May 25 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Meg Wagner and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:08 p.m. ET, May 25, 2021
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3:46 a.m. ET, May 25, 2021

Taiwan extends second-highest Covid-19 alert level for three more weeks

From CNN's Eric Cheung in Taipei, Taiwan

A soldier disinfects his fellow worker after a sanitization operation in Taipei, Taiwan on May 24.
A soldier disinfects his fellow worker after a sanitization operation in Taipei, Taiwan on May 24. Annabelle Chih/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Taiwan has extended its second-highest Covid-19 alert level for three more weeks until June 14, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced today, as the island battles its biggest coronavirus outbreak since the start of the pandemic last year.

The level 3 alert requires people to wear masks at all times in public and prohibits indoor gatherings of more than five people. The restrictions will be applicable across the island, said Taiwan's Health Minister Chen Shih-chung.

All students have been asked to take lessons remotely until June 14.

Chen added that Taiwan is expected to receive two million doses of Covid-19 vaccines in June, though he did not specify which vaccines the island would receive.

The extension comes as Taiwan reported 281 new local Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, Chen said. A total of 49 of those cases were reported in capital Taipei, while 154 were reported in New Taipei City -- a region in northern Taiwan that surrounds the capital.

In addition, more than 261 Covid-19 cases were found to have been left out of the total count in previous days due to reporting delays, causing the CECC to revise up Taiwan's final number of infections.

After the revision, Taiwan has confirmed 5,456 Covid-19 cases. The island reported six more deaths from Covid-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total death toll since the beginning fo the pandemic to 35.

9:10 a.m. ET, May 25, 2021

Covid-19 variant first detected in India is now the most dominant mutant variant in the country

From CNN’s Esha Mitra in New Delhi

Data on genome sequencing shared during a Covid-19 review by the Indian Minister of Health indicates that B.1.617 is the most dominant mutant variant in India. 

Out of 25,739 positive Covid-19 samples sequenced, the variant B.1.617 was found in 5,261 of them, making it "the most common mutation detected till now,” the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said in a statement Monday.

In March, India's health ministry said the Covid-19 variant which was first detected in the UK was the most prevalent in the country. But B.1.617 has since grown in prevalence following the second wave which has torn through the country.  

India has not only been struggling with an increasing number of mutant variants, but also a strain of infections of "black fungus" -- a rare and potentially deadly disease called mucormycosis.

Many of those being infected with the "black fungus" are coronavirus patients, or those who have recently recovered from Covid-19, meaning their immune systems have been weakened by the virus.

Based on an analysis of 5,424 cases of black fungus reported in the country, 4,556 cases had a history of Covid-19 infections. Health minister Harsh Vardhan on Monday said 55% of those affected also had diabetes, leaving them more vulnerable to the disease. 

The latest figures from the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers said there are at least 8,848 cases of black fungus in the country. 

Read more on black fungus here:

9:10 a.m. ET, May 25, 2021

India reports 196,000 Covid-19 cases — the lowest single-day rise in over a month

From CNN’s Esha Mitra in New Delhi

A health worker collects a nasal swab sample in a mobile testing van in Amritsar, India on May 24.
A health worker collects a nasal swab sample in a mobile testing van in Amritsar, India on May 24. Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images

India reported 196,427 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, the lowest single-day rise in cases since April 14, according to a CNN tally of figures from the Indian Ministry of Health.

This marks a decline from the first week of May when the country was reporting more than 300,000 cases daily. 

India also reported 3,511 fatalities on Tuesday, the lowest single-day death toll since May 4, according to a CNN tally of figures from the Indian Ministry of Health. On Monday, India became the third country to top 300,000 deaths from the virus, after Brazil and the United States. 

The Indian Ministry of Health said Monday that the weekly positivity rate had declined to 12.6%, and 72% of the country’s active cases were being reported from eight states.

However, the director of the National Center for Disease Control, Sujeet Singh, warned the growth rate of cases continues to be “a matter of concern," according to a news release from the health ministry.

India has reported a total of 26,948,874 Covid-18 cases, including 307,231 deaths. There are 2,586,782 confirmed active cases in the country, according to the health ministry.

1:22 a.m. ET, May 25, 2021

São Paulo announces measures to prevent spread of Covid-19 variant first identified in India

From journalist Fernanda Wenzel in Porto Alegre, Brazil

Tietê bus station on March 19 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Tietê bus station on March 19 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Rodrigo Paiva/Getty Images

São Paulo's government on Monday announced plans to restrict the coronavirus variant first identified in India from reaching Brazil’s most populous metropolis, after one confirmed case and other suspected infections were detected in the country's northeast. 

Symptomatic passengers coming through the Tietê bus station, one of the busiest in the country, will be sent to hospital facilities for Covid-19 tests, a city government statement said. Symptomatic truck drivers traveling on highways will also be tested. 

The move follows a news conference held this weekend by Brazilian Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga, who announced measures aimed at preventing the spread of the B.1.617 variant in the hopes of preventing community transmission. 

