April 13 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Samantha Tapfumaneyi, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 0619 GMT (1419 HKT) April 14, 2021
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4:22 a.m. ET, April 13, 2021

UK variant more transmissible but not as severe, new studies suggest

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

Two new studies suggest that the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, is more transmissible, but the variant does not appear to affect disease severity. 

The new findings clash with separate research that previously suggested the variant may be tied to a higher risk of dying from Covid-19.

One of the new studies, published on Monday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, found no evidence in a sample of hospitalized patients that the B.1.1.7 variant is associated with severe Covid-19. However, the variant was associated with increased viral load, which supports the growing evidence that it is more easily transmissible.

The other study, also published on Monday in The Lancet Public Health, found no statistically significant association between the B.1.1.7 variant and the types or duration of Covid-19 symptoms people said that they experienced. 

The Lancet Infectious Diseases study included data on 496 people who were admitted to hospitals in London and tested positive for coronavirus infection. 

"Our data, within the context and limitations of a real-world study, provide initial reassurance that severity in hospitalised patients with B.1.1.7 is not markedly different from severity in those without, and this study provides a model to answer the same question again as we move into an era of emerging variants," the researchers, based in the United Kingdom, wrote in the study.

Nose and throat swab samples were collected from the patients between November 9 and December 20. Among those samples, 341 underwent genome sequencing. The sequence data showed that 198 of the patients, or 58%, had infections caused by the B.1.1.7 variant while the others were cased by other strains of the coronavirus. 

The researchers found no difference in the outcome of severe disease or death between the variant and other lineages.  

But the researchers identified increased viral load among the B.1.1.7 patients. 

Overall, "patients with B.1.1.7 were younger and had fewer comorbidities than those with non-B.1.1.7 infection, possibly representing the widespread and potential increased transmission of this variant in the community or differences in probability of hospital admission, which we were not able to explore in this hospital-based cohort," the researchers wrote. 

The Lancet Public Health study included data on 36,920 people who reported testing positive for Covid-19 and logged their symptoms into the COVID Symptom Study app between September 28 and December 27. 

The app -- designed by designed by researchers at King's College London, Guys and St Thomas’ Hospitals and the tech company Zoe Global Limited -- helps track the spread of Covid-19 and the range of symptoms experienced. 

The study's authors, based in the United Kingdom and the United States, analyzed the data reported in the app along with Covid-19 surveillance data for the UK.

The analysis showed that the prevalence of the B.1.1.7 variant in certain regions and over time was not associated with changes in Covid-19 symptoms reported in the app or the duration of symptoms.

The researchers found that the rate of coronavirus reinfections was low -- with 0.7% of app users who reported a positive Covid-19 test, testing positive again after 90 days -- and there was no evidence of increased reinfection rates associated with the B.1.1.7 variant.

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3:12 a.m. ET, April 13, 2021

UK hits Covid vaccination target, PM praises the "precious" protection vaccines offer

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad and Sarah Dean

Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves number 10, Downing Street in London, on April 12.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves number 10, Downing Street in London, on April 12. Leon Neal/Getty Images

The United Kingdom has reached its Covid-19 vaccination target of offering doses to all adults over 50, the clinically vulnerable, and social care workers, the British government said in a statement on Monday.

“We have now passed another hugely significant milestone in our vaccine programme by offering jabs to everyone in the nine highest risk groups," said Prime Minister Boris Johnson. "That means more than 32 million people have been given the precious protection vaccines provide against Covid-19.”
“We will now move forward with completing essential second doses and making progress towards our target of offering all adults a vaccine by the end of July,” he added.

The statement said the target had been reached ahead of schedule, with the government having pledged to offer a first dose to priority cohorts by April 15.

The UK has now administered nearly 40 million doses, and fully vaccinated 7.4 million people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

2:46 a.m. ET, April 13, 2021

Recording reveals Bolsonaro asked senator to investigate governors and mayors for handling of the pandemic

From CNN's Rodrigo Pedroso in Sao Paulo

President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro speaks at the Planalto Palace, Brasilia, Brazil, on March 31.
President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro speaks at the Planalto Palace, Brasilia, Brazil, on March 31. Mateus Bononi/Getty Images

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro asked a senator to expand a parliamentary inquiry into the federal government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, to include mayors and governors, according to a recording of the conversation.

Sen. Jorge Kajuru published a recording of his conversation with Bolsonaro on social media, which Bolsonaro condemned on Monday. Bolsonaro said he did not know he was being recorded, and called for the full conversation to be released, which Kajuru then did.

The phone call: In the recording, Bolsonaro said that if the inquiry is not expanded, then only the federal government and its allies will be investigated.

"If the scope does not change, the inquiry will simply investigate Pazuello, investigate our guys, to make a dirty report. You have to make lemonade out of a lemon. For now, there's only a lemon out there," Bolsonaro said to the senator, referring to former health minister Eduardo Pazuello.

In the full recording, Bolsonaro also cursed opposition leader Sen. Randolfe Rodrigues, calling him "a punk" and saying if the commission didn't change the scope, he would have to “kick his ass."

The investigation: Last week, Supreme Court judge Luis Roberto Barroso ordered a parliamentary inquiry to be opened by the Brazilian Senate on the federal government's actions on handling the pandemic.

The inquiry would examine the possibility Bolsonaro and other federal, state and local leaders made omissions that led to hospital systems collapsing at the beginning of the year. Several Covid-19 patients reportedly died in the city of Manaus due a lack of oxygen.

Barroso's order is expected to be voted on by the Court on Wednesday.

2:46 a.m. ET, April 13, 2021

US official: Health authorities are taking reports of blood clots and J&J vaccine "seriously"

From CNN's Elizabeth Cohen

An Army medic removes vials of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine from a box at a vaccination site in Orlando, Florida, on April 10.
An Army medic removes vials of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine from a box at a vaccination site in Orlando, Florida, on April 10. Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/Sipa USA

US health agencies are working to assess whether the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine is associated with a very small increased risk of rare blood clots, a federal official told CNN.

"The CDC and the FDA are taking these concerns about blood clots and the J&J vaccine seriously and are diligently assembling data," the official said.

An expert outside the government who is familiar with the situation agreed that health officials are taking the matter seriously.

"The CDC is very concerned and they're very working hard on this and monitoring this closely," said the expert, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the issue.

Cases so far: There have been "four serious cases of unusual blood clots" reported after people received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to European health authorities.

Some of the types of blood clots observed are relatively common, such as deep vein thrombosis, so it wasn't surprising that among roughly 20,000 participants who received the vaccine, some would experience those clots.

What made FDA scientists take note, however, is that in the trial, about the same number of people received a placebo -- a shot of saline that does nothing -- as received the vaccine. However, when comparing the two groups, more study participants developed clots after receiving the vaccine than the placebo.

The link is "not clear: Like their US counterparts, the European authorities say they're still investigating these cases and that "it is currently not clear" whether there's a causal association between the vaccine and the clots.

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