WHO chief says $800 million has been pledged for its Covid-19 response
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a Covid-19 press briefing at the agency's HQ in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 11. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images The World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says almost $800 million has been pledged to help pay for its response to the coronavirus pandemic this year. That leaves a gap of just over $900 million to reach the agency's funding target of $1.7 billion. "Since the beginning of the pandemic, [the] WHO has worked day and night to coordinate the global response at all three levels of the organization -- providing technical advice, catalyzing political solidarity, mobilizing resources, coordinating logistics, and much more,” Tedros told its executive board meeting on Friday.
Coronavirus pandemic threatens the survival of the European Union, says George Soros
From CNN's Chris Liakos
Billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros has said that coronavirus threatens the survival of the European Union (EU) unless the bloc takes action to raise its budget and provide financial relief to its hardest-hit nations. “Exceptional circumstances require exceptional measures," Soros said in an interview with Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf published Friday. "Perpetual bonds or consols are such a measure. They should not even be considered in normal times. But if the EU is unable to consider it now, it may not be able to survive the challenges it currently confronts. This is not a theoretical possibility; it may be a tragic reality." The billionaire added that the EU could provide perpetual bonds by authorizing taxation in order to issue them, as the bloc would need to maintain its AAA rating for the idea to work. Soros suggested that the money raised could be allocated to those in the greatest need, especially the hardest-hit Southern countries. He was particularly concerned about Italy, which he said had been treated unfairly by the EU and Germany in the past.
“What would be left of Europe without Italy?" Soros said. "Italy used to be the most pro-European country. Italians trusted Europe more than their own governments, and with good reason. But they were badly treated during the refugee crisis of 2015. That is when Italians decide to vote for [Matteo] Salvini’s Lega and the Five Star Movement in a landslide." "More recently, the relaxation of state aid rules, which favor Germany, has been particularly unfair to Italy, which was already the sick man of Europe and then the hardest hit by Covid-19."
Soros said he expected the damage suffered by the Eurozone economy due to the virus to last longer than most people think it will.
Liver disease patients with Covid-19 face high mortality rates, study suggests
From CNN's Lauren Kent
Patients with chronic liver disease or cirrhosis have high mortality rates from the Covid-19 virus, according to a new study conducted by Oxford University Hospitals in the UK and the University of North Carolina in the US. The researchers found that patients with cirrhosis -- scarring of the liver caused by long-term damage -- had an overall death rate of 40%. Cirrhosis is often caused by excessive alcohol consumption over many years, prolonged hepatitis infections, or excess fat build-up around the liver, according to the UK's National Health Service (NHS). Researchers studied clinical records from 21 countries encompassing 152 patients with chronic liver disease and cirrhosis who developed Covid-19. The study, published in the Journal of Hepatology, said: "Those with advanced disease called 'decompensated cirrhosis' had the highest rate of death (between 43 and 63%), compared with 12% for patients with liver disease but without cirrhosis." Dr. Thomas Marjot, who led the project at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital, said: "Until now, very little was known about the impact of Covid-19 on patients with pre-existing liver disease." Marjot said the research revealed coronavirus patients with liver disease face "particularly poor outcomes," but he cautioned that the study is limited by selection bias because doctors tend to report more severe cases. "Many patients with cirrhosis and Covid-19 who have good outcomes will therefore not be included in the registry," Marjot said. "Nonetheless, these findings do suggest high death rates with Covid-19 in patients with cirrhosis and that contracting the virus may lead to a deterioration in liver function. Therefore, anyone coming into the hospital with worsening symptoms of liver disease should be considered for coronavirus testing."
Dozens of South Korean schools that shut over coronavirus concerns to reopen Monday
From CNN’s Yoonjung Seo
Sixty-six high schools in Incheon, South Korea, that shut on May 20 over coronavirus concerns, will reopen on May 25 the country's Education Ministry has said. The high schools opened on Wednesday, the first day back to school since the outbreak, but closed within two hours after two Covid-19 cases were found among the student body. Contact tracing and tests related to the cases have since been carried out. All 972 students who had been to the infected areas have tested negative for the novel coronavirus, the ministry said, adding that health officials believe the risk of local transmission is not high enough to keep the schools closed. South Korea’s Itaewon nightclub cluster infection, which started in early May, has reached a total of 215 cases so far, Jung Eun-kyeong, director of the South Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said on Friday. He said 20 new cases of the virus had been recorded, raising the national toll to 11,142. At least 264 people have died from the virus in South Korea.
US death toll rises to 94,729
From CNN's Joe Sutton
At least 94,729 people have died from coronavirus in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally of cases. There are at least 1,577,758 cases of the disease across the country. The US currently has the highest number of confirmed cases globally. The totals include cases from all 50 US states, the District of Columbia, and other territories, as well as repatriated cases. CNN is tracking Covid-19's spread across the country here.
UK scraps charge for migrant health care workers
The British government has announced that health workers and care staff from non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries will no longer have to pay a contentious fee for their medical care. The Immigration Health Surcharge is a fee paid by most non-EEA nationals applying for temporary leave to remain in Britain. The government has said the surcharge exists to “ensure that migrants make a proper financial contribution to the cost of their [National Health Service (NHS)] care." UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said the charge would be scrapped for NHS workers and care staff, in a tweet posted on Thursday. The government's abrupt shift on the policy came after opposition leader Keir Starmer urged UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to scrap the charge for non-EEA workers, during an exchange in parliament on Wednesday. Johnson initially defended the fee during the session, saying the surcharge was "the right way forward.” "I challenged the prime minister about this yesterday, at Prime Minister's Questions [and] asked him to reconsider," Starmer said on Thursday, in a video posted to Twitter. "He's now done a u-turn. That's a good thing, a victory for common decency." The British government has also extended its bereavement scheme to NHS support staff and social care workers. The scheme allows the bereaved non-EEA family members of NHS staff, who died as a result of coronavirus, to obtain immediate indefinite leave to stay in the UK.
London's St. Paul's Cathedral opens an online book of remembrance for Covid-19 victims
From CNN's Simon Cullen
London's St. Paul’s Cathedral has opened an online book of remembrance for victims of the coronavirus outbreak, which it says will one day become a physical memorial in the building. Prince Charles recorded a video message to support the "Remember Me" project, saying the pandemic had resulted in a sudden change in British society. “For too many among us, this has brought tragedy and heartbreak,” he said. “For some, relatives have not been able to be present at the time of their loved one’s passing. For many, the loss of their loved one has been made all the more agonizingly painful by the necessary restrictions on funerals. “This virtual book of remembrance is here to help us remember; not just to recall our loss and sorrow, but also to be thankful for everything good that those we have loved brought into our lives, and all that they have given to others.” The project would be an opportunity to mourn those who have died and recognize the impact of the pandemic, said David Ison, the cathedral's dean. “For centuries, St. Paul's Cathedral has been a place to remember the personal and national impact of great tragedies, from the losses of war to the devastation of the Grenfell Tower fire,” he said.
“We have heard so many sad stories of those affected by the pandemic, and all our thoughts and prayers are with them. Every person is valued and worthy of remembrance.”
Oxford University coronavirus vaccine study moves to next phases of human trials
From CNN's Salma Abdelaziz and Max Ramsay in London
An Oxford University coronavirus vaccine study is ready to begin its next phase, entering human trials involving 10,260 participants, the university said in a statement. The Oxford University research team is partnering with UK-based global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to develop and manufacture the potential vaccine on a large scale. It completed phase 1 of the trial, with more than 1,000 immunizations, the statement said. Phase 2 will now expand the age range of participants receiving the trial vaccine, to include older adults and children. Next, phase 3 will assess how the vaccine works in a large number of people over the age of 18. Professor Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said the studies "are progressing very well," and said the next phases will "test whether it can provide protection in the wider population." CNN reported on Thursday that AstraZeneca had announced an agreement for at least 400 million doses of the potential vaccine. The company received over "$1 billion from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for the development, production, and delivery of the vaccine, starting in the fall," according to a statement from AstraZeneca.
Singapore's cases surpass 30,000, with hundreds of migrant workers testing positive every day
Singapore reported 614 new cases of Covid-19 today, tipping the national total past the 30,000 mark. The vast majority of the Asian city-state's 30,426 cases are migrant workers living in dormitories, where clusters began emerging last month and have raged on despite authorities' efforts to clamp down. The outbreak spiked highest in April, at one point reaching more than 1,000 cases per day for several days straight. Since then, it has fallen back down slightly -- but remains high, with 400 to 800 cases a day.
Some background: Around 1.4 million migrant workers live in Singapore, mostly employed in construction, manual labor, and housekeeping. They largely hail from South and Southeast Asian countries, like India and Bangladesh, and make up a significant portion of the Singaporean workforce. Of these, about 200,000 live in 43 dormitories, according to Minister of Manpower Josephine Teo. Each dorm room houses about 10 to 20 residents. They share toilet and shower facilities, eat in common areas, and sleep just feet away from each other. It's nearly impossible to conduct social distancing -- the consequences of which are becoming clear.