April 24 coronavirus news

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3:23 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

Sweden is better equipped to handle a second wave of infections, state epidemiologist says

People enjoy warm and spring-like weather with high temperatures on April 22, in Stockholm.
People enjoy warm and spring-like weather with high temperatures on April 22, in Stockholm. Anders Wilklund/AFP/Getty Images

So many people in Sweden have been exposed to the coronavirus that the country will likely be in a better place to withstand a second wave of infections, said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.

Sweden has taken a relatively relaxed approach to coronavirus-related restrictions when compared with other European countries.

"It has worked in some aspects," Tegnell told BBC radio. "It has worked because our health system has been able to cope. There has always been at least 20% of the intensive care beds empty and able to take care of Covid-19 patients."

Tegnell estimated an immunity level of between 15% to 20% had been reached in the Stockholm population, which he said would "slow down the spread (of a second wave)."

But he cautioned that it wouldn't be enough to achieve herd immunity, and that there's still a lot unknown about immunity to the disease.

Sweden has reported 16,755 cases of the coronavirus, including 2,021 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Asked whether the death toll would have been lower if Sweden had implemented tighter restrictions, Tegnell replied, "that’s a very difficult question to answer at this stage. At least 50% of our death toll is within the elderly homes and we have a hard time understanding how a lockdown would stop the introduction of the disease into the elderly homes."

3:14 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

A baby girl laughed after hearing her Covid-positive mother's voice for the first time

Last week, a mother in India infected with Covid-19 gave birth to a baby girl. The mother had to be kept in isolation, and saw her baby for the first time after delivery via video conferencing.

The baby was born in Aurangabad, a city in the western state of Maharashtra. When the family arrived at the hospital, the mother and her two sons tested positive for coronavirus, but her husband tested negative, according to Dr. Sundar Kulkarni, a surgeon at Aurangabad Civil Hospital.

The mother had gestational diabetes and hypothyroidism, making the birth a "challenge," said Kulkarni -- but "when we delivered a healthy baby it was quite a memorable moment for us."

"Once the baby was delivered, the mother kept asking for the child because naturally she wanted to see her, then we got the idea to have a video call. The baby recognized her mother's voice and was smiling and laughing as this was the only voice she knew since when she was in the womb," Kulkarni said. 

Nurses have been using a breast pump to extract the mother's milk and feeding it to the baby. The family can be reunited after the mother tests negative for two consecutive days.

2:56 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

No decision yet on when Boris Johnson will return to work, says UK health secretary

In this file photo from March 17, Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrive for a coronavirus news briefing at 10 Downing Street in London.
In this file photo from March 17, Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrive for a coronavirus news briefing at 10 Downing Street in London. Matt Dunham/AP

There's no decision yet on when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will return to work, said Health Secretary Matt Hancock, speaking to Sky News.

"I spoke to the prime minister yesterday -- he's in good shape. And I’m sure he’ll come back as soon as his doctors recommend it," Hancock said. "The decision hasn’t been taken, but the prime minister is taking calls and staying in touch."

Johnson has spoken to US President Donald Trump and the Queen by phone this week, while he continues to recover at the prime minister’s countryside retreat, Chequers.

2:46 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

Indonesian President "welcomes the blessing of Ramadan to break the chain of transmission"

In this October 20, 2019 file photo, President Joko Widodo gestures during his inauguration ceremony at the House of Representative building in Jakarta, Indonesia. 
In this October 20, 2019 file photo, President Joko Widodo gestures during his inauguration ceremony at the House of Representative building in Jakarta, Indonesia.  Oscar Siagian/Getty Images

Indonesian President Joko Widodo addressed Muslims on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, as millions began their fast.

"There is no splendor on the streets, the mosque space is in silence," he said on an official social media page. "Let's welcome the blessing of Ramadan as a moment to break the chain of transmission of the plague for the sake of personal safety, relatives, and the entire nation."

Typically, millions of Muslims migrate from the capital Jakarta to their hometowns for Ramadan -- but a travel ban is in place this year to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The government hasn't officially banned gathering at mosques across the country.  But Indonesia's largest Islamic organizations, the Ulema Council and Nahdlatul Ulama, called for Muslims not to pray together in the mosque to avoid close contact and possible infections.

More than 87% of Indonesia's 267 million population is Muslim, making the archipelago nation the world's most-populous Muslim-majority country.

2:36 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

Sunlight and bleach might kill the coronavirus on a park bench, but they can be harmful to the body

A man sits alone on a bench overlooking part of the Manhattan skyline amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 21 in Brooklyn, New York. 
A man sits alone on a bench overlooking part of the Manhattan skyline amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 21 in Brooklyn, New York.  Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Sunlight and bleach can both kill the novel coronavirus, a federal official told the daily White House briefing on Thursday. But US President Donald Trump turned what should have been a simple scientific summary into a puzzling stream of dangerous ideas about somehow streaming light into the body and suggestions about injecting disinfectants.

Here's what was said: Bill Bryan, a senior official at the US Department of Homeland Security, said studies on the virus showed bleach kills coronavirus in about five minutes, and isopropyl alcohol destroys it even faster.

He also said the virus dies quickest under direct sunlight, and that temperature and humidity affect how long the virus survives.

This was Trump's take:

"Suppose that we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it's ultraviolet or just very powerful light and I think you said that it hasn't been checked and you're going to test it," Trump told Bryan. "Suppose you can bring the light inside the body."

