February 1 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton and Kara Fox, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021
30 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
11:56 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Production to ramp up for first fully at-home Covid-19 test authorized in US

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Components of Covid-19 at-home tests are seen at the production facility of Ellume in Brisbane, Australia, on December 21.
Components of Covid-19 at-home tests are seen at the production facility of Ellume in Brisbane, Australia, on December 21. Patrick Hamilton/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration announced the US Department of Defense and US Department of Health and Human Services are working with Australian company Ellume to provide more of its fully at-home Covid-19 tests to the United States.

"Ellume has been ramping up manufacturing and will ship 100,000 test kits per month to the US from February through July," Andy Slavitt, the senior Biden White House adviser for Covid Response,  said during a White House briefing on Monday.

"That's good but it's obviously not where we'll need to be – so I'm excited to announce that today, the Department of Defense and HHS has awarded $230 million to Ellume in order to scale the manufacturing base and capacity of this easy-to-use test," Slavitt said. "Thanks to this contract, they'll be able to scale their production to manufacture more than 19 million test kits per month by the end of this year, 8.5 million of which are guaranteed to the US government."

Slavitt said the test can detect Covid-19 with 95% accuracy within roughly 15 minutes.

In December, the US Food and Drug Administration authorized the Ellume Covid-19 test for emergency use. This antigen test, sold over-the-counter, can be done at home using a nasal swab, dropper and processing fluid. The test uses an analyzer that connects with a software app on your smartphone to help you perform the test and then interpret your results all from home, similar to at-home pregnancy tests.

Scientists have been pushing for this kind of accessible and affordable at-home testing since the start of the pandemic – and although the Trump administration previously insisted that anyone who wants a test can get one, that didn't always happen.

1:13 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Vaccinations underway at Boston's Fenway Park as winter weather hits the Northeast

From CNN's Roxanne Garcia and Alexandra Field

People arrive at Fenway Park in Boston on February 1 for Coronavirus vaccinations.
People arrive at Fenway Park in Boston on February 1 for Coronavirus vaccinations. Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

CIC Health COO Rachel Wilson said despite the winter storm barreling down on the Northeast the site is open and vaccinations are underway, “here in New England we are hardy stock.”

On Monday, Wilson said large vaccination sites like Boston's Fenway Park are great because they are “able to reach a large proportion of the population and help get as many people vaccinated, as quickly as possible.”

Speaking to CNN, Wilson said on top of that, “it's totally a draw,” to visit a place like Fenway Park. 

“It’s so iconic to be here at Fenway Park,” Wilson said. “We have three photo-op stations where people can tell their friends and family about their experience here at Fenway and hopefully help people have the confidence to come in and get their shot, once it’s their turn in line,” she said. 

The demand “far outpaces” the supply that they have available, Wilson said, and they are working closely with the state to ramp up vaccine doses.

Once more vaccine is available, the Fenway Park site is anticipated to have 1,250 people per day. Right now, “We're only opening up enough capacity for the amount of vaccine supply we have.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post misreported the number of anticipated vaccinations per day at the Fenway Park site. It is 1,250 per day. 

11:50 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

European agency warns of fake coronavirus-negative papers after busting fraud rings

From CNN's James Frater

Criminals are selling forged Covid-negative test certificates as an increasing number of countries require travelers to provide proof of such results, European law enforcement agency Europol warned Monday.

Several cases of fake documents being sold have already been identified, the agency says in an “Early Warning Notice” issued to European police forces.

This includes the “arrest of a forgery ring at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris selling forged negative test results to passengers,” who were charging between $180 to $360 for fake certificates, Europol said

In the United Kingdom, Europol intelligence found, “fraudsters were caught selling bogus COVID-19 test documents for $135, faking the name of a genuine laboratory on the false certificates.”

Criminals are also using online platforms to sell fake certificates, Europol warns, including in Spain where a “fraudster was apprehended by the Spanish National Police for selling false negative PCR certificates,” for $50 each.

In the Netherlands, “scammers were discovered selling fake negative test statements for $60-72 through messaging apps.”

A genuine “fit-to-fly” PCR certificate in the UK costs upwards of $273, CNN research found.

In the Warning Notice Europol said:

“As long as travel restrictions remain in place due to the COVID-19 situation, it is highly likely that production and sales of fake test certificates will prevail.”
“Given the widespread technological means available, in the form of high-quality printers and different software, fraudsters are able to produce high-quality counterfeit, forged or fake documents,” the agency said.

The agency issued the notice to “increase further awareness of the illicit production and sales of fraudulent COVID-19 negative test certificates,” and asked law enforcement agencies, “to share any relevant information on criminal activities related to fake COVID-19 test documentation.”

11:32 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Dr. Fauci: To stop the spread, we need to vaccinate people "as quickly and expeditiously as possible"

White House/CNN
White House/CNN

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the President, stressed to people across the US, "when the vaccine becomes available to you, please get vaccinated."

Speaking during a White House Covid briefing on Monday, Fauci said that the best way to fight the new variants that are spreading is to get people vaccinated "as quickly and expeditiously as possible throughout the country." 

He continued: "And the reason for that is that there is a fact that permeates virology and that is that viruses cannot mutate if they don't replicate. And if you stop the replication by vaccinating widely and not giving the virus an open playing field to continue to respond to the pressures that you put on it, you will not get mutations."

He added that he believes vaccinating the population as quickly as possible is "going to prevent the emergence of variants here in our country."

11:15 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Italy loosens coronavirus restrictions, with many regions moving into "yellow zones"

From CNN’s Livia Borghese

Visitors take pictures as singers and musicians perform at Rome's landmark Colosseum as it reopens amid an easing of coronavirus restrictions on February 1.
Visitors take pictures as singers and musicians perform at Rome's landmark Colosseum as it reopens amid an easing of coronavirus restrictions on February 1. Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images

Most Italian regions loosened their Covid-19 restriction measures on Monday. The move comes as many of the country’s European neighbors, such as France, are tightening their measures.

All but five of Italy’s 20 regions are now in the “yellow zone,” the lightest of a three-tier system of restrictions – ranked from yellow to red – aimed at stopping the spread of the virus, following the latest order from the Health Ministry published Friday. 

In the “yellow zones” people are allowed to be served at tables in restaurant and bars until 6 p.m. local time. Museums can open during weekdays and high school students can go back to school with a mix of in person and online learning.

On Sunday, Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza stressed that Italy “still needs the utmost caution” and that becoming a “yellow zone does not mean a narrow escape.” Nevertheless, crowds were reported shopping in many city streets on Sunday. 

The leader of the opposition far-right League party, Matteo Salvini, justified the crowds. “People can't take it anymore… they start getting angry,” he said in an interview with a local TV station on Monday morning. “Don't blame the citizens if they take a walk,” Salvini added. 

On Sunday, Italy reported 11,252 new Covid-19 cases and another 237 coronavirus-related deaths, according to Health Ministry data. 

12:25 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

UK deploys "surge" Covid-19 testing amid spread of South African variant

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

Additional surge testing and sequencing is being deployed in a number of locations in England where the South African Covid-19 variant has been found. It's in order to "monitor and suppress" its spread, the UK Department of Health and Social Care said Monday.

The move is a response to what appears to be community spread of the variant

A statement released by the department explained 11 out of the 105 cases of the variant detected in the UK since Dec. 22 "cannot be traced back to international travel. All cases are now self-isolating and robust contact tracing has taken place to trace their contacts and ask them to self-isolate." 

"There is currently no evidence to suggest this variant is more serious than others, or that the regulated vaccine would not protect against it," the statement adds.

The areas affected by the additional testing are some parts of London, the West Midlands, and the South East, North West and East of England.

"Every person over 16 living in these locations is strongly encouraged to take a Covid test this week, whether they are showing symptoms or not. Mobile Testing Units (MTUs) will be deployed offering PCR testing to people without symptoms who have to leave their home for work or essential reasons, with local authorities encouraging people to get tested in the area by providing additional home test kits."

“It is vital that we do all we can to stop transmission of this variant and I strongly urge everyone in these areas to get tested, whether you have symptoms or not. The best way to stop the spread of the virus – including new variants – is to stay at home and follow the restrictions in place. Until more people are vaccinated this is the only way we will control the spread of the virus," UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

10:42 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Israel delivers 2,000 Covid-19 vaccines to Palestinian Authority

From CNN's Sam Kiley and Abeer Salman

Israel’s Ministry of Defense says it has coordinated the passage of 2,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to the Palestinian Authority for use by medics. 

The Ministry says the doses were from Israel’s stock of vaccines and that transfer took place Monday morning.

It is part of a planned transfer of 5,000 vaccines agreed at the end of last week.

Palestinian Authority government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem confirmed receipt of the doses and told CNN the remaining 3,000 were expected in the coming days.

The news comes several weeks after the World Health Organization said it had informal discussions with the Israeli Health ministry over a possible transfer amid criticism that Israel was not including Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in its record-breaking vaccination program.

Israel has strongly rejected claims that international law means it is responsible for vaccinating Palestinians in the occupied territories, pointing instead to the Oslo Accords, signed with the Palestinians in the 1990s, which assign responsibility for health care provision to the Palestinian Authority.

10:08 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Moderna says no data on how much protection a single Covid-19 vaccine dose provides

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

A pharmaceutical technician fills a syringe with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Magdeburg, Germany, on January 22.
A pharmaceutical technician fills a syringe with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Magdeburg, Germany, on January 22. Ronny Hartmann/AFP/Getty Images

Moderna President Dr. Stephen Hoge said the company is focused on the vaccine dosing data it has – and that data says two doses is what works. 

He made the comments a day after Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told NBC’s Meet The Press that as many people as possible over the age of 65 should be given the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Osterholm said this to respond to a possible surge in the next six to 14 weeks caused by the coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom. Such a strategy could delay second shots of the vaccine.

When asked for his thoughts on this strategy, Hoge told Good Morning America:

“At this point, as a scientist and physician, I focus really on what the data says, and the data we have from our clinical trials shows that two doses is excellent, very good at protecting against Covid-19, and ultimately that’s the only regimen that we’ve really studied.” 

Hoge said it’s possible that one dose would provide some benefit, “but we really just don’t have any data to prove that at this point.” 

“As Moderna, we try to stick to the data and the science, what we have,” he continued, adding that public health officials have complicated choices to make about how to protect as many people as possible when there are limited vaccine supplies.

“Our responsibility as a company is to stick to the data and make as many doses as we can available,” Hoge said.  

9:59 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Major tourist hotspot in Vienna turned into Covid-19 testing center

From CNN's Nina Avramova

Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria, on April 3, 2020.
Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria, on April 3, 2020. David Visnjic/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Starting Thursday, people can get a Covid-19 rapid antigen test in one of Vienna’s major tourist spots: Schönbrunn Palace, the former imperial summer residence. 

There will be two new testing locations at the Unesco world heritage site, according to the office of Peter Hacker, the Vienna city councillor for social affairs, health and sport. 

One site – a walk-in test center – will be situated in the orangery of the palace, which is one of the two largest Baroque orangeries in the world, according to the palace’s website. The other, a drive-in test location, will be in the bus parking area of the palace.

Both test locations will be open Monday to Sunday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. local time, and registering online beforehand is required, Hacker’s office said. For those who receive a positive antigen test, there is the option of taking a gargle PCR test immediately afterwards, according to the statement.  

Millions visit Schönbrunn Palace each year, according to the palace’s website. Currently, the attractions is closed due to Austria’s Covid-19 measures.

Schönbrunn Palace is the former summer residence of the Habsburg rulers. The palace park – which houses statues, monuments and fountains – is one of the most popular recreation areas in Vienna, according to the palace’s website.