January 4 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Rhea Mogul, Adam Renton, Jack Guy and Ed Upright, Meg Wagner, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 4:53 a.m. ET, January 5, 2022
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2:08 a.m. ET, January 4, 2022

China locks down city of more than a million people after 3 Covid-19 cases found

From CNN's Beijing Bureau

A city in central China has gone into lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19, according to local authorities.

The municipal government of Yuzhou, Henan province said all 1.2 million residents will be confined to their homes after just two asymptomatic cases were reported Sunday. A third local asymptomatic infection was identified Monday, the government added.

Barring essential services such as supermarkets, all public facilities including schools, public transport and shopping malls have suspended operations.

Those who work in essentials industries, including supermarkets, medicine production, and energy plants, are allowed to go to work after presenting a negative Covid-19 test, the government said.

China reported 108 new local cases across three provinces on Monday, including 95 in northwestern Shaanxi province, eight in southeastern Zhejiang, and five in Henan, according to the National Health Commission (NHC). 

The country also reported 21 new local asymptomatic cases, including 19 in Henan and two in Shanghai, the NHC said. China counts symptomatic and asymptomatic cases separately.

Lockdowns: The Yuzhou lockdown mirrors the strict restrictions imposed on residents of the northwestern city of Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi.

Since December, the ancient city has been grappling with China's largest community coronavirus outbreak since Wuhan, the original epicenter of the pandemic.

To date, more than 1,700 cases have been reported in the city. While the number pales in comparison to those in many other countries, the outbreak pushed China's caseload in the final week of 2021 to the highest level since March 2020.

Xi'an's 13 million residents have been confined to their homes since December 23. Many are growing desperate as they run out of essential supplies, including groceries, and fall short on medical attention.

Zero Covid: Xi'an authorities launched a fifth round of mass testing on Tuesday, vowing to eliminate the outbreak.

But the frustrations of residents underscore the growing challenge facing China's zero-Covid policy, which relies on a playbook of mass testing, extensive quarantines and snap lockdowns to stamp out any resurgence of the virus.

While the stringent measures have largely shielded the majority of the country from the worst aspects of the pandemic, as local outbreaks continue to flare up, the outcry in Xi'an raises the question of just how long zero-Covid can be sustained before public support begins to taper off, with millions of residents trapped in an seemingly endless cycle of lockdowns.

2:45 a.m. ET, January 4, 2022

BTS members RM and Jin have fully recovered from Covid-19

From CNN's Gawon Bae in Seoul, South Korea 

BTS members RM (left) and Jin (right) are seen in this split file photo from the K-pop group's press conference for the release of "Butter" in Seoul on May 21, 2021
BTS members RM (left) and Jin (right) are seen in this split file photo from the K-pop group's press conference for the release of "Butter" in Seoul on May 21, 2021 (The Chosunilbo JNS/Imazins/Getty Images)

Two members of K-pop supergroup BTS have fully recovered from Covid-19, their agency BIGHIT Music said in a statement Tuesday.

Stars RM and Jin had tested positive on Christmas Day and received treatment at home per South Korea's guidelines for Covid-19 patients with mild or no symptoms. 

The agency said Jin had a slight fever when he first began treatment, but has since made a full recovery.

On Monday, another member of the band, Suga, was released from quarantine after fully recovering from Covid-19.

11:34 p.m. ET, January 3, 2022

Australia's New South Wales reports record Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN's Hannah Ritchie in Adelaide, Australia

Australia’s most populous state reported record Covid-19 hospitalizations and cases on Tuesday, with 1,344 patients in care and more than 23,000 new infections, according to the NSW health department.

Authorities in New South Wales are scrambling to contain the outbreak, which has caused 105 people to receive treatment in intensive care units (ICU), according to NSW Health. Of the patients in ICU, 27 are on ventilators, the department said.

The Australian Medical Association has warned the significant increase in hospitalizations, combined with the number of health workers exposed to Covid-19 during the holiday period, could strain the hospital system. 

"With both the Christmas period and with hospital workers being furloughed due to their close contact status ... we're finding that it is becoming quite difficult to staff, especially critical areas of hospitals," Michael Bonning, chair of the Australian Medical Association's (AMA) NSW Council, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Monday. 

Tuesday’s figures represent the highest level of hospitalizations seen in any Australian state since the start of the pandemic.

The previous record for hospitalizations occurred during NSW’s Delta outbreak on September 21, when 1,268 people were hospitalized with the virus, and 242 people were in intensive care.

Rising cases: On Tuesday, the state of nearly 8.2 million reported a record 23,131 new infections from 83,376 tests, reflecting a positivity rate of almost 28%. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed a positivity rate of 5% or less a necessary requirement in order to keep the spread of the virus under control.

As a proportion of the population, NSW now has one of the highest infection rates in the world. 

Covid-19 infections have continued to rise rapidly across Australia since December. On Monday, several states and territories including Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and the Australian Capital Territory all reported record case numbers.

2:02 a.m. ET, January 4, 2022

India started vaccinating children on Monday. More than 4 million of them received a shot

From CNN's Swati Gupta in New Delhi

Teenagers in the 15-18 age group get inoculated against Covid-19 in Mumbai on January 3.
Teenagers in the 15-18 age group get inoculated against Covid-19 in Mumbai on January 3. (Anshuman Poyrekar/Hindustan Times/Getty Images)

India vaccinated more than 4 million children ages 15 to 18 against Covid-19 on Monday after the government approved shots for the group last month in a bid to prevent a potential new wave of infections fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the nation's vaccination drive, calling it an "important step forward" in protecting children against the virus.

"Congrats to all my young friends between the age group of 15-18 who got vaccinated. Congrats to their parents as well. I would urge more youngsters to get vaccinated in the coming days!" Modi wrote on Twitter.

Vaccines and booster shots: India has been slow at issuing approval of vaccines for children, and the rollout of booster shots for adults.

On December 25, Modi announced the start of limited shots of vaccines for children and booster shots for certain citizens.

Booster shots will be available for those age 60 and over with pre-existing medical conditions, health care personnel, and frontline workers, from January 10.

Rising cases: The vaccination drive comes as India continues to record a sharp increase in infections, adding to concerns about the possibility of a third wave.

India reported 37,379 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, according to the Ministry of Health — the second consecutive day of more than 30,000 cases and the highest daily figure since September last year.