May 20 coronavirus news

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6:10 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

WHO reports largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases

From CNN Health’s Ben Tinker

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization, speaks during a news conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 9.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization, speaks during a news conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 9. Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone/AP

Tedros Adhanom-Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, on Wednesday said that more cases had been reported to the agency in the last 24 hours than any time since the novel coronavirus outbreak began. 

“We still have a long way to go in this pandemic,” Tedros said at a briefing in Geneva. “In the last 24 hours, there have been 106,000 cases reported to WHO – the most in a single day since the outbreak began. Almost two-thirds of these cases were reported in just four countries.”

Those four countries, WHO infectious disease epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove confirmed to CNN in an email, are: the United States, Russia, Brazil and India.

It is important to note: There can be delays in reporting at many points in the process, so this single-day record does not mean that these 106,000 people were infected, tested or counted in the last 24 hours.

CNN exclusively relies on Johns Hopkins University for its case and death counts, but the world’s preeminent health agency making this announcement today is newsworthy.

5:36 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

EU releases new guidelines for flying that include face masks and hand hygiene

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and James Frater

Thanassis Stavrakis/AP
Thanassis Stavrakis/AP

The European Union’s health and aviation bodies have issued a new set of guidelines for air travel, recommending the use of face masks and the practice “scrupulous and frequent” hand hygiene on flights in order to ensure safety of travelers and aviation personnel amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) also recommend that social distancing be observed whenever possible.

“Passengers have to have confidence that taking to the skies again in a confined space with other people poses the minimum possible risk to their health,” European Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean said in the statement. “The protocol released today will reassure passengers that it is safe for them to fly and so help the industry recover from the effects of this pandemic.”
5:07 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Spain's state of emergency extended for 5th time in tight parliamentary vote

From CNN's Al Goodman, Ingrid Formanek, Mia Alberti and Max Ramsay

Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez wears a face mask during a parliamentary plenary session on May 20.
Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez wears a face mask during a parliamentary plenary session on May 20. Andres Ballesteros/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

In a tight vote, the Spanish Parliament on Wednesday narrowly approved the fifth extension of the country’s state of emergency for another two weeks.

The state of emergency will last until June 7. 

Now in its tenth week, the extended state of emergency, which has been in place since March 14, will allow the Spanish government to continue regulating restrictions on movement with the aim of controlling the coronavirus for a total of 12 weeks.

Some context: The lengthy state of emergency has widened political rifts in Spain, with the right and far right accusing the government of ineptitude in handling the Covid-19 pandemic, blaming it for tens of thousands of deaths, and holding it responsible for the country’s economic nosedive. 

Speaking ahead of the vote in Spain’s lower chamber, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that in the fight against Covid-19, "the state of emergency and de-escalation have worked, the state of emergency will not last one day longer than it needs to."

Sánchez was firm in his position that “there is no alternative to the state of emergency” and lifting it now “would be an extraordinary irresponsibility."

Spain imposed some of Europe’s strictest confinement and de-escalation measures, gradually lifting restrictions asymmetrically across the country starting in early May, depending on infection rates and the capacity of health institutions in its territories.

The prime minister said the country is “in the last few meters [yards] of the state of emergency." 

Spain is among countries with the world’s highest coronavirus infection and death numbers; but has managed to significantly bring those down in recent weeks.

4:46 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

France reports 110 new Covid-19 deaths

From CNN's Ya Chun Wang in Paris

France reported an additional 110 people died from Covid-19, the country’s Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday.

The total number of deaths in France is at least 28,132.

The country also reported an additional 418 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 143,845.

3:51 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Greece to allow some foreign visitors back into the country starting on June 15

From CNN's Chris Liakos in London

An employee of the archeological site of the Acropolis wearing a mask stands in front of the Parthenon temple in Athens on May 18.
An employee of the archeological site of the Acropolis wearing a mask stands in front of the Parthenon temple in Athens on May 18. Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Greece says it is ready to reopen the country to some foreign visitors on June 15.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis announced in televised speeches a roadmap to kickstart the country’s tourism sector, which accounts for roughly 20% of Greece's GDP.

On June 15, some international flights will resume, but only to and from Athens International Airport.

In this first stage, only visitors from specific countries with low infection rates will be allowed in. The Greek tourism minister said the list of countries will be published by the end of this month but cited Germany, Israel, Cyprus and countries in the Balkan and Nordic regions as examples.

On July 1, after the first phase has been evaluated, all airports will be open to international travelers from all countries with some potential exceptions for countries with high infection rates.

Visitors will not be required to take a compulsory coronavirus test before entering the country and they will not have to remain in quarantine. Greece, however, retains its ability to subject travelers to sample coronavirus testing once they have arrived.

Some more details: The Greek prime minister announced a 24 billion euro ($26 billion) package to boost the country’s economy and tourism industry. The plan includes, among other measures, lowering the VAT in transport fares from 24% to 13%.

Theoharis said the government will strengthen the health infrastructure and capacity in popular tourism destinations to cover every possible need. 

3:28 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Italy to reopen all airports starting June 3

From CNN's Valentina di Donato in Rome

Romes's Leonardo da Vinci Rome - Fiumicino International Airport seen on May 7.
Romes's Leonardo da Vinci Rome - Fiumicino International Airport seen on May 7. Vera Shcherbakova\TASS via Getty Images

Italy will start reopening all its airports starting June 3, Transport Minister Paola de Micheli announced on Wednesday during a parliamentary session.

"It will be possible to proceed to the reopening of all airports starting from June 3, when transfers are again permitted," the minister said.

De Micheli added that current interregional and international limitations will also end for public transport within the country.  

Flights were suspended in all major Italian airports on March 14, except for essential flights. Rome's Ciampino and Florence's airports were allowed to reopen on May 4, but the Milan hub remained closed due to the lack of air traffic, the minister said. 

2:22 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Canada's top doctor recommends everyone wear a mask when leaving home

From CNN’s Paula Newton in Ottawa 

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP

Canada’s top doctor is now recommending that everyone wear a non-medical mask when leaving home, especially when social distancing may not be possible. 

“From our perspective, it’s an added layer of protection. It is for you to protect others. So if two people are wearing masks, I’m protecting you and you’re protecting me. So I think as more people do go out in the community, you can imagine there will be more people on public transport, or maybe more people at some of the retail,” said Dr. Theresa Tam at a news conference in Ottawa, adding that it will be hard to determine if and when you can social distance, so it’s best to wear a mask. 

Canada’s recommendation on masks has changed over the past few weeks with early directives in March saying that masks did not play a significant role in controlling the transmission of Covid-19. Tam said she had no regrets about those early recommendations, saying the science on the virus is evolving daily. 

“So it’s when we got more evidence about asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals, although we don’t fully understand their role in transmission, it is an added layer of protection,” Tam said. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that he will wear a mask when leaving his home and when he cannot social distance in order to protect himself and others. 

Tam went a step further and suggested mask-wearing may soon become a social and cultural norm in Canada, with more and more people open to wearing masks when in public. 

The Canadian government, however, stopped short of mandating that everyone wear masks, saying that individual jurisdictions in Canada and some businesses can implement that on a case-by-case basis. 

“For Canadians, thinking of it as I’m protecting you, you’re protecting me, is a very key concept. We have to again the trust of the Canadian public and get their buy in to do all of this. Mandating is one measure that some jurisdictions might take if they have to,” Tam said. 

1:53 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Spain and Italy continue reporting low daily coronavirus deaths and cases

From Valentina Di Donato, Livia Borghese, Mia Alberti and Ingrid Formanek

Two members of the Madrid Emergency Medical Service greet each other by touching elbows during a briefing in Madrid on May 15.
Two members of the Madrid Emergency Medical Service greet each other by touching elbows during a briefing in Madrid on May 15. Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP via Getty Images

Spain and Italy, the two European nations hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, continue to report low daily Covid-19 deaths and new cases.

In Spain, the number of daily deaths due to Covid-19 rose by 95 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of deaths to more than 27,800, figures reported by the country's health ministry on Wednesday show.

The data, however, shows a slight uptick in new infections, which will be explained “in the next few days," said Fernando Simón, Spain’s director of the Center for Health Emergencies.

More on this: Spain’s Health Ministry recently instituted a new reporting system for Covid-19 cases, which is designed to allow much faster detection, isolation of patients, and treatment of the virus, Simón has said.

Meanwhile, Italy continues to steadily drive its coronavirus numbers down.

The number of active cases in Italy dropped to 62,752 Wednesday, according to the Italian Civil Protection Agency. Today’s figure is a decrease of more than 2,300 cases since the day before.

The number of deaths rose by at least 161 in the past day to a total of 32,330, the agency reported.

The total number of cases in the country since the beginning of the outbreak is now 227,364, an increase of 665 from the day before.

1:43 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Turkey to allow phased opening in medical tourism in June

From CNN's Gul Tuysuz

Turkey will begin a phased opening of medical tourism with 31 countries in June, the country's Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Wednesday.

“International flights have not begun but there will be the opportunity to charter flights,” Koca said stating this is not about treating Covid patients but rather restarting medical tourism.

Koca said he has been in touch with his Libyan counterpart who welcomed the announcement.

Turkey is a medical tourism destination and receives patients from across the region for different medical procedures and treatment.