May 19 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton and Tara John, CNN

Updated 9:20 p.m. ET, May 19, 2020
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4:26 a.m. ET, May 19, 2020

India and Bangladesh planning to evacuate over 2 million people as super cyclone nears

From journalist Abir Mahmud in Bangladesh, Esha Mitra in New Delhi, and Ben Westcott

A volunteer uses a megaphone to urge residents to evacuate to shelters ahead of the expected landfall of Super Cyclone Amphan in Khulna, Bangladesh on May 19.
A volunteer uses a megaphone to urge residents to evacuate to shelters ahead of the expected landfall of Super Cyclone Amphan in Khulna, Bangladesh on May 19. Kazi Shanto/AFP/Getty Images

Bangladeshi officials are planning to evacuate some 2 million people along coastal areas as the country braces for Super Cyclone Amphan.

In India, officials said up to 300,000 people in the coastal areas of West Bengal and Odisha are in immediate danger from the storm and may also need to be evacuated.

The senior information official for the Disaster Management Ministry said Bangladesh has the capacity to move 9.1 million people to safety in cyclone shelters while assuring Covid-19 social distances measures are followed. So far 5,000 people have already moved to shelters in two districts ahead of the storm. 

"We have prepared more than 12,000 cyclone shelters to evacuate coastal villages. The number is more than doubled in comparison to the last cyclone. We are initially aiming to move some 2 million people to these safely,” Bangladesh disaster management junior minister Enamur Rahman said on Tuesday.

Pradeep Jena, special relief commissioner for India's Odisha State, said emergency services had to balance saving lives from the cyclone with savings lives from the coronavirus.

"Social distancing is definitely a very good concept but enforcing it in the strictest possible manner in a disaster situation may not always be possible," he said.
4:02 a.m. ET, May 19, 2020

It's just past 9 a.m in London and 1:30 p.m. in Kolkata. Here's the latest on the pandemic

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 4.8 million people and killed at least 318,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. If you're just joining us, here's the latest on the pandemic:

  • Trump's ultimatum: President Donald Trump threatened to permanently pull US funding from the World Health Organization if it does not "commit to major substantive improvements in the next 30 days." Trump also castigated the global health watchdog's stance toward China during the pandemic in a letter to the WHO director-general.
  • Bracing for a storm: Millions of people in India and Bangladesh are in the path of a super cyclone that is due to make landfall in less than 36 hours. The storm comes as both countries struggle to bring local coronavirus outbreaks under control -- India passed more than 100,000 confirmed infections on Monday.
  • New restrictions: The city of Shulan in China's northeastern Jilin province has increased its lockdown measures following newly reported local cases over the past week. Residential communities have been ordered to strengthen “closed management systems” and set up epidemic prevention and control points. 
  • Future of air travel: Australia's Qantas group released new guidelines for passengers in preparation for eased travel restrictions. Measures include contactless check-in, sequenced boarding and face masks onboard.
  • Steps to prevent another pandemic: China's Hunan province has announced a scheme to buy wild animals from farmers as the country cracks down on the trade of wildlife for consumption. The initial outbreak of coronavirus has been linked to a Chinese wet market where wild animals were sold as meat.
  • Trump taking hydroxychloroquine: The US President said he is taking daily doses of the drug that he's long touted as a potential coronavirus cure. Medical experts and the FDA question its efficacy and warn of potentially harmful side effects.
  • Positive early results in vaccine trial: All eight volunteers who received Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine developed antibodies to the virus, according to the biotech company, which has partnered with the US National Institutes of Health for the trial.
3:54 a.m. ET, May 19, 2020

Double disaster looms for millions in India and Bangladesh as super cyclone edges closer

From CNN's Ben Westcott, Brandon Miller and Manveena Suri

A cyclone preparedness program volunteer uses a megaphone to urge residents to evacuate to shelters ahead of the expected landfall of Super Cyclone Amphan in Khulna, Bangladesh on May 19.
A cyclone preparedness program volunteer uses a megaphone to urge residents to evacuate to shelters ahead of the expected landfall of Super Cyclone Amphan in Khulna, Bangladesh on May 19. Kazi Shanto/AFP/Getty Images

Millions of people in India and Bangladesh are in the path of a super cyclone that is due to make landfall in less than 36 hours, bringing damaging winds and heavy rain to a region already struggling with the coronavirus pandemic.

Super Cyclone Amphan became the strongest storm ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal on Monday night, after intensifying with sustained wind speeds of up to 270 kph (165 mph), according to data from the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center. 

Double disaster: The storm comes as both India and Bangladesh struggle to bring local coronavirus outbreaks under control. India passed more than 100,000 confirmed infections on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh's infection count is rapidly rising -- the country has recorded 23,870 confirmed infections, according to Johns Hopkins.

Complicated challenge: Tackling both disasters at once will be challenging for the two governments, especially if they attempt to maintain social distancing in packed evacuation centers and emergency shelters.

"(All India's National Disaster Relief Force workers) have to be masked, everyone has to wear visor, gloves ... It's almost certain that they will be going to do rescue work in red (heavily-infected) zones ... They may be actually rescuing people who are already infected. It is a double challenge," said NDRF director-general Satya Narayan Pradhan.

Pradhan said that in the state of West Bengal there is normally room in cyclone shelters for 500,000 people but because of social distancing rules due to the epidemic, that number had been reduced to just 200,000.

He added that the areas under threat from the cyclone were comparatively less developed, with many villagers in temporary homes with thatched or tin roofs. "That is going to be in the line of fire," he said.

Refugee risks: Cyclone Amphan could also bring heavy rains to the world's largest refugee camp in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, where almost 1 million Rohingya refugees live after fleeing violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

The first known Covid-19 cases were confirmed in the camp last week and with the storm now imminent, the two disasters could make for a devastating combination.

Read the full story:

3:24 a.m. ET, May 19, 2020

One of K-Pop's biggest stars ignored social distancing rules to visit bars

From CNN's Jake Kwon in Seoul

Jungkook of BTS performs onstage during 102.7 KIIS FM's Jingle Ball 2019 at the Forum on December 6, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Jungkook of BTS performs onstage during 102.7 KIIS FM's Jingle Ball 2019 at the Forum on December 6, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Rich Fury/Getty Images

The management of South Korean boyband BTS have apologized after one of the band's members went to bars while the country's strict social distancing rules were in place.

BTS, which has seven members, is one of the biggest bands in the world -- last year it became the first group in Billboard history to spend five weeks at number one on the Billboard Artist 100 chart.

Jungkook -- who, at 22, is the band's youngest member -- visited bars and restaurants in Seoul's nightlife district Itaewon on April 25, BTS' label Big Hit Entertainment said in a statement on Monday.

At the time, South Korea was still under strict social distancing rules, and citizens were encouraged to stay home and limit unnecessary contact with others. Those social distancing rules were lifted on May 6.

A total of 187 coronavirus cases have been linked to an Itaewon nightclub cluster, Kwon Jun-wook, deputy director of the country's Central Disease Control Headquarters, said in a briefing on Tuesday. The first reported case as part of this cluster was a 29-year-old man who visited several clubs in Itaewon on the night of May 1 and the early hours of May 2.

In the statement, Big Hit said that Jungkook went out with friends on April 25. But he did not go to the places that the patient had visited in early May, Big Hit said.

"After his visit, there were no symptoms of coronavirus including coughs or fever; and he had voluntarily taken the test at a designated clinic and the result was negative. The artist himself is deeply regretting that he hadn’t faithfully participated in the grand social endeavor to socially distance," the statement said.

Read more about the Itaewon cluster:

2:55 a.m. ET, May 19, 2020

How Covid-19 catapulted one mysterious data website to prominence

From CNN's Scott McLean, Laura Perez Maestro, Sergio Hernandez, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Katie Polglase

On April 28, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez stood alone on the stage of a bright but empty briefing room.

As a CNN reporter asked a question via video link, the prime minister looked deep in concentration, scribbling notes and pausing to look at the monitor only once. As he launched into his answer, he looked directly into the camera to boast about Spain’s Covid-19 testing volume.

“We are one of the countries with the highest number of tests carried out,” Sánchez said.

Initially, the prime minister cited data from a recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ranking that had placed Spain eighth in Covid-19 testing among its members.

“Today,” he added, “we have found out about another study, from the Johns Hopkins University, that […] ranks us fifth in the world in total tests carried out.”

There were just two problems: The OECD data had been wrong. And while some sources had ranked Spain fifth in total testing volume, Johns Hopkins was not one of them; the study Sánchez cited does not exist.

Yet two weeks later, the Spanish government is standing by the substance of its prime minister’s claim. Instead of citing Johns Hopkins, Spanish officials are now pointing to testing rankings from a data aggregation website called Worldometer -- one of the sources behind the university’s widely cited coronavirus dashboard — and prompting questions about why some governments and respected institutions have chosen to trust a source about which little is known.

Read more about Worldometer:

2:35 a.m. ET, May 19, 2020

By putting off the WHO investigation until after the pandemic, China could shape any result in its favor

Analysis from CNN's James Griffiths

As Xi Jinping prepared to address the World Health Assembly on Monday, it seemed like the Chinese leader might be in a vulnerable spot.

More than 100 countries had signed onto a resolution calling for an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. While the language in the document was thoroughly diplomatic, and did not call out any particular country, it grew out of a push by Australia to look into China's own failures in the initial stage of the crisis, and went against Beijing's stated desire for any investigation to be run by the World Health Organization (WHO) itself. 

Chinese officials previously described Canberra's proposal as "highly irresponsible," and accused Australian officials of undermining global efforts against the virus. But when Xi addressed the annual meeting of WHO members, he took a more conciliatory tone: of course China was willing to support an investigation into the virus -- once the pandemic is over. 

After praising the international response and "extraordinary synergy in the fight against Covid-19," Xi said that "China supports the idea of a comprehensive review of the global response to Covid-19 after it is brought under control to sum up experience and address deficiencies." 

"This work should be based on science and professionalism, led by WHO and conducted in an objective and impartial manner," he added. 

In this, he was playing the long game, providing China's government multiple ways of avoiding any potential future fallout from a coronavirus investigation.

Read the full analysis:

2:16 a.m. ET, May 19, 2020

Qantas announces new flight rules as it prepares for travel restrictions to ease

From CNN's Eric Cheung in Hong Kong

Passengers check in for a Qantas flight at Adelaide Airport on April 1, in Adelaide, Australia.
Passengers check in for a Qantas flight at Adelaide Airport on April 1, in Adelaide, Australia. Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images

Australia's Qantas group released new guidelines for passengers traveling onboard its planes, in preparation for eased travel restrictions, according to a statement on Tuesday. 

From June 12, passengers check in will be contactless, while hand sanitizer will be provided at check-in and departure gates. 

While onboard, passengers will be provided with face masks. The statement says wearing a mask is not mandatory -- just recommended to give everyone peace of mind.

Passengers will board and disembark in sequences to minimize crowding. They will also be provided with sanitizing wipes to use in flight. 

"Qantas and Jetstar aircraft are already fitted with hospital-grade HEPA filters, which remove 99.9% of all particles including viruses. Air inside the cabin is refreshed on average every five minutes during flight," the statement added.  
2:00 a.m. ET, May 19, 2020

This priest fired holy water through a squirt gun at his congregants to observe social distancing

From CNN's Alec Snyder

Father Timothy Pelc thought he would have a little fun on Easter -- and observe social distancing, of course -- by using a plastic squirt gun to dispense holy water on parishioners.

A month later, the Catholic priest, who serves St. Ambrose Parish in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan, has gone viral after the church posted photos on Facebook in mid-April.

There's a meme of Father Tim surrounded by firefighters dousing a blaze, one of him in front of imperial Stormtroopers and another of him standing next to those guys from "Pulp Fiction" -- all three with guns raised.

But his favorite, Pelc says, is a meme portraying him firing at demons in hell, seemingly inspired by the video game "Doom." 

The memes, which have shown up on Twitter and Reddit, have struck both a humorous and spiritual tone during the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

"We're looking for something to save us from something -- either the virus, loneliness or whatever," the priest said on Monday.

Read the full story:

1:41 a.m. ET, May 19, 2020

Navajo Nation reports 69 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Leslie Perrot 

The Navajo Nation reported 69 new coronavirus cases and two additional deaths on Monday, according to a news release from the Navajo Nation president and vice president.  

That brings the total number of positive coronavirus cases for the Navajo Nation to 4,071, including 142 deaths.

The background: The Navajo Nation has surpassed New York and New Jersey for the highest per-capita coronavirus infection rate in the United States -- another sign of Covid-19's disproportionate impact on minority communities.

The nation has one of the strictest stay-at-home orders in the country, mandating that residents not leave their homes unless there is an emergency or they are essential workers.

Read more: