April 2 coronavirus news

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4:54 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

It's "impossible" that North Korea has no coronavirus cases, top US general says

From CNN's Paula Hancocks in Seoul

In this file photo, US General Robert B. Abrams, commander of the United Nations Command, US Forces Korea and Combined Forces Command, speaks at a US Army base in Seoul on November 20, 2018.
In this file photo, US General Robert B. Abrams, commander of the United Nations Command, US Forces Korea and Combined Forces Command, speaks at a US Army base in Seoul on November 20, 2018. Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images

The top US general in South Korea says that he does not believe North Korea’s claim it has no cases of novel coronavirus. 

“That is an impossible claim based on all of the intel we have seen,” Gen. Robert Abrams, Commander of US Forces Korea (USFK), said in a joint interview with CNN and Voice of America.

“How many? I couldn’t tell you but I do know by their actions that for about 30 days in February, early March, that their military was locked down and they took draconian methods on their border crossings and in their formations.”

North Korea has not reported any coronavirus infections, but it borders two of the most heavily affected countries in the region -- China and South Korea.

While the 16th USFK-related coronavirus infection was reported today, Abrams said the military force has managed to keep that number low.

“We've seen the worst but now is not the time to get complacent. Our worst is frankly not that bad," Abrams said.

He added that the 16 USFK-related cases were reported out of 58,000 people in total, including 28,500 active military personnel, dependents and support staff for bases around the country.

As USFK was among the first US military forces to have to deal with the virus worldwide, Abrams said he has advice for those now grappling with the spread around the world. 

“Go hard, go early, it will seem like over-reaction, it will seem a bit over-the-top, 'My gosh why are we having to do that draconian measure?' A week later your community will understand (and) your unit will understand why you had to do that," he said.
5:09 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Sailors who test negative for coronavirus to disembark USS Theodore Roosevelt within 24 hours

From journalist Mindy Aguon in Guam

USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier sits on the outskirts of Apra Harbor, Guam, on April 1. At least 70 sailors have tested positive for coronavirus aboard the aircraft carrier.
USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier sits on the outskirts of Apra Harbor, Guam, on April 1. At least 70 sailors have tested positive for coronavirus aboard the aircraft carrier. CNN

Any sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier who test negative for the novel coronavirus will soon disembark the ship and begin their 14-day quarantine in Guam.

So far, 93 sailors from the US Navy ship have tested positive for the virus, 86 of whom are symptomatic. None have required hospitalization so far.

In total, there are more than 4,000 crew members on board the ship, only 1,273 of whom have already been tested.

“Over the next 12 to 24 hours, we plan to move the first group of Covid-19 negative asymptomatic sailors to approved commercial lodging for quarantine in accordance with the governor’s executive order and CDC guideline," Joint Region Marianas Commander Adm. John Menoni said at a news conference in Guam today. 

"Sailors will only be permitted to depart the base following a negative Covid-19 test result. They must remain in quarantine, in their assigned rooms for the duration of the mandatory 14-day quarantine."

Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero defended her decision to allow the sailors to disembark from the aircraft carrier and to come onshore. "The bottom line is our sailors go out and protect our freedom. We ask them to go out and sacrifice their lives for our protections, and they are asking us to help them get over this god-awful virus, and when I look at the opportunities and possibilities and space, I decided to say yes," she said.

4:34 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Zarif accuses Trump of "electoral exploitation" amid pandemic, says Iran "starts no wars"

From CNN's Radina Gigova in Atlanta

In this file photo, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow on September 2, 2019.
In this file photo, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow on September 2, 2019. Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif slammed President Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic today, saying he was using the crisis for political gain. 

"We have not witnessed throughout history such heinous employment of a humanitarian catastrophe for revenge and to spread hatred and electoral exploitation as the current American president and his team do," Zarif said in a quote from state news agency IRNA. 
“In order for the world efforts to yield fruit and in order for the world to return to (normal) life, we have to believe that all the planet Earth is a battlefield and in wherever part of the world we are defeated, the entire world will be defeated."

Zarif also said on Thursday on his official Twitter account that "Iran starts no wars, but teaches lessons to those who do," adding that Iran has "friends" rather than "proxies." 

Echoing Zarif's comments, an adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Thursday that the US sanctions are contributing to the spread of the virus and urged Americans to join the global fight. 

"Trump’s economic sanctions equal further spread of the virus in Iran which equals further spread of the virus in the US! Help us help you," said Hesameddin Ashena, head of the Center for Strategic Studies of the President's Office, as quoted by IRNA. 
"Dear Americans: If we don't fight the coronavirus globally it will reappear globally, again and again and again."

Iran has recorded 47,593 coronavirus cases and 3,036 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

11:23 p.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Unable to get out of lockdown, one family watched their son get married over video call

From CNN's Vedika Sud in New Delhi

In many ways it was just like any other wedding.

On the day of the ceremony, the groom's parents got themselves prepared early in the morning, dressing in their best wedding clothes.

When they were ready for the service to begin, they walked into the living room and joined other family members to watch on a two-way video stream as their son got married in Phoenix, Arizona -- almost 8,000 miles away.

Several members of groom Nitin Mehta's family were due to fly over from New Delhi to see him marry fiancee Miranda Jenkins in Phoenix.

But the night before they left, Prime Minister Narendra Modi locked down the country to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

Nilin Mehta's parents watch their son get married over video link from Phoenix, Arizona, on March 28.
Nilin Mehta's parents watch their son get married over video link from Phoenix, Arizona, on March 28. Nalin Mehta

The trip had been planned for a year at least but now, unable to leave, they had to find another way to take part.

"My parents, my wife and kids (and I) woke up at about 4 a.m., put on our wedding clothes and joined the wedding virtually on a video call ... They could see us watching and talk to us," the groom's brother Nalin Mehta told CNN.

They weren't the only guests to miss the wedding. About 150 people were scheduled to attend the ceremony, but fears of the coronavirus and lockdowns worldwide meant it ended up being limited to about 20 close friends and family.

Miranda Jenkins walks down the aisle to marry Nitin Mehta, on March 28.
Miranda Jenkins walks down the aisle to marry Nitin Mehta, on March 28. Nalin Mehta

"(The groom) Nitin himself was actually in the air on a flight from London to Phoenix for his wedding when (President Donald) Trump announced that no flights from the UK would be allowed to land in the USA. So he barely made it back himself for his own wedding," the groom's brother said.

It might seem distant, but Mehta said it had made them all feel like they were together on the special day -- he even gave his best man's speech over WhatsApp. "This allowed us all as a family to feel part of an intimate family event ... at this time of great disruption of the way we live," he said.

Nalin's father, mother, wife and two children watch the wedding of his brother Nitin over video link in their wedding clothes on March 28.
Nalin's father, mother, wife and two children watch the wedding of his brother Nitin over video link in their wedding clothes on March 28. Nalin Mehta

4:09 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

Opinion: Trump's Covid-19 reelection strategy

Opinion by Joe Lockhart

Editor's note: Joe Lockhart was White House press secretary from 1998-2000 in President Bill Clinton's administration. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. 

President Donald Trump has received considerable criticism from many quarters -- governors, public health officials and doctors and nurses on the front line -- for being unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic, and for not having a national plan to deal with it. Much of that criticism is well deserved.

What is clear looking over the past two months is that the President and his team have had a sophisticated political strategy to deal with the fast spreading pandemic.

That strategy began in January, where at every turn the President downplayed the risks of the virus spreading in the United States. In interview after interview, and speech after speech, he assured Americans we were OK and any risk to the country was contained.

President Trump pointed to the shutting down of some flights from China, and one of his aides recently inaccurately said that Trump was the first to do it. North Korea closed its borders on January 22, and Italy banned flights from China to Italy staring January 31.

The President's strategy was that if the US could avoid the pandemic, despite all the loud calls for more action, he would be seen as the wise leader who didn't overreact and didn't kill our economy. In an ironic twist, he co-opted former President Barack Obama's mantra of hope as a strategy. But I believe Trump had a fallback plan in case the deadly virus hit us hard and he had a political plan ready to deploy.

Read more here:

3:51 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

UK health authorities look to Germany to scale up coronavirus testing

From CNN’s Simon Cullen

Public Health England says it’s in contact with its peers in Germany amid criticism that the UK is significantly lagging behind in its coronavirus testing capacity.

The organisation’s medical director Paul Cosford told Sky News that the UK is testing nearly 15,000 people a day and aims to reach 25,000 a day by the middle of April.

In contrast, Germany leading virologist Christian Drosten says his country is testing 500,000 a week.

“I absolutely accept that we need to build this further,” Professor Cosford said. “There is a lot of work that is going on in order to get this testing capacity in place.”
“We’re in constant discussions with colleagues in Germany -- and other countries -- around what they’re doing, where their sources are coming from, what their supply system is.
“Of course we need to build this further.”

He says only “about 2,000” frontline National Health Service workers have so far been tested for the virus.

3:41 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

It's just gone 8:30 a.m in London and 1 p.m. in New Delhi. Here are the latest developments

A Hindu devotee wearing a face mask sweeps the area outside closed gates of the Jhandewalan Hindu temple during a lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in New Delhi, India, on Wednesday, April 1.
A Hindu devotee wearing a face mask sweeps the area outside closed gates of the Jhandewalan Hindu temple during a lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in New Delhi, India, on Wednesday, April 1. Satish Sharma/AP

Infections near 1 million: More than 937,700 cases of the coronavirus have been reported worldwide, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, with over 47,000 deaths. The US is the worst hit country, with more than 216,700 cases and over 5,100 deaths.

Death for quarantine breakers: Outspoken Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has warned that people who break quarantine and are "unruly" could be shot by law enforcement officers. During the address, Duterte said, “My orders to the police, the military and the barangays: If they become unruly and they fight you and your lives are endangered, shoot them dead!”

Fines for illegal PPE exporters: The Australian government will punish people convicted of illegally exporting masks, hand sanitizer or other personal protective equipment with hefty fines, officials said this week. It's part of an attempt to keep medical supplies inside the country.

Market forces at work: Only a portion of the medical supplies being flown into the US by the Federal Emergency Management Agency from overseas are being allotted to critical hot spots -- the rest are going onto the private market, multiple officials told CNN.

Pollution falls under lockdown: Data shows that India's main cities are recording much lower levels of harmful microscopic particulate matter known as PM 2.5, and of nitrogen dioxide, which is released by vehicles and power plants.

3:48 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

British doctors have received guidance on which patients to save if health system overwhelmed

From CNN's Simon Cullen in London

Ambulances are parked outside the Emergency Department of St Thomas' Hospital, one of the many hospitals dealing with coronavirus patients in London, on Wednesday, April 1.
Ambulances are parked outside the Emergency Department of St Thomas' Hospital, one of the many hospitals dealing with coronavirus patients in London, on Wednesday, April 1. Alberto Pezzali/AP

Older patients with a low chance of survival could have life-saving ventilators removed so the machines can be given to healthier patients under new ethics guidelines issued by the British Medical Association (BMA).

The guidance has been prepared for doctors who will need to make "grave decisions" about who should receive "scarce lifesaving resources" if the country’s health system is overwhelmed by coronavirus cases.

"As such, some of the most unwell patients may be denied access to treatment such as intensive care or artificial ventilation," the BMA’s ethics guidance note states.
"This will inevitably be indirectly discriminatory against both the elderly and those with long-term health conditions, with the latter being denied access to life-saving treatment as a result of their pre-existing health problems."

Older patients given lower priority: The guidance says imposing an age cut-off would be illegal, but adds that older patients with pre-existing respiratory problems would have a "very high chance of dying despite intensive care," and are therefore lower priority for admission.

The guidance states: "In dangerous pandemics the ethical balance of all doctors and health care workers must shift towards the utilitarian objective of equitable concern for all – while maintaining respect for all as 'ends in themselves.'"

The ethics guidance note was updated on April 1. The UK government has previously warned the country’s health system could be overwhelmed if strict social distancing measures are not followed.

3:46 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020

First coronavirus death in Asia's largest slum

From journalist Esha Mitra in New Delhi

A deserted View of Mahim Dharavi Link road during restrictions on citizen's movement due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 30, near Mumbai, India.
A deserted View of Mahim Dharavi Link road during restrictions on citizen's movement due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 30, near Mumbai, India. Vijayanand Gupta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

A 56-year-old man who died due to coronavirus-related illness is the first person to die from the disease in Asia's largest slum, Dharavi, in the Indian financial capital of Mumbai.

The patient, who had no travel history, tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday and died the same evening while being transferred to a local hospital, Kiran Dighavkar, an official with Mumbai's Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) told CNN. 

"People who had been in contact with him and are perceived to be "high risk" have been asked to (be) home quarantined," Dighavkar said, adding the swabs of his family members and neighbors have been collected and sent for testing. 

The BMC will be providing food to the residents of the densely-populated Dharavi slum as they are not allowed to leave the area until all the test results come back, Dighavkar said.

The BMC has been routinely carrying out disinfection drives in Mumbai's slums and public areas, according to the official.

This is the second coronavirus-related death overall reported in Mumbai's slums since the outbreak began, BMC officials confirmed with CNN.

Why it's a big deal: Home to around 1 million people, Dharavi slum has a population density almost 30 times greater than New York -- about 280,000 people per square kilometer.

Doctors say the situation would be unmanageable if a sustained coronavirus outbreak spread rapidly through one of India's many slums, where there is little sanitation or running water and thousands of people live cheek by jowl -- making social distancing physically and economically impossible.

“It’s a huge concern. They are packed together,” said Dr. Naresh Trehan, chairman and managing director of the Medanta-the Medicity hospital in Gurugram, near New Delhi. 

Trehan said it was vital that health authorities know if a slum has an outbreak.

“If we don’t know the hot spots, and we don’t know where these pockets are, the whole country is so huge, and there are so many people, it will not be possible to take care of them,” he said.