February 8 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Kara Fox and Christopher Johnson, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021
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9:02 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

South Africa contends with Oxford/AstraZeneca doses expiring as it shifts rollout strategy

From CNN’s Sarah Dean and Amy Cassidy

South Africa’s decision to pause a mass rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine after a study showed it offered reduced protection from the South African variant is “just a temporary delay” and includes a new rollout strategy, the head of South Africa’s Covid-19 advisory committee said Monday.

“This is just a temporarily delay, but the way in which we're going to roll it out is going to be different in that we're taking a two-step approach,” epidemiologist Salim Abdool Karim told told the Times Radio.

During a briefing on Sunday, Karim said that “if the vaccine shows not to be effective in reducing hospitalizations then we would need to offer those individuals another effective vaccine - either a booster of that vaccine ... or to give them another vaccine. So we can still proceed with our rollout but we need to do it… wisely by taking a stepped approach."

He stressed the reason for this approach is because "we don't really know the answer on severe disease."

Early data released Sunday suggests two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine provided only “minimal protection” against mild and moderate Covid-19 from the variant first identified in South Africa.

Viral neutralization against variant, called B.1.351, was “substantially reduced” when compared to the earlier coronavirus strain, the University of Oxford said in a news release. The vaccine’s efficacy against severe Covid-19, hospitalization and death were not assessed.

Karim further explained on Monday that South Africa will only carry out a mass rollout of the vaccine once they are “confident” that it reduces hospitalization in 100,000 individuals infected with the variant first identified in the country.

The first step is to vaccinate probably around 100,000 individuals, and then to assess what the hospitalization rates are. And once we're confident that the hospitalization rates are low with the AstraZeneca vaccine, then we proceed to rolling out the remaining million doses that we have,” Karim said.
“If it turns out that the hospitalization rates are not as low as we would like, then of course we would stop and not roll out any further AstraZeneca -- so that's the plan."

South Africa’s vaccination program has been delayed by about two to three weeks, Karim added, saying that's how long they expect it will take for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to arrive in the country.

“With every vaccine that we are going to roll out, we can think of it as a two-step process -- it's a stepped introduction of each vaccine,” Karim explained.

However, the country is also contending with its current million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine expiring in April.

The vaccine should have a six month expiry date, a Department of Health official said at a briefing Sunday -- when the pause was announced -- but the Oxford/AstraZeneca doses that South Africa received earlier this month from the Serum Institute of India "came through with an expiry date of April which we only identified on arrival."

Dr. Anban Pillay from the Department of Health said that the department is awaiting a response after asking the Serum Institute “for an extension on the date, if that's possible, or an exchange of the stocks."

During the Sunday briefing, South Africa’s Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize said that for the next four weeks, the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines will be available to health workers and that they would look into the Oxford/AstraZeneca expiry date issue, saying that there should be "no wastage."

11:00 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

France's health minister gets vaccinated and says 'I will be protected'

From CNN's Pierre Bairin, Stephanie Halasz and Eva Tapiero

French Health Minister Olivier Veran receives a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the South Ile-de-France Hospital Group in Melun, on February 8.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran receives a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the South Ile-de-France Hospital Group in Melun, on February 8. Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

The French Minister of Health received the first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on Monday.

Minister Olivier Véran, who is 40, posted a picture of himself getting vaccinated with the words “vaccinated” to his Twitter account on Monday. He was vaccinated while visiting a hospital in Melun, a suburb southeast of Paris.

In a nod to Véran's inoculation, the Ministry of Health said in a press release on Monday that "the vaccination campaign continues in France and since this Saturday, February 6, 2021, people under the age of 65, including health and social professionals, can be vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Speaking to reporters outside the hospital where he was vaccinated, Véran recommended that health workers in France who are eligible for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine get the shot, saying that it "protects against at least 99% of the strains that circulate today in our country."

"Given the level of scientific and medical information that I have -- and that Europe has -- at least 99% of the viruses circulating today on our territory do not correspond to a South African variant and which the AstraZeneca vaccine allows to protect against almost all viruses that are in circulation. "

The Health Minister was making reference to a study released by a South African university on Sunday that showed that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine offered reduced protection from the South African variant.

The French Health Ministry told CNN that Véran, who is a neurologist, was authorized to get vaccinated as he is a medical doctor.

Véran said on Monday that he accepted the invitation from the hospital's director to receive the first injection of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine there, as he had "always said that as soon as I am part of the target for vaccine indications, I will be protected."

France has hit some road bumps in the vaccination process so far, with a total of 2,130,000 doses administered so far, according to the French Health Authority.

8:08 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

Iran reports more than new 7,300 Covid-19 cases as vaccination program set to begin

From CNN’s Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

On Monday, Iran reported 7,321 new daily coronavirus cases, bringing the country's total number of cases to 1,473,756.

Iran’s Health Minister Saeed Namaki said vaccinations will begin in the country on Tuesday. He said nurses and doctors working in intensive care units will be among the first inoculated, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

The new coronavirus case numbers were announced by Iran’s Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadaat Lari in a news conference on state TV.

The country also reported 67 new deaths from Covid-19 bringing the country's death toll to 58,536.

The health ministry said 3,778 patients are hospitalized in ICU.

Iran is the Middle East country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic in total cases and deaths.

8:14 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

Spain received its first delivery of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and will begin distributing it on Monday

From CNN's Ingrid Formanek in Granada, Spain

Health workers receive a delivery of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at University Clinico Hospital in Zaragoza, Spain, on February 8.
Health workers receive a delivery of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at University Clinico Hospital in Zaragoza, Spain, on February 8. DGA/Luis Correas Handout/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Spain received the first delivery of Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines over the weekend, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

196,800 doses of the vaccine were received over the weekend and distribution to the autonomous regions is due to begin Monday, it said.

Active health and social health workers -- who were not previously included in the priority vaccination groups -- will be the first to receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

On Friday, Spain announced the AstraZeneca vaccine will only be used to vaccinate people between the ages of 18 and 55.

Spain expects to receive a total of 1,810,575 Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine doses this month, according to the statement.

The country expects to distribute a total of more than 4 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.

Spain has recorded 2,941,990 total cases and 61,386 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

7:43 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

Less than 3 percent of Germany's population has been vaccinated so far, RKI data shows

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz and Claudia Otto

A member of a mobile vaccination team prepares doses of the Biontech/Pfizer vaccine in Tübingen, Germany on February 5.
A member of a mobile vaccination team prepares doses of the Biontech/Pfizer vaccine in Tübingen, Germany on February 5. Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance/Getty Images

More than 3 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered in Germany so far, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the country's main public health authority.

In total, 3,269,110 doses have been given, with the majority of them administered as a first shot.

The RKI said on Monday that:

2,287,196 people have received the first vaccination and 981,914 have been given the second dose.
2.8% of the total German population has received the first shot.

Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said everyone in the country would be offered a coronavirus vaccine by September 21 and announced the formation of a national vaccination plan. 

"There is a national vaccination strategy, this strategy will now also include a national vaccination plan, and according to this plan we will predict delivery dates to the best of our knowledge,” Merkel said.

Federal and state governments will convene on Wednesday for a Covid-19 strategy meeting to discuss that national vaccination plan further, she said.

Amid a backlash over the pace of the country’s vaccine rollout program, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on January 28 that the federal government expects the country to face shortages in its supply of the coronavirus vaccine for at least another 10 weeks.

6:46 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

Netherlands police issued nearly 7,000 curfew fines last week

From CNN’s Mick Krever

Police monitor demonstrators protesting against Covid-19 lockdown and curfew measures in Tilburg, Netherlands, on February 5.
Police monitor demonstrators protesting against Covid-19 lockdown and curfew measures in Tilburg, Netherlands, on February 5. Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Police in the Netherlands said Monday that they issued 6,959 fines last week for those breaking the rules of the country’s national 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. curfew. 

It's a drop from the 10,810 curfew fines that Dutch police issued the previous week.

Violating the national curfew, which was designed to reduce social interaction and thus the spread of coronavirus, comes at a cost of 95 euros (approximately US $114).

It's been in effect since January 23.

Last week, the Dutch government extended the nation’s lockdown until at least March 2, and said that it will also consider extending the curfew before it expires on February 10.

Police also say that they also issued 8,139 fines last week related to other coronavirus regulations, for example for not wearing a mask.

That is also down from the previous week, when 12,938 fines were issued.

1:27 p.m. ET, February 8, 2021

Austria loosens coronavirus restrictions with haircuts now a possibility

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

A visitor observes a panda at the Schoenbrunn Zoo in Vienna, Austria, on February 8.
A visitor observes a panda at the Schoenbrunn Zoo in Vienna, Austria, on February 8. Ronald Zak/AP

Austria lifted its round the clock stay at home order on Monday, with the national curfew moved back to nighttime hours only.

The stay at home order now only applies from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. local time (from 2 p.m. ET), according to Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

Schools, shops and museums are allowed to open again, but under tight measures. A FFP2 or N95 mask has to be worn in all shops, and a 20 square meter distance (215 square feet) must be available to each customer. Hairdressers are also allowed to reopen.

But restaurants will remain closed in the Alpine republic. The government said that it will review whether to possibly open up restaurants up in March in the next weeks.

Contact sports, like soccer, remain off limits, however the slopes are open -- with restrictions.

FFP2/N95 masks must be worn when when using outdoor ski lifts, while gondolas or closed lifts only allowed to take half of their usual capacity.

Austria has registered 423,839 cases of the coronavirus so far, with 8,012 deaths.

1,317 new cases were reported on Sunday, according to data from the Ministry of Interior.

A previous headline incorrectly stated that ski resorts were reopened on Monday. The slopes had reopened prior to the announcement.

7:53 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

Italian regions across the country impose new “red zones” as UK, Brazilian and South African Covid-19 variants are detected

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in Pisa

New localized “red zones” have been imposed in areas across Italy after the new variants were identified in them.

Red zone restrictions -- which prohibit people from leaving their houses except for work or health reasons – went into effect on Monday in municipalities in the province of Perugia and six municipalities in the province of Terni, which are located in the central Italian region of Umbria.

They will be in place until February 21, the regional government of Umbria said on Saturday.

The UK and Brazilian Covid-19 variants were detected on a sample of 44 cases recently analyzed by the Italian Health Institute, the local government said on Saturday.

The Italian Health Institute’s report said it "induces to believe" that the presence of the variants contributed to a rise in positive cases in the provinces of Perugia and Terni.

On Sunday, the Tuscan town of Chiusi, located near the border of Umbria, also became a red zone after the South African and Brazilian variants were detected within the community, according to the town’s mayor. On Friday, Juri Bettollini said that the restrictions will last a week and that mass, voluntary testing will be carried out in the town from Monday.

The Northern autonomous province of Bolzano (South Tyrol) has also been placed under a red zone on Monday, a measure that will be in effect until February 28, according to the local government.

The Bolzano government said in a statement on Saturday that they had made the decision after the first case of the UK variant was detected in the province.

Red zone restrictions were also imposed on Saturday to three other municipalities in the region of Abruzzo.

Most Italian regions are currently in "yellow zones," the lightest of a three-tier system of restrictions. 

The remaining regions of Umbria, as well as Sicily and Puglia, are currently in the "orange zone,” where people are prohibited from leaving their town and their region -- except for work or health reasons -- and bars and restaurants are only offering delivery and take-away services.

6:07 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

There's no evidence that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is ineffective in preventing severe illness or death, UK Junior Health Minister says

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is administered at a mass vaccination center in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, on January 11.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is administered at a mass vaccination center in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, on January 11. Scott Heppell/AP

Over 140 people in the UK are infected with the South African variant, but it's not the most dominant strain in the country, the UK Junior Health Minister said on Monday.

Speaking on the BBC Breakfast program, Edward Argar, the UK Minister of State at the Department of Health, said that 147 people have been infected with the variant first identified in South Africa, known as B.1351.

Argar told Sky News that the dominant coronavirus strains in the UK are not the South African variant and that the measure that South Africa is taking in pausing their rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine --- after a study showed that it offered reduced protection from the South African variant -- was a temporary measure.

Argar said there was no evidence the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was not effective in preventing severe illness or death.

The study, released by South Africa's University of Witwatersrand on Sunday, showed that two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine provide limited protection against mild or moderate cases of the South African variant.