CDC releases new guidelines for Americans vaccinated against Covid-19

By Ben Westcott, Brett McKeehan, Kara Fox, Mike Hayes and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 0103 GMT (0903 HKT) March 9, 2021
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8:53 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Air travel levels are at their highest since early January, TSA stats show

From CNN's Pete Muntean

Travelers walk through Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, on March 2.
Travelers walk through Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, on March 2. Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images

Air travel levels are the highest they have been since the holidays. New TSA numbers show almost 1.3 million people were screened at airports on Sunday — the highest since Jan. 3. 

The new number, 1,277,719, comes on a non-holiday weekend. In pre-pandemic times, air travel would typically tick up in March following a lethargic February, but this could be a sign of rising demand as more people are vaccinated for Covid-19. Experts did anticipate an uptick in pandemic air travel for spring break trips.

Sunday’s number follows three air travel days of near or more than 1 million passengers: 991,547 people flew Saturday, 1.1 million Friday, and 1.1 million Thursday, meaning more than 4.5 million people flew over the 4 days.

“It’s a nice sign. It’s nice to see those numbers. Obviously, TSA is seeing it. We’re seeing it as well, but we need to see more of it to really say that we’re in that full recovery mode,” American Airlines COO David Seymour told CNN last week. 

10:10 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

European Commission President says more vaccines are coming, stresses EU "cohesion"

From CNNs Claudia Otto in Berlin

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a press conference on February 26, in Brussels, Belgium.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a press conference on February 26, in Brussels, Belgium. Alexandros Michailidis/Pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has addressed the European Union's sluggish vaccine rollout, saying that by next month, a lot more vaccines will be available.

Speaking to German newspaper “Stuttgarter Nachrichten,” on Sunday, von der Leyen said that "science has virtually overtaken industry with its record time in vaccine development," and that "we all underestimated that ramping up stable mass production involves considerable risks."

Von der Leyen's comments come as the European Union's 27-nation vaccine strategycontinues to splinter as member states turn to nations outside the bloc to boost a faltering rollout plagued by supply issues, contract skirmishes and sluggish takeup.               

"Eliminating bottlenecks in raw materials or in supply chains as quickly as possible was harder and bumpier than expected. That's why it was very slow at the beginning. Things have improved significantly. In January, around 20 million doses were delivered, in February around 30, and for March we expect around 50. From April, according to the manufacturers' plans, volumes could double again, partly because further vaccines are about to be approved," she said.

“The lesson from all this is, we need to have production capacity on hand for pandemics. And cohesion in a crisis is important. I can't even imagine how things would look in Europe today if a few large countries now perhaps had vaccines and most of the smaller member states had been left empty-handed for the time being," she said.

"That would have torn Europe apart and destroyed the single market on which we all live," she said, adding: "That's why I remain deeply convinced that the European approach was the right one."

7:41 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Syrian President and his wife test positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Eyad Kourdi and Mostafa Salem

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma al-Assad have tested positive for coronavirus, a Syrian presidential statement said on Monday, according to Syrian State TV Ikhbariya. 

"After feeling mild symptoms similar to those symptoms with the Covid-19 virus, Mr. President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma al-Assad conducted a PCR examination, and the result showed that they were infected with the virus,” the statement said. 

“They are in good health and in stable condition, and they will continue their work during their home quarantine period that will last for two or three weeks,” the statement added Ikharbiya said. 

The country has recorded 1,063 deaths and 15,981 cases from the virus so far, according to data by Johns Hopkins University.

7:18 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Belgium eases lockdown restrictions as doctors face suspension for spreading disinformation

From CNN's James Frater

As Belgium begins to lift some of its lockdown restrictions, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has stressed that vaccinations remain a key to exiting the pandemic.  

“It is abundantly clear that vaccination remains crucial,” De Croo said on Friday, when he announced the plan to exit lockdown. 

“There is actually no real exit plan,” he said, “the real exit plan that is the vaccination plan.”  

From March 8, people can meet with up to 10 others outside, but social distancing measures still need to be adhered to and faces mask must continue to be worn.  

The Prime Ministers comments on the importance of the vaccine rollout come as the Belgian Order of Physicians – a body that all doctors must be registered with in order to practice medicine -- has warned it will take a stricter approach to doctors who question the effect of coronavirus vaccines. 

Doctors will face “severe action against spreading information, mostly by way of social media, which does not comply with the current state of scientific knowledge,” the order's Vice-President Dr. Michel Deneyer told CNN on Friday.

Dr. Deneyer warned that “disinformation may have disastrous consequences" and that “it is beyond doubt that doctors have to collaborate for the planned vaccination program.” 

The success of Belgium’s vaccination campaign and achieving the national target of vaccinating 70% of the adult population, “depends highly on the (lasting) trust of the population and of the medical corps,” he said.

“The population has great faith in the family doctor, in the pharmacist, in the experts. Their advice is followed," Deneyer added.

Any doctor found spreading disinformation will face a disciplinary hearing before one of the order's ten local "provincial Councils” and risks up to two months suspension, he explained.

Deneyer said that “a few physicians” had already been suspended, but was unable to confirm exact numbers, citing confidentially.

6:22 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

32% of global destinations are closed to international tourism as governments tighten restrictions: UN report

From CNN's Kara Fox

One in three destinations worldwide are now completely closed to international tourism, according to a new report from the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

The ninth UNWTO Travel Restrictions Report, published Monday, said that the emergence of new Covid-19 variants has “prompted many governments to reverse efforts to ease restrictions on travel, with total closures to tourists most prevalent in Asia and the Pacific and Europe.”

The report presents a comprehensive overview of the regulations in place in 217 worldwide destinations.

It found that:

  • As of the beginning of February, 32% of all destinations worldwide (69 in total) are completely closed for international tourism.
  • Of these, around just over half (38 destinations) have been closed for at least 40 weeks.
  • At the same time, 34% of worldwide destinations are now partially closed to international tourists.
  • Regional differences with regards to travel restrictions remain. Of the 69 destinations where borders are completely closed to tourists:
  • 30 are in Asia and the Pacific
  • 15 are in Europe
  • 11 are in Africa
  • 10 are in the Americas
  • 3 are in the Middle East
  • Growing numbers of destinations worldwide now require international tourists to present a negative PCR or antigen test upon arrival and also provide contact details for tracing purposes.
  • 32% of all worldwide destinations now have the presentation of such tests as their main requirement for international arrivals often combined with quarantine, while the same amount have made tests a secondary or tertiary measure.

2020 was the worst year on record for global tourism, with international arrivals dropping by 74%, according to data published by the UNWTO in January.

There were 1 billion fewer international arrivals at global destinations in 2020 than in the previous year, due to an "unprecedented fall in demand and widespread travel restrictions," it said.

6:55 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

These international destinations are open to US travelers

From CNN's Forrest Brown and Brekke Fletcher

Tourists visit the Chichen Itza archaeological site in Mexico, on March 5.
Tourists visit the Chichen Itza archaeological site in Mexico, on March 5. Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images

Once one of the world's most powerful travel documents, the might of the United States passport has been diminished during the pandemic. With US Covid-19 cases near the 29 million mark, some nations continue to view American vacationers warily.

Here's an alphabetical list of countries and territories where it's still possible for US passport holders to go for a vacation:

  • Albania
  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Armenia
  • Aruba
  • The Bahamas
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Bermuda
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cambodia
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Dubai
  • Dutch Caribbean islands
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Ireland
  • Jamaica
  • Kenya
  • The Maldives
  • Malta
  • Mexico
  • Montenegro
  • Morocco
  • Namibia
  • Nepal
  • Nicaragua
  • North Macedonia
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Rwanda
  • Senegal
  • Serbia
  • Seychelles
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Sri Lanka
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Tanzania
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Turks and Caicos
  • Uganda
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • Zambia

The following countries had been allowing US citizens to enter but have closed again or were removed by CNN Travel for other reasons:

  •  French Polynesia (Temporarily closing to all tourists)
  •  St. Barts (The French territory is appealing to the French government to be exempt from France's recent closure)
  •  Croatia (No Americans allowed to enter at this time)

Read more:

2:18 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Biden eyes big win that will send checks to millions of Americans

Analysis by CNN's Stephen Collinson

Joe Biden is on the cusp of a presidency-defining first 100 days victory and tens of millions of Americans could soon get stimulus checks as the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 rescue bill heads back to the House for a final vote.

After a weekend of high Washington drama, in which the President intervened to keep moderate West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin in line with his fellow Democrats and preserve their tiny Senate margin, Biden hopes to sign the massive bill into law this week.

That will depend, however, on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi preserving her own narrow margin to pass the bill ahead of an expected House vote on Tuesday. Progressive Democrats are disappointed by the removal of a minimum wage hike in the Senate version of the package passed on Saturday and the narrowed scope of unemployment payments.

The bill includes extended help for the unemployed, money to reopen schools, aid for stricken small businesses, child tax credits and health insurance subsidies.

It would enshrine one of the boldest deployments of federal power to alleviate the plight of the poorest Americans in at least a generation, and would invite comparisons between Biden and great reforming Democratic presidents of the 20th century, on a crisis measure uniformly opposed by Republicans.

Read more here:

2:39 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Brazil reports largest single-day surge in new coronavirus cases in 2 months

From CNN’s Maria Fleet in Atlanta

Healthcare workers treat Covid-19 infected patients inside a field hospital at the Pedro Dell'Antonia sports complex in Santo Andre, Brazil on February 22.
Healthcare workers treat Covid-19 infected patients inside a field hospital at the Pedro Dell'Antonia sports complex in Santo Andre, Brazil on February 22. Jonne Roriz/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Brazil’s health ministry reported 80,508 new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, the country's largest daily increase in new infections since January 7.

The grim news comes after a week in which the country also marked its highest daily death toll. On Wednesday, Brazil recorded 1,910 deaths, according to the health ministry -- its highest number since the outbreak began.

Sunday’s reported daily death toll was 1,086, the health ministry announced. Since the epidemic began, Brazil has confirmed a total of 11,019,344 virus cases.

Public and private intensive care units are near or at capacity across the country, with one-third at the edge of collapse at more than 90% capacity, according to federal and state data. 

Brazil’s largest state, Sao Paulo, entered a two-week “red phase” of coronavirus restrictions at midnight Saturday, meaning all but essential businesses would remain closed for the period. 

2:34 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

China launching program to vaccinate Chinese nationals overseas

From Eric Cheung in Hong Kong and CNN's Beijing bureau

Inactivated SARS-Cov-2 vaccines are seen at the packaging workshop in Sinopharm's headquarters in Beijing during a media tour organized by the State Council Information Office on February 26.
Inactivated SARS-Cov-2 vaccines are seen at the packaging workshop in Sinopharm's headquarters in Beijing during a media tour organized by the State Council Information Office on February 26. Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

China will launch a program to inoculate Chinese people living abroad with Covid-19 vaccines, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Sunday.

The "spring sprout" program will see China set up vaccination stations "to administer Chinese vaccines for our compatriots in surrounding countries," Wang said in a news conference.

Wang added that China will also roll out health certificates for international travelers.

"We will take care to fully protect personal privacy, and contribute to the mutual recognition of nucleic acid test results and vaccination records, thus facilitating safe and orderly flow of personnel," he said.