April 24 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 0137 GMT (0937 HKT) April 25, 2020
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8:04 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

Europe is preparing a trillion-euro fund to rebuild its economy

From CNN Business' Mark Thompson in London

A delivery man wearing a protective mask pushes a cart across a deserted shopping street in Rome, Italy, on March 12.
A delivery man wearing a protective mask pushes a cart across a deserted shopping street in Rome, Italy, on March 12. Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

EU leaders have agreed to create a fund that could raise at least 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) to rebuild regional economies ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

"This fund shall be of a sufficient magnitude, targeted towards the sectors and geographical parts of Europe most affected, and be dedicated to dealing with this unprecedented crisis," leaders of the 27 EU countries said in a statement after they met via video conference on Thursday.

The heads of the EU governments asked officials at the European Commission to come up with detailed proposals "urgently" that will include how the recovery fund will relate to the bloc's budget for 2021-2027, they added.

The EU is planning to expand its budget from about 1.2% of GDP to 2% of GDP and then use those additional funds as a guarantee to borrow at low rates from financial markets.

Asked by reporters how much could be raised, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: "This has to be looked at thoroughly ... but we are not talking about billion[s], we are talking about trillion[s]."

The EU leaders also signed off on an immediate package of rescue measures worth at least €500 billion ($538 billion) drawn up earlier this month by finance ministers. That package includes up to €100 billion ($110 billion) in wage subsidies aimed at preventing mass layoffs, as well as hundreds of billions in loans to businesses and credit for EU governments.

"There are reasons for some optimism that, even if we don't get as joined-up a response as we'd like overall, the European fiscal response to this crisis may yet end up being sizeable," commented Societe Generale strategist Kit Juckes in a research note on Friday.

Read more here.

7:41 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

Following Trump's comments, Lysol maker says its products should not be injected or ingested

A press briefing attendee holds a container of Lysol disinfecting wipes at San Francisco City Hall on March 16.
A press briefing attendee holds a container of Lysol disinfecting wipes at San Francisco City Hall on March 16. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The maker of Lysol issued a statement Friday clarifying that under no circumstances should its products be administered into the human body, after US President Donald Trump suggested the possibility of injecting disinfectants to treat the coronavirus.

Manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser said that the range of disinfectants and cleaners must not enter the body "through injection, ingestion or any other route.”  

“We have a responsibility in providing consumers with access to accurate, up-to-date information as advised by leading public health experts,” the company said.

The statement followed remarks from President Trump on Thursday on the use of disinfectants.

"And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in one minute. Is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning ... it would be interesting to check that," Trump said.  “It sounds interesting to me,” he added.

CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta was quick to point out that this is simply wrong.

“He also said it needs to be studied. Actually, it doesn’t. I mean we know the answer to this one,” he said on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 on Thursday. 

“I think everybody would know that that would be dangerous and counter-productive.”

The US Food and Drug Administration regularly warns the public against drinking bleach, or even inhaling fumes from bleach. It's also irritating to skin.

On Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said calls about poisonings with cleaners and disinfectants had increased more than 20% in the first three months of 2020 -- as coronavirus cleaning increased -- than from the same period a year earlier. Among cleaners, bleaches accounted for the largest percentage increase in calls from 2019 to 2020.

The CDC recommends using soap and water or bleach on surfaces to kill the virus. Rubbing alcohol that's at least 70% alcohol will also kill it on surfaces; 60% for your hands.

7:29 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

UN human rights chief alarmed by media clampdowns over Covid-19 reporting

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet is pictured attending the opening of the UN Human Rights Council's annual session on February 24, in Geneva, Swizterland.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet is pictured attending the opening of the UN Human Rights Council's annual session on February 24, in Geneva, Swizterland. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

The UN’s human rights chief says she is “alarmed” by the treatment of the independent media by several nations over the reporting of Covid-19. 

Michelle Bachelet said on Friday that “restrictive measures” imposed on media as well as the “arrest and intimidation” of journalists, is hindering the free flow information, “vital in fighting Covid-19.”

“Some states have used the outbreak of the new coronavirus as a pretext to restrict information and stifle criticism,” Bachelet said. “A free media is always essential, but we have never depended on it more than we do during this pandemic, when so many people are isolated and fearing for their health and livelihoods. Credible, accurate reporting is a lifeline for all of us,” the statement says.