It was not immediately clear how Trump would propose bringing light into the body.

"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 added.

Scientists were horrified by his claims. Multiple experts warned after Trump's briefing that nobody should ingest disinfectant, and that it simply doesn't work.

The World Health Organization says on its website that exposing yourself to the sun or high temperatures does not prevent Covid-19, and warns specifically against using ultraviolet lamps, including tanning lamps, to try to kill virus.

"UV lamps should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of skin as UV radiation can cause skin irritation," the WHO cautions.

Too much UV light damage can lead to skin cancer.

And chlorine bleach is toxic: it can and does kill people who drink it. 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.

Read more here.

2:27 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

Indonesia travel ban goes into effect ahead of annual Ramadan mass migration

An empty main road is seen on the first day of Ramadan in Jakarta on April 24 during a partial lockdown amid concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.
An empty main road is seen on the first day of Ramadan in Jakarta on April 24 during a partial lockdown amid concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images

A travel ban preventing millions of Indonesian Muslims to travel home from Jakarta came into effect at midnight, on the first day of Ramadan fasting.

Some 27 million people were expected to migrate from Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, back to .their home villages, according to a survey by the Transportation Ministry. This mass migration, called "Idul Fitri mudik," usually happens ahead of the first day of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.

The travel ban, which will block this migration, includes air, ground, and sea transportation from Jakarta.

Exceptions will be made for emergency services like food or medicine supply, and transportation for paramedics, fire department, and ambulances.

Roads will not be completely blockaded, but there will be checkpoints in place to encourage drivers or travelers to turn back to where they started. These checkpoints will be in place until May 7; after that, people will be subject to a fine or jail time for violating the travel ban, said Transportation Ministry spokesperson Adita Irawati.

2:11 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

Former Indian bureaucrats write letter of protest against coronavirus-related attacks on Muslims

More than 100 former senior bureaucrats in India have published an open letter protesting against discriminatory attacks against Muslims, which have been on the rise amid growing coronavirus fears in the country.

Published under the banner of former civil servants' group Constitutional Conduct, the letter was signed by former ambassadors, high commissioners and chief secretaries to the Indian government and various state governments.

The harassment spiked after a Muslim group called Tablighi Jamaat met in New Delhi last month. Thousands of members traveled across India to the meeting, and began to fall sick with Covid-19 after the event -- raising public fears of infection, and heightening Islamophobia.

"The action of the Jamaat in organising such an event, ignoring the Delhi Government’s advisories was, without question, misguided and condemnable. However, the action of the media in communalizing it and extending it to the Muslim community as a whole is utterly irresponsible and reprehensible," states the letter.

The letter mentions incidents in which Muslims have been allegedly denied treatment at hospitals or discriminated against during food distribution.

“The entire country is going through unprecedented trauma. We can endure, survive and overcome the challenges that this pandemic has imposed on us only by remaining united and helping each other,” the letter said. 

1:58 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

New Kids on the Block release coronavirus song "House Party" to lift spirits and raise money

New Kids On The Block perform at Bridgestone Arena on May 9, 2019, in Nashville.
New Kids On The Block perform at Bridgestone Arena on May 9, 2019, in Nashville. Jason Kempin/Getty Images

It's the feel good song of your quarantine.

New Kids on the Block has achieved quite the feat. The group not only recorded "House Party," a new song out today that is bound to get you dancing in your living room, but they even made a music video all while social distancing.

"We were just talking and fans were asking about new music and I just threw out maybe one of our musical friends is hearing this and will send us a song," said band member Donnie Wahlberg. "Literally, an hour later a song was in my phone via text, a music track, and I sat right there at the table and just started writing 'House Party.'"

To pull it off while scattered across the country, the group had to each get microphones shipped to their homes. Band member Jordan Knight says he had a producer listening to him on FaceTime while he sang to give feedback.

The song also features Boyz II Men, Jordan Sparks, Naughty By Nature and Big Freedia. The best part -- it's for a good cause. All proceeds of the song go to the No Kid Hungry campaign to end childhood hunger in America.

1:43 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

Trump is peddling dangerous cures for coronavirus

US President Donald Trump.
US President Donald Trump. Alex Brandon/AP

Roll up for Donald Trump's old West traveling medicine show.

He's marketed steaks and real estate, board games and vodka, but nothing the incorrigible salesman has tried to hawk measures up to his latest routine as he speculated on a possible new cure for Covid-19.

For most of his life as a pitchman, Trump has only had his own reputation on the line. But now, in the middle of a generational health crisis, lives are at stake.

In an eye-popping moment, Trump doubled down on his claim that sunlight and the festering humidity of high summer could purge the virus in his latest grab for a game-changer therapy.

Then, he asked aides on camera whether zapping patients with light or injecting disinfectant into the lungs to clean sick patients from inside could cure them of the disease.

"Maybe you can, maybe you can't. Again I say maybe you can, maybe you can't. I'm not a doctor. I'm like a person who has a good you-know-what," Trump said, pointing to his head.

It's easy to mock Trump. But he also has the world's largest megaphone, appears to be openly mulling a treatment that could cause people to poison themselves if they adopted it and has a record of deflecting from the grave reality of the virus to peddle optimism that may not be matched by the facts.

He also seems to have little time for the rigorous clinical testing and factual deduction that is at the heart of generations of advances in clinical science and is the bedrock of ethical medicine.

Read the full analysis: