January 12 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Jack Guy, Hannah Strange, Rhea Mogul and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 0718 GMT (1518 HKT) January 13, 2022
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9:02 a.m. ET, January 12, 2022

Global Covid-19 cases increased "markedly" over the past week, WHO says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

New global Covid-19 cases increased “markedly” in the week of Jan. 3 to 9, with over 15 million new cases being reported, according to the World Health Organization’s weekly epidemiological update published Tuesday. 

This was a 55% increase in cases compared with the week before.

Five WHO regions reported an increase in cases, with the largest increase of 418% coming in the South-East Asia region. This was followed by the Western Pacific Region, 122%, the Eastern Mediterranean Region, 86%, the Region of the Americas, 78% and the European Region, 31%. 

The African Region was the only one to report a decrease, 11%.

The highest number of new cases was reported in the United States, followed by France, the United Kingdom, Italy and India. 

Globally, as of Jan. 9, there have been over 304 million confirmed cases. 

While there was an increase in the number of cases, the number of deaths remained similar to the previous week, with over 43,000 new deaths being reported. 

Two regions reported increases of deaths, the African Region, 84%, and the Region of the Americas, 26%. The Western Pacific Region reported a similar number of deaths to the previous week. Decreases were reported in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, 11%, the European Region, 10%, and the South-East Asia Region, 6%. 

As of Jan. 9, there have been over 5.4 million deaths reported globally. 

9:17 a.m. ET, January 12, 2022

Face masks can reduce distance droplets travel by half, new study suggests

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

FFP2 face mask and disposable surgical face masks are seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on January 11, 2022.
FFP2 face mask and disposable surgical face masks are seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on January 11, 2022. (Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Wearing a face mask can reduce the distance that aerosols and droplets travel when someone is speaking or coughing – possibly by half, a new study suggests.

The study, published Wednesday in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, adds to mounting evidence that shows face masks help limit the spread of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, and other airborne respiratory pathogens too.

Researchers at the University of Central Florida in Orlando conducted the study, involving 14 participants ages 21 to 31. Each participant recited a phrase and simulated a cough for five minutes in three different scenarios: without wearing a mask, while wearing a single-layer cloth mask, and while wearing a three-layered disposable surgical mask. N95 and KN95 masks were not included in the study. The phrase participants recited was, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog into a field of pretty playful perpetually purple pandas."

The researchers used high-power illumination instruments to detect aerosols and droplets coming from the participants as they spoke and simulated coughs.

The researchers found that without face coverings, droplets and aerosols traveled up to about 4 feet when someone was speaking, and up to 4.5 feet when coughing. The cloth mask reduced those maximum distances to about 2 feet for speech and 2.2 feet when coughing, and disposable masks reduced the distances further to 0.50 feet for both scenarios, according to the study.

"This study quantified that face coverings exhibit different distribution and velocity characteristics in comparison to without a face covering for both cough and speech," the researchers wrote in part in the study. "All face covering types reduce expelled volume and propagation distance, with the disposable face covering being the most effective at reducing both."

The researchers added that their findings suggest practicing a physical distance of 3 feet while wearing a mask appears to be equally as effective as 6 feet of physical distancing without a mask.

The current US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation for social distancing is to stay 6 feet apart. 

11:56 a.m. ET, January 12, 2022

Boris Johnson apologizes for attending Downing Street party during lockdown

From CNN's Luke McGee in London

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday January 12, 2022.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday January 12, 2022. (House of Commons/PA/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson has apologized for attending a gathering in the back garden of 10 Downing Street on May 20, 2020, at which point Britons were prohibited from gathering due to strict coronavirus restrictions.

At the start of the weekly session of Prime Minister's Questions, Johnson said he did attend the gathering for 25 minutes before going inside to work. He said he believed the gathering to be a work event, but with hindsight conceded he should have sent attendees back inside.

Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer said the UK Prime Minister's excuse that he "did not realize he was at a party" was ridiculous and "offensive." The Labour Party leader went on to ask if the Prime Minister would resign.

The Prime Minister's comments on Wednesday came after days of outrage over a "bring your own booze" event held at Downing Street during the height of the UK's first Covid-19 lockdown.

Read the full story: Boris Johnson apologizes for attending Downing Street party during lockdown

11:56 a.m. ET, January 12, 2022

UK PM Boris Johnson: 'I want to apologize'

By CNN's Stephanie Halasz

Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement ahead of Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London on Wednesday January 12, 2022.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement ahead of Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London on Wednesday January 12, 2022. PA/Reuters

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said in a statement to Parliament that he wants to apologize over a drinks party held at 10 Downing Street during the country's first lockdown.

“I know the rage they feel with me and with the government I lead when they think in Downing Street the rules are not being properly followed by the people they make the rules,” Johnson said.

“I must take responsibility,” he said.

11:56 a.m. ET, January 12, 2022

UK opposition leader calls on PM to resign over lockdown party

From CNN’s Livvy Doherty and Sarah Dean in London

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street for his weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) appearance in the House of Commons in London, England, on January 12, 2022.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street for his weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) appearance in the House of Commons in London, England, on January 12, 2022. (David Cliff/NurPhoto/Reuters)

Labour leader Keir Starmer has called on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign over a party at Downing Street in May 2020.

Starmer called Johnson’s attempts to explain the party a “pathetic spectacle,” and called on him to "do the honorable thing" and resign during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday.

A leaked e-mail published on Monday showed one of Britain’s top officials invited staff to “socially distanced drinks in the No. 10 garden” on May 20, 2020, when the country was under strict coronavirus restrictions.

Johnson said he "wanted to apologize" over the party in his opening statement on Wednesday.

“I must take responsibility,” he said.

Johnson later added that misjudgments were made and that he apologizes for them.

“I want to repeat that I thought it was a work event and Mr speaker I regret very much that we did not do things differently that evening," said Johnson.

In the lead up to Wednesday's PMQs, various British lawmakers called on Johnson to resign if he has misled Parliament about whether he was present during the party.

“If he has breached his own guidance, if he has not been truthful, then that is an extremely important issue. If the Prime Minister has misled Parliament, then he must resign," Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, told Sky News on Tuesday.

Other Conservative MPs have been sharing their anger and frustration.

Christian Wakeford, Conservative MP for Bury South, tweeted: “How do you defend the indefensible? You can’t! It’s embarrassing and what’s worse is it further erodes trust in politics when it’s already low.”

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner described Johnson's position as "untenable" on Wednesday.

Speaking to the BBC, Rayner said: “if he was at that party, he knows he broke those rules and has to act accordingly.”

Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National Party in Westminster, added to calls for Johnson's resignation.

Blackford told Sky News that if Johnson had broken ministerial code, he would "have to go."

This would “really stick in the throat of people” who had not been able to grieve properly for those who had died at the time the party was held," added Blackford.

On the day the party is alleged to have happened the UK recorded 268 deaths on its coronavirus dashboard.

On Tuesday a group of people who lost family members to Covid-19 wrote to Johnson to express their anger over the fresh evidence that parties took place during lockdown.

Hannah Brady’s father passed away four days before the party allegedly took place.

“On the 20th May 2020, my dad’s death certificate was being signed. We were arranging his funeral 30 years too early…" Brady wrote Tuesday on behalf of a group named COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice.

"I had to stand and watch my grandparents break down over a hole in the ground, terrified that if I went near them they would catch Covid and die too,” she added. 

11:55 a.m. ET, January 12, 2022

UK PM Boris Johnson under growing pressure from lawmakers over party during lockdown

From CNN's Luke McGee in London

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves a vaccination centre at a pharmacy in his constituency Uxbridge, in London on Monday.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves a vaccination centre at a pharmacy in his constituency Uxbridge, in London on Monday. (Frank Augstein/AP)

Boris Johnson is facing perhaps the toughest day of his political career to date on Wednesday as outrage mounts over a "bring your own booze" event held at Downing Street during the height of the UK's first Covid-19 lockdown.

On Monday night, it emerged that his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, had emailed an invitation to more than 100 Downing Street staffers to "socially distanced drinks in the No. 10 garden" on May 20, 2020.

The email, which has been independently confirmed by CNN, told guests to "bring your own booze" and "make the most of the lovely weather."

This happened while the UK was in a hard lockdown to combat the spread of Covid-19. At the time, people in England were banned from meeting with more than one other person outdoors, and would be legally punished for doing so. In workplaces, official guidance stated that in-person meetings should only take place if "absolutely necessary."

Johnson has refused to deny reports that he and his wife, Carrie Johnson, attended the event. But later Wednesday Johnson was set to face questions in Parliament on whether he was there; whether he knew about the drinks or sanctioned them; and whether he misled Parliament about a series of parties reportedly held at Downing Street during several lockdowns in 2020.

Read the full story here:

6:00 a.m. ET, January 12, 2022

Chinese city of Tianjin locks down 2.1 million residents

From CNN's Beijing Bureau

This aerial photo taken on January 12, shows residents queueing to undergo nucleic acid tests for the Covid-19 coronavirus in Tianjin.
This aerial photo taken on January 12, shows residents queueing to undergo nucleic acid tests for the Covid-19 coronavirus in Tianjin. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

On Wednesday the Chinese city of Tianjin locked down three districts affecting 2.1 million residents, according to the municipal government.

The move after comes after the city recorded a total number of 137 infections since local Omicron cases were first detected on January 9.

After the city put several communities under strict lockdown on Sunday, Tianjin authorities further restricted people’s movements in three districts where most clusters of infections were detected. This means 2.1 million people are prevented from leaving their homes, and all the public entertainment facilities and restaurants in those districts are closed.

All in-person schools in the city were suspended, and colleges were sealed off with students banned from leaving the campus, the local government announced Wednesday.

As of Wednesday, a total of 22 million people in four Chinese cities are under lockdown due to Covid-19 outbreaks.

5:32 a.m. ET, January 12, 2022

Dozens of South Korean employees test positive for Covid-19 after attending tech event in US

From CNN's Yoonjung Seo and Gawon Bae in Seoul

Attendees walk around the entrance of CES 2022 in Las Vegas on January 6.
Attendees walk around the entrance of CES 2022 in Las Vegas on January 6. (Steve Marcus/Reuters)

About 70 South Korean company executives and employees have tested positive for Covid-19 after attending the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in the US last week, according to South Korea’s Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). 

“I have one request. Many people who attended the CES international electronic product fair in Las Vegas, US, last week are testing positive for Covid-19,” a senior health official Son Young-rae said in a health briefing on Wednesday.

“We are promptly contacting them and conducting an epidemiological investigation for those who participated in the event but we urge business people who attended this event or those who have already arrived in South Korea [after attending the event] to receive a PCR test as soon as possible,” Son said.

Samsung, Hyundai and SK are among the major South Korean companies to have participated in the CES event this year.

Six Hyundai Heavy Industries staff who attended the CES tested positive for Covid-19 and they have been in hotel quarantine in the US, without symptoms.

Two of the six have recently tested negative and are on their way back to Seoul, while the other four remain in quarantine in the US, Hyundai Heavy Industries official told CNN without specifying how many people attended the event.

According to SK, six or seven staff members have tested positive after the event so far. The company told CNN that all of its participants were fully vaccinated and complied with the mask mandate.

In a statement to CNN, Samsung said it “took a number of steps to protect the health and well-being of attendees,” including requiring vaccines, strictly adhering to mask mandates and establishing social distancing protocols. The company “will take additional protective measures as needed," it added.

This year’s CES event was held in Las Vegas from January 5-7.

5:17 a.m. ET, January 12, 2022

Tokyo urges businesses to brace against Covid-19 surge

From CNN's Emiko Jozuka in Tokyo

A woman sits in a coffee shop in Tokyo, Japan, January 11.
A woman sits in a coffee shop in Tokyo, Japan, January 11. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has urged businesses in the capital to brace against the virus as Covid-19 cases continued to climb.

“The spread of infections may disrupt social activities. We are urging businesses to review their priorities and create contingency plans to avoid such a situation,” Koike said Wednesday during a video conference with members of Tokyo’s business community.

It is essential to ensure that the medical sector and Tokyo’s supply chains and social infrastructure can keep operating amid the pandemic, added Koike.

According to local government data, Tokyo reported 2,198 Covid cases on Wednesday -- more than double the case count from a day earlier. The last time cases topped over 2,000 was September 4, 2021, when the capital recorded 2,370 cases.

Meanwhile, Osaka prefecture in western Japan recorded about 1,711 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, nearly a three-fold increase from a day earlier, and their first rise beyond 1,000 cases since September 15, according to local government data.

Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said Wednesday that cases might rise even further, given how infectious the Omicron variant is.

However, the governor added that the number of severely ill patients was still low in the prefecture, with only six seriously ill patients as of January 12.

As of Tuesday, Japan reported 6,239 people had tested positive for Covid-19 nationwide, according to the country’s Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor. 

On Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that strict border control measures would remain in place until the end of February 2022.

Japan has mainly only admitted Japanese nationals and returning foreign residents since November 30, 2021, in a bid to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.

Japan has pledged to speed up its vaccination booster program, with the central government announcing Tuesday that it would help local authorities establish large-scale vaccination centers to administer booster shots, according to a statement released by the Japanese Prime Minister’s office.