June 17 coronavirus news

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5:46 a.m. ET, June 17, 2020

Hundreds of households quarantined in Berlin after Covid spike

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

An apartment building that has become a hotspot for a Covid-19 infection outbreak is seen on June 16 in Berlin.
An apartment building that has become a hotspot for a Covid-19 infection outbreak is seen on June 16 in Berlin. Maja Hitij/Getty Images

More than 300 households in the Berlin district of Neukoelln have been placed into quarantine, after 57 new infections were registered.

Christian Berg from the Neukoelln Town Hall told CNN that seven apartment buildings had been affected in the densely populated district in the capital.

Germany's response to the pandemic has been widely praised, with only 8,840 deaths due to the virus relative to its population of more than 80 million people.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has received particular credit for installing a rigorous testing regime early on while showing effective and compassionate leadership.

She, along with French President Emmanuel Macron, have taken the lead on the European Union's response to the virus, steering the bloc towards agreeing a €500 billion recovery package.

5:02 a.m. ET, June 17, 2020

Dexamethasone is no cure, says British Health Secretary

Department of Health and Social Care of the UK Government via AP
Department of Health and Social Care of the UK Government via AP

Matt Hancock, the UK's Health Secretary, has said dexamethasone, the steroid that has emerged as a treatment for those worst affected by coronavirus, is “brilliant news for everybody,” but that it is not a cure.

Speaking to Sky News Wednesday morning, Hancock, pictured above, said “this is really really good progress, it is one of the best pieces of news we have had through this whole crisis.”

On Tuesday, two investigators of the Recovery Trial, a large UK-based trial for potential Covid-19 treatments, said that a low-dose of dexamethasone was found to reduce the risk of death by a third among hospitalized patients requiring ventilation in the trial.

Hancock added that it was important to not re-import the virus from nations now seeing a spike in cases.

“We have got to have the quarantine program in overall because there are some countries where it‘s increasingly looking as if the virus is out of control,” he said.

The R-rate, which reflects the speed at which the virus is spreading, is below 1, according to the “latest science,” Hancock said. A number above 1 means each case is passed to more than one other individual, causing the disease to continue its spread.

4:44 a.m. ET, June 17, 2020

Human trials expected to start next month for Covid-19 treatment derived from cows' blood

From CNN's Elizabeth Cohen

A South Dakota company expects to start human trials next month for a Covid-19 antibody treatment derived from the plasma of cows. 

But these aren't just any cows. Scientists genetically engineered the animals to give them an immune system that's part human. That way, the animals produce disease-fighting human antibodies to Covid-19, which are then turned into a drug to attack the virus. 

"These animals are producing neutralizing antibodies that kill (the novel coronavirus) in the laboratory," Eddie Sullivan, CEO of SAB Biotherapeutics said in a statement to CNN. "We are eager to advance to the clinic as we move forward in the regulatory process with the hopes of bringing this potential COVID-19 therapeutic to patients in need of a solution." 

The company did not say how many people would be studied in the clinical trials or how long they would take.

Read more on how it's done:

4:28 a.m. ET, June 17, 2020

Pandemic puts Americans held in Venezuela in "mortal danger," families fear

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The families of six US oil executives detained in Venezuela are pleading for their release as concerns mount over their health amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

The "CITGO 6" -- Tomeu Vadell, Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, Alirio Jose Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano and Jose Angel Pereira -- have been detained in Venezuela without trial since November 2017. 

As the virus threatens Venezuela's collapsing medical system and reports have emerged of cases within the prison facility where the men are held, family members say their loved ones are in "mortal danger." 

And despite calls from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to release the men, there are no indications that embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro -- with whom the US has severed diplomatic ties -- is any closer to ending their two-and-a-half-year plight.

On Friday, US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens revealed that two of the men "now have flu symptoms on top of other health issues."

Read the full story:

4:21 a.m. ET, June 17, 2020

Even if Europe wanted to break away from China post-Covid, it couldn't

Analysis from CNN's Luke McGee

This aerial photo taken on June 16, 2020 shows trucks at a logistics center in Nantong, in China's eastern Jiangsu province.
This aerial photo taken on June 16, 2020 shows trucks at a logistics center in Nantong, in China's eastern Jiangsu province. AFP/Getty Images

The pandemic has kick-started a difficult global conversation about whether Western liberal democracies should radically rethink their relationships with China, an authoritarian regime upon whom many of these nations' economies rely.

This has been especially confronting for the European Union, which has spent the past few years actively seeking greater engagement and cooperation with Beijing, with the ultimate goal of smoother two-way investment and access to one another's considerable markets. 

At a glance, an EU-China reset looks simple enough.

Despite the bloc's move towards China, the transatlantic relationship is the cornerstone of the United States-led Western order. A European pause on the current talks with China to take stock of what's happened and what European priorities might be post-Covid, while economically costly, could be wise. It would also be welcome and popular in Washington.

However, China's actions since the pandemic began have not led to the conclusion in Brussels that now is the time for Europe to go cold on China.

