February 9 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Kara Fox, Christopher Johnson and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 6:29 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021
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9:12 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021

People who lie on passenger locator forms will face up to 10 years imprisonment under new border rules, says UK Health Secretary

From CNN’s Sarah Dean in London and Sharon Braithwaite

Police check to see if drivers have valid covid certificates at a ferry border in Dover, England, on January 1. 
Police check to see if drivers have valid covid certificates at a ferry border in Dover, England, on January 1.  Guy Bell/Shutterstock

England is introducing stricter border rules to increase protection against new Covid-19 variants arriving from abroad, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Tuesday.

Hancock warned the government is “coming down hard” on passengers arriving in the UK lying on mandatory "locator forms," with the threat of a potential ten-year jail prison sentence. 

Speaking in the House of Commons, Hancock set out three elements of the strengthened system for international arrivals coming into force in England from Monday. He said the government is working with the devolved administrations as well as the Irish government to put in place a similar system that works across the common travel area.

The first part of the new system involves quarantining in a hotel. Here are those details:

  • UK and Irish residents -- who've been in one of the government’s 33 "red list" countries in the last 10 days -- will need to quarantine in a designated hotel.
  • They will only be able to arrive into a small number of ports and will have to book a quarantine package -- at a cost of £1,750 (approximately US $2,411) for the hotel, transport and testing – before departing for the UK.
  • Hancock said the booking system will go live on Thursday.
  • There are currently 16 designated hotels.
  • Hancock said there will be visible security to maintain compliance.

The second part of the system involves more testing:

  • Every passenger arriving into the UK must demonstrate a negative test result 72 hours before they travel.
  • From Monday, all international arrivals will also be required to take further PCR tests on day two and day eight after their arrival.
  • Passengers will have to book these tests through the online portal before they travel. If a result comes back positive they must quarantine for a further 10 days.
  • Positive tests will undergo genomic sequencing to test for variants, Hancock said.

The third part of the system focuses on a stronger enforcement of the rules:

  • Passenger carriers will have a legal duty to make sure passengers have signed up to new arrangements and will be fined if they don’t, Hancock said.
  • There will also be increased fines for people who don’t comply, including a £1,000 (approximately US $1,377) penalty for failing to take the first Covid-19 test and a £2,000 fine (about US $2,755) if they don’t take a second mandatory test -- as well as an automatic extension on their quarantine period to 14 days.
  • There will also be a £5,000 (approximately US $6,888), rising to £10,000 (about US $13,776) for arrivals who fail to quarantine in a designated hotel.
  • Hancock said people who provide false information on the passenger locator or try to conceal that they've been in a country on the "Red List" in the 10 days before arrival will face a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
  • Hancock said these measures will be put into law this week.

It is currently illegal to travel abroad for holidays and other leisure purposes in the UK.

8:34 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021

New data suggest Russia’s Covid-19 death toll in 2020 among highest in the world

From CNN’s Mary Ilyushina in Moscow

Cemetery workers disinfect a grave as they bury a COVID-19 victim in the Butovskoye cemetery outside Moscow, Russia on May 15, 2020.
Cemetery workers disinfect a grave as they bury a COVID-19 victim in the Butovskoye cemetery outside Moscow, Russia on May 15, 2020. Kirill Zykov/Moscow News Agency/AP

New figures released by Russia’s federal statistics agency Monday indicate as many as 162,429 deaths in Russia were related to Covid-19 in 2020, a figure much higher than previously reported.

Russia officially reported 57,555 deaths from Covid-19 in 2020, according to data from the country’s coronavirus task force that is published on an easily accessed web page. But figures released by the agency, Rosstat, are less readily accessible: They are available online -- but buried in monthly spreadsheets.

The data published Monday reports a cumulative total of 162,429 Covid-19 deaths between April and December 2020. The figure includes deaths directly attributed to coronavirus infection and those cases where coronavirus was a contributing factor as well as deaths from other underlying causes where Covid-19 was present. 

The figures also show a year-on-year surge in the country's overall mortality rate that suggests the numbers may have been majorly understated. 
According to those new figures, a total of 2,124,479 people died in Russia in 2020, an increase of 323,802 over the previous year, or around an 18% year-on-year rise. That overall number -- the highest annual mortality figure recorded in Russia in over a decade -- reflects official reluctance to fully acknowledge the death toll. 

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, the top official in charge of the country's coronavirus response, said in December that "more than 81%” of the rise in fatalities the country had seen in 2020 was due to Covid-19, without giving the exact number of fatalities from the virus. Based on Golikova's assessment and the overall year-on-year increase in deaths reported by Rosstat, as many as 262,000 Russians could have died from coronavirus last year, by CNN's calculation.  

December was also one of the deadliest months on record for Russia: Rosstat said that 243,235 people died in December 2020, making it the deadliest month Russia has seen in years. The statistics agency said 44,435 of these deaths were people with coronavirus or suspected coronavirus, but added that in 10,820 of those cases the presence of the virus did not “contribute to the death in any way.”

Russia’s counting method, which allows ascribing deaths in coronavirus-infected patients to other causes, has been highly questioned by independent observers and critics.

Based on figures released by Rosstat Monday, Russia would rank as the country with the third-highest cumulative number of Covid-19 deaths in 2020.

9:23 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Americans cannot drop their guard on coronavirus yet, White House Covid-19 adviser says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House Covid-19 response team, has said that despite progress in vaccinations, Americans should not “quit early” in the midst of the pandemic — particularly because of the emergence of variants.  

“If you look at other countries, the variants tend to grow sort of invisibly, kind of like a wave under the surface,” Slavitt said in an interview on CNN’s “New Day.”
“And the visibility that we have shows that these variants can grow quite quickly. It's going to depend in large part, as you know, on people's behavior, but the thing about this virus that we learned is it grows exponentially. The thing about vaccine shots is they tend to grow more linearly. So if this hits and we're not taking other protective measures like mask-wearing and social distancing, then the variants could be more powerful than our ability to get people vaccinated.” 

But Slavitt also said Americans should take comfort in seeing large numbers of seniors and people in nursing homes getting vaccinated. 

“Should we have a wave, our hope is that many, many more people will be protected, unlike the last waves we have had,” he said. 

Slavitt also added that he’s hopeful that vaccine supply and sequencing abilities will increase over time.


8:36 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Peru becomes the first Latin American country to roll out the Chinese vaccine, Sinopharm

From CNN’s Claudia Rebaza and Mitchell McCluskey

Peru began distributing China’s Sinopharm vaccine on Tuesday morning, with frontline health care workers taking priority during the first phase of the rollout.

The country has taken part in the Sinopharm vaccine’s clinical trials since last year and becomes the first Latin American country to roll out the Chinese vaccine.

A group of doctors at Lima’s Arzobispo Loayza Hospital were the first to receive the vaccine on Tuesday morning, state news agency Andina reported.

President Francisco Sagasti is expected to be vaccinated later on Tuesday.

On Sunday, Peru received its first shipment of 300,000 doses of China's Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine, and expects to receive the remaining 700,000 doses on February 14. The armed forces will be in charge of the vaccine’s distribution across the country.

On Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister, Elizabeth Astete, announced her government has reached an agreement with Pfizer for the supply of 20 million doses of their vaccine, state news agency Andina reported.

Astete told a Congress Committee that 250,000 doses will arrive in March and at least 300,000 in April, Andina reported.

"We were assured that Peru will have received a minimum of 5,750,000 vaccines by July 1, and the supply will increase significantly to 20 million since then," Astete said. 

Astete also told lawmakers her government has signed an agreement to receive 6.6 million doses from Pfizer and AstraZeneca via the Covax programme to vaccinate 20% of the population.

President Sagasti, who took office in November, has faced criticism for the delay in reaching a supply agreements for the vaccine.

Peru currently has 1,186,698 confirmed cases of coronavirus and has recorded 42,308 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

The country has been reporting more than 6,000 cases a day, an increase over the 2,000 cases a day in early January, while it is also facing a shortage of intensive care unit (ICU) beds and oxygen during this new wave of the pandemic.

Peru has the fifth highest Covid-19 case count in Latin America, after Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Mexico according to JHU data.

8:11 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Athletes to be tested for Covid-19 at least every four days at Tokyo Olympics

From CNN’s Aleks Klosok

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games logo is seen in Tokyo on January 28.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games logo is seen in Tokyo on January 28. Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

Athletes will be tested for Covid-19 at least every four days during their stay in Tokyo to safeguard against the spread of the virus at this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, according to organizers.

On Tuesday, Games organizers published the first version of its "Playbook," aimed at athletes and officials.

The athletes and officials will be able to book Covid-19 tests through a web system.

"The timing and frequency of testing may be adjusted, depending on your sport and competition schedule," it says.

Athletes will also have to present a negative test 72 hours prior to departing for Tokyo, and will be tested again upon arrival, it says.

The Playbook adds that athletes will only be permitted to leave the Olympic and Paralympic Village (or other designated accommodation) to carry out the activities outlined in their "14-day activity plan.”

Gyms, tourist areas, shops, restaurants or bars cannot be visited, among others.

Face masks must be worn at all times except when training, competing, eating or sleeping, or if athletes are outside and unable to keep two meters (6.5 feet) apart from others.

Those staying at the Olympic Village must eat at the Village or Games venues and “unnecessary forms of physical contact such as hugs, high-fives and handshakes” are not advised.

The guidelines also say that supporting and celebrating fellow athletes should be done by clapping, and not by singing, shouting or chanting.

The series of "Playbooks" are designed to provide a framework of basic principles that each key stakeholder group – international federations, press, broadcasters, athletes and officials – will have to follow before they travel to Japan, when entering Japan, during their time at the Games and upon leaving the Games.

The first versions for all the aforementioned groups have now been published with an updated version expected to be delivered in April.

7:53 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Chinese health official says Huanan market might not be the first place of the Covid-19 outbreak

From CNN's Chandler Thornton in Hong Kong

Chinese health official Liang Wannian, left, is seen during a press conference with World Health Organization representatives Peter Ben Embarek, center, and Marion Koopmans, in Wuhan, China, on February 9.
Chinese health official Liang Wannian, left, is seen during a press conference with World Health Organization representatives Peter Ben Embarek, center, and Marion Koopmans, in Wuhan, China, on February 9. Ng Han Guan/AP

A Chinese health official working with the team of World Health Organization experts in Wuhan said that the Huanan seafood market may not be the first place of the Covid-19 outbreak.

"Huanan market may not be the first place that had the outbreak," Liang Wannian, head of Expert Panel of COVID-19 Response of China's National Health Commission (NHC) said in a joint press conference with WHO experts in Wuhan on Tuesday.

Liang noted that the onset date of the earliest Covid-19 case had been on December 8, 2019 and the earliest case associated with Huanan market was on December 12, 2019.

He said that "the case with the onset date of December 8 case had no relation with Huanan seafood market," but did not indicate a location that the December 8 case was connected to.

Earlier, World Health Organization expert Peter Ben Embarek said that the team investigating the origins of the coronavirus in Wuhan had identified two scenarios that most likely caused the transmission of Covid-19 to humans.

"Our initial findings suggest that the introduction through an intermediary host species is the most likely pathway and one way that will require more studies and more specific targeted research," Embarek said during a press conference on Tuesday.

He added that the possibility of transmission through the trade of frozen products was also likely.

7:58 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Over 45% of deaths in England and Wales were Covid-19 related in the last week of January

From CNN’s Eleanor Pickston and Sharon Braithwaite

Ambulances are seen parked outside the Royal London Hospital in London, on January 28.
Ambulances are seen parked outside the Royal London Hospital in London, on January 28. Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Almost 50% of deaths in England and Wales during the last week of January involved Covid-19, a report by the UK’s Office for National Statistics said on Tuesday.

The ONS report said that in the week ending on January 29, “deaths involving Covid-19 accounted for 45.7% of all deaths in England and Wales."

"This is the highest proportion of deaths involving Covid-19 that has been recorded during the pandemic," it said.

A total of 18,448 deaths were registered across England and Wales for the week ending on January 29, and of them, 8,433 “mentioned” Covid-19 on the death certificate, marking the second-highest weekly number of deaths involving Covid-19 recorded by the two nations since the pandemic began, the ONS said.

However, since the end of January, the daily coronavirus death toll released by the UK government (covering the four-nations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) has indicated a gradual decline in the number of deaths related to Covid-19.

The UK is likely past “this peak” of this wave of the pandemic, England’s Chief Medical Officer told a Downing Street press conference last Wednesday.

ONS figures include all deaths where “novel coronavirus (Covid-19)” is listed on the death certificate, whereas UK government figures count deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test.

According to the latest government data released on Monday, the UK reported 6,234 deaths from Covid-19 in the week to 8 February, down 22% from the previous week.

8:30 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Covid-19 transmission is low in daycare centers that take the right precautions, study suggests

From CNN Health’s Christopher Rios

The first multicenter study to investigate the spread of Covid-19 in daycare centers suggests that preschool-age children are not superspreaders of Covid-19.

When the right public health measures are implemented, daycare centers are safe for both children and staff members, the researchers say. 

The study was published Monday in the Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal and conducted in the French cities of Paris, Rouen and Annecy between June 4 and July 3, 2020 — up to two months after France’s national lockdown. 

The researchers collected serology data on 327 children and 197 daycare staff across 22 daycare centers and a comparison group of 164 “hospital staff who kept working during the lockdown, were not occupationally exposed to infants, and were not directly exposed to patients with COVID-19,” according to the researchers. 

The study used data from rapid antibody tests and found the prevalence of antibodies for children at daycare centers was only 3.7%, well below the national rate of 10% found in adults in the same time period. 

The 14 children that were found to have antibodies came from 13 different centers, and the two children from the same center never had contact.

This suggests that with the right protocols in place, transmission between children is uncommon, the researchers say. 

At these daycare centers, face masks were worn by staff, enrollment and staffing were reduced, children who became symptomatic were excluded, staff conducted regular temperature checks and reinforced hand hygiene and everyone practiced physical distancing. 

Additionally, the researchers found that daycare staff were no more likely to contract Covid-19 than the general population.

Dr. Camille Aupiais, a pediatrician who contributed research to the study, said:

Our results suggest that daycare centers are not focus points of SARS-CoV-2 virus infection and that young children are not spreading the virus widely in these environments.
“These findings should be reassuring for parents and staff at daycare centers, especially given that the children included in the study have parents who are keyworkers and are thought to be at higher risk during the first wave of the epidemic.”

The researchers say one limitation to the study is that data was collected before the emergence of coronavirus variants that some experts suggest may be more transmissible in children. 

7:19 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021

1 in 3 Covid-19 patients put on a ventilator experience "extensive” PTSD symptoms, UK research shows

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

A ventilator, left, is set up beside a hospital bed at the NHS Nightingale North East hospital on May 4, 2020, in Sunderland, England.
A ventilator, left, is set up beside a hospital bed at the NHS Nightingale North East hospital on May 4, 2020, in Sunderland, England. Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

New research in the UK shows around 1 in 3 (35%) of Covid-19 patients put on a ventilator experience "extensive symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)" after treatment. 

The research, conducted in the UK by Imperial College London and the University of Southampton, also found that extensive symptoms of PTSD, such as "intrusive images" of the ICU environment, were also found in 18% of patients hospitalized without requiring a ventilator.

The results of the study were published Tuesday in the UK Royal College of Psychiatrists’ BJPsych Open journal.

The study was conducted in May 2020, when researchers surveyed symptoms of PTSD in over 13,000 British patients with experience of confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

The study also found:

  • Lower levels of extensive symptoms of PTSD for patients given medical help at home (16%) and patients who required no help at home but experienced breathing problems (11%).
  • The most common PTSD symptom experienced by Covid-19 patients was intrusive images, sometimes known as "flashbacks." For example, this could be intrusive images of the ICU environment, ICU doctors wearing full PPE or other patients in the ICU.

The authors highlight the importance of following-up with Covid-19 survivors after treatment and access to mental health treatment.

Dr. Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

Over 400,000 patients have been hospitalized from Covid in the UK and sadly there will be more to come. Many of those fortunate enough to survive their ordeal will experience a significant impact on their mental health.
“Effective and joined up follow-up care must be provided after discharge and mental health services must be adequately expanded to treat increasing numbers of people with PTSD symptoms."