May 21 coronavirus news

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8:43 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Wuhan has conducted more than 3 million coronavirus tests since May 12, health officials say

Medical workers take swab samples from residents to be tested for COVID-19 in Wuhan on May 15.
Medical workers take swab samples from residents to be tested for COVID-19 in Wuhan on May 15. Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

Wuhan’s Municipal Health Commission says it conducted 887,321 coronavirus tests on May 20, up from 856,128 tests on May 19.

The city, once the epicenter of the pandemic crisis, has now conducted 3,065,902 coronavirus tests since May 12, the commission said.

Wuhan started conducting city-wide coronavirus testing on its citizens last week after health officials detected several new locally transmitted cases. 

There were no new coronavirus cases reported in Wuhan on May 20, according to the National Health Commission.

8:17 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

London Heathrow Airport launches thermal screening trial for coronavirus symptoms

A traveler arrives at Terminal 2 at London Heathrow Airport on May 9.
A traveler arrives at Terminal 2 at London Heathrow Airport on May 9. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images/Getty Images

London Heathrow Airport is implementing thermal screening in one of its arrival terminals in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. 

The technology under trial “uses camera detection systems capable of monitoring the temperatures of multiple people moving through the airport,” Heathrow’s CEO said in a statement.

Some background: Other international airports have implemented temperature screenings, but they are not currently required to take place in the UK.

The Spanish Health Ministry made temperature checks in airports mandatory earlier this month. 

Temperature checks in the immigration hall of terminal two is part of a wider range of precautions being adopted to reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting Covid-19 in the future.

Starting this week, all operational staff at Heathrow have to wear face coverings, and are handing them out to passengers who do not have their own, Heathrow said. 

Observations from the trial will be shared with the UK government, and will also “explore the use of UV sanitation” and “contact-free security screening equipment”, John Holland-Kaye said. 

He called for international standards of temperature screening in all airports to be implemented and said this trial could provide a global template.

CNN has previously reported that Heathrow has been conducting temperature checks on passengers where their destination requires it. 

8:01 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

It's just past 1 p.m. in London and 8 a.m. in New York. Here's the latest on the pandemic

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 5 million people worldwide and killed at least 328,000. If you're just tuning in, here are the latest headlines:

  • Russia records more than 8,000 new cases: The country now has 317,554 cases and 3,099 deaths. The nation has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases globally.
  • Italy will open borders to EU countries: Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said EU travelers and people from Britain could enter the country with no mandatory quarantine required from June 3.
  • Sweden publishes antibody data: The country's public health authority said 7.3% of people in Stockholm had developed coronavirus antibodies by late April.
  • Beijing and Washington clash: China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly criticized Mike Pompeo on Thursday, labeling the US Secretary of State an "extremely irresponsible politician."
  • Anti-malarial drug trial begins: Around 40,000 healthcare workers are taking part in a global clinical trial to test the effectiveness of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine against Covid-19.
7:44 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Sweden says 7.3% of Stockholm's population developed coronavirus antibodies

Sweden has said 7.3% of people in its capital Stockholm had developed the antibodies needed to fight coronavirus by late April.

The statistic is the first published finding of the country’s study into the antibody levels of its population.

Sweden’s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said the number was a “little lower” than expected “but not remarkably lower, maybe one or a couple of percent."

"It squares pretty well with the models we have” he added, while speaking at a news conference in Stockholm.

The study was carried out to determine the potential herd immunity in the Swedish population. It was based on 1,118 tests carried out in one week. Sweden's Public Health Authority aims to carry out the same number of tests every seven days over an eight-week period.

Results from other regions would be released later, a Public Health Authority spokesperson said.

Sweden adopted a different strategy to other Nordic nations, choosing to keep most schools, restaurants and bars open in a bid to strengthen herd immunity. This has culminated in one of the highest death rates per capita in Europe. 

 

7:20 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Italy will open borders to EU countries in June without requiring quarantine

Border guards work at the Italian-Swiss border in the Ponte Chiasso customs post between Como, Italy, and Chiasso, Switzerland, on March 9.
Border guards work at the Italian-Swiss border in the Ponte Chiasso customs post between Como, Italy, and Chiasso, Switzerland, on March 9. Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images

Italy will open its borders to all European Union countries with no mandatory quarantine required from June 3, as part of the efforts to “relaunch the economy,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told the country's lower house of parliament on Thursday.

On May 13 Conte blasted the EU's proposal to allow “tourist corridors” between nations in the bloc with similar epidemiological conditions.

“We will not accept bilateral accords within the European Union that might create privileged tourist channels,” he said at the time.
“That would leave us outside the European Union and we will never allow this.”

On May 16 Conte said that “if the data continue[d] to be encouraging” Italian borders would be open to those from within the EU’s Schengen Zone, but the country's stance on a mandatory quarantine for travelers was unclear.

Conte's announcement on Thursday clarifies the matter, extending the open borders policy to the entire EU bloc. Britons, who are now outside the EU, will also be included. He also confirmed that no quarantine would be necessary for EU travelers.

The Italian Prime Minister did not say what would happen if the contagion rate started to climb.

EU sources have confirmed to CNN that the point of mandatory quarantine has been the subject of behind-the-scenes debate in recent days. 

“We must accept this risk and we cannot stop and wait for a vaccine,” Conte said.
“Otherwise we would never be in a position to relaunch again and we would find ourselves with a productive and social fabric inevitably compromised.”

Everyone who enters Italy will have to wear face coverings and observe social distancing requirements, Conte added.

