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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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Two studies highlighting the results were published Friday as pre-prints and have not been peer-reviewed.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.

6:57 a.m. ET, April 23, 2021

At least 13 Covid-19 patients die in hospital fire in India's Maharashtra state

From CNN's Esha Mitra in New Delhi

A policeman inspects a burnt-out room at the Vijay Vallabh Hospital in Virar, on the outskirts of Mumbai, after a fire broke out in the hospital's ICU, on Friday, April 23.
A policeman inspects a burnt-out room at the Vijay Vallabh Hospital in Virar, on the outskirts of Mumbai, after a fire broke out in the hospital's ICU, on Friday, April 23. Vinamra Acharekar/AFP/Getty Images

At least 13 patients died after a fire broke out at 3 a.m. local time in a hospital dedicated to Covid-19 patients in Virar, a city north of Mumbai in Maharashtra state, a hospital official said on Friday.

"Suddenly sparks fell from the AC (Air Conditioner) and within two minutes it was on fire," said Dr. Dilip Shah, CEO of Vijay Vallabh hospital.

A short-circuit in an air conditioning unit of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ward caused the fire, initial reports showed, according to Maharashtra State Government Cabinet Minister Eknath Shinde, who visited the hospital Friday.

People inspect an ICU ward after a fire broke out in Vijay Vallabh Covid-19 hospital at Virar, near Mumbai, India, on Friday, April 23.
People inspect an ICU ward after a fire broke out in Vijay Vallabh Covid-19 hospital at Virar, near Mumbai, India, on Friday, April 23. AP

There were a total of 70 patients at the hospital -- of which 17 were in the ICU. The four surviving patients have been moved to another hospital.

"We are making arrangements to shift all patients immediately, we need to save their lives," Minister Shinde said.

The incident comes two days after 24 Covid-19 patients died waiting for oxygen at Zakir Hussain Hospital in the Nashik district of Maharashtra after an accidental oxygen leakage, according to Suraj Mandhare, a senior Nashik district official. 

A high-level committee has been set up to probe the incident and experts are being consulted to ensure such accidents are not repeated, Maharashtra's Health Minister Rajesh Tope told reporters Thursday. 

6:57 a.m. ET, April 23, 2021

More than 50 vaccination sites down in Mumbai due to vaccine shortage

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

More than 50 vaccination centers in Mumbai are not operating on Friday due to a "limited supply of vaccine," the Mumbai Municipal Corporation, BMC, announced on Twitter.

Another 18 sites would be functional until supplies last, it added.

The corporation released a list of vaccination sites in the city, marking those that were not functional.

Some background: As the second wave of Covid-19 cases sweeps India, this is not the first time that Mumbai has had to suspend vaccination drives.

India produces more than 60% of all vaccines sold globally, and is home to the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's largest vaccine maker. However, as vaccine shortage becomes a problem in the face of this crisis, the Indian government and SII have shifted focus to prioritizing their own citizens.

6:57 a.m. ET, April 23, 2021

Two Indian hospitals receive emergency supplies of oxygen -- but it will only last two hours

From CNN's Esha Mitra in New Delhi

After writing on Twitter that it had less than an hour's worth of oxygen left for its Covid-19 patients on Friday morning, Max Healthcare, a prominent Indian hospital group, said two of its hospitals in the capital received emergency supplies, but that they would only last two hours.

Public and health officials in New Delhi have been raising the alarm about the acute shortage of oxygen supplies at hospitals, despite the increased allocation of those supplies amid the devastating second wave of the pandemic.

Max Healthcare is one of the medical groups that successfully petitioned the Delhi High Court to divert oxygen supplies to hospitals on Wednesday. The central government has since placed a temporary ban on the use of oxygen for industrial activities and diverted the supplies for medical care. 

Sunil Saggar, CEO of the Shanti Mukand hospital in New Delhi, told local media that six private hospitals in Delhi ran out of oxygen on Thursday, including the Shanti Mukand.

We are a hospital -- we are supposed to give life. If we cannot give oxygen...if the patient comes to the hospital, the patient will die," Saggar said.

A Thursday press statement from the prime minister’s office said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting on Thursday to review oxygen supplies, noting that the demands of 20 Indian states had been met.

The statement added that the government was able to allocate 6,822 metric tons of oxygen, when only 6,785 metric tons had been requested.

The government had been warned of the country’s oxygen shortages back in November when consumption quickly increased during the first phase of the pandemic. 

A parliamentary committee highlighted that oxygen use for medical purposes had increased from 1000 metric tons a day to 3000 metric tons during the pandemic’s previous peak.

Industrial use of oxygen counted for 6000 metric tons before the pandemic, according to the committee's report.

6:57 a.m. ET, April 23, 2021

Images of New Delhi’s mass cremation sites illustrate the brutality of India’s second wave

As India's second deadly wave continues to surge, crematorium grounds in Delhi have been overwhelmed -- with families turning to makeshift mass cremation sites.

The scenes underscore the severity of India's second wave, acutely felt in the capital.

In total, Delhi has recorded a total of 956,348 cases of coronavirus and 13,193 deaths, according to the city's health authority.

On Thursday, Delhi recorded 306 new Covid-19 deaths, according to the Delhi Health Department's evening bulletin. 

With a shortage of hospital and ICU beds, oxygen supply and testing, India’s healthcare system is buckling. Cities across the country are reporting far larger numbers of cremations and burials under coronavirus protocols than official Covid-19 death tolls, according to crematorium and cemetery workers, media and a Reuters review of government data.

A mass cremation of victims who died from coronavirus is seen at a crematorium ground in New Delhi, on April 22.
A mass cremation of victims who died from coronavirus is seen at a crematorium ground in New Delhi, on April 22. Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
A man performs the last rites for his wife who died of Covid-19 during a mass cremation at a crematorium in New Delhi, India on April 20.
A man performs the last rites for his wife who died of Covid-19 during a mass cremation at a crematorium in New Delhi, India on April 20. Anindito Mukherjee/Getty Images
A body waiting for cremation is seen among funeral pyres of Covid-19 victims at a ground that has been converted into a mass crematorium in New Delhi, on April 21.
A body waiting for cremation is seen among funeral pyres of Covid-19 victims at a ground that has been converted into a mass crematorium in New Delhi, on April 21. AP

Nationwide, 332,730 new cases of coronavirus were reported on Friday, bringing the total to more than 16 million cases, according to a CNN tally of figures from the Indian Ministry of Health.