May 26 coronavirus news

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

Updated 12:09 AM ET, Thu May 27, 2021
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2:01 a.m. ET, May 26, 2021

WHO reports 14% drop in global Covid-19 cases

From CNN Health's Lauren Mascarenhas

There were 4.1 million global Covid-19 cases reported in the week ending May 23 -- a 14% decrease from the previous week, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported Tuesday.

WHO also reported 84,000 new Covid-19 deaths worldwide, a 2% decrease from the prior week.

The largest decline in new cases and deaths was in the European region, the report noted. However, WHO warned global Covid cases remained high overall.

“Despite a declining global trend over the past four weeks, incidence of Covid-19 cases and deaths remain high, and substantial increases have been observed in many countries throughout the world,” the report said.

India reported the highest number of new cases by far -- 1,846,055 -- though that was a 23% decrease from the week prior.

In an update on virus variants of concern, WHO reported new evidence showing that community transmission from March to April in the UK was higher for the B.1.617 variant first identified in India than for the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the UK.

The report also cites research showing the B.1.617 variant may cause Covid-19 vaccines to lose some capacity to neutralize the virus.

“Virus evolution is expected, and the more SARS-CoV-2 circulates, the more opportunities it has to evolve,” WHO said.

WHO emphasized the importance of virus control measures to manage the spread of variants.

3:04 a.m. ET, May 26, 2021

Hawaii surfing competitions to resume as outdoor mask mandate ends

From CNN’s Andy Rose

Surfer John John Florence rides the waves at Sunset beach on the North shore of Oahu, Hawaii on May 1.
Surfer John John Florence rides the waves at Sunset beach on the North shore of Oahu, Hawaii on May 1. Brian Bielmann/AFP/Getty Images

Hawaii is dropping its statewide mask mandate for outdoor activities and relaxing a ban on "ocean sports" competitions, allowing popular surfing events to resume in the US state.

The state has consistently maintained some of the strictest Covid-19 rules in the US, including heavy restrictions on travel to the islands.

In a news conference Tuesday, Hawaii Gov. David Ige said the mask mandate will be dropped "effective immediately" and people will no longer be required to wear one while outside.

The mask mandate, however, will stay in effect for most indoor activities.

But Ige said changes to travel restrictions could also be on the cards.

“If our vaccination program is successful, I expect to make changes to our Safe Travels program next month,” Ige said.

The state also said Tuesday that a ban on ocean sports competitions will be lifted June 1. Additionally, state capital Honolulu is being given permission to restart other organized sports.

“I’m very, very pleased, very happy to have both the team sports and baseball and soccer now… just in time for summer," Ige said.
11:06 p.m. ET, May 25, 2021

South Korea to ease some Covid-19 restrictions for vaccinated people

From CNN’s Yoonjung Seo in Seoul, South Korea

South Korea will lift some of its Covid-19 preventative measures for vaccinated people, including mandatory wearing of face masks outdoors, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said on Wednesday. 

“People inoculated with at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine will not be obligated to wear face masks in outdoor spaces and will not be restricted from using outdoor facilities or entering religious facilities starting July 1,” Kim said. 

Those fully vaccinated will also be exempt from restrictions limiting the number of people who can use facilities such as restaurants, cafes, and wedding venues.

Starting June 1, people with at least one vaccine dose will not need to comply with the current ban on family gatherings of eight or more. 

South Korea’s Covid-19 preventative measures are expected to be adjusted at the end of September when more than 70% of the country’s population is expected to have had at least one vaccine dose.

More than 3.9 million people have received their first dose and more than 1.9 million people are fully vaccinated, according to a news release from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

South Korea reported 707 new Covid-19 cases from Tuesday, according to the KDCA. The country has recorded a total of 137,682 cases, including 1,940 deaths, since the pandemic began.

11:01 p.m. ET, May 25, 2021

The world's biggest vaccine maker is stalling on exports. That's a problem for the planet's most vulnerable

From CNN's Julia Hollingsworth

When Uddhab Gautam got his first vaccine dose back in February, Covid-19 cases in Nepal were low.

Now, three months later, coronavirus infections in the Himalayan nation have spiraled out of control, leading to a shortage of hospital beds and oxygen, and sending most of the country into lockdown.

But despite needing it more than ever, the 67-year-old retired banker has no idea when he'll get his second dose of Covishield, the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII).

"As an older person, I'm afraid of contracting the virus," he said from his home in Nepal's capital Kathmandu. "I have chosen to stay indoors."

Gautam's predicament is similar to one shared by millions worldwide: as India's own coronavirus crisis has spiraled, SII -- the world's largest vaccine maker -- can no longer export its goods.

Last week, the SII said it wouldn't restart deliveries to COVAX, a worldwide initiative aimed at distributing vaccines to countries regardless of wealth, until the end of this year.

While SII's decision will be a lifeline for India, which is still reporting about 200,000 new cases a day, the delay poses a huge problem for developing countries that depend on COVAX to control large outbreaks of their own.

The world is already 140 million doses short -- and by the end of June, that gap will have reached 190 million shots, the United Nations children's agency, one of the partners in COVAX, said last week. There is currently no timeframe for resolving the shortage, UNICEF said.

That creates a very real problem, not just for countries with limited access to vaccines where cases are exploding, but also for the whole world.

"We are concerned that the deadly spike in India is a precursor to what will happen if those warnings remain unheeded," UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said in a news release last week. "The cost for children and families will be incalculable."

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