January 18 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Sharon Braithwaite and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, January 19, 2021
22 Posts
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6:00 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Shanghai Disneyland rejects allegations it is barring Uyghur visitors under pandemic pretext

From CNN's Beijing bureau 

People visit the Disneyland amusement park in Shanghai, China, on May 11, 2020.
People visit the Disneyland amusement park in Shanghai, China, on May 11, 2020. Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

Disney’s popular Shanghai resort has dismissed allegations that the theme park is denying Uyghur guests entry in the name of Covid prevention, amid growing international criticisms on China’s alleged human rights abuses against its Muslim minorities.

Shanghai Disney Resort said in a statement Monday that reports about its discriminatory admission policy were “completely false,” after screenshots taken from a third-party tour package vendor’s online platform were widely shared on social media.

The posts purportedly showed a “special reminder” from Shanghai Disneyland that it had temporarily halted admitting Uyghur guests -- along with other overseas visitors without a mainland Chinese ID -- due to “epidemic control and prevention needs."

This is not an official channel of Shanghai Disney Resort, and the information about Shanghai Disney Resort on it is completely false," the company said in its statement.

"Shanghai Disney Resort is operating normally with enhanced health and safety measures in place. We welcome all guests who have purchased a valid park ticket or pass, hold a Shanghai Disneyland Reservation QR Code and a green Health QR Code, and pass the temperature screening located at the resort entrances.”

The company added that it had launched an investigation into the unofficial platform.

5:34 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

South Korea's president says he believes it will have complete "herd immunity" by November

From CNN's Gawon Bae and Jake Kwon in Seoul

President Moon Jae-in speaks during a news conference at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, on January 18.
President Moon Jae-in speaks during a news conference at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, on January 18. Jeon Heon-Kyun/Pool/Getty Images

President Moon Jae-in said he believes that South Korea will have "herd immunity" from Covid-19 by November, thanks to upcoming vaccination plans.

Moon said the global COVAX initiative vaccine will likely be the first coronavirus shot in South Korea and that it may arrive in the country earlier than planned.

Korea's Disease Control Agency Director Jeong Eun-kyeong said the plan is to begin the vaccine rollout for patients in critical condition before moving to regular citizens in the third quarter. The vaccine will be administered for free for both Korean citizens and foreigners residing in the country.

President Moon said by November, the second round of vaccinations will form complete herd immunity.

Vaccination plans will be announced at the end of the month, Jeong added.

South Korea has reported 72,729 Covid-19 cases and 1,264 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.

5:00 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Vaccination rates highlight stark differences between Israelis and Palestinians -- amid row over responsibility

From CNN's Sam Kiley in Kafr 'Aqab

An Israeli senior citizen receives her second Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at the Maccabi Health Services drive-in vaccination center, in the northern coastal city of Haifa on January 11.
An Israeli senior citizen receives her second Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at the Maccabi Health Services drive-in vaccination center, in the northern coastal city of Haifa on January 11. Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

Two young men work side-by-side in a butcher's shop. They live in the same teeming and densely packed town. One is fortunate -- he's eligible to get an Israeli Covid-19 vaccination. The other isn't.

Both are Palestinian residents of Kafr 'Aqab, a finger of territory that under Israeli law is part of greater Jerusalem, but under international law is considered illegally annexed territory, following its capture from Jordan in 1967.

It's also walled off from Jerusalem by Israel's gigantic concrete security wall. Jewish Israelis rarely come here, except in uniform to conduct military raids.

Mahmoud Oudeh, like thousands of other residents of the town, has a Palestinian identity document. His friend Anan abu Aishe has an Israeli ID, which defines him as a permanent resident of east Jerusalem. This entitles him to join Israel's world-leading vaccination campaign, which is on course to meet the government's target of inoculating the entire country by the end of March.

But at least 4.5 million Palestinians living on the West Bank and in Gaza are being left behind. So far none have had the injections, and most are unlikely to get them any time soon -- because there is no Covid-19 vaccination campaign in the Palestinian territories.

