January 25 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton, Zahid Mahmood, Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021
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7:08 a.m. ET, January 25, 2021

UK lawmakers call for plan to get students back to classrooms

From CNN’s Sarah Dean in London 

British lawmakers are calling on the country's government to set out a “route map” for the reopening of schools, amid media reports that students might not return to in-person teaching until after the Easter holidays.

Chairman of the education select committee, Conservative MP Robert Halfon, tweeted Sunday that he had asked to table an urgent question on the matter in Parliament.

“Given media speculation on schools no longer opening post Feb half-term, I've written to Speaker Lindsay Hoyle to ask for House of Commons Urgent Question to get clarity,” Halfon added. 

“We know the significant damage this is doing to children in terms of mental health, educational attainment, safeguarding hazards and their general wellbeing,” Halfon said in an interview with Sky News on Monday. 

He said he’d like a plan for support staff and teachers to be given the vaccination as a priority after the clinically vulnerable. He added he was not a lockdown skeptic but worried hugely about the effects of school closures on children. 

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told BBC Breakfast she was “not aware of any decisions being made yet” over when schools would reopen.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, also called for a government plan on schools, including which children could be brought back first and when, in an interview with BBC News on Monday. He asked whether there could be a rota system in place and said the “sense of a plan would give a reassurance for parents.”

Writing in the Daily Mail newspaper on Monday, UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The last thing any parent wanted was to see schools closing to most pupils -- as they had to at the start of this month.” On returning to classrooms, he said “as soon as Covid infection rates are back under control then we will get them back there as quickly as we can”.

It comes as other Conservative MPs, such as Esther McVey, are backing a campaign to reopen schools. McVey tweeted Sunday: "Schools need to reopen for the child’s best interest and for families too. If vaccinating teachers, after the most vulnerable in society, removes the barriers to reopening schools then we should do it. You can’t close schools and not have a workable alternative."

Schools in England have been closed to all students expect for children of key workers and vulnerable pupils since the start of a national lockdown on January 5.

Read more on what history can tell us about the long-term effects of disruptions to education:

7:47 a.m. ET, January 25, 2021

Austria makes medical-grade masks mandatory on public transport and in shops

From Nina Avramova in Vienna, Austria

People wear FFP2 protective masks while shopping in a supermarket in Vienna, Austria, on January 25.
People wear FFP2 protective masks while shopping in a supermarket in Vienna, Austria, on January 25. Ronald Zak/AP

Austria became the latest European country to make medical-grade face masks mandatory in some public places on Monday.

People must now switch their face coverings to FFP2 filtering facepiece respirators or N95 masks when traveling on public transport as well as when visiting shops, markets or when picking up takeaway food from restaurants.

The new mask mandate is for all individuals aged 14 and over, the Austrian Health Ministry website said. Children from the age of six can instead wear a mouth and nose covering, while children below six are exempt from mask use.

Some context: France and Germany introduced similar measures in public spaces last week.

France’s Health Minister Olivier Veran on Tuesday said homemade masks were made with the best intentions but "do not necessarily offer all the necessary guarantees."

A few days later, German Chancellor Angela Merkel cited the spread of new coronavirus variants, which were first detected in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, as the reason for stricter requirements in the country. "I urge people to take this seriously. Otherwise it is difficult to prevent a third wave," Merkel told journalists in Berlin on Thursday.

Austria has reported a total of 398,399 Covid-19 cases as of Monday, according to data from the country’s health ministry. 

Read more on European countries revising their mask regulations here:

7:47 a.m. ET, January 25, 2021

Pfizer applies for vaccine approval in South Korea

From CNN’s Gawon Bae in Seoul

Vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.
Vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Thomas Kienzle/AFP/Getty Images

Pfizer Korea has applied for approval of its vaccine developed with BioNTech in South Korea, the country’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said Monday.

The ministry aims to review the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine within 40 days, and quality assurance certification within 20 days.

South Korea plans to import 10 million doses of the vaccine and reported last month it was working to move up delivery to the second quarter of the year.

AstraZeneca applied for approval of its vaccine in South Korea earlier this month.

6:34 a.m. ET, January 25, 2021

Dutch Prime Minister condemns violence of lockdown protests

From CNN's Mick Krever

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks to the press in the Hague, Netherlands, on January 25.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks to the press in the Hague, Netherlands, on January 25. Lex van Lieshout/ANP/AFP/Getty Images

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has condemned the violence of anti-lockdown demonstrators, saying their behavior was “unacceptable.”

On Sunday, police and protesters clashed during a demonstration against Covid-19 restrictions in central Amsterdam, where more than 240 arrests were made, according to Reuters.

Any normal person can only see this with horror. What are these people thinking?” Rutte said, as quoted by the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

Police used water cannon, dogs and riot police on horseback to disperse the protesters.

According to NOS, riot police were deployed in at least 10 cities and towns after a new nightly curfew came into effect on Saturday night. Vehicles were set alight, police had stones thrown at them and public property was destroyed.

Rutte added that 99% of people in the country are sticking to the curfew.

Since mid-December, schools and non-essential shops have been shut in the Netherlands. There have been more than 13,600 coronavirus-related deaths and more than 962,000 infections in the country so far, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Some background:

  • The Netherlands implemented a nighttime curfew between 9.00 p.m. and 4.30 a.m. from Saturday, in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.
  • Last Wednesday, Rutte warned of a third Covid-19 wave coming from the new coronavirus variants, and also banned flights from high-risk areas including the UK, South Africa and all countries in South America.
  • The Netherlands is the last country in the European Union to begin vaccinations and has only inoculated a total of around 77,000 doctors and nurses, according to Reuters.

5:31 a.m. ET, January 25, 2021

Israel imposes almost total ban on incoming flights for one week 

From CNN’s Amir Tal and Andrew Carey in Jerusalem 

A passenger walks through the arrival hall of Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, on Sunday, January 24.
A passenger walks through the arrival hall of Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, on Sunday, January 24. Ariel Schalit/AP

Israel’s main international airport will be almost completely shuttered for the next week, after the government banned all incoming flights by non-Israeli airlines, in an effort to stop the entry into the country of new variants of the coronavirus. 

The measures came into effect at midnight and will last until January 31, according to a joint statement from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Health Ministry Sunday. 

Israeli carriers are also facing “temporary restrictions” on their operating licenses, meaning they are also expected to cancel all flights, with exceptions permitted on departing flights if they are for medical treatment, legal proceedings that require participation, or to allow for attendance at the funeral of a relative. 

Foreign carriers are now only be allowed to land in Israel if the flight is a medical emergency evacuation or a cargo plane.

4:56 a.m. ET, January 25, 2021

Cat tests positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Gawon Bae in Seoul

South Korea reported its first case of an animal Covid-19 infection after a household cat tested positive for the virus, according to the country's Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA.)

The cat tested positive for Covid-19 on January 21, KDCA said in a news release Monday. 

Three cats were tested after their owners -- a mother and her daughter -- tested positive for the virus. One of the three animals also tested positive.

The prayer home where the cats live is located in South Korea's South Gyeongsang province, where the mother and daughter also stayed. At least 112 Covid-19 cases have been linked to the prayer home in the past week, KDCA added. 

The cat has been separated from other cats to prevent spread within a pet care shelter.

KDCA said there has been no reports of pets infecting humans, but the care unit is looking after the infected cat with PPE gear as a preventative measure.

Health authorities and the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency will work on a Covid-19-related guideline for pets.

4:15 a.m. ET, January 25, 2021

France probably needs a new lockdown, government adviser says

From CNN's Saskya Vandoorne in Paris

French physician Jean-Francois Delfraissy, head of France's scientific council on Covid-19 is seen at the Senate in Paris, on September 15, 2020.
French physician Jean-Francois Delfraissy, head of France's scientific council on Covid-19 is seen at the Senate in Paris, on September 15, 2020. Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

The head of the scientific council advising the French government on the Covid-19 pandemic said Sunday that France would “probably need a new lockdown” and that there is an “emergency” in the country. 

“Whether that needs to be a very strict lockdown like the first one in March or a softer form like in November, that is a political decision,” Jean-Francois Delfraissy told CNN affiliate BFM TV. 

France enacted two lockdowns in 2020. The first started in March and lasted until May while the second “lockdown light” began late October and ended in December. 

French Health Minister Olivier Veran said a third lockdown would be inevitable if the restrictive measures currently in place did nothing to curb the infections driven by the coronavirus variant first identified in the UK.

“If the numbers don’t go down, if the variants start to spread everywhere, then we will take additional measures, of course. It's called lockdown,” Veran told newspaper Le Parisien Sunday. 

The average number of new infections in France has been gradually increasing from 18,000 per day to more than 20,000, according to figures from the country's Health Ministry. 

France passed the threshold of 3 million Covid-19 cases on Friday and so far more than 1 million people have been vaccinated, according to the Health Ministry. 

Measures to fight the pandemic: On Sunday, new border controls went into effect for people entering France from other European Union countries by air or sea. Travelers must be able to show a negative PCR test carried out fewer than 72 hours before departure.

Nine days ago, the start of a nationwide curfew was brought forward by two hours to 6 p.m. 

French President Emmanuel Macron will chair a Defense Council meeting Wednesday to decide on new restrictions. 

3:56 a.m. ET, January 25, 2021

"Healthy, young" Americans will likely get Covid-19 vaccine in mid- to late summer, expert says

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

A patient's blood is blotted after receiving a dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at Virginia Mason's vaccine clinic in Seattle, Washington on January 24.
A patient's blood is blotted after receiving a dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at Virginia Mason's vaccine clinic in Seattle, Washington on January 24. Grant Hindsley/AFP/Getty Images

With the US now tallying more than 25 million Covid-19 cases, experts say now is the time to double down on safety measures and speed up vaccine rollouts before a variant further surges infections.

"The best way to prevent the emergence of new variants is to do all of the things we've been talking about for months," infectious disease expert Dr. Celine Gounder told CNN Sunday night. "The more you let the virus spread, the more it mutates, the more variants you'll have."

But the US continues to add staggering numbers of cases daily and faces several major challenges when it comes to vaccines. States say they don't have enough doses, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Sunday there's a lack of information on supply.

"I would say one of the biggest problems right now is I can't tell you how much vaccine we have," Walensky told Fox News. "If I can't tell it to you, then I can't tell it to the governors and I can't tell it to the state health officials."

"If they don't know how much vaccine they're getting, not just this week but next week and the week after, they can't plan."

It likely will be months from now until the vaccine is widely available to the American public, Gounder, who is also a former member of the Biden transition Covid-19 advisory board, said.

"We're looking at probably middle of the summer, end of the summer before the average, healthy, young American has access to vaccination," Gounder told CNN Sunday.

Read the full story:

3:32 a.m. ET, January 25, 2021

Second batch of China's Sinovac coronavirus vaccine arrives in Turkey  

From CNN's Sharif Paget, Gul Tuysuz and Isil Sariyuce 

Containers of Covid-19 vaccines, ordered from China's Sinovac Biotech, are unloaded upon arrival at Istanbul Airport in Turkey, on January 25.
Containers of Covid-19 vaccines, ordered from China's Sinovac Biotech, are unloaded upon arrival at Istanbul Airport in Turkey, on January 25. Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

A second batch of 6.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech arrived in Istanbul early Monday, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.  

Turkey received 3 million doses of Sinovac vaccine in December. The country’s drug authorities approved it for emergency use on January 13, before starting a mass vaccination drive the day after.    

Ankara has previously said the deal with Sinovac Biotech is for 50 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. 

Turkey has so far inoculated over 1.25 million people, mostly health workers and the elderly, according to the Turkish Health Ministry.  

The country has nearly completed vaccinating healthcare workers and has begun an at-home vaccination program for the elderly over the age of 85 across all 81 provinces, the ministry said Friday.