April 15 coronavirus news

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8:08 a.m. ET, April 15, 2020

Japan could see 400,000 deaths if coronavirus is not contained

From CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki

Hokkaido University professor Dr. Hiroshi Nishiura, center, speaks in Tokyo on April 15.
Hokkaido University professor Dr. Hiroshi Nishiura, center, speaks in Tokyo on April 15. Kyodo News/Getty Images

More than 400,000 people could die of Covid-19 in Japan if nothing is done to contain the virus, according to a report released Wednesday by the Japanese Health Ministry and reported by public broadcaster NHK.  

The report also says 850,000 patients would need ventilators.

"If we receive the outbreak without any weapon to protect ourselves, the number of severe cases will exceed existing number of ventilators," Dr. Hiroshi Nishiura said, the head of the panel.

"All Japanese must change the pattern of action and help us to stop this outbreak as soon as possible," he added.

Some context: Japan officially declared a state of emergency on April 7, months after the first domestic cases of the virus appeared. On Wednesday a public health emergency was issued for all of Japan by the commander of the US Forces Japan (USFJ) amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

8:09 a.m. ET, April 15, 2020

Fauci says number of coronavirus testing is "far, far greater" than 2-3 weeks ago

From CNN's Health Gisela Crespo

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus at the White House on April 13.
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus at the White House on April 13. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the number of testing done in the US for coronavirus is "far, far greater" than two to three weeks ago. 

"I believe the last number we spoke about the day before yesterday or today was close to or even at or beyond 3 million tests," Fauci said this morning on NBC. "That's really far, far greater than we were two or three weeks ago."

Fauci said the country is continuing to escalate and accelerate testing capabilities "so that we would be able to have a significant number, measured in the millions, of tests each week."

8:01 a.m. ET, April 15, 2020

Czech government announces further easing of coronavirus restrictions 

From Tomas Etzler in Prague and Sarah Dean in London 

Commuters wearing face masks make their way through a metro station in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, on April 15.
Commuters wearing face masks make their way through a metro station in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, on April 15. Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Ima

The Czech government has announced a further easing of the containment measures it put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Final year university students can return to class next week, and primary schools may reopen at the end of May, the government announced on Tuesday evening.

Starting in June, secondary and high schools can open for one-on-one teacher-pupil consultations. Students will also be allowed to take high school graduation exams and high school entry exams, but schools are not expected to fully reopen until September.

Next week, the government will allow some businesses, including farmers’ markets and car dealerships, to reopen.

Weddings can also take place from next week, provided that fewer than 10 people attend.

Restaurants, pubs and wine shops offering goods for immediate consumption can open at the end of May, if they have an outdoor patio or takeout options.

Museums, galleries and zoos can also open their outdoor installations at the end of May.

In June, retail shops, hotels and other accommodation services will be allowed to reopen.

The government did not provide an explanation as to how they arrived at these new measures.

There are 6,151 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Czech Republic, the country's health ministry said. At least 161 people have died as a result of the virus.

7:52 a.m. ET, April 15, 2020

Tour de France postponed until end of August

From CNN’s Aleks Klosok in London

Cyclists ride down the Champs Elysees during the last stage of the 106th edition of the Tour de France in Paris, on July 28, 2019.
Cyclists ride down the Champs Elysees during the last stage of the 106th edition of the Tour de France in Paris, on July 28, 2019. Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images

Cycling’s most famous race, the Tour de France, has been postponed until late August due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Cycling Union (UCI) said on Wednesday.

It will now run from Saturday August 29 to Sunday September 20.

The move means the prestigious race will not take place in its traditional June-to-July slot for the first time since it restarted after World War II.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that no large-scale public events would take place in the country until mid-July, as part of measures to contain the outbreak.

“Holding this event in the best conditions possible is judged essential given its central place in cycling’s economy and its exposure, in particular for the teams that benefit on this occasion from unparalleled visibility,” the UCI said in a statement.

Tour organisers have said that the event will follow the same route as originally planned, from Nice to Paris, and that an agreement had been reached with all the different parties involved, from local communities to public authorities.

Along with the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, the Tour de France makes up cycling's prestigious three-week-long “Grand Tours”.

The UCI added that Italy's Giro and Spain's Vuelta would follow the Tour in a revised calendar, with dates yet to be confirmed. The UCI Road World Championships in Martigny, Switzerland, will go ahead as scheduled from Sunday 20 – Sunday 27 September.

7:43 a.m. ET, April 15, 2020

Airlines in China lost nearly $5 billion last quarter because of coronavirus

From CNN Business' Laura He

Air China planes sit on the tarmac at Beijing Capital Airport on March 27, in Beijing, China.
Air China planes sit on the tarmac at Beijing Capital Airport on March 27, in Beijing, China. Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

Airlines in China lost billions of dollars last quarter as the coronavirus pandemic took its toll on air travel.

The country's airlines lost 33.62 billion yuan ($4.8 billion) in the first quarter of 2020, according to figures released by the Civil Aviation Administration of China on Wednesday. Passenger traffic plunged 54% to just over 74 million passengers.

The nation's entire aviation industry -- including airlines and airport operators -- lost 39.82 billion yuan ($5.6 billion) in the quarter, the regulator said.

The agency has taken steps to prop up the struggling sector, including lowering some fees for airlines, like charges to park and land at airports. It said Wednesday that it will continue to keep an eye on the development of the outbreak.

