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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7:53 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Central African Republic has just three ventilators to deal with Covid-19

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London

The Central African Republic (CAR) has only three ventilators for a population of five million, leaving the country facing a difficult battle against coronavirus, the Norwegian Refugee Council said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Three ventilators in a country of five million people is setting the country up for catastrophe,” said David Manan, Norwegian Refugee Council Country Director in the CAR, in the statement.

“Covid-19 has the potential to tear through the Central African Republic at lightning speed if the country doesn’t get the support it needs to adequately protect itself against the virus."

CAR has had six cases of the virus diagnosed so far, all of which were imported, but there is a concern that the virus may have been spreading undetected due to a lack of tests in the country.

“When rich nations are in panic mode, stating that thousands of ventilators will not be enough, it just brings to light how poorer nations like the Central African Republic don’t stand a chance in the fight against Covid-19,” added Manan.

7:48 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

South Korea to begin new school year with online classes on April 9

From CNN's Sophie Jeong and Akanksha Sharma

A volunteer sprays disinfectant outside an elementary school in Pohang, South Korea, on March 21.
A volunteer sprays disinfectant outside an elementary school in Pohang, South Korea, on March 21. SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg/Getty Images

South Korea is to restart its school year with online classes beginning on April 9, the Ministry of Education announced Tuesday.

Some grades will start on April 9, while other grades will begin on April 16 or 20, according to the announcement. 

Classes in South Korea have been postponed three times because of the coronavirus outbreak. They were previously set to start on April 6.

"The opening of schools online will be implemented for the first time at all elementary, middle, high and special-education schools nationwide, except kindergartens,” said a press release from the Ministry of Education.

“Kindergartens will extend the closure of the new semester until the standards for starting school are met," said education minister Yoo Eun-hae, at a press briefing Tuesday. 

South Korea's university entrance exam, the College Scholastic Ability Test, will take place on December 3, two weeks later than originally planned, she added.

7:43 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

UK cabinet ministers hold videoconference meeting due to coronavirus

From CNN's David Wilkinson in London

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet met entirely via videoconference for the first time on Tuesday, due to the spread of coronavirus among government officials.

“Ministers all appeared on a single digital screen, in a meeting chaired by the Prime Minister,” said 10 Downing Street in a statement. 

Only the cabinet secretary and a small number of officials attended the meeting in person, “observing social distancing rules on keeping two metres apart,” added the statement.

The meeting focused on the Covid-19 situation around the UK.

Judging by the rising number of deaths, the Prime Minister emphasized the need for people to say at home and practice social distancing.  

“The situation is going to get worse before it gets better -- but it will get better,” he said in the statement.

Johnson and health secretary Matt Hancock were diagnosed with the virus last Friday.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson chairs the morning Covid-19 Meeting remotely on Saturday, March 28, after testing positive for the virus.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson chairs the morning Covid-19 Meeting remotely on Saturday, March 28, after testing positive for the virus. Andrew Parsons/Handout/10 Downing Street/AP

7:34 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Belarus reports first coronavirus death

From CNN’s Mary Ilyushina in Moscow

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko confirmed the first coronavirus-related death in the country on Tuesday, according to state-run news agency Belta.

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko pictured at a meeting in Yerevan, Armenia, in October 2019.
Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko pictured at a meeting in Yerevan, Armenia, in October 2019. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

A 75-year-old actor who had tested positive for Covid-19 died in Vitebsk, reported Belta, adding that the man had additional health problems.

“His wife is healthy, their daughter is healthy, because their immune system is strong," said Lukashenko. "He, the poor fellow, did not survive, he had severe pneumonia and was on a ventilator.” 

7:30 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Spain sees record increase in Covid-19 fatalities

From CNN’s Max Ramsay in London

Mortuary employees and a priest stand outside the Fuencarral cemetery in Madrid before the burial of a coronavirus victim on March 29.
Mortuary employees and a priest stand outside the Fuencarral cemetery in Madrid before the burial of a coronavirus victim on March 29. Baldesca Samper/AFP/Getty Images

Spain registered a record number of coronavirus-related fatalities over the past 24 hours, with 849 deaths taking the country's total to 8,189, according to data released on Tuesday.

The health ministry said 5,891 new active cases had been recorded in the past 24 hours, a significantly larger increase than previous numbers.

However, it is not a new record, and is far smaller in percentage terms than the numbers recorded up to the middle of last week.

There are currently 66,966 active cases in Spain. The country has had a total of 94,417 recorded cases since the start of the epidemic.

Health officials suggest that the country's numbers are stabilizing, saying: "If we are not at the peak, then we are very close."

7:28 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Twelve-year-old girl dies from coronavirus in Belgium

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

A 12-year-old girl has died from the coronavirus in Belgium, a spokeswoman for the Belgian Health ministry told CNN.

The spokeswoman said the unnamed girl died on Monday; she refused to provide any further details in order to respect the privacy of the family.

Emmanuel André, the Belgian government's spokesperson for the fight against coronavirus, was visibly moved when he spoke to Belgian TV about the case.

"This is an emotionally difficult moment because it affects a child and it also affects the medical and scientific community," he said. "We are especially thinking of her family and loved ones.”

It is a "very rare event that upsets us," said André.

7:00 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Do you need to wear a mask? Growing number of health experts argue people should cover up

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

A woman wearing a face mask walks through a market in Banda Aceh, Indonesia on March 24.
A woman wearing a face mask walks through a market in Banda Aceh, Indonesia on March 24. Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP/Getty Images

As people around the world do their bit to help stop the spread of coronavirus -- by social distancing, working from home, or other means -- one question looms large: Should we be wearing masks when we do go out?

The World Health Organization on Monday stood by its recommendation that you only need to wear a mask if you are sick or caring for someone else who is sick.

But a growing number of other health experts argue that people should wear masks to help prevent the spread of the virus.

"We are not going to be wearing masks forever, but it could be for a short period of time after we get back into gear. I could see something like that happening for a period of time," said President Donald Trump, during Monday's White House briefing.

A source close to the coronavirus task force told CNN the idea of asking Americans to wear masks for a period of time during the pandemic was likely to be under serious discussion.

And the Washington Post reports that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is seriously considering changing its guidelines when it comes to mask use by the general public.

A man wearing a face mask walks dogs on March 24 in New York City.
A man wearing a face mask walks dogs on March 24 in New York City. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, wrote in a Twitter thread Sunday that "members of the general public should wear non-medical fabric masks when going out in public in one additional societal effort to slow the spread of the virus down."

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, also wrote in a Twitter post Sunday that a recommendation from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "for consumers to wear cotton masks (with guidelines on how to fashion these products from household items) can improve safety and reduce spread and not strain the hospital supply chain."

WHO and 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 healthcare workers who need them most.

The US CDC currently recommends that if you are not sick, "you do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick." Yet in China, where the pandemic began, the Chinese CDC has recommended that people "wear a mask when going out."

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

A study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection in 2013 found that surgical masks could help reduce exposure to infectious influenza virus in the air. 

Preliminary data on how the virus shed from 13 Covid-19 patients at the University of Nebraska Medical Center supports "the use of airborne isolation precautions," such as masks. That early data currently is not published in a peer-reviewed journal.

6:30 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Iran reports 3,000 new cases of coronavirus in one day 

From CNN's Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

Mourners attend the funeral of a victim who died after being infected with coronavirus, at a cemetery outside Tehran, Iran, on March 30.
Mourners attend the funeral of a victim who died after being infected with coronavirus, at a cemetery outside Tehran, Iran, on March 30. Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

Iran has recorded 3,111 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 44,606, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpoor told Iranian state television on Tuesday.

Jahanpoor said there had been 141 additional coronavirus-related deaths, bringing Iran's death toll to 2,898.

He added that 14,656 patients have so far been released from hospitals across the country, while another 3,703 hospitalized patients remained in critical condition.

6:22 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

US reports highest daily death count

From CNN's Joe Sutton

Refrigeration units intended as makeshift morgues are seen parked behind Belleview Hospital Center in New York City on March 30.
Refrigeration units intended as makeshift morgues are seen parked behind Belleview Hospital Center in New York City on March 30. John Nacion/NurPhoto/Getty Images

At least 575 coronavirus deaths were reported in the United States on Monday, according to a count by CNN Health.

This is the most reported deaths in the US in a single day since the coronavirus outbreak began.

There have been a total of 3,004 virus-related deaths reported in the US during the outbreak.

On Monday, President Donald Trump said the country was facing a "vital 30 days" ahead, during which the results of his efforts to contain the virus would become known.

"Our future is in our own hands, and the choices and sacrifices we make will determine the fate of this virus and really the fate of our victory," said Trump.

The more Americans dedicate themselves now to social distancing, the quicker the country can return to normal, he said.

US social distancing guidelines were extended by another 30 days, to April 30, on Sunday.