March 12 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 4:52 p.m. ET, March 15, 2021
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5:41 a.m. ET, March 12, 2021

'Superspreader' outbreak at luxury Hong Kong gym sparks fears of fifth wave

From Eric Cheung in Hong Kong and Eliza Mackintosh in London

A pedestrian walks past the closed Ursus Fitness center in Hong Kong, China, on Friday, March 12.
A pedestrian walks past the closed Ursus Fitness center in Hong Kong, China, on Friday, March 12. Lam Yik/Bloomberg/Getty Images

A Covid-19 outbreak at a luxury gym in Hong Kong has sparked fears of a "superspreader" event that could set off another wave of the virus in the city, after 60 new cases were confirmed on Friday.

Many of the latest infections were linked to the outbreak at Ursus Fitness center, which offers boxing and powerlifting classes in Hong Kong's trendy Sai Ying Pun district, which is popular with the city's expatriate community.

"We can say this is a super-spreading event," David Hui, a government adviser on the pandemic, told Hong Kong state media Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) on Friday, adding that the explosive spread in the fitness center had prompted concerns of a fifth wave of the pandemic.

Hong Kong reported its highest number of Covid-19 cases in more than six weeks on Thursday, according to the Centre of Health Protection (CHP). Of the 60 new cases, 47 have been linked to the gym, according to Chuang Shuk-kwan, CHP's head of communicable disease branch.

Chuang said the Hong Kong government will issue an order requiring workers at fitness centers to receive a compulsory Covid-19 test by Sunday. Anyone who visited gym facilities recently should also monitor their health and consider receiving a test, she added.

As of Friday, about 360 people related to the gym outbreak had been placed under government quarantine, she said, while their close contacts are required to take a Covid-19 test.

"It is a serious outbreak because many cases have popped up over a short period of time," Chuang said, adding that it is challenging because many of those infected work in different professions at the city center.

3:14 a.m. ET, March 12, 2021

Thailand’s Prime Minister cancels AstraZeneca vaccination as country delays drug rollout

From journalist Vee Intarakatug in Bangkok

Empty chairs are seen at Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute, where Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha abruptly canceled plans to publicly get the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 12.
Empty chairs are seen at Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute, where Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha abruptly canceled plans to publicly get the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 12. Vachira Vachira/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha canceled plans to publicly get the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday due to reports that people in Denmark and Austria had experienced blood clot side effects after receiving it.

Thai authorities have delayed the vaccine rollout while they consider the issue, said Dr. Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, a senior member of Thailand’s vaccine committee, in a news conference on Friday. 

“The only purpose of our vaccination is the people’s safety. When there is an adverse event, we don’t need to be in rush,” Piyasakol said.  

Officials said they would wait for the results of investigations in Denmark and by relevant health organizations in Europe before making further decisions. 

Thailand received 117,300 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from overseas, government officials said earlier this month. The country was also planning on domestically producing 61 million doses of the vaccine through the Siam Bioscience pharmaceutical company.

2:23 a.m. ET, March 12, 2021

India's vaccine approved for regular emergency use after Phase 3 trials show 81% efficacy

From CNN's Esha Mitra and Manveena Suri in New Delhi

A Bharat Biotech COVAXIN dose at a government hospital on March 6 in Barpeta, India.
A Bharat Biotech COVAXIN dose at a government hospital on March 6 in Barpeta, India. David Talukdar/NurPhoto/Getty Images

India’s locally developed vaccine, Covaxin, has been given the same emergency use licensure as the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the country's Health Ministry announced Thursday.

Covaxin has been part of the nation's vaccine rollout since January 16. However, it was rolled out under "clinical trial mode," which meant that patients had to sign informed consent forms and required subsequent monitoring.

More than 1.9 million doses of Covaxin have already been administered.

Now, Phase 3 trials have shown an efficacy rate of 81%, and the vaccine has been granted approval under the “regular” emergency use authorization.

"This has taken the authorization for Covaxin to the next level, the same level at which another great vaccine Covishield has been operating,” said V K Paul of Niti Ayog, an Indian government-led think tank.

Rising cases: The approval comes as India battles a spike in infections. On Friday, the country recorded 23,139 new cases -- the highest 24-hour increase for the second day in a row since Christmas Day.

That raises the country's total to 11,308,846 cases and 158,306 related deaths, according to the Indian Ministry of Health.

The western state of Maharashtra accounts for nearly 60% of new cases, marking a "worrisome" trend, said Dr. Balram Bhargava, Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research. 

The surge is “related to the reduced number of testing, tracking and tracing as well as Covid-inappropriate behaviors and large gatherings," said Bhargava at a press briefing on Thursday.
2:17 a.m. ET, March 12, 2021

Cases are "absolutely not" low enough to relax restrictions, Fauci says

From CNN Health's Ryan Prior

CBS
CBS

Daily case numbers in the United States are "absolutely not" low enough to relax public health measures, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The US is still recording an average of 60,000 new infections per day -- which is "unacceptably high," Fauci told CBS Evening News. "That is risky for triggering another surge."

Fauci said cases need to fall below 10,000 per day in order to comfortably lift restrictions, such as wearing face masks.

The good news is that vaccinations are increasing nationally, particularly among the elderly, he said. For instance, it's now safe for grandchildren to hug their grandparents if the grandparents are vaccinated and if the grandchildren are healthy.

Looking back a year after Covid-19 began to sweep the US, Fauci explained that measures to curb virus spread might have been stronger earlier if public health officials had known how highly transmissible the novel coronavirus was.

"If we had known that fully early on, there likely would have been differences in how we approached it," he said.