Read the full story:

4:18 a.m. ET, June 17, 2020

Thai pilot, grounded by Covid-19, shifts to motorbike food deliveries

From CNN's Kocha Olarn in Bangkok

Co-pilot Nakarin Inta is delivering food until he gets back into the sky.
Co-pilot Nakarin Inta is delivering food until he gets back into the sky. CNN

With the Covid-19 pandemic halting many of the world's commercial airline flights, some in the aviation industry have had to find alternative ways to earn an income while grounded. 

Pilots are no exception. 

In Thailand, where domestic tourism is only just starting to pick up this month following an easing in lockdown restrictions, some aviators have shifted from the skies to the roads, taking on jobs delivering food by motorbike or as drivers for car-hailing apps. 

These include co-pilot Nakarin Inta, who has been a commercial pilot for about four years. He's now delivering orders for Line Man, a local messenger app.

"Some (airline staff) have been on leave without pay," he tells CNN Travel. "And for most of us the income has been cut off more than 70%. I still have expenses every month so I had to find something on my own."

And he's not alone. With multiple airlines reducing flights to the bare minimum, Inta says he knows of more than 50 Thai pilots -- including some personal friends -- now working either as food delivery men, ride-hailing app drivers or food vendors while waiting to resume their regular jobs. 

Some are even using their luxury vehicles for their part-time job, such as BMW motorbikes and sedans, says Inta.

"I think everybody (was impacted) by Covid-19, everyone in the world, but look at the one beside you, your loved ones. You have to fight for them and fight for yourself," says the pilot.

Read the full story:

Thai pilot, grounded by Covid-19, shifts to motorbike food deliveries
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Thai pilot, grounded by Covid-19, shifts to motorbike food deliveries

4:00 a.m. ET, June 17, 2020

It's just past 10 a.m. in Berlin and 4 p.m. in Beijing. Here's the latest on the pandemic

People wearing face masks ride a subway train in Beijing amid the coronavirus outbreak on June 17.
People wearing face masks ride a subway train in Beijing amid the coronavirus outbreak on June 17. Zhang Xinglong/China News Service/Getty Images

More than 8.1 million cases of novel coronavirus have been confirmed worldwide, including at least 443,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

If you're just joining us, here's the latest on the pandemic:

  • Beijing measures: The Chinese capital canceled 70% of commercial flights from two of its major airports as part of efforts to contain a new outbreak that's infected more than 130 people in the past five days. Authorities have imposed a soft lockdown on the entire city.
  • US cases: Texas and Florida saw their highest single-day increase in cases on Tuesday, the same day US Vice President Mike Pence tried to declare coronavirus over in the country. He penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal claiming there is "no second wave" of coronavirus and suggested the rise in US cases was down to an increase in testing.
  • Lawsuit against Trump rally dismissed: A judge has denied an emergency motion to stop US President Donald Trump's campaign rally in Tulsa on Saturday. Lawyers asked the court to block the event unless organizers agreed to adhere to the administration's own social distancing recommendations to limit the spread of the virus.
  • Border restrictions: Mexico and the United States have agreed to extend restrictions on travel over their shared land border through July 21. The US-Canada border will also remain closed to most travel until July 21.
  • Human antibody trials: A South Dakota company expects to start human trials next month for a Covid-19 antibody treatment derived from the plasma of cows. The animals are genetically engineered to produce disease-fighting human antibodies to Covid-19, which are then turned into a drug to attack the virus. 
  • Reducing transmission: A combination of physical distancing, isolation and contact tracing could be the most effective way to control transmission of Covid-19, researchers in Britain found.
  • Brazil cases: The country reported a new daily high of 34,918 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total to 923,189.
  • Honduran President tests positive: President Juan Orlando Hernández says he has been diagnosed with coronavirus and has mild symptoms. The country's first lady has also tested positive and is asymptomatic.
3:43 a.m. ET, June 17, 2020

Germany says 30 people died from coronavirus in past 24 hours

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

Germany is seeing a slight uptick in deaths from Covid 19 -- in the past 24 hours, 30 people have died from the disease, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

The RKI -- Germany's national agency for disease control and prevention -- reported that 8,830 people in total have died from coronavirus in the country.

Germany reported 345 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the nationwide total to 187,184, according to the RKI.

3:32 a.m. ET, June 17, 2020

British health minister says new study on steroid drug is "brilliant news"

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

Dexamethasone may be key in helping to treat the sickest Covid-19 patients who require ventilation or oxygen, according to researchers.
Dexamethasone may be key in helping to treat the sickest Covid-19 patients who require ventilation or oxygen, according to researchers. John Phillips/Getty Images

New research on the commonly used steroid drug dexamethasone in helping to treat the sickest Covid-19 patients is “brilliant news for everybody,” but is not a cure, UK Health Minister Matt Hancock said on Sky News today.

“This is really really good progress, it is one of the best pieces of news we have had through this whole crisis,” Hancock said.

The findings are preliminary, still being compiled and have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal -- but some not involved with the study called the results a breakthrough.

Researchers announced that a low-dose regimen of dexamethasone for 10 days was found to reduce the risk of death by a third among hospitalized patients requiring ventilation in the trial.