April 8 coronavirus news

By Adam Renton, Martin Goillandeau, Luke McGee, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 0719 GMT (1519 HKT) April 9, 2021
18 Posts
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9:00 a.m. ET, April 8, 2021

Belgian health minister says "no doubt" AstraZenca is a "good vaccine"

From CNN's James Frater

Belgian Minister of Health Frank Vandenbroucke in Brussels, Belgium, on February 26.
Belgian Minister of Health Frank Vandenbroucke in Brussels, Belgium, on February 26. Isopix/Shutterstock

Belgian Minister of Health Frank Vandenbroucke sought to reassure the country about the AstraZeneca vaccine, following a decision to temporarily pause administering it to those aged 18 to 55.

“There is no doubt about that it is a good vaccine. It protects against the disease,” he said.  But he cautioned that it does have side effects, “like any vaccine.” 

The decision by Belgium to suspend using AstraZeneca came after a finding by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) that there was a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca vaccine and “very rare cases of blood clots” but that the benefits of the vaccine continue to out weigh the risks.

"There is no doubt that if you have the choice between vaccination with AstraZeneca or no vaccination, you should get vaccinated immediately with AstraZeneca,” Vandenbroucke emphasized during an interview on VRT Radio 1 Wednesday.

Following the advice of Belgium’s Superior Health Council, Vandenbroucke said the country would now, “use AstraZeneca for the somewhat older people and use the other vaccines earlier for the younger people.”

He added that this was only possible, "Because we have the luxury of choosing from a variety of vaccines and we can spread the risk without impacting our vaccination strategy.”

On the data presented by the EMA to a virtual meeting of European Health Ministers Vandenbroucke said, “We found that EMA actually still had homework,” adding he was not the only Minister to have raised this concern.

“We are not so happy that the EMA has not taken the analysis a little further, namely what is the best choice between the different vaccines for the different age groups

Last month Belgium had decided to continue its vaccination campaign for all people aged over 18 with the AstraZeneca vaccine, while other European countries suspended using the vaccine over blood-clotting concerns pending an investigation by the EMA.

Asked why Belgium had continued when others hadn’t, Vandenbroucke said: "If we had then decided not to use the vaccine anymore, we would have had to turn the campaign upside down. Fortunately we did not do that then, because that would certainly have cost lives.”

9:56 a.m. ET, April 8, 2021

Uruguay's president extends restrictions as country registers record daily Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Florencia Trucco 

Uruguay's President Luis Lacalle Pou arrives for a press conference in Montevideo, Uruguay, on April 7.
Uruguay's President Luis Lacalle Pou arrives for a press conference in Montevideo, Uruguay, on April 7. Matilde Campodonico/AP

Uruguay recorded 3,935 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday – the highest number of new cases since the start of the pandemic. That brings the number of total cases for the country to 126,987, according to the health ministry. 

The country also recorded 40 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total to 1,231. On Monday, Uruguay registered a daily record of 45 deaths. 

"We are going through the worst times of the pandemic these days," Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou said at a news conference Wednesday, in which he extended current measures to control the spread of the virus. 

Lacalle Pou said the measures implemented on March 23, that include the closure of public offices, clubs, gyms, amateur sports practices, as well as public shows, will be extended untl April 30. 

He said the current intensive care unit occupancy rate for the country stands at 74%.

9:14 a.m. ET, April 8, 2021

Requiring vaccinations on cruises can break "logjam" with CDC, Norwegian Cruise Line CEO says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

The Norwegian Jewel cruise ship, operated by Norwegian Cruise Line, is moored near the Port of Long Beach in California on January 29.
The Norwegian Jewel cruise ship, operated by Norwegian Cruise Line, is moored near the Port of Long Beach in California on January 29. Bing Guan/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Norwegian Cruise Line President and CEO Frank Del Rio said that the company is proposing that all passengers and staff be vaccinated in order to start cruises again on July 4. 

“The [US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has shut us down for over a year now,” he said. “… There are many — if not all — travel, tourism and hospitality venues that are open throughout the country that never shut down or are certainly open today. We want to be treated fairly, we want to be treated just like every other industry. And the CDC is not cooperating up until now.”

CDC guidance on Friday did not give a date by which the agency planned to allow US sailings again for the first time since March 2020. Norwegian, Carnival and Royal Caribbean all suffered massive losses last year, totaling $6.8 billion between them.

“If it takes vaccines to break that logjam with the CDC, that's what we're prepared to do,” Del Rio said to CNN’s Erica Hill.

The cruise line would also require passengers to have a negative coronavirus test before boarding, mandate the wearing of masks indoors and would limit capacity to 60%. The return-to-service proposal was submitted to the CDC on Monday, Del Rio said, but the company has not heard back from the agency yet. 

“If people are not vaccinated, they're not getting on board a Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings vessel. … So we will source vaccines for our crew or else we won't sail,” Del Rio said. 

In the CDC’s technical instructions for Covid-19 mitigation for cruises, there’s a requirement for cruise lines to submit daily reports.

“Do hotels report daily? Do airlines report daily? No one does. Why should the cruise industry be exposed to that kind of draconian requirements? It's just not fair. It's discriminatory, and we hope the CDC comes to the table soon to discuss all these issues because up to now, they haven’t,” Del Rio said. 

Watch more:

8:39 a.m. ET, April 8, 2021

Peru says Brazilian variant has been detected in almost all regions 

From CNN’s Claudia Rebaza

Peru’s Health Ministry reported 314 new deaths due to Covid-19 on Wednesday evening, the highest number since the pandemic started. The country’s death toll reached 53,725. 

At least 9,305 new coronavirus cases were also reported, bringing the total number in the country to 1,607,898. The South American country has averaged over 8,000 cases for the last two weeks, with 12,916 cases being reported on April 1, its highest daily total since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Earlier this week, Health Minister Oscar Ugarte told CNN’s affiliate TV Peru that the Brazilian variant P1 has been identified in almost all regions in the country, particularly in the areas bordering with Brazil. The same variant has been also been detected in almost 40% of the cases in the capital Lima, the Minister reiterated.

The UK variant has been detected but in very few cases, the minister added. 

Peruvians will go to the polls on April 11 to choose a new President as well as 130 members of Congress. 

Voting is mandatory and authorities have increased the number of polling stations, extended voting hours and encouraged voters to cast their votes according to a staggered schedule in order to avoid risks while the country struggles fighting a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Peru has the fifth highest Covid-19 case count in Latin America, after Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Mexico according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 

7:48 a.m. ET, April 8, 2021

More than half of UK postitive cases asymptomatic, figures show

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

A teacher prepares Covid-19 tests for members of her staff at a school in London on March 8.
A teacher prepares Covid-19 tests for members of her staff at a school in London on March 8. Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

More than half of the people who tested positive for Covid-19 in the UK did not have symptoms, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Thursday in its latest Infection Survey. 

"In March 2021, 47% of people testing positive for the coronavirus in the UK with a strong positive test reported symptoms and 53% did not report having any symptoms," the ONS said.

But how did the others feel? Fatigue, headache and a cough were the most reported symptoms from people who tested positive for Covid-19. Nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea were among the less commonly reported symptoms.

"Asymptomatic" describes a person who is infected but does not have symptoms. With Covid-19, asymptomatic carriers can still easily infect others without knowing it. So if you’re infected but don’t feel sick, you could still get others very sick.

Find more information about Covid-19 and vaccines here:

7:27 a.m. ET, April 8, 2021

Covid cases continue to rise in Osaka and Tokyo

From CNN’s Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Japan’s Osaka Prefecture reported a record 905 Covid-19 daily cases on Thursday, logging a new daily high for the third consecutive day amid a fourth wave of the pandemic. 

Tokyo reported 545 new cases on Thursday, exceeding 500 for two days in a row – the first time doing so since the state of emergency lifted on March 21st. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said she has requested that the central government allow her to employ stricter measures. 

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the government plans to designate stronger measures for Tokyo due to a rise in infections and increasing pressure on hospitals in the capital.

Suga told reporters Thursday, “We’ll make an official decision after hearing from a experts panel on Friday, and we will also discuss whether more prefectures should be placed in the stricter measure.”

On Wednesday the city of Osaka took its Olympic torch relay off public roads as it declared a state of emergency amid rising infections. Read more:

7:23 a.m. ET, April 8, 2021

Rate of coronavirus infection ‘levelled off’ in England: Imperial College London

From CNN's Rob Iddiols in London

The rate of new coronavirus infections has levelled off in England, researchers at Imperial College London have found. 

According to a report released Thursday, one in 500 people are currently infected in England, a fall of almost two thirds since February.

Moreover, infections now result in fewer hospital admissions and deaths. The authors suggest these trends are likely due to a combination of factors, including schools reopening and the nationwide vaccination program. 

Commissioned by the government, the research is based on swabs taken from 140,000 people selected to represent England's population. Of those tested, 227 had a positive result, giving a rate of 0.2%, or one in 500 people. 

Primary school-aged children (aged 5-12) had the highest number of infections at 0.41%, while those aged 65 and above had the lowest at 0.09%. 

The researchers also estimated that the reproduction number (R) is 1.0, which means the epidemic is neither growing nor shrinking as each infected person infects, on average, one other individual. 

Professor Steven Riley, Professor of Infectious Disease Dynamics at Imperial and co-author of the report, said: “Our results are consistent with patterns observed in other data such as cases and hospitalisations and are supportive of a gradual easing of restrictions. 
“But with the country continuing to open up in the coming weeks, we would expect prevalence of infections to rise. Future rounds will allow us to monitor the situation closely.” 

More than 5.7 million people have now been fully vaccinated with two doses in the UK, while 31.7 million have had a first dose.

7:38 a.m. ET, April 8, 2021

Iran tops 2 million cases as new infections double in a week

From CNN’s Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

A person is tested for Covid-19 in Ahvaz, Iran, on March 14.
A person is tested for Covid-19 in Ahvaz, Iran, on March 14. Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Iran's health ministry reported 22,586 new daily coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the country's total number of Covid-19 related cases to 2,006,934 since the beginning of the pandemic. 

A week ago, the country reported 11,700 new daily coronavirus cases, half of today's numbers.

According to official data, 185 people have died of the virus in the past 24 hours, bringing the country's death toll to 63,884.

At least 4,221 patients remain in ICU, a spokeswoman for the ministry of health, Sima Sadaat Lari, said in a press conference on state TV. 

The country continues to keep restrictions in place in an effort to avoid a larger outbreak of cases, with 257 cities and towns now categorized as "red zones” by the authorities.

Why this matters: Iran has the most severe Covid-19 outbreak in the Middle East, with the highest number of cases and deaths in the region. On Monday, the Health Ministry said the country had entered its fourth wave of the pandemic.

8:56 a.m. ET, April 8, 2021

Australia "recalibrates" vaccine program to limit AstraZeneca to over 50s

From CNN's Angus Watson in Sydney

A nurse holds a vial of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on March 23 in Sydney.
A nurse holds a vial of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on March 23 in Sydney. Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Australia will not give AstraZeneca vaccines to people under the age of 50 due to the associated risk of blood clots, forcing a "recalibration" of its vaccine program, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a press conference Thursday.

The vaccine will be provided to those under 50 only when “benefit clearly outweighs the risk for that individual's circumstances,” Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly said at the press conference.

This follows recommendations made to the government by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, which added that "people that have had their first dose of the COVID-19 AstraZeneca without any serious adverse events can safely be given their second dose. This includes adults under the age of 50.”

AstraZeneca is key to Australia’s vaccine plan. The country relies heavily on the local production of 50 million doses of the British-Swedish vaccine and the further import of 3.8 million doses. Australia has also signed deals for 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 50 million doses of the Novavax vaccine.  

Australia remains at the ‘1A’ phase of its vaccine rollout, targeting older and vulnerable Australians. It should not be affected by the updated advice, according to Kelly.

"The 50 cut-off is based on what we've seen in these events so far - more common in younger people, less common in older people. We know older people are at higher risk of COVID,” Kelly said.