April 23 coronavirus news

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4:40 a.m. ET, April 23, 2020

Germany is on "thinnest ice" and risks squandering Covid-19 gains, Angela Merkel warns

From CNN's Fred Pleitgen in Berlin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that Germany risks squandering the gains it has made in slowing down the spread of Covid-19 if the country opens up too quickly.

"This interim result is fragile. We are on thin ice, one could even say on thinnest ice," Merkel said while addressing the German parliament on Thursday.

The German federal and state governments recently agreed to a flurry of measures to loosen some of the physical distancing restrictions implemented to combat Covid-19, including allowing smaller shops to reopen. 

"I fully support the decisions made by the federal government and the states by conviction," Merkel said, "but their implementation worries me. Partially, they appear to be very bold, maybe too bold."

After the loosening of some restrictions, many people flocked into shopping areas and pedestrian zones this week, leading top German virologists to warn against complacency. Merkel echoed those calls in her speech in parliament.

"Let us not squander what we have achieved and risk a setback," Merkel said.

Germany has reported more than 150,000 coronavirus infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. The death toll has risen to 5,094, the country’s center for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute said on Thursday.

4:23 a.m. ET, April 23, 2020

While some states rush to reopen, corporate America is bracing for a long-term slowdown

From CNN Business' Brian Stelter

A pedestrian walks past a closed business, in Manhattan, New York, on April 10.
A pedestrian walks past a closed business, in Manhattan, New York, on April 10. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

To understand what the coming months will be like, try to tune out the politicians. There are way too many mixed messages coming from mayors, governors and presidential advisers. Tune into public health experts and CEOs instead.

Yes, CEOs: I think we're seeing a repeat of mid-March, when corporate leaders moved more swiftly than political leaders to shut down key sectors of American society. Now, in late April, we're seeing companies act much more realistically than elected officials like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman.

To be sure, some elected officials are getting it right. But right now chief executives in the media and tech sectors seem to have a better grasp on consumer behavior and psychology than many political pros. Here are some examples:

  • Multiple movie studios are shifting films away from this summer's planned release dates, so even if some locales do let theaters re-open, there will be little if anything new to show.
  • Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said Tuesday, "We, too, are really unsure of what the future brings."
  • Earlier this week a prominent UBS analyst, John Hodulik, said he doesn't expect Disney to reopen US theme parks until January 2021 at the earliest.
  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai has slowed Google's hiring for the rest of the year.

Read the full story here.

4:00 a.m. ET, April 23, 2020

Germany is only at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, Angela Merkel warns

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks in Berlin on April 23.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks in Berlin on April 23. Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the country is still at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, warning the situation will remain very difficult for some time.

In an address to the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, Merkel told lawmakers: "We will be living with this virus for a long time to come."

She also vowed to further boost testing for the virus: "Testing, testing, testing is the way forward," she said.

Merkel used the address to express concern that some German states are relaxing social distancing measures too fast.

"We cannot return to daily life like before the virus," she warned. "Let’s remain clever and careful during the pandemic."

3:48 a.m. ET, April 23, 2020

Wuhan’s wet markets are reopening. That's not necessarily a problem

From CNN’s David Culver in Wuhan

The seafood market at the center of the global coronavirus pandemic is still firmly shuttered but the rest of Wuhan’s wet markets are slowly beginning to open.

It might be a shock that China would allow these markets to reopen after one like it was identified as the likely point of origin for the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 2.6 million people worldwide.

But there are lots of misunderstandings about wet markets, what they sell and their role in societies across China and Asia in general.

Walking through one in Wuhan on Wednesday, CNN saw stalls selling fresh vegetables and meat and, apart from a few toads and snakes, no exotic wildlife on sale.

In fact, most wet markets in Asia are simply places for citizens to buy regular items, like pork, chicken and seafood, at cheap prices.

Many of them are involved in the illegal wildlife trade, such as the Wuhan seafood market where Covid-19 is believed to have originated, but those places are not in the majority.

And with China passing a ban on selling wild animals for meat in February, it’s possible there is an end in sight for the sale of illegal wildlife on the mainland.

Read more about China's wet markets:

3:29 a.m. ET, April 23, 2020

It's just past 9:30 a.m. in Berlin and 1 p.m in New Delhi. Here's the latest on the pandemic

US President Donald Trump speaks during the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House in Washington, on April 22.
US President Donald Trump speaks during the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House in Washington, on April 22. Alex Brandon/AP

The novel coronavirus has now infected more than 2.63 million people and killed at least 183,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

If you're just joining us, here are the latest developments:

  • Trump halts immigration: The US President said he had signed an executive order that temporarily suspends immigration into the country. He said the order will ensure Americans will be first in line for jobs as the economy reopens.
  • Germany's mask rules: From Monday next week, wearing a face mask on public transport and in stores will be mandatory in every German state. Chancellor Angela Merkel has advocated that people wear masks.
  • India's infections pass 20,000: At least 21,393 coronavirus cases have now been recorded in the country, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The tally includes 681 deaths.
  • India's air improves: Air pollution in northern India has dropped to a 20-year low, according to data published by NASA. The fall in pollution levels comes as India enters its fifth week of lockdown.
  • South Korean economy shrinks: The economy recorded its most severe contraction since the 2008 financial crisis as the pandemic weighed on consumer demand and exports. Asia's fourth-largest economy shrank 1.4% in the January-to-March period compared to the fourth quarter of 2019, according to an estimate released Thursday by the Bank of Korea.
  • First US death: A seemingly healthy 57-year-old woman from California's San Francisco Bay Area "suddenly died" in early February, becoming the first known US death related to the coronavirus, the Los Angeles Times first reported on Wednesday.
3:15 a.m. ET, April 23, 2020

Face masks will soon be mandatory in Germany

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

People walk along a street in Leipzig, Germany, on April 20.
People walk along a street in Leipzig, Germany, on April 20. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

From Monday next week, wearing a face mask on public transportation and in stores will be mandatory in all 16 states in Germany.

Over the past few weeks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has advocated that people wear masks.

Last week, the federal state of Saxony in the east of the country pushed ahead, making wearing of masks compulsory to curb the spread of coronavirus. 

Since then, more and more state leaders have implemented the wearing of masks in their states. Bremen became the last federal region to support the initiative and its senate is set to approve the decision on Friday.

Germany has reported more than 150,000 coronavirus infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. The death toll has risen to 5,094, the country’s center for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute said on Thursday.

3:00 a.m. ET, April 23, 2020

Air pollution in northern India has hit a 20-year low, NASA report says

From CNN's Swati Gupta in New Delhi

For years, northern India -- especially the capital New Delhi -- has been battling air pollution with levels hitting the hazardous mark during the winter season.

Now, during a nationwide coronavirus lockdown, air pollution in the region has dropped to a 20-year low, according to data published by NASA. 

In a series of maps, NASA plotted the aerosol levels in northern India during the same six-day period of March 31 to April 5 from 2016 to 2020.

"We knew we would see changes in atmospheric composition in many places during the lockdown," said Pawan Gupta, a Universities Space Research Association scientist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "But I have never seen aerosol values so low in the Indo-Gangetic Plain at this time of year."

The Indo-Gangetic Plain stretches across the north of India.

The report tracks the aerosol optical depth (AOD), which is the measure of how light is absorbed or reflected by airborne particles as it travels through the atmosphere.

According to the report: "AOD levels in northern India at the beginning of April were significantly below the norm for this time of year and the lowest in 20 years of MODIS observations. Ground observation stations in India have also reported a decrease in particle pollution in the region”. 

MODIS is an instrument used to monitor large-scale changes, such as what proportion of the earth's surface is covered by clouds each day.

The drop in pollution levels comes as India enters its fifth week of lockdown. On March 25, the Indian government imposed a strict nationwide lockdown halting all construction activities, public transport and industry. 

India isn't the only place to see cleaner air. Lockdowns restricting travel and industry imposed to halt the spread of coronavirus have resulted in unprecedented reductions in deadly air pollution around the world, new analysis shows.

Read more:

2:53 a.m. ET, April 23, 2020

Germany's death toll passes 5,000

From CNN's Fred Pleitgen and Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

Medical staff tend to a coronavirus patient in the intensive care unit at Magdeburg's community hospital in Magdeburg, Germany, on April 16.
Medical staff tend to a coronavirus patient in the intensive care unit at Magdeburg's community hospital in Magdeburg, Germany, on April 16. Ronny Hartman/AFP/Getty Images

Germany’s coronavirus death toll has risen to 5,094, the country’s center for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute, said on Thursday. That’s an increase of 215 deaths in the past 24 hours.

Meanwhile, the number of new infections remains relatively moderate, with 2,352 cases recorded in 24 hours. Around 3,800 additional patients have recovered from the disease.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to address the German parliament on her government’s response to the pandemic on Thursday morning local time.

Germany has reported more than 150,000 coronavirus infections, according to Johns Hopkins University.

2:33 a.m. ET, April 23, 2020

Some prisoners in India have been let out during the pandemic. They're checking in over WhatsApp

From CNN's Esha Mitra in New Delhi

At least three inmates in India have had their prison sentences suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. But instead of lodging attendance at the police station in person, they will check in with their investigating officers over WhatsApp.

According to Delhi High Court orders issued this week, the convicts in three separate cases will need to check in with their investigating officers via WhatsApp video call and send proof of location via Google Maps if the video call cannot take place.

Once the interim suspension period is over, the convicts must surrender before the concerned jail superintendent, according to the order.

  • One of the inmates who has been released is a 73-year-old who was convicted under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, and suffers from various medical conditions including diabetes and asthma. "The appellant is certainly in a medically vulnerable position in prison," the order issued on April 20 read. The order cited "unprecedented circumstances of a medical health emergency" and the "need to decongest prisons for overall medical safety of all prisoners." It granted the inmate an interim suspension of sentence for three months.
  • Another inmate released is a 30-year-old who had been sentenced to six months in prison for "rash driving," which resulted in the death of a person riding on the back of a scooter. The man had filed a review petition for his sentence, but the date of his hearing was moved to July due to the lockdown. "He would have served almost the entire sentence by the time the revision petition is taken up," the order stated. 
  • In a third order, a man who had completed nearly four years of his eight-year sentence for poisoning others and committing a robbery was granted a 45-day suspension of his sentence. The people he poisoned did not die. He appealed his prison sentence, citing financial troubles in his family of three children and a wife who is a teacher but is out of work during the lockdown, according to the order.

India has been in a nationwide lockdown which started at midnight on March 25. It was set to end on April 14 but was extended to May 3.