The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Jessie Yeung, Kara Fox, Kareem Khadder, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT) March 2, 2021
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8:15 a.m. ET, March 1, 2021

Nordic nations tighten restrictions as cases surge

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite and James Frater

Just three months ago, Finland had Europe's lowest average of Covid-19 infections and deaths per capita, and had managed to contain local outbreaks while sticking to some of the most relaxed restrictions on the continent.

But now it’s facing a new surge -- and the government has changed tack.

On Monday, Finland’s government declared a state of emergency due to a sharp rise in cases that they have attributed partially to the spread of new variants.

The country will go into a three-week lockdown on March 8, according to Prime Minister Sanna Marin.

In a statement, the government said:

"The number and incidence of Covid-19 cases in Finland have risen very rapidly since the beginning of February 2021. The number of infections caused by new virus variants has clearly increased, which may further accelerate the epidemic and place significant strain on hospital and intensive care capacity if we are unable to bring the number of infections down.”

The strictest restrictions were already introduced in seven hospital districts last Thursday, including in the capital, Helsinki.

Across the border in Norway, officials are also tightening restrictions due to a surge of cases in the capital that Oslo City Council called "a consequence of the import of mutated variants of the coronavirus."

The new virus variants spread faster than previous variants," Oslo City Councilor Raymond Johansen said in a Sunday statement.

"This means that we now have to tighten up infection control measures in line with the recommendations of national health authorities.

From Tuesday until March 15, the new measures in Oslo include: the closing of all restaurants, except for take-away services; and shuttering all stores, except pharmacies and grocery/liquor stores.

From Monday, Oslo students attending upper secondary schools will stay at home and on Wednesday, all schools will be run with a combination of traditional and virtual learning.

The council added that is introducing the mass testing of students with saliva samples from March 8, and the increased testing of all teachers.

7:43 a.m. ET, March 1, 2021

One European nation is locking down while the rest of the world is starting to open up

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová in London

A medical worker wearing protective equipment takes a sample at a drive-in Covid-19 testing station in Prague, Czech Republic, on February 23.
A medical worker wearing protective equipment takes a sample at a drive-in Covid-19 testing station in Prague, Czech Republic, on February 23. Michael Cizek/AFP/Getty Images

While much of the world is starting to think about lifting their coronavirus restrictions, the Czech Republic has today entered a strict new lockdown. The Central European nation of 10 million has been experiencing near record levels of new infections and its death toll has just topped 20,000. 

There is no reason for the country to be among the worst hit. As a relatively wealthy nation and a member of the European Union, the Czech Republic has access to vaccines, medical equipment and track-and-trace tech solutions. It has a democratically elected government. Its health care system is well respected, its economy fairly strong.

Instead, the current Czech catastrophe is akin to death by a thousand cuts, a result of dozens of tiny missteps, late decisions and botched public health messages, experts tell CNN.

Read more here about what went wrong in a country that sailed through the pandemic’s first wave nearly unscathed.

6:28 a.m. ET, March 1, 2021

Authorities are still hunting for 1 of the 6 cases of the Brazilian Covid variant identified in the UK

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

UK vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi in Westminster, London, in December 2020.
UK vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi in Westminster, London, in December 2020. Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Health officials in England are still trying to track down one of the UK's six recorded cases of the coronavirus variant first detected in Brazil. 

On Sunday, Public Health England said that six cases of the variant first identified in Manaus, Brazil (known as P.1) have been detected in the UK -- with three of those cases identified in England.

But while two of the cases identified in England were traced to “one household in South Gloucestershire with a history of travel to Brazil,” there is still currently a third, unlinked case, it said.

Speaking on Sky News on Monday, UK vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi said that the individual who hadn’t yet been traced hadn’t filled in their test card details, and that they "would probably (have) got a home kit or a test kit from the local authority,” Zahawi said.

 What we're asking today is anyone who had a test on the 12th or 13th of February to contact NHS 119, so we make sure we identify that individual." 

The other two cases of the P.1 variant were identified in South Gloucestershire "who have been self-isolating correctly" and there is "minimal reason to believe that there may be further spread," the minister added.

The three other cases of the variant were identified in Scotland and are not linked to the cases in England, the British government said in a statement on Sunday.

Zahawi stressed that the Brazilian variant is a “variant of concern,” adding that “it’s very similar in terms of its mutations to the South African variant. So, it is concerning.”

The variant first seen in South Africa, called B.1.351 or 501Y.V2, has a different pattern of mutations that causes more physical alterations in the structure of the spike protein than the UK variant (B.1.1.7) does.

One important mutation, called E484K, appears to affect the receptor binding domain -- the part of the spike protein most important for attaching to cells, which could help the virus partly escape the effects of vaccines.

The Brazilian variant, P.1, also carries the E484K mutation.

Read more about the variants here:

6:07 a.m. ET, March 1, 2021

Germany's Covid death toll tops 70,000, as Bavaria PM warns that mutations are "starting to dominate"

From CNN’s Claudia Otto in Berlin and Stephanie Halasz in London

A crematorium employee affixes a "Corona" marker to a coffin in Dachsenhausen, Germany on January 22.
A crematorium employee affixes a "Corona" marker to a coffin in Dachsenhausen, Germany on January 22. Thomas Frey/picture alliance/Getty Images

More than 70,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Germany, according to official figures.

The country's agency for disease control and prevention, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), on Monday recorded 4,732 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of infections to 2,447,068.

The RKI also reported 60 additional deaths, bringing the total death toll to 70,105. Recorded numbers are always low at weekends because not so many people get tested. 

Meanwhile, Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Soeder also warned that new variants of the coronavirus are taking over. 

The mutations are starting to dominate,” he said at a news conference Monday morning.

Soeder also warned there are coronavirus hotspots on the German border with the Czech Republic.

“Corona[virus] will keep us busy in the next few months, make no mistake,” Soeder said. 

The Bavarian leader said more vaccinations and more tests were needed. Soeder also called for general practitioners, as well as company and factory doctors to start giving vaccinations. 

The RKI said Germany's seven-day incidence rate has risen to 65.8 -- representing the number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants. It is aiming to reach an incidence rate of 35 before lifting restrictions.

Soeder was speaking ahead of Wednesday’s meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the prime ministers of the country's federal states, when the next steps of the pandemic restrictions will be discussed.

1:58 a.m. ET, March 1, 2021

More than 2,400 reported cases of Covid variants in the US

A patient enters a Covid-19 testing site on February 13 in Seattle, Washington.
A patient enters a Covid-19 testing site on February 13 in Seattle, Washington. David Ryder/Getty Images

The United States has reported at least 2,463 cases of coronavirus variants that were first spotted in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The CDC warned that these figures don't represent the total number of such cases circulating nationwide -- just those that have been detected by analyzing positive samples.

The UK variant: The vast majority of these cases, 2,400, are the more contagious variant known as B.1.1.7, which was originally detected in the UK. This variant has been found in 44 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. About a quarter are in Florida.

South Africa variant: There are 53 cases of the B.1.351 variant, first seen in South Africa, reported in 15 states and Washington, DC. 

Brazil variant: Lastly, 10 cases of the P.1 variant first linked to Brazil have been discovered in five US states.

1:52 a.m. ET, March 1, 2021

Indian Prime Minister receives first dose of Covid-19 vaccine 

From CNN's Esha Mitra in New Delhi

 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is administered a Covid-19 vaccine in New Delhi, India on March 1.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is administered a Covid-19 vaccine in New Delhi, India on March 1. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi/'s Twitter/AP

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi received his first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine on Monday, kicking off the second phase of the country's immunization campaign.

He received India's home-grown vaccine, Covaxin, at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi.

"Remarkable how our doctors and scientists have worked in quick time to strengthen the global fight against Covid-19," he tweeted on Monday. "I appeal to all those who are eligible to take the vaccine. Together, let us make India Covid-19 free!"

The second phase: This next part of the vaccination drive will allow shots for those aged 60 years and older, and those aged above 45 with serious medical conditions.

The first phase had been targeted at healthcare and frontline workers, but vaccines will now available to the general public within the age bracket.

India has distributed more than 14.3 million vaccines since the program began on January 16, according to the Indian Ministry of Health.

The Indian Ministry of Health has recorded more than 11 million cases to date, and more than 157,000 related deaths.

3:32 a.m. ET, March 1, 2021

Mexico's president expected to ask Biden to share US Covid-19 vaccines, source says

From CNN’s Matt Rivers in Villahermosa, Mexico

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador looks on during a during a ceremony at Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico on February 23.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador looks on during a during a ceremony at Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico on February 23. Hector Vivas/Getty Images

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is expected to ask US President Joe Biden to share some of the Covid-19 vaccine supply on Monday, according to a Mexican government official briefed on plans for the conversation.

The two leaders are due to hold a virtual bilateral meeting on Monday.  

What the collaboration could look like -- a purchase agreement, donation, or loan -- is undefined, the official told CNN.

The first step is to ask whether the United States is willing to cooperate, the source said.  

Mexico has purchase agreements in place for hundreds of millions of vaccine doses with different vaccine makers around the world, the large majority of which have yet to be fulfilled.

It has also purchased vaccine supplies from both Russia and China, but it hasn't received any vaccines directly from the US, its most important ally and largest trading partner.   

Pfizer, an American company, has shipped Covid-19 vaccines to Mexico -- but they were produced in European laboratories and have arrived in relatively limited supply.   

As of Sunday evening, Mexico reported having administered just under 2.5 million doses of coronavirus vaccines. 

1:51 a.m. ET, March 1, 2021

US reports more than 51,000 cases on Sunday

The United States reported 51,204 new Covid-19 cases and 1,097 related deaths on Sunday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

That raises the national total to at least 28,605,669 cases and 513,091 deaths since the pandemic began.

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases.  

Vaccination drive: At least 96,402,490 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 75,236,003 doses have been administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Vaccine. 

At least 49,772,180 people have received one or more doses of the vaccine and at least 24,779,920 people have received two doses.