The federal government’s first measure was to send 600,000 rapid tests to the northeastern state of Maranhão, where the first case of the new variant was detected in Brazil.

The patient is a 54-year-old man who was aboard a ship that traveled to Brazil from Malaysia. The patient has been hospitalized in São Luís, Maranhão's capital, since May 14.

According to Queiroga, the tests will be used on passengers in airports and at the state’s borders. "Any passenger with a positive rapid test will have to take a RT-PCR test with genomic research to verify the Indian variant,” the minister said. 

The same strategy will be replicated in Guarulhos, Brazil’s busiest airport, in the state of São Paulo, and on the main roads and bus terminals in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

Last week, the Brazilian government banned flights coming from or transiting through India, the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland or South Africa from entering the country. 

In addition to Maranhão, one suspected case of the variant first identified in India is being investigated in the state of Ceará, also in the northeast region, and two cases are under investigation in the state of Pará, in the north of Brazil, according to statements from those state governments.

12:41 a.m. ET, May 25, 2021

WHO team pinpoints overlooked Chinese data for further study, source says

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh

Previously overlooked Chinese data on extensive screening of animals for coronavirus around the time the pandemic erupted is among several areas identified for further study by World Health Organization (WHO) scientists investigating the origins of Covid-19, a source close to the team told CNN.

The source said the records are contained in a nearly 200-page annex posted alongside the WHO panel's March report that received little attention among global experts at the time. But the data may add weight to calls from China's critics for more transparency and to the WHO team's desire to return to the country for further studies.

No date has been set for the team's return to China, but the source said any future visit to the country -- where the virus emerged in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, in late 2019 -- may involve "smaller groups supporting specific studies first." A larger group, similar to the 17 international experts that visited in January, might then follow up, the source added.

The WHO report's annex contains multiple data points providing an intriguing insight into China's evolving knowledge of the virus and the likely timing of its emergence.

It provides details of China's storage and destruction of positive Covid-19 samples from humans; a significant influenza outbreak that emerged in December 2019, at the same time as the virus; and the revelation that the first people known to have contracted the virus had contact with a total of 28 separate food and animal markets in December.

Read the full story:

10:44 p.m. ET, May 24, 2021

Covid made the Philippines' hunger crisis worse. So why does hardly anyone want a vaccine?

From CNN's Rebecca Wright and Yasmin Coles

With nine children and one grandchild, life was hard for Mona Liza Vito and her family even before the pandemic.

Vito used to work long hours peeling sacks of garlic, making about $2 a day, while her husband worked as a day laborer in construction. But now their work has dried up, a casualty of an economic downturn in the Philippines after multiple coronavirus lockdowns. And trying to feed so many mouths has become a daily struggle for survival.

"We don't have anything for my children's food, for our daily expenses," Vito said. "Sometimes, at night, we don't have anything to eat, we can only wait for the next day."

Vito lives in Baseco Compound, one of the poorest areas of Manila, where almost 60,000 people are crammed onto a patch of reclaimed land in the capital's port area. The sprawling settlement relies almost exclusively on the economic activity around the dock -- most of which has ground to a halt. And the lockdowns have included bans on fishing in the sea, a lifeline for many.

"If they don't catch fish, there is nothing to eat. Some just live on burnt rice and salt with water," said Nadja de Vera, Project Coordinator of local organization, Tulong Anakpawis. "It remains shocking with the amount of poverty here."

The Philippines was one of Asia's poorest countries even before the pandemic. Towards the end of 2020, nearly a quarter of Filipinos were living in poverty, surviving on about $3 a day, according to the World Bank.

More than 3 million children in the Philippines have stunted growth, and 618,000 children are classed as "wasted" -- defined by the World Health Organization as low weight for height, which usually occurs due to lack of adequate food or prolonged illnesses. That's among the highest rates in the world -- and the figures were recorded before the most recent lockdown that started in March.

Desperate to avoid more lockdowns and kickstart the faltering economy, the government is now pinning its hopes on vaccines.

But while health experts say vaccination is a crucial tool in bringing an end to the pandemic, many Filipinos are skeptical, and vaccination take-up remains dangerously low.

Read the full story:

10:47 p.m. ET, May 24, 2021

US citizens warned not to travel to Japan as Tokyo Olympics near

From CNN's Forrest Brown and Michael K. Callahan

The Tokyo Olympics, postponed in 2020 during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, are facing increasing hurdles in putting on a 2021 show.

The latest troubling sign for the Summer Games came Monday when the State Department advised US citizens against traveling to Japan because of a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases.

The "Level 4: Do Not Travel" advisory is the highest cautionary level in the department's hierarchy of warnings.

It's been more than a year since Americans have paid tourist calls to the nation. Japan has been closed to US leisure travelers throughout the pandemic, with only "very limited" circumstances in which US citizens could enter.

The Games are still scheduled to run from July 23 to August 8 in Japan.

Read the full story: