March 24 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, CNN

Updated 0717 GMT (1517 HKT) March 25, 2021
21 Posts
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10:33 a.m. ET, March 24, 2021

Iraq reports highest number of Covid-19 cases since start of pandemic

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Aqeel Najim

Iraqi health personnel work at a mobile Covid-19 testing unit at Baghdad's Shorja market on February 22.
Iraqi health personnel work at a mobile Covid-19 testing unit at Baghdad's Shorja market on February 22. Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

Iraq has reported the highest daily cases since the start of the pandemic after 6,051 Covid-19 daily cases were recorded on Wednesday, according to the country's Ministry of Health. 

The total number of cases in Iraq since the pandemic began is 809,092 as per government figures.

The ministry also recorded 29 new coronavirus related deaths, bringing the total number of recorded deaths in Iraq to 14,095 since the start of the pandemic. 

There are currently 67,526 Covid-19 patients hospitalized across the county, among them 476 cases in ICUs.

The Iraqi government announced an easing of lockdown restrictions last week saying the country faced economic challenges during the lockdown.

"We must rethink our approach in confronting coronavirus, without impacting people's livelihood and their economy," Iraqi government spokesman Hassna Nadhim said during a press conference last week.

Current restrictions: The country now has a lockdown on Fridays and Saturdays instead of Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The daily curfew has been reduced by one hour, and is now between 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. local, while malls, shops, restaurants, and cafes were reopened on March 22 under strict health measures.

10:08 a.m. ET, March 24, 2021

European Union proposes tighter Covid-19 vaccine export controls

From CNN’s Eleanor Pickston and James Frater in London

EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis speaks at a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, on March 24.
EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis speaks at a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, on March 24. Stephanie Lecocq/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The European Union has proposed tighter controls on the export of Covid-19 vaccine doses, EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis announced on Wednesday.

The new rules would most likely affect countries with higher vaccination rates than the EU, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

The tougher export controls would see vaccine shipments assessed based on the destination country's rate of vaccinations and vaccine exports.

 Going forward, the European Commission and member states will consider two additional elements: reciprocity and proportionality, Dombrovskis said.

"If a country of destination which has a large production capacity restricts its own exports of vaccines or substances, either by law or by other means, it may be appropriate to consider whether exports to this country are justified," he said.

 "The second element is proportionality, which means finding the right balance. Member states of the Commission will consider the conditions prevailing in the country of destination — in particular, epidemiological situation, its vaccination rate, and existing availability of Covid-19 vaccines," Dombrovskis continued.

The objective of the change is to "have more transparency on exports and obtain a full picture of what is happening outside the EU so as to avoid a possible circumvention of the rules," Dombrovskis said.

 Exports to low- and middle-income countries supplied through the COVAX scheme and exports to EU overseas countries and territories would not be affected because they have an unconditional exemption.

European leaders will meet on tomorrow and Friday to discuss this proposal and the wider coronavirus crisis in Europe. If signed off, the export mechanism would "apply until six weeks from its entry into force," the draft text said.

10:06 a.m. ET, March 24, 2021

Uruguay announces new restrictive measures as Covid-19 cases surge 

From CNN's Dario Klein, Claudia Rebaza, Abel Alvarado and Hira Humayun

A health worker conducts coronavirus tests at a homeless shelter in Montevideo, Uruguay, on February 4.
A health worker conducts coronavirus tests at a homeless shelter in Montevideo, Uruguay, on February 4. Matilde Campodonico/AP

Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou announced new restrictive measures that will be in place until April 12 to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Public offices will be closed except for essential services and in-person learning for all levels of education will also be suspended. Clubs, gyms, amateur sports, public shows, parties and social events will also be suspended, and restaurants and bars will close at midnight. “Free shops” on the border with Brazil, duty free shops where Brazilians shop to resell in their cities, will also be closed. 

“If the free shops are a hub (for risks), well we close them” said Uruguay’s President at a news conference on Tuesday night.

Uruguay’s neighbor Brazil is one of the world’s worst affected countries by the pandemic, with intensive care units overwhelmed, cases rising, and some essential medical supplies running low. It has the second highest number of cases of the virus and deaths, only exceeded by the United States.

The President also said the number of ICU beds in the country will be increased with 35 additional beds to the private sector, 10 to the military hospital and 84 to the public sector.

“Stay in your bubble, stay with your close family,” Lacalle said.

Uruguay set a record for new cases and deaths on Monday with 2,700 new cases and 19 new deaths. Also, on Monday, health authorities said 24 cases of the Brazilian P.1 variant were detected in the country. The country also set a record on the same day for number of active cases- 14,418 and a record for number of people in ICU – 188.

On Tuesday, the country recorded 1,801 new cases of the virus for a total of 86,007 cases since the pandemic began, according to the country’s health ministry. Also, on Tuesday, 16 additional virus-related deaths were recorded bringing the total death toll to 827.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) highlighted a surge in cases in Uruguay, at its weekly press conference on Tuesday. PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne said Uruguay has reported more than 1,000 cases per day several times in the past few weeks “which is alarming given the size of the country.”

The current population of Uruguay is 3,482,469 as of March 24, 2021, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data.

9:46 a.m. ET, March 24, 2021

Belgium will close schools and non-essential shops starting Saturday

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

Belgium will close schools until April 19, but nursery schools will stay open and exams will be taken, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said Wednesday.

Non-essential shops and hairdressers will close as of Saturday until April 24, de Croo said. 

Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, de Croo said the British variant had now become dominant in the country and “we are in a new phase of the pandemic.” 

He said infections had doubled within the last two weeks. 

Non-essential shops can only take appointments for shoppers to enter, “no more fun-shopping in a group,” he said. 

The maximum of people able to meet up outside goes to four from six previously.

Working from home will be monitored more tightly, de Croo said.

He warned border patrols would be heightened during the upcoming Easter holidays.

9:38 a.m. ET, March 24, 2021

Biden will announce $81 billion in state funding for school reopenings

From CNN's Betsy Klein

US President Joe Biden walks to Marine One at the White House on March 16.
US President Joe Biden walks to Marine One at the White House on March 16. Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

President Biden is set to announce $81 billion in funding for school reopenings Wednesday, part of the administration’s efforts toward getting the majority of schools opened in his first 100 days in office.

During a summit on school reopening hosted by the Department of Education, Biden will announce the release of funding from the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package aimed at schools that will be released to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

The funds, the Department of Education said in a statement, will “support their efforts to get students back in the classroom safely for in person learning, keep schools open once students are back, and address the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of all students.”

The Covid relief package included $122 billion in relief for Pre-K to 12 schools, and two-thirds of those funds totaling $81 billion, “will be made available to states immediately.”

The additional one-third of funding, the department said, “will become available after states submit the plans they are developing and implementing for using (emergency relief) funds to safely reopen schools and meet the needs of students to the Department.”

The Department of Health and Human Services is also investing an additional $10 billion for screening testing for schools, the statement said.

9:18 a.m. ET, March 24, 2021

CDC’s ensemble forecast now projects up to 578,000 US Covid-19 deaths by April 17

From CNN’s Ben Tinker

An ensemble forecast published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects there will be 558,000 to 578,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by April 17.

Unlike some individual models, the CDC’s ensemble forecast only offers projections a few weeks into the future. The previous ensemble forecast, published March 17, projected up to 574,000 coronavirus deaths by April 10.

At least 543,849 people have already died from Covid-19 in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

9:19 a.m. ET, March 24, 2021

Biden expected to announce new US vaccination goal tomorrow

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins 

President Biden is expected to announce his new vaccination goal tomorrow, according to two sources familiar with the plans. 

Last week, Biden hinted he could double his original goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days, which he cleared long before that date.

In recent days, Biden has consulted with his advisers and health experts on what a new, realistic goal would be and plans to announce it Thursday. 

Biden is also expected to host his first formal news conference tomorrow.

9:19 a.m. ET, March 24, 2021

South Korean president assures safety of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine after his first does

From CNN’s Gawon Bae in Seoul.

In this image provided by the South Korean Presidential Blue House, President Moon Jae-in receives a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Seoul on March 23.
In this image provided by the South Korean Presidential Blue House, President Moon Jae-in receives a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Seoul on March 23.  South Korean Presidential Blue House/Getty Images

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday tweeted, “I got the vaccine, and you can trust it,” roughly 31 hours after receiving the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday morning to assure the safety of the vaccine.

Moon said that he had a mild fever late Tuesday night and took an aspirin just in case, but he did not feel uncomfortable or have a headache. He added that he felt refreshed in the morning while the vaccine seems to have no impact on his high blood pressure.

The president also shared the conditions of those who received the vaccine with him: The first lady had a mild fever, he said, but it was slighter than with the flu vaccine. 

He said that all 11 people, including himself, the first lady and nine members of the delegation that were vaccinated together, had either similar mild reactions or none at all.

“Depending on the person, some had heavier symptoms, but there is not much to worry about since it is the process of forming immunity,” he added. He urged people to end controversies over the safety of the vaccine.

Background: In an unusual statement released early Tuesday, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said the independent board that reviews data from multiple Covid-19 vaccine candidates has raised concerns about AstraZeneca's announcement of efficacy data from its vaccine trial.

"The DSMB expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data," said the NIAID statement released early Tuesday.

On Monday, the company had issued a press release saying its Covid-19 vaccine showed 79% efficacy against symptomatic disease and 100% efficacy against severe disease and hospitalization, citing long-awaited US trial data. The latter figure was based on five total cases of severe disease or hospitalization in people who received the placebo, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a coronavirus briefing Monday.

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca stood by the results of its US-based clinical trial on Tuesday, after the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) expressed concern that the data from the trial may have been “outdated” and “incomplete.”

“The numbers published yesterday were based on a pre-specified interim analysis with a data cut-off of 17 February,” the company said in a statement.
11:10 a.m. ET, March 24, 2021

7 in 10 people hospitalized for Covid-19 have not fully recovered 5 months after discharge, UK study finds

From CNN’s Meera Senthilingam

Seven in 10 people hospitalized for Covid-19 have not fully recovered five months after discharge, a new study finds.

The patients continued to experience concerns with their mental and physical health, with 1 in 5 people developing a new disability, and a similar number either not working or having to change jobs due to their health, according to findings by UK researchers.

The people most likely to have persistent symptoms were middle-age White women who developed severe Covid-19, and who had at least two conditions that put them at greater risk of severe disease, such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease.

“Our results show a large burden of symptoms, mental and physical health problems and evidence of organ damage five months after discharge with COVID-19,” Rachael Evans, an associate professor at the University of Leicester and respiratory consultant at Leicester’s hospitals, said in a statement.

“It is also clear that those who required mechanical ventilation and were admitted to intensive care take longer to recover. However, much of the wide variety of persistent problems was not explained by the severity of the acute illness – the latter largely driven by acute lung injury – indicating other, possibly more systemic, underlying mechanisms,” she said.

More on the study: The UK-wide study analyzed 1,077 people who were discharged from hospital between March and November 2020, who developed Covid-19. Among them, 67% where White, 36% were women and 50% had at least two conditions that put them at risk of severe disease.

When the participants were followed up five months later, only 29% of people said they felt fully recovered, while more than 90% of people had at least one persistent symptom, and most experienced an average of nine ongoing symptoms.

The ten most common symptoms were muscle pain, fatigue, physical slowing down, impaired sleep quality, joint pain or swelling, limb weakness, breathlessness, pain, short-term memory loss, and slowed thinking, according to the study.

Mental health was also affected, with more than 25% of people having clinical symptoms of anxiety or depression and 12% having symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).