September 17 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Zamira Rahim and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:03 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020
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2:45 a.m. ET, September 17, 2020

Qantas is offering a sightseeing flight around Australia for people who miss flying

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

A general view shows the empty Qantas departure terminal at Melbourne Airport in Australia, on August 20.
A general view shows the empty Qantas departure terminal at Melbourne Airport in Australia, on August 20. William West/AFP/Getty Images

Australian airline Qantas is offering a seven-hour "scenic joy flight" around Australia for people who miss flying. 

"Qantas will operate a special scenic joy flight above the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales in response to strong demand from frequent flyers who miss the experience of flying and just want to take to the skies," a news release from Qantas said Thursday.

Tickets went on sale Thursday and sold out within 10 minutes, a Qantas spokesperson told CNN.

“It’s probably the fastest selling flight in Qantas history," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said. “People clearly miss travel and the experience of flying. If the demand is there, we’ll definitely look at doing more of these scenic flights while we all wait for borders to open.”

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane will fly low-level to popular Australian sites like Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney Harbor.

"No passport or quarantine required," the news release said.

The flight will take off October 10 from Sydney and make its way up the New South Wales coast, cross the Queensland border to fly over the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Sunshine Coast before continuing north to fly over the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef. It will then track across the country to Uluru and Kata Tjuta to showcase the iconic red center before returning to Sydney.

"The special scenic flight is designed to fulfil the travel experience that many Australians have been missing throughout the COVID pandemic. Frequent flyers have said they just want to get on a Qantas aircraft and experience the joy of flying again without having to navigate border restrictions or quarantines," the news release said.

For months, Australia has closed borders to almost all foreigners, and any Australian citizens wanting to go overseas need an exit visa to leave the country.

3:34 a.m. ET, September 17, 2020

Only the US has more coronavirus cases than India. But unlike Trump, its leader seems immune from criticism

From CNN's Vedika Sud and Nectar Gan

India is in crisis. Its economy has crashed, with the largest slump on record decimating millions of jobs. Its already fragile healthcare system is buckling under the weight of soaring coronavirus cases. With more than 5 million cases, India ranks only behind the United States for confirmed infections.

But whereas other populist leaders are feeling the political heat from their handling of the pandemic -- US President Donald Trump and his British counterpart Boris Johnson, for instance -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has largely escaped the scathing headlines and crushing opinion polls that have beleaguered his counterparts.

Modi's landslide re-election for a second five-year term last year gave him a sweeping mandate to push his Hindu nationalist agenda, in a country where 80% of the population is Hindu. 

Asim Ali, a researcher at the Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research think-tank, said the Indian leader is seen as a "national messiah" who is working on a grander agenda to reshape the Indian nation and is not accountable for day-to-day government failures.

"Modi has staked out for himself the role of not just the political leader of India, but also its social, moral and spiritual leader, in the mold of Mahatma Gandhi," Ali said.

Coronavirus challenge: Over the past year, Modi has made steady headway on Hindu nationalist policies, from revoking the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state, to backing a controversial citizenship law that critics say discriminates against Muslims.

But his second-term aspirations to revitalize the economy now seem more distant than ever due to the pandemic. As it continues to batter the Indian economy, analysts says it's unclear if the populist leader can emerge politically unscathed.

Read the full story:

1:55 a.m. ET, September 17, 2020

US reports more than 36,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian

The United States reported 36,782 new Covid-19 infections and 977 virus-related deaths on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

At least 6,630,891 cases, including 196,802 fatalities, have now been recorded in the US.

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases. 

CNN is tracking US cases here:

1:35 a.m. ET, September 17, 2020

Trump disputes CDC head's vaccine timeline and mask claims

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House on September 16 in Washington, DC.
US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House on September 16 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

US President Donald Trump again contradicted his own health officials' coronavirus statements -- this time on the importance of mask wearing and the timing for a vaccine.

And he demeaned Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying the doctor was "confused" in his congressional testimony.

Redfield said Wednesday that masks may be a more effective protection against coronavirus than any potential vaccine that the President can't stop hyping. And he laid out a timeline for when the general US public could expect to start seeing results from widespread coronavirus vaccination in the second or third quarter of 2021. Those statements both seemed to contradict what Trump has been saying.

Redfield told the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday: "If you're asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public, so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we're probably looking at third, late second quarter, third quarter 2021."

The President told reporters Redfield was "confused" when he said that.

"I think he made a mistake when he said that. It's just incorrect information," Trump said.

The President also said Redfield's comments to Congress about masks possibly being more effective than a vaccine were incorrect and that Redfield may have misunderstood the question.

"Maybe he misunderstood it," Trump said, later adding, "As far as the masks are concerned, I hope that the vaccine is going to be a lot more beneficial than the masks."

Read the full story:

2:21 a.m. ET, September 17, 2020

India reports nearly 98,000 new Covid-19 cases in highest worldwide daily spike

From CNN's Esha Mitra in New Delhi

A medical worker takes a nasal swab sample from a man for a Covid-19 test, in Mumbai, India, on September 14.
A medical worker takes a nasal swab sample from a man for a Covid-19 test, in Mumbai, India, on September 14. Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images

India reported its highest daily increase in coronavirus infections on Thursday, adding 97,894 new cases in the past 24 hours. This is the largest jump of new cases reported in a day worldwide since the outbreak began.

India's total number of cases now stands at 5,118,253, according the Ministry of Health. 

The ministry also reported 1,132 new fatalities from the virus, bringing India's death toll to 83,198. 

Widening gap: Of India's total cases, more than 1 million are active, but the Ministry of Health said this is less than one-fifth of the total infections and the gap between recovered cases and active cases is growing wider.

