The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Sharon Braithwaite, Meg Wagner and Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN

Updated 12:08 a.m. ET, January 23, 2021
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3:39 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

UK is considering full border closure to contain new Covid-19 variants, minister says

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London

The British government is considering a full closure of the country's borders in order to contain the spread of new variants of Covid-19, according to Environment Secretary George Eustice.

“We always keep these things under review,” Eustice told Sky News on Friday. “There is concern at the moment at the number of mutant strains ... concerns that there's a risk that one day there will be a strain that might be able to evade the vaccine.”

“We've already toughened it up, we think that's the right approach for now, but obviously everything is always kept under review,” he added. 

Eustice also did not deny reports that the government was considering giving £500 ($685) to people who test positive for Covid-19, as an incentive to self-isolate. 

3:29 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Germany tops 50,000 coronavirus deaths 

From CNN's Claudia Otto and Nadine Schmidt

A coffin labeled "Biohazard Covid-19" is seen at a crematorium in Dülman, Germany, on January 19.
A coffin labeled "Biohazard Covid-19" is seen at a crematorium in Dülman, Germany, on January 19. Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance/Getty Images

Germany has surpassed 50,000 Covid-19 deaths, according to data published Friday by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the country's disease control agency.

In the past 24 hours, Germany reported 859 new fatalities related to Covid-19, bringing the total to 50,642. The RKI also recorded 17,862 new coronavirus infections, taking the total to 2,106,262 

To date, Germany has immunized 1,401,693 people -- about 1.7% of its population -- according to RKI data. Among those vaccinated were 341,768 residents of nursing homes and around 468,814 medical staff, according to data from the country's federal states. 

Tougher measures: On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to take the spread of the new, more contagious variant of coronavirus ''very seriously''. 

Earlier in the week, Germany extended a nationwide lockdown until February 14, implementing stricter rules, including making FFP2 masks mandatory in public spaces and forcing German companies to allow employees to work from home until mid-March, where possible.

3:05 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

France to require negative Covid test from EU travelers

From CNN's Pierre Bairin in Paris

Starting Sunday, people entering France from other European Union countries must present a negative Covid PCR test taken within 72 hours.

These new rules don’t apply to “essential trips” nor to people who cross the border daily to work in France, or those who work in transport.

The measure was announced in a news release from the office of the Elysée Palace on Friday.

The release also reiterated that France had already imposed stricter measure for travelers from countries outside of EU borders (including the UK), who not only have to present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours but also quarantine for seven days. They must also take a second test at the end of the quarantine period.

3:05 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Sri Lanka reopens borders to international travelers

From CNN Travel's Lilit Marcus

A Sri Lankan airport worker walks inside a terminal at the Katunayake International Airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on January 20.
A Sri Lankan airport worker walks inside a terminal at the Katunayake International Airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on January 20. Eranga Jayawardena/AP

The island nation of Sri Lanka is now open to tourists from all countries.

Sri Lanka Minister of Tourism Prasanna Ranatunga made the official announcement during a news conference on Thursday, confirming they would reopen the country's borders from January 21. Both of the country's international airports reopened on the same day.

"The livelihood of around 3 million people depends on tourism in Sri Lanka," Ranatunga told media. "It is our national responsibility to take into consideration the needs of our citizens that depend on this industry."

As part of efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19, Sri Lanka created a "bio bubble," which will give visitors a relative amount of freedom to travel within the country while still observing safety protocols.

Though there is no minimum time that a visitor must spend in the country, anyone coming from abroad must stay in a government-approved hotel or resort for up to two weeks upon arrival.

Read the full story:

2:15 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

US reports nearly 189,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Joe Sutton in Atlanta

The United States reported 188,952 new coronavirus infections and 3,955 virus-related fatalities on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

According to JHU's tally, the nationwide totals now stand at 24,627,882 cases, including 410,105 deaths.

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

Vaccine numbers: At least 37,960,000 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 17,546,374 shots administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Track US cases: 

2:00 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

India vaccinates more than 1 million healthcare workers in less than a week

From CNN's Esha Mitra in New Delhi

A healthcare worker vaccinates a frontline health worker with the Covishield Covid-19 vaccine in Kolkata, on January 19.
A healthcare worker vaccinates a frontline health worker with the Covishield Covid-19 vaccine in Kolkata, on January 19. Sumit Sanyal/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

India has vaccinated a total of 1,043,534 health care workers so far during the first phase of a nationwide vaccination drive that began on January 16, the country's government announced Friday.

The country plans to vaccinate 10 million health care workers in the first phase of its vaccination program, followed by 20 million frontline workers, before moving onto its second phase of vaccinating 270 million people over the age of 50 or those under 50 with comorbidities. 

"2021 has brought new hope for India," Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan said at a news conference Friday. 

Earlier this month, India approved two vaccines for emergency use -- Astra Zeneca's Covishield vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India, and the India-developed Covaxin vaccine made by Bharat Biotech. India has procured 11 million doses of Covishield and 5.5 million doses of Covaxin for the first phase.

Due to concerns around the use of Covaxin before its third phase trial data has been released, and the below target turnout of beneficiaries in many states, the Indian government on Thursday began an awareness campaign to assuage concerns.

"In such a context those who are spreading misinformation in society about the vaccines, please ignore them, we have to take the vaccine to protect ourselves and our society against Covid," Vardhan added.

India has reported 10,625,428 total cases of coronavirus, including 153,032 deaths, according to the country's Health Ministry.

1:47 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

WHO plans to deliver 600 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to Africa by end of the year

From CNN's Eric Cheung in Hong Kong

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, speaks during a news conference at the European headquarters of the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 1, 2019.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, speaks during a news conference at the European headquarters of the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 1, 2019. Salvatore Di Nolfi/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The World Health Organization is planning to deliver 600 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Africa by the end of the year, a senior official said during a WHO news conference on Thursday.

The delivery will be arranged via the COVAX scheme, and the initial 30 million doses are expected to arrive by March, WHO’s Africa director Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said. 

By the end of the year, the scheme is expected to cover about 20% of the population in African countries, based on two doses per person, she said.

“Health workers and vulnerable people in Africa need urgent access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines," she said. “It is deeply unjust that the most vulnerable Africans are forced to wait for vaccines while lower-risk groups in rich countries are made safe.”

Moeti added that healthcare workers and other high priority groups will be prioritized in the vaccination drive.

1:33 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Vaccinating over 60s is most important for saving lives from Covid, study finds

From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox

A resident receives a Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine from a healthcare worker at The Palace, an independent living community for seniors, at Coral Gables in Miami, on January 12.
A resident receives a Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine from a healthcare worker at The Palace, an independent living community for seniors, at Coral Gables in Miami, on January 12. Eva Marie Uzcategui Trinkl/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Vaccinating the over 60s is the most effective way to cut deaths from coronavirus, researchers reported Thursday. 

A mathematical model looking at various vaccination strategies shows that vaccinating younger adults does more to stop the overall spread of the virus, but immunizing the older groups saves more lives.

“We found that across countries those aged 60 and older should be prioritized to minimize deaths,” the team at the University of Colorado Boulder and the Harvard School of Public Health wrote in their report published in the journal Science.

The models they ran did not include the benefits of vaccinating people with chronic health conditions, who also have a high risk of severe disease and death compared to young healthy people. They also did not consider the current plan of vaccinating frontline health care workers and essential workers first. And they did not include vaccinating children in their modeling.

“The role of children during this pandemic has been unclear. Under our assumptions about susceptibility by age, children are not the major drivers of transmission in communities, consistent with emerging evidence,” they wrote. “Thus, our results differ from the optimal distribution for influenza vaccines, which prioritize school-age children and adults age 30-39.”

The federal government has already asked states to shift to vaccinating people over 65.

1:14 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Shanghai reports first new Covid-19 cases in 2 months

From CNN's Beijing Bureau

People in protective suits cordon off an area around a residential neighborhood in Shanghai's Huangpu district in China, on January 21.
People in protective suits cordon off an area around a residential neighborhood in Shanghai's Huangpu district in China, on January 21. STF/AFP/Getty Images

Shanghai's Huangpu district reported six new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, according to the local health commission, the first infections in the city since November last year.

The first patient tested positive after a regular Covid-19 test for staff at the Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center. 

The second case lives in the same residential compound as the first patient and tested positive during a regular test of medical personnel at the city's Renji Hospital.

Both medical facilities suspended outpatient services, according to notices on their respective social media accounts. Authorities also declared the residential compound where these confirmed cases lived as being a "medium-risk area" on Thursday. 

According to a statement from the Shanghai Health Commission, as of 10 p.m. Thursday, 72 close contacts had been tracked down and tested negative. Some 15,073 relevant personnel have received nucleic acid tests and got negative results.

All close contacts identified have been put under medical observation, and relevant locations where confirmed cases were known to have visited have been notified and disinfected, according to the local health commission.