January 12 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Ivana Kottasová, Florence Davey-Attlee and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, January 13, 2021
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11:33 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

77% of Japanese say Tokyo 2020 should be canceled or postponed, poll says

From CNN's Junko Ogura in Tokyo

A man wearing a face mask walks past Olympic Rings at the Japan Olympic Museum in Tokyo on January 8, 2021.
A man wearing a face mask walks past Olympic Rings at the Japan Olympic Museum in Tokyo on January 8, 2021. Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

A poll conducted by Japanese public broadcaster NHK has found that 77% of respondents believe the already delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics should be canceled or postponed further. 

Some 38% said the Games should be completely canceled and 39% believe they should be postponed for a second time.

Only 16% of respondents said they believed the Games should go ahead this summer. 

NHK conducted the survey from January 9 to 11 by randomly telephoning people aged 18 or over. A total of 1,278 people responded, or 59% of those contacted. The survey was conducted using Random Digit Dialing (RDD) -- a method which randomly makes calls to landlines and mobile phones.

The poll results come a few days after Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures were placed under a state of emergency due to rising numbers of Covid-19 infections, which are at their highest levels since the pandemic began. 

10:49 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

China sees biggest daily Covid-19 case jump in more than 5 months

From CNN’s Beijing bureau

China recorded its highest daily increase in Covid-19 cases in more than five months on Tuesday, following a recent cluster of infections in the northern Hebei province.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that the country reported 115 new confirmed cases Tuesday, which is the highest daily rise since July 30.

  • Of those, 107 were local infections -- the highest daily jump in local transmissions since July 30.
  • Hebei, the province that surrounds Beijing, accounted for 90 of the cases, while northeastern Heilongjiang province reported 16 new cases. 

Hebei's vice governor Xu Jianpei announced Tuesday that a second round of mass testing programs would kick off in the cities of Shijiazhuang, Xingtai, and Langfang. The first saw 17 million people tested in the province in a program that ended on Sunday.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, was 38.

China has recorded a total of 87,706 confirmed cases during the pandemic and at least 4,634 people have died.

10:29 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

Brazil data shakes confidence in China's Sinovac coronavirus vaccine

From CNN’s Tatiana Arias in Atlanta, Steve George and Nectar Gan in Hong Kong, and Yong Xiong in Seoul

A container with CoronaVac vaccines developed by China's Sinovac in partnership with the Butantan Institute arrived from China in Sao Paulo on December 30, 2020.
A container with CoronaVac vaccines developed by China's Sinovac in partnership with the Butantan Institute arrived from China in Sao Paulo on December 30, 2020. Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

A Covid-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech was just 50.38% effective in late-stage trials in Brazil, significantly lower than earlier results showed, according to a statement published by the government of São Paulo Tuesday.

While the number meets the threshold required by global regulators for approval, it falls far below the 78% figure announced last week.

It's raising questions as to the veracity of the data and fueling skepticism over the apparent lack of transparency regarding Chinese vaccines.

“The Butantan Institute and the Government of São Paulo report that the coronavirus vaccine achieved a 50.38% overall efficacy rate in the clinical study conducted in Brazil, in addition to [an efficacy rate of] 78% for mild cases and 100% for moderate and severe cases of Covid-19. All rates are higher than the 50% level required by the WHO (World Health Organization),” the statement released Tuesday said.

The razor-thin results for regulatory approval are likely to lead to concern among scientists, given that last week the Brazilian Institute released partial “clinical efficacy” results celebrating 78% to 100% efficacy in preventing infections. The vaccine was studied in 12,500 volunteers, all of them health professionals, across Brazil.

Why the data changed: In a summary of the clinical study published by the government of São Paulo and the Butantan Institute, data for another group of participants who reported “very mild” cases of infection was included, therefore yielding a lower efficacy rate for the vaccine.

"Regarding the overall efficacy of the analysis, we met the requirements of the World Health Organization with 50.38%," Ricardo Palacios, medical director for clinical research at the Butantan biomedical center in Sao Paulo said Tuesday during a news conference.

Questions over efficacy: However on Tuesday, high-ranking members of the Brazilian Health Ministry told CNN affiliate CNN Brasil that "the effectiveness is borderline," and that because "it is at the limit" they would need the county’s health regulator agency, ANVISA, to evaluate.

A representative of Sinovac said the company is discussing the result but declined to give further comment. 

Last week, ANVISA told the Butantan Institute that in order to approve the emergency use of a vaccine, the global efficacy rate had to be disclosed to the public -- information the institute did not receive from Sinovac at the time, according to CNN Brasil sources.

10:21 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

The cost of closing schools due to the pandemic "has been devastating," UNICEF says

From CNN's Radina Gigova in Atlanta 

A mural promoting UNICEF's motto "for every child" seen in New Delhi, India on December 21, 2020.
A mural promoting UNICEF's motto "for every child" seen in New Delhi, India on December 21, 2020. Mayank Makhija/NurPhoto/Getty Images

The cost of closing schools due to the coronavirus pandemic "has been devastating," as 90% of students globally faced shutdowns at the peak of the disruptions last year, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) chief said Tuesday.

The closures have meant more than a third of schoolchildren were left with no access to remote education.

“Despite overwhelming evidence of the impact of school closures on children, and despite increasing evidence that schools are not drivers of the pandemic, too many countries have opted to keep schools closed, some for nearly a year," UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.

Fore said children's health, development, safety and well-being are at risk, and “that’s why closing schools must be a measure of last resort, after all other options have been considered.”

As the pandemic enters its second year, the number of out-of-school children is set to increase by 24 million, "to a level we have not seen in years and have fought so hard to overcome," she said.

Children’s ability to read, write and do basic math has suffered, and the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century economy have diminished."

After restrictions are lifted, Fore said schools must be among the first to reopen and catch-up classes should be prioritized to keep children who were unable to learn remotely from being left behind. 

“If children are faced with another year of school closures, the effects will be felt for generations to come," she said. 

9:59 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

Tunisia announces 4-day lockdown as health minister says hospitals under "severe pressure"

From CNN's Hande Atay Alam

Tunisia's Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi announced a four-day general lockdown starting Thursday, according to the state-run TAP news agency.  

TAP tweeted Tuesday that the lockdown will last from January 14 to 17 and that classes will be suspended from January 13 to 24.

The minister said that hospitals in the country are facing "severe pressure" and there were 1,802 patients in hospital, 20% of whom are in intensive care units (ICU), TAP reported.

At least 164,936 coronavirus cases and 5,343 virus-related deaths have been reported in Tunisia, according to Johns Hopkins University data.  

9:27 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

Spain sees highest Covid-19 daily deaths since Dec. 1 as new cases surge

From CNN's Tim Lister and Al Goodman in Spain

The latest figures from the Spanish Health Ministry show an acceleration in coronavirus cases and deaths, as the nation saw its highest number of new fatalities recorded in a single day since December and the steepest daily rise in new infections.

Deaths: According to data released Tuesday, 408 fatalities were recorded over the previous 24 hours, the highest daily tally since December 1.

The government's figures for the past seven days show the highest number of deaths since mid-December.

Infections: The number of cases registered by the government is also accelerating. The ministry's statistics show a rise of 14,060 cases diagnosed over the previous day, the highest increase on record. 

Altogether, Spain has reported 2,137,220 Covid-19 cases, with an increase of nearly 209,000 since the end of December.

Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa said Tuesday that the next few weeks would be very difficult for the country, even as its vaccination program picks up speed. 

Vaccinations: The first batch of 35,000 doses of Moderna vaccines arrived on Tuesday. Spain has been administering the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine since December 27.

Illa said he hoped that all residents of retirement homes would receive a first vaccine dose by the end of this week.

Restrictions: The health minister also announced the extension of restrictions on travel to Spain from the UK until February 2 in an effort to contain the spread of the contagious variant of Covid-19 identified late last year in England. 

8:58 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

US records highest number of Covid-19 deaths

 From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

The United States reported a record-high number of new Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 

So far, 4,197 new Covid-19 deaths were reported Tuesday, according to JHU. The final figure could be higher as the count for the day has not finished.

The US is currently averaging 3,233 new deaths per day, JHU data shows. 

In total, the US has reported at least 380,540 virus-related fatalities.

The days with the highest number of new deaths according to JHU data are: 

  1. Jan. 12: 4,197
  2. Jan. 7: 4,194
  3. Jan. 8: 3,939
  4. Jan. 6: 3,854
  5. Jan. 5: 3,767
8:34 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

Local health officials doubt federal pivot on vaccines will help in time

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

The US federal government's about-face on vaccine policy may be too little, too late, local health officials told CNN Tuesday.

City and county health departments are already running at a deficit, and will continue to struggle to get vaccines out to people, the National Association of County and City Health Officials said.

The US Department of Health and Human Services changed course on Tuesday in its Covid-19 vaccine rollout guidelines for states, which then get passed down to local health departments. Those changes include new plans to release reserved second doses of vaccine and recommendations to vaccinate anyone 65 and older.

"The concerns outweigh the benefits here," said NACCHO CEO Lori Tremmel Freeman.
"The money and the funding support that would allow this to happen successfully are coming after the vaccine has already been distributed -- so already our local health departments are at a deficit," she added.

Opening up vaccinations to those 65 and older could help in areas where there have been more doses than people eligible or willing to receive them -- in some cases leading to extra doses going unused, expired and being tossed away. And releasing reserved second doses could benefit areas where there has not been enough vaccine for everyone eligible and willing.

Read the full story:

8:11 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

Scientists worry mutation in coronavirus variant first spotted in South Africa might decrease vaccine efficacy

From CNN's Elizabeth Cohen

A health worker prepares to conduct a Covid-19 coronavirus molecular test in Parkview, Johannesburg, on October 22, 2020.
A health worker prepares to conduct a Covid-19 coronavirus molecular test in Parkview, Johannesburg, on October 22, 2020. Luca Sola/AFP/Getty Images

Scientists have identified an "escape mutant" that may decrease the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines.

The mutation — called E484K — has been found in a variant of the coronavirus first spotted in South Africa two months ago. That variant has now spread to 12 other countries.

Penny Moore, associate professor at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa, called the mutation "alarming." 

"We fear this mutation might have an impact, and what we don't know is the extent of the impact," she said.

E484K is called an "escape mutant" because it's been shown it might be able to escape some of the antibodies produced by the vaccine. 

Moore and other scientists who are studying the E484K mutation still have to complete their work in the lab to see if the vaccine is less effective against this new variant.

They expect to announce their results in the next few weeks.

Based on what they've seen so far, they say they highly doubt E484K will render the coronavirus vaccines useless. Rather, they think there's a possibility the mutation — on its own or in combination with other mutations — could decrease the efficacy of the vaccine against the variant.