COVID-19 UPDATES : Chinese President pledges US$2 billion over 2 years to WHO, Spain to close border for another five weeks, US stocks open higher


18th May 2020 – (Hong Kong) Total worldwide COVID-19 cases have reached 4,833,610 with 317,234 deaths as of 11.15pm today.

The world has “been humbled by this very small microbe,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said to the 73rd World Health Assembly on Monday.   He also said that there is still a “long road to travel” in the world’s response to COVID-19, with most countries showing a large portion of their population still uninfected.  Early serological tests in some countries show that no more than 20% of populations have contracted the virus, and “in most places less than 10%,” he said, according to Reuters.

“The risk remains high and we have a long road to travel,” he said.

More than 100 countries have proposed a draft resolution calling for an independent “evaluation” into the coronavirus pandemic.  South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for greater authority to be vested in the WHO as emerging diseases present an increasingly serious threat to humanity.


French President Emmanuel Macron has expressed support for the World Health Organization and called for equal access to any vaccine for coronavirus, while speaking in a pre-recorded statement played out at the World Health Organisation’s 73rd World Health Assembly. Some 69 out of 209 employees at an agricultural producer near St. Brieuc in northwestern France have tested positive for coronavirus following a mass screening, according to the local health authority.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron will discuss a German-French initiative for European economic recovery today, according to the German government’s press office. Germany is hoping to replace a travel warning that is in place for all touristic trips abroad until 15th June with softer guidelines, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday, but warned there would be no quick return to holidays as usual. A home housing refugees in western Germany has been hit by a coronavirus outbreak, a Cologne district government press officer told CNN.

130 people have tested positive for the coronavirus at accommodation for asylum seekers in western Germany, officials have said.

Scotland could begin easing lockdown measures from 28th May, a Scottish minister said Monday.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government wants to work with teachers and trade unions to help some students return to schools from 1st June, the British leader’s spokesman has said.

Clubs in Spain’s top two soccer divisions can begin training in groups of up to 10 players from today, La Liga has announced. The economic impact from the coronavirus crisis in Spain will last longer than expected, the Bank of Spain’s governor warned, saying he foresees a “significant deterioration” in the second quarter. Spain’s Transport Minister said the country will not re-open its borders to tourists for at least another five weeks. The Spanish cabinet is due to approve next week a programme to grant a basic income to the poorest segments of the population to help them weather the economic fallout of coronavirus, Social Security Minister Jose Luis Escriva has said.

Loss of sense of smell or taste have been added to the official list of coronavirus symptoms in the UK, the Department of Health and Social Care said Monday.

Pope Francis offered the first public mass at St Peter’s Basilica in two months on Monday morning, where he celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of St John Paul II. Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican has reopened to visitors after being closed for over two months under Italy’s lockdown orders. Italy has taken its biggest step towards a cautious return to post-coronavirus normality, allowing a number of businesses and churches to reopen after more than two months of strict lockdown restrictions.

The Acropolis in Athens reopened for visitors today after temporarily closing due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

The Czech government has lifted the country’s coronavirus state of emergency, which had been in place since 12th March.

Hungary’s government will submit a proposal to Parliament on 26th May to end its special coronavirus emergency powers, has quoted Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff as saying.

In Sweden, the pandemic has caused around 3,700 deaths since the first reported fatality in March, but has not been as deadly as some seasonal flu over the last three decades, when the toll in December 1993 and January 2000 was higher, the Statistics Office said.

U.S. and Canada

US stocks shot higher at Monday’s opening bell, boosted by hopes for a coronavirus vaccine and more fiscal and monetary stimulus to support the economy. The Dow opened up 2.9%, or 690 points.

Many states need federal funding by a “drop dead deadline” of 30th June, said Moody’s Analytics analyst Dan White.

The Fed chief, Jerome Powell said he was optimistic that the US economy would start to heal in the second half of this year. But he warned the road to recovery could be very long. And a second wave of coronavirus cases would be devastating.

Study subjects who received Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine had positive early results, according to a press release issued Monday by the biotech company, which partnered with the National Institutes of Health to develop the vaccine.

As of Monday morning, there are at least 5,727 US service members who have tested positive for coronavirus, according to a tally by the Defense Department.

