January 23 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Brett McKeehan and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 12:26 a.m. ET, January 24, 2021
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11:15 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Biden coronavirus advisers confident more vaccine is coming

From CNN’s Nicholas Neville and Maggie Fox

Dr. Vivek Murthy speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 08.
Dr. Vivek Murthy speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 08. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden’s coronavirus advisers are confident more vaccine is coming, Dr. Vivek Murthy, who is the nominee for Surgeon General, said Friday.

The transition team started speaking with companies making the vaccines to try to get an idea of how much supply was really available and how quickly production could be stepped up, Murthy told a webcast sponsored by the US Conference of Mayors.

“We've been deeply involved in conversations with the companies on a very regular basis and those were conversations that, frankly, started even before the election to try to understand just more closely what the supply was, what the challenges were, what the roadblocks were to getting even more supply accelerated, what the potential failure spots would be that we need to look out for and plan for,” Murthy said.

“Those conversations, I think, have given us more confidence that there is more supply coming, and that it will continue to steadily increase over the next few months,” Murthy added.

“And part of what we've talked about also is the importance of making that data as clearly available and transparent so that mayors and the general public can also see a lot of what we're seeing as well, can have some confidence about what the supply looks like over the coming weeks.”

State and local leaders want and need to know, so they can plan, he said.

“One of the most clear pieces of feedback that we got from governors and echoed by mayors as well was that they needed more information on when the supply was coming. They needed more than four or five days notice, that they needed ideally several weeks notice so they can plan accordingly and set up their operations, and we heard that loud and clear,” Murthy said.

“So, I think what you will see in the coming weeks is a greater focus on that transparency around supply so that you have a better sense of what we're seeing, and also so that you have a sense of what supply also will be coming to your state over the coming weeks. “

10:19 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Panama confirms first case of Covid-19 variant detected in South Africa

From CNN's Kiarinna Parisi  

The first positive case of the Covid-19 variant detected in South Africa has been confirmed in Panama, Ministry of Health officials announced in a statement Friday. 

"This is a 40-year-old passenger, born in Zimbabwe, who entered the country on January 5 from South Africa and had previously made a stop over in the Netherlands before arriving in Panama," the statement said.

After testing positive, the patient was kept in isolation, complying with Panama's protocol, according to the Ministry of Health.

To date, Panama has registered at least 4,944 deaths related to Covid-19 and about 305,752 confirmed cases.

11:11 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

UK coronavirus variant may be linked to "higher degree of mortality," Boris Johnson says

From CNN's Nada Bashir, Samira Said and Michael Nedelman

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a virtual press conference on Covid-19 at 10 Downing Street in London, on January 22.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a virtual press conference on Covid-19 at 10 Downing Street in London, on January 22. Leon Neal/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The coronavirus variant first identified in the UK “may be associated with a higher degree of mortality” in infected patients, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday during a news briefing at Downing Street.

“I must tell you this afternoon that we’ve been informed today that, in addition to spreading more quickly, it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant – the variant that was first identified in London and the South East – may be associated with a higher degree of mortality,” Johnson said. 

Researchers are still looking at the data and there is still a lot of uncertainty.

Patrick Vallance, the UK government's chief scientific adviser, said it looks like the variant is more deadly when looking at the total population that becomes infected.

"If you took somebody in their 60s — a man in their 60s — the average risk is that for 1,000 people who got infected, roughly 10 would be expected to, unfortunately, die with the virus. With the new variant, for 1,000 people infected, roughly 13 or 14 people might be expected to die," he said.

Vallance said the increase in risk would affect all age groups.

This evidence comes from several groups in the UK that found an increased risk of death for people infected with the variant compared to people infected with other forms of the coronavirus. In four analyses cited by a government advisory group, these estimates ranged between roughly 1.3 and 1.9 times higher risk of death. At least one analysis among hospitalized patients did not.

The advisory group, known as NERVTAG, concluded there is a “realistic possibility” that variant is linked to a higher risk of death. However, the researchers said the absolute risk of death for an individual remains low, and more data will be needed to provide definitive proof. For example, in some cases the data came from less than 10% of all deaths reported.

Vallance stressed that "there's a lot of uncertainty around these numbers and we need more work to get a precise handle on it. But it obviously is of concern that this has an increase in mortality, as well as an increase in transmissibility, as it appears of today."

He noted that when it comes to patients who are hospitalized with Covid-19, there is not an increased risk of mortality.

“When we look at data from hospitals, so patients who are in hospital with the virus, the outcomes for those with the original virus or the new variant look the same,” he said.

UK Prime Minister Johnson said "both the vaccines we’re currently using remain effective both against the old variant and this new variant."