April 29 coronavirus news

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9:28 a.m. ET, April 29, 2020

Switzerland to further ease restrictions May 11

from CNN's Stephanie Halasz and Nadine Schmidt

People queue outside a hair salon in Lausanne on April 27, after Switzerland began easing restrictions imposed to control the COVID-19 pandemic.
People queue outside a hair salon in Lausanne on April 27, after Switzerland began easing restrictions imposed to control the COVID-19 pandemic. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

The Swiss government will further loosen coronavirus-related restrictions as of May 11.

Shops, cultural and sports institutions, and restaurants will be allowed to open at that date, Switzerland's Federal President Simonetta Sommaruga said at a press conference in Bern.

Primary and secondary schools can also open as of May 11, Alain Berset from the federal council said at the press conference.

Border restrictions will be eased and public transport will also ramp up at this time.

A third phase of loosening restrictions will happen June 8, under the condition that the coronavirus spread is under control.

8:57 a.m. ET, April 29, 2020

Spain will begin easing restrictions in May but won't mandate face masks

From CNN’s Al Goodman, Vasco Cotovio and Ingrid Formanek

A family walks on a beach in Barcelona, Spain, on April 26, after some lockdown restrictions were lifted.
A family walks on a beach in Barcelona, Spain, on April 26, after some lockdown restrictions were lifted. Sandra Montanez/Getty Images

Spain is working to ease restrictions in the country and officials defined what the "new normal" will look like as the number of new coronavirus cases continues to fall.

Relaxation of Spain's confinement measures, which have been Europe's strictest, will be lifted gradually and in phases, Spain’s Director for Health Emergencies Fernando Simón and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said. 

Small parts of the country will start phase one of easing restrictions on Monday, with the rest joining in May 11. This phase will see some small businesses start operating and allow for individual exercise as well as professional sports training to resume. Senior citizens will also be permitted to go outside in ‘Phase One’.

Deescalation is expected to be complete by the end of June, according to the prime minister. 

“The better we apply the guidelines and the rules [as set out by the government transition plan] to reduce the transmission risk, the better and faster we can move from one phase to the other”, Simón said today at the government’s daily scientific and technical briefing.

When asked about the use of masks, Simón said in most cases, it is recommended, but not mandatory. 

“Not everyone can wear a mask. People with respiratory problems, with anxiety, athletes will not be able to use it, with children it’s not easy” he explained. “A rule about the mandatory use of masks, with all these exceptions, is complicated," he said.

Spain is the country with the second highest number of coronavirus infections in the world, suffering from a great economic and social toll from the pandemic.

8:19 a.m. ET, April 29, 2020

Father remembers ER doctor who put her life on the line to take care of Covid-19 patients

From CNN's Carma Hassan and Taylor Romine

Dr. Lorna Breen was not struggling with any emotional difficulties or problems with stress before being on the front lines of battling a pandemic, her father says.

The New York City emergency room doctor who recovered from Covid-19 and continued to treat coronavirus patients died a hero, he says.

The 49-year-old's father, Dr. Philip Breen, spoke to CNN's Chris Cuomo Tuesday.

"She was a doctor, every bit of the word that a doctor should be," Breen said. "She put her life on the line to take care of other people. She was in the trenches, so to speak, right in the front line as people were dying left and right around her."

Breen said his daughter contracted the virus and stayed home for just over a week, which in hindsight, he feels wasn't enough time. 

"I think she felt an overwhelming sense of wanting to help her colleagues and her friends who were still fighting the good fight, and so she strapped on her harness and took the bit in her mouth and she went back," Breen said. "I talked to her just before her final 12-hour shift. And during the time she was on that shift, she basically went down in the traces like a horse that had pulled too heavy a load and couldn't go a step further and just went down."

Breen said his daughter was hospitalized until she was determined to be well enough to be out on her own, but she was "clearly not better."

"As of Sunday, she took her own life because I think she was tired and she was the kind of person, as somebody has very aptly put it, she was like the fireman who runs into the burning building to save another life and doesn't regard anything about herself. So she has paid the price and she's been in the trenches," Breen said.

How to get help: In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide also can provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.

Read the full story here.

8:07 a.m. ET, April 29, 2020

Russian PM says "impossible to give an exact date" for reopening borders or lifting Covid-19 restrictions

From CNN’s Nathan Hodge

Russia's Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin chairs a meeting via video link in Moscow on April 29.
Russia's Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin chairs a meeting via video link in Moscow on April 29. Alexander Astafyev/TASS/Getty Images

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Wednesday it was “impossible to give an exact date” for lifting of Covid-19 restrictions in Russia, including reopening the country’s borders.

In a meeting of the government’s coordinating council for combating the spread of coronavirus, Mishustin said:

It is still impossible to give an exact date when the restrictions imposed due to coronavirus can be completely removed, including at the borders of the Russian Federation.”

The Russian government previously barred entry to foreigners through April 30 to halt the spread of coronavirus, but Mishustin said he had signed a government decree extending border closings “until the fight against infection is complete and the epidemiological situation improves,” although he did not give further specifics.

Mishustin added that some exceptions would be granted to specialists who maintain specialized equipment needed for manufacturing essential items to fight coronavirus.

8:01 a.m. ET, April 29, 2020

California Governor: "It's not back to normal, it's modified"

From CNN's Stella Chan

The post quarantine school year could see changes such as staggering start times, modified recess times, and no cafeteria for lunch period, said California Governor Gavin Newsom in a taped interview on NBC’s Today show

In order to get the economy going, parents must get back to work, he said.

"It's not back to normal, it's modified," he said.

He warned that people needed to take the next phase seriously to avoid a second wave of infections, after crowds packed beaches over the weekend.

"I'm worried we can erase all the gains in a very short period of time," he added.

The federal government has been responsive to the state’s requests and does not want to politicize this dire situation because so many lives are at risk.

The Governor emphasizes his reliance on data and reiterated the importance of taking guidelines seriously. He pointed to the packed beaches over the weekend and cautioned that the virus does not take a vacation; if people are not careful, the state could face a second wave of cases.

7:49 a.m. ET, April 29, 2020

When your classroom is a car in a near-empty parking lot

From CNN's Harmeet Kaur

Every Sunday since the coronavirus lockdown started, Stephanie Anstey drives 20 minutes from her home in Grottoes, Virginia, to sit in her school's near-empty parking lot and type away on her laptop.

Anstey, a middle school history teacher, lives in a valley between two mountains, where the only available home internet option is a satellite connection. Her emails can take 30 seconds to load, only to quit mid-message. She can't even open files on Google Drive, let alone upload lesson modules or get on a Zoom call with colleagues.

"You just have to plan," Anstey said. "It's not a Monday through Friday job anymore." 

So Anstey's new office is in her car in the corner of the parking lot where the WiFi signal is strongest. She comes here when she needs to upload instructional videos, answer emails from students and parents or participate in the occasional video conferencing call. It's not ideal, she says, but using her slow internet at home is even more frustrating. 

Anstey's predicament casts a new light on a longstanding digital divide that is being made even starker by the coronavirus pandemic. 

More than 18 million Americans -- about 5.6% of the US population -- lack access to high-speed internet, according to the Federal Communications Commission. (Many technology experts dispute the agency's figures -- the company BroadbandNow says the real number is more than double that.)

Pockets of poor connectivity can be found in both small towns and cities, particularly in low-income urban areas. But those living in rural areas and tribal lands are especially likely to have slower speeds, spottier coverage and fewer internet service providers to choose from -- forcing people like Anstey to travel to cafes, libraries and parking lots for a reliable connection.

Read more:

7:48 a.m. ET, April 29, 2020

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall is ballet-dancing her way through lockdown

From CNN's Lianne Kolirin

You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but it's never too late to become a dancing swan. 

So says Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, who has revealed that she is learning ballet, despite being in her 70s. 

Prince Charles' wife, the new vice-patron of ballet education organization the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), said she took up the discipline after some initial skepticism. 

The 72-year-old duchess made her surprise confession in a video call to promote Silver Swans online classes, which aim to encourage over-55s to try ballet during the coronavirus lockdown. 

Believed to be spending lockdown at the couple's home on the Balmoral estate in Scotland, Camilla was filmed in front of a fireplace topped with a circular mirror. 

When asked how she was passing the time, she described it as "very peculiar," adding that everything in her diary had been "scratched out."

Of the Prince of Wales, who recently recovered from a mild case of coronavirus, she said: "My husband is a workaholic so he will work wherever he is. He's sitting at his desk now working away. 

"We try and do something for all our charities most days to try and give them a bit of encouragement and just try to lend our support."

Read more:

7:46 a.m. ET, April 29, 2020

108 UK health and social care workers have died from coronavirus

From CNN's Simon Cullen

Eighty-five National Health Service (NHS) staff and 23 social care workers in the UK have died from coronavirus, says the country’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

“My deepest sympathies are with their families and their friends at what is an incredibly difficult time. And we will continue to do whatever it takes to support them,” Raab told the House of Commons, the lower house in the UK parliament.

The government has faced criticism from many frontline workers over a lack of personal protective equipment.

The UK has recorded more than 160,000 coronavirus cases and almost 22,000 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

7:45 a.m. ET, April 29, 2020

Nearly $1 billion of GE earnings was wiped out by coronavirus

From CNN’s Matt Egan

General Electric's turnaround has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.  The conglomerate said Wednesday it burned through $2.2 billion of cash during the first quarter as its jet engine business got slammed by a "rapid decline" in global commercial aviation demand in March. 

GE estimated the health crisis wiped out about $900 million of its earnings and hit free cash flow by around $1 billion. 

"The impact from Covid-19 materially challenged our first-quarter results, especially in Aviation, where we saw a dramatic decline in commercial aerospace as the virus spread globally in March," CEO Larry Culp said in a statement.  

Prior to the crisis, GE was enjoying a comeback driven by efforts to slim down its portfolio, clean up its balance sheet and generate free cash flow by improving its operations. Even GE's critics credited Culp with saving the company from disaster. 

Yet GE's industrial free cash flow burn rate nearly doubled during the first quarter as the pandemic struck. Its adjusted profit dropped by a deeper-than-feared 62%. 

Earnings at GE's aviation, financial services and renewable energy divisions all fell. GE Power swung to a loss of $129 million. The only division to grow its bottom line was GE Healthcare, which makes MRI machines, CT scans and other medical equipment.