Global COVID-19 death toll exceeds 300,000

The number of COVID-19 deaths today passed the 300,000 mark, as another city in China went on lockdown to prevent a resurgence and more countries in Europe learned that low numbers of people were exposed in their outbreaks, meaning many are vulnerable to a second wave.

Deaths climbed to 301,160 today, with cases rising to 4,413,597, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

New cluster triggers new lockdown in China

The city of Jilin in northeastern China's Jilin province went on partial lockdown yesterday after a spurt of cases, which now total 21, the South China Morning Post reported. Officials closed schools, restricted train and bus service, and banned gatherings after six cases new cases were confirmed on May 12. Anyone who wants to leave the city, home to about 4 million people, must be tested for COVID-19 48 hours before departure.

The first infection in the cluster was reported last week, linked to a laundry worker from Shulan, a smaller city in Jilin province. So far, investigators haven't determined how she contracted the virus.

China has taken aggressive steps to prevent a resurgence, including an earlier lockdown in the city of Suifenhe on the border with Russia, and is now launching an effort to test all Wuhan residents after a cluster of cases was detected in a residential complex.

Today the country reported three new cases, all local, including two from Liaoning province—also in northeastern China—and one in Jilin province. In its daily update, the National Health Commission also reported 12 more asymptomatic cases, all but one of them local.

Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today lifted the state of emergency early for 39 of 47 prefectures, Kyodo News reported. The emergency order was originally slated to expire at the end of May.

However, orders for the cities of Tokyo and Osaka, home to about 50% of Japan's population, will remain in place. Abe said experts will review the situation again on May 21.

South Korea today reported 29 more cases, 20 of them linked to nightclub-related clusters in Seoul, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today.

Studies: Many in France, Spain still vulnerable

As major outbreaks in France and Spain decline, researchers are using seroprevalence studies to gauge how extensively populations were exposed to the virus and help inform planning for potential second waves of pandemic activity.

In France, a study by Pasteur Institute researchers published in Science yesterday estimated that 4.4% of the country's population were infected by the COVID-19 virus, Reuters reported. The estimates were higher, between 9% and 10%, for hard-hit areas, which included eastern France and Paris.

The results suggest that without a vaccine, herd immunity won't be enough to avoid a second wave as lockdown steps ease. Pasteur scientists also estimated the 55-day lockdown dramatically dropped the outbreak's reproduction number from 2.0 to 0.67.

Meanwhile, preliminary serosurvey results from Spain suggests 5% of the population was exposed to the virus, Reuters reported, citing Fernando Simon, the country's head of health emergencies.

Lockdown for Chile's capital

Chile's government yesterday ordered a lockdown for its capital Santiago, which has a population of 7 million, after experiencing a 60% increase in COVID-19 infections in a 24-hour period, the Santiago Times reported. As the country's main hot spot, Santiago has 80% of Chile's cases, which today increased by 2,659 reported cases, for a total of 37,040.

In other global developments:

  • Hours after Sanofi's chief executive officer was quoted as saying the United States would get first access to its COVID-19 vaccine, the company walked back the statement and said when ready, it will be available in all countries, the Associated Press Sanofi is based in France, and CEO Paul Hudson's comments provoked a strong reaction from the French government. The US-based Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, supported the development of the vaccine.

  • A typhoon that struck the Philippines' eastern provinces today sent people to evacuation centers, which was complicated by COVID-19 distancing measures, Reuters reported. One city gave hundreds of evacuees face masks to wear before they were allowed in evacuation shelters, and the local officials added two schools as temporary shelters to better accommodate physical distancing.

  • Malaysia said it will ease a ban on prayers in mosques starting tomorrow, ahead of the Eid festival, Reuters reported. Congregations will be limited to 30 or fewer. Last week the country started reopening businesses.

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