March 31 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Joshua Berlinger, Mike Hayes and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 9:48 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020
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11:08 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

German scientists have developed a coronavirus testing method that could increase test capacity tenfold

From CNN's Fred Pleitgen in Berlin

German scientists have developed a method that could dramatically increase the capacity to test for coronavirus, the Science Ministry of the German State of Hessen says.

The new method allows for several samples to be evaluated at once, the Ministry wrote in a press release, adding that this will allow for an “increase in the test capacity in Germany from about 40,000 tests per day to about 200,000 to 400,000 tests per day without any loss of quality in the diagnostics.”

Normally, the various swabs taken during currents tests from the mouth and nose area and all separately evaluated. With the new method, scientists put several of the probes into a single, special solution and test them with the so-called PCR method, which directly detects the SARS-CoV-2 genome. If the total result is negative, then it is clear that the separate swabs are all negative, the press release says and adds, “if the result is positive, then all the swabs have to be evaluated separately.”

11:08 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

London IKEA will house a coronavirus testing facility 

From CNN’s Nada Bashir in London

Britain's NHS workers wait in their cars to be tested for COVID-19 at a drive-in facility set up in the car park of an IKEA store in Wembley, north-west London on Tuesday, March 31.
Britain's NHS workers wait in their cars to be tested for COVID-19 at a drive-in facility set up in the car park of an IKEA store in Wembley, north-west London on Tuesday, March 31. Isabel Infates/AFP/Getty Images

A new coronavirus testing facility for National Health Service (NHS) staff is to be established within an IKEA in North London, an IKEA spokesperson confirmed to CNN Tuesday.

"We’re enormously proud of the NHS and proud to be able to offer Wembley as an additional medical facility," IKEA’s spokesperson said in a statement, later confirming to CNN that the new site would be available only to NHS staff.

"We have also responded to requests from Intensive Care Units and doctors across the country by delivering tens of thousands of our disposable paper tape measures, to help them continue their amazing care for their patients,” the statement continued, adding that IKEA has so far donated food to local hospitals, food banks and shelters "to provide some immediate relief" to those in need.

The announcement comes just days after IKEA launched a new €26 million fund to be used across 30 countries, "prioritizing the needs of high-risk groups and those leading relief efforts" in the fight against COVID-19.

11:07 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

The UAE opens drive-through coronavirus screening facility

From Nada Altaher in Abu Dhabi

Salem Omar woke up with a sore throat on Tuesday morning, so he put on his traditional white Emirati thob and headed straight to the United Arab Emirates’ latest Covid-19 testing facility: a drive-through. 

Instructions blasted through a designated FM radio channel while doctors and nurses whizzed around in scrubs and face-masks, taking nose swabs, printing labels, and stacking up samples to send to a nearby lab.

“In order to ensure my safety and the kids and the family, I decided I would come and do the test as to avoid any risk to other people,” says Omar.

Just 24 hours later, the results would be sent to him via text message.

The UAE is the fifth country in the world to set up drive-through Covid-19 testing, part of an intensive drive to carry out mass screenings for the virus.

The oil-rich state has the second-highest testing density globally. It is screening some 22,900 cases per million people and has conducted over 220,000 tests overall, according to the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP).

In just the last week, the UAE more than tripled its purchase of testing kits – from 30,000 to 100,000 – from Seegene, one of its main South Korean suppliers, according to Jeehoon Park, the company’s Middle East Executive Director.

The UAE was the first country in the Middle East to report a confirmed case of Covid-19. As of March 31 the UAE has registered 664 cases and four deaths from the pandemic, according to MOHAP.

10:45 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

At least 66 doctors in Italy have died during coronavirus pandemic

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite and Nicola Ruotolo

Five more doctors have died in Italy from coronavirus, the Italian Federation of doctors said on Tuesday.

There have now been at least 66 deaths of doctors since the outbreak in Italy started. 

At least 8,956 health care workers have been infected with Covid-19. That’s an increase of more that 500 cases in the past few days.

10:40 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Consumer confidence falls to near 3-year low during coronavirus pandemic

From CNN's Anneken Tappe

Consumer confidence in March was a mix of good news and bad news.

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index for March came in at 120 points and beat economist’s expectations of 110 points. That's the good news.

The bad news: It was the lowest level for the index since July 2017. The index had been at 132.6 in February.

The short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions dropped to 88.2 points from 108.1 points in February.

"The intensification of Covid-19 and extreme volatility in the financial markets have increased uncertainty about the outlook for the economy and jobs. March’s decline in confidence is more in line with a severe contraction – rather than a temporary shock – and further declines are sure to follow,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board.

10:36 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Fauci: If there's a second wave of coronavirus, US "will be much, much better prepared"

 Dr. Anthony Fauci
 Dr. Anthony Fauci CNN

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House's coronavirus task force, said the US could see a "second wave" of coronavirus — but he insisted "we will be much, much better prepared" for that possible outbreak.

"If we do have a second wave — which as I've mentioned publicly, I think there's a reasonably good chance we will given the pervasiveness of this infection and its transmissibility — I don't think at all it will be as bad because we have several things in our favor," he told CNN.

Fauci said the US will be more prepared and have better equipment. Drugs that are in clinical trials could also be available during a possible second wave, and a vaccine could be developed, he said.

"I can say with some confidence that, if we indeed get that second wave, we will be much, much better prepared than we are right now," Fauci said.
10:34 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

White House coronavirus task force will discuss mask guidelines today, Fauci says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

The US’s top infectious disease expert said that a broad use of masks is being considered during the coronavirus pandemic, once the supply of masks is sufficient for health care workers. 

“Once we get in a situation where we have enough masks, I believe there will be some very serious consideration about more broadening this recommendation of using masks,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CNN. “We're not there yet, but I think we're close to coming to some determination.” 

Fauci said they will discuss mask guidelines this afternoon at the White House coronavirus task force meeting. 

World Health Organization officials yesterday said they still recommend people not wear face masks unless they are sick with coronavirus or caring for someone who is sick.

10:28 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Fauci: We see "glimmers" that social distancing is working

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said social distancing measures appear to be working — but stressed that the coronavirus pandemic is still a very serious situation. 

“We’re starting to see glimmers that that is actually having some dampening effect,” Fauci told CNN’s Jim Sciutto.

Fauci cautioned that the US hasn’t seen a turnaround in cases yet, but is hopeful that efforts to push mitigation is possibly slowing the rate. 

“What we're starting to see right now is just the inklings. And I don't want to put too much stock on it, because you don't want to get overconfident, you just want to keep pushing in what you're doing. You're starting to see that the daily increases are not in that steep incline, they're starting to be able to possibly flatten out,” Fauci says.


10:08 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Fired Amazon worker who led coronavirus protest says he intends to file a complaint

From CNN’s Brian Fung

Workers at Amazon's fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, gather outside to protest work conditions in the company's warehouse,on Monday, March 30.
Workers at Amazon's fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, gather outside to protest work conditions in the company's warehouse,on Monday, March 30. Bebeto Matthews/AP

Christian Smalls, the Amazon warehouse employee who was fired on Monday after leading a worker walkout, told CNN he intends to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over his termination. 

Smalls did not give a timeframe for the complaint, saying his first priority is to persuade local government officials to force Amazon to shut down the Staten Island facility where multiple employees have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. 

“All I can say is, legal action will be taken in due time,” Smalls told CNN.

Amazon has said Smalls was fired because he attended Monday’s worker protest despite being under quarantine. 

"Mr. Smalls was found to have had close contact with a diagnosed associate with a confirmed case of Covid-19 and was asked to remain home with pay for 14 days, which is a measure we're taking at sites around the world," said Amazon spokesperson Kristen Kish in a statement Monday night. "Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite today, March 30, putting the teams at risk."

Smalls has argued he is being singled out for punishment and that the protest was intended to pressure Amazon to close the facility for deep cleaning.