April 1 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Tara John, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 9:37 p.m. ET, April 1, 2020
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8:27 a.m. ET, April 1, 2020

Cardiologists urge patients to keep taking blood pressure medications despite questions around coronavirus risk

(From CNN's Jacqueline Howard)

Two new viewpoint papers published in the Journal of the American Heart Association today turn a spotlight on how certain blood pressure medications may be associated with more severe Covid-19 infections — but still, it is important that patients continue taking their medications as prescribed, they say.

The papers focus on the types of drugs known as ACE inhibitors or ACEIs and angiotensin receptor blockers or ARBs, which "upregulate" an enzyme called ACE2.

It turns out that the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 enters the body's cells through ACE2. Therefore there has been some speculation that heart and blood pressure medications that influence ACE2 could put patients at increased risk of severe Covid-19 infections — but until more research is conducted, doctors urge patients to keep taking their medicine.

"Taken together, ACE2 plays a protective role in both cardiovascular diseases and acute lung injury. For uninfected patients, we tend to believe it is unnecessary to discontinue ACEIs/ARBs given the lack of evidence to support the hypothesis that ACEIs/ARBs might lead to an increased risk of SARS‐CoV‐2 infection," authors Junyi Guo, Zheng Huang, Li Lin and Jiagao Lv wrote in one of the papers published Wednesday. The authors are from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus pandemic began.

They added that infected patients also should not discontinue their medications but there is no immediate need for an infected patient not already taking the medication to initiate use.

Both papers call for more research into this issue.

 

8:17 a.m. ET, April 1, 2020

There are at least 186,014 coronavirus cases in the US

From CNN's Amanda Watts

According to CNN Health's tally of US cases that are detected and tested through US public health systems, there are at least 186,014 cases of coronavirus in the US.

At least 3,848 people have died in the US from coronavirus. 

The total includes cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as all repatriated cases.

Wyoming is the only state not reporting a death from coronavirus. 

8:15 a.m. ET, April 1, 2020

Finnish Prime Minister admits some things have not gone perfectly

From CNNs Schams Elwazer and Stephanie Halasz in London

Prime Minister Sanna Marin speaks during a press conference on March 16.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin speaks during a press conference on March 16. Antti Aimo-Koivisto/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has admitted some aspects of the coronavirus management have not gone perfectly in her country, according to the Finnish public broadcaster YLE.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Sanna Marin admitted things had not gone well at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, where thousands of travellers have arrived without clear instructions on how and whether or not they should self-isolate, YLE reports. 

"Information has not flowed as it should and co-ordination has not worked as it should," said Marin.

At the same press conference, Social Services Minister Krista Kiuru announced that testing capacity would be doubled in the near future from the current level of 2,500 tests per day, according to YLE. 

Health Minister Aino-Kaisa Pekonen said that Finland had already spent hundreds of millions of euros on acquiring protective equipment for healthcare workers, and the first consignments would arrive this week. She said there was no shortage on a national level, but noted that there were regional differences in the availability of protective kits, says YLE.

This comes as the Finnish government announced Wednesday that all restaurants must be closed in the country starting Saturday, according to the Finnish government website. 

“The restrictions will remain in force until the end of May. The restrictions apply to all restaurant operations except for preparing food for take away and for delivery by food couriers. The restrictions do not apply to canteens or restaurants that are essential for food supply such as canteens in schools, hospitals and similar establishments, or personnel restaurants that serve in-house personnel only,” a government statement reads.

8:05 a.m. ET, April 1, 2020

US Surgeon general says mask recommendations could change

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams speaks to the press on March 20.
US Surgeon General Jerome Adams speaks to the press on March 20. Alex Wong/Getty Images

US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams confirmed during an appearance on Good Morning America today that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is “taking another look” at whether healthy people should wear masks to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“Initially, the CDC, the World Health Organization and my office recommended against the general public wearing masks based on the best available science at the time in terms of whether or not it prevented the wearer from catching coronavirus,” Adams told ABC’s Robin Roberts.

 Last month, Adams urged Americans to stop buying masks, tweeting, "They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can't get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!"

But today, Adams health officials have learned more about the virus, which could prompt them to change recommendations.

“Now we've learned about this disease — and we've always said we're going to learn more, we're going to adjust — and we’ve learned there’s a fair amount of asymptomatic spread and so we’ve asked the CDC to take another look at whether or not having more people wear masks will prevent transmission of the disease to other people,” Adams said. 

He added: “The CDC is looking at whether or not we should be recommending more people wear masks when they go out,” Adams said, adding a final point, “If you’re going to wear a face covering when you go out, please understand you still don’t need a N95 mask and if you take one of those N95 masks you may be taking it out of the hands of a health care worker who desperately needs it to care for patients.”

7:58 a.m. ET, April 1, 2020

Netherlands plans to expand Covid-19 testing capacity

From CNN’s Mick Krever in London

A coronavirus test kit is shown at the Amsterdam UMC in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on March 24.
A coronavirus test kit is shown at the Amsterdam UMC in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on March 24. Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

The Dutch government is working to expand Covid-19 testing for all medical workers and non-hospitalized patients who display symptoms.

“At the moment, around 4,000 tests per day are being carried out,” the Health Ministry said in a statement. “The larger capacity will lead to a broader test policy. Healthcare workers and non-hospitalized patients with complaints can now also be tested.”

The new policy will go into effect on April 6, and the ministry says it believes it will be capable of carrying out 17,500 tests per day by “mid-April.”

It added that the number of validated labs have been expanded -- from 15 to 41. Those labs will, if needed, be capable of carrying out 29,000 tests per day, due to extended working hours.

The expanded testing capacity will be primarily directed towards “nursing homes, care for the disabled, home care, youth care, and mental health care. General practitioners will also be able to test people in high-risk groups who display symptoms, or patients with a high need for care,” the statement said.

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.