April 27 coronavirus news

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7:30 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

Prosecutors in northern Italy open investigation into handling of Covid-19 outbreak

From CNN's Valentina Di Donato in Rome

A staffer delivers a medical oxygen tank to coronavirus patients being treated at home in Bergamo on March 31.
A staffer delivers a medical oxygen tank to coronavirus patients being treated at home in Bergamo on March 31. Claudio Furlan/LaPresse/AP

Prosecutors in the northern Italian city of Bergamo have opened an investigation into the handling of the coronavirus outbreak there, Prosecutor Maria Cristina Rotta‘s office told CNN on Monday. 

Bergamo is in Lombardy, the Italian province worst-hit by the coronavirus, and was among the first areas to be put under restrictions to try to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Bergamo citizen Luca Fusco, whose father died of coronavirus in March, started a Facebook group called "Noi Denunceremo" -- meaning "we will denounce you" -- to hold the authorities to account.

The group, which has 48,000 members, wants to ''ensure that the truth of what really happened gets out," Fusco said.

We knew there was a problem, we saw the underestimation of the problem. We saw the cases in Codogno, we saw the cases in northern Italy, and no one was doing anything in the beginning," Fusco told CNN.

Separately, ANAAO, a doctors' union, has lodged formal complaints to prosecutors in 10 regions over what it described as a shortage of personal protective equipment for healthcare staff.

“There's a lack of adequate personal protective equipment for doctors exposed to Covid-19. The high number of infections is linked to the failure to supply FFP2 and FFP3 filter masks,” Carlo Palermo, national secretary of the ANAAO, told CNN on Monday.

So far, 150 doctors in Italy have died after contracting coronavirus, the Italian Association of Doctors said on Friday, adding that healthcare professionals constitute 10% of all infections. 

7:26 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald celebrate Sondheim in their bathrobes

From CNN's Toyin Owoseje

Meryl Streep, Audra McDonald and Christine Baranski, boozing in their bathrobes while singing "The Ladies Who Lunch": This was the quarantine moment the world didn't know it needed -- until now.

The dressing gown-clad trio delivered internet gold when they joined a host of A-listers Sunday night to celebrate legendary composer Stephen Sondheim's 90th birthday and his vast contribution to musical theater.

While Streep poured herself what looked like a martini (vigorously shaken, not stirred), her "Mamma Mia" co-star Baranski, 67, opted for a large glass of red, and Broadway diva McDonald, 49, went straight for the bottle.

For many viewers, the boozy performance and disheveled vibe captured lockdown life perfectly. 

Read the full story here.

7:01 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

Police call UK restrictions "confusing" as government invites public to ask questions

From CNN's Simon Cullen and Hadas Gold

A police officer rides a bike as he patrols Victoria Park in London on April 25.
A police officer rides a bike as he patrols Victoria Park in London on April 25. Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

The UK government’s coronavirus restrictions are confusing and are making the job of police even harder than it already is, according to London’s Metropolitan Police Federation chief Ken Marsh.

“My colleagues are the ones being asked -- on an hourly, daily basis -- to put this into practice,” Marsh told BBC Radio 5.

“And when you’re trying to ask two people not to sit on a bench, and my colleague looks over his or her shoulder and sees 300 people queueing to go to a DIY store without a piece of paper between them, then what do we do?”

He said there had been “mixed messages” coming from the government about what is allowed and what isn’t.

Marsh said that in the past few days, an increasing number of DIY stores had opened up and the volume of traffic on the roads had been increasing “quite heavily."

Meanwhile, the UK government is inviting members of the public to submit questions to the daily coronavirus press briefings via the website gov.uk/ask.

The government says an independent polling organization will choose one question a day, which will not be seen or heard by the ministers before it is asked live. 

The briefings have been held by a rotating group of government ministers, with journalists asking questions via video conference.

Members of the public whose submissions are selected can either record a video of themselves asking their question, or have it read out loud during the briefing.

Read more from the UK hereas Prime Minister Boris Johnson returns to work after recovering from coronavirus.

6:58 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

Preliminary results from antiviral drug trial could come in a week, says researcher

From CNN Health’s Arman Azad

A vial of the drug Remdesivir lies during a press conference about the start of a study with the drug in particularly severely ill patients at the University Hospital Eppendorf in Hamburg, on Sunday, April 8.
A vial of the drug Remdesivir lies during a press conference about the start of a study with the drug in particularly severely ill patients at the University Hospital Eppendorf in Hamburg, on Sunday, April 8. Ulrich Perrey/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Preliminary results from clinical trials of an experimental antiviral drug for coronavirus could come in a week, a top researcher said Sunday.

The final test results for the drug, remdesivir, aren’t expected until mid-to-late May, said Dr. Andre Kalil, a principal investigator for the trial. But he said the team might “potentially have some early data in the next one or two weeks."

Remdesivir was originally tested by Gilead Sciences as a potential treatment for Ebola, and it showed activity against the novel coronavirus in test tubes. But whether the drug is an effective treatment for Covid-19 remains unclear.

The new study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial -- meaning neither the patients nor their doctors know who is receiving the real drug and who is receiving a placebo.

Patients finished enrolling for the study last Sunday, Kalil said, adding that their number had exceeded the target of 572.

The trial began at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where Kalil is a professor of medicine, but it has expanded to nearly 70 sites around the world, from South Korea to Germany. 

Data on remdesivir is confusing at best. Earlier this month, the maker of the drug, Gilead released information on 53 patients, most of whom showed improvement after receiving infusions of remdesivir.

Information leaked to STAT News suggested that patients receiving remdesivir were recovering quickly, but the report was based on a recorded discussion of a clinical trial, and offered few details.

Last week, the World Health Organization accidentally published a summary of results from a trial of the drug in coronavirus patients. A screenshot published by STAT showed  "remdesivir use was not associated with a difference in time to clinical improvement."

But that trial was terminated early due to low enrolment, and Gilead said it was inconclusive.

6:19 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

Volkswagen restarts Europe's largest car factory after coronavirus shutdown

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

An employee works on the production line at the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, Germany, on April 27. Production was shut down in March due to both lockdown measures designed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and the breakdown of international supply chains.
An employee works on the production line at the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, Germany, on April 27. Production was shut down in March due to both lockdown measures designed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and the breakdown of international supply chains. Swen Pförtner/Pool/Getty Images

Volkswagen -- the world's largest carmaker by sales -- restarted work at its biggest factory, in northern Germany, on Monday. 

In a statement, VW said 8,000 employees in the city of Wolfsburg began building cars again on Monday, under tight hygiene restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The company says it expects 1,400 cars to be built this week. Next week, production will be ramped up to more than 6,000 cars -- around 40% of pre-crisis levels.

"Step-by-step resumption of production is an important signal for the workforce, dealerships, suppliers and the wider economy," said Ralf Brandstaetter, Chief Operating Officer of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand.
"In terms of managing the crisis, though, this is just the first step. Additional momentum is needed to stimulate demand in Germany and throughout Europe so that production volumes can be successively increased."

The company says it has implemented extra hygiene measures at the factory. Employees are expected to check their temperature at home every morning, and to change into their overalls at home, to prevent crowding in factory changing rooms.

Markings on the factory floor will help workers maintain a 1.5-meter distance from each other. Where this is not possible, mouth and nose protection must be worn. VW says extra time is being provided to allow employees to disinfect tools and surfaces.

Volkswagen began producing components in several German cities in early April and resumed manufacturing in Germany and Slovakia on April 20. This week the company plans to restart production in Portugal, Spain, Russia, South Africa and South America and from May 3 onwards in Tennessee in the United States.

6:03 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

Reopening US states are taking their first steps toward a new normal 

By CNN's Eric Levenson

Employees and customers walk into Three-13 Salon, Spa & Boutique in Marietta, Georgia, on April 24. The salon reopened on April 24 after having been closed for more than a month due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Employees and customers walk into Three-13 Salon, Spa & Boutique in Marietta, Georgia, on April 24. The salon reopened on April 24 after having been closed for more than a month due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Ron Harris/AP

Carlos Davis used to have about 200 clients drop by his CUT-ology barbershop in Albany, Georgia, every day. On Friday, the first day he was allowed to reopen since the coronavirus pandemic began, around 30 clients came in. 

Wearing gloves, a construction face mask and a face shield, Davis said he was taking precautions to protect staff and clients. A piece of paper on the door outlined the mandatory guidelines, saying clients must wear a mask and gloves in order to enter. 

Davis is afraid of the virus, but he also fears losing his business. "If I don't cut, I don't eat," he said.

Davis's decision to reopen comes as a number of states have begun to loosen stay-at-home restrictions -- even as the novel coronavirus continues to infect and kill people.

Across the country, more than 950,000 people have tested positive for the virus and more than 54,000 have died.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy allowed salons and restaurants to reopen in most parts of the state Friday. Oklahoma allowed some personal-care businesses to reopen for appointments Friday as well. Even in California, some beaches that had been closed reopened for public use, though with limitations.

Georgia's reopening has been the most aggressive so far. Gov. Brian Kemp ordered the reopening of hair and nail salons, gyms, bowling alleys, tattoo studios and massage therapists on Friday, with theaters and restaurants to follow on Monday.

The reopenings come despite warnings from health experts, local mayors and even President Donald Trump.

The influential Covid-19 model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, for example, says social distancing should not be relaxed in Georgia until June 22.

Read the full story here.

5:55 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

New Zealand hails "elimination" of coronavirus, with new cases in single digits

By CNN's Anna Kam

A medical staff member tests a shopper in his car at a pop-up community Covid-19 testing station at a supermarket carpark in Christchurch, New Zealand, on April 17.
A medical staff member tests a shopper in his car at a pop-up community Covid-19 testing station at a supermarket carpark in Christchurch, New Zealand, on April 17. Mark Baker/AP

New Zealand claims it has"eliminated" the coronavirus as the country announced the easing of restrictions from "level four" to "level three," with new cases in single figures. 

At a news conference on Monday, authorities reported one new case, four "probable cases" and one new death from the virus.

Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand's Director General of Health, said the low number "does give us confidence that we've achieved our goal of elimination, which -- that never meant zero but it does mean we know where our cases are coming from."

He added: "Our goal is elimination. And again, that doesn't mean eradication but it means we get down to a small number of cases so that we are able to stamp out any cases and any outbreak that might come out." 

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the coronavirus was "currently" eliminated but that the country needed to remain alert and could still expect to continue to see new cases.

Read the full story here.

5:50 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

French Grand Prix called off -- but Formula One plans to start season in July

From CNN’s Aleks Klosok in London

Formula One Chairman Chase Carey speaks at a press conference in Melbourne on March 13 after the F1 Grand Prix of Australia was cancelled at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit.
Formula One Chairman Chase Carey speaks at a press conference in Melbourne on March 13 after the F1 Grand Prix of Australia was cancelled at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit. Charles Coates/Getty Images

Formula One's chairman Chase Carey says he plans to start the 2020 season in Austria in July, after the French Grand Prix was called off.

French Grand Prix organisers announced on Monday that it was impossible for the race to go ahead as planned on June 28. French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this month expanded the country's ban on major events until at least the middle of July and imposed travel restrictions.

The 2020 season has yet to begin -- the French Grand Prix is the 10th race to have been canceled or postponed in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Carey said in a statement that he was "increasingly confident with the progress of our plans to begin our season this summer" with a view to kicking off in Austria in July -- albeit in all likelihood behind closed doors.

He added: "We’re targeting a start to racing in Europe through July, August and beginning of September, with the first race taking place in Austria on 3-5 July weekend."

"September, October and November, would see us race in Eurasia, Asia and the Americas, finishing the season in the Gulf in December with Bahrain before the traditional finale in Abu Dhabi, having completed between 15-18 races."

He said he hoped fans would be part of the events further into the schedule, adding that there were many issues to work out regarding travel to each country.

British Grand Prix organisers announced on Monday that their event remains on course to take place on July 19 -- but that it will be held without spectators.

5:44 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

UK risks 100,000 deaths if restrictions are eased, leading scientist warns

From CNN's Simon Cullen in London

A social distancing sign is seen at the entrance of Regent's Park in London on April 26.
A social distancing sign is seen at the entrance of Regent's Park in London on April 26. Alberto Pezzali/AP

The UK could experience more than 100,000 coronavirus deaths later this year if the government eases restrictions to focus on just protecting those most at risk, according to one of the country’s leading epidemiologists.

Neil Ferguson is one of the scientists who has been advising the government in its response to the pandemic.

"The people most at risk of death are in care homes or have other health conditions," Ferguson said in an interview with the 'Unherd' website.

"I am very sceptical we can get to the level of shielding which would make that a viable strategy,” he said, referring to the idea of easing restrictions for most people and focusing government efforts on those most at risk.
"If you just achieve 80 percent shielding -- 80 percent reduction in infection risk in those groups – we still project you’d get well over 100,000 deaths later this year."

The government is coming under pressure to ease some coronavirus restrictions.

Positive signs: Ferguson, a professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London whose modelling has influenced UK government policy, says the restrictions have been working.

He said there has been an 80 to 90 percent drop in contact between people from different households, and this is believed to have brought transmission rates down.

"We’ve brought the reproduction number down somewhere in the region of 0.6 to 0.7, which (means) the epidemic is in decline now,” he said.

No time to relax: Ferguson said the challenge is that there isn't a lot of "leeway to relax without other interventions."

"So, if we want to move away from lockdown -- reopen schools, reopen workplaces, let people go shopping again -- we have to substitute other measures."

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