April 23 coronavirus news

By Sophie Jeong, Aditi Sangal and Kara Fox, Nicholas Pearce and Philip Wang

Updated 0702 GMT (1502 HKT) April 26, 2021
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9:36 a.m. ET, April 23, 2021

Moderna working to have Covid-19 vaccine booster available by late summer or early fall, CEO says 

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Vials of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are produced at a Recipharm plant in Monts, France, on April 22.
Vials of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are produced at a Recipharm plant in Monts, France, on April 22. Guillaume Souvant/AFP/Getty Images

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said on Friday that the company is working to get a Covid-19 booster shot to address coronavirus variants authorized by late summer or early fall. 

Bancel called coronavirus variants “my biggest worry,” and said Moderna is working on different strategies for its vaccine to address them, including a vaccine that would address the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa. 

The preclinical data looks very encouraging, Bancel said, and the clinical data should come as early as May. 

“We’re working very hard to potentially have late summer, early fall, that boost for the variants authorized to be able to be used in the marketplace for boosting people,” Bancel said during an International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations briefing. “Getting quick action of variants is going to be key.”

They are also looking at increasing capacity for next year, he added. 

9:34 a.m. ET, April 23, 2021

FDA is "prepared to move as quickly as we possibly can" on J&J vaccine, advisory committee head says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

A medical worker prepares a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399 union hall vaccination site in Chicago, Illinois, on April 6.
A medical worker prepares a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399 union hall vaccination site in Chicago, Illinois, on April 6. Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Peter Marks, head of the US Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, said on Thursday that the FDA is prepared to move as quickly as it can on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“We know that it’s not a good thing to leave the pause going for any longer than it absolutely has to go for,” Marks told The New York Times. “Once, essentially, the adequate discussion has occurred, we’re prepared to move as quickly as we possibly can.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is meeting Friday to discuss J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine, after a pause in its rollout due to a small number of cases of rare blood clotting.

9:00 a.m. ET, April 23, 2021

J&J vaccine pause in US helped doctors understand risks and treatment of rare clots, NIH director says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins speaks during a public vaccination event in Washington, DC, on March 16.
National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins speaks during a public vaccination event in Washington, DC, on March 16. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said on "Good Morning America" Friday that the pause on the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine has allowed a greater understanding about the risk of rare blood clots and how to treat them. 

“I think it is important to point out that this is a treatable condition if you recognize it right away,” Collins told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “One of the reasons I think it’s been good to have this pause is to get everybody apprised of that, so that all physicians know that this is something to watch out for and can be prepared to treat it appropriately if it should happen again in the future.” 

The US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is meeting today to discuss the J&J vaccine. 

9:40 a.m. ET, April 23, 2021

CDC vaccine advisers meet today to decide fate of J&J vaccine in the US. Here are key things to know. 

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas and Elizabeth Cohen

A package of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine is seen at a health center in Los Angeles, California, on April 15.
A package of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine is seen at a health center in Los Angeles, California, on April 15. Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Vaccine advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meet today at 11 a.m. ET to make recommendations for use of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine after it was put on hold to investigate a potential link to serious blood clots.

The CDC and US Food and Drug Administration recommended a pause on use of the J&J coronavirus vaccine last week following six reported US cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot. The cases were among more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered in the United States.

Here are some key things to know about today's meeting:

What the panel is investigating: The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met on April 14, but members said they needed more information about the J&J vaccine and the blood clot cases. They are investigating whether there are more cases and whether other types of blood clots might be associated with the vaccine. The pause was also intended to give experts time to inform doctors about how to look for and treat these clots.

Dr. William Schaffner, a non-voting ACIP member and infectious diseases professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told CNN that the committee delayed making a decision because there will likely be more reports of blood clots connected to the vaccine, and members need to understand the demographics of those cases.

What could happen next: ACIP could recommend that use of the vaccine resume with no changes, or the committee could recommend that the US stop using the J&J vaccine altogether.

Schaffner said it's more likely that ACIP will recommend that use of the vaccine resume with a warning about possible adverse effects — and potentially, advice to the highest-risk populations to steer clear of this vaccine altogether.

Potential impacts on US vaccine supply: President Biden and other officials have said whatever decision is made about the Covid-19 vaccine, it will not hinder the vaccination effort in the US.

The FDA requested Monday that manufacturing of the J&J vaccine be paused at a Baltimore Emergent BioSolutions facility while it conducts an investigation into contamination that affected at least one batch of J&J's vaccine.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky said that while the CDC conducts a risk-benefit analysis of the J&J vaccine, the agency has reached out to more than 10,000 providers to inform them about what to watch out for, in case other people experience similar adverse events.

8:30 a.m. ET, April 23, 2021

We knew Covid-19 vaccines worked. Now we know more.

From CNN's Angela Dewan and Sharon Braithwaite

A health worker administers a dose of the BioNTech/Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic in Derby, England, on March 31.
A health worker administers a dose of the BioNTech/Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic in Derby, England, on March 31. Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Studies have shown that several vaccines are highly effective in preventing people getting seriously ill from Covid-19. Now, early results from a survey in the UK show two commonly used vaccines also significantly reduce the number of people getting infected in the first place. 

A single shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines reduces Covid-19 infections by 65%, while two doses cuts out 70% of infections, according to the Covid-19 Infection Survey, coordinated by the University of Oxford, the UK Office of National Statistics and the Department for Health and Social Care. 

The numbers are particularly promising for the prevention of symptomatic infections. Some 74% were reduced with just one shot, and 90% with two. And vaccination was just as effective in people in the vulnerable over-75 age group as it was in younger people. 

Two studies highlighting the results were published Friday as pre-prints and have not been peer-reviewed. They analyzed 1.6 million test results from nose and throat swabs taken from more than 373,000 people between December and the start of April. 

“These real-world findings are extremely promising and show our historic vaccination program is having a significant impact across the UK by reducing infections among people of all ages, including those with underlying health conditions,” said James Bethell, a UK health minister.  

But experts advise people to continue with Covid-19 prevention measures, as some infections will still be transmitted -- particularly when large numbers of the population have had just one dose in a two-dose regimen or haven’t been vaccinated at all.

Sarah Walker, Chief Investigator and Academic Lead for the Covid-19 Infection Survey from the University of Oxford, said that because vaccines weren’t 100% effective, they wouldn’t reduce infections to zero -- but they could get numbers to a level where they are controllable.

“There is a difference between an acute crisis and an ongoing underlying chronic problem – in infectious diseases, we talk about a disease becoming endemic, meaning it is always there and you just have to deal with it, like malaria in sub-Saharan Africa," Walker told CNN.

"The benefits our data show in the general population mean that the vaccines gives us the chance to control the virus more and move into a situation where Covid-19 is an endemic disease – it is an opportunity, but we can still squander it,” she said.

“Every infection provides the opportunity for the virus to mutate into a new variant that the vaccines are less effective against, so it is on a knife edge," Walker said, adding: "We need as many people to get vaccinated and reduce the virus levels to as low as possible.”

8:55 a.m. ET, April 23, 2021

India's prime minister faces public anger as Covid-19 cases and deaths continue to rise

From CNN's Jessie Yeung, Manveena Suri and Swati Gupta

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pictured addressing a public meeting in Sivasagar district of India's Assam state in January.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pictured addressing a public meeting in Sivasagar district of India's Assam state in January. Biju Boro/AFP/Getty Images

In the face of a massive public health crisis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stayed largely silent on the fierce second wave of Covid-19 until recent weeks. In intermittent statements throughout April, he acknowledged the "alarming" rise in cases, but was slow to take containment measures besides ordering states to increase testing and tracking, and asking the public to stay vigilant.

It wasn't until Tuesday that Modi finally emphasized the urgency of the situation, but by then, India's outbreak was already the world's biggest in terms of absolute daily numbers. Nearly 28% of all new cases worldwide in the past week have come from India, according to the World Health Organization.

Experts and health care workers say the second wave advanced so rapidly because the public let its guard down after the first wave subsided. This complacency was exacerbated by government officials, like Modi and his health minister, celebrating the country's apparent recovery. Leaders allowed a massive weeks-long Hindu pilgrimage to proceed with millions of attendees traveling across numerous states.

Grievances have spilled over on social media in the past week. Tens of thousands of people took to Twitter with trending hashtags like #ResignModi, #SuperSpreaderModi, and #WhoFailedIndia.

The anger has also been heightened this time by Modi flying out to hold political rallies with thousands in attendance for the upcoming elections in four states and one union territory.

As cases skyrocketed, several of the competing parties stepped back from the campaign trail. Modi's party announced it would also limit its rallies to "small public gatherings," -- with a cap of 500 people.

This week, Modi canceled his campaign trip to West Bengal to instead attend high-level Covid meetings.

But Modi and the BJP's rallies throughout March and April, and their late action, undermine his message to the public for greater vigilance, said Harsh Mander, writer and human rights activist.

"There's a blaming on ordinary people," he told CNN. "But what we have seen is that the prime minister has actually gathered large masses of people, none of them wearing masks and keeping any kind of distancing in political gatherings."

Read the full story here:

CNN's Aditi Sangal and Esha Mitra contributed to this report.

9:14 a.m. ET, April 23, 2021

Japan to enact state of emergency in four prefectures, including Tokyo

From CNN's Chie Kobayashi in Tokyo

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, second from right, declares a state of emergency for Tokyo and three other prefectures during the government task force meeting on COVID-19 measures in Tokyo, Japan, on Friday, April 23.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, second from right, declares a state of emergency for Tokyo and three other prefectures during the government task force meeting on COVID-19 measures in Tokyo, Japan, on Friday, April 23. Eugene Hoshiko/Pool/AP

Four prefectures in Japan will go into a state of emergency starting Sunday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in a cabinet meeting Friday.

Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures will be under a state of emergency through until May 11, much shorter than previous orders which lasted 7 and 10 weeks.

Japan is in the midst of a fourth wave and there are elevated restrictions currently across 10 prefectures -- mainly covering Tokyo and Osaka metropolitan areas.

"This declaration is aimed for enhancing the measures against restaurants and stopping the movement of people, during the Golden Week, as a short and intensive measure," said Prime Minister Suga.

Under the state of emergency, large commercial spaces like shopping malls will be barred from operating, except to provide essential items and services. Establishments that serve alcohol will be asked to close and dry establishments are to close from 8 p.m. or face a fine.

9:14 a.m. ET, April 23, 2021

Pakistan calls in army to enforce Covid-19 guidelines as oxygen supplies run low

From CNN’s Sophia Saifi in Islamabad

A worker prepares to fill oxygen cylinders for hospital treatment of Covid-19 patients, at a factory in Peshawar, Pakistan, on April 12.
A worker prepares to fill oxygen cylinders for hospital treatment of Covid-19 patients, at a factory in Peshawar, Pakistan, on April 12. Abdul Majeed/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan is going to be calling in its army to help the police in “enforcing” Covid-19 guidelines in the country, Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a televised address to the nation on Friday.

Khan said he doesn’t want to lock down the country “to save the livelihoods of the poorest in the country” but due to “a very few number” of people following coronavirus safety guidelines, there could soon be a situation where there will be “no other option” than to enforce a lockdown. 

A fresh series of restrictions will include closing outdoor dining and gyms and changing market opening hours. Schools up to grade 12 will remain closed until after Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, in mid-May.

The announcement comes as Pakistan faces an oxygen shortage, with the national health system facing mounting pressure.

Speaking alongside Khan on Friday, Asad Umar, the head of the National Command Operation Center on coronavirus (NCOC) said that 90% of the country’s oxygen supply has now been used and that an “emergency” situation is pending.

According to the Ministry of Health, the positivity rate of infection acr has been, on average, consistently above 10 percent on average across the country and the health system is currently under pressure. 

Pakistan currently has 101,818 active cases, which is higher than the peak reached in the summer of 2020.

7:30 a.m. ET, April 23, 2021

Germany's controversial 'emergency brake' law will close most of the country from Saturday

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

German Health Minister Jens Spahn takes off his face mask before addressing a press conference in Berlin, Germany, on April 23.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn takes off his face mask before addressing a press conference in Berlin, Germany, on April 23. Tobias Schwarz/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Germany's new “emergency brake” rules to curb the spread of coronavirus for areas with high infection rates will come into force Saturday, Health Minister Jens Spahn said Friday.

The controversial new law gives the national government power to impose lockdowns on states for the first time, ending the patchwork of state-by-state measures. 

The federally imposed shutdown will affect almost all of Germany, with only a few municipalities having low enough levels of transmission to avoid the restrictions.

Demonstrators rally against the German government's proposed coronavirus measures in Berlin, on Wednesday, April 21.
Demonstrators rally against the German government's proposed coronavirus measures in Berlin, on Wednesday, April 21. Markus Schreiber/AP

Spahn’s announcement comes a day after the bill passed the upper house of Parliament.  

The law includes curfews between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. local time, as well as limiting private gatherings, sports and shop openings, in all areas registering more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents in one week. 
Schools will close and return to online lessons if the virus incidence exceeds 165 cases per 100,000 residents.

At the moment Germany's new infection rate is 164 per 100,000 residents.

Speaking at the same press conference as Spahn, Lars Schaade, Deputy Head of Germany's health agency the Robert Koch Institute, said that “infection numbers are still too high,” however “coronavirus case numbers do not appear to be rising as fast.”

But Spahn said Germany's vaccination campaign is gathering pace. 

“One in four Germans will have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by early May,” Spahn said at a Health Ministry press conference in Berlin. 

As of Friday, 18.5 million people have been vaccinated, Spahn said.

Around 22% of Germans have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine and nearly 7% received their second coronavirus vaccine shot.

On Friday, Germany recorded 27,543 new coronavirus infections – a rise of 1,712 cases compared to the same day last week, according to RKI data.

The country's coronavirus deaths stood at 265 within the last 24 hours, bringing the total tally of deaths to 81,158.