April 21 coronavirus news

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8:58 a.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Coronavirus most likely came from animals, not a lab, world health official says

From CNN's Simon Cullen

All available evidence suggests the coronavirus originated in bats and was not a “laboratory construct”, World Health Organization spokesperson Fadela Chaib said at a briefing in Geneva today.

US intelligence and national security officials say the United States government is looking into the possibility that the novel coronavirus spread from a Chinese laboratory rather than a market.

“At this stage, it is not possible to determine precisely the source of the virus which caused the Covid-19 pandemic,” Chaib said at a briefing. “However, all available evidence suggests that the virus has a natural animal origin and is not a manipulated or constructed virus. The virus most probably has its ecological reservoir in bats.”

“Many researchers have been able to look at its genomic features — and they have found that the evidence does not support the idea that the underlying virus is a laboratory construct.” 

Chaib says people should focus on facts – not “spurious theories” about the origins of the virus.

8:52 a.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Spain cancels its running of the bulls festival

From Al Goodman, Isa Tejera and Ingrid Formanek

A monument to the San Fermin festival is pictured in Pamplona, Spain, on April 16.
A monument to the San Fermin festival is pictured in Pamplona, Spain, on April 16. Eduardo Sanz/Europa Press/Getty Images

The San Fermin fiesta, Spain’s iconic running of the bulls festival in Pamplona every July, has been canceled this year as a result of the pandemic, the city’s acting mayor Ana Elizalde announced. 

This will be only the fifth time in the history of the festival that the celebrations have been canceled.  

8:33 a.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Contact tracing must be UK's next "national mission," says former health secretary

From CNN’s Sarah Dean in London

Former UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt speaks to the Commons Health Committee via video link on April 17.
Former UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt speaks to the Commons Health Committee via video link on April 17. House of Commons/PA Images/Getty Images

Mass contact tracing should be the “next national mission” in the UK’s battle with coronavirus, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote Tuesday.

In an opinion piece for the Times of London, Hunt said: “We need every arm of the state, every spare civil servant, every local government town planner and every furloughed administrator turning their hand to the task” of contact tracing.

Hunt wrote: “The reason why the countries with the lowest death rates have generally been the biggest testers is because of what testing makes possible: quarantining of people with the virus, tracking down who they have been near, and if necessary isolating them as well."

"Do this on a massive scale and you can keep open shops, offices and restaurants - as has happened in South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong - with much less damage to the economy than European or American-style mass lockdowns.”

Hunt, who is now chairman of the UK’s Health Select Committee which scrutinizes the government, said that by the time the UK’s lockdown is reviewed again in two weeks contact tracing needs to be a “viable option.”

7:30 a.m. ET, April 21, 2020

It's 12:30 p.m. in London and 7:30 a.m. in New York. Here's what you need to know

From CNN's Eliza Mackintosh

In an unprecedented attempt to seal off the United States from the rest of the globe, President Donald Trump said he would temporarily suspend immigration into the country. It was not immediately clear what legal basis the President had for the move, which he claims will help safeguard American jobs and defend against “the invisible enemy.” 

Campaigners have been warning for weeks that the Trump administration is using the coronavirus pandemic to push its aggressive immigration agenda: Refugee resettlement has been put on hold, visa offices are largely closed and citizenship ceremonies aren't happening. Meanwhile, the US has continued to deport thousands — including some who are sick

And fear of foreign infections doesn’t stop at America’s doorstep. In Guatemala, people have been attacked after returning from overseas, particularly those arriving from America — even if they test negative and follow quarantine rules.  

Here are the other new developments...

Facebook acts on anti-stay-at-home protests: Facebook will remove some posts on protests being organized in California, New Jersey and Nebraska against stay-at-home orders meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, after consulting with officials in those states, a company spokesperson told CNN Monday.

Race for the vaccine: Even if scientists successfully develop a vaccine, distributing it will require “one of the greatest scientific, one of the greatest political, one of the greatest financial, one of the greatest public health operations in a generation,” Michael Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization’s emergencies program, warned yesterday.

This country lifted its lockdown after 3 weeks: Ghana has partially lifted a three-week lockdown in two cities, citing improved coronavirus testing and the "severe" impact of the restrictions on the poor and vulnerable in the West African nation. 

Could a free press have prevented the pandemic? Strongman leaders are using the coronavirus crisis to stifle journalists, a leading press freedom watchdog has warned, as it bemoaned a missed opportunity to highlight the severity of the outbreak in its early days in Wuhan, China.  

A version of this story first appeared in CNN's Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. You can sign up here.

7:14 a.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Russia has sufficient reserves to cope with oil price collapse, Kremlin says

From CNN’s Darya Tarasova in Moscow

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday said Russia had sufficient cash reserves to offset the collapse in oil prices, amid questions about the health of the country’s economy.

In a conference call with reporters, Peskov downplayed the impact of the crash, saying the collapse in May futures was “an absolutely speculative moment, purely a trading moment,” and that the market’s shift into negative prices “should not be painted in apocalyptic colors.” 

Russia remains heavily dependent on revenue from oil and gas exports, but has a reserve fund to cover shortfalls in the national budget.

“The main thing here is that our government and our leadership have all the necessary reserves for damping the negative consequences of such international volatility in our economy, and of course, all the resources that are at hand will be used,” Peskov said. 

Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin had no immediate plans to discuss the situation with US President Donald Trump. The two leaders have spoken on the phone at least four times in recent weeks, according to a CNN tally.

7:00 a.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Singapore extends its "circuit breaker" coronavirus restrictions until June

From CNN's Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

The seating area of a food court is seen taped off during a partial lockdown restrictions in Singapore on April 20.
The seating area of a food court is seen taped off during a partial lockdown restrictions in Singapore on April 20. Wei Leng Tay/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Singapore will extend what the government is calling "circuit-breaker" coronavirus restrictions until June 1, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Tuesday, as cases in Singapore continue to climb.

In a televised speech, Lee said Singapore will "extend the circuit breaker for four more weeks beyond the fourth of May until June 1 and provided we have brought community numbers down, we can make further adjustments and consider easing some measures." 

Lee also announced new tighter measures -- a package of restrictions and new rules, combined with harsh punishments, designed to stop the new wave of cases -- saying more workplaces will be closed "so that only the most essential services will remain open." 

Lee added this will “reduce further the number of workers keeping essential services going and minimize the risks of community transmission among workers."

Under the new tightened measures, social gatherings will still be banned and schools will stay closed, whilst more non-essential services will be closed to prevent community spread of the virus. Minister Lawrence Wong, the Co-Chair of the Multi-Ministry Task Force, warned that the tightened measures may result in a "degradation of services" but hoped that "everyone understands why we need to make this important move."

Singapore confirmed 1,111 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 9,125.

6:39 a.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Coronavirus could double number of people facing food crisis

From CNN's Simon Cullen

Volunteers from a Sikh temple in New Delhi, India, distribute free food to homeless people during the government-imposed nationwide lockdown measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus on April 15.
Volunteers from a Sikh temple in New Delhi, India, distribute free food to homeless people during the government-imposed nationwide lockdown measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus on April 15. Prakesh Singh/AFP/

The number of people suffering acute hunger could almost double to more than 265 million because of the economic impact of coronavirus, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) is warning.

In a statement released Tuesday, the WFP said “swift action” was needed to stop this becoming a reality.

“Covid-19 is potentially catastrophic for millions who are already hanging by a thread. It is a hammer blow for millions more who can only eat if they earn a wage,” WFP’s Senior Economist Arif Husain said.

“Lockdowns and global economic recession have already decimated their nest eggs. It only takes one more shock – like Covid-19 – to push them over the edge. We must collectively act now to mitigate the impact of this global catastrophe.”

The latest report from the WFP says that in some countries, those most vulnerable to food insecurity have “very limited” capacity to cope with the shock caused by the pandemic. 