New York City has identified 145 children possibly suffering from multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), Mayor Bill de Blasio said today.

Governors across the United States are navigating a balancing act as they try to reopen their economies without triggering a second spike of coronavirus cases. 

By now, all but two states have loosened restrictions in place to help curb the spread of the virus. Some began allowing limited gatherings, while others have allowed restaurants and some businesses to reopen their doors with caution. Connecticut and Massachusetts are the only two with all restrictions still in place.

 Health officials reported 777 new coronavirus cases in Florida, adding the state’s testing also increased in the past week, according to a statement Sunday. 

Officials  in Texas reported the highest single-day increase in new cases over the weekend, but the governor has attributed it to more testing

General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler will begin to gradually restart their US factories today, with some big changes put in place to help protect workers from the coronavirus.

China and Hong Kong

China says it supports the resolution put forward to a World Health Organization meeting on finding the origins of COVID-19 and calling for an inquiry into the global response, but insists the draft resolution “is a totally different thing from what’s been called an independent international inquiry.” Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered remarks at the opening ceremony of the World Health Assembly, making the case for the country’s transparency over the virus, proposing a series of steps to deal with the virus and pledging US$2 billion over two years to the WHO.

The Chinese city of Wuhan has conducted more than 400,000 nucleic acids tests within the first three days of a citywide campaign to test all residents for COVID-19, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said today.

Elsewhere in the world

The first case of coronavirus has been confirmed in the indigenous Waorani community in the Ecuadorian Amazon, the country’s Health Ministry announced Sunday. The confirmed case is a 17-year-old pregnant woman who began to show coronavirus related symptoms in early May, according to the ministry.

Iran on Monday said it was entering a new phase of trying to eliminate the novel coronavirus after bringing the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak under control in many regions.

There were 8,926 new cases in Russia today. Total tally now stands at 290,678. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the coronavirus situation in Russia’s southern region of Dagestan was particularly difficult and that the mainly Muslim region’s healthcare system was under serious strain. The Caspian Sea region of Dagestan has reported 3,460 cases of the new coronavirus and 29 deaths, although Russian media reports have suggested the real figures are much higher. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has said that growth of new coronavirus cases has stopped in Russia, which has recorded the world’s largest number of infections after the US. Russia’s defence ministry is setting up a mobile field hospital at the largest Siberian mine of the country’s top gold producer, Polyus, to treat miners who contract the new coronavirus, the company said on Monday.

India reports 5,242 new cases of coronavirus, taking the country’s infection tally to more than 96,492, the highest in Asia.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ordered the government to lift a ban on business activities on Saturday and Sunday, imposed in order to limit market activity on certain days to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

A powerful cyclone that formed in the Bay of Bengal is headed directly for the India-Bangladesh border, bringing with it the potential for major destruction and upheaval in two countries that are still battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has highlighted the dangerous and growing inequality that exists between countries and within them,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa warned at the World Health Organization’s virtual 73rd World Health Assembly. 

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley has said that the Caribbean bloc Caricom states need a restructuring of debt or a debt moratorium to “provide certainty to both borrower and lender” during the pandemic.

Patients who re-tested positive for coronavirus after being discharged are not contagious, South Korean health officials said Monday.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro joined a large rally outside his official residence, the Alvorada Palace, in Brasilia on Sunday to greet supporters, according to video posted on his official social media accounts.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has said that Africa affirms its “full support” for the World Health Organization (WHO) which he said had been key in guiding the international response to the pandemic.

El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele addressed the nation Sunday night regarding his decision to extend the country’s coronavirus-related state of emergency through executive order.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Monday that it had agreed to shelve the issue of its participation at the World Health Assembly until next year, due to the shortened nature of the current meeting and the pressing issue of the pandemic.

Singapore confirmed 305 new coronavirus cases as of 12 p.m. local time today, the country’s Ministry of Health said. Malaysian health authorities on Monday (May 18) reported 47 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the country’s total number of cases to 6,941.

Thailand’s economy has shrunk for the first time in six years due to the pandemic, which has shuttered borders and devastated the tourism-reliant country.

Indonesia reported on Monday 496 new coronavirus infections, taking the total in the Southeast Asian country to 18,010, said health ministry official Achmad Yurianto.