So, if Anan gets the vaccine and continues alongside his friend, slicing and selling meat from the goat and cow carcasses swinging from hooks in the shop, he says he'd feel guilty.

"Half of the people here cannot take it so I'm also not going to take it, why would I take it when they cannot? I won't," he told CNN.
"It's racist," Mahmoud added.

According to United Nations experts, a policy of immunization that differentiates between those with Israeli IDs, and those without, is "unacceptable."

The UN expert report says that Israel is the occupying power in and over Gaza and the West Bank, and has been since 1967, and is thereby ultimately responsible for the healthcare of those living under occupation.

According to the experts' report, published by the UN's Office High Commissioner for Human Rights, Israel should extend its vaccination campaign to all Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

Read the full story:

4:31 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Australia's border restrictions likely to remain for most of 2021, health secretary says

From CNN's Angus Watson in Sydney

Health Department Secretary Professor Brendan Murphy speaks at a news conference in Sydney, on November 5, 2020
Health Department Secretary Professor Brendan Murphy speaks at a news conference in Sydney, on November 5, 2020 Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Australia's Health Department Secretary Professor Brendan Murphy said it is likely tight border restrictions will be in place for most of this year.

Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Monday, Murphy said, "I think that we'll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions -- even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don't know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus. And it's likely that quarantine will continue for some time."
"I don't want to predict more than two or three months ahead. The world is changing," Murphy added. "So I think at the moment, we've got this light at the end of the tunnel -- the vaccine. So we're going to go as safely and as fast as we can to get our population vaccinated and then we'll look at what happens."

Australia has been widely successful at containing the Covid-19 outbreak and has implemented some of the toughest border restrictions since the outbreak began. 

The country, with a population of 25 million people, has reported more than 28,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, including 909 deaths.

4:23 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Hong Kong reports highest number of Covid-19 cases in a month 

From CNN's Eric Cheung in Hong Kong 

A man enters a mobile testing station to undergo a coronavirus test in Hong Kong, on January 17.
A man enters a mobile testing station to undergo a coronavirus test in Hong Kong, on January 17. Jerome Favre/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Hong Kong recorded 107 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, the highest number of infections it has identified since December 19, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said during a Monday news conference. 

Among the new cases, 102 were locally transmitted, of which 42 were deemed untraceable, said Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, the head of CHP’s Communicable Disease Branch. The patients ranged from 2 months old to 94 years old. 

About half of the untraceable cases -- or 20 patients -- are residents of the Yau Tsim Mong district, where a cluster of infections has recently been reported, she said. 

The government will issue compulsory testing notices for residents living in seven more buildings in the district to curb the outbreak, Chuang said. Over the weekend, residents of 22 buildings were required to submit a Covid-19 test sample.

3:52 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Covid-19 "superspreader" in northeast China linked to more than 100 infections

From CNN's Nectar Gan and Jessie Yeung in Hong Kong

A so-called Covid-19 "superspreader" who traveled around northeastern China has been linked to 102 confirmed infections, according to Chinese officials.

The individual, who worked as a salesman promoting health products to the elderly, had traveled from his home province of Heilongjiang to neighboring Jilin province, bringing the virus with him.

Authorities claim he unknowingly spread the virus among elderly residents for several days before he was tracked down by health officials as a close contact of a confirmed case.

"The superspreading phenomenon occurred in our province mainly because when the superspreader was discovered, he was still in the early phase of his infection and had relatively strong ability to shed the virus," Zhao Qinglong, an official with the Jilin provincial disease control and prevention center, told state-run news agency Xinhua.

superspreading event occurs when an individual infects a large number of people, because of a higher viral load in their droplets, or other factors such as behaviors and timing.

The apparent superspreading event in Jilin occurred as China is battling its worst coronavirus outbreak in months, which has seen hundreds of cases reported and tens of millions of people placed under lockdown in its northern provinces.

It also demonstrated the extent and speed of contact tracing and screening by Chinese health authorities, which have played a crucial role in taming local outbreaks.