“These countries may face an excruciating trade-off between saving lives or livelihoods or, in a worst-case scenario, saving people from the coronavirus to have them die from hunger,” the report warns.

6:31 a.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Doctors and nurses in India are being "abused and beaten up," says healthcare body

Doctors and medical staff of Narayan Swaroop Hospital in Allahabad hold placards on April 16 to protest against recent assaults on health care workers in India.
Doctors and medical staff of Narayan Swaroop Hospital in Allahabad hold placards on April 16 to protest against recent assaults on health care workers in India. Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images

Health care workers in India need to be protected by a nationwide law after a spate of violence against doctors and nurses, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) said on Monday.

The group issued a statement saying that "doctors have been abused, beaten up, denied entry and residence."

"IMA has maintained utmost restraint and patience in spite of extreme provocations," the statement read.

"We demand a special central law against violence on doctors, nurses, health care workers and hospitals," added the statement. The IMA has asked health care workers across the nation to light a candle as a form of protest on Wednesday. 

If the government does not formulate a central law on violence against health care workers, the IMA has called for a "black day" to be observed on Thursday where doctors will work with black badges. Further decisions will be taken if the government still does not act, according to the statement issued by IMA.  

Doctors in India continue to face several challenges with the coronavirus pandemic. Lack of equipment, cases of doctors being attacked, and lack of adequate living facilities for doctors remain a problem according to doctors associations across the country. 

"Earlier there was definitely a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), but now even though they are available the standard of quality is low," said Adarsh Singh, President of the Resident Doctors Association at All India Institute of Medical Science. 

Over 100 healthcare workers have tested positive in Delhi alone, according to Singh. Delhi with 2,081 positive cases of coronavirus, including 47 deaths, has the second-highest number of cases in the country, according to the Indian Ministry of Health.

"With cases on the rise, there needs to be capacity building. Hospitals are not equipped to handle cases if the numbers continue to rise at the current rate and doctors are already working round the clock," Singh added.

Maharashtra has the highest number of cases in the country with 4,666 positive cases of coronavirus including 232 deaths, according to the Indian Ministry of Health. 

"Many doctors have tested positive for the virus already and those of us working on the frontlines at government hospitals live in hostels where effective social distancing is not possible," a Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) spokesperson said.

At least 100 nurses have tested positive in Mumbai, according to Akash Pillai, general secretary of the Maharashtra United Nurses Association. 

The Mumbai municipal corporation has begun providing hotel accommodation for doctors, especially those who live with their families, so that they don't have to go home. However, this provision is much less than is required, according to the MARD spokesperson. 

"All we want is adequate PPE to protect health care workers, [assurance] that we will be safe in discharging our duties and won't be attacked, and proper living facilities," Singh said. 

According to the Indian Ministry of Health, India currently has 18,601 confirmed cases of coronavirus including 590 deaths. 

6:09 a.m. ET, April 21, 2020

5-year-old daughter of first responders dies from coronavirus

From CNN's Hollie Silverman

Skylar Herbert, 5, died after developing rare complications following a coronavirus diagnosis.
Skylar Herbert, 5, died after developing rare complications following a coronavirus diagnosis. WXYZ

The 5-year-old daughter of two Detroit first responders has died of complications from coronavirus.

Skylar Herbert died Sunday at Beaumont Royal Oak Hospital after being on a ventilator for two weeks, CNN affiliate WXYZ reported. She tested positive for coronavirus last month and developed a rare form of meningitis and swelling on the brain, according to WXYZ.

"The loss of a child, at any time, under any circumstances, is a tragedy," Beaumont Hospital said in a statement obtained by WXYZ. "We are heartbroken that COVID-19 has taken the life of a child. We extend our deepest sympathy to Skylar's family and all others who have lost a loved one to this virus."

Skylar's mother has been a Detroit Police officer for 25 years and her father has worked as a firefighter with the Detroit Fire Department for 18 years, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during a Monday news conference.

"They've been on the front line and they've served with honor and integrity and they did not deserve to lose their child to this virus," Whitmer said. "Nobody does."

Read more here.