January 27 coronavirus news

By Zahid Mahmood, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton and Hannah Strange, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021
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12:58 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

New York governor lifts some Covid-19 restrictions

From CNN’s Ganesh Setty

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced during an ongoing news conference today that he will lift restrictions in nearly all the state’s existing orange and yellow micro-cluster zones, citing the decline in the percent positivity and hospitalization rates statewide following the winter holiday Covid-19 surge. 

“I think at this point it’s safe to say the holiday surge was anticipated, the holiday surge did happen, but the holiday surge is over,” the governor said. 

Cuomo said restrictions will be lifted for all zones except for four yellow zones in New York City: The Bronx, Washington Heights, Queens, and Newburgh. 

State officials implemented the micro-cluster restrictions based on the severity of each clusters’ outbreak, with red being the highest. There are currently no New York counties in the “red zone,” according to the governor’s website. 

The governor added that he will be meeting with city health officials in New York City and aims to release a reopening plan for the city’s restaurants “by the end of this week.”

“I fully understand how difficult it is that they’re closed, not just for the restaurants but all the people who are employed there. On the flip side is how fast this virus can take off,” Cuomo said. 

12:12 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Covid-19 variant first seen in UK has now been detected in at least 70 countries, WHO says

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

A coronavirus variant first seen in Britain has been detected in at least 70 different countries, according to the World Health Organization’s weekly epidemiological report. 

This report added 10 countries to the list where this variant, known as B.1.1.7 or VOC 202012/01, has been detected. According to WHO, incidences of this variant are declining in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands. 

Other strains: A variant first identified in South Africa has been detected in 31 countries, according to the WHO. South East Asia is the only WHO region that has not reported a case of this variant so far. It’s widely known as B.1.135.

Variant P.1, first identified in Brazil, has been detected in eight countries. This report adds six countries to the last update on variants. 

12:01 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Portugal suspends all flights with Brazil, extends flight ban with UK

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

The Portuguese government has announced that it will suspend all flights with Brazil starting on Jan. 29, due to the detection of new strains of Covid-19.

“The government has decided to suspend flights from and to Brazil, from 00h00 of January 20, taking into account the epidemiological evolution on a global scale, the rise in the number of infections with the virus SARS-CoV-2 in Portugal and the detection of new strains of the virus,” the government said in a statement on Wednesday. 

The suspension will be in place at least until Feb. 14, and it applies to all commercial and private flights, except those for humanitarian purposes. 

In its statement, the government also announced that flights to and from the UK would remain suspended until Feb. 14, extending a previous ban that came into effect last Saturday and that was set to last until Feb. 5. 

12:11 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Germany considering further travel restrictions and dramatic reduction in air traffic 

From CNN's Claudia Otto

A medical worker in Schönefeld, Germany, takes a Covid-19 swab sample from a passenger at a testing station in Berlin Brandenburg Airport on November 26, 2020.
A medical worker in Schönefeld, Germany, takes a Covid-19 swab sample from a passenger at a testing station in Berlin Brandenburg Airport on November 26, 2020. Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Germany is considering further travel restrictions and a dramatic reduction in air traffic due to fears about new mutations of coronavirus, an Interior Ministry spokesperson told CNN.

The Interior Ministry is in talks with the German federal government to consider halting all unnecessary travel. 

"The threat posed by the numerous virus mutations requires us to also consider drastic measures and discuss them in the Federal Government," said Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer in a statement. "These include significantly stricter border controls, especially at the borders to high-risk areas, but also the reduction of air traffic to Germany to almost zero, as Israel is currently doing to prevent the introduction of the virus mutation."

"People expect us to protect them as best we can from an explosion in the number of infections," he added.

A decision at the national level could be considered if no satisfactory measures are decided at the EU level, according to the ministry. 

12:05 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Oklahoma is trying to return its hydroxychloroquine stockpile 

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

Oklahoma state officials are trying to return the state's $2 million stockpile of hydroxychloroquine back to the medical distributer, according to Oklahoma Attorney General's Office Communications Director Alex Gerszewski. 

"We are working with the department of health to try to return the stockpile," Gerszewski confirmed to CNN in an email Thursday.  

Gerszewski did not provide further details on the effort. 

Some context: Hydroxychloroquine was initially pushed by former President Trump, but over the summer, the FDA reversed its emergency use authorization for the drug's use to treat Covid-19 after a series of studies showed not only that it did not help coronavirus patients but might be harmful, CNN has reported. 

On May 12, 2020, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt "enacted an Executive Order that removed all restrictions regarding prescriptions for Hydroxychloroquine," according to The Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy. 

Previously, the state had required a waiver for prescribing the drug to prevent shortages early on in the pandemic, according to Stitt's executive order back in March.  

CNN has reached out to the Oklahoma Department of Health but has not heard back. 

12:13 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

UK travel sector reacts to new hotel quarantine guidelines

From CNN’s Will Godley

An airplane passes over a hotel as it takes off from Heathrow Airport in London on January 25.
An airplane passes over a hotel as it takes off from Heathrow Airport in London on January 25. Chris J. Ratcliffe/Getty Images

The UK’s travel sector reacted to new government quarantine guidelines outlined by Prime Minister Johnson earlier, saying battling Covid-19 is the top priority but it needs more government support to survive.

Earlier today Johnson announced the UK would be introducing government-provided accommodations, for example hotels, for 10 days for those who cannot be refused entry into the UK from high-risk countries. 

Heathrow Airport, the UK’s largest airport, said it fully backs any measures that protect public health but called for more fiscal aid

“Aviation will play a vital role in delivering the Government’s ambitions for Global Britain, levelling-up and a green recovery, but only if it survives – now we need 100% business rates relief, an extension to the furlough scheme and a roadmap to reopening borders safely,” said Heathrow in a statement to CNN.

The Airport Operators Association warned that these new measures are another blow to the industry adding that the public health benefit of the mandatory hotel quarantine remains to be seen, also echoing calls for more government action.

“The Australian and New Zealand governments have backed up their government-ordered aviation shutdowns with more than a billion dollars in combined aviation-specific support. It’s time the UK Government backed their tough stance on border with similar financial support for the industry hit hardest by that stance,” the Airport Operators Association said.

Separately, airline bosses from the UK’s biggest airlines, including British Airways, easyJet, Virgin, TUI, Loganair, and Jet2, have signed a joint letter to the Prime Minister asking to discuss an “exit plan and a bespoke support package” to save the 1.56 million jobs at “immediate risk.”

“Jobs are being lost at an alarming rate and longstanding businesses have gone to the wall," the UK’s Travel Association ABTA told CNN. 

12:20 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

It will "be months" before all Americans can get vaccines, White House Covid-19 adviser says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House Covid-19 Response Team, on January 27.
Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House Covid-19 Response Team, on January 27. White House

Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House Covid-19 Response Team, said it will "be months" before all Americans who want a Covid-19 vaccine can get one. 

“I want to level with the public that we're facing two constraining factors. The first is getting enough supply quickly enough, and the second is the ability to administer the vaccines quickly once they're produced and sent out to the sites,” Slavitt said.

“We are taking action to increase supply and increase capacity, but even so, it will be months before everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one,” he added.

Slavitt said so far this week, the Biden administration has hit its initial target of one million vaccinations per day. That number of doses is “the floor, not the ceiling,” he said. 

The administration has delivered 47 million doses to states and long-term care facilities, yet 24 million doses have been administered, according to Slavitt. 

“Any stockpile that may have existed previously no longer exists. Our practice is to maintain a rolling inventory of two to three days of supply that we can use to supplement any shortfalls in production and to ensure that we are making deliveries as committed,” he said. 

Yesterday, Biden announced a series of measures aimed at ramping up coronavirus vaccine allocation and distribution, including the purchase of 200 million more vaccine doses and increased distribution to states by millions of doses next week.

With those additional doses, Biden said there would be enough to fully vaccinate 300 million Americans —nearly the entire US population — by the end of summer or early fall.

Hear the administration's plan to increase vaccine supply:

11:49 a.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Bahrain and Oman tighten restrictions to curb the spread of new coronavirus variants

From CNN's Mostafa Salem

Two Arab Gulf nations, Bahrain and Oman, have reimposed restrictions across different sectors to control the spread of new coronavirus variants, government statements said on Wednesday. 

Bahrain suspended school attendance and banned indoor dining services for three weeks starting Sunday and called on citizens to limit gatherings and outings, the Health Ministry said.

“There will be an increase in the frequency of [coronavirus detection] tests and a strengthening of the contact tracing process,” the Bahraini deputy health minister, Waleed Al Manea said in a news conference. 

Bahrain had a strong vaccination campaign in December and early January, however the country is now waiting on new vaccines to arrive after this month’s shipment of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine was delayed by the company, the Health Ministry said last week.

“Delays in vaccination deliveries around the world calls for more caution, and we ask everyone to increase their commitment, as we wait for the arrival of the vaccines,” he said.

Meanwhile, Oman banned group events, including sport activities and suspended the opening of universities. It also advised citizens against foreign travel, to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus variants, state media said quoting a government statement.

“The [High Committee on Controlling Coronavirus] stresses that the situation related to the new coronavirus variants is extremely dangerous,” state-run Oman News Agency said.

Both nations have not clarified which coronavirus variants are spreading within their countries.

12:10 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

This is what the Biden administration has done on Covid-19 so far

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House Covid-19 Response Team, on January 27.
Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House Covid-19 Response Team, on January 27. White House

President Biden was sworn in to office exactly one week ago on Jan. 20 and vowed to make tackling the Covid-19 pandemic his top priority.

Today, the White House Covid-19 response team gave their first briefing and Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the team, gave a recap of the Biden administration's actions on the virus so far.

Here's what he listed:

  1. Use of the Defense Production Act to increase the vaccine supply to states by 16%.
  2. Use of the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] to deploy more personnel and support state vaccination sites.
  3. Acquire low dead space syringes to get six doses out of Pfizer's vials.
  4. The United States plans to purchase an additional 200 million doses from Moderna and Pfizer this year.
  5. Create 100 community vaccination clinics to accelerate immunizations among Americans, including mobile clinics to reach remote areas for the administration's health equity goals.
  6. Supply more vaccines directly to pharmacies.
  7. Partner with community health centers to reach hard-hit communities.

"So far this week, we've been hitting our target of an average of 1 million vaccinations per day necessary to meet the President's early commitment to administer 100 million shots in 100 days," Slavitt said, adding that it would still take months before all Americans can get vaccines.