January 4 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Zamira Rahim and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:03 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021
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4:21 a.m. ET, January 4, 2021

India embarks on one of the world's most ambitious vaccine rollouts

From CNN's Vedika Sud and Nectar Gan

A health worker is seen opening a deep freezer during a nationwide dry run for Covid-19 vaccinations at the health care center at Darya Ganj in New Delhi, India on January 2.
A health worker is seen opening a deep freezer during a nationwide dry run for Covid-19 vaccinations at the health care center at Darya Ganj in New Delhi, India on January 2. Naveen Sharma/SOPA Images/Shutterstock

India is embarking on one of the world's most ambitious mass immunization programs ever undertaken, after regulators approved the country's first two Covid-19 vaccines for restricted emergency use.

Indian drug regulators on Sunday gave the go ahead for two coronavirus vaccines, one developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, and the other conceived locally by Bharat Biotech and a government-run institute. 

Both vaccines will be administered in two doses and stored at standard refrigerator temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit).

The approval is a crucial step in India's effort to contain its coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 10 million people, trailing only the United States in total caseload.

The country of 1.35 billion is planning to inoculate 300 million frontline workers, elderly and vulnerable people by August, and preparations have been months in the making.

The Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine maker, is producing the AstraZeneca and Oxford vaccine locally, having taken on a huge risk to manufacture the vaccine months before approval from regulators.

But the vaccines, locally branded Covishield, won't be available to other countries until March or April, as the Indian government has restricted them for export.

Read the full story:

3:58 a.m. ET, January 4, 2021

Thailand reports largest daily increase in new Covid-19 cases since start of pandemic

From CNN's Kocha Olarn in Bangkok and Ally Barnard in Hong Kong

Employees clean and disinfect a train at Hua Lamphong Central Railway Station in Bangkok on January 4.
Employees clean and disinfect a train at Hua Lamphong Central Railway Station in Bangkok on January 4. Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

Thailand reported its largest daily increase in new Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic on Monday, according to figures from the Department of Disease Control. 

The country reported 745 new Covid-19 cases, bringing its total to 8,439. Most of the new cases -- 577 -- involve migrant workers.

One additional fatality was also reported, bringing the total death toll in the country to 65.

Thailand has seen enviably low numbers of Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began. The country saw a surge in cases in March and April last year but the figures then dropped down to single or low double digits for several months before starting to pick up again in mid-December. 

Restrictions imposed: To contain the spread of the virus, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has banned restaurants from offering dine-in services from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., starting Tuesday.

On Sunday, the Thai government labelled Bangkok and 27 other provinces as "red zones," meaning that schools and entertainment venues are closed and large gatherings and are banned in those areas.

3:43 a.m. ET, January 4, 2021

First patient in UK receives Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

Brian Pinker, 82, receives the Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from nurse Sam Foster at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, England, on Monday, January 4.
Brian Pinker, 82, receives the Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from nurse Sam Foster at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, England, on Monday, January 4. Steve Parsons/Pool/AP

The first patient in the UK has received the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine. 

Brian William Pinker, 82, received the shot early Monday morning at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford.

"I am so pleased to be getting the Covid vaccine today and really proud that it is one that was invented in Oxford," he said.
“The vaccine means everything to me, to my mind it is the only way to get back to normal life. This virus is terrible, isn’t it?”

Pinker said he first knew on Saturday that he was going to get vaccinated and was told he would be the very first patient. “Took me long enough to be a star,” he said. 

The AstraZeneca vaccine rollout began today in the UK and the country’s health secretary described it as a “real pivotal moment" as Covid-19 cases continue to rise in parts of the country.

Chief Nurse Sam Foster, who administered the vaccine, said: “It was a real privilege to be able to deliver the first Oxford vaccine at the Churchill Hospital here in Oxford, just a few hundred meters from where it was developed."

Pinker is a retired maintenance manager who has been having dialysis for kidney disease at the hospital. Others should get vaccinated too because “it is a no brainer,” he said.

"The nurses, doctors and staff today have all been brilliant and I can now really look forward to celebrating my 48th wedding anniversary with my wife Shirley later this year.”

The NHS is the first health service in the world to deploy the AstraZeneca vaccine and it's the only one approved that can be stored at fridge temperatures. The first vaccinations will be delivered at a small number of hospitals for the first few days for surveillance purposes, as is standard practice, before the bulk of supplies are sent to more GP-led services later in the week, NHS England said in a statement.

3:36 a.m. ET, January 4, 2021

UK's rollout of AstraZeneca vaccine is a "pivotal moment," health secretary says

From CNN's Nina Avramova

The United Kingdom is starting its rollout of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine today and the country’s health secretary described it as a “real pivotal moment.”

“The very positive news this morning of the Oxford vaccine starting to be rolled out -- that’s a triumph of British science that we’ve managed to get to where we are,” Matt Hancock told Sky News Monday morning. 

The vaccine comes at a crucial time in Britain and Hancock said that the number of Covid-19 cases was sharply rising in parts of the country.

"Some of the Tier 3 areas are seeing sharp rises in cases, and each week we look at all of the areas of the country to check that they are in the right position in terms of the tiers. But, it is a very difficult situation in terms of the growth of the virus," he said.

But then we also have this very good news this morning, it’s a real pivotal moment with the arrival, actually in the hospitals of the UK, of the Oxford vaccine.”
3:23 a.m. ET, January 4, 2021

South Korea aims to approve AstraZeneca vaccine in February

From CNN’s Jake Kwon in Seoul

A vial of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca is checked as doses arrive at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, England on January 2.
A vial of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca is checked as doses arrive at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, England on January 2. Gareth Fuller/Pool/AP

South Korea will expedite the vaccine approval process for the Oxford University/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, according to the country’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. 

AstraZeneca has filed for approval of its vaccine, which could take only 40 days. Normal vaccine approval takes 180 days, according to the ministry.

Separately, a quality assurance permit approval will also be expedited to be completed within 20 days -- the full approval is expected to come in February.

AstraZeneca is producing the vaccine in South Korea at local firm SK BioScience, the ministry said.

The ministry said it's preparing cold-chain storage and logistical methods to deliver the vaccines.

3:06 a.m. ET, January 4, 2021

First people in UK to receive Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Jonny Hallam

Doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine are logged by a technical officer after they arrive at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath on January 2 in West Sussex, United Kingdom.
Doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine are logged by a technical officer after they arrive at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath on January 2 in West Sussex, United Kingdom. Gareth Fuller/WPA Pool/Getty Images

The first people to receive the Oxford University/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine will be inoculated Monday as the NHS expands Covid-19 vaccination programs across the United Kingdom, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

The NHS is the first health service in the world to deploy the AstraZeneca shot and it's the only approved vaccine that can be stored at fridge temperatures, the department said in a statement.

The government has secured access to 100 million doses of the vaccine for the whole of the UK, crown dependencies and overseas territories. More than half a million doses are available from Monday, and the Health Department said tens of millions more will be delivered in the coming weeks and months.

More than 730 vaccination sites have been established across the UK with hundreds more set to open this week.

“I am delighted that today we are rolling out the Oxford vaccine -- a testament to British science. This is a pivotal moment in our fight against this awful virus and I hope it provides renewed hope to everybody that the end of this pandemic is in sight," said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
“Through its vaccine delivery plan the NHS is doing everything it can to vaccinate those most at risk as quickly as possible and we will rapidly accelerate our vaccination program.

More than a million people in the UK have been vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the statement said.

2:49 a.m. ET, January 4, 2021

Parts of Japan poised for state of emergency as Covid-19 cases soar

From CNN's Junko Ogura and James Griffiths

Japan may enter a state of emergency this week as the country grapples with soaring coronavirus cases, a number of which have been linked to a new, potentially more infectious variant. 

Speaking at a new year news conference Monday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said an emergency declaration was being considered, and would apply to Tokyo and the three neighboring prefectures of Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa.

The governors of all four regions have all urged Suga to do so already, as cases rise. 

"lf necessary, we won't hesitate to dispatch the medical staff from Self-Defense Forces," Suga added, saying the government will support medical facilities to ensure they are not overwhelmed.

Suga did not say when the government would make a decision, or what restrictions could be enacted. Japan's first state of emergency, declared last spring, relatively early in the pandemic, lasted more than a month, and saw schools and non-essential businesses closed.

Japanese authorities are currently limited in their powers to punish those who breach restrictions, even in a state of emergency, something Suga's government is reportedly planning to change to enable local governments to force compliance.

Read the full story:

2:29 a.m. ET, January 4, 2021

UK Covid-19 response "biggest homeland operation" in peacetime, Defense Ministry says

From CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh and Arnaud Siad in London

Members of the military practice loading and unloading a stretcher into an ambulance at Maindy Barracks on December 23, 2020 in Cardiff, Wales.
Members of the military practice loading and unloading a stretcher into an ambulance at Maindy Barracks on December 23, 2020 in Cardiff, Wales. Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Over 5,000 armed forces personnel have been deployed in support of the UK's Covid-19 response, in the “biggest homeland operation in peacetime,” the British Ministry of Defence said in a statement on Monday.

Members of the military are working on "70 different tasks ranging from schools testing to the rollout of vaccines," the statement said.

“The new year will see new levels of Armed Forces support to overcoming this pandemic. Thousands of service personnel are working throughout the United Kingdom, wherever they are needed to assist the civil authorities," UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said.

According to the Ministry of Defence website, the military has responded to 275 requests for assistance by civil authorities in the UK between March 18 and December 31, 2020.

1:48 a.m. ET, January 4, 2021

South Korea reports another day with over 1,000 Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Jake Kwon in Seoul

People wearing face masks walk by taped public sports facilities at a park in Seoul, South Korea on January 3.
People wearing face masks walk by taped public sports facilities at a park in Seoul, South Korea on January 3. Ahn Young-joon/AP

South Korea reported 1,020 Covid-19 cases on Sunday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said Monday. 

Of those, 985 were local cases and 35 imported.

The majority of new cases -- 685 -- were found in the Seoul metropolitan area, according to KDCA.

South Korea's total number of cases now stands at 64,264. There were also 19 deaths reported on Sunday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 981.