Read the full story:

3:25 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Germany has vaccinated more than 1 million people

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

A general view shows the Erika-Hess ice stadium which serves as the second vaccination center against the novel coronavirus in Berlin, Germany on January 14.
A general view shows the Erika-Hess ice stadium which serves as the second vaccination center against the novel coronavirus in Berlin, Germany on January 14. Kay Nietfeld/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Germany has administered coronavirus vaccine doses to at least 1,048,160 people, according to the country's disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute.

There had been concerns over the speed of the vaccine rollout in Germany, with Health Minister Jens Spahn asking the population for "patience" in early January.

To date, there have been 2,040,659 confirmed cases of the virus in Germany, with another 7,141 added on Sunday, according to the institute's dashboard.

Another 214 fatalities were also recorded Sunday, bringing the country's death toll to 46,633.

3:06 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

9 people linked to tennis' Australian Open test positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Paul Devitt in Hong Kong and journalist Angus Watson in Sydney

Nine people linked to the Australian Open tennis tournament -- including one unnamed player -- have so far tested positive for Covid-19, according to Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday. 

Speaking at a news conference, Andrews announced four new cases connected with the tournament, saying "they are all safely tucked away in quarantine."

Andrews defended the decision to impose strict quarantine measures on the competitors, saying "the virus doesn't treat you specially, so neither do we", amid claims from some players that they were not made fully aware of quarantine rules ahead of the start of the grand slam event in Melbourne on February 8.

Among those who have been diagnosed with the virus are a coach, a member of the traveling broadcast team and crew who were working on board the flights which brought the tennis players to Melbourne.

How many players are affected? Seventy-two tennis players are in quarantine as a result of being close contacts on charter flights of people who have tested positive. 

The players are required to quarantine for two weeks and will not be able to leave their hotel rooms for the 14-day period, until they are medically cleared. They are not eligible to practice.

Tournament director Craig Tiley confirmed on Sunday that the Australian Open will go ahead next month.

Read more about the tennis players in quarantine:

2:32 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

New Delhi's teachers are being sent to the Covid front lines, some without training, PPE or even pay

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

An Indian government school teacher notes down details to give a hand sanitizer to a fellow teacher who has been assigned to take a survey at a residential neighborhood in New Delhi, India on June 27.
An Indian government school teacher notes down details to give a hand sanitizer to a fellow teacher who has been assigned to take a survey at a residential neighborhood in New Delhi, India on June 27. Manish Swarup/AP

Every morning, teacher Vikas Kumar texts video lessons to his students before going to his second job as an untrained, frontline coronavirus worker.

The 27-year-old normally teaches physical education but, like thousands of other government teachers in New Delhi, he was deployed to the pandemic frontline when the virus started spreading in India last March.

Since June, Kumar has filled a number of roles alongside his teaching duties. First, he said he distributed ration kits to the poor, then he was assigned to conduct door-to-door surveys of neighbors of confirmed Covid cases. In that role, which involved taking residents' temperatures, Kumar says he contracted the virus and was ill in July for 17 days.

In 2020, at least 28,000 teachers were deployed to Covid-19 roles, according to two teachers' associations in New Delhi. At least 35 teachers have died from Covid-19 during the pandemic, and hundreds more fell ill, they said. CNN reached out to the Delhi Ministry of Health to verify these numbers and received no response.

Several teachers in the Indian capital told CNN they were given no training and are juggling their coronavirus duties with their normal teaching roles. Those working for the municipal corporations, which are the local-level governing civic bodies in Delhi, say they haven't been given enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to shield them from the virus. Others say they haven't been paid their normal salaries for months.

"The central government is telling the nation to take health and safety precautions but here, the Delhi Municipal Corporations (DMCs) are telling us to expose ourselves to the virus every day," said Vibha Singh, the senior vice president of Nagar Nigam Shikshak Sangh (NNSS), a union representing about 20,000 teachers in DMC schools.

Teachers who do not report for their assignments can be threatened with action under the Delhi Disaster Management Act, according to Sant Ram, an elected member of the Government School Teachers' Association (GSTA).

Read the full story: