February 24 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Rob Picheta, Melissa Mahtani and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 0719 GMT (1519 HKT) February 25, 2021
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4:41 a.m. ET, February 24, 2021

Greece calls for EU to adopt Covid vaccine passport

From CNN's Chris Liakos in London

A person holds a World Health Organization vaccination card and a French passport.
A person holds a World Health Organization vaccination card and a French passport. Walid Berrazeg/SOPA Images/Sipa/AP

Greece is calling for the European Union to adopt Covid-19 vaccine "passports" in order to open up tourism and allow for summer vacations.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the Minister of Tourism, Harry Theocharis, stressed that the introduction of the vaccination certificate should be a matter of immediate priority for the European Union.

"Looking at the reaction of some countries to the proposals of the Greek government regarding the vaccination certificate, there is a feeling of short-sightedness," he said. "And while there is much to be done to prepare for the opening up of tourism and the economy, nevertheless, many countries are focusing too much on the current situation. But we have to move much faster,” he said.

Theocharis said the EU needs to speed up decision making on protocols for the safe movement of European citizens from country to country.

“The European Union must adopt the vaccination certificate without delay. People need to know as soon as possible if they will be able to go on a summer vacation this year,” he urged.

Regarding the British government's ban on non-essential international travel, Theocharis said: "I do not understand such warnings, given the progress that is being made in the UK with the vaccination rollout. I cannot understand why we are now taking steps backwards, even though we now have more and more effective tools in our 'arsenal' compared to last year -- and I mean vaccines and 'rapid tests'."

Currently, a digital certificate is issued to those Greek citizens who are vaccinated, but is not mandatory to travel to Greece. "Our goal is simply to relieve those who have acquired immunity from being re-tested for Covid-19 upon entering Greece," he said.

2:09 a.m. ET, February 24, 2021

WHO reports sixth consecutive week of declining global coronavirus cases

From CNN Health’s Lauren Mascarenhas

A health worker administers a Covid-19 test in Naumburg, Germany, on February 3.
A health worker administers a Covid-19 test in Naumburg, Germany, on February 3. Ronny Hartmann/AFP/Getty Images

Global coronavirus cases fell by 11% in the week leading up to February 21, marking the sixth consecutive week of declining cases, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

WHO reported 2.4 million new cases and 66,000 new deaths that week, a 20% drop in deaths from the week before.

That brings the total to 110.7 million cases and more than 2.4 million deaths since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to WHO figures. The United States is currently reporting the highest number of new cases, followed by Brazil, France, Russia and India.

WHO noted that while many countries are reporting a decline in overall coronavirus cases, reports of Covid-19 variants are increasing.

WHO said the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the UK has now been found in 101 countries, while the B.1.351 variant first detected in South Africa has now been found in 51 countries. The less prevalent B. variant — first identified in Brazil and Japan — has now been found in 29 countries.

2:01 a.m. ET, February 24, 2021

Coronavirus variant will likely drive a new wave of transmission come spring, some experts say

From CNN's Christina Maxouris, Holly Yan and Amir Vera

A new, more contagious variant of coronavirus first detected in the UK is likely to fuel a surge of cases in the spring, several experts predicted Tuesday.

The variant, called B.1.1.7, was suspected of causing renewed spread in Britain. It's been seen across much of the US -- with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating the variant makes up for more than 1,880 cases in 45 states.

The variant could "result in more of a wave" around April or May, said Trevor Bedford with the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

So how can the US prevent the suspected spring surge? Some experts said Tuesday the best way to get ahead of the surge is through vaccinations. 

Bedford, who has been closely following the rise of new coronavirus variants, predicted that vaccination and mitigation efforts, such as mask use and continued social distancing, will help prevent the virus from spreading further.

"I still do suspect that things will be brought under control in the summer, and there will be very little virus circulating," he said.

It's possible, however, that a new surge could begin in the fall, according to Bedford.

The race to vaccinate: More than 44.5 million people have received at least one dose of their two-dose vaccines, according to data Tuesday from the CDC. About 19.8 million have been fully vaccinated with both doses, the CDC said -- about 6% of the US population.

One dose of vaccine *might* be enough for some, NIH director says: It's possible a single dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine might be enough for those who have already been infected with coronavirus -- but it will take more research to show that, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins wrote in a blog post Tuesday.

Read more about the situation in the US: