January 21 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Sharon Braithwaite, Eliza Mackintosh, Ed Upright, Zamira Rahim and Caitlin Hu, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021
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2:48 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

New CDC director doesn’t think Covid-19 vaccine will be in every US pharmacy by February

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Dr. Rochelle Walensky is the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky is the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/File

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the new director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says she doubts that a Covid-19 vaccine will be available in every pharmacy in the United States by late February.

Walensky was responding to predictions from former Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, who said that there could be widespread availability of the vaccine for the general population in pharmacies that month.

Speaking to NBC’s Savannah Guthrie on the Today Show Thursday, Walensky said:

"As I said early on, I’m going to tell you the truth here, I don’t think late February we’re going to have vaccine in every pharmacy in this country.
"We said 100 million doses in the first 100 days and we’re going to stick to that plan, but I also want to be very cognizant of the fact that after 100 days there are still a lot of Americans who need [a] vaccine.”  

The CDC head added that the US is hoping to have more data from the Johnson and Johnson vaccine candidate soon, and the more vaccines are granted FDA authorization, “the better shape we’ll be [in].” 

The US continues to be the worst-hit country by Covid-19 globally, with more than 24.4 million cases recorded since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University.

2:15 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Lebanon will receive World Bank’s first Covid-19 vaccine rollout

From CNN's Ghazi Balkiz and Tamara Qiblawi in Beirut

Medical staff test people for Covid-19 at the Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon, on January 11.
Medical staff test people for Covid-19 at the Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon, on January 11. Bilal Hussein/AP

The World Bank has approved a re-allocation of $34 million to support vaccination efforts for Lebanon as it faces a surge in Covid-19 cases, the international financial institution said in a statement Thursday.

“This is the first World Bank-financed operation to fund the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines,” the statement said, adding that the financing will provide shots for over 2 million individuals.

The vaccines are expected to arrive in Lebanon by early February 2021.

In addition to the human toll, the pandemic is exacerbating the economic crisis in the aftermath of the Port of Beirut explosion last August,” the statement added.

High-risk health workers, people over 65 years old, epidemiological and surveillance staff, and those aged between 55 and 64 years old with comorbidities are target priority groups, the World Bank said. It added that, “by prioritizing these groups, the country’s vaccination program has the potential to reduce the consequences of the pandemic, even in conditions of supply constraints.”

The institution's decision comes as Lebanon's health sector continues to struggle with a sharp rise in cases. The government has extended the country's lockdown, which includes a 24-hour curfew, until February 8 at 5 am local time.

The World Bank said its decision to provide the funds follows an assessment and plan drawn up by the Lebanese government that “has all the key elements recommended by the World Health Organization and represents a central part of Lebanon’s vaccination readiness.”

"Fair, broad, and fast access to Covid-19 vaccines is critical to protecting lives and supporting economic recovery," said World Bank Group President David Malpass.
"This is an important first operation and I look forward to continuing our support to many more countries in their vaccination efforts."

On Thursday, Lebanon’s Ministry of Public Health reported 67 Covid-19 related deaths, the fourth daily death record in a row.

The total number of deaths in Lebanon since the pandemic began is 2,151. A total of 269,241 cases have been reported.

2:16 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Daily Covid-19 deaths and cases decline in the UK, but infection rates are still high in London

From CNN's Nada Bashir, Sarah Dean and Peter Taggart

A paramedic wheels a gurney outside the Royal London Hospital on Thursday, January 21.
A paramedic wheels a gurney outside the Royal London Hospital on Thursday, January 21. Yui Mok/PA Images/Getty Images

The UK has recorded a decline in daily Covid-19 deaths and cases, according to official data released Thursday.

While the country reported a further 1,290 coronavirus-related deaths over the past 24 hours, data from Public Health England showed -- this is down from Wednesday’s death toll of 1,820.

The total number of people in the UK who have died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test now stands at 94,580.

The country has the highest death toll in Europe, trailing only the US, Brazil, India and Mexico in total deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

On Thursday 37,892 new cases were confirmed in the country -- down from Wednesday’s daily increase of 38,905.

The total number of UK cases recorded since the pandemic began is now 3,543,646. 

According to Public Health England’s weekly Covid-19 surveillance report, hospital admission rates are still rising in several regions across England and remain highest in those aged 85 and over.

The report also highlights that “case rates have fallen in all regions,” but continue to be highest in London.

While case rates have also decreased in all age groups, they remain highest in those aged 20-29 years old, the report adds.

12:50 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Spain’s Paula Badosa becomes first known Australian Open player to test positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Homero De La Fuente

Paula Badosa plays a match in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on January 8.
Paula Badosa plays a match in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on January 8. Francois Nel/Getty Images

Tennis star Paula Badosa announced Thursday that she has tested positive for Covid-19. Badosa, who is quarantining in Melbourne ahead of next month’s Australian Open, is the first known player set to compete at the Grand Slam to test positive for coronavirus. 

“I have some bad news. Today I received a positive Covid-19 test result. I’m feeling unwell and have some symptoms, but I’ll try to recover as soon as possible listening to the doctors. I’ve been taken to a health hotel to self-isolate and be monitored. Thanks for you support. We’ll be back stronger.” Badosa posted on Twitter.

Prior to testing positive, the 23-year-old rising star was isolating under a mandatory quarantine rule. 

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. 

Badosa is ranked No. 67 in the world and competed in two Australian Open’s in her career. She most notably reached the round-of-16 at last year’s French Open. 

The Australian Open is scheduled to start on February 8, three weeks after its original start date.

Read more about the controversy at the Australian Open here:

12:26 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

How the pandemic is disrupting couples' sleep cycles, and their relationships

From CNN's Emmet Lyons

Couples are having to spend more time together under enormously stressful circumstances during the coronavirus pandemic, and it's affecting their ability to get enough sleep.

Being forced to share the same space during lockdown has led many couples across the world to struggle with bad sleep patterns, and arguments that can lead led to breakups.

Sleep specialists say they are currently treating quarantined couples struggling to sleep in the same bed, and it's creating and compounding problems in their relationships.

"Sleep amongst couples is completely interdependent," said Wendy Troxel, a senior behavioral and social scientist at the nonprofit RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California. "When you share a bed with another human being, your sleep is affected and it affects the other person who shares the bed with you."

Research has backed this up. If a person's sleep is disrupted by their partner during the night, it can lead to an argument in the relationship the following day, according to a 2013 study from the University of California, Berkeley.

New York-based clinical psychologist Orna Guralnik, host of the Showtime series "Couples Therapy," agreed.

"There are petty little grudges that accumulate," she said.

"There is a hyper-focus on the other person, and not enough distance between people to feel their independent existence. You put that in the context of sleeping together all night -- it becomes too much, too symbiotic for people."

Dave Russell is a light sleeper, for example, but he never had any issues sharing a bed with his girlfriend, Izzy James, before the pandemic.

Things began to change in March. Lockdown significantly altered Russell's daily life. Like many people, he started working from home and limiting his contact with others, and he began to struggle to sleep through the night.

Before the coronavirus, Russell and James would spend most of their working days apart in separate offices outside their home. For the last nine months, the two have both been working from their studio apartment in London.

"We were literally sitting opposite each other for the whole day, and then when the workday was finished, we would just move to the sofa," he told CNN. "It felt like we were in the same room all of the time." Because they were.

Read more here:

12:09 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Portugal toughens lockdown restrictions and orders schools to close

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London

Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa speaks at a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, on January 20.
Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa speaks at a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, on January 20. Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Portuguese government decided to toughen its current lockdown measures on Thursday, ordering schools and universities to close for at least 15 days, due to a rapid surge of Covid-19 cases.

The announcement was made by Prime Minister António Costa after a cabinet meeting, who added that exceptions will be made for children aged 12 or younger, and whose parents work in essential services.

The decision was taken because of the rapidly rising number of cases, particularly due to the new strain of the virus that was first found in the UK. This variant, which now represents 30% of new cases, could reach 60% of new infections soon, according to a study by Portuguese health authorities.

Along with schools, some Portuguese public services will also be closed for the next 15 days and non-urgent court cases will have their deadlines suspended.

The move comes as Portugal reported another record daily increase in the number of fatalities attributed to Covid-19, with 221 deaths in the past 24 hours.

Authorities also reported an additional 13,544 new infections, the second-highest daily increase since the pandemic started.

Portugal currently has the worst infection rate in Europe, and one of the worst on the planet, with a seven-day rolling average of 1,043.71 cases per million, according to Covid-19 data tracking website Our World in Data, which is supported by Oxford University.

The United Kingdom currently has a seven day rolling average of 620.40 cases per million, while the United States is at 584.94 per million, also according to Our World in Data.

11:45 a.m. ET, January 21, 2021

New coronavirus variant could be problematic for vaccines, a second study in two days suggests

From CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen

As researchers around the world race to see if new coronavirus variants will pose a problem for the vaccines, a second study in two days says a variant from South Africa could possibly do just that.

The variant was first spotted in South Africa in October and has now been found in more than a dozen countries.

In both studies, the work was done in the lab and not in people, so more research is needed to gauge the true threat of the new variant.

In the most recent study, which was small, researchers took antibodies from six people who had been hospitalized with Covid-19 before the new variant was discovered. They found, to varying degrees, that antibodies for all six of the survivors were unable to fully fight off the virus.

It's unclear whether this means someone would be vulnerable to the new variant if they'd already had Covid-19, or what this might mean for people who've been vaccinated.

The findings of this study were very similar to those of a study released Tuesday by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa.

"When you see two groups independently arriving at same basic answer, that's good -- there's more consonance that they are correct," said Jesse Bloom, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

A third study also released Tuesday was more optimistic. It showed that mutations in the new variant allowed them to evade some of the immunity induced by vaccination, but it was far from a complete escape.

That study looked at three mutations in the variant. The South African studies looked at eight.

None of the studies was peer reviewed or published in medical journals.

The most recent study was posted on the website for KRISP, the Kwazulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform.

11:28 a.m. ET, January 21, 2021

UAE approves Russia’s Sputnik V shot

From CNN’s Kareem Khadder in Jerusalem and Zahra Ullah in Moscow 

A vial of the Sputnik V vaccine pictured in Moscow on January 2.
A vial of the Sputnik V vaccine pictured in Moscow on January 2. Sergei Savostyanov/TASS/Getty Images

The UAE approved the Russian coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, on Thursday, making it the third shot to be approved for use in the country,

A statement from the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention said the country held Phase 3 trials of the vaccine. The results demonstrated the safety and effectiveness of Sputnik V in triggering a “strong antibody response” as well as “compliance with international safety,” the statement added. 

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said in a statement that Sputnik V was registered under an emergency use authorization procedure based on the results of the Russian Phase 3 clinical trials, which included over 33,000 subjects, and local Phase 3 clinical trials of the vaccine in the UAE, with 1,000 volunteers already enrolled into that study.

Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the RDIF, said: “RDIF appreciates the cooperation with UAE’s health authorities and welcomes the regulatory approval of Sputnik V... The decision to include Sputnik V in UAE’s national vaccine portfolio is an important step towards protecting the population with one of the best vaccines against coronavirus in the world.”

Read more about Sputnik V here:

11:06 a.m. ET, January 21, 2021

UK giving 200 vaccines every minute, says health secretary, as it reports record death toll

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

A resident at a care home receives a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Wigan, England, on January 21.
A resident at a care home receives a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Wigan, England, on January 21. Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

The UK is giving 200 Covid-19 vaccinations every minute and 63% of residents in elderly care homes have now received a shot, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told lawmakers on Thursday, a day after the country recorded the highest daily death figures of the pandemic so far.

The UK has now given more than 5 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to 4.6 million people, "making good progress towards our goal of offering everyone in priority group one to four their first dose by the 15th of February," Hancock said.

He also announced the opening of 65 pharmacy-led vaccination sites in England, where the health workers will deliver shots for those in the highest priority groups.

This expansion includes a cinema in Aylesbury, a mosque in Birmingham and a cricket club in Manchester, Hancock said.

As the Covid-19 vaccines continue to be rolled out, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reiterated the 'stay at home' mandate and said it is "absolutely crucial" to follow the current restrictions "in what is unquestionably going to be a tough few weeks," he told reporters Thursday during a visit to flood-hit Didsbury in northwest England.

When asked when the lockdown could be eased, he said: "I think it's too early to say when we'll be able to lift some of the restrictions."

Some background:

A long-running study by Imperial College London found on Thursday that Covid-19 cases in England may no longer be falling, and could even have risen at the start of the country’s third national lockdown.

The UK marked the deadliest day since the start of the pandemic on Wednesday, with 38,905 new coronavirus cases and a 1,820 further coronavirus-related deaths, according to data from Public Health England.

The country has the highest death toll in Europe, with more than 93,000 fatalities according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, trailing only the US, Brazil, India and Mexico in total deaths.