In India, patients with mild and moderate symptoms are considered no longer active after 10 days of symptom onset if they meet certain conditions. A test to confirm that they no longer have the virus is not required. Severe cases can only be discharged after one negative coronavirus test.

India has been ramping up testing and has conducted more than 60 million tests, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research. 

CNN is tracking worldwide coronavirus cases here:

12:18 a.m. ET, September 17, 2020

Barr says lockdown calls are the "greatest intrusion on civil liberties" other than slavery in US history

From CNN's Christina Carrega and Katelyn Polantz

US Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday said the calls for a national lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic is like "house arrest" and a civil rights intrusion nearly unequaled in American history.

Addressing a Hillsdale College audience, the event’s host asked Barr to explain the “constitutional hurdles for forbidding a church from meeting during Covid-19.”

The question led Barr into a four-minute response, in which he said state governors were using their executive powers to stifle citizens and businesses from going back to work.

“You know, putting a national lockdown, stay at home orders, is like house arrest. Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history,” Barr said as a round of applause came from the crowd.

Covid-19 has taken a measurable toll on minorities, including Black people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Most of the governors do what bureaucrats always do, which is they ... defy common sense,” Barr said, adding: “They treat free citizens as babies that can’t take responsibility for themselves and others.”

“We have to give business people an opportunity, tell them what the rules are, you know the masks, which rule of masks, you had this month ... and then let them try to adapt their business to that and you’ll have ingenuity and people will at least have the freedom to try to earn a living,” Barr added.

Read more:

11:12 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Rich nations have grabbed more than half the coronavirus vaccine supply already, report finds

From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox

A Sinovac Biotech Covid-19 vaccine candidate is displayed at the China International Fair for Trade in Services on September 6 in Beijing.
A Sinovac Biotech Covid-19 vaccine candidate is displayed at the China International Fair for Trade in Services on September 6 in Beijing. Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Rich nations including the United States, Britain and Japan have already bought up more than half the expected supply of coronavirus vaccine, the international anti-poverty nonprofit Oxfam said Wednesday.

These countries represent 13% of the world’s population, but have bought up future supplies of 51% of coronavirus vaccines, Oxfam said. 

The group used data collected by analytics firm Airfinity to analyze published deals between governments and vaccine makers. Oxfam calculated five organizations -- AstraZeneca, Russia’s Gamaleya, Moderna, Pfizer and China’s Sinovac -- have the combined production capacity to make 5.9 billion doses. That’s enough to cover nearly 3 billion people -- less than half the world’s population, if everyone needs two doses, as seems likely.

Oxfam said in a statement that supply deals have already been agreed for 5.3 billion doses, of which 2.7 billion (51%) have been bought by developed countries and territories including the UK, US, Australia, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Switzerland and Israel, as well as the European Union. The remaining 2.6 billion doses have been bought by or promised to developing countries including India, Bangladesh, China, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico.

Oxfam noted that AstraZeneca has pledged two-thirds of the doses it produces to developing countries.

“Access to a life-saving vaccine shouldn’t depend on where you live or how much money you have,” said Oxfam’s Robert Silverman. “The development and approval of a safe and effective vaccine is crucial, but equally important is making sure the vaccines are available and affordable to everyone. COVID-19 anywhere is COVID-19 everywhere.” 

When will we get enough vaccines? On Monday, Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of the Serum Institute of India (SII), predicted there may not be enough Covid-19 vaccine until 2024. “It’s going to take four to five years until everyone gets the vaccine on this planet,” Poonawalla told the Financial Times. 

Poonawalla estimated that if the Covid-19 shot is a two-dose vaccine, the world would need about 15 billion doses.

11:11 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

It will take up to nine months to get the American public vaccinated, CDC director says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifies at a hearing with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on September 16 in Washington, DC.
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifies at a hearing with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on September 16 in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker/New York Times/AP

Even if a vaccine for Covid-19 was released today, it would take six to nine months for enough people to receive it to create immunity, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday.

“I think we have to assume that if we had a vaccine, say, released today, that it’s going to take us probably in the order of nine months, six to nine months to get the American public vaccinated,” Redfield said during the Senate Appropriations Hearing on coronavirus response efforts.

“In order to have enough of us immunized so we have immunity, I think it’s going to take us six to nine months,” he said.

In this time, it’s important for people to embrace mitigation steps such as physically distancing, mask use and avoiding crowds, he said.

11:09 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Dr. Tom Frieden: US nearing 200,000 Covid-19 deaths is a "reflection of a failing national response"

From CNN's Leinz Vales

Dr. Tom Frieden speaks with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday, September 16.
Dr. Tom Frieden speaks with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday, September 16. CNN

As the United States approaches 200,000 coronavirus deaths, Dr. Tom Frieden, a former US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, said Wednesday that the number of reported deaths are a "reflection of a failing national response."

"The actual number is higher because not all deaths have been identified and this is just a horrifying number," Frieden told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "It's more people than die from suicide or overdose or homicide or HIV. In fact, Covid is on track to be the number three leading cause of death in all of the US for this year."

The former CDC director said he's concerned that Americans will get "hardened" to the number of coronavirus deaths.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the US has reported at least 196,465 coronavirus deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

According to Johns Hopkins, 1,293 deaths were reported Tuesday, which is the highest one-day total since Aug. 19.

"If you look at Germany, one fifth are death rate," Frieden said. "If you look at South Korea, 80 times fewer deaths than we've had. These are lives that have been lost and jobs that have been lost because we haven't had an organized, consistent, coherent federal response."

CNN is tracking US coronavirus cases and deaths: