February 16 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Brad Lendon, Zamira Rahim, Mary Ilyushina and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 10:49 p.m. ET, February 17, 2021
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6:01 a.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Court rules that Dutch Covid curfew must be lifted "immediately"

From CNN’s Mick Krever

A snowy canal scene during a night curfew on February 7, 2021, in Leiden, Netherlands.
A snowy canal scene during a night curfew on February 7, 2021, in Leiden, Netherlands. Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images

The government in the Netherlands must “immediately” lift a nightly curfew designed to reduce coronavirus infections, a court in the country has ruled.

A judge in The Hague upheld a claim from the foundation viruswaarheid.nl, which means “virus truth."

The curfew has has been in effect nightly from 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. since January 23. The Dutch government earlier this month extended the curfew to remain in place until at least March 3, claiming that the restrictions have been successful in reducing social interaction.

The judge said Tuesday that the implementation of the curfew did not meet the requirements of “special urgency” required to bypass the normal legislative process. The judge also ruled that the government's use of the “extraordinary powers of civil authority" act was “not legitimate."

“The curfew is a far-reaching violation of the right of freedom of movement and privacy and limits [indirectly] among other things the rights to freedom of assembly and demonstration. This makes a very diligent decision-making process necessary," the judge said.

In response, the Dutch Ministry of Justice said it was "studying” the ruling.

“We cannot say more about it yet,” spokesperson Anna Sophia Posthumus told CNN in a statement Tuesday.

The Netherlands has reported more than 1 million total Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began and almost 15,000 deaths according to Johns Hopkins University.

5:45 a.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Israel to ease lockdown and ask residents for proof of vaccination or recovery for some activities

From CNN's Andrew Carey and Amir Tal in Jerusalem

People enjoy themselves on a reopened beach in Tel Aviv, Israel, on February 13, 2021.
People enjoy themselves on a reopened beach in Tel Aviv, Israel, on February 13, 2021. Xinhua/Muammar Awad via Getty Images

The Israeli Cabinet has approved a further loosening of the restrictions on economic activity as coronavirus infection rates continue its gradual downward trend.

From Sunday, shopping malls, markets, museums, and libraries will re-open to everyone. But Israelis will need to show proof they have been vaccinated, or have recovered from the disease, to gain access to gyms, sports, cultural venues and hotels, all of which have also received permission to re-open.

Schools will also be allowed to welcome back more students.

The number of new cases of Covid-19 stood at 5,138 on Monday -- by comparison, the figure two weeks ago stood at 8,909.

Israel has been making rapid progress in its vaccination program and is on track to be the first country in the world to inoculate its entire population, of about 9 million people.

Health Ministry data suggests more than 4 million people in Israel will have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by the end of Tuesday, with more than 2.6 million people having received a second dose as well.

5:30 a.m. ET, February 16, 2021

The US just reported its lowest daily infection count in months. But experts are still concerned

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

For the first time in a long time, the US is reporting encouraging Covid-19 trends.

While more than 64,900 new infections were reported on Sunday, it was the country's lowest case count since October. Just last month, reported infections were topping 200,000 a day.

And California, one of the states hit hardest by the pandemic, reported its lowest daily case increase since early November. That comes amid a steady decline not only in new infections, but in hospitalizations and deaths as well.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo reported a decline in infection and hospitalization rates, saying the state was now past a "post-holiday surge."

"If we're able to keep the momentum headed in a positive direction by practicing safe behaviors at an individual level, as well as continuing to vaccinate New Yorkers as quickly and fairly as possible, we'll be able to reach the light at the end of the tunnel faster than previously thought and finally get some normalcy back into our lives," Cuomo said in a statement Monday.

It is good news to see the Covid-19 numbers heading in the right direction. But numbers are still high.

And experts worry that if Americans let their guards down -- especially now with variants circulating -- there could be another surge coming.

Read the full story here:

5:15 a.m. ET, February 16, 2021

UK vaccine minister warns of "tsunami of disinformation"

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

UK vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi has warned of a "tsunami of disinformation and misinformation" around Covid-19 vaccines and said that the UK government is in contact with technology companies in an effort to "take down some of this fake news."

When asked about reports of vaccine hesitancy in ethnic minority communities, Zahawi told British broadcaster Sky News on Tuesday that “it's very important that we continue to deliver accurate information in people's own languages."

He added that the government is translating its guidance into 20 languages “to reach those hard to reach groups.”

The minister also said that around 89% of the UK's adult population are prepared to take a Covid-19 vaccine.

"The 11% that are vaccine hesitant, or have questions, skew heavily towards some of the ethnic communities, the Black and African Caribbean communities, the Indian and Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, and we are working with those community leaders, we've put £25 million ($35m) to work through local government," Zahawi added.
“We know that [ethnic minority] communities are disproportionately impacted by this virus so come forward and take the first dose," he said, adding: "We'll make sure that we will accommodate any issues around Ramadan or any other religious festival, to make sure that you can get your second dose safely and in the correct way.”
5:41 a.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Greenland extends its travel entry ban until April

From CNN's James Frater in London

Tourists are looking at the frozen Disko Bay during winter in West Greenland, on July 28, 2020
Tourists are looking at the frozen Disko Bay during winter in West Greenland, on July 28, 2020 Martin Zwick/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Greenland has extended its ban on travelers entering the country until April 18. The restrictions on most people entering the country came into force on January 1 and were due to end on February 28.

Only critical workers will be able to travel to the Arctic nation and even they need to secure special permission to travel from Greenland's government before making the trip.

People entering the country need take a Covid-19 test no earlier than 72 hours before travel. They are also required to isolate for 14 days on arrival and to take a test on day five.

Greenland has a population of around 56,500 people. It has reported 30 coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic and zero deaths.

4:27 a.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Germany's supply chains could be hit by new border measures, business leaders warn

From CNN's Claudia Otto in Berlin

Police officers check vehicles at the Germany-Czech Republic border on February 16, in Bavaria, Germany. 
Police officers check vehicles at the Germany-Czech Republic border on February 16, in Bavaria, Germany.  Armin Weigel/picture alliance/Getty Images

New German border controls meant to stop the spread of Covid-19 could imperil the country's supply chains and wreak havoc on the economy, multiple prominent German business leaders said.

Joachim Lang, the managing director of BDI, the Federation of Germany Industry, said in an interview with Funke Mediengruppe newspaper group that more thorough checks at Germany's borders with Austria and the Czech Republic could slow regional commerce.

"There is a great danger that supply chains will break down all over Europe in the next few days," he said.

The president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry, Hildegard Muller, shared a similar opinion.

"If there are lengthy traffic jams at the borders due to testing and registration requirements, the supply chain is likely to break down and production will come to a standstill at many passenger car plants in Germany shortly afterwards," Muller said.

Germany's Minister for Economic Affairs and Industry Peter Altmaier is expected to hold a summit with 40 representatives of German industry on Tuesday to discuss the new public health measures and their potential impact on the country's economy.

3:46 a.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Ambulance crews report drop in Covid callouts in hard-hit Wales as vaccine rollout gathers pace

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, Jo Shelley, and Christian Streib in Cardiff

Cardiff, in south Wales, has been hit hard by the pandemic.
Cardiff, in south Wales, has been hit hard by the pandemic. Jo Shelley/CNN

The bitter Cardiff cold, the dawn half-light, and the radio-static pulse of callouts are the same as every shift over the past year, but as paramedic Angie Dymott and her colleague Lynda Stephens climb into their ambulance one recent morning, something small, but vital has changed.

There have been very few Covid-19 emergency calls in the past two days, and they are wondering why.

"A few weeks back, that's all we were going to," said Dymott. "Covid after Covid after Covid. Then all of a sudden, it just dropped off quite quickly. So [the change is] surprising, but a good surprise."

Cardiff, in south Wales, has been hit hard by the virus. But during the two days CNN spent with its teams, suspected Covid callouts fell dramatically.

Dymott and Stephens get two: One definite positive middle-aged woman, who isn't that sick, and another 75-year-old woman, who is waiting for a clearer test result. On Thursday there were only four callouts across all of Cardiff's 400,000 population.

Wales once had the distinction of being home to some of the worst-hit areas in the United Kingdom, which itself has one of the worst death rates globally.

But last Friday, it had a new focus: Completing its rollout of vaccines to the most vulnerable ahead of schedule -- with greater efficiency than the already fast UK. It's left some wondering if the vaccines might be playing a role -- finally -- in the drop in elderly patients in need.

Read more:

3:02 a.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Study in Scotland investigates if it's possible to safely open bars during the pandemic

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

Is it possible to make bars safe in a pandemic? One experiment in Scotland last summer went flat, according to new research published Monday in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Despite guidance from the government and efforts on the part of bar owners to implement safety measures, customers and staff alike failed to stick to even the simplest measures aimed at preventing spread -- especially when customers were intoxicated, researchers found.

With some venues back in business for indoor dining in places like New York and Portland, many US business owners are working to make the experience as safe as possible -- something the Scottish researchers found may not be so easy.

After a lockdown in the UK, bars in Scotland were allowed to reopen in July under new guidelines, including keeping groups of customers at least one meter (a little over three feet) apart, keeping all customers seated and requiring staff to wear face coverings.

Niamh Fitzgerald, a professor with the University of Stirling in Scotland, and colleagues visited 29 bars to observe how these safety measures worked in actual practice.

"It was essentially about understanding, what are the risks and how successful are our bars and pubs in controlling those risks?" said Fitzgerald.

Read more:

2:18 a.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Los Angeles elementary schools cleared to reopen with waiver this week

From CNN's Sarah Moon

A public elementary school campus in Los Angeles on August 17, 2020, one day before the start of the new school year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A public elementary school campus in Los Angeles on August 17, 2020, one day before the start of the new school year amid the coronavirus pandemic. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Elementary schools in Los Angeles County will be allowed to reopen for in-person learning starting Tuesday due to the falling number of Covid-19 cases in the region, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said.

LA County is expected to reach an adjusted Covid-19 case rate of 25 cases per 100,000 residents on Tuesday, which means kindergarten through sixth-grade campuses will be allowed to resume in-person learning as early as this week.

The county will inform all schools Monday in an emailed letter, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

"This is what we have been working towards," County Supervisor Janice Hahn said.

Schools must submit a waiver to the county’s public health department and the California Department of Public Health to certify they have implemented a full range of safety measures for a safe reopening. 

More information is expected to be released at a briefing on Tuesday.

The news came hours after the Los Angeles Unified School District, the United States' second-largest public school system, announced that the first vaccination site based at an LA school will open this week. The first doses will be offered to school employees ages 65 and older and those working at testing and vaccinations sites, "consistent with current public health rules," LA schools Superintendent Austin Beutner said.