January 26 coronavirus news

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

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, January 27, 2021
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5:25 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

German health minister calls for Europe's fair share of AstraZeneca vaccine

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz and James Frater in London

German Health Minister Jens Spahn speaks during a press conference on January 22, in Berlin, Germany.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn speaks during a press conference on January 22, in Berlin, Germany. Andreas Gora/Pool/Getty Images

German Health Minister Jens Spahn is throwing his support behind a possible export limit for vaccines manufactured within the European Union amid a growing row with AstraZeneca over a shortfall in supply to the bloc.

The EU was informed by AstraZeneca last week that vaccine deliveries to member states -- pending authorization -- would not arrive before the end of the first quarter of 2021, as originally forecast.

Spahn, speaking on German public broadcaster ZDF, said: “I can understand if during a complex production issue, there are production problems, but then everyone has to be affected fair and equal."

He continued that his position was not about putting the "EU first" but about making sure that Europe is getting its fair share.

"In my view [it] makes sense that we have an export limit, meaning that vaccines which leave the European Union, have a license so that we know what is being produced, what is leaving Europe, where it is leaving so that there is a fair distribution.”

Separately, European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides called for greater transparency regarding vaccine export from the European Union.

“We want clarity on transactions and full transparency concerning the export of vaccines from the EU," she tweeted late Monday. "In the future, all companies producing vaccines against covid-19 in the EU will have to provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries. Humanitarian deliveries are of course not affected by this."

Earlier on Monday, Kyriakides said the pharmaceutical giant’s delays were “not acceptable.” 

“The European Union has pre-financed the development of the vaccine and its production and wants to see the return,” she also said, adding that the bloc wants to know how many doses the company has produced, and who they’ve been sold to. 

The AstraZeneca vaccine -- which has already been approved for emergency use by a number of countries including the UK and Brazil -- has been under review by the European Medicines Agency since January 12. The bloc has already fast-tracked the reviews for the Pfizer/BioNTech shot as well as the Moderna vaccine and both have been authorized for use.

4:28 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Analysis: Xi Jinping touts coronavirus cooperation as China persists with vaccine disinformation push

Analysis from CNN's James Griffiths

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a special address to the World Economic Forum on January 25.
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a special address to the World Economic Forum on January 25. Chine Nouvelle/Sipa/Shutterstock

Addressing the world's economic elite in Davos on Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that "containing the coronavirus is the most pressing task for the international community."

In a speech to the World Economic Forum, Xi called for "closer solidarity and cooperation, more information sharing, and a stronger global response," as well as "international cooperation on Covid vaccines."

China has been praised for its "vaccine diplomacy," promising shots to developing countries and investing in vaccine candidates that do not require expensive cold storage to be effective. But as questions have been raised over the effectiveness of one of those vaccines, the country's state media has reacted aggressively, targeting not just critics but also other vaccines, in an apparent effort to tear down their reputation in the name of defending the Chinese shots.

Along with hyping reports of deaths allegedly related to vaccines -- a dangerous game that could undermine not only confidence in the Pfizer and Moderna candidates targeted by Chinese media, but all coronavirus shots -- China's propaganda organs have also pushed alternate theories about the origins of the pandemic itself, including a long-debunked claim that it began in a US army lab.

"If the United States truly respects facts, it should open the biological lab at Fort Detrick (and) give more transparency to issues like its 200-plus overseas bio-labs," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said last week, adding that the US should invite World Health Organization (WHO) investigators "to conduct origin-tracing" as they are in China.

The leading US military germ lab, Fort Detrick briefly became a trending topic on Chinese social media after Hua's comments, which were heavily promoted online by the Communist Youth League, among other Party and state-backed accounts. Previously, Chinese officials have suggested -- without evidence -- that even if the pandemic did originate in Wuhan, the coronavirus could have been brought to the city by US soldiers taking part in the Military World Games in October 2019.

Beijing has also pushed the idea that the virus could have entered the country on frozen food or other goods, despite most outside researchers disputing claims that it could be easily spread this way.

Read the full analysis:

3:56 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

New Zealand's borders likely to stay shut for rest of the year, PM Ardern says

From CNN's Carly Walsh

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks at a news conference in Wellington, New Zealand on January 26.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks at a news conference in Wellington, New Zealand on January 26. Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

New Zealand is likely to keep its borders closed to visitors through the rest of the year, the country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a news conference Tuesday.

Ardern said that in order for borders to reopen there needs to be confidence that vaccination prevents coronavirus spread or that enough of the population is vaccinated in the country.

Ardern said that New Zealand would continue to seek travel bubbles with Australia and Pacific island nations but "the rest of the world simply poses too big a risk to our health and our economy to take the risk at this stage."

Speaking about the travel bubble with Australia, Ardern said she expressed "disappointment" to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison over Monday’s decision to halt the program. She said if New Zealand enters into these travel bubbles, they need to be able to give residents confidence that borders will not be shut on short notice "when it may not be necessary."

Vaccines: New Zealand is hoping to start a mass vaccination program for the general population from "mid year" and the country’s medical regulation agency could give provisional approval for the Pfizer vaccine as soon as Wednesday, Ardern said.

3:25 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Vaccine rollouts lay bare the Middle East's deep inequalities

From CNN's Zeena Saifi

Around the world, the vaccine rollout has shone a harsh light on global income disparities. Rich countries take the lion's share of inoculations, and poorer states scramble to have even the prospect of life after coronavirus.

The Middle East is a microcosm of that global problem.

While oil-rich Gulf Arab nations were among the first in the world to receive a vaccine, war-torn countries such as Yemen and Syria must contend with vague timelines and complex distribution plans for the rollout, despite being among the worst affected by the virus.

Gulf nations lead the way: The first Arab countries to begin vaccinating their citizens and residents were also the richest: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.

The UAE stands out. The country of almost 10 million, which has one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world, also has one of the highest vaccination rates globally. More than 2 million residents and citizens have already been vaccinated using the Pfizer/BioNTech shot and China's Sinopharm vaccine.

The Gulf state has already vaccinated more people than middle-income Jordan plans to inoculate in the first phase of its roll out. Lebanon, currently in the throes of a financial meltdown, has not yet had any vaccines delivered.

Conflict zones: Syria, already on its knees after almost a decade of civil war, is facing an economic crisis. The country's president, Bashar al-Assad, does not control all of its territory. The government in Damascus will rely on GAVI, the vaccine alliance that co-leads COVAX. Opposition groups in Syria's largely Kurdish northeast, and rebel-controlled northwest will do the same.

In war-torn Yemen, suffering a devastating humanitarian crisis, rival governments in the country's south and north appear to have only a vague notion of what the vaccine rollout will look like.

In Israel and the Palestinian territories, region-wide vaccine disparities also come into sharp focus. 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, leaves at least 4.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza behind.

Read the full story:

2:58 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Portland mayor tells police he pepper-sprayed a man who harassed him over mask policies

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe and Andy Rose

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler told police Sunday night that he used pepper spray on a man who had been harassing him about Covid-19 mask policies outside of a restaurant.

"He had no face mask on and got within a foot or two of my face while he was videoing me," Wheeler said in a voluntary statement to the Portland Police Bureau.

Police do not know the identity of the man who was sprayed and have so far received no complaints, they said. When asked about the rumored incident during a news conference Monday, Wheeler said, "I can tell you there was an incident, I filed a police report, and that's all I can tell you right now."

The mayor's office told CNN Monday evening that Wheeler does not have any further comment to make.

Read the full story:

2:55 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

5 people arrested after "unauthorized" Australia Day protests in Sydney

Police confront protesters in Hyde Park after the main section of the "Invasion Day" Rally had ended on January 26 in Sydney, Australia.
Police confront protesters in Hyde Park after the main section of the "Invasion Day" Rally had ended on January 26 in Sydney, Australia. Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Five people were arrested Tuesday after an "unauthorized" Australia Day protest in Sydney that breached health restrictions put in place to avoid the spread of Covid-19, New South Wales police said in a statement.

Australia's national day, observed January 26, regularly sees large protests around the country over concerns that the date inappropriately celebrates the mass dispossession of the country's Indigenous population.

Police said they worked with organizers to separate the crowd Tuesday into groups of fewer than 500 people in an effort to minimize health risks.

"No issues arose at the protest and the crowd began to disperse just after 11am, before a large group attempted to commence a march in Hyde Park about 11.45am," the NSW police statement said.
"Police spoke with the organiser and the crowd, giving them a formal warning regarding a breach of public health regulations before the crowd eventually dispersed."

Four of those arrested were involved in a scuffle in which a police officer was allegedly assaulted, according to police. A 27-year-old woman and a 28-year-old man would be charged with failure to follow Covid-19 directions from police, among other charges, police said. Two other men were each issued with a 1,000 Australian dollar ($770) penalty and released.

One man who was not part of the gathering was charged with breach of the peace, the police statement added.

In Melbourne, two men were also detained during Australia Day protests for breaching the peace but were released without charge a short time later. "Police were pleased with the behaviour of those that attended," Melbourne police told CNN.

1:57 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Thailand records nearly 1,000 new Covid-19 cases after mass testing drive in hardest hit province

From CNN's Kocha Olarn in Bangkok

Thailand reported 959 new coronavirus infections Tuesday -- its highest single-day total since the pandemic began, according to the kingdom's Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

Some 937 cases were local transmissions and 22 imported.

The CCSA said 848 of the local transmissions are from a mass testing drive in Samut Sakhon province -- the origin of Thailand’s most recent wave, and the hardest hit province with a total of 6,394 cases.

The majority of the infected individuals from the mass testing are migrant workers from the neighboring nation of Myanmar, who live in dormitories and shophouses.  

Most of the newly infected are young workers and asymptomatic, CCSA spokesman Dr. Taweesilp Visanuyotin said during a news conference Tuesday.

Thailand’s total number of Covid-19 infections now stand at 14,646, including 75 deaths.

1:29 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Japan's daily coronavirus cases fall below 3,000 for first time since December

From CNN’s Junko Ogura in Tokyo

In this December 18, 2020 photo, a nurse collects a nasal swab sample at a Covid-19 coronavirus PCR testing centre at Fujimino Emergency Hospital in Miyoshi-machi, Japan.
In this December 18, 2020 photo, a nurse collects a nasal swab sample at a Covid-19 coronavirus PCR testing centre at Fujimino Emergency Hospital in Miyoshi-machi, Japan. Carl Court/Getty Images

Japan confirmed 2,765 new coronavirus infections on Monday, falling below 3,000 new daily cases for the first time since December 28, according to the country’s Health Ministry.

The country’s total number of cases now stands at 368,855, with the death toll rising by 74 Monday to 5,171. The number of patients in a serious condition across the country rose to 1,017, up 10 from the previous day.

Tokyo reported 618 new Covid-19 cases from Monday, bringing the total number of infections in the capital to 94,508. There are 2,808 patients under medical care in hospital with 148 in serious condition in Tokyo.

State of emergency: Japanese minister in charge of coronavirus response Yasutoshi Nishimura said at a parliamentary session on Tuesday that one criterion for lifting the state of emergency is for the number of new cases in Tokyo to fall below 500. However, the decision to lift it will require a more comprehensive assessment, including the availability of hospital beds. 

1:16 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

US reports more than 147,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Joe Sutton in Atlanta

The United States reported 147,254 new coronavirus infections and 1,758 virus-related fatalities on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

According to JHU's tally, the nationwide totals now stand at 25,293,201 cases, including 420,972 deaths.

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 41,418,325 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 22,734,243 shots administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CNN is tracking US cases here.