April 1 coronavirus news

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7:52 a.m. ET, April 1, 2020

Study finds interventions have saved tens of thousands of lives in 11 European countries

From CNN’s Tim Lister

Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images
Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images

A large-scale study has found that early interventions, such as social distancing and severe restrictions on peoples’ movement, have been critical in restraining the spread of coronavirus and have already saved tens of thousands of lives across Europe.

Scientists at Imperial College London studied interventions in 11 European countries, and concluded that they “have together had a substantial impact on transmission.” They estimate “that interventions across all 11 countries will have averted 59,000 deaths up to 31 March.”

The Imperial College researchers estimate that in Italy 38,000 deaths have been averted (as of March 31 that is nearly four times the number of deaths recorded); and in Spain 16,000 – compared to a situation in which restrictions had not been introduced. In Italy’s case, they say, “despite mounting pressure on health systems, interventions have averted a health care catastrophe.”

The researchers caution against relaxing restrictions, saying that “many more deaths will be averted through ensuring that interventions remain in place until transmission drops to low levels.” And they warn, “for most of the countries considered here it remains too early to be certain that recent interventions have been effective.”

The Imperial College group also believes that the number of positively identified cases of coronavirus is probably much smaller than the overall rate of infection. “We estimate that there have been many more infections than are currently reported,” they say, “due to the focus on testing in hospital settings rather than in the community.”

In Italy, their results suggest that 5.9 million people had been infected as of March 28, or 9.8% of the population. For Spain, they believe 15% of the population has been infected.

The study does warn that “many interventions have occurred only recently, and their effects have not yet been fully observed due to the time lag between infection and death.” Germany, for example, is estimated to have one of the lowest "attack rates" at 0.7%, with 600,000 people infected. But it is at an earlier stage in coronavirus spread than Spain or Italy.

Across the 11 countries, the researchers estimate an average "attack" or infection rate of 4.9%, which they say implies “that the populations in Europe are not close to herd immunity.”

But they strike a note of hope in their conclusions, saying: “we cannot say for certain that the current measures have controlled the epidemic in Europe; however, if current trends continue, there is reason for optimism.”

7:37 a.m. ET, April 1, 2020

Patients sent to western France to relieve Paris hospitals

From Ya Chun Wang in Paris

Medical staff wheel a patient to a high speed train at the Gare d'Austerlitz train station in Paris on April 1 to be evacuated to other hospitals in western France.
Medical staff wheel a patient to a high speed train at the Gare d'Austerlitz train station in Paris on April 1 to be evacuated to other hospitals in western France. Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images

Two medicalized high-speed trains are transferring 36 coronavirus patients from Paris to western France on Wednesday, in a bid to relieve the capital’s overburdened hospitals, the French Ministry of Health has announced.

The first of the trains, carrying 24 patients, left Austerlitz station in Paris and is headed to Saint-Brieuc and Brest in Brittany, a region less affected by the coronavirus epidemic.

The second train is expected to leave soon after for Rennes, north of Paris, carrying 12 more patients.

7:55 a.m. ET, April 1, 2020

Saudi Arabia calls on Muslims to wait before making Hajj plans

From CNN’s Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi and Tamara Qiblawi in Beirut.

The Kaaba in Mecca's Grand Mosque on March 13.
The Kaaba in Mecca's Grand Mosque on March 13. AFP via Getty Images

Muslims planning on attending the upcoming Islamic Hajj pilgrimage should put their plans on hold due to coronavirus, the Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammad Saleh bin Taher said on state television on Tuesday.

The Hajj pilgrimage attracts around 2.5 million people every year to Islam’s two holiest sites, Mecca and Medina.

The pilgrimage is not cancelled yet, but bin Taher told Muslims who are planning to attend the Hajj, set for July, to “be patient” before making their bookings.

If the government chooses to scrap this year’s pilgrimage, it would be the first canceled Hajj in centuries. 

"We are talking about a global pandemic and the Kingdom is completely prepared to protect the health of Muslims and citizens, therefore we have asked Muslims in countries to wait before finalizing Hajj contracts until the situation is clear," bin Taher told Al-Ekhbariyah channel.

Earlier in March, Saudi Arabia temporarily cancelled the year-long, and smaller, Umrah pilgrimage for the first time in its modern history.

Saudi Arabia’s total reported number of Covid-19 infected cases stands at 1,563, with 10 coronavirus-related deaths and 165 recoveries, according to its health ministry on Tuesday.

7:13 a.m. ET, April 1, 2020

Austrian unemployment at highest level since the end of World War II

From Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

People walk past a closed shop at the Naschmarkt market in Vienna, Austria, on March 30.
People walk past a closed shop at the Naschmarkt market in Vienna, Austria, on March 30. Herbert P. Oczeret/APA/AFP via Getty Images

Austrian unemployment numbers soared by two thirds to more than half a million people in March as the country introduced drastic restrictions on public life in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus. 

Austria's Public Employment Service (AMS) announced Wednesday in a statement sent to CNN that over 504,000 people in the country are currently without a job. This marked an 52.5% increase in unemployed people compared to the same month last year.

''Austria has not seen so many people unemployed since before 1946,'' an AMS spokeswoman told CNN. 

According to the statement, the increase is particularly noticeable in the catering and accommodation sectors, as well as in construction. It added that the transport and warehousing sectors have also been badly affected.

6:53 a.m. ET, April 1, 2020

Philippines police to escort health workers, following attacks

From CNN's Sandi Sidhu in Hong Kong

The Philippines central government has informed local police units to assist and escort all health workers to medical facilities, following reports of attacks, according to state-run media agency Philippines News Agency (PNA).

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said threatening the safety of health workers amid the health crisis is “unacceptable,” at a virtual press conference on Wednesday.

“Despite all the support and love our country has shown our health workers, it is unfortunate that we have received reports that these front-liners have come under attack,” Nograles said.  

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Archie Gamboa has directed police to provide assistance and security to health workers in the wake of attacks in the southern provinces of Cebu and Sultan Kudarat. 

“The PNP is committed to apply the full might of the law against those who dare to harm our health workers -- and will do whatever it takes to protect them from crime, violence, and any form of oppression and discrimination,” Gamboa said.

PNA reported that on March 27, a male nurse was reportedly splashed with chlorine while walking in Cebu City.

On the same day, a front-liner in a hospital in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat was attacked by a group of five who splattered bleach all over his face, according to PNA. 

6:46 a.m. ET, April 1, 2020

Iran's death toll passes 3,000

From Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

People attend a funeral for a coronavirus victim at a cemetery outside Tehran, Iran, on March 30.
People attend a funeral for a coronavirus victim at a cemetery outside Tehran, Iran, on March 30. Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

Iran has reported 138 more coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total death toll to 3,036, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpoor said on state television.

He added that 2,987 new cases of coronavirus have been reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 47,593 throughout Iran.

So far, 15,473 patients have recovered and have been released from hospitals across the country while 3,871 hospitalized patients are in critical condition, he said. 

6:33 a.m. ET, April 1, 2020

British American Tobacco works on potential vaccine

From CNN's Lauren Kent in London

British American Tobacco (BAT) is in pre-clinical testing for a potential Covid-19 vaccine that utilizes fast-growing tobacco plant technology, said the company in a statement Wednesday.

The vaccine is being developed by BAT biotechnology subsidiary Kentucky BioProcessing, in the United States. 

"If testing goes well, BAT is hopeful that, with the right partners and support from government agencies, between 1 and 3 million doses of the vaccine could be manufactured per week, beginning in June," the statement said. "Tobacco plants offer the potential for faster and safer vaccine development compared to conventional methods."

In 2014, Kentucky BioProcessing helped develop a treatment for Ebola.

The logo for Kentucky BioProcessing LLC is displayed at the facility in Owensboro, Kentucky, in August 2014.
The logo for Kentucky BioProcessing LLC is displayed at the facility in Owensboro, Kentucky, in August 2014. Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg/Getty Images

8:28 a.m. ET, April 1, 2020

Spain records more than 100,000 cases of coronavirus

From CNN’s Max Ramsey and Al Goodman

Health workers collect samples at a drive-through coronavirus testing center at Donostia Hospital in San Sebastian, Spain, on March 25.
Health workers collect samples at a drive-through coronavirus testing center at Donostia Hospital in San Sebastian, Spain, on March 25. Ander Gillenea/AFP/Getty Images

Spain has confirmed 102,136 cases of the virus and the biggest daily rise in coronavirus-related deaths, according to the latest data released on Wednesday by its health ministry. 

The country saw 864 coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, pushing up the total number of deaths in the country since the outbreak began to 9,053 people.

The total active infections, however, saw a smaller increase than Tuesday -- with 3,470 more cases, making a total of 70,436. It added that 22,647 people have recovered from the virus.

A headline on the international homepage of the CNN mobile app mis-stated the number of deaths in Spain. This has now been corrected.

5:57 a.m. ET, April 1, 2020

"Star Wars" actor Andrew Jack dies from the virus

From CNN's Max Ramsay in London

Andrew Jack, right, appeared in "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens," alongside Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford.
Andrew Jack, right, appeared in "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens," alongside Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. Lucasfilm/Bad Robot Productions

Andrew Jack, an actor who appeared in recent "Star Wars" films, died from Covid-19 complications on Tuesday morning, according to a statement from his agent.

Jack, who worked primarily as a dialect coach to stars including Chris Hemsworth, died at St. Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey, just outside London, his agent Jill McCullough said.

Jack’s wife was unable to be with him, as she is stuck in quarantine in Australia. McCullough added. “She was unable to see or talk to him at the end of his life and there is a chance a funeral may not be held,” she said.

“He was still working full pelt, currently coaching on the new 'Batman,'” the statement reads. “Dialect coaching isn’t just about being good at accents -- you need to make your actors feel safe and confident -- and Andrew’s actors adored him.”