January 19 coronavirus news

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

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, January 20, 2021
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7:04 a.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Portuguese soccer giant Benfica confirm mass outbreak

From CNN’s Aleks Klosok in London and Duarte Mendonça in Portugal

The Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal, prior to a match between SL Benfica and Lech Poznan in December 2020.
The Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal, prior to a match between SL Benfica and Lech Poznan in December 2020. Jose Manuel Alvarez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Portugal's most decorated soccer club, Benfica, announced 17 new positive Covid-19 cases among their playing squad, coaching staff and general staff on Tuesday.

The Lisbon-based club said it had asked the country's department of health to recommend whether or not it should fulfil its fixtures within the next 14 days, given both public safety and the health of its players.

Benfica are scheduled to face Braga in the Portuguese League Cup semifinal on Wednesday.

On Monday, Portugal set a new record for Covid-19 related deaths, according to the country’s Health Ministry.

The latest figures show 167 Covid-19 related deaths – making it the deadliest day since the start of the pandemic – and bringing the total death toll to 9,028, according to the new data.

Portugal recorded 6,702 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, bringing the country's total to 556,503, according to Johns Hopkins University.

6:30 a.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Israel hits new record in virus cases, as government mulls closure extension

From CNN's Andrew Carey and Amir Tal in Jerusalem

Medics care for a COVID-19 patient at the Sheba Medical Center's isolation ward, in Ramat Gan, Israel, on January 18.
Medics care for a COVID-19 patient at the Sheba Medical Center's isolation ward, in Ramat Gan, Israel, on January 18. Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

Israel has recorded its highest figure of new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, with 10,021 people added to the list of Covid-19 sufferers on Monday.

The new Ministry of Health figures were “worrying,” the country’s corona czar, Dr. Nahman Ash, admitted on Israeli radio Tuesday morning, highlighting a positivity rate in tests of 10.2%.

Of particular concern are positivity rates in ultra-Orthodox areas, which are more than double the national figure, currently between 20-22%, Ash added.

The total number of cases since the pandemic began now stands at 562,167, with the number of fatalities in Israel now recorded at 4,049, according to the latest figures.

The climb in numbers comes just days before Israel is due to emerge from what was labeled its third lockdown. Ash told radio listeners he hoped a Tuesday afternoon meeting of the Cabinet would approve a further extension of two weeks.

Health Ministry figures show that vaccination continues apace, with 2,185,113 people having now received their first dose, out of a population of about 9 million; 420,015 have received their second dose.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces the electorate in a fourth election in two years in March, has made Israel’s world-leading vaccination program the central message of his re-election campaign.

In a new video posted to his Facebook page, the Prime Minister is seen standing in his office describing a display case inside which are mounted a replica of a Roman arrow and a miniature of Israel’s Arrow missile. He then moves on to another display case inside which is mounted the syringe with which he received his first coronavirus vaccine injection last month.

“Another arrow,” he says.

Underneath the case is engraved the phrase the Prime Minister offered the nation on the evening he received his first dose, live on television, “A small injection for man, a giant leap for the health of us all.”

6:03 a.m. ET, January 19, 2021

UK minister self-isolating after coming into "close contact" with Covid-19 case

From CNN’s Eleanor Pickston in London

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock is self-isolating after coming into “close contact” with someone who tested positive for Covid-19, he said in a video on Twitter on Tuesday.

“Last night I was pinged by the NHS (National Health Service) coronavirus app so that means I’ll be self-isolating at home, not leaving the house at all until Sunday,” Hancock said. 

Hancock said he will “work from home for the next six days.”

Self-isolation is perhaps the most important part of all the social distancing, because I know from the app that I’ve been in close contact with someone who’s tested positive and this is how we break the chains of transmission, so you must follow these rules, like I’m going to,” he continued.
“We all have a part to play in getting this virus under control,” Hancock stressed.

The minister was criticized by some British media over the weekend after he was pictured in a crowded London park.

Under the UK’s current lockdown rules, people are allowed out to exercise, but on Friday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to “think twice before leaving the house this weekend and only do so if it is absolutely necessary.”

Hancock tested positive for Covid-19 in March 2020, when Boris Johnson also caught the virus.

5:23 a.m. ET, January 19, 2021

China defends Covid-19 response after criticism from pandemic review panel

From CNN's Beijing bureau

A security guard stands outside the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China on January 24, 2020, where the coronavirus was detected in the early days of the outbreak.
A security guard stands outside the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China on January 24, 2020, where the coronavirus was detected in the early days of the outbreak. Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

China responded to criticism from an independent Covid-19 review panel Tuesday, saying it agrees that there is always room for improvement but shut down the notion that it means the country is doing poorly with the pandemic.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, which is based in Switzerland, said Monday that Beijing could have acted more forcefully in applying public health measures in January 2020 to contain the coronavirus. It also criticized the World Health Organization (WHO) for waiting until January 30 to declare an international emergency. 

About this I want to say that we should certainly try to do better. I think any country, including China, the US, the UK, Japan, and any other country, should try to do better, because I think there is always no best, only better, when it comes to public health issues," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying responded. 

"But I think there is another point that needs attention here," Hua said. She added that the idea that China should aim to work better is not the same as saying China is not doing well, adding that Western media has portrayed it that way. 

"The former means that we need to constantly reform ourselves, improve ourselves, and constantly improve our ability to govern, aiming at the absolute perfection. I think this is precisely why China can continue to develop and make progress. The latter may be somewhat biased and carping," Hua said.

4:21 a.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Australian Open turmoil raises questions for Tokyo Games

From CNN's Helen Regan, Paul Devitt and Angus Watson

Novak Djokovic sits on his hotel balcony on January 18 in Adelaide, Australia, where players have quarantined for two weeks upon their arrival ahead of the Australian Open tournament in Melbourne.
Novak Djokovic sits on his hotel balcony on January 18 in Adelaide, Australia, where players have quarantined for two weeks upon their arrival ahead of the Australian Open tournament in Melbourne. Brenton Edwards/AFP/Getty Images

The quarantine controversy over tennis' Australian Open has raised questions about whether large-scale international sporting events can take place in the middle of a pandemic and could offer a preview of the difficulties facing this summer's Tokyo Olympics.

Players arriving in the Australian state of Victoria have been placed into a 14-day quarantine ahead of their grand slam matches. Most have been allotted five hours each day to go out and train in strict bio-secure bubbles, but 72 players have been unable to leave their hotel rooms and cannot practice, under strict quarantine rules after passengers on their flights tested positive for Covid-19.

Some tennis stars have expressed anger and frustration at being kept cooped up ahead of the first grand slam of the tennis season. They include record eight-time Australian Open men's singles winner Novak Djokovic, who put forward a list of proposals that would loosen the restrictions on the quarantining stars, including moving players to houses with courts, better food, and reducing the number of days in isolation.

In response, Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews said: "People are free to provide lists of demands, but the answer is no."

Path to Tokyo: All eyes will be on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which despite being pushed back a year owing to the pandemic, has elected to keep the 2020 tag. The event will see athletes from all over the world descend on Japan this summer from July 23 to August 8, and the Paralympic Games from August 24 to September 5.

Japan has signaled it is determined to go ahead with the Games. In a New Year's address to Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee staff, Chairman Yoshiro Mori said that preparations would proceed "as planned."

Speaking to CNN last week, former top International Olympic Committee official Dick Pound said that it was unlikely the Games could be postponed again, and so any additional delay would likely mean their cancellation.

Read the full story:

4:13 a.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Germany's Angela Merkel will meet state leaders today to discuss further pandemic restrictions

From CNN's Fred Pleitgen, Claudia Otto and Inke Kappeler

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends debates at the Bundestag on Germany's recent rollout of coronavirus vaccinations on January 13, in Berlin, Germany.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends debates at the Bundestag on Germany's recent rollout of coronavirus vaccinations on January 13, in Berlin, Germany. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

German chancellor Angela Merkel and the prime ministers of the country's 16 federal states will meet Tuesday to discuss possible further restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19.

On the table are mandatory FFP2 or N-95 masks to be worn on public transport and in shops, a possible curfew, an extension to the current restrictions, and more working from home.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn warned Monday that the new variants of the virus, which appear to spread more easily, are a reason for concern.

Latest numbers: The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the country's disease control agency, reported an increase of 989 coronavirus-related fatalities for Tuesday, bringing the total death toll to 47,622.

So far, 2,052,028 people have been infected with the virus, an increase of 11,369 in the past 24 hours, according to the RKI.

Some 1,139,297 Covid-19 vaccinations have been administered so far, the RKI said.

3:16 a.m. ET, January 19, 2021

A nurse for 50 years refused to retire when the pandemic began. She later died from Covid-19

From CNN's Scottie Andrew

After more than 50 years as an emergency room nurse, Betty Grier Gallaher had more than earned the right to retire. But according to those who knew and loved her, she just couldn't. She cared that much.

Gallaher worked the night shift at Alabama's Coosa Valley Medical Center -- her preference, her son said, so she could mentor younger nurses. Known around the hospital as "Miss Betty," she loved to be their sounding board, personal therapist and "work mom."

She'd make sure everyone she worked with was fed every night. She cared for her patients the same way she cared for her family and her coworkers, who became family themselves. She was, according to her loved ones, everyone's favorite nurse.

So when the Covid-19 pandemic began in March, Gallaher's concerned coworkers asked her, for her safety, to stay home.

But sitting back wasn't like her. She knew her colleagues and community needed her, so she continued to work until Covid-19 sidelined her in December.

Gallaher died from Covid-19 on January 10, one day before her 79th birthday, in the same hospital where she worked for much of her career.

"She didn't do it to stand out," said her son Carson Grier Jr. "She did it because this is who she was -- this is her calling."

Read the full story:

2:29 a.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Two more tennis players test positive ahead of Australian Open

From journalist Angus Watson in Sydney

Australian Open signage is seen at Melbourne Park on January 18 in Melbourne, Australia.
Australian Open signage is seen at Melbourne Park on January 18 in Melbourne, Australia. Mike Owen/Getty Images

Two tennis players tested positive for Covid-19 in Melbourne, Australia on Monday, according to the state government of Victoria.

A third non-playing person associated with the Australian Open tennis tournament also tested positive. A total of seven Covid-19 cases have been detected among the over-1,000 strong Australian Open cohort, including three players.

“The new cases are one female in their 20s and two males in their 30s,” a statement from Victoria’s Department of Human Health and Services (DHHS) said Tuesday.

All cases are currently in government-managed hotel quarantine, which is mandatory for 14 days for all international travelers to Australia.

A previous two cases connected to the tournament have been reclassified “due to evidence of previous infection,” DHHS stated. 

“This does not change broader assessment of the player group in hotel quarantine. As yet, none of the three affected flights have been cleared as a result of the two reclassified cases,” the statement said.

Stuck in quarantine: The positive cases detected in Melbourne among the Australian Open cohort have forced 72 members of the playing group into a hard quarantine arrangement, where they are not allowed to leave their rooms to practice. The grand slam event is scheduled to start on February 8.

No new community cases were detected in Australia on Monday, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said at a news conference Tuesday.

2:14 a.m. ET, January 19, 2021

US reports more than 137,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Joe Sutton in Atlanta

The United States reported 137,885 new coronavirus infections on Monday, bringing the total to at least 24,074,657 since the epidemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

There were 1,381 virus-related deaths also reported Monday. The total number of US Covid-19 fatalities now stands at 398,981.

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases

Vaccine numbers: At least 31,161,075 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 12,279,180 shots administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Track US cases: