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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8:05 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.

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