7:42 a.m. ET, April 15, 2020

Wave of infections hits German cancer ward

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

An exterior view shows the The University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Hain 2018.
An exterior view shows the The University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Hain 2018. Shutterstock

A cancer ward in a German hospital has been hit by an outbreak of coronavirus cases.

Around 20 patients and 20 employees tested positive for Covid-19 at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) last week, the hospital confirmed to CNN on Wednesday.

Some of those patients are still being cared for at the Hamburg hospital, while others have since been sent home.

''The exact chain of infection is currently being investigated at full speed and cannot be traced back to a single person," a UKE spokesperson said.

All the patients on the oncology ward were tested after the first infection became known, the UKE said. Infected patients were transferred to specific Covid-19 wards to continue their treatment.

Staff members from a wide range of professions tested positive for the virus and are currently in isolation at home, the hospital statement concluded. 

Hamburg is one of Germany's coronavirus hotspots. A total of 3,869 people in the city have been infected with the virus and 67 have died, according to figures released Wednesday by the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's disease control and prevention agency.

7:26 a.m. ET, April 15, 2020

Europe needs "new Marshall Plan" to respond to coronavirus

The President of European Commission Ursula von der Leyen holds a press conference at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 15.
The President of European Commission Ursula von der Leyen holds a press conference at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 15. John Thys/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The EU’s new long-term budget will need to be a “strong” response to the coronavirus crisis, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says.

“I’ve often said in the past that Europe needs a new Marshall Plan,” she said, referring to the multi-billion dollar American stimulus package to rebuild Europe after World War II. “We’ll need massive public and private investment to revive the economy, reconstruct it and to create new jobs.”

“The key to this is a strong new EU budget. The budget has the advantage that it enjoys the confidence, the trust of all member states.”

“This new seven-year budget has to distinguish itself from the previous ones. It will be different. It will be the European response to the coronavirus crisis.”

European Council President Charles Michel said Europe was facing a “huge and unprecedented” crisis.

He said the bloc’s leaders would have to focus on “the need – the absolutely necessity – to develop a massive investment strategy” to rebuild once the coronavirus crisis passes.

7:23 a.m. ET, April 15, 2020

Scammers arrested for selling virus testing kits illegally

From CNN’s Hilary McGann in London

A view of the National Crime Agency (NCA) building in London, in 2018.
A view of the National Crime Agency (NCA) building in London, in 2018. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images/Getty Images

Two scammers capitalising on the pandemic in the UK by illegally selling testing kits have been arrested, a statement from the National Crime Agency (NCA) said on Wednesday.

A pharmacist was arrested and £20,000 ($25,000) was seized in South London on Saturday under the Fraud Act 2006. The 46-year-old is accused of making “false and misleading claims about the tests’ capability.”

Separately, a 39-year-old surveyor was found with 250 Covid-19 testing kits in his car and was arrested after telling investigators “he was planning on selling the kits to construction workers,” the statement said.

Both were released on conditional bail. 

The NCA also said it had taken down a website designed to fool people “into buying suspected non-existent” personal protection equipment (PPE) via phishing emails.

“Criminals capitalise on fear and anxiety and they will exploit any opportunity, no matter how awful, to line their pockets,” said the NCA's Director of Investigations, Nikki Holland, adding that such scams “completely undermine the nation’s collective response to the pandemic and actually endangers lives.”

The British government has been criticized for failing to provide mass testing and PPE for healthcare workers and the public.

7:00 a.m. ET, April 15, 2020

Moscow's digital tracking system caused crowding on public transport

From CNN's Nathan Hodge

A police checks a commuter's documents at the entrance to a Moscow metro station on Wednesday.
A police checks a commuter's documents at the entrance to a Moscow metro station on Wednesday. Mikhail Tereshchenko/TASS/Getty Images

The mayor of Moscow has admitted that the rollout of a new digital tracking system to enforce its coronavirus lockdown has caused crowding on public transportation, after images surfaced on Russian social media of large lines forming outside subway entrances as police checked passes.

“This morning, due to verification activities conducted by the GUVD [police], queues formed in the metro, something very critical in the current situation,” Sergey Sobyanin said in a statement on Twitter on Wednesday.

The new system officially went into operation Wednesday, requiring Muscovites and residents of the Moscow region to download a QR code so they can move around the Russian capital.

A Moscow metro passenger displays an electronic pass Tuesday with a QR code on a phone.
A Moscow metro passenger displays an electronic pass Tuesday with a QR code on a phone. Moscow News Agency/AP

Opposition activists warned the new system will lead to unprecedented government intrusion.

For example, the permit website prompts all users to register at or link their existing page to a government e-portal, which stores user data on traffic fines, utility bills, foreign passports and so on. Users also need to disclose their points of origin and destination, their employer tax identifier, car plate number and upload their IDs.

Daria Besedina and Maxim Katz, local opposition lawmakers who voted against the system, dubbed it a "cyber Gulag" and "digital concentration camp," criticizing the authorities for mixed messaging about the coronavirus.

“I talked with the head of the Central Internal Affairs Directorate and asked them to organize work in such a way that further inspections would not lead to mass crowds of people," Sobyanin, the mayor, said on Twitter.

He added that crowds had lessened and work was resuming at a normal pace. 

“In the future it will be necessary to move to automated control,” he said. “We’ll think about how to do this.”