Bachelet cites reports of violations against journalists in Asia-Pacific, Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. She said there are cases of journalists being threatened and even disappearing for voicing criticism of state response to the pandemic or for “simply questioning the accuracy of official numbers.”

Concerns over treatment of the press: Earlier this week a leading media watchdog told CNN that the coronavirus pandemic could have been avoided had there been a free press in China.

"Reporting the truth at the earliest possible moment would have allowed the rest of the world to react probably earlier and probably more seriously," Reporters Without Borders' Rebecca Vincent said. "The consequences (of stifling media freedom) are actually deadly."

6:55 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

The UK government's new coronavirus testing website overwhelmed by demand in its first hours online

From CNN's Simon Cullen

The UK government’s new website designed to allow essential workers to directly book a coronavirus test has already been closed to new applications just hours after being launched.

The site went live at 6am UK time (1aET).

By late Friday morning, users trying to book a test were greeted by a message saying: “You can’t currently register for a Covid-19 test. Please check back here later.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said on Twitter: “There has been significant demand for booking tests today. We apologise for any inconvenience. We are continuing to rapidly increase availability. More tests will be available tomorrow.”

Boris Johnson's government has been criticized for failing to provide the same level of testing that other European countries have, with several NHS hospitals, health care workers and care home employees complaining about being unable to access tests.

The government launched the site to try to increase the number of people being tested for the virus. Those classified as "essential workers" with coronavirus symptoms are eligible to be tested. People who live with essential workers and have symptoms are also eligible for a test.

Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock set a target of conducting 100,000 tests per day by the end of April -- but on Wednesday, just 23,560 tests were carried out.

6:27 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

Researchers clone antibodies from recovered coronavirus patients, with hope for a future treatment

From CNN Health’s Arman Azad

Researchers in China say they have successfully cloned antibodies from recovered coronavirus patients, a potential first step in developing a new type of treatment for the virus. 

In test tubes, the antibodies prevented the binding of the novel coronavirus to its receptor, according to the researchers. Antibodies that block that step – which is critical for infection – could one day be a promising treatment for the virus.

But it’s not clear whether blocking the binding of the virus in a lab means the antibodies could prevent infection in real humans. 

The researchers published their findings Monday in the medical journal Cellular and Molecular Immunology. They cloned two different antibodies – called 311mab-31B5 and 311mab-32D4 – and said the antibodies “neutralized” the entry of a fake coronavirus into cells. 

The antibodies could one day be used as “prophylactic and therapeutic agents,” the researchers said, suggesting they could one day be used to both prevent and treat Covid-19.

Using cloned antibodies to treat diseases is not a new concept. The approach has been used to develop experimental treatments for Ebola, using antibodies from animals or people exposed to the virus. 

The underlying idea – that antibodies can be used as a treatment – is also being tested in trials of so-called convalescent plasma. That treatment is somewhat different, though, with people who have recovered from the novel coronavirus giving their antibody-filled blood plasma to those who are sick. 

It remains unclear whether cloned antibodies – such as those developed by the Chinese researchers – could be a successful treatment for the novel coronavirus, and this new research is in its earliest stages. 

The approach may hold promise, though. In 2018, the top US infectious disease specialist, Anthony Fauci, wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that “effective antibodies have become easier to identify, select, optimize, and manufacture.”

Writing alongside other experts, Fauci said the treatments, technically called monoclonal antibodies, “are positioned to play a larger role in future public health responses involving the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of [emerging infectious diseases].” 

But the antibodies come with a downside: they’re incredibly expensive. As Fauci wrote, “pragmatic concerns must be addressed – notably cost.” 

5:50 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

Wuhan weathered Covid-19. But can it survive what comes next?

From CNN's David Culver, Nectar Gan and Ben Westcott

People are seen in a Wuhan shopping mall as the city tries to go back to business after lockdown on April 18.
People are seen in a Wuhan shopping mall as the city tries to go back to business after lockdown on April 18. Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

It was just three months ago that Mr Wang was paying the workers at his Wuhan restaurant their Chinese New Year bonuses and celebrating his third year in business.

Now, after 76 days under lockdown in the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, he has been left mentally and financially drained, with his business facing ruin.

