Study raises new questions about face masks


Global cases of COVID-19 are set to pass the one million mark, with the total number of deaths approaching 50,000 according to data from John Hopkins University.

However the real number of cases and deaths is almost certain to be higher. 

It comes as Italy, Spain and the UK approach the peak of their infection curve, with warnings the US is on track to become the next Italy.

MORE: Follow the latest coronavirus news here

Meanwhile WHO experts will review the organisation's guidelines on who should be wearing face masks following the release of a new study.


Live Updates

3h agoApril 3, 2020

Virus poses 'existential threat' to Africa

Victoria Craw

Africa faces an "existential threat" from coronavirus with cases set to explode and few ventilators available, an expert has warned.

Some African countries will have more than 10,000 coronavirus cases by the end of April, health officials projected with an "enormous gap" in ventilators and other critical items.

The head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr John Nkengasong, said the continent is now in a similar position to Europe after 40 days.


The virus "is an existential threat to our continent," he said. All but five of Africa's 54 countries have cases, and local transmission has begun in many of those, as governments look into procuring ventilators.

"We've seen a lot of goodwill expressed to supporting Africa from bilateral and multilateral partners," but "we still have to see that translate into concrete action," he said.

Some countries have only a few ventilators. Central African Republic has just three.

- With wires

  1:02 amApril 3, 2020

Global cases near 1 million mark

Victoria Craw

Global cases of COVID-19 have neared the 1 million mark with nearly 50,000 dying from the disease, data from John Hopkins University shows.

real-time tracker shows the world is set to break the huge milestone, with the largest number recorded in the US. Italy, Spain and China, where the outbreak began, follow behind.

Italy has suffered the highest number of deaths from the pandemic, with 13,155 people dying. Spain is behind that with more than 10,000 deaths. More than 200,000 people have recovered from the disease.

Australia has recorded 24 so far, and Australians have been warned social distancing and closures are likely to be the reality for the next six months.

  12:57 amApril 3, 2020

6.6 million apply for unemployment in US

Victoria Craw

More than 6.6 million people applied for unemployment benefits in the last week in the US - doubling a record high set one week earlier.

The stunning figures show job cuts are accelerating during the virus lockdown and point to the fact a significant recession is sure to follow the crisis.

Combined with the 3.3 million claiming unemployment last week, it means nearly 10 million people have lost their jobs in the last few weeks, far outstripping anything seen before.

"This kind of upending of the labor market in such a short time is unheard of," said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank.

It comes following warnings the US could become like Italy in terms of the virus pandemic. On Wednesday a six-week old baby was reported to be the youngest to die of the disease.

The US has recorded nearly 220,000 cases with most deaths in New York City - where 1,374 people have died.


Connecticut governor Ned Lamont tweeted his "heartbreaking sadness" over the news. It is unclear if the baby had underlying health conditions.

"A 6-week-old newborn from the Hartford area was brought unresponsive to a hospital late last week and could not be revived," Mr Lamond said.

"Testing confirmed last night that the newborn was COVID-19 positive. This is absolutely heartbreaking. We believe this is one of the youngest lives lost anywhere due to complications relating to COVID-19.

"This is a virus that attacks our most fragile without mercy. This also stresses the importance of staying home and limiting exposure to other people. Your life and the lives of others could literally depend on it. Our prayers are with the family at this difficult time."

  9:23 pmApril 2, 2020

Italian deaths could be double official tally

Victoria Craw

A study revealing the hidden toll of coronavirus at the epicentre of Italy's outbreak has revealed the real death toll could be double official figures.

A study by Bergamo newspaper L'Eco di Bergamo with the InTwig data analysis agency puts the number of virus deaths last month at 4,500, compared with the official toll of 2,060, in the province of 1.1 million people.

Italy has recorded 110,000 cases of the disease with more than 13,000 deaths.

Mayors have warned that the official numbers fail to take into account the many people dying at home or in rest homes who have never been tested for the virus.

Under current policies, only those who arrive at hospitals manifesting strong symptoms are tested.

The Lombardy region has been home to 40 per cent of Italian cases and more than half its deaths, with Bergamo the hardest hit region. Italy has recorded the most deaths of any country so far, and will remain in lockdown until April 13.

- With wires

  8:47 pmApril 2, 2020

WHO to review face mask guidance

Victoria Craw

The WHO will review whether more people should be wearing face masks after a new study called current guidelines into question.

An advisory panel led by Prof David Heymann - a former director at the organisation - told the BBC "the WHO is opening up its discussion again looking at the new evidence to see whether or not there should be a change in the way it's recommending masks should be used."

It comes after a US study found coughs and sneezes can travel around 7-8 metres - far further than the current 1-2 metres required under WHO and US CDC guidelines.

"These distances are based on estimates of range that have not considered the possible presence of a high-momentum cloud carrying the droplets long distances," the MIT study found.


"Given the turbulent puff cloud dynamic model, recommendations for separations of 3 to 6 feet (1-2 m) may underestimate the distance, timescale, and persistence over which the cloud and its pathogenic payload travel, thus generating an underappreciated potential exposure range for a health care worker.

"For these and other reasons, wearing of appropriate personal protection equipment is vitally important for health care workers caring for patients who may be infected, even if they are farther than 6 feet away from a patient."

Prof Heymann said if the evidence played out it could mean masks are more effective than lockdown measures, but warned they had to be worn properly to be effective - with clean hands, changed often and not taken off to eat or smoke.

WHO advice currently states there is no need for healthy people to wear a mask unless they are taking care of a person who has coronavirus. If you are coughing or sneezing, it is then advised to wear a mask.

For further advice on mask wearing, click here.



UK faces row over testing

Victoria Craw

In the UK 2,961 people have died from the virus after an increase of 569 in the last 24 hours - 44 of them with no underlying conditions.

Meanwhile, the government is facing a row over lack of testing for healthcare workers and the general population for coronavirus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is self-isolating with symptoms of the disease along with several of his key advisers. He said Britain would "massively increase" the scale of its testing amid criticism the government had not done enough.

"This is how we will unlock the coronavirus puzzle, this is how we will defeat it in the end," he said in a video posted online.


Earlier this week officials revealed the government had run out of the chemical needed to supply test kits. They also faced criticism for failing to test at the same rate as other European countries such as Germany.

NHS workers have been dubbed a priority, as up to a quarter of the workforce is believed to be isolating as a precaution, unsure they actually have the disease.


  8:30 pmApril 2, 2020

Spain reaches new daily record

Victoria Craw

Spain has seen another record day in virus-related deaths, with 950 people dying in the last 24 hours according to health ministry figures.

Spanish officials believe the growth of the contagion is waning and the total number of deaths is just over 10,000. Overnight, new cases rose by nearly eight per cent to just over 110,000.

However that figure is a reduction from the 20 per cent daily average growth that was recorded until March 25 to less than 12 per cent after a national lockdown went into effect.

The government has acknowledged that the real number of infections could be much higher because Spain only has the capacity of doing between 15,000 to 20,000 tests per day.


Originally published as Face mask guidance set for review

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