February 2 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021
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6:04 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Door-to-door testing in England to stop South African variant spread

From CNN's Jo Shelley

Volunteers are briefed at a fire station as local authorities prepare to deploy Covid-19 testing kits on February 2, in Woking, England.
Volunteers are briefed at a fire station as local authorities prepare to deploy Covid-19 testing kits on February 2, in Woking, England. Leon Neal/Getty Images

Door-to-door coronavirus testing is being rolled out in parts of England in an attempt to stem the outbreak of a more contagious variant discovered in South Africa.

The "surge testing" scheme will see mobile testing units deployed in eight areas where the variant has been found.

A statement released by the UK Department of Health and Social Care on Monday said 105 cases of the strain had been detected in the UK to date and 11 "cannot be traced back to international travel," leading to concerns about community transmission.

Stock of test kits is pictured at Woking fire station as local authorities prepare to deploy Covid-19 testing in an effort to track down a South African coronavirus variant found in the area.
Stock of test kits is pictured at Woking fire station as local authorities prepare to deploy Covid-19 testing in an effort to track down a South African coronavirus variant found in the area. Leon Neal/Getty Images

The scheme will take place in areas of London, the West Midlands, and the South East, North West and East of England. Everyone over the age of 16 will be asked to take a test even if they are asymptomatic. Any positive cases will be sequenced to find out if the person has the variant.

“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," UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
5:16 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021

South Africa eases strictest Covid-19 restrictions as infection rates drop

From CNN’s David McKenzie

A law enforcement vehicle is seen as people protested against the government's ban on beach access in Cape Town's Muizenberg district, on January 30.
A law enforcement vehicle is seen as people protested against the government's ban on beach access in Cape Town's Muizenberg district, on January 30. Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa announced several measures to ease Covid-19 restrictions as infection rates continue to drop in the country. 

“We have recorded our lowest daily increase in infections since the beginning of December last year,” he said Monday, adding that hospital admissions have dropped considerably in recent days.  

Ramaphosa announced that public spaces, pools, and rivers will now open and he rescinded the ban on alcohol sales and transportation – with certain restrictions. Ramaphosa also announced an easing of a nationwide curfew to between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. local time as well as certain restrictions on religious gatherings. 

South Africa had been hit by a significant second wave of the virus driven by a more infectious variant identified late last year. Tighter restrictions were put in place in late December. 

Ramaphosa was on hand earlier Monday in Johannesburg to receive one million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute in India. 

4:48 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Western Australia reports no new local Covid-19 cases from first 2 days of lockdown

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

Western Australia has reported no new local Covid-19 cases from Monday and Tuesday, the first days of a five-day lockdown for parts of the Australian state.

"First, the good news: after conducting a record number of tests, zero local cases of COVID-19 have been detected in WA," State Premier Mark McGowan tweeted Tuesday. 
"Western Australians absolutely smashed the record for daily COVID-19 tests - with 16,490 tests conducted across all locations," McGowan added.

The lockdown was imposed for the Perth metropolitan area and the Peel and South West regions of the state Sunday after one positive Covid-19 case was reported in a hotel security guard.

The three areas have a combined population of more than 2 million people, with the vast majority living in the state capital Perth.

4:20 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Tokyo Olympics will go ahead despite pandemic, Games chief says

From CNN's Chie Kobayashi

Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori delivers a speech at the beginning of a meeting on preparations for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan on February 2.
Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori delivers a speech at the beginning of a meeting on preparations for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan on February 2. Kazuhiro Nogi/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The pandemic-delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be held this year "no matter how the Covid situation will be," Games organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori said Tuesday.

Speaking in a news conference on preparations for the Games, Mori said: "We will make sure the Games will be held no matter how the Covid situation will be. We go beyond the discussion of whether we hold (the Games) or not hold. We are to come up with 'new' Olympics."

Some context: After the Covid-19 pandemic forced organizers to delay the Summer Olympics last year, the Games are now set to begin on July 23, but major questions remain as to how Japan plans to pull off what could prove to be the most complex sporting event ever held. In between surging cases and a global scramble for vaccines, organizers last month denied reports the Games would be canceled altogether.

4:03 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Japan plans to extend its state of emergency as Covid-19 cases rise

From CNN's Julia Hollingsworth and Junko Ogura

Izakayas in Tokyo, Japan are closed after adhering to a government request to cease business at 8 p.m.
Izakayas in Tokyo, Japan are closed after adhering to a government request to cease business at 8 p.m. Carl Court/Getty Images

Japan plans to extend its state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and eight other prefectures as the country continues to battle rising Covid-19 cases, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday.

The move comes as questions persist over the country's readiness to host the Olympics, which are scheduled to be held in Tokyo this summer from July 23 to August 8.

Eleven of Japan's 47 prefectures are currently under a state of emergency that orders companies to facilitate work from home where possible, and requires restaurants to close by 8 p.m. Sports and entertainment events in Japan are also required to limit the number of attendees.

Suga told Japan's Parliament Tuesday that he plans to extend the state of emergency -- which is set to expire Sunday -- until March 7 for 10 of the prefectures. The state of emergency is set to be lifted for one prefecture, he said.

That decision still needs to be finalized by the government's coronavirus task force, and Suga is expected to hold a news conference Tuesday night over the state of emergency rules.

Rising cases: Japan's Health Ministry on Monday reported 1,792 new coronavirus infections and 72 additional deaths, bringing the country's total cases to more than 392,000 and more than 5,800 dead. Almost 50,000 Covid-19 patients are in need of hospital-level medical care as of Monday.

Around one third of confirmed cases are in the capital Tokyo, which on Monday reported fewer than 500 new cases for the first time since December 28.

Read more:

3:44 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Taiwan authorities revoke quarantine fine for man after discovering he was kidnapped

From CNN's Joshua Berlinger

Taiwanese authorities said they will no longer fine a man for breaking quarantine because investigators discovered he was kidnapped in an unfortunate case of mistaken identity.

The man, whose surname is Chen, had arrived from Hong Kong in late October and was quarantining at a friend's house in the central city of Nantou, according to a statement from the Changhua Branch of the Ministry of Justice's Administrative Enforcement Agency.

On November 1 at 11 p.m., debt collectors broke in and whisked Chen away against his will, mistaking him for his friend. They forced him to pay the debts and eventually returned Chen, who sustained injuries during the ordeal.

Local public health authorities initially fined Chen $3,500 for violating the quarantine order, but the case was handed over to the Ministry of Justice to investigate the claims of forced detention.

Police verified Chen's claim and the kidnappers are now under investigation, authorities said.

Strong pandemic response: While the case is unusual, the hefty fine is not. Taiwan has levied a series of large fines on people violating quarantine as part of its world-class response to the pandemic.

A migrant worker from the Philippines was fined $3,500 for stepping out of his room for eight seconds while quarantining in a hotel in the island's southern Kaohsiung City, and a man in Taichung in central Taiwan was fined $35,000 for violating home quarantine at least seven times, local media reported.

Experts say that Taiwan's response to the pandemic has been one of the most successful thanks to its early, decisive action -- an important lesson the island took away from the deadly SARS outbreak.

Read more:

2:56 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Analysis: The pandemic is still dwarfing the size of Washington's efforts to fight it

Analysis from CNN's Stephen Collinson

The long war against Covid-19, ever more daunting in the dispiriting months of winter, is now posing a fundamental question over whether the United States has the political, economic and national will to prevail before the disaster gets much worse.

A race against time to vaccinate sufficient Americans before mutant versions of the virus cause a new wave of sickness and death is turning into a critical stress test for a mass immunization effort off to a difficult start.

And there is a disconnect in Washington over the scale of the crisis, with Democrats demanding a "go big" economic rescue plan and the few Republicans who back action envisaging a much more modest approach.

It remains unclear whether vaccine and testing efforts, attempts to alleviate harrowing economic suffering and the level of buy-in from the American people themselves are sufficient for the challenges that lie ahead.

The fate of the country -- and of Biden's presidency -- depends to a considerable extent on his capacity to steel Americans for the next stage of the battle and his ability to maintain national morale.

But the President is leading a country beaten down by months of social distancing, family isolation and economic pain -- left as divided as it has been since the Civil War by Donald Trump's tumultuous exit.

Read the full analysis:

2:01 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021

US reports more than 130,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Joe Sutton in Atlanta

The United States reported 130,759 new Covid-19 infections and 1,881 virus-related deaths on Monday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The national totals now stands at 26,317,623 confirmed cases and 443,355 fatalities since the pandemic began.

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

Vaccines: At least 49,936,450 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 32,222,402 shots administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

See CNN's live case tracker.

1:32 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Armenia authorizes Russian coronavirus vaccine

From CNN's Eric Cheung

A vial with Russia's coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, is seen during post-registration trials in Moscow on September 10, 2020.
A vial with Russia's coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, is seen during post-registration trials in Moscow on September 10, 2020. Natalia Kolensnikova/AFP/Getty Images

Armenia approved the Russian-made Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine on Monday, according to the state-run Armenpress news agency and a press release from the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).

The RDIF statement said the vaccine was approved by Armenia’s Health Ministry based on Phase 3 clinical trial data in Russia. Armenpress also reported the ministry has confirmed the use of the Russian vaccine.

The approval comes one day after Tunisia granted emergency use authorization for the Sputnik V vaccine on Sunday.  

On Monday, Russia’s state-run TASS news agency reported that the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, located in eastern Ukraine, has kickstarted a vaccination campaign with Sputnik V.  

The Sputnik vaccine has also been approved in Russia, Belarus, Argentina, Bolivia, Serbia, Algeria, Palestine, Venezuela, Paraguay, Turkmenistan, Hungary, UAE, Iran, Guinea and Tunisia, according to RDIF.