February 10 coronavirus news

By James Griffiths, Adam Renton, Kara Fox, Christopher Johnson and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 6:34 a.m. ET, February 15, 2021
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8:20 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

BioNTech ramps up vaccine production at another production plant in Germany

From CNN's Fred Pleitgen and Claudia Otto in Berlin

The BioNTech vaccine production facility in Marburg, Germany.
The BioNTech vaccine production facility in Marburg, Germany. BioNTech

German pharmaceutical company BioNTech, Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine partner, has opened a new production facility in Marburg, Germany to ramp up production of their vaccines.

BioNTech is already producing its vaccine at its plant in Mainz, with other third party facilities in Germany also in production. A Pfizer facility in Puurs, Belgium as well as other Pfizer facilities in the US also produce the joint venture's vaccine.

Last year, BioNTech said the acquisition of the vaccine plant in Marburg -- from the pharmaceutical firm Novartis -- would allow it to produce tens of millions more vaccine doses a month.

"In full production operations the production plant will increase BioNTech's capacity to produce vaccines by about 750 million doses per year or more than 60 million doses per month," BioNTech said in a September statement.

Earlier this month, BioNTech said in a statement that it was planning to manufacture two billion doses of their vaccine in 2021, and would work towards increasing their deliveries to parties they had "we contractually committed to."

"In order to respond to an increased global demand, we plan to manufacture two billion doses of our COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 by expanding the previously expected output of 1.3 billion doses by more than 50%. We are on track to scale-up our manufacturing capacities," the statement read.

"Pfizer and BioNTech continue to work toward increased deliveries beginning the week of February 15, ensuring we will supply the full quantity of vaccine doses in the first quarter we contractually committed to and up to an additional 75 million doses to the European Union in the second quarter," it added.

7:22 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

Heineken to cut 8,000 jobs as pandemic hits sales

From CNN’s Hanna Ziady in London

A truck drives near the Heineken brewery in Zoeterwoude, Netherlands, on February 9.
A truck drives near the Heineken brewery in Zoeterwoude, Netherlands, on February 9. Peter Boer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Heineken said it will lay off 8,000 staff, as it looks to return to growth after a year in which the pandemic hammered sales.

The brewer of Moretti and Amstel said in a statement on Wednesday that it will slash almost 10% of its global workforce and seek savings of €2 billion ($2.4 billion) over two years as part of an “organizational redesign” to improve efficiency.

“The impact of the pandemic on our business was amplified by our on-trade and geographic exposure,” said CEO Dolf van den Brink, who took charge of the company in June last year.

Heineken estimates that at the end of January, less than 30% of on-trade outlets (pubs, bars and restaurants) were operating in Europe, which is its biggest market. Many countries in the region reimposed lockdowns in December, and have tightened restrictions since. Heineken said it has written off €191 million ($231.6 million) relating to various individual UK pubs.

The brewer’s revenue tumbled 16.7% in 2020 compared to the previous year amid closures of restaurants and bars, as well as other restrictions on social gatherings and alcohol sales.

7:53 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

Tired and battered Portuguese paramedics fight Covid-19 in one of Europe's worst hotspots

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio, Duarte Mendonça and Isa Soares

Ambulance workers in Portugal transport a Covid-19 patient.
Ambulance workers in Portugal transport a Covid-19 patient. CNN

A 58-year-old woman in pain and with difficulty breathing because of Covid-19 says goodbye to her mother as she’s taken away by paramedics -- not knowing when she’ll be back.

It’s moments like these that paramedics in Portugal are now frequently facing, as a spike in coronavirus infections have raged across the country in the new year.

It's a situation that's exacerbating an already stretched health system. The country's hospitals have gotten so overwhelmed that last week, Germany sent in the support of 26 army medical personnel.

This week, CNN tagged along with Portuguese paramedics on the frontline of the battle against Covid-19, where there are no sterilized rooms or state-of-the art ventilators.

Despite their best efforts, Portugal has one of the worst infection rates on the planet. Since January 15, the country reported 7,651 deaths, more than half of its total Covid-19 deaths (14,557).

To combat the spike in cases, the country entered a national lockdown on January 14.

But "despite the fact that these measures are producing results," Health Minister Marta Temido said on Wednesday that it may need to be extended past February 14, when it is currently due to expire.

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6:04 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

Ghana shuts down parliament for three weeks because of Covid-19 outbreak

From CNN's Eoin McSweeney

The Parliament building in Accra, Ghana, in July 2019.
The Parliament building in Accra, Ghana, in July 2019. Natalija Gormalova/AFP/Getty Images

Ghana has suspended its parliament for three weeks due to a Covid-19 outbreak among Members of Parliament and staff. 

"I have, in consultation with the leadership, decided that the sitting of the house be suspended for three weeks," Alban Bagbin, the Speaker of the House, said on Tuesday. 

At least 17 members of parliament and 151 staff and ancillary workers have been infected with the virus. Parliament will be adjourned from Wednesday until March 2 while the premises are disinfected and sanitized.

"During that period, honorable members are to comply with the strict Covid-19 protocols and regulations," said Bagbin. He asked members and staff to get tested for the virus in two weeks. 

Under previous Covid-19 restrictions announced on February 5, only one-third of members could sit in the chamber at any one time. 

The appointments committee has not started debating President Nana Akufo-Addo's ministerial nominees following December's general election. Bagbin asked that by the end of the three weeks that the committee would have finished and submitted their reports to the house on the appointments.

The West African nation has recorded over 73,000 Covid-19 cases and 482 deaths, according to data from John Hopkins University.

6:14 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

US government says it is "supportive" of WHO's Wuhan findings but will rely on "our own intelligence community to evaluate the report"

From CNN's Angela Dewan

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price answers a question at a press briefing in Washington, DC, on February 9.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price answers a question at a press briefing in Washington, DC, on February 9. Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

A World Health Organization expert investigating the origins of Covid-19 in China has lashed out at the US government for expressing uncertainty around its initial findings, accusing President Joe Biden of posturing against Beijing and raising doubt over the credibility of US intelligence agencies.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said repeatedly that the US would welcome the WHO’s findings in a conclusive report but would ultimately rely on its intelligence agencies and information from allies to reach its own conclusions.

We look forward, again, to seeing the report, to seeing the underlying data, to using what we may have within our own reach based on our own intelligence and analysis to corroborate what the WHO has found and to reach our own conclusions," Price said.

In response to the remarks, WHO expert Peter Daszak said in a Twitter post: "Well now this. Joe Biden has to look tough on China. Please don’t rely too much on US intel: increasingly disengaged under Trump & frankly wrong on many aspects."

He added he was happy to help the White House in verifying information, “but don’t forget it’s 'TRUST' then 'VERIFY'!"

The back and forth signal a rocky start in the renewed relationship between Washington and the WHO just weeks after Biden retracted the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the international organization, which is leading the global response against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, China has seized on the WHO's findings, claiming coronavirus vindication.

Read more:

6:04 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

Europe is "not where we want to be" on vaccines, says EU chief

From CNN’s James Frater

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a debate on the united EU approach to Covid-19 vaccinations at the European Parliament in Brussels on February 10.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a debate on the united EU approach to Covid-19 vaccinations at the European Parliament in Brussels on February 10. Francisco Seco/AP

Europe was late to authorize vaccines and too optimistic on mass production, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday during a debate on the bloc's vaccine strategy.

“Today in the fight against the virus we're still not where we want to be. We were late to authorize. We were too optimistic when it came to massive production, and perhaps we were too confident that what we ordered would actually be delivered on time,” von der Leyen told the European Parliament.

She said the EU needs to examine why this is the case and learn lessons from the experience. However, she stood firm on the EU’s decision to order vaccines “in solidarity” collectively, saying “it was the right thing to do”.

“I cannot even imagine what would have happened if just a handful of big players, big member states had rushed to it, then everybody else would have been left empty handed,” von der Leyen said. “What would that have meant for our internal market and for the unity of Europe. In economic terms it would have been nonsense, and it would have been I think the end of our community.”

On the time frames for authorizing vaccines, von der Leyen said:

We've made a choice, to not make any shortcuts when it comes to safety or efficacy, and we fully defend that choice. There is no compromise possible when it's a matter of injecting a biologically active substance into an individual who is in good health.
"This is why we rely on the EMA, the European Medicines Agency’s procedure, and yes, that means that approval takes three to four additional weeks. That additional time is an essential investment to establish confidence, and to ensure security, and yes there are lessons to be learned from this, and we have already learned a great deal." 

Von der Leyen has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks over the EU’s spat with the United Kingdom over vaccines.

After Brussels got jittery that its vaccination program was lagging behind, thanks to a shortage of doses, the Commission proposed placing export controls on vaccine manufacturers, meaning the EU could monitor -- and potentially prevent -- vaccines leaving the bloc.

As part of this proposal, the Commission said that those controls could be applied to vaccines going from the Republic of Ireland (part of the EU) into Northern Ireland (part of the UK) -- by triggering article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol.

Critics immediately panned Brussels for even toying with the idea of placing restrictions on the Irish border, for fear it could lead to the return of sectarian, cross-border violence on the island of Ireland.

Von der Leyen said Wednesday “mistakes were made” in the process “but, in the end we got it right. And I can reassure you that my Commission will do its utmost to protect the peace of Northern Ireland, just as it has done throughout the entire Brexit process.”

Portugal’s Secretary of State for European Affairs, Ana Paula Zacarias, said at the parliamentary debate that “the truth is that companies may have overestimated their production capacities."

She said the Commission’s export authorization mechanism for Covid-19 vaccines “will allow us to understand where the vaccines produced in EU are being distributed. In both cases transparency is paramount to increase citizens trust in this process.”

3:55 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

About 1 in 10 Americans have gotten at least their first Covid-19 shot. But supply challenges remain

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

About one in 10 Americans -- nearly 32.9 million people --- have so far received at least a first dose of the two-part Covid-19 vaccines, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows, and about 9.8 million people have been fully vaccinated.

And while US and state leaders are optimistic vaccinations will ramp up further in the coming months, several challenges remain, including supply shortages and equitable access -- which come as public health experts say the US is in a race against time as Covid-19 variants keep spreading across the country.

"We're in a situation, and we will be for a little while, of undersupply," said Andy Slavitt, the senior White House adviser for Covid-19 Response.

In Delaware, officials announced Tuesday the state was no longer expecting to open another phase of vaccine eligibility on March 1 as was planned due to an "extremely limited supply" of vaccines. In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said the state will receive more doses from the federal government and added, "it's not enough, but it's great."

"I wish we had 200,000 doses a week right now. We could allocate all of them," Beshear said.

But there is good news on the vaccine front: The Biden administration said Tuesday it was boosting weekly vaccine supply going to states, tribes and territories to 11 million doses, adding it was continuing to work with manufacturers to increase vaccine supply.

Several thousand retail pharmacies will also begin administering vaccines this week as part of a federal program, with both CVS and Walgreens saying vaccinations will kick off Friday in the participating stores.

Read the full story:

3:42 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

It's not clear if British tourists will be able to travel this year, UK minister says

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

Self check-in machines are seen inside an empty Gatwick Airport on February 6 in London, England.
Self check-in machines are seen inside an empty Gatwick Airport on February 6 in London, England. Hollie Adams/Getty Images

It's not clear if British tourists will be able to travel this year, as it depends on how the novel coronavirus and its variants respond to vaccines, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Wednesday.

Speaking to British broadcaster Sky News, Shapps said: "I'm afraid I can't give you a definitive will there or will there not be the opportunity to take holidays this next year either at home or abroad."

Shapps said that fewer than 1,000 people per day were currently entering the United Kingdom from countries on the UK's "red list" and he anticipated those numbers to remain small after stricter new hotel quarantine measures come into force on February 15.

Visitors from more than 30 countries, including South Africa, Brazil and Portugal, are currently banned from traveling to the UK. Only British and Irish citizens and those with UK residency are permitted entry from red list countries.

Between 16,000 to 20,000 people currently arrive in the UK each day, including transport workers carrying goods, Shapps said.

"Travel is 95% down on where it was this time last year," he added.
"The number of people travelling overall is very low and then beyond that we're only talking about another subsection of people who are traveling here from those red list countries where there are no direct flights in any case."
2:28 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

South Korea grants conditional approval for AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN’s Gawon Bae in Seoul

South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety has given conditional approval for the use of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 Vaccine.

The vaccine, manufactured locally by SK Bioscience, is the first to be approved in the country, health minister Kim Ganglip said on Wednesday.

The vaccine will be given as a series of two doses, four to 12 weeks apart, to people over the age of 18. However, Kim said physicians should weigh potential benefits considering patients’ conditions when administering the vaccine to those over the age of 65.

Pregnant and breast-feeding women can only receive the vaccine if the possible benefit is bigger than the possible risk, Kim added.

Korean authorities said earlier this week that rollout of the vaccine will begin with nursing hospital workers and patients on February 26.