The lockdown on Wuhan was lifted on April 8. But two weeks later Wang's restaurant is still not allowed to fully reopen, due to restrictions on eat-in dining.

Despite having no business, he's still had to pay three months rent -- worth almost $8,500 (60,000 yuan). With fears rising of a second wave of infections which could cause even more financial pain across China, Wang said he has no choice but to close shop.

"In Wuhan, there are many people like us who can no longer go back to what they were doing before the outbreak," he said. Wang asked us to only use his first name over concerns about the consequences of talking to foreign media.

Wang is just one of Wuhan's many business owners struggling to get back on their feet in a difficult local economy. In the first quarter of the year alone, the economy of Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, shrank by almost 40%, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.

That's in addition to the mental toll from a strict and lengthy lockdown, the fear of the viral outbreak itself and grief at the loss of loved ones and friends.

Wang said three relatives had caught the novel coronavirus, one of whom passed away from the disease. The family was unable to have a funeral for him.

"During that period, we were actually really terrified, really terrified," he said.

Read more from Wuhan, China here.

5:21 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

Germany's virus reproduction rate is increasing

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt

A makeshift hospital to treat coronavirus patients is prepared at the fairgrounds in Berlin, Germany, on April 23.
A makeshift hospital to treat coronavirus patients is prepared at the fairgrounds in Berlin, Germany, on April 23. Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Germany’s coronavirus reproduction rate has increased to 0.9 according to the country's centre for disease and control, the Robert Koch Institute, meaning every 10 people with the virus infect an average of nine others.

That’s up from a reproduction rate of 0.7 a week ago, according to the Institute’s Vice President Lars Schaade.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has previously warned that if the number -- also known as the R0 value -- rises above 1, the country’s health system would eventually be overwhelmed.

Yesterday she expressed concern that some German states were moving to ease coronavirus restrictions too soon, saying it could undermine the results that have been achieved.

New cases slowing down: Germany now has 150,383 coronavirus cases and 5,321 related deaths, the Robert Koch Institute said on Friday.

The country reported 2,337 new cases in the past 24 hours -- a slight slowdown, after three straight days of new infections accelerating.

4:54 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

Several Sydney beaches shut again after beachgoers flout rules

From CNN's Anna Kam

Swimmers leave the water after police closed Clovelly Beach in Sydney, Australia, on April 24.
Swimmers leave the water after police closed Clovelly Beach in Sydney, Australia, on April 24. Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Three southern Sydney beaches closed for a second time, only five days after being reopened, according to a statement from the Randwick City Council.

The beaches of Clovelly, Coogee and Maroubra were shut at 1pm Friday after “people failed to use beaches for exercise only.”

The three beaches will reopen Saturday and Sunday between 6am to 9am for exercise only, according to the council. The situation will be reassessed on Monday.

On Wednesday, Waverly Council, home to Bondi beach, announced Bondi and Bronte beaches would reopen starting next Tuesday (April 28) for swimming and surfing.  All land-based activities on the beach, such as jogging, sunbathing, and social gatherings, will continue to be suspended.

In March, Bondi beach closed down after thousands of beachgoers ignored the advice from officials to avoid large gatherings and practice social distancing. 

4:44 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

Singapore reports nearly 900 new cases

Tents are constructed for use as an isolation facility for COVID-19 patients at the Tanjong Pagar Terminal in Singapore, on April 24.
Tents are constructed for use as an isolation facility for COVID-19 patients at the Tanjong Pagar Terminal in Singapore, on April 24. Wallace Woon/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Singapore recorded 897 new coronavirus cases as of 12 p.m. local time on Friday amid a second wave of infections centered around migrant worker dormitories.

Among the new cases, the vast majority are work permit holders residing in foreign worker dormitories, while 13 are Singaporean citizens or permanent residents, the country's Ministry of Health said in a statement.

The country's cases spiked dramatically at the start of April, and authorities traced the increase to clusters of cases in the dormitories. About 200,000 migrant workers live in 43 dormitories, where cramped conditions and shared facilities make it easy for a highly infectious virus to spread.

Singapore passed the threshold of 10,000 cases earlier this week. Friday marks the first time the country has reported fewer than 1,000 daily new infections since April 19.

The dormitories are now all under lockdown, with nobody in or out. Authorities have taken residents showing symptoms to quarantine, and are monitoring residents still inside the dorms.