February 11 coronavirus news

By Adam Renton, Brad Lendon, Cristiana Moisescu, Laura Smith-Spark and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 2:18 a.m. ET, February 12, 2021
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11:25 a.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Austrian hotspot for South African variant deploys 1,200 troops to contain virus spread

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt

A board with hygiene instructions is pictured at the valley station of the Hochzillertal cable car in Kaltenbach in Tyrol, Austria on February 4, 2021
A board with hygiene instructions is pictured at the valley station of the Hochzillertal cable car in Kaltenbach in Tyrol, Austria on February 4, 2021 EXPA/AFP/Getty Images

The Austrian Alpine province of Tyrol -- which has seen one of Europe’s worst outbreaks of the South African coronavirus variant -- is deploying 1,200 police officers and soldiers to try and contain the spread of the virus, local authorities told CNN Thursday. 

Starting Friday at midnight and lasting for 10 days, the reinforcements will be deployed to Tyrol’s border checkpoints to ensure that anyone trying to leave the province can prove they have a negative coronavirus test no more than 48 hours old, Tyrol police spokesman Stefan Eder told CNN.

Eder added that children, freight traffic and travellers transiting through Tyrol are exempt from this regulation.

The province has currently detected 438 cases of the South African coronavirus variant, according to Tyrol's local government on Thursday.

The South African variant has a mutation, called E484K, which could help the virus partly escape the effects of vaccines.

11:09 a.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Wear at least one mask, but double masking helps get a tighter fit, says Fauci

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Kena Betancur/Getty Images
Kena Betancur/Getty Images

People should definitely wear one mask, but double masking improves fit, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie on the Today show on Thursday.

The CDC on Wednesday released new data that showed layering a cloth mask over a medical procedural mask could block 92.5% of potentially infectious particles by creating a tighter fit and eliminating leakage. 

“At a minimum, wear a mask,” Fauci said. “This is what [the CDC] are saying, make sure you wear a mask. So you wear a mask, then you want it to fit better. So, one of the ways you could do it, if you would like to, is put a cloth mask over.” 

He demonstrated how this works by putting two masks on himself and showing the places where two masks help better prevent leakage, and he told Guthrie that he, on occasion, has double masked.  

“One mask at least, but if you want to really be sure, get a tighter fit with a second mask.” 
10:53 a.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Cuba says it has made 150,000 doses of a promising vaccine candidate

From CNN's Patrick Oppmann

Cuban government scientists say they have produced 150,000 doses of their most promising vaccine candidate, the communist party newspaper Granma reported Thursday.

Cuba has been working with Iran to develop the Soberana 2 vaccine.

Phase 3 trials will begin in March and the vaccine could be ready for widespread use in April, according to Granma, quoting Cuban scientists. 

While Cuba has not begun vaccinating people outside of the clinical trials, officials say they expect to give the vaccine to the island’s total population of 11 million by the end of 2021.

In recent weeks, the country has experienced its highest spike in Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with the largest concentration of cases being in Havana. The island has a total of 34,922 confirmed cases and 249 Covid-19 related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

11:14 a.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Cancelation of Germany's carnival will result in $1.8 billion loss nationwide, economic institute says

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt and Claudia Otto

The cancelation of Germany’s popular annual carnival celebrations, which involve stage events, stalls and parades, will lead to a nationwide loss of 1.5 billion euro ($1.8 billion), according to the Cologne-based German Economic Institute (IW).

Retailers and hotels will suffer the greatest economic losses, according to IW. It estimates about 330 million euro ($400 million) will be lost in the retail sector, the bulk of it from lost revenue in costume sales.

The hotel industry, which would typically take high numbers of bookings at this time of year for the celebrations, will lose an estimated 160 million euro, IW said in a press release on Monday.

Germany remains under a strict lockdown which Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday would extend until March 7 at the earliest.

Germany’s carnival season -- known as Fasching -- is particularly popular in the country’s western region, and festivities are often centred in the city of Cologne.

Due to pandemic restrictions, Cologne's events will be broadcast this year and feature no dance groups, while musicians will be made to social distance as they perform. 

9:59 a.m. ET, February 11, 2021

WHO Africa encourages use of AstraZeneca vaccine despite variants

From CNN's Bethlehem Feleke in Nairobi 

Blood is drawn from a clinical trials patient for the AstraZeneca test vaccine at the University of Witwatersrand' Soweto's Chris Sani Baragwanath Hospital facility outside Johannesburg on Nov. 30, 2020.
Blood is drawn from a clinical trials patient for the AstraZeneca test vaccine at the University of Witwatersrand' Soweto's Chris Sani Baragwanath Hospital facility outside Johannesburg on Nov. 30, 2020. Jerome Delay/AP

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Africa has backed the use of the  Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 even in countries reporting variants of the disease.

"While a vaccine that protects against all forms of Covid-19 illness is our biggest hope, preventing severe cases and hospitalizations which overwhelm hospitals and health systems is crucial," Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said at a press briefing Thursday.

The second wave of Covid-19 in Africa, which peaked in January, was more deadly than the first wave, according to Dr. Moeti. "Deaths have increased by 40% in the last 28 days compared to the previous 28 days," she noted.

The spike in deaths on the continent has left health workers and healthcare systems "dangerously overstretched," she said. 

With the rollout of vaccines, "if cases remain mostly mild and moderate and don't require critical care then we can save many lives," Dr. Moeti added. 

In addition to increased deaths, variants of Covid-19 are spreading across the continent, with seven other countries now reporting the B.1.351 variant that was first detected in South Africa, including Ghana, Kenya, Comoros, Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia. 

Two people who traveled from Tanzania to the UK were found to be carrying the variant linked to South Africa, although Tanzania has not updated Covid-19 data since late April and denies the virus exists in the country. 

Vaccines are not yet being extensively administered in Africa but WHO expects substantive rollouts to begin in March.

Separately, WHO acknowledged two fatal cases in a new Ebola outbreak in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 200 contacts are being traced. 

9:48 a.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Europe remains "vulnerable" despite decline in Covid-19 cases, says WHO Europe chief

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

Health workers wait for travelers at a Covid-19 testing center in the immigration area of Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle international airport, on February 1, 2021 after new Covid-19 border restrictions came into effect. 
Health workers wait for travelers at a Covid-19 testing center in the immigration area of Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle international airport, on February 1, 2021 after new Covid-19 border restrictions came into effect.  Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images

Most European countries remain "vulnerable" despite a decline in Covid-19 cases, WHO Europe regional director Hans Kluge said Thursday.

This decline in cases “conceals increasing numbers of outbreaks and community spread involving variants of concern, meaning that we need to watch overall trends in transmission carefully and avoid rash decisions," Kluge told a news conference, stressing that the numbers registered in the European region are "still too high."  

“At this point, the overwhelming majority of European countries remain vulnerable," he added, saying that there's now a "thin line between the hope of a vaccine and a false sense of security." 

The coronavirus variant B.1.351 first identified in South Africa has been reported in 19 European countries, he said, adding that “although community transmission in Europe is not yet widespread, the variant has increasingly been linked to outbreaks in communities.”

"We must do everything in our power to reduce transmission and delay mutations that may influence vaccine efficacy. Unless we halt transmission now, the expected benefits from vaccinations in controlling this pandemic may not be evident," he added.
1:16 p.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Chile has now administered more than 1 million vaccine doses, a week after its mass vaccination program started

From CNN's Eric Cheung

Seniors wait to be vaccinated with China's Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Santiago, Chile, on February 3.
Seniors wait to be vaccinated with China's Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Santiago, Chile, on February 3. Esteban Felix/AP

More than one million vaccine doses have been administered in Chile, the country’s president said Wednesday, a week after its mass coronavirus vaccination program started. 

“Let’s make 2021 the year of hope,” Sebastian Pinera tweeted. “Together we will overcome this pandemic and regain the joy of living.” 

Chile kicked off its mass vaccination campaign last Wednesday, and the government set a target to vaccinate 15 million by mid-year. Some people had already received a vaccine before the mass rollout began; the first doses of the vaccine arrived in the country in December and were given to medical workers from December 24. 

In January, Chile issued an emergency-use authorization for China's Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine. The country has also been using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for health officials and the elderly. 

Chile's total population is close to 19 million, according to the World Bank. The country has reported at least 760,576 Covid-19 cases and 19,105 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

This post has been corrected to reflect that Chile has administered more than one million vaccine doses – not vaccinated one million people – and that some people were vaccinated in December before the mass rollout began.

9:00 a.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Majority of Americans could be vaccinated by the middle or end of summer, says Fauci

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Educational staff at Kettering City Schools receive the Covid-19 vaccine as a part of Ohio's Phase 1B vaccine distribution in Dayton, Ohio, on February 10.
Educational staff at Kettering City Schools receive the Covid-19 vaccine as a part of Ohio's Phase 1B vaccine distribution in Dayton, Ohio, on February 10. Megan Jelinger/AFP/Getty Images

The top US infectious diseases expert said Thursday that “open season” for Covid-19 vaccination could begin in April, and that the country may be able to vaccinate the majority of Americans by the middle or end of summer.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie on the Today show that he thought the pace of vaccination was going to pick up going into March and April.

“The number of available doses will allow for much more of a mass vaccination approach, which is really much more accelerated than what you’re seeing now,” he said.

Fauci also said that he was “fairly certain” that toward the end of April, things like pharmacies, community vaccine centers and mobile units will really help pick up the pace – and not just for those in higher priority groups.

“I would imagine by the time we get to April, that will be what I would call for, you know, for better wording, open season,” Fauci said. “Namely, virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated.” 

From there, it will take several more months actually to get everyone vaccinated, he said. 

“Hopefully, as we get into the middle and end of the summer, we could have accomplished the goal of what we’re talking about, namely the overwhelming majority of people in this country having gotten vaccinated,” he said.

8:45 a.m. ET, February 11, 2021

Spread of UK variant could "impact epidemic curve" in Europe and lead to tighter restrictions, says WHO official

From CNN's Hannah Ritchie

A researcher at Aalborg University analyzes positive Danish coronavirus samples to screen for the UK variant in Aalborg, Denmark on January 15.
A researcher at Aalborg University analyzes positive Danish coronavirus samples to screen for the UK variant in Aalborg, Denmark on January 15. Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images

The UK coronavirus variant could "impact the epidemic curve" and lead to "a more restrictive approach to the public health and social measures" in Europe, if it becomes the continent’s dominant strain, the World Health Organization’s senior emergency officer for Europe warned on Thursday. 

Speaking at a WHO Europe press briefing, Catherine Smallwood said that the B.1.1.7 variant, commonly referred to as the "UK strain" or "Kent strain," is now circulating in over half of all European countries. 

“Specific to the European region is the ongoing spread of another variant of concern, the lineage B.1.1.7, that was first identified in the UK and is now clearly circulating in the communities in more than half of the countries around the region. That particular variant, especially in Western European countries, is spreading more quickly than other lineages,” she told reporters. 

Smallwood warned that the restrictions currently in place across Europe may not be sufficient to suppress the B.1.1.7 variant once it becomes the dominant strain in the region. 

“Once it becomes dominant it may impact the epidemic curve overall and lead to the need for a more restrictive approach to the public health and social measures that need to be in place so that rates of transmission can decrease.” 

Smallwood's comments followed a stark warning from the director of the Covid-19 Genomics UK consortium, Sharon Peacock, who told the BBC on Wednesday that the B.1.1.7 strain is "going to sweep the world in all probability."