April 2 coronavirus news

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

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

From CNN's Rob Picheta, Max Ramsay and Ingrid Formanek

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.”

6:37 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Philippine ambassador to Lebanon, known for spearheading evacuation of domestic workers, dies from Covid-19

From CNN's Tamara Qiblawi in Beirut

A tribute to Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon Bernardita L. Catalla was posted on the Embassy's Facebook page.
A tribute to Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon Bernardita L. Catalla was posted on the Embassy's Facebook page. Philippine Embassy in Lebanon

The Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon, Bernardita Catalla, has died from complications of Covid-19, the embassy said in a statement on Thursday.  

Catalla, a career diplomat for 27 years, died in hospital in Beirut. Months before her death, she spearheaded the evacuation of nearly 2,000 Filipinos, mostly female domestic workers, from crisis-ridden Lebanon.  

Lebanon has been in the throes of a financial and political crisis since October 2019, and many African and Asian migrant workers in the country reported a large drop in earnings and the withholding of salaries. The Philippine embassy’s evacuation program for Filipinos, many of whom were undocumented, received praise from humanitarian workers and international rights groups.  

CNN interviewed Catalla twice about her repatriation program since December. “Those who feel that they have to go back to the Philippines do so because they have nothing here anymore. Some have become homeless,” Catalla told CNN in February. 

Women clamored for selfies with the ambassador as they waited for the bus to take them to the airport. Asked what she thought about the praise being heaped on the embassy for their evacuation program, Catalla responded: “We’re just doing our jobs.” 

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodro Locsin Jr tweeted that before Catalla died he “extended her a great job in a difficult post. I promised her Paris so she’d hang on.”  

“But she just laughed, ‘Now I must learn French,’” wrote Locsin.  

“Ambassador Bernie Catalla’s remains will be received with an honor guard and I am putting forward a nomination for Gawad Mabini and Sikatuna,” said Locsin, referring to an honor conferred on Filipinos for distinguished foreign service.  

“Not that she needs more honor than the profound regret and mourning of a grateful service, government, and I hope nation.” 

6:52 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Benjamin Netanyahu to self-isolate for a week after minister tests positive

From CNN's Oren Liebermann, Michael Schwartz and Amir Tal in Jerusalem

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a speech at his Jerusalem office on March 14.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a speech at his Jerusalem office on March 14. Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will enter self-quarantine for seven days, according to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office, after the country's Health Minister tested positive for coronavirus.

It is the second time Netanyahu has entered self-quarantine. The 70-year-old Israeli leader self-isolated for a short period after one of his aides tested positive for coronavirus late last month. Netanyahu has twice tested negative for the disease.

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman is in good condition, according to a statement from the Health Ministry. The 71-year old and his wife, who also tested positive, will remain at home, where the Health Minister will continue to carry out his job, the statement said. 

Senior members of the Ministry of Health and aides to Litzman will also self-isolate because of their close contact with the minister. That includes Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman Tov, who has frequently held evening briefings with Netanyahu to answer questions and inform the public of new restrictions. 

Among others being considered for possible self-isolation by health officials, according to multiple reports on Israeli media, is Yossi Cohen, the head of the Mossad intelligence service.

As of Thursday morning, Israel had 6,211 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 32 deaths as a result of the disease.

5:45 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

4 million French workers are on partial unemployment benefits, and the number is rising

From CNN's Barbara Wojazer in Paris

A person is seen on an escalator on March 19 at the Halles shopping mall in Paris, where shops are closed.
A person is seen on an escalator on March 19 at the Halles shopping mall in Paris, where shops are closed. Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

There are now 4 million French employees on partial unemployment support and the number is still “strongly increasing,” France’s Labor Minister Muriel Pénicaud said Thursday.

Under the scheme, firms can reduce their activity while asking the state for compensation to be redistributed to employees.

Employees on the minimum wage or in a part-time job will receive 100% of their usual salary, the minister said.

Other employees will receive 84% of their salary, Pénicaud added.

The partial unemployment system should enable the country to recover as quickly as possible after the crisis, as it maintains the link between employers and employees, French PM Edouard Philippe explained on Wednesday.

5:07 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Running out of face masks in India? The government wants to help you make your own

From CNN's Manveena Suri in New Delhi

India’s Ministry of Science and Technology has issued a manual of instructions on how to make homemade masks in a bid to counter shortages or for those who lack access.

“This is primarily meant for the people who want to wear masks but do not have access to them. They can make these washable and reusable masks at home” said Dr. Shailja Vaidya Gupta, senior adviser at the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government in a news release

Although the government has not issued a directive making it compulsory to wear masks, an increasing number of shops catering towards essential needs are demanding that customers wear a mask while on the premises.

Sewing masks with a machine or by hand: The manual has been put together keeping in mind easy access to materials with instructions that are simple to follow.

It has instructions for making masks with either a sewing machine or by hand, and instructions on how to wear and take care of them. 

Step-by-step instructions for making an adult sized mask with a sewing machine are provided in the manual.
Step-by-step instructions for making an adult sized mask with a sewing machine are provided in the manual. Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India

Masks divide opinion: Opinion has been split on whether wearing a mask is an effective solution to curbing the spread of coronavirus. While it’s been common practice in parts of Asia, in other regions of the world, public health authorities and politicians have urged people to focus on washing their hands and maintaining social distancing.

5:34 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Confirmed cases in Austria pass 10,000

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

A Red Cross worker takes a sample at a coronavirus drive-In testing station in Schuettdorf, Austria on March 26.
A Red Cross worker takes a sample at a coronavirus drive-In testing station in Schuettdorf, Austria on March 26. JFK/APA/AFP/Getty Images

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Austria has passed 10,000, the country’s health ministry has said.

A total of 10,769 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the country, and the death toll now stands at 146.

Wearing face masks to become compulsory: Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced earlier this week that wearing face masks in shops would become compulsory. The health ministry says this measure will take effect from April 6.

Shops and drugstores in Austria will be required to provide customers with a mask if they are not already wearing their own.

A supermarket employee hands out a protective mask to a shopper in Vienna, Austria, on April 1.
A supermarket employee hands out a protective mask to a shopper in Vienna, Austria, on April 1. homas Kronsteiner/Getty Images

The order puts Austria, along with the Czech Republic and Slovakia, at odds with some international medical authorities. WHO and US CDC experts have long argued that people who are not sick nor caring for someone who is sick should leave masks in the medical supply chain for health care workers who need them most.

But some experts who have made the argument for people to wear masks have pointed to past research showing the effectiveness of masks against the spread of influenza and to early research on Covid-19.

4:54 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

It's "impossible" that North Korea has no coronavirus cases, top US general says

From CNN's Paula Hancocks in Seoul

In this file photo, US General Robert B. Abrams, commander of the United Nations Command, US Forces Korea and Combined Forces Command, speaks at a US Army base in Seoul on November 20, 2018.
In this file photo, US General Robert B. Abrams, commander of the United Nations Command, US Forces Korea and Combined Forces Command, speaks at a US Army base in Seoul on November 20, 2018. Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images

The top US general in South Korea says that he does not believe North Korea’s claim it has no cases of novel coronavirus. 

“That is an impossible claim based on all of the intel we have seen,” Gen. Robert Abrams, Commander of US Forces Korea (USFK), said in a joint interview with CNN and Voice of America.

“How many? I couldn’t tell you but I do know by their actions that for about 30 days in February, early March, that their military was locked down and they took draconian methods on their border crossings and in their formations.”

North Korea has not reported any coronavirus infections, but it borders two of the most heavily affected countries in the region -- China and South Korea.

While the 16th USFK-related coronavirus infection was reported today, Abrams said the military force has managed to keep that number low.

“We've seen the worst but now is not the time to get complacent. Our worst is frankly not that bad," Abrams said.

He added that the 16 USFK-related cases were reported out of 58,000 people in total, including 28,500 active military personnel, dependents and support staff for bases around the country.

As USFK was among the first US military forces to have to deal with the virus worldwide, Abrams said he has advice for those now grappling with the spread around the world. 

“Go hard, go early, it will seem like over-reaction, it will seem a bit over-the-top, 'My gosh why are we having to do that draconian measure?' A week later your community will understand (and) your unit will understand why you had to do that," he said.
5:09 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Sailors who test negative for coronavirus to disembark USS Theodore Roosevelt within 24 hours

From journalist Mindy Aguon in Guam

USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier sits on the outskirts of Apra Harbor, Guam, on April 1. At least 70 sailors have tested positive for coronavirus aboard the aircraft carrier.
USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier sits on the outskirts of Apra Harbor, Guam, on April 1. At least 70 sailors have tested positive for coronavirus aboard the aircraft carrier. CNN

Any sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier who test negative for the novel coronavirus will soon disembark the ship and begin their 14-day quarantine in Guam.

So far, 93 sailors from the US Navy ship have tested positive for the virus, 86 of whom are symptomatic. None have required hospitalization so far.

In total, there are more than 4,000 crew members on board the ship, only 1,273 of whom have already been tested.

“Over the next 12 to 24 hours, we plan to move the first group of Covid-19 negative asymptomatic sailors to approved commercial lodging for quarantine in accordance with the governor’s executive order and CDC guideline," Joint Region Marianas Commander Adm. John Menoni said at a news conference in Guam today. 

"Sailors will only be permitted to depart the base following a negative Covid-19 test result. They must remain in quarantine, in their assigned rooms for the duration of the mandatory 14-day quarantine."

Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero defended her decision to allow the sailors to disembark from the aircraft carrier and to come onshore. "The bottom line is our sailors go out and protect our freedom. We ask them to go out and sacrifice their lives for our protections, and they are asking us to help them get over this god-awful virus, and when I look at the opportunities and possibilities and space, I decided to say yes," she said.

4:34 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Zarif accuses Trump of "electoral exploitation" amid pandemic, says Iran "starts no wars"

From CNN's Radina Gigova in Atlanta

In this file photo, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow on September 2, 2019.
In this file photo, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow on September 2, 2019. Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif slammed President Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic today, saying he was using the crisis for political gain. 

"We have not witnessed throughout history such heinous employment of a humanitarian catastrophe for revenge and to spread hatred and electoral exploitation as the current American president and his team do," Zarif said in a quote from state news agency IRNA. 
“In order for the world efforts to yield fruit and in order for the world to return to (normal) life, we have to believe that all the planet Earth is a battlefield and in wherever part of the world we are defeated, the entire world will be defeated."

Zarif also said on Thursday on his official Twitter account that "Iran starts no wars, but teaches lessons to those who do," adding that Iran has "friends" rather than "proxies." 

Echoing Zarif's comments, an adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Thursday that the US sanctions are contributing to the spread of the virus and urged Americans to join the global fight. 

"Trump’s economic sanctions equal further spread of the virus in Iran which equals further spread of the virus in the US! Help us help you," said Hesameddin Ashena, head of the Center for Strategic Studies of the President's Office, as quoted by IRNA. 
"Dear Americans: If we don't fight the coronavirus globally it will reappear globally, again and again and again."

Iran has recorded 47,593 coronavirus cases and 3,036 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.