January 29 coronavirus news

By Zahid Mahmood, Hannah Strange, Julia Hollingsworth and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 0514 GMT (1314 HKT) January 30, 2021
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5:28 a.m. ET, January 29, 2021

Israel's health data suggests Pfizer and Moderna vaccines may be more effective than we thought

From CNN’s Amir Tal and Elizabeth Cohen

A Israeli healthcare worker administers a Covid-19 vaccine to a woman at the Kupat Holim Clalit clinic in Jerusalem, on January 14
A Israeli healthcare worker administers a Covid-19 vaccine to a woman at the Kupat Holim Clalit clinic in Jerusalem, on January 14 Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

New data from the Israel’s Ministry of Health suggests the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines may be even more effective than previously thought. 

The data, which looked at more than 700,000 fully vaccinated people in Israel, found that only .04 percent of people contracted Covid-19, according to the head of Israel’s Ministry of Health, Dr. Sharon Alroy Preis at a press conference on Thursday.

The type of vaccine Israel has mostly used is the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine with a small number of doses from Moderna. The two vaccines use the same technology, and in clinical trials were found to be about 95% effective. 

Some background:

Israel began its vaccination campaign on December 20. The data released Thursday looked at 715,425 vaccinated people who were at least one week past their second dose, giving the vaccines time to kick in and provide immunity. Of those people, only 317 people became sick with Covid-19 and 16 people were hospitalized. 

The data sampled many more people than the Pfizer and Moderna Phase 3 clinical trials. Approximately 75,000 people participated in those trials, with half receiving the vaccine and half receiving a placebo. 

The two vaccines have been rolled out in several countries including the US, Canada and some European nations. The UK was the first country in the world to inoculate patients with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in December last year. 

 

4:36 a.m. ET, January 29, 2021

Can vaccines save the Tokyo Olympics?

From CNN's George Ramsay

A monument depicting the Olympic rings is seen in front of Tokyo's National Stadium, the main venue for the Olympics and Paralympics, in January 2020.
A monument depicting the Olympic rings is seen in front of Tokyo's National Stadium, the main venue for the Olympics and Paralympics, in January 2020. Kyodo News via Getty Images

In between a surging pandemic and a global scramble for vaccines, the fate of this year's Olympic Games has become shrouded in uncertainty.

Last November, three weeks before the first vaccine doses became publicly available in the United Kingdom, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said he was hopeful an effective vaccine would help the Games to proceed safely.

Fast-forward to January 2021 and organizers may not be able to rely on vaccine rollout in the way they might have hoped as delivery delays have hindered the rollout process, particularly across Europe.

"I think a lot of people had this vested belief that once the vaccine started to roll out, that would really spell the end of Covid and what we would see is that transmission rates would start to plummet, things would get more controlled and we would have some ability to go back to a more normal lifestyle," Jason Kindrachuk, an infectious disease expert at the University of Manitoba in Canada, tells CNN Sport.
"The fact is that even with good vaccine rollouts in a number of regions of the world, we're having trouble getting a hold on transmission."

Read the full story:

4:19 a.m. ET, January 29, 2021

Bolivia receives first batch of Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccines from Russia

From CNN's Eric Cheung

Bolivia has received its first batch of Sputnik V vaccines from Russia, making it the second country in Latin America to use the Russian-made vaccine in its fight against Covid-19, the Bolivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced. 

The shipment, which totaled 20,000 vaccine doses, arrived in Bolivia's capital La Paz on Thursday, the ministry said in a statement.

On December 30, Russia signed an agreement with Bolivia to provide the South American nation with enough doses of Sputnik V for 2.6 million people. 

Some context: Argentina was the first country in Latin America to administer the use of Sputnik V vaccines, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund. Argentina began inoculating its citizens with Sputnik V in late December, according to its President Alberto Fernandez.

Several Latin America countries have also reached agreements with Russia to import the vaccine. On Tuesday, Mexico said the Sputnik V vaccine will be delivered to the country "soon,” while Venezuela also formalized an agreement with Russia to purchase it in late December.

4:13 a.m. ET, January 29, 2021

Maskless crowds pack Australian Open tennis exhibition in Covid-free Adelaide

From CNN's Ben Westcott

Thousands of cheering fans packed the stands on Friday to watch some of tennis' biggest stars warm up for the Australian Open -- with hardly a face mask to be seen.

In an unusual scene for the coronavirus pandemic, the 4,000 crowd sat cheek by jowl as big hitters including Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka emerged from their 14-day quarantine to play exhibition matches ahead of the first grand slam of the year in Melbourne next month.

The scene prompted joy on social media.

"It makes my heart full seeing fans in the stands. Well done Australia!" former world No.1 men's player Andy Roddick said on his Twitter account.

Australia has now had 12 days without a local infection in any of its states or territories, Health Minister Greg Hunt said at a news conference on Friday.

"That's a testament (not just) to the work of our medical professionals, our public health teams, but Australians everywhere for the way in which they've observed the distancing requirements, the way they have protected each other, the way that they've come out for testing," Hunt told reporters.

Read more:

3:45 a.m. ET, January 29, 2021

EU expected to place export restrictions on vaccines

From CNN's James Frater and Schams Elwazer

The European Commission is expected to decide Friday on a “transparency and authorization mechanism for the export of vaccines” from the European Union following a dispute with vaccine manufacturers over reduced supplies to the bloc, the Commission’s Chief Spokesman Eric Mamer said.

Two EU officials said Thursday that it was not an export ban -- instead, companies wanting to export coronavirus vaccines from the bloc would need to notify the national governments and wait for authorization.

“Any exporting company would send into the national authorities their plan what to export, when, to whom and so on, and what amount, and the national authorities will then be allowed to check that, and to give an authorization or a refusal,” one EU official told reporters. 
“That of course has to happen very quickly, so it's a question not of weeks, but the question of hours,” the official added. 
“We are not proposing to impose an export ban, what we want to do is to monitor how the funds that we paid from the EU budget have been used and how the advanced purchase agreements that we concluded with pharmaceutical companies are producing vaccines for our citizens,” a second official said. 

In a letter to several European leaders on Thursday, European Council President Charles Michel said he ���welcomed” the European Commission's proposal.

Michel added that if “no satisfactory solution” is found with vaccine manufacturers to resolve the supply issue, the EU should “make use of all legal means and enforcement measures at our disposal.”

The new mechanism would not impact humanitarian aid or Covax, the global initiative aiming to distribute some 2 billion vaccines to poorer countries.

3:01 a.m. ET, January 29, 2021

"Long Covid" still puzzles doctors but treatment is possible

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

A nurse cares for Covid-19 patients in a makeshift intensive care unit at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, on January 21.
A nurse cares for Covid-19 patients in a makeshift intensive care unit at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, on January 21. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Medical professionals are working to understand more about a condition they are calling "long Covid," among patients who experience lingering symptoms months after recovering from coronavirus.

"Persons with long Covid often present reporting persistent, severe fatigue, headaches and brain fog, which is defined as mild subjective cognitive impairment, approximately four weeks after acute illness," Dr. Alfonso Hernandez-Romieu, a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Covid-19 response team, said during a CDC briefing Thursday.

A study recently published in the journal The Lancet found that of 1,733 coronavirus patients treated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, 76% were still experiencing at least one symptom six months after their symptoms began.

Doctors have reported that the severity of Covid-19 illness may have little impact on whether patients experience long Covid symptoms, Hernandez-Romieu said.

Dr. Allison Navis, an assistant professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, said one of the most common symptoms of long Covid is called "brain fog."

"Brain fog is a symptom. It is not a diagnosis, and it means many different things to different people," Navis said. "Oftentimes it's a combination of short-term memory issues, concentration, or word-finding speech difficulty."

Navis said brain fog does not appear to have a clear connection to the severity of Covid-19 infection, age or other risk factors. She said doctors have observed these symptoms in younger patients -- including children and adolescents -- who had mild coronavirus and were previously healthy.

In the absence of a broad diagnosis or treatment plan for people who experience long Covid, doctors have been targeting specific symptoms for treatment, Navis said.

Read more:

2:21 a.m. ET, January 29, 2021

Here's what we know about new coronavirus variants

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Dr. Rochelle Walensky speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 8, 2020.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 8, 2020. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A variant suspected of helping fuel a surge of coronavirus in Brazil's Amazon region shows up in Minnesota. Another that's been worrying officials in South Africa pops up in two places in South Carolina.

Scientists are not surprised to see the coronavirus changing and evolving -- it's what viruses do, after all. And with so much unchecked spread across the United States and other parts of the world, the virus is getting plenty of opportunity to do just that.

Four of the new variants are especially worrisome.

"The variants that have been identified recently seem to spread more easily. They're more transmissible, which can lead to increased number of cases, and increased stress on our already overtaxed system," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the newly appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a briefing Wednesday.

What scientists most fear is that one will mutate to the point that it causes more severe disease, bypasses the ability of tests to detect it or evades the protection provided by vaccination. While some of the new variants appear to have changes that look like they could affect immune response, it's only by a matter of degree.

Governments are already reacting. Colombia banned flights from Brazil, and Brazil banned flights from South Africa. It's almost certainly too late to stop the spread, and there's some indication the mutations in these variants are arising independently and in multiple places.

Read more on what's known about the top four variants:

2:06 a.m. ET, January 29, 2021

Mexico's Covid-19 death toll is now third highest in the world

From CNN's Eric Cheung

Mexico's coronavirus death toll surpassed India's on Thursday, making it the country with the third highest number of Covid-19 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University.

JHU's data shows that Mexico has reported 155,145 Covid-19 deaths since the pandemic began, while India has reported 154,010. 

India has a population of 1.35 billion, more than 10 times that of Mexico.

This comes as Mexico has been battling a worsening outbreak of Covid-19. On Sunday, the country's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador tested positive for the virus. Mexico’s richest man, Carlos Slim Helú, has also tested positive and is now recovering, his son announced on social media Tuesday.

On Thursday, Mexico's Health Ministry reported 18,670 new Covid-19 cases and 1,506 additional fatalities. 

The two countries with the most Covid-19 deaths are the United States and Brazil, according to JHU data.

CNN is tracking global cases and deaths here.

1:38 a.m. ET, January 29, 2021

US reports more than 164,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Alta Spells in Atlanta

The US reported 164,665 new Covid-19 cases and 3,872 virus-related deaths on Thursday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

That raises the national total to at least 25,762,726 confirmed infections and 433,067  fatalities.

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

Vaccine distribution: At least 48,386,275  vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 26,193,682 shots administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CNN is tracking US cases here.