China calls for WHO probe, defends own performance; signs of recovery seen in Germany


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In top stories today:

  • China called for an independent review of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) handling of the coronavirus outbreak while defending its own performance. Germany’s central bank sees signs of economic recovery as European nations continued a cautious and gradual reopening of daily life.  
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping called for an independent review of how the WHO responded to the coronavirus outbreak once the pandemic is under control, while defending Beijing’s own handling of the crisis, Reuters reported. He spoke by video on May 18, the first day of a two-day meeting of the World Health Assembly, WHO’s governing body, the newswire added.  
  • China pledged two billion dollars over the next two years to fight coronavirus, Xi said in a speech to the World Health Assembly, rallying behind WHO’s efforts, the Associated Press reported. The European Union and other countries called for an independent review of WHO’s initial response to the pandemic, the Associated Press added.  
  • QUOTE: “Covid-19 vaccine development and deployment in China, when available, will be made a global public good, which will be China’s contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries,” Xi told the World Health Assembly, Bloomberg reported.  
  • China’s foreign ministry said it’s premature to start an investigation into the origins and spread of the pandemic, which has killed more than 300,000 worldwide, Reuters reported. Most countries believe the outbreak is not yet over, spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in a daily briefing on May 18, the newswire added. China reported seven new cases, up from five on May 17, Reuters also said. 


  • Bars and hairdressers are among businesses to reopen in Italy on May 18, while some Spanish islands less badly affected by the virus will see shopping malls reopen, with gatherings of up to fifteen people allowed, the BBC reported. Health officials warned of the continued dangers of large social gatherings, saying that complacency could lead to a second wave of infections, the BBC added.   
  • The statistics say…  Nearly 32,000 Italians have died from coronavirus since the outbreak emerged on February 21, the third-highest death toll after the US and the UK, Reuters said. Italy said on May 17 that 145 people died in the previous 24 hours, the fewest since lockdown began in March, while the daily toll in Spain fell below one hundred for the first time, the BBC reported.  
  • QUOTE: “I haven’t worked for two and a half months,” said Valentino Casanova, a barman in Caffe Canova in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo, Reuters reported. “It’s a beautiful, exciting day.”  
  • The Associated Press has a round-up of the relaxation to restrictions in Europe, from tourists being allowed into the Acropolis in Greece, to the opening of beer gardens in Bavaria, museums and markets in Belgium, and golf courses in Ireland. Churches resumed public Masses in Italy and the Vatican, where guards in hazmat suits took temperatures as people entered St. Peter’s Basilica, the Associated Press added.  
  • Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, has detected signs that a recovery is under way in Europe’s largest economy even following another sharp contraction last month, helped by “comparatively robust” activity in the country’s construction industry, the Financial Times reported.  
  • QUOTE: “There is currently much to suggest that overall economic developments will move up again in the course of the second quarter as a result of the easing measures and a recovery is under way,” the Bundesbank said, the Financial Times reported.  
  • More than one thousand protestors gathered at several sites in Berlin, one thousand at the location of the canceled Oktoberfest beer festival in Munich and more than five thousand people in Stuttgart on May 16 as fatigue grows over lockdown measures in Europe’s largest economy, CNBC reported, citing Deutsche Welle, newspaper Bild, and Reuters. Hundreds also attended anti-lockdown rallies in London, while police used tear gas to disperse protestors in Warsaw, CNBC added.  
  • France and Germany will present a new joint initiative, with no details released yet, CNBC reported. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold a video-conference at 1:30 pm London time, then a news conference at 3:00 pm. They will talk about the economy, ecology, and industrial sovereignty, CNBC cited an unidentified source close to the French government as saying.  
  • READ MORE: National renewal may be on the other side of the pandemic for the United States. “Sound strategy and good law is hard to achieve and sustain when each side expends so much time and energy seeking to deprive the other side of creditable victory and in managing appearances,” writes the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security’s John Raidt.


  • Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, has entered recession for the first time since 2015, as the economic toll caused by coronavirus increases worldwide, the BBC reported. Japan’s economy shrank at an annual rate of 3.4 percent in the first quarter, following a 6.4 percent decline in the last three months of 2019, the BBC added.  
  • Stunning, record, disastrous: a few of the ways Reuters describes the 1.9 trillion yen ($18 billion) loss at the giant Vision Fund of Japan’s SoftBank. That highlights a deepening crisis at SoftBank’s portfolio companies including office-sharing firm WeWork and ride-hailing app Uber because of the global downturn, the newswire reported. The losses, for the company’s last fiscal year, are the worst in the Tokyo-based conglomerate’s thirty-nine-year history, Bloomberg said.
  • The US economy could shrink by more than 30 percent in the second quarter, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told “60 Minutes” in an interview broadcast on May 17, but he doesn’t see a Depression-like plunge in the longer term, CNBC reported. He conceded that job numbers will closely resemble levels in the 1930s, when they peaked at close to 25 percent, but he sees a significant economic rebound all the same, CNBC added. Powell made the comments about economic contraction in a segment of the interview that didn’t air, CNBC said, citing a CBS transcript.  
  • The airline Emirates, the world’s biggest long-haul carrier, may slash about 30,000 jobs from a total of 105,000, the deepest cuts yet in an industry that’s been forced into virtual hibernation by the coronavirus pandemic, Bloomberg reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.


  • Moderna’s experimental coronavirus vaccine has shown early signs of viral immune response that could help fend off the disease, according to sampling data from a small, first human trial that’s being run with the US government, Bloomberg reported.  
  • Vaccine against coronavirus? Don’t count on it, so the world needs to adapt to living with coronavirus—that’s the stark warning given to citizens by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, CNBC reported. It could take months, if not years, for a vaccine to be widely available, health experts say, CNBC added. Johnson speculated on May 17 that a vaccine may not come at all, despite huge efforts to develop one, he wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper, CNBC reported.  
  • QUOTE: “We are facing a calculated risk, in the awareness… that the epidemiological curve could go back up,” Conte said late on May 16, CNBC reported. “We are confronting this risk, and we need to accept it, otherwise we would never be able to relaunch.” 
  • Gilead’s remdesivir, a potential treatment for coronavirus, could get initial European Union (EU) approval in the coming days, the head of the European Medicines Agency, Guido Rasi, told a May 18 hearing in the EU Parliament in Brussels, CNBC reported.  
  • “Coronavirus tracing apps struggle to make an impact” reads a headline in the Financial Times, which said low uptake of the technology in India, Norway, and Singapore has hampered progress.  
  • Hospitals in Sao Paolo—Brazil’s biggest city and among the areas worst hit by coronavirus—are “near collapse,” its mayor Bruno Covas said, the BBC reported. Public hospitals have reached 90 percent capacity and could run out of space within two weeks, Covas said, it added. A Reuters headline: Brazil’s President Jair “Bolsonaro snaps photos with children at Brazil protest, defying health advice.”  
  • AstraZeneca will make 30 million doses of a coronavirus shot known as the “Oxford vaccine”—if it’s proven to work—by September, under a global licensing agreement with Oxford University, ITV News reported, citing UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma.


  • Taiwan and Stanford University School of Medicine will trial a quarantine and testing regime next month that could become a protocol for other countries and allow a more widespread return of foreign travel, reported the Financial Times, leading its world coverage with the story. A sample of five hundred people, who have tested negative for the virus and undergone quarantine, will travel from San Francisco to Taipei, where they will quarantine for fourteen days and be tested every other day, the newspaper said.  
  • Rather than starting a fourteen-day quarantine system for incoming travelers in the coming weeks, the UK should set up so-called “travel bubbles” with low-risk countries to allow international travel to restart, London’s Heathrow airport said in a statement, Reuters reported. “Face masks, blood tests, and onboard janitors. Flying’s about to feel very different” reads a CNBC headline.  
  • QUOTE: “Even if a summer vacation will be possible elsewhere in Europe, which I hope, one has to say that this vacation this year won’t be like the ones we know from the past,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told ZDF television, the Associated Press reported. “The pandemic is still there and we must at least have safety precautions for the worst case that the figures get worse again.” 
  • Elvis Presley’s Graceland tourist attraction will reopen on May 21 at 25 percent capacity, making face masks compulsory for workers and urging visitors to wear them too, the Associated Press reported.  
  • READ MORE: “It’s not too late for the United States—driven by the cutting-edge capabilities of its technology companies—to leverage the coronavirus tragedy into a historic opportunity,” writes the Atlantic Council’s Fredrick Kempe. “It would be built around scientifically novel but increasingly available means to prevent future pandemics.”