January 15 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:57 a.m. ET, January 16, 2021
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8:29 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Fauci says it's unclear how long Covid-19 patients could be naturally protected after recovery

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Dr. Anthony Fauci on December 22, 2020.
Dr. Anthony Fauci on December 22, 2020. Patrick Semansky/Pool/Getty Images

It still remains unclear for how long someone who has recovered from Covid-19 might be protected from getting reinfected and whether they can still carry the virus and spread it to others, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Friday morning. 

"We do not know the duration of the durability of protection from yourself to get reinfected as well as spreading to others," Fauci said in an interview with NBC's Craig Melvin on the "Today" show.

He added: "We are doing studies to answer those kinds of questions."

8:02 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Germany's Merkel and regional leaders to convene Tuesday over coronavirus curbs

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a press briefing on January 5 in Berlin.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a press briefing on January 5 in Berlin. Andreas Gora/Pool/Getty Images

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet earlier than planned with the country's 16 regional leaders to discuss ramping up coronavirus restrictions, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert announced on Friday, as the virus surges across the country.

''New infection cases are too high,'' Seibert said, adding that Germany is on high alert for new, more contagious mutations of the virus. ''The German government is observing these developments very carefully and is taking this seriously,” he added.

Merkel was set to meet with the regional leaders on January 25.

Germany on Friday surpassed two million coronavirus cases after adding 22,368 new coronavirus infections within 24 hours, bringing the total number of reported infections to 2,000,958, the country's disease and control agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said. 

On Thursday RKI chief Lothar Wieler said that the current lockdown in place is ''not as effective as in spring,'' urging that more people should work from home and adding that the current lockdown needed to be tightened.

Germany entered a partial national lockdown in November but tightened curbs in mid- December, closing schools and nurseries as well as non-essential shops. The lockdown is currently in place until the end of January. 

8:37 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

European Medicines Agency chief defends against 'perceived delays' of vaccine authorizations

From CNNs Eleanor Pickston in London

A photo taken of a laptop screen shows Emer Cooke, executive director of the European Medicines Agency, explaining the approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine during an online press conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on December 21, 2020.
A photo taken of a laptop screen shows Emer Cooke, executive director of the European Medicines Agency, explaining the approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine during an online press conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on December 21, 2020. Pieter Stam De Jong/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The executive director of the European Medicines Agency, Emer Cooke, has defended the organization against “criticism of perceived delays” in authorizing Covid-19 vaccines. 

“We constantly hear criticism about perceived delays in the EU, particularly after the emergency use authorizations that were granted in the UK and US. There is no European provision for such emergency approvals,” the head of the regulatory body said, while speaking at an Institute of International and European Affairs webinar event on Friday. 

The EU faced extensive criticism for its authorization speed in December, after the UK became the first nation to approve a Covid-19 vaccine -- the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine -- on December 2, which the EMA did not approve until December 21. 

Cooke emphasised the EMA was applying “the same robust authorization standards that we would for any vaccine” during its Covid-19 vaccine review process. 

To date, two Covid-19 vaccines have been authorized for use in the EU: the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on 21 December 2020 and the Moderna vaccine on 6 January 2021.

The EMA received an application for conditional marketing authorization for the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday and the EMA is “hoping we can conclude the evaluation by the end of January,” according to Cooke. 

When asked about reports that drug maker Johnson and Johnson will seek regulatory approval for its Covid-19 vaccine in February, Cooke responded that she expects the company “to seek approval when they’re ready to seek approval… we hope it to come in February but whether I could confirm that’s the case, I’m afraid I’m not in a position to do so.”

7:48 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Oxygen supplies running short as healthcare system in Brazil's Amazonas state faces 'collapse'

From CNN's Laura Smith-Spark, Taylor Barnes and Tatiana Arias

Workers carry empty oxygen tanks at Getulio Vargas Hospital in Manaus, Brazil, on January 14.
Workers carry empty oxygen tanks at Getulio Vargas Hospital in Manaus, Brazil, on January 14. Edmar Barros/AP

Oxygen supplies are running short and hundreds of patients are waiting for beds, as hospitals in Brazil's largest state, Amazonas, face a crisis amid surging coronavirus infections,

Brazilian Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello described the healthcare system in the state capital, Manaus, as being in "collapse" during a Facebook live with President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday.

