COVID-19 UPDATES : Russia reports 9,263 new cases, Singapore to end circuit breaker on 1st June, 70 schools in France close down after spike in cases, EU backs WHO after Trump pull-out threat


19th May 2020 – (Hong Kong) Total worldwide COVID-19 cases have reached 4,928,701 with 320,964 deaths as of 11pm today.

The WHO will continue to lead the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic which “threatens to tear at the fabric of international cooperation”, its chief has said.


The European Union has spoken out in support of the World Health Organization, after US President Donald Trump threatened to permanently stop funding to the agency.

German chancellor Angela Merkel and the central European leaders on Tuesday agreed on gradually reopening border crossings and lifting controls as soon as the coronavirus pandemic allows.

More than 8,000 people have now died of COVID-19 in Germany, according to the country’s centre for disease control. Data released Tuesday showed 72 new coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 8,007, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

Almost 10,000 people with COVID-19 died in care homes in England and Wales in care homes in England and Wales up to 8th May, the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Tuesday in a report. The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the United Kingdom rose by nearly 70% between March and April, according to preliminary data from the country’s Office for National Statistics.

British finance minister Rishi Sunak has said it would take time for the economy to get back to normal even when the government’s coronavirus shutdown is lifted.

William Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, the famous London playhouse where the playwright’s shows were performed, faces permanent closure as a result of coronavirus lockdown measures, the theatre and UK politicians have warned.

Seventy schools in France have closed after a spike in suspected coronavirus infections, the French Education Ministry told CNN Tuesday, adding that there have not been any confirmed cases in schools since they re-opened. Some 40,000 schools have re-opened since last week, France’s Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer told RTL radio station Monday.

Italy’s prime minister has told the World Health Organization on Tuesday that he was cautiously optimistic about the next phase of the pandemic as the country eases coronavirus measures.

Spain has lifted a ban on all direct flights and ships from Italy since 11th March during its coronavirus lockdown, according to the government gazette.

U.S. and Canada

Stocks opened lower as investors looked ahead to testimony from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. Their testimony is part of required updates to Congress on the economic response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded 94 points lower, or 0.4%. The S&P 500 slid 0.3% while the Nasdaq Composite hovered around the flatline.

In a letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Trump said he would permanently halt financial contributions if the WHO does not “commit to major substantive improvements in the next 30 days.” Trump temporarily suspended funding to the organization last month. The World Health Organization today acknowledged receipt of the letter from Trump.

The United States rejected language about reproductive healthcare and intellectual property rights in a World Health Organization resolution on the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday, hours after President Donald Trump threatened to quit the body.

The US has joined consensus on an EU resolution on the global handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but quickly distanced itself from its wording on intellectual property and reproductive health services.

The Navajo Nation reported 69 new coronavirus cases and two additional deaths on Monday, according to a news release from the Navajo Nation president and vice president.  That brings the total number of positive coronavirus cases for the Navajo Nation to 4,071, including 142 deaths.

 Southwest Airlines says the worst of a drop in bookings appears to be over, but demand is still far off last year’s levels as the coronavirus continues to keep travellers away. The Dallas-based airline said new bookings are now outpacing cancellations. As a result of the improvement, Southwest expects its May year-over-year operating revenue to be down 85% to 90%, from a previous forecast of a 90% to 95% drop.

China and Hong Kong

China will make its coronavirus vaccine a global public good once available, President Xi Jinping said on Monday. 

China urged “a few US politicians to stop the blame game” when asked about the letter US President Donald Trump sent to the World Health Organization on Monday. Wuhan has now conducted over 1.3 million coronavirus tests since 12th May, the city’s Municipal Health Commission said.

The city of Shulan in northeastern China has tightened its lockdown measures after reporting a number of locally transmitted coronavirus cases over the past week.Under the new rules, only one person from each household will be allowed to leave their home once every two days to purchase necessities, according to a statement released Monday by the Jilin provincial government, which administers Shulan. 

Each outing is limited to two hours.

The Chinese envoy to the WHO has denounced support shown by the US and other members to Taiwan during its annual ministerial assembly.

Hong Kong recorded no new cases of COVID-19 today.

Elsewhere in the world

The United States said on Tuesday it would this week start delivering 200 medical ventilators to Russia, which has the world’s second highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases. Russia reported 9,263 new infections on Tuesday, pushing its nationwide total to 299,941, and 115 more deaths, taking the total death toll to 2,837. Only the United States has reported more coronavirus cases.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, who had stepped away from his post after being diagnosed with coronavirus, has been discharged from hospital and resumed his official duties, Russian state news agencies reported Tuesday.

Russia has denounced President Donald Trump’s threat to pull the US out of the WHO over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 

 India reported a total of 4,970 new cases. Total tally now stands at 101,139 cases with 3,163 deaths.

Bangladeshi officials are planning to evacuate some 2 million people along coastal areas as the country braces for Super Cyclone Amphan.

Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said Tuesday that his country is not interested in a trade war with China, after China announced crippling tariffs on Australian barley exports, a trade that is worth close to $600 million a year.

Qatar has announced a series of new measures aimed at stopping the spread of the new coronavirus, including halting most commercial activities until 30th May. Qatar has confirmed 12 coronavirus cases in its central prison, but denied reports of a widespread outbreak, saying all infected patients had been “transferred immediately” to a specialised hospital, isolating them from others.

Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque will reopen to worshippers after the Eid holiday, a statement from its governing body said, two months after closing due to the coronavirus.

Riek Machar, South Sudan rebel leader and former vice president, has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Egypt has extended a halt to all international passenger flights to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said in a statement. 

Turkey has extended a travel ban in 15 major cities for 15 more days to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.   The cities include Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Balikesir, Bursa, Eskisehir, Gaziantep, Kayseri, Kocaeli, Konya, Manisa, Sakarya, Samsun, Van and Zonguldak. 

Australia’s Qantas group released new guidelines for passengers traveling onboard its planes, in preparation for eased travel restrictions, according to a statement on Tuesday. From 12th June, passengers check in will be contactlesswhile hand sanitizer will be provided at check-in and departure gates.  While onboard, passengers will be provided with face masks. 

The management of South Korean boyband BTS have apologized after one of the band’s members went to bars while the country’s strict social distancing rules were in place.

Indonesia’s capital city Jakarta on Tuesday extended its large-scale social curbs until Jun 4, maintaining restrictions that limited public transportation and gatherings in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Singapore will exit the circuit breaker as planned on 1st June, with measures to be progressively lifted in three phases from the next day, the authorities announced on Tuesday (May 19). Singapore’s government said three-quarters of the country’s economy can resume normal operations starting on 2nd June, with one-third of the workforce resuming on-site operations, according to Reuters.  Singapore has apologised to 357 COVID-19 patients who received an erroneous text message saying they had again tested positive for the novel coronavirus. It apologised “for any inconvenience and anxiety caused” and said recipients had been alerted to the error within hours.

The Philippine health ministry on Tuesday reported six new coronavirus deaths and 224 more infections, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 12,942.

Thailand on Tuesday confirmed two new coronavirus cases and no additional deaths, bringing its total to 3,033 infections, a senior official said. Thirty-seven new COVID-19 cases were reported in Malaysia on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total to 6,978 cases, including 1,218 which are active, said Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah.