White House: CDC ‘let country down’ on testing – COVID-19 updates

Rebuttal comes after Centers for Disease Control was put under intense scrutiny for producing a faulty test for virus.

Medical workers transport a patient outside a special COVID-19 area at Maimonides Medical Center on May 14, 2020 in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. (Photo by Johannes EISEL
Medical workers transport a patient outside a special COVID-19 area at Maimonides Medical Center on May 14, 2020 in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) [AFP]
  • The White House rebuked the top US health agency saying “it let the country down” on providing testing crucial to the battle against the coronavirus outbreak.

  • India has extended a nearly two-month-old stringent lockdown by another two weeks with Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai and some other key regions still battling to control the rising curve of coronavirus infections.

  • Spain’s daily death toll from the coronavirus is 87, the health ministry has said, dropping below 100 for the first time in two months.

  • Burundi is pushing ahead with an election on Wednesday that will end President Pierre Nkurunziza’s divisive and bloody 15-year rule. But the coronavirus poses a threat to the May 20 vote, and the government has kicked out World Health Organization workers after concerns were raised.

  • Former President Barack Obama has criticised US leaders for the handling of the coronavirus response, telling college graduates in an online commencement address that the pandemic shows many officials “aren’t even pretending to be in charge”.

  • Globally, more than 4.6 million people have been infected and more than 312,000 have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. Almost 1.7 million people have recovered.

Here are all the latest updates:

Sunday, May 17

20:30 GMT – White House: CDC ‘let the country down’ on coronavirus testing 

The White House rebuked the top US health agency saying “it let the country down” on providing testing crucial to the battle against the coronavirus outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been under intense scrutiny since producing a faulty test for COVID-19 that caused weeks of delays in the US response.

Critics have pointed out it could simply have accepted testing kits made by the World Health Organization, which has been producing them since late January, instead of insisting on developing its own.

“Early on in this crisis, the CDC, which really had the most trusted brand around the world in this space, really let the country down with the testing,” White House official Peter Navarro told NBC. “Because not only did they keep the testing within the bureaucracy, they had a bad test. And that did set us back.”

20:00 GMT – Boris Johson: Coronavirus vaccine ‘might not come to fruition’ 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says there might never be a vaccine for COVID-19 despite the huge global effort to develop one.

Johnson, who was hospitalised last month with a serious bout of coronavirus, speculated on Sunday that a vaccine may not be developed at all, despite the huge global effort to produce one.

Johnson wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper there remains a very long way to go, and I must be frank that a vaccine might not come to fruition”.

Read more here

18:20 GMT – US coronavirus cases rise by 31,967 to 1,467,065

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1,467,065 cases of the new coronavirus, an increase of 31,967 cases from its previous count, and said that the number of deaths had risen by 1,394 to 88,709.

18:00 GMT – France coronavirus death toll reaches 28,108

French health authorities reported 483 new coronavirus deaths on Sunday, bringing the total to 28,108.

The heath ministry said the number of people in hospitals fell to 19,361 from 19,432 the previous day while the number of people in intensive care units dropped to 2,087 from 2,132.

17:20 GMT – Tanzania leader says coronavirus cases down despite US warnings

Tanzanian President John Magufuli has said prayers have succeeded in reducing the number of COVID-19 cases in the country, despite the American embassy recently warning that “all evidence points to exponential growth of the epidemic” in the country’s largest city.

Magufuli said during a church service that if the trend of declining cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus continues this week he will open schools, universities and sports events. 

The Tanzanian government has not released any data on COVID-19 cases for more than two weeks, so there are no current figures on the number of people diagnosed with the disease, the US embassy said in a health advisory released last week.

Many hospitals in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city, have been overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, said the strongly worded health advisory issued by the US embassy on Friday.

Coronavirus-fuelled racism adds to Haitians’ plight in Chile (2:53)

17:00 GMT – Sudan airports to remain closed until May 31 

Sudan will keep its airports closed for both internal and international commercial passenger flights until May. 31, the state news agency SUNA said, extending a shutdown that began in March due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The airport will remain open only for flights for cargo, humanitarian aid, oil organisations’ workers and evacuating foreigners. 

16:00 GMT – Italy sees drop in coronavirus deaths, cases 

The daily death toll from the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy fell to 145, the lowest since March 9, against 153 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, while the daily tally of new cases fell to a March-4 low of 675 from 875 the previous day.

The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on February 21 now stands at 31,908 the agency said, the third highest in the world after those of the United States and Britain.

The number of confirmed cases amounts to 225,435, the sixth highest global tally behind those of the United States, Spain, Britain, Russia and Brazil.

People registered as currently carrying the illness fell to 68,351 from 70,187 the day before.

15:30 GMT – Pelosi sees negotiations on new $3 trillion coronavirus legislation 

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said there will be negotiations on the new $3 trillion coronavirus relief legislation passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

Asked if there has been a Republican response or counteroffer to begin negotiations on the bill passed late on Friday, Pelosi said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” program, “No bill that is proffered will become law without negotiations, so, yeah.”

14:30 GMT – No spike in cases in places reopening: US health secretary 

Authorities are not seeing spikes in coronavirus cases in places that are reopening but are seeing increases in some areas that remain closed, US health secretary Alex Azar has said.

“We are seeing that in places that are opening; we’re not seeing this spike in cases,” Azar said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “We still see spikes in some areas that are in fact close to very localized situations.” 

14:00 GMT – India extends coronavirus lockdown until May 31

India has extended a nearly two-month-old stringent lockdown by another two weeks with Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai and some other key regions still battling to control the rising curve of coronavirus infections.

The government-run National Disaster Management authority said in a statement that fresh guidelines will be issued that keep in view the need to open up economic activity.

Indian media reports said that travel by air, rail and metro will remain shut down nationwide until the end of May. Schools, hotels, restaurants, bars, shopping malls, cinemas and places of worship will also be closed nationally.

On May 4, the government eased some restrictions, allowing reopening of neighborhood shops and manufacturing and farming in rural areas. It also resumed running a limited number of trains, mainly to carry the stranded workers.

New York’s $61bn budget deficit hinders COVID-19 battle (2:23)

13:05 GMT – Russia’s virus spread stabilising: top health official 

The growth of coronavirus cases in Russia is stabilising, a top health official said, as the daily tally fell under 10,000 for the third time this week.

The country has the world’s second highest number of infections at 281,752, topped only by the United States.

“We’ve moved towards the level of stability that we’ve all been waiting for,” said the head of Russia’s public health watchdog, Anna Popova, in a televised interview. “I would say that of today, we have halted the growth. Stabilisation can be seen over the whole country.”

How do we keep the faith under lockdown? | Start Here

12:47 GMT – Iran says virus deaths close to 7,000

Iran says it had recorded nearly 7,000 deaths from the coronavirus, warning of infection clusters in new regions after it partially eased lockdown measures.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the COVID-19 illness had claimed a further 51 lives over 24 hours into Sunday. He warned cases were rising “in the province of Lorestan, and to some extent in Kermanshah, Sistan and Baluchistan”.

“Khuzestan province is still in a critical situation,” he added.

The southwestern province has become Iran’s new coronavirus focal point, with the most critical “red” ranking on the country’s colour-coded risk scale. It is the only region so far where authorities have reimposed business lockdowns after a country-wide relaxation in April.

12:30 GMT – China’s Wuhan nearly doubles number of COVID-19 tests per day

The city of Wuhan, where the new coronavirus outbreak originated in China, conducted 222,675 nucleic acid tests on May 16, the local health authority said, nearly doubling from a day earlier.

Wuhan kicked off a campaign on May 14 to look for asymptomatic carriers – people who are infected but show no outward sign of illness – after confirming last weekend its first cluster of COVID-19 infections since its release from a virtual lockdown on April 8.

The number of tests carried out on May 16 in the city of 11 million residents was more than the 186,400.

12:15 GMT – Madagascar records its first COVID-19 death

Madagascar has registered its first coronavirus death, of a 57-year-old medical worker who suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure, the national COVID-19 taskforce said.

Taskforce spokeswoman Hanta Danielle Vololontiana said in a televised statement that the man died on Saturday night.

“A man died from COVID-19 in Madagascar. He is 57 years old and a member of the medical staff,” she said.

12:07 GMT – Spain’s daily death toll below 100 for first time in two months

Spain’s daily death toll from the coronavirus is 87, the health ministry has said, dropping below 100 for the first time in two months.

Total deaths from the virus climbed to 27,650, while the number of confirmed cases edged up to 231,350 from 230,698, the ministry said.

Iran’s businesses struggle to stay afloat amid COVID-19 (02:45)

10:27 GMT – New York racetracks reopen, baseball possible

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced horse racetracks and an upstate car-racing track can reopen on June 1, but fans will have to stay away for now. And he suggested it might not be long before the Yankees or Mets could be playing baseball, too.

The order means races can start running again at Belmont Park as Cuomo seeks to reopen the state without causing a spike in coronavirus cases or deaths.

“Remember, the problem here are crowds and gatherings. So what can you do or what economic activity is willing to reopen without a crowd?” Cuomo said. “It can still be televised. Great. If you can have economic activity without a crowd, that’s great.”

10:24 GMT – Long queues as Thai malls reopen after virus shutdown

Shoppers have flocked to Thailand’s top-end malls, eager for retail therapy as shopping centres reopened in a gradual easing of restrictions to revive the virus-ravaged economy.

Hundreds of masked customers passed through temperature checks, disinfection stations, and had their photos taken before they were allowed into plush malls in Bangkok.

In the main shopping district, Central World touted a “new normal” of doing business on posters, while screens on the mall’s exterior declared “We are open”.

Thailand malls
People stand in line to enter the Siam Paragon shopping mall in Bangkok [Mladen Antonov/AFP]

09:44 GMT – Top China expert warns of potential second wave

China faces a potential second wave of coronavirus infections due to a lack of immunity among its population, its government’s senior medical adviser has warned.

“The majority of … Chinese at the moment are still susceptible of the Covid-19 infection, because [of] a lack of immunity,” Zhong Nanshan, the public face of government’s response to the pandemic, told CNN.

“We are facing [a] big challenge,” Zhong added. “It’s not better than the foreign countries I think at the moment.” 

09:40 GMT – Russia allows foreign athletes entry

The Russian government said it would allow foreign athletes competing in its domestic sports leagues to enter the country as the number of cases of the novel coronavirus passed 280,000.

The government said athletes and coaches under contract with a Russian sports organisation would be put under medical observation and obliged to spend two weeks in quarantine upon their return to the country.

“The decision will help professional sports organisations, including the soccer clubs in the Russian Premier League, to resume training after the easing of measures linked to the spread of the coronavirus,” the government said in a statement.

08:57 GMT – Zimbabwe extends coronavirus lockdown ‘indefinitely’

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has extended a nationwide lockdown meant to control the spread of coronavirus, though the restrictions will be reviewed every two weeks.

In a live broadcast on Saturday, Mnangagwa said the measure would remain in place “for an indefinite period”, adding that “the country needs to ease out of the lockdown in a strategic and gradual manner”.

Read more here.

08:55 GMT – Philippines records 208 new cases, seven deaths

The Philippine Department of Health reported 208 new cases of coronavirus infections and seven more deaths.

The Southeast Asian country’s total confirmed cases have risen to 12,513, most of which are in the capital Manila, while its death toll has climbed to 824.

The number of recoveries has reached 2,635, the health department said in a bulletin.

08:50 GMT – Iran to allow Eid al-Fitr prayers in open spaces

Iran announced it will allow Eid al-Fitr prayers to be held in open spaces in all Iranian cities.

Hossein Kazemi, secretary of the committee tackling the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, said prayers would be held in open places and in all cities, adding that they will not take place where participation is likely to be intense, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

He explained that restaurants will be opened after Ramadan, taking into account health protocols.

08:47 GMT – Malaysia reports 22 new cases, no new deaths

Malaysia’s health ministry reported 22 new coronavirus cases, bringing the cumulative total to 6,894.

The country reported no new deaths, with total fatalities remaining at 113.

08:19 GMT – Indonesia plans $8.6bn bailout for state firms

Indonesia is planning an $8.6bn bailout for 12 state-owned firms, to reduce the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, mostly as cash compensation and working capital investments, according to government documents reviewed by Reuters news agency.

The government has proposed to parliament to provide 128.04 trillion rupiah ($8.63bn) in financial support to the companies, according to the finance ministry documents presented in a May 11 meeting with parliament’s financial commission.

A finance ministry spokeswoman on Sunday confirmed the authenticity of the documents and that they were used in the parliament presentation. But, the documents were used in an early stage consultation with lawmakers and still need President Joko Widodo’s approval, she said.

07:52 GMT – Russia reports 9,709 new infections

Russia reported 9,709 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus on Sunday, a rise from 9,200 new cases reported the previous day.

Russia’s coronavirus taskforce said the overall number of cases nationwide stood at 281,752. It added that 94 people had died over the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll from the virus to 2,631.

Rainbow in Moscow
Rainbow appears in Russia’s capital Moscow after the heavy rain [Sefa Karacan/Anadolu]

07:30 GMT – Singapore reports 682 more cases, taking total to 28,038

Singapore registered 682 more infections of the new coronavirus, its health ministry said, taking the city-state’s total to 28,038 cases.

The vast majority of the newly infected people are migrant workers living in dormitories, the ministry said in a statement. Four are permanent residents.

07:09 GMT – Qatar starts enforcing mandatory face mask rule

Qatar began enforcing the world’s toughest penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment for failing to wear masks in public, as it battles one of the world’s highest coronavirus infection rates.     

More than 30,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Gulf country – 1.1 percent of the 2.75 million population – although just 15 people have died.     

Violators of Qatar’s new rules will face up to three years in jail and fines of as much as $55,000.

06:25 GMT – UN chief: LGBTI vulnerable during pandemic

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of the increasing vulnerability of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people during the coronavirus pandemic on the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

Guterres said many LGBTI people who already face bias, attacks and murder “simply for who they are or whom they love … are experiencing heightened stigma as a result of the virus, as well as new obstacles when seeking health care”.

He said: “There are also reports of COVID-19 directives being misused by police to target LGBTI individuals and organizations.”

05:55 GMT – Japan COVID-19 doctors lack fresh masks, hazard pay

Japanese hospital doctors on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic face tough working conditions, with many reusing masks and few getting hazard pay, a survey by a labour union showed.

The survey of about 170 doctors, conducted online from late April through May 6, found three-quarters said they were ordered to work on the coronavirus front line, while four-fifths said they receive no hazard allowance for the work.

05:50 GMT

Hello, I am Tamila Varshalomidze in Doha, taking over the live updates from my colleague Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur.

04:50 GMT – Sunday service resumes in Australia after lifting of lockdown

Catholics in the Australian state of New South Wales were allowed to attend their first Sunday mass, after coronavirus restrictions were lifted, with only 10 people allowed to be in attendance.

Presiding over mass at St Michael’s Catholic Church in the Sydney suburb of Lane Cove, Father Geoffrey Plant told Reuters that even though the number allowed is small, he considers the gathering as “a blessing”.

Australia has recorded just more than 7,000 COVID-19 cases, including 98 deaths.

Australia Mass
Father Geoffrey Plant presides the Sunday service attended by only 10 people in New South Wales [Reuters]

04:35 GMT – Sri Lanka reimposes weekend curfew

Sri Lanka has reimposed a 24-hour curfew this weekend even though the government has begun easing the two-month coronavirus lockdown.

Private businesses and government offices reopened last week. However, on midnight Saturday, authorities again slapped a 24-hour curfew in an apparent move to restrict people’s movements during the weekend.

The curfew is expected to be relaxed on Monday morning. Health authorities say COVID-19 is under control in the Indian Ocean island nation. A total of 960 cases have been confirmed, along with nine deaths.

04:09 GMT – Church attendee in US state of California tests positive

A person who attended a religious service on Mother’s Day in the US state of California has tested positive for the coronavirus, possibly exposing it to more than 180 members of a congregation.

The church in Butte County, north of Sacramento, chose to open its doors defying the government’s order banning gatherings of any size, county public health officials said.

03:50 GMT – Germany reports 583 more cases, 33 new deaths

The Robert Kock Institute reported on Sunday at least 583 new cases in Germany, bringing to 174,355 the total number of cases in the country.

It also reported 33 new deaths as of the end of Saturday, with total deaths at 7,914.

03:16 GMT – China, South Korea consult Japan on easing business travel limits

China and South Korea have consulted Japan about easing border controls on business travellers to help revive business activities, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Sunday without citing sources.

The idea, already implemented between South Korea and China, would allow a fast-track entry of businesspeople if they test negative for the new coronavirus before departure and after arrival, the newspaper said.

But Tokyo is cautious about relaxing border controls at this point due to fears of another spike in infections, as well as a lack of test kits for travellers, according to the report. Japan has reported some 16,300 cases of the coronavirus and 748 deaths.

03:01 GMT – Deaths hit 1,000 in US state of Washington 

The number of deaths in Washington state because of the new coronavirus has reached 1,000.

The Washington State Department of Health added eight more deaths and listed the total number of confirmed cases at 18,288.

02:35 GMT – Venezuela sees its largest one-day cases increase

Venezuela is reporting its biggest one-day increase in confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic hit the South American nation, with 45 new cases bringing the total number of cases to 504 with 10 deaths.

President Nicolas Maduro ordered a nationwide lockdown shortly after the first cases, and he recently extended it until mid-June, hoping to contain the virus’s spread.

Officials say that 35 of the cases involved people returning to Venezuela, including several on a flight from Peru.

Venezuelan citizens waiting outside the Venezuelan consulate in Quito, Ecuador to return to their country [Jose Jacome/EPA]

02:18 GMT – China reports five new cases

Mainland China reported five new confirmed COVID-19 cases for May 16, down from eight the previous day, according to the National Health Commission (NHC).

Two of the five confirmed cases are so-called imported infections, while three are locally transmitted in northeastern Jilin Province. The number of new asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus fell to 12 from 13, the NHC said.

The number of confirmed cases in the mainland stands at 82,947 and the death toll at 4,634.

01:50 GMT – South Korea adds 13 new cases

South Korea added 13 new cases of the new coronavirus with nightclub-linked infections showing signs of a slowdown over the weekend, Yonhap news agency reported on Sunday quoting health officials.

The new cases, detected as of the end of Saturday, brought the country’s total to 11,050, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). There were no new reported deaths, keeping the total death toll at 262.

01:40 GMT – Coronavirus deaths in Turkey slow down

Turkey’s health ministry says 41 more people have died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 4,096. The death rate is the lowest registered since the end of March.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca wrote on social media that 1,610 new infections were confirmed, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 148,067.

Istanbul, Turkey
The death rate reported on Saturday was the lowest registered since the end of March [Emrah Gurel/AP]

01:18 GMT – Sudan hits highest one-day tally of infections 

Sudan’s Health Ministry has reported the country’s highest one-day tally of coronavirus infections, with 325 new COVID-19 patients and six deaths.

The figures took the country’s tally to 2,289 confirmed cases, including 97 deaths, the ministry said. A total of 222 were discharged after recovering.

Most of the country’s COVID-19 patients were in the capital, Khartoum where authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew in April to stem the spread of the virus, AP news agency reported.

01:05 GMT – Mexico registers 47,144 cases, deaths rise to 5,045

Mexico registered 47,144 cases of coronavirus on Saturday, with the country’s death toll rising to 5,045, health authorities said.

Mexico has seen a slightly higher death rate from coronavirus than the global average so far due to the widespread presence of pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity, experts told Reuters.

00:38 GMT – More US sailors test positive

Eight more American sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive a second time for the new coronavirus, raising to 13 the number who appear to have become infected again while serving aboard the sidelined aircraft carrier, AP news agency reported.

All the sailors had previously tested positive and had gone through at least two weeks of isolation. Before they were allowed to go back to the ship, all had to test negative twice in a row, with the tests separated by at least a day or two.

On Saturday, a navy official confirmed eight additional sailors had tested positive again. A day earlier the Navy had said in a statement that five had tested positive a second time. The navy official was not authorised to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

00:04 GMT – Obama criticises US coronavirus response

Obama - Trump
Then US President Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House during the transition period in November 2016 [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Former President Barack Obama criticised US leaders over the handling of the coronavirus response, telling college graduates in an online commencement address that the pandemic shows many officials “aren’t even pretending to be in charge”.

Obama spoke on, Show Me Your Walk, HBCU Edition, a two-hour event for students graduating from historically black colleges and universities broadcast on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

“More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” Obama said without naming the president or other officials. “A lot them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”


Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. You can find all the key developments from yesterday, March 16, here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies