The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Jessie Yeung and Brett McKeehan, CNN

Updated 0306 GMT (1106 HKT) March 6, 2021
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9:11 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

The US added 379,000 jobs in February, signaling the recovery is finally gaining steam

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

A 'now hiring' sign in posted in front of a Taco Bell restaurant on February 5, in Novato, California.
A 'now hiring' sign in posted in front of a Taco Bell restaurant on February 5, in Novato, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The US economy added 379,000 jobs last month, far more than economists had expected, signaling the labor market recovery is finally gaining steam.

The unemployment rate — which only counts people who are actively seeking jobs and not those who have dropped out of the workforce entirely — inched down to 6.2% from 6.3% in January. Economists had predicted it would stay flat. 

Economists agree that the official jobless rate is likely under-reporting how many people are actually unemployed as a result of the pandemic.

 

8:07 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

WHO chief warns against vaccine nationalism and the "me first" approach

From CNN's Zamira Rahim

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is pictured at a press conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in July 2020.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is pictured at a press conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in July 2020. Fabrice Coffrini/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned countries to abandon the "me first" approach to vaccines in an opinion article for The Guardian.

"Of the 225m vaccine doses that have been administered so far, the vast majority have been in a handful of rich and vaccine-producing countries, while most low- and middle-income countries watch and wait," Ghebreyesus said.
 "A me-first approach might serve short-term political interests, but it is self-defeating and will lead to a protracted recovery."

It's not the first time Ghebreyesus has made such a plea.

"I need to be blunt: the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure -- and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world's poorest countries," he said, while speaking at WHO headquarters in Geneva on January 18.

WHO is co-leader of the COVAX initiative, which is aimed at distributing vaccines to low-income countries who cannot easily purchase them directly from manufacturers.

But even among wealthier nations trouble is brewing, with Europe in particular struggling with disrupted vaccine supplies.

"The future is ours to write. Let’s not be held back by politics, business as usual or those who say we can’t," Ghebreyesus wrote in The Guardian, adding that the world should make sure "no country is left behind."
7:59 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

"We know it works": CT governor explains decision to reopen businesses while keeping mask mandate

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Connecticut is set to fully reopen some businesses to full capacity while maintaining its mask mandate.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont explained his decision on CNN’s “New Day.” 

“This is something we know we can do safely, we know it works, and maintaining the masks and the social distancing reinforces that [we] still know that we have a way to go,” Lamont said.

Beginning on March 19, the state will no longer have capacity restrictions for restaurants, houses of worship, stores, gyms, museums, and a slew of other businesses and institutions.

Restaurants will still be required to limit tables to eight patrons, and the 11 p.m. curfew for eating establishments and entertainment venues will remain in effect. 

During a press conference Thursday, Lamont contrasted his state with others that are fully reopening businesses while lifting mask mandates. “This is not Texas. This is not Mississippi. This is Connecticut. We are maintaining the masks,” he said. 

Lamont said the “vast majority” of people over age 55 will be vaccinated by March 19. The state has made the vaccine available solely by age for fairness and simplicity, he said. 

He also said that more highly transmissible variants are “the wild card in the deck.” 

“But we have a little experience with it,” he said. “We've seen the variant now down in Miami and San Diego for six, seven weeks. And I really worried that it was going to double up every few days, and that has not happened. So we have a sense that if the variant does become more prevalent here in this region -- it's not yet -- we'll be able to respond accordingly. And we'll have time to respond." 

7:55 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Iran reports 8,300 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

On Friday, Iran's health ministry reported 8,367 new daily coronavirus cases, bringing the country's total to 1,673,470 since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Iran also reported 81 new Covid-19 related deaths, bringing the total death toll to 60,512.

Iran has the most severe Covid-19 outbreak in the Middle East, with the highest number of virus cases and deaths in the region.

At least 3,767 patients remain hospitalized in ICU, a spokeswoman for the health ministry, Sima Sadaat Lari, said in a press conference on state TV. 

The health ministry also announced that 12 provinces in Iran have been affected by new variants of Covid-19. 

Iran continues to keep restrictions in place to avoid a larger outbreak of cases. 

7:54 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Desperate Americans wait as Washington duels over Covid-19 relief bill

From CNN's Stephen Collinson

US President Joe Biden says the massive Covid-19 relief bill now on the Senate floor is crucial to finally getting a jump on a murderous pandemic. It's also a perfect metaphor for American politics in 2021.

The measure contains many billions of dollars in extended unemployment benefits, help for shuttered small businesses, cash for getting schools open and it stands up a nationwide effort to speed up vaccines that could finally reduce the virus to manageable levels. The latest government data shows the country is down nearly 10 million jobs from where it was a year ago -- underscoring the aching human need the package will address.

But Republicans charge the measure is laden with big-ticket liberal spending that has nothing to do with the crisis and quarrel with substantial aid payments to states and cities that they argue are hurting less than expected owing to better-than-projected tax revenues.

Read more:

7:56 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

EU says message to vaccine makers is clear after Italy controversy

From CNN’s James Frater in London

European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer is pictured during a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, in March 2020.
European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer is pictured during a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, in March 2020. Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The European Commission says the message to vaccine makers is very clear and is calling on them to do their utmost to comply with the contracts they’ve signed with the bloc, its chief spokesperson said Friday.

Eric Mamer, the trade bloc's chief spokesperson, addressed the decision taken by Italy to block the export of 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia in a media briefing.

“The message is very clearly ... that we expect companies with which the European Union has signed advanced purchasing agreements, to do their utmost to comply with the contracts with the delivery contracts that they have with the with the Member States,” Mamer said.

The fact is that the European Union is a major exporter of vaccine doses," he added.

“We have always said, that we were actually in intense discussions with the company in order to ensure the respect of the schedule of deliveries because EMA has authorised this vaccine, and we are urging member states to use it.”

The spokesperson went on to say it is not the EU’s place to tell the company where the doses must go to, adding that they remain in the possession of AstraZeneca.

“We do not take a decision that says those 250,000 doses must go to X or Y, that's not our business,” he said. 

“Our business is to say, a decision has been taken by the Italian authorities that we have supported on exports, because the assessment is that progress needs to be made on the delivery to EU countries, and this is basically the conversation that we will continue to have with the company.”

7:34 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

EU and Australia discuss vaccine exports after Italy blocks 250,000 dose order

From CNN’s James Frater in London

European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis speaks during a news conference in Brussels, on March 4.
European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis speaks during a news conference in Brussels, on March 4. Johanna Geron/POOL/AFP/Getty Images

The European Commission’s Executive Vice President (EVP) for Trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, has told his Australian counterpart that AstraZeneca’s “systematic under-delivery” on its contracts with the EU was behind the decision by Italian and European officials to block exports of the vaccine to Australia.

Dombrovskis' spokesperson Miriam Garcia Ferrer said that he had spoken to Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan by video call Friday morning..

Garcia Ferrer said the call was planned before Italy invoked European Union powers to block AstraZeneca from exporting 250,000 doses to Australia on Thursday.

She said that the call was not "specific" to the controversy but that the officials "did discuss the export authorization mechanisms."

"The EVP explained the functioning of the system, as well as the systematic under-delivery by AstraZeneca on its EU contract and that the Commission with the member states are working to address this issue," the spokesperson added.

“He also reassured [Tehan] that for those companies that are honouring their contract arrangement with the EU there is no issue with the export authorisations including with Australia."

"We'd always anticipated that these sorts of problems could arise," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a press briefing Friday.
"And that's why we've done a number of things, the most significant of which is to ensure that we have our own domestically produced vaccine."
6:41 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

UK govt under fire for "pitiful" 1% pay rise for health care workers

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in Dublin

Britain's Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, attends a news conference with signage displaying the government slogan, "Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives," at 10 Downing Street in London, on January 5.
Britain's Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, attends a news conference with signage displaying the government slogan, "Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives," at 10 Downing Street in London, on January 5. Hannah McKay/WPA Pool/Getty Images

The UK government has come under fire what critics are calling a "pitiful" 1% pay rise for workers of its National Health Service (NHS). 

NHS workers have been repeatedly lauded by UK politicians for their work during the pandemic.

The government slogan in the first phase of the pandemic in 2020 read: "Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives."

The pay rise, which was offered by the UK Department of Health and Social Care to the NHS Pay Review Body on Thursday, has draw criticism from various bodies.

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Chief Executive Donna Kinnair branded it “pitiful and bitterly disappointing.”
The RCN said the rise “would amount to only an extra £3.50 ($4.85) per week take-home pay for an experienced nurse.”
The statement adds: “Nobody would think that is fair in the middle of a pandemic and it will do nothing to prevent the exodus from nursing.”
The RCN have called for a rise of 12.5% instead.

Criticism also came in fast from the UK opposition leader Keir Starmer who called the raise “insulting” and said it was “not good enough just to clap them,” referring to the weekly ritual during the UK's first lockdown in which members of the public applauded health care staff for their work.

“The Prime Minister tries to take credit for the vaccine rollout whilst cutting the pay of those that are actually delivering it,” Starmer told BBC News in an interview on Friday.

“They've been keeping our country going throughout this pandemic and he's absolutely wrong to freeze their pay at this time.”

7:09 a.m. ET, March 5, 2021

Cyprus will allow vaccinated British tourists to enter the country without restrictions from May

From CNN’s Chris Liakos in Paris

Tourists are seen on Mackenzie Beach in Larnaca, Cyprus, in August 2020.
Tourists are seen on Mackenzie Beach in Larnaca, Cyprus, in August 2020. Danil Shamkin/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Cyprus plans to allow vaccinated British tourists to holiday in the country without restrictions from May 1. The move is an effort to boost tourism during this year’s summer season. Britain is the country’s largest tourism market. 

“We have informed the British government that as of May 1 we will facilitate the arrival of British citizens who have been vaccinated with EMA-approved vaccines, so that they can arrive to Cyprus without having to provide a negative Covid-19 test or having to quarantine,” Deputy Minister of Tourism Savvas Perdios said Thursday, according to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), which cited the Tourism Ministry.

Perdios said the country would open to British citizens who received the second dose of the vaccine at least seven days before travelling.

He added that Cyprus reserves the right to conduct random checks at airports, including checks on vaccinated people. Health protocols, such as the use of a mask and the social distancing, must also be observed. 

The minister also made clear that travel from the UK is subject to the British government's travel instructions.

“We believe it is another step in the right direction, in order to create the necessary stability and a sense of security for travellers to start planning their vacation next summer. It is another step, which essentially gives the green light that Cyprus will be ready to welcome them in the summer,” he said.

Greece’s Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said last week that Greece is in “advanced discussions” with Britain over an agreement that would allow vaccinated travellers to travel between the two countries without needing to be tested.

#Vaccines

This post has been updated to correct the spelling of the Greek tourism minister's name.