April 2 coronavirus news

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8:04 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Experts tell White House coronavirus can spread through talking or even just breathing

A prestigious scientific panel told the White House last night that research shows coronavirus can be spread not just by sneezes or coughs, but also just by talking, or possibly even just breathing. 

"While the current [coronavirus] specific research is limited, the results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing," according to the letter, written by Dr. Harvey Fineberg, chairman of the National Academy of Sciences Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats.

He said his letter was sent in response to a query from Kelvin Droegemeier with the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House.  

"This letter responds to your question concerning the possibility that [coronavirus] could be spread by conversation, in addition to sneeze/cough-induced droplets," the letter states. "Currently available research supports the possibility that [coronavirus] could be spread via bioaerosols generated directly by patients' exhalation," it continues.  

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus spreads from person to person when people are within about six feet of each other. It spreads "through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes."  

Fineberg told CNN this is true — but that research shows that aerosolized droplets produced by talking or possibly even by just breathing can also spread the virus.  

Fineberg said it's possible that aerosolized coronavirus droplets can hang in the air and potentially infect someone who walks by later. How long coronavirus lingers in the air depends on several factors, including how much virus an infected individual puts out when breathing or talking, and also on the amount of circulation in the air, he said. 

He added, however, that coronavirus is not as infectious as measles or tuberculosis.

8:32 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Germany needs "billions of masks" to fight coronavirus, state premier says

Bavarian state premier Markus Soder arrives for a state dinner during the 2020 Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, on February 15.
Bavarian state premier Markus Soder arrives for a state dinner during the 2020 Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, on February 15. Johannes Simon/Getty Images

Germany will need “billions of masks” to fight its coronavirus outbreak, the Bavarian state premier Markus Soder said Thursday.

“In the long run, we will need enormous amounts of masks,” Soder said. “I believe that in the end we will need billions of masks in Germany.”

He said the masks would initially be needed by medical staff and then the elderly people in nursing homes.

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn wants the country to become less dependent on masks made elsewhere, advocating that Germany should make more.

“We must become more independent of the world market, for the security of our citizens. That is one of the lessons of these weeks. We want to encourage companies with a purchase guarantee until the end of 2021 to set up production of protective masks in Germany,” he said on Twitter.

The number of coronavirus cases in Germany is continuing to rise rapidly. The worse-affected region is Bavaria, which has more than 18,000 confirmed cases and 268 deaths, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute.

Bavaria became the first German state to implement a lockdown on public life in an attempt to curb coronavirus spread.

7:44 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Supermarket chain asks healthy customers to shop in store, as online orders force backlog

A Tesco store in south London on June 15, 2018.
A Tesco store in south London on June 15, 2018. Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

The UK’s largest supermarket, Tesco, confirmed to CNN it had rolled out a radio advert and social media campaign on Wednesday asking people to “think before you click and shop in store, if you can do safely."

Around the UK people have been ordering shopping online in a bid to adhere to social distancing rules -- including those who are not in an at-risk category.

As a result supermarkets in the UK have been struggling to keep up with a significant increase in demand for grocery products and currently there is a long wait for anyone wanting to book a delivery slot at any supermarket. 

The UK's coronavirus regulations ban people from leaving their homes apart from for a few limited reasons, which include going shopping for essential items.

The guidelines urge “vulnerable” customers -- including the elderly and those with preexisting health conditions -- to stay at home. 

Sales at UK supermarkets grew more than 20% in the four weeks to March 22, according to retail data and insights company Kantar -- making March the biggest month of grocery sales recorded by the firm in over a decade.

7:12 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Iran's confirmed case total passes 50,000 mark

Another 124 coronavirus-related deaths were reported in Iran on Thursday, bringing the total death toll to 3,160, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpoor said on state TV.

The overall number of cases in the country meanwhile reached 50,468, with an extra 2,875 reported over the past 24 hours, Jahanpoor said. 

A total of 16,711 patients have recovered and been released from hospitals across the country, while 3,965 hospitalized patients remain in critical condition, he added.

Iran has been the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, trailing only China, the United States and four European nations in Johns Hopkins University's tally of total confirmed cases.

6:56 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Kenyan President apologizes after police accused of violence during coronavirus curfew

President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks about the coronavirus crisis during a press conference on March 15 at Harambee House in Nairobi, Kenya.
President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks about the coronavirus crisis during a press conference on March 15 at Harambee House in Nairobi, Kenya. Dennis Sigwe/SOPA/Sipa USA/AP

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta apologized Wednesday for violence and harsh tactics used by police last week to enforce a nationwide coronavirus curfew.  

Police have been accused of using batons and tear gas to disperse crowds in the city of Mombasa to enforce the curfew. 

"I know especially when we introduced the curfew, maybe in the initial stages, there were some challenges," Kenyatta said in a televised speech.

"And I want to apologize to all Kenyans maybe for some excesses that were conducted or happened," he said. "But I want to assure you, that if we work together, if we all understand that this problem needs all of us, and if we all pull in the same direction, we will overcome." 

According to the latest figures by Johns Hopkins University, there have been 81 confirmed coronavirus cases in Kenya and one death.

7:03 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Refugee camp in Greece placed into quarantine after positive coronavirus tests

A view of the Ritsona refugee camp in Greece, north-east of Athens, while under construction on October 22, 2019.
A view of the Ritsona refugee camp in Greece, north-east of Athens, while under construction on October 22, 2019. Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images

The Ritsona refugee camp in Greece has been placed into two weeks of quarantine after some of its residents tested positive to coronavirus, the country’s Migration Ministry says.

The camp, north-east of Athens, is home to more than 2,000 refugees.

According to the ministry, 63 people in the camp have been tested. Twenty of those have confirmed cases of coronavirus.

The testing was carried out when a woman at the camp was confirmed to have contracted Covid-19, after she gave birth in an Athens hospital on Sunday. It’s unclear how she became infected.

Under the new quarantine rules, no one will be allowed in or out of the camp for the next two weeks.

6:42 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Anger as Japanese Prime Minister offers two cloth masks per family, while refusing to declare coronavirus emergency

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to the press in Tokyo on Tuesday, March 24.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to the press in Tokyo on Tuesday, March 24. Charly Triballeau/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is facing a public backlash after he said the government would distribute two reusable cloth face masks per household amid growing concern over medical shortages, as the country faces a worsening coronavirus outbreak.

The number of confirmed cases of the virus has spiked in recent weeks, after it appeared that Japan's initial response had got the virus relatively under control. As of Wednesday, there were more than 2,300 cases across Japan, and 57 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

That spike has seen a raft of new restrictions put in place in Tokyo and other major cities, and a run on protective gear, including face masks. On Wednesday, Abe said the provision of cloth masks to the worst-hit areas "will be helpful in responding to the rapidly increasing demand."

But Abe's proposal to send two masks to each household attracted outrage and mockery online Wednesday, with the hashtag "Abe's mask" and "screw your two masks" trending on Twitter.

Many felt the move was lackluster and would not go into effect fast enough to have a chance at curbing the spread of the virus, with masks not due to be distributed until the end of the month. Others dubbed the policy "Abenomask policy" as satirical memes showing well-known cartoon characters sharing one mask between four family members popped up online.

The anger comes as Abe resisted calls Wednesday to declare a state of emergency, saying that use of such powers was not imminent.

Read more here.

7:35 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Police ordered to return phone of doctor who criticized Indian government over protective gear

An Indian court has directed police to return the mobile phone and SIM card they seized from a doctor who criticized the government online for “allegedly deficient protective gear supplied by the government to its doctors.” 

According to the order issued on April 1 by the Calcutta High Court, Indranil Khan, a private practitioner, wrote several posts on Facebook on the issue.

He was interrogated by police on March 29, and was booked under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, which relates to “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language ... and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.” 

“Freedom of speech and expression which is granted under Article 19 of the Constitution of India has to be scrupulously upheld by the State," the order read.

"If an expression of opinion brings the government into disrepute, it cannot defend this allegation by intimidation of the person expressing the opinion by subjecting him to prolonged interrogation, threatening arrest seizing his mobile phone and SIM card and so on."

The order also observed that a tweet posted by Khan had received a reply from the Department of Health and Family Welfare thanking him for highlighting the issue.

Along with directions to return his mobile phone, the order also states that Khan cannot be further interrogated without court approval. For the time being, he has been told to refrain from sharing posts on the matter.

7:34 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Spain deaths pass 10,000 after highest single-day increase so far

Funeral cars and vans wait outside the Palacio de Hielo in Madrid, Spain, on March 27, where coronavirus victims' bodies are kept at an ice rink temporarily converted into a morgue.
Funeral cars and vans wait outside the Palacio de Hielo in Madrid, Spain, on March 27, where coronavirus victims' bodies are kept at an ice rink temporarily converted into a morgue. Xaume Olleros/Getty Images

Spain passed another grim milestone in its coronavirus outbreak on Thursday, reporting that more than 10,000 have now died in the country as a result of the virus.

The Health Ministry said it recorded 950 new deaths in the past 24 hours, the highest single-day increase the country has seen so far. Its total death tally is now 10,003.

But there was some cause for cautious optimism in the country, whose devastating outbreak appears to be slowing.

The 10.5% rise reported Thursday is similar to Wednesday’s increase, and smaller in percentage terms than any recorded in the past two weeks. 

It comes after the country's Health Minister said the curve of new cases in Spain has come under control, and that the drastic emergency measures put in place to lock down the country are working.

“The data shows us that the curve has stabilized," Salvador Illa said in the government's Thursday press conference. "That we have achieved the primary objective of reaching the peak of the curve and that now we are starting the phase of deceleration."

Spain’s government has come under criticism from opposition parties, some health workers and unions for reported shortages of ICU facilities, lack of sufficient personal protective gear and overstretched health workers.

Illa warned that the country's health service remains under strain, saying: "Even observing a decrease in the number of admissions, the long stays in these units produce an effect of accumulation of patients because of which there still remains difficult weeks for our health system."

But officials have indicated that Spain's harsh lockdown measures are having the desired effect.

Health official María José Sierra said on Wednesday that the lower case numbers help “evaluate the measures we’ve been taking very positively," and that in many communities around the country the government has seen pressure on intensive care units ease.

Spain has been one of the world's worst-hit countries, trailing only Italy in total deaths from Covid-19, and behind Italy and the United States in total reported cases.

Meanwhile, Spaniards continue to grapple with the devastating economic impact of the pandemic.

The nation registered an increase in unemployment of 302,265 people in March compared to the previous month, according to Spanish Labor Ministry data released Thursday.

This increase represents the largest monthly rise since records began, Labor Minister Yolanda Diaz said at a press conference in Madrid on Thursday. She called the increase in unemployment “absolutely exceptional” and “historic.”