March 26 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 0735 GMT (1535 HKT) March 29, 2021
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8:51 a.m. ET, March 26, 2021

WHO's comments on Covid-19's origins contradicts Redfield's claims it began in a China lab

From CNN's Jamie Gumbrecht

In a clip released this morning on CNN, Dr. Robert Redfield, the former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta he believes the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic is a lab in China — a controversial theory without evidence.

A World Health Organization team exploring origins of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, is expected to release a report of its findings soon, but has already said a lab-related incident is “extremely unlikely.”

The most likely causes of transmission of the Covid-19 virus to humans, the WHO team said, are introduction through an intermediary host species or transmission through the trade of frozen products. The team has also investigated direct transmission from an animal reservoir to human.

In early February, World Health Organization expert Peter Ben Embarek said that the team investigating the origins of the coronavirus in Wuhan have identified two scenarios that most likely caused the transmission of Covid-19 to the human population.

"Our initial findings suggest that the introduction through an intermediary host species is the most likely pathway and one way that will require more studies and more specific targeted research," Embarek said during a news conference.

He added that the possibility of transmission through the trade of frozen products was also likely.

Embarek also noted two other hypotheses the team had probed while investigating the origin of the virus.

One hypothesis was a "direct zoonotic spillover," meaning, direct transmission from an animal reservoir to a human. 

"The hypothesis of a direct spillover from an original animal source into the human population is also a possible pathway and is also generating recommendation for future studies," he said.

The fourth hypothesis was the possibility of a laboratory-related incident, but that this was the least likely of the four to be the cause of the virus' introduction to humans.

"Findings suggest that the laboratory hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population," Embarek said.

Meanwhile, Chinese officials and state media have promoted an unsubstantiated, so-called “multiple-origin” theory, suggesting the pandemic may have started in various locations around the world, even a US military lab.

8:49 a.m. ET, March 26, 2021

Dr. Sanjay Gupta: "We still don't know" how the Covid-19 pandemic started

Dr. Sanjay Gupta on March 26.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta on March 26. CNN

Moments ago, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported that the former head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, told him that he believes the coronavirus pandemic came from a lab in China.

It is a controversial, politically charged theory — one the World Health Organization calls "extremely unlikely." There has been no clear evidence to support this "lab leak" theory.

"We still don't know — a year later — exactly how this pandemic started," Gupta said.

Gupta said there's a "back and forth" happening right now when it comes to the pandemic's origins, with different officials around the world claiming different theories.

"Chinese officials have started increasingly pointing to a multiple-origin theory, saying that this pandemic may have started in multiple places, even around the world, including US military labs. That's unsubstantiated," Gupta said.

8:50 a.m. ET, March 26, 2021

Exclusive: Former CDC director makes controversial claim that Covid-19 began in a China lab

From CNN's Jamie Gumbrecht

Dr. Robert Redfield, then director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, attends a hearing in Washington, DC, in September 2020.
Dr. Robert Redfield, then director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, attends a hearing in Washington, DC, in September 2020. Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images

Dr. Robert Redfield, the former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta he believes the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic is a lab in China — a controversial theory without evidence.

“If I was to guess, this virus started transmitting somewhere in September, October in Wuhan,” Redfield told Gupta in a clip that aired Friday on CNN New Day. “That's my own feelings. And only opinion. I’m allowed to have opinions now.”

Redfield, a virologist who led the CDC under former President Donald Trump, said he thinks the virus originated inside a lab in China and “escaped,” not necessarily intentionally.

There is no clear evidence to support the “lab leak” theory, although it has played an ongoing role in conspiracies and speculation, including statements from Trump. The World Health Organization has called it "extremely unlikely."

"Now, I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely aetiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory, escaped. The other people don't believe that. That's fine. Science will eventually figure it out. It's not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in a laboratory to infect the laboratory worker," Redfield told Gupta.

Redfield’s comments appear in the documentary “COVID WAR: The Pandemic Doctors Speak Out,” which airs Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on CNN.

Watch Dr. Sanjay Gupta's interview here:

7:50 a.m. ET, March 26, 2021

6 US states still have not shared when they plan to vaccinate everyone 16 and older

From CNN’s Ashley Ahn, Jacqueline Howard, and Virginia Langmaid

Most US states have announced plans to open up coronavirus vaccination to everyone eligible under US Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization. 

Just six states still have not told CNN when they plan to start vaccinating everyone 16 and older: Alabama, Arkansas, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.

Another six states — Alaska, Mississippi, West Virginia, Utah, Georgia and Arizona — have already expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 and older, and a CNN analysis finds that at least 28 more plan to open up to people 16 and older by the end of April.

Here's a timeline of when states have said they will open vaccination eligibility to the general public:

  • March 29: Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio, North Dakota, Louisiana
  • March 30: Minnesota
  • March 31: Indiana
  • April 1: MontanaConnecticut
  • April 2: New Hampshire
  • April 5: MichiganTennesseeIdaho, Iowa, Florida, Nevada
  • April 7: North Carolina
  • April 9: Missouri
  • April 12: Illinois, Kentucky
  • April 15: California
  • April 19: Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island
  • April 27: Maryland
  • April, no set date: New Mexico, Virginia, Colorado
  • May 1: Wisconsin, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington
  • May 3: South Carolina
  • May or later: Nebraska, Kansas, Hawaii, Delaware

7:33 a.m. ET, March 26, 2021

EU leaders squabble over vaccine supplies, as tension grows over AstraZeneca shortfalls

From CNN's Frederik Pleitgen, Livvy Doherty and Rob Picheta

European Council President Charles Michel, top of screen, speaks with European Union leaders during a virtual summit in Brussels, Belgium, on March 25.
European Council President Charles Michel, top of screen, speaks with European Union leaders during a virtual summit in Brussels, Belgium, on March 25. Yves Herman/Pool/AP

European Union leaders met Thursday at a virtual summit designed to push AstraZeneca to speed up its deliveries of tens of millions of Covid-19 vaccines bound for the bloc, hoping to present a united front as it continues to wrangle with the drug giant over the shortfall.

But the virtual summit exposed tense divisions within the EU itself; several countries expressed concerns that doses are being distributed unfairly around the region, and part of the meeting was hijacked by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who demanded a greater share of shots for his country.

“We have worked hard to ensure that the gap within the #EU in terms of vaccination coverage for the population does not widen any further," Kurz tweeted after the meeting, adding that he expects "a fairer delivery of vaccines in the EU" in the coming months.

What the EU agreed: The EU has been engaged in a tense back-and-forth with AstraZeneca over vaccine supplies to the bloc after the firm said it would not be able to meet its full delivery targets.

That shortfall has led to internal squabbles over which countries are prioritised when sought-after vaccine deliveries arrive. EU leaders agreed Thursday to tighten rules to allow for an export ban on vaccines but has so far stopped short on actually imposing a ban.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc will create “transparency” by introducing a principle of proportionality and reciprocity on vaccine supply chains.

In a swipe targeted at Britain, she added that she had "no knowledge so far of UK exports," essentially accusing it of implementing a de facto export ban. Von der Leyen said she was "waiting for that transparency."

The UK's vaccine rollout has far outpaced Europe's, but the country, which recently left the EU, relies on exports from the bloc for some of its doses.

“The bottom line is: we invite others to match our openness,” von der Leyen said.

The background: Rising coronavirus infection rates across much of Europe have created an increasingly dire backdrop to the quarrelling. France imposed tougher restrictions on social gatherings on Thursday as it battles a third wave of Covid-19, while sharp rises in case loads have been reported this week in Germany, Poland and the Netherlands.

Von der Leyen said she still expects to achieve the goal of vaccinating 70% of the EU's adult population by this summer.

“But of course we all know we could have been much faster if all pharmaceutical companies had fulfilled their contracts,” she added.

7:13 a.m. ET, March 26, 2021

France clears vets and dentists to give vaccines to “speed up campaign”

From CNN’s Pierre Bairin in Paris

A pharmacist prepares a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Nantes, France, on March 25.
A pharmacist prepares a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Nantes, France, on March 25. Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images

France will allow veterinarians and dentists to give Covid-19 vaccines in order to “speed up the campaign,” the French national health authority (HAS) said in a press release Friday.

“The arrival of additional doses of vaccines will make it possible to carry out vaccinations on a larger scale as of April and require the mobilization of more professionals in order to rapidly vaccinate all those concerned,” the agency said. 

These new categories of health workers vaccinating comes in addition to doctors, nurses, pharmacists and medical students, including those who have retired. Most will be receiving a training specific to the Covid vaccines.

France is in the midst of a third wave of coronavirus infections, and its stalling vaccination campaign has done little to stem the tide.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Jean Castex described the situation in Paris as "extremely worrying," and the country has banned outdoor gatherings of more than six people in an effort to reduce transmission.

5:19 a.m. ET, March 26, 2021

India sees third day of record-high Covid cases since last year

From CNN's Esha Mitra in New Delhi

A health worker preserves a swab sample for a Covid-19 test at Government Kanwatiya hospital, on March 22, in Jaipur, India.
A health worker preserves a swab sample for a Covid-19 test at Government Kanwatiya hospital, on March 22, in Jaipur, India. Himanshu Vyas/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

India has reported its highest jump in new Covid-19 cases since last year for a third consecutive day.

On Friday, the country reported 59,118 new Covid-19 cases, its highest rise since October 18, according to a CNN tally of figures from the Indian Ministry of Health. 

The country has been reporting more than 35,000 new cases daily for over a week in a recent surge in infections after they fell in January and February this year.

Randeep Guleria, director at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, told CNN on Wednesday "it is the beginning of a second wave."

India has reported more than 11.8 million total cases of coronavirus including over 160,000 virus-related deaths, according to the Ministry of Health. The country has distributed more than 55 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines.

5:24 a.m. ET, March 26, 2021

At least 10 dead in fire at Mumbai Covid-19 hospital

From CNN's Esha Mitra in New Delhi

Smoke rises from a fire that broke out at Dreams Mall Sunrise Hospital in Mumbai, India on March 26.
Smoke rises from a fire that broke out at Dreams Mall Sunrise Hospital in Mumbai, India on March 26. Divyakant Solanki/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

At least 10 people were killed in a fire Friday at a Covid-19 hospital in a Mumbai mall, senior police official Prashant Kadam said.

"At around 12:30 a.m. at night, a fire broke out on the first floor at Dream Mall, next to it there was Sunrise Covid care center where about 76 Covid patients were admitted," Kadam told reporters early Friday.

Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar said Friday patients had been evacuated to another facility and the cause of the fire was being investigated.

Sunrise Hospital has described itself as the first hospital in Asia to be located in a mall.  

New cases: Mumbai reported 5,504 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 380,115 in the city. According to the Indian Ministry of Health, Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, contributed more than 50% of the new cases reported in the country on Thursday.

Mumbai is the district with the third-highest active cases across the country, the Ministry of Health said Wednesday.  

4:01 a.m. ET, March 26, 2021

Philippines reports record daily Covid-19 cases for the fourth time in 2 weeks

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

A city employee disinfects a street in Manila on March 16.
A city employee disinfects a street in Manila on March 16. Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images

The Philippines recorded its highest number of new Covid-19 cases in a day on Thursday, according to CNN affiliate CNN Philippines. This the fourth time in two weeks the country has reported a record number of new cases.

The Philippines Department of Health reported 8,773 new Covid-19 cases Thursday, its highest jump since the pandemic began.

The country has reported a total of 693,048 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 13,095 deaths from the virus.