February 22 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Eoin McSweeney and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 0645 GMT (1445 HKT) February 23, 2021
13 Posts
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8:10 a.m. ET, February 22, 2021

Mediterranean region imposes partial weekend lockdown

From CNN's Saskya Vandoorne

The Alpes-Maritimes police commissioner on Monday announced a partial lockdown in between the French coastal towns of Menton and Theoule over the next two weekends in an effort to curb a surge in Covid-19 cases and the spread of new variants.

Bernard Gonzalez said controls at the France-Italy border would be tightened and that shopping centers larger than 5,000 square meters that do not sell food are to close starting Tuesday.

The Alpes-Maritimes region -- which includes the city of Nice -- has the highest incidence rate in France. The province is reporting 588 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past seven days, according to the police commissioner, three times the national average. 

An additional 4,500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been sent to the region on Monday for use in the 48 to 72 hours that follow.

The partial weekend lockdown announcement follows a visit from French Health Minister Olivier Véran to the province on Saturday during which he called for stricter restrictions.

French President Emmanuel Macron has done everything to avoid a third nationwide lockdown, implementing a 6 p.m. curfew and reinforcing border controls.

8:08 a.m. ET, February 22, 2021

Sanofi and GSK start Phase 2 trial of their vaccine, and Phase 3 could begin by April

From CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht

The Sanofi campus in Paris, France.
The Sanofi campus in Paris, France. Nathan Laine/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline said Monday they had begun a Phase 2 trial of their Covid-19 vaccine candidate, and if results are positive, a Phase 3 study could start in the second quarter of 2021.

The “protein subunit” vaccine uses Sanofi's recombinant antigen technology with a GlaxoSmithKline adjuvant, an immune booster. The Phase 2 study will include 720 volunteers age 18 and older in the United States, Honduras and Panama.

The trial will assess the dosage of the companies’ vaccine; three different antigen doses will be tested with a fixed adjuvant dose and the two injections will be given 21 days apart.

Phase 1/2 trials showed the vaccine candidate elicited an immune response in younger adults that's comparable to patients who recovered from Covid-19, but the vaccine did not produce the desired immune response in older adults. The Phase 2 trial will include equal numbers of adults ages 18 to 59 years, and 60 years and above.

“Over the past few weeks, our teams have worked to refine the antigen formulation of our recombinant-protein vaccine, based on learnings from our initial Phase 1/2 study,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and head of Sanofi Pasteur, said in a statement. “We are confident that our vaccine candidate has strong potential and we are very encouraged by the latest preclinical data."

The companies said the vaccine could be available in the fourth quarter if trial results are positive and the vaccine is authorized. In statements, the companies also said Sanofi has begun work against new coronavirus variants “which will be used to inform next stages of the Sanofi/GSK development program."

7:49 a.m. ET, February 22, 2021

France rugby captain among team's 5 new Covid cases

From CNN’s Aleks Klosok

France rugby captain Charles Ollivon is among five new players to have tested positive for Covid-19, the French rugby federation (FFR) announced on Monday.

Ollivon, along with Cyril Baille, Peato Mauvaka, Romain Taofifenua and Brice Dulin, returned positive results following the latest round of testing on Sunday. The FFR added that two members of staff are also suspected to have contracted the virus.

It brings the total number of France players to have returned positive Covid-19 results to 10.

All five of the players who returned positive tests on Sunday have been replaced in France’s 31-man squad.

The FFR said the team is set to return to training at the National Rugby Centre in Marcoussis, on the outskirts of Paris, on Wednesday.

France, who currently top the Six Nations standings, are scheduled to face Scotland in Paris on Sunday.

7:30 a.m. ET, February 22, 2021

There's still huge amounts we don't know about long-term Covid

From CNN's Theresa Waldrop

From Washington state to Florida, from California to Massachusetts, facilities are opening to help the growing number of Americans who suffer from Covid-19 symptoms many months after their diagnosis.

Just a little more than a year into the pandemic, it's not clear how many Covid-19 patients go on to develop what's called long-term Covid, or long Covid. A recent study that included mostly people who had just mild cases found 30% were reporting symptoms as long as nine months after contracting the virus. Other studies have found a higher percentage.

And almost every day that doctors work with these Covid long haulers brings new revelations about the syndrome, which manifests itself in a vast array of symptoms in patients of all ages and of every health status pre-Covid.

"We now realize it goes way beyond the standard post viral syndrome," said Dr. William Li, a physician of internal medicine and founder of the Angiogenesis Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on the role of blood vessels in diseases.

"These symptoms can last for nine months. And we're going on to a year now, we're still seeing new symptoms unfold," said Li, a vascular biologist who has been researching Covid for almost a year.

Read the full story here:

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

WHO renews call for Tanzania to start reporting Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Hannah Ritchie and Radina Gigova 

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a news conference at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in March 2020.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a news conference at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in March 2020. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

The World Health Organization (WHO) has renewed its call for Tanzania to start reporting Covid-19 cases and share information on what measures it is taking to combat the pandemic.

“WHO is yet to receive any information regarding what measures Tanzania is taking to respond to the pandemic,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement on Saturday. 

Early on in the pandemic, the country’s President John Magufuli dismissed the seriousness of coronavirus in Tanzania, urging his citizens to "pray coronavirus away." In June, he claimed his country had eradicated coronavirus "by the grace of God."

Tanzania belongs to a small list of countries that don’t publish data on Covid-19 cases or deaths. Tedros called on the country to reverse course and provide transparent data. 

“I renew my call for Tanzania to start reporting Covid-19 cases and share data. I also call on Tanzania to implement the public health measures that we know work in breaking the chains of transmission, and to prepare for vaccination,” his statement read. 

The extent to which coronavirus has spread in Tanzania remains unknown, but Tedros said cases involving infected Tanzanians traveling abroad underscored the need for “robust action.”  

“A number of Tanzanians traveling to neighbouring countries and beyond have tested positive for Covid-19. This underscores the need for Tanzania to take robust action both to safeguard their own people and protect populations in these countries and beyond,” his statement said. 

Tanzania has not updated its Covid-19 data since late April, leaving the last number of reported confirmed cases at 509 and the death toll at 21. Those are also the latest numbers that Johns Hopkins University has published on its website. 

Last month, WHO urged officials in Tanzania to follow science in the fight against coronavirus, after Magufuli suggested approved vaccines are "dangerous" and that "not all vaccines are of good intentions to our nation."

"There are some of our fellow Tanzanians who recently did travel abroad in search of corona vaccines, they are the ones who brought back corona in our country after returning," Magufuli said at an event on January 27. 

"My fellow Tanzanians, let us stand firm, some of these vaccines are not good for us." 

6:51 a.m. ET, February 22, 2021

Tennis fans criticized for jeering Covid-19 vaccine announcement

From CNN's Ben Westcott

Jayne Hrdlicka the president of Tennis Australia, receives boos and heckles from the audience at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, on February 21.
Jayne Hrdlicka the president of Tennis Australia, receives boos and heckles from the audience at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, on February 21. Sydney Low/CSM/Sipa USA

Australia's government has condemned the "disgusting" behavior of spectators at the Australian Open tennis tournament Sunday, after sections of the crowd loudly booed a speech praising the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine.

The negative reaction occurred during an awards ceremony following Novak Djokovic's victory over Daniil Medvedev in the men's singles final, which saw the Serb claim his ninth Australian Open and 18th grand slam title.

Audible boos could be heard throughout the Melbourne crowd of approximately 7,400 during a speech by Tennis Australia chief Jayne Hrdlicka, in which she suggested now was a time for "optimism and hope" with vaccinations "rolling out in many countries the world."

Hrdlicka continued to speak, only to be interrupted with more jeers after she thanked the state government. "You are a very opinionated group of people," Hrdlicka said in response to the crowd reaction.

The booing incident followed a disrupted final at the Rod Laver Arena, during which two demonstrators were ejected by security staff for shouting pro-refugee slogans, CNN affiliate Seven News reported. Play was also briefly halted when Medvedev demanded shouting and whistling fans "show some respect" as he prepared to serve, with the umpire telling the crowd to "please keep it fair."

It's not clear why the crowd booed the vaccine mention.

Read the full story here:

6:30 a.m. ET, February 22, 2021

No quarantine if entering Poland with a negative Covid-19 test result

From CNN's Antonia Mortensen

There will be no requirement to quarantine when entering Poland if presenting a negative coronavirus test result, the head of the country's health ministry, Adam Niedzielski, said in a Monday interview with private broadcaster TVN24.

The new rules "will become a fact at the end of the week," said the minister. He specified that another option would be to quarantine.

Niedzielski added that the border police "needs 48 hours to reach operational capacity at individual border points." He specified that these rules would apply "on the southern and western border."

When asked about cross-border workers, Niedzielski replied that "testing will be a standard ... We will see if we allow any exceptions in this respect."

During the interview, the minister underlined the threat posed by new Covid variants appearing in Poland and predicted a rise in the number of infections in the coming months.

6:05 a.m. ET, February 22, 2021

Gaza to start vaccine rollout today

From CNN's Ibrahim Dahman in Gaza and Andrew Carey in Jerusalem

Health workers unload the first shipment of Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine in Gaza on February 17.
Health workers unload the first shipment of Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine in Gaza on February 17. Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images

Gaza will begin its Covid-19 vaccination rollout from Monday, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said Sunday, delaying original launch plans by 24 hours.

Authorities in Gaza said they expect a further shipment of 20,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik vaccine to arrive through the Rafah crossing with Egypt on Sunday. The shipment has been arranged by the UAE.

On Wednesday, the Health Ministry said 2,000 doses of the Sputnik vaccine were transferred to the coastal strip from stocks administered by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

Gaza has recorded more than 53,800 cases of the virus since March and 538 deaths, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

5:42 a.m. ET, February 22, 2021

"Evidence looks good" that vaccines will reduce virus transmission, says UK minister

From Amy Cassidy in Glasgow

There appears to be positive news that vaccinations will reduce the transmission of Covid-19, according to UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi.

Speaking to Sky News Monday morning, Zahawi said: “Suffice to say, the evidence looks good. The Oxford team demonstrated their own evidence of cutting transmission by two-thirds.”

He was referring to a study by the University of Oxford that suggests the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine appears to substantially reduce transmission of the virus, rather than simply preventing symptomatic infections.

Zahawi also mentioned “other evidence” on reduced transmission thanks to vaccinations, that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will outline later today as he announces England’s roadmap out of lockdown. 

England would not be in a position to ease lockdown “if we’re not confident that the vaccines program is really beginning to bear fruit,” Zahawi added.