

Thailand reported 3,481 new confirmed cases Friday, bringing the country's total number of cases to 123,066. Of Friday's new infections, 951 were reported from prison and detention facilities.

Thailand's prison clusters came to light when several pro-democracy protest leaders, accused of insulting the monarchy and held in pre-trial detention following popular demonstrations last year, announced they had tested positive for Covid-19 after being released on bail. Following the news, Thai authorities began mass testing the country's prison population.

Some 14,548 cases have been reported from prison and detention facility outbreaks across the country as of May 21.

The health ministry also reported 32 new deaths from the virus, bringing the death toll to 735.

The Thai government has extended the country's state of emergency until July 31 due to the third wave of the outbreak.

9:53 a.m. ET, May 21, 2021

Pfizer/BioNTech pledge 2 billion vaccine doses to lower and middle-income countries over next 18 months

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, speaks at the G20 Global Health Summit on May 21.
Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, speaks at the G20 Global Health Summit on May 21. EbS+

Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, said during the G20 Global Health Summit Friday that the company will provide 2 billion doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to lower and middle-income countries over the next 18 months. 

“Today, Pfizer and BioNTech are pledging to provide two billion doses of our Covid-19 vaccine to middle- and low-income countries over the next 18 months,” Bourla said. “We expect to provide a billion of these doses to low- and middle-income countries this year, and we pledge to deliver another billion doses to these countries in 2022.” 

Bourla said he hopes this will accelerate the ability to save even more lives globally. 

Bourla told Axios on Wednesday that Pfizer plans to produce 6 billion doses of its Covid-19 vaccine over the next 18 months. 

8:12 a.m. ET, May 21, 2021

More than 3,000 cases of black fungus detected across 5 Indian states

From CNN's Esha Mitra in New Delhi

At least 3,207 cases of black fungus, or mucormycosis, have been reported across five Indian states: Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Telangana and Gujarat.

Maharashtra reported more than 2,000 cases, according to the Indian Ministry of Health last week.

About 573 cases have been detected in Madhya Pradesh, according to the state’s chief minister Shivraj Chauhan on Wednesday.

The minister has also asked that a task force be formed to monitor the disease in the state, the state’s department of information tweeted on Tuesday.

At least 115 cases have been detected in Haryana and 150 in Telangana, according to state health officials, and at least 369 cases have been found in one Gujarat hospital.

“We now have a new challenge of black fungus. We need to be cautious and prepare for it,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday, while addressing a gathering of doctors in his constituency Varanasi in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

At least seven states — Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Odisha, Haryana, Gujarat and Karnataka — have declared the disease a notifiable disease in accordance with the central government’s advisory to collect data on the number of cases reported.

More on black fungus: In early May, doctors in India began raising the alarm about a rise in mucormycosis. Many of those being infected are coronavirus patients, or those who have recently recovered from Covid-19, whose immune systems have been weakened by the virus or who have underlying conditions — most notably diabetes.

4:38 a.m. ET, May 21, 2021

South Korea to allow in-person nursing facility visits for the fully vaccinated 

From CNN's Gawon Bae in Seoul, South Korea

South Korea will allow in-person visits at nursing facilities starting June 1 if either the patient or the visitor is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, Second Vice Health Minister Kang Do-tae said during a briefing Friday.

If both the patient and the visitor wear masks and sanitize their hands, they are allowed to hold hands, Kang added.

Since the initial ban on nursing facility visits in March 2020, restrictions were occasionally eased when daily cases in South Korea remained low, but visitors and patients still had to be in separate spaces unless patients were in critical condition or close to death.

When visiting a facility where vaccination numbers are low, the unvaccinated visitor needs to comply with additional Covid-19 testing for the safety of other patients, Kang explained.

South Korea's outbreak: South Korea saw 561 new Covid-19 cases from Thursday, including 542 local transmissions, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The country has reported 134,678 total coronavirus cases and 1,922 related deaths.

Current social distancing measures in South Korea will be extended by three weeks until June 13, Kang added.

Kang said it is difficult to ease the measures until 13 million people receive at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, which South Korea hopes to achieve by the end of June.

As of Friday, a total of 3,772,599 people have received the first dose of a vaccine and 1,482,842 people have completed a second dose, KDCA said in a news release Friday.

4:31 a.m. ET, May 21, 2021

India advises states to report cases of "black fungus" to the central government

From CNN’s Esha Mitra in New Delhi

Indian states have been advised to declare mucormycosis -- also known as black fungus -- as a “notifiable disease” so data may be collated at a national level, Lav Agarwal secretary of the Indian Ministry of Health said at a news conference Thursday.

At least seven states including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Odisha, Haryana and Karnataka have already done so, according to respective state government authorities.

In the past few weeks, thousands of black fungus cases have been reported across the country, with hundreds hospitalized and at least 90 dead.

Many of those being infected are coronavirus patients, or those who have recently recovered from Covid-19, whose immune systems have been weakened by the virus or who have underlying conditions -- most notably diabetes.

Black fungus commonly affects the sinuses or lungs after inhaling fungal spores in the air, and can also affect the skin after a surface injury like a cut or burn. Symptoms depend on where in the body the fungus is growing, but can include facial swelling, fever, skin ulcers and and black lesions in the mouth.

Request for supplies: With hospitals across the country facing a shortage of the drug used to treat black fungus, citizens across India have taken to Twitter to ask for help.

Bhavya Reddy, a resident in India's southern Telangana state, said her father was diagnosed with black fungus on April 26 -- the same day he recovered from Covid.

"Once he started to recover (from Covid) his face started to swell," Reddy said. "When the swelling did not reduce, (doctors) told us to get the injection."

The hospital did not have supply of Amphotericin B, and she had to appeal to the state's chief minister to receive vials of the drug, she said. Once the medicine was secured, her father underwent an endoscopic sinus surgery to relieve the swelling.

At least 150 cases of black fungus have been detected in Telangana, according to the state’s director of health and family welfare.

Ahmedabad Civil Hospital in Gujarat state has 369 patients with black fungus. On average, 25 to 30 surgeries are performed daily, according to J. V. Modi, medical superintendent at the hospital. 

What the government is doing: India's government has acknowledged there has been a shortage of Amphotericin B, the drug used for treating black fungus.

Mansukh Mandaviya, a junior minister of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, tweeted on Thursday adding that five companies in India have been approved to produce the drug, in addition to an existing six.

Read more about black fungus:

1:49 a.m. ET, May 21, 2021

India surpasses 26 million Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Swati Gupta in New Delhi

Medical staff transfer a Covid-19 patient to a hospital in New Delhi on May 18.
Medical staff transfer a Covid-19 patient to a hospital in New Delhi on May 18. Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images

India reported 259,551 cases of Covid-19 Friday, bringing the country's total caseload past 26 million. The country has recorded roughly 1 million cases since Monday. 

Friday's tally brings India's total number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 26,031,991, according to figures from the Indian health ministry.

India also reported 4,209 new virus-related deaths. The number of fatalities reported each day in the country have been consistently above 3,000 since April 28. India’s total coronavirus death toll stands at 291,331.

The country has seen a slight drop in new daily cases in the past week following several weeks of more than 300,000 infections per day.

A total of 191.8 million vaccine doses have been administered since the country began its vaccination program on January 16. On Thursday, India distributed 1,456,088 vaccine doses.