6:59 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

China claims Pompeo's "lies have bankrupted his credibility" amid clash between Beijing and Washington

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian speaks in Beijing on May 12.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian speaks in Beijing on May 12. Kyodo News via Getty Images

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has lashed out at US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo amid a growing war of words between Beijing and Washington.

“[Pompeo] has played to perfection the part of an extremely irresponsible politician, but his numerous lies have bankrupted his credibility in the world,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Thursday. 

Zhao also questioned the US response to the coronavirus pandemic, asking “why didn’t the US government take any prevention measures from January through til March, why did it advise people not wear masks for so long, why did it fail to stem the spread of virus[?].”

Tensions over the pandemic and trade have reignited tensions between the US and China in recent weeks.

The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it had approved another potential arms sale to Taiwan.

Zhao said in response: “China is firmly opposed to the US arms sales to Taiwan and has made solemn representations to the US. We urge the US side to strictly abide by the one-China principle and the provisions of the three Sino-US joint communiques, and stop arms sales to Taiwan and military links between the United States and Taiwan to avoid further damage to Sino-US relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

President Trump criticized China's response to the pandemic in a series of tweets posted late Wednesday night, accusing Beijing of "trying desperately to deflect the pain and carnage that their country spread throughout the world."

He claimed the Chinese government "could have easily stopped the plague, but they didn’t!"

“The Chinese government has always adhered an open, transparent, and responsible attitude, and insisted on speaking with facts," Zhao responded on Thursday.
"Who is going all out to safeguard people's lives and health, and who is doing everything in their power to promote international cooperation? I believe that justice is [in] people’s heart[s], and the world will see [that] clearly."
6:20 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

British healthcare workers take part in global trial of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine

British healthcare workers are taking part in a global clinical trial to test the effectiveness of anti-malarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine against coronavirus.

About 40,000 frontline workers and staff from Europe, Africa, Asia and South America who have close contact with Covid-19 patients will take part in the study to test if the drugs are effective in preventing the virus.

A vendor displays hydroxychloroquine tablets at a pharmacy in Amritsar, India, on April 27.
A vendor displays hydroxychloroquine tablets at a pharmacy in Amritsar, India, on April 27. Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images

“Laboratory evidence shows that these well-established drugs might be effective in preventing or treating COVID-19 but there is no conclusive proof," the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) said Thursday in a statement.

“Covid-19 is a major risk for frontline healthcare workers around the world,” COPCOV Co-Principal Investigator Professor Nicholas White, of the University of Oxford who is based at MORU, said in the statement.
“We really do not know if chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine are beneficial or harmful against Covid-19. The best way to find out if they are effective in preventing Covid-19 is in a randomised clinical trial. That’s what COPCOV is – and why we’re doing this study,” Professor White said.

The first UK participants will begin enrolling in the trial Wednesday in three hospitals outside London. Participants will receive either chloroquine or a placebo (in Asia) or hydroxychloroquine or a placebo (in UK, Europe, Africa) for three months.

Results are expected by the end of 2020, the statement adds.

US President Donald Trump made headlines on Monday after he told reporters he was taking daily doses of hydroxychloroquine. At least one study has shown the drug does not work against Covid-19 and could cause heart problems.

6:04 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Some US states are combining results from two types of tests. That's potentially misleading

A health volunteer uses a swab to collect a sample from a Richmond area resident in Virginia on April 28.
A health volunteer uses a swab to collect a sample from a Richmond area resident in Virginia on April 28. John McDonnell/The Washington Post/Getty Images

A series of US states have been combining two different types of coronavirus test results in their total numbers, potentially providing a muddled picture of the pandemic as the nation eases restrictions.

Virginia, Texas, Georgia, and Vermont have said they've been adding two numbers to their daily totals: viral test results and antibody test results.

  • Viral tests are taken by nose swab or saliva sample, and look for direct evidence someone currently has Covid-19.
  • Antibody tests use blood samples to look for biological signals that a person has been exposed to the virus in the past.

Why this is a problem: Combining the two types of tests overstates a state's testing ability, a crucial metric as nearly all states ease coronavirus restrictions. Experts have consistently emphasized that for states to reopen, there has to be adequate testing and tracing.

"Public health officials need to know how many people in my state or my community currently have Covid-19. They also need to learn how many people had it in the past and potentially are immune to it," said Elizabeth Cohen, CNN's senior medical correspondent. "Those are two completely different things."

States' response: Texas, Virginia and Vermont said they've recognized the data issue and moved to fix it in the past few days.

Georgia health officials said they've been adding both tests to their daily totals since April in line with the methodology from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more here:

5:35 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Here's how Covid-19 could change the way we fly

Qatar Airways has introduced PPE suits for its crew.
Qatar Airways has introduced PPE suits for its crew. Courtesy Qatar Airways

As the world slowly eases its way out of the Covid-19 lockdown, we're on the verge of a new era in air travel.

We could soon encounter armies of robotic cleaners patrolling airport concourses, disinfecting check-in counters and ticket kiosks. We might see passengers wafting through security and baggage checkpoints without touching anything.

And we might be boarding aircraft where hand gestures and eye movements open overhead stowage bins and navigate our inflight entertainment screens.

Everything could become touch-free. Out go the tailored uniforms, in come astronaut-style anti-Covid-19 flight attendant suits.

Most of these concepts are trials but could soon morph into realities that become as ubiquitous as the biometric gates and body scanners to which we've already become accustomed at airport terminals.

Read more here.