January 6 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Zamira Rahim, Angela Dewan and Hannah Strange, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, January 7, 2021
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7:13 p.m. ET, January 6, 2021

Ireland tightens lockdown measures, closing construction sites and schools

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in Dublin

An empty street in Dublin city center on Monday, January 4, 2021, in Dublin, Ireland.
An empty street in Dublin city center on Monday, January 4, 2021, in Dublin, Ireland. Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Ireland has further tightened its Covid-19 lockdown measures, closing construction sites and schools across the country, Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Micheál Martin announced Wednesday, adding that such measures would be necessary "to suppress the surge and flatten the curve once again." 

Under the new restrictions all schools will close and move online until the end of January. An exception has been made for final year students, who will be allowed to attend school three days a week from January 11.

Other childcare services will also close, with exceptions made for vulnerable children and the children of frontline workers.

Non-essential construction projects will be ordered to close from 6pm on Friday, Martin added, acknowledging "how severe a measure this is on the construction sector."

On Wednesday, 7,836 new cases were recorded by Ireland’s Department of Health, and national hospitalization figures surpassed those from the first wave of the pandemic, Ireland’s Health Executive boss Paul Reid said on Twitter.

This surging case rate prompted the Irish government to re-impose Level 5 lockdown measures on December 30.

Taoiseach Martin said Wednesday that the situation in Ireland "is not dissimilar to what is happening in the UK in terms of the rapid growth in community transmission and rapid hospitalizations." 

5:22 p.m. ET, January 6, 2021

WHO official: World is playing “a very dangerous game” as virus has opportunity to mutate

From CNN's Elizabeth Cohen

The World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
The World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

The world — especially countries like the United States — is playing a “very dangerous game” with the novel coronavirus, giving it more chances to mutate as the virus spreads, a World Health Organization official said.

"We're playing a very dangerous game with this virus right now," Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for the coronavirus response, told CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. "What worries us is that the longer this spreads the more opportunities it has to change."

Van Kerkhove pointed out that many mutations won’t have much of an impact on the virus, but if a virus changes its genetics in just the right way, tests might not be able to detect it as easily, and vaccines might not work as well against it.

She pointed out that some countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, have done a better job controlling the virus. “It’s completely up to us to be able to bring the virus under control,” she said. “The virus is controllable, including these variants.” 

3:59 p.m. ET, January 6, 2021

California records more than 450 Covid-19 deaths as hospitalizations reach new high

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg and Amanda Watts

The Dodger Stadium COVID-19 testing site, which is the largest in the U.S. reopened Monday on January 5, in Los Angeles, California.
The Dodger Stadium COVID-19 testing site, which is the largest in the U.S. reopened Monday on January 5, in Los Angeles, California. Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

California’s Department of Public Health confirmed 459 new Covid-19 deaths on Wednesday, as infection numbers and hospitalizations in the state soar.

The number of fatalities is well above the two-week daily average of just under 300 deaths a day. Only once has the daily report been higher, when the state reported 585 deaths on December 31 last year. 

Hospitalizations in the Golden State have reached a new high, with 22,820 coronavirus patients admitted for treatment statewide. More than 4,700 of those patients are in intensive care units.

There were nearly 30,000 confirmed infections reported Wednesday.

The total number of Californians infected with Covid-19 has now reached 2.4 million.

3:42 p.m. ET, January 6, 2021

Fauci says no national vaccine mandate for the US, but some workplaces and schools may require it

From CNN Jen Christensen

Economic Club of Washington DC
Economic Club of Washington DC

Dr. Anthony Fauci said the US would not force people to get a Covid-19 vaccine but some employers and schools may require employees and pupils to be vaccinated.

“We’re certainly not going to have a central mandate from the federal government, but the precedent for requiring vaccinations is not new,” Fauci said. 

Speaking Wednesday at the Economic Club of Washington, DC, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said, for example, he is required by NIAID to get a flu shot if he wanted to see patients. He said he could see other institutions making such requirements. 

“I would imagine that some industrial entities, some schools and other entities might actually at the local level require that people get vaccinated before they can participate in whatever function of that institution is,” Fauci said.

“I mean, we do it already in public schools. If you don’t show a certificate of being vaccinated you’re not allowed to be in school.” 

Fauci said vaccines are hugely important in bringing Covid-19 under control.

“Vaccines are a clear home run,” Fauci said. “We have very efficacious vaccine that’s safe. The real challenge is just getting it into the arms of people.”

2:29 p.m. ET, January 6, 2021

NY Governor asks for proof of Covid-19 testing from international travelers

From CNN's Laura Dolan

A traveler is reflected in a window at LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020.
A traveler is reflected in a window at LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020. Angus Mordant/Bloomberg/Getty Images

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked the federal government to require international travelers entering the state to show proof of a Covid-19 test before entry.

Cuomo said he wanted US Customs and Border Control personnel to ask for proof at all New York airports or to allow Port Authority personnel to obtain proof.  

“Let us protect ourselves,” Cuomo said at his press conference Wednesday. “We don’t want tens of thousands of people coming through our airports every day from countries around the world who were not tested.”

In addition to making the request public at his press conference, Gov. Cuomo sent a letter with an official request to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Director Robert Redfield.

The governor says he is very concerned about the UK variant of Covid-19, which is now in New York after a case was confirmed in Saratoga on Monday. Cuomo said it appears now there’s evidence that the UK variant in Saratoga Springs was connected to UK travel.

1:02 p.m. ET, January 6, 2021

South Africa's Covid-19 variant spurred discovery of the UK's

From CNN's Elizabeth Cohen

A new Covid-19 variant circulating the UK was discovered after a tip from a South African scientist who had just identified a similar variant in his own country.

Tulio de Oliveira, a genomics expert in South Africa, asked to speak before a World Health Organization working group on December 4 about the new variant that was rapidly spreading in his country, according to an email obtained by CNN. 

He spoke to the group that day and suggested they look through their genomic databases for similar variants. 

One of the members in attendance was Andrew Rambaut, a professor at the University of Edinburgh. He found a similar variant in the UK database. 

Rambaut tweeted on December 20 that de Oliviera's discovery was like a "hint" for the UK to look for a similar variant.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead for the WHO's coronavirus response, also said de Oliveira's discovery triggered British scientists to look at the different type of variants.

"I'm just so grateful that we have this [international] collaboration," she said.

12:02 p.m. ET, January 6, 2021

UK hits winter record of 1,041 daily deaths as Covid-19 cases surge

From CNN's Nada Bashir

Britain has recorded its highest daily increase in coronavirus-related deaths since 21 April, with a total of 1,041 further deaths registered on Wednesday. 

The total death toll for patients who have died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus, since the beginning of the pandemic, now stands at 77,346 according to government figures. 

As of Wednesday, 62,322 new cases have been confirmed across the UK, bringing the country's total number of cases to 2,836,801.

Wednesday’s figures mark an increase on Tuesday, where 60,916 new daily cases were recorded, along with 830 additional deaths.

Speaking during a Downing Street press briefing on Tuesday, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said that about one in 50 people across England now has coronavirus, calling the figure “really very high.”

England is currently under a strict national lockdown as the British government struggles to curb the rise in infection.

11:48 a.m. ET, January 6, 2021

Zimbabwe health system overwhelmed as country goes into new strict lockdown, doctors say

From CNN's Nyasha Chingono

A person passes closed shops in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe, on January 5.
A person passes closed shops in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe, on January 5. Aaron Ufumeli/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Doctors in Zimbabwe have said the health system is overwhelmed and could collapse as the country battles a new wave of infections that has prompted a strict new 30-day lockdown.

After the Christmas holidays, Zimbabwe recorded an increase in Covid-19 infections and deaths, raising fears for an already fragile healthcare system.

The government has urged citizens to adhere to the lockdown, which includes movement restrictions to all but the most essential services.

The reopening of schools has been postponed indefinitely, following a Covid-19 outbreak in schools last term, while shops will only be open until 3 pm daily.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew is also in place to avoid night gatherings and events.

Read more:

11:55 a.m. ET, January 6, 2021

New York City officials push to vaccinate those over 75 as hospitalizations rise

From CNN's Kristina Squeglia in New York

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at a press conference in New York on January 6.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at a press conference in New York on January 6. NYC Media

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing for adults in the city aged over 75 to be prioritized for vaccination against Covid-19, amid worsening trends in that age group.

Eligibility for vaccination is ultimately approved by state officials. The state currently has a five phase vaccination priority plan. The first two phases prioritize healthcare workers and long term care facility patients and other key workers. Adults over the age of 65 are under phase 3 of the plan.

The mayor has said he hopes to begin pre-registration of seniors at some of the available vaccination hubs in the city.

New York City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi elaborated that over the past 30 days, 6% of all cases are over 75 and up, but 30% of hospitalizations and 58% of deaths are in persons 75 and older. Percent positivity is also increasing in this category.

“I believe that New Yorkers age 75 and older should be eligible for the vaccine as soon as possible,” Chokshi said, adding that “several states have already prioritized older adults.”

Overall, New York City reported an additional 3,845 cases on a 7-day average, which de Blasio said was "way too high." The city also recorded a “big jump” in patients admitted to hospitals with suspected Covid-19, with the mayor marking 279 in Wednesday’s report.

De Blasio said he was hopeful that the impact of the holiday break would wear off the next few weeks, leading to an improvement in Covid-19 numbers.

New York City was the US epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic in March, with hospitals struggling to cope with the influx of patients.

After an easier summer, the city is now experiencing rising numbers of infections and new restrictions have been imposed.