"I would say yes, there is a collapse in healthcare in Manaus. The line to get a hospital bed has grown a lot, today we have about 480 people waiting in line. And the reality is that there is a lower supply of oxygen -- not an interruption, but a lower supply of oxygen," he said.

The latest surge in cases in Amazonas may be fueled by a new variant of the virus recently identified in Brazil. Manaus, globally known as the gateway to the Amazon region, also suffered badly in the first wave of the pandemic.

Brazil's Covid-19 death toll is the second highest in the world, behind only that of the United States. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 207,000 deaths from Covid-19 in Brazil and more than 8.3 million reported cases of coronavirus.

Read more on this story:

7:06 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Almost half of Ireland’s total cases since the pandemic began were reported in last 14 days 

From Peter Taggart in Belfast

Almost half of Ireland’s total Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began have been reported in the last two weeks, Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, said on Thursday.

"Just to put it in perspective, 71,286 new cases confirmed in 14 days. That means almost half -- 44 percent -- of all the Covid cases we've ever reported have been reported in the last 14 days. It means that one in 67 people in this country have been notified Covid positive in the last 14 days," Nolan told a briefing. 

Dr. Ronan Glynn, deputy chief medical officer for Ireland’s Department of Health, warned at the briefing that "there are going to be difficult days and weeks ahead as we report these numbers and unfortunately all of that is unquestionably going to translate into significant levels of mortality in the days and weeks to come”. 

In a statement from Ireland’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) on Thursday, Nolan also said that “from an epidemiological perspective, what we are seeing in this wave is different to what we have seen since springtime, and perhaps worse”. 

“The penetration of the virus throughout all ages of the population is a particular cause for serious concern,” he added.

When Ireland came out of a strict six-week lockdown in December it had one of the lowest levels of Covid-19 cases in Europe. Since then, the situation has dramatically unraveled. The country recorded the highest infection rate in the world last week, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication based at the University of Oxford.

The seasonality of the virus, the presence of the more transmissible UK variant, and households mixing over the holidays all contributed to the surge, according to a spokesperson from Prime Minister Micheál Martin's office.

On Thursday, the country's Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) reported 28 additional deaths related to COVID-19 and 3,955 new confirmed cases.

Read more on this story:

7:10 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Europe's vaccine rollout -- the state of play

From CNN's Florence Davey-Attlee

A health worker administers the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a member of the Emergency Medical Services of Madrid (SUMMA) in Spain on January 12.
A health worker administers the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a member of the Emergency Medical Services of Madrid (SUMMA) in Spain on January 12. Oscar Del Pozo/AFP/Getty Images

The European Union has administered 4.3 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, according to data collated by Oxford University and last updated on Thursday.

Here are the highest country totals from Europe as a whole:

United Kingdom: 2,918,252 people have received their first dose of the vaccine, with many also receiving a second, according to government data.

Italy: 972,099 total vaccinations have been given, according to Health ministry data.

Germany: 842,455 people have received the vaccine, which represents about 1% of the country's population, according to latest data from the Robert Koch Institute.

Spain: 676,186 people have received the first dose, according to Spanish Health Ministry data.

Poland: 410,480 vaccinations have been given, according to the latest Polish government data.

France: 318,216 people have received the shot since the vaccine rollout began on December 27, according to the country's Health Ministry.

5:17 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

How will school closures affect children in the long run? Wars, disease and natural disasters offer clues

From CNN's Laura Smith-Spark in London

A staff member tapes social distancing markings during preparations for reopening a temporarily closed elementary school in Heppenheim, Germany, on April 21, 2020.
A staff member tapes social distancing markings during preparations for reopening a temporarily closed elementary school in Heppenheim, Germany, on April 21, 2020. Alex Grimm/Getty Images

During the first peak of the pandemic in April 2020 1.6 billion students were out of school  and almost 700 million remained out as the year drew to a close, according to the World Bank.

It may take years for the full impact of these months of missed schooling to be known, so what can history tell us about the long-term effects of disruptions to education?

Nothing can be directly compared to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, said Alberto Posso, professor of economics at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, but some parallels can be drawn.

"As far as learning from history goes, I think the value is in the potential warning signs these things can give us," he said.

Posso looked at examples including the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, teacher strikes in Argentina in the 1980s and World War II in a piece for The Conversation.

Perhaps the most striking data came from a paper assessing the long-term education cost of World War II for children who were 10 years old during the conflict in Germany and Austria -- both participants in the war -- and comparable children in Switzerland and Sweden, countries that remained officially neutral.

The authors of the 2004 paper, Andrea Ichino and Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, concluded that "individuals experienced a sizable earnings loss some 40 years after the war, which can be attributed to the educational loss caused by the conflict."

"Austrian children missed around 20% of classes during the war and their earnings dropped by around 3%. German children lost around 25% of classes and had earnings dropped by around 5%," Posso told CNN, citing their findings.

Read more on this story:

4:37 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

France imposes new travel restrictions on non-EU countries

From CNN’s Eva Tapiero in Paris and Livvy Doherty in London 

France Prime Minister Jean Castex arrives for a press conference in Paris on January 14, on the current French government strategy for the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
France Prime Minister Jean Castex arrives for a press conference in Paris on January 14, on the current French government strategy for the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

Those traveling to France from outside the European Union, including the UK, will need to present a negative PCR test before arrival and self-isolate for seven days in the country, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced Thursday.  

“We are going to significantly tighten the conditions of entry into the national territory and strengthen border controls,” Castex said at a press conference about the new Covid restrictions. 

"Starting Monday, all travelers wishing to come to France from a country outside the EU will have to take a PCR test before leaving. Those concerned will also have to pledge to self-isolate for seven days once they arrive in France and to repeat a second PCR test afterwards.” 

The country has just extended its national curfew from 6 pm until 6 am in a bid to fight Covid-19 and “avoid harsher measures.”

France has reported more than 2.9 million cases and more than 69,000 deaths, according to John Hopkins University.

4:50 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

China says one WHO expert stuck in Singapore will not be allowed to enter the country

From CNN's Beijing bureau

A team from the World Health Organization (WHO) investigating the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic arrived at the airport in Wuhan, China, on January 14.
A team from the World Health Organization (WHO) investigating the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic arrived at the airport in Wuhan, China, on January 14. Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

China's Foreign Ministry said one member of the World Health Organization task force will not be allowed to enter the country after testing positive for coronavirus antibodies.

Fifteen WHO experts were set to arrive in the central Chinese city of Wuhan Thursday to investigate the origins of the novel coronavirus, but two were held back in Singapore after testing positive for Covid-19 IgM antibodies.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Friday that after a second round of tests, one would be allowed to enter, but one would not be granted entry.

"Among the 15 members of the WHO expert group, there was one expert from the UK and one Sudanese expert from Qatar who tested positive for the IgM serum antibody in Singapore airport during the transit," Zhao said.

The British expert had a negative result in the second test, while the Qatari expert tested positive again, Zhao explained.

"We have agreed that the British expert will come to China, and we will continue to maintain communication with WHO on related matters and make joint efforts to cooperate on tracing the origin of the virus."

Regulations require passengers from Singapore to China to complete a nucleic acid test, a serum test, and for IgM anti-bodies, and then obtain the double-negative test results within two days before boarding, Zhao said.

The "double-negative" test requirement was implemented by China in November of last year.

What about the other members? The 13 members of the World Health Organization that arrived in Wuhan Thursday have been admitted to a quarantine hotel. 

"The aim is to ensure the safety of epidemic prevention and to guarantee the orderly exchange of Chinese and foreign personnel," the Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
"It is to maintain China’s hard-earned domestic epidemic prevention and control achievements. It also helps minimize the risk of cross-infection for those coming to China and maintain the health and safety of everyone."