January 26 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, January 27, 2021
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7:32 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

The UK virus variant appears to be growing in Belgium

From CNNs James Frater in London

Preliminary estimates indicate the coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom now accounts for between 10 to 20% of new infections in Belgium, officials there say.

Steven Van Gucht, head of Viral Diseases of Sciensano, the Belgian Health Authority, said officials had been seeing more cases of the B.1.1.7 variant during a Tuesday news conference in Brussels.

"Since the beginning of January we have also seen more and more infections with the British variant, from preliminary estimates up to and including 23 January, about 10 to 20% of the infections. However, there is still a great deal of uncertainty on these figures," Van Gucht said.

Some background: Belgium’s borders will close to all but essential travelers for five weeks from Wednesday, Prime Minister Alexander de Croo announced Friday, stressing that the country must “put up a barrier” against the spread of coronavirus. 

“From January 27 there will be a temporary ban on recreational and tourist travel, this applies to trips from our country as well,” de Croo said. 

“We are not building a wall around our country… we realize that these are very drastic measures, but we have seen in recent weeks that when people travel, that the virus grows,” he added. 

Under the new measures, all travelers from the United Kingdom, South Africa and South America will be required to self-isolate for 10 days, and must take a coronavirus test on their first and seventh day of quarantine.

“Non-Belgian nationals who enter our country, for example for professional reasons, must be able to show a double test, a negative PCR test before departure and a negative PCR test on arrival,” the Prime Minister outlined.

7:19 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Vaccine companies must honor their obligations, European Commission President says

From CNN’s Chris Liakos in Paris

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Covid-19 vaccine firms must deliver on their promises during a special address at this year’s virtual Davos.

Europe invested billions to help develop the world’s first Covid-19 vaccines, to create a truly global common good. And now the companies must deliver. They must honor their obligations,” she said.

Von der Leyen said that the European Union has helped investing large sums to build research capacities and production facilities early and this is why it will set up a vaccine export transparency mechanism.

She added that the bloc is determined to contribute to the vaccine effort but that “it also means business.”

Vaccine supply has become a key focus in recent days with EU officials Monday accusing manufacturer AstraZeneca of providing a "lack of clarity."

The drugmaker said in a statement Friday that “while there is no scheduled delay to the start of shipments of our vaccine should we receive approval in Europe, initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain.” 

7:14 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Colombian defense minister dies from Covid-19

From CNN's Gerardo Lemos, Fernando Ramos, Alessandra Castelli and Claudia Rebaza

Colombian Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo at a news conference in Bogota, Colombia, in October 2020.
Colombian Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo at a news conference in Bogota, Colombia, in October 2020. Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images

Colombian Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo died on Tuesday after being diagnosed with Covid-19, his brother Jose Renan Trujillo said on Twitter. 

"It is with deep sorrow that I report the news of my brother’s passing. He fought for his convictions and died defending them,” Trujillo wrote.

The 69-year-old minister was admitted to the military hospital in Bogota on January 18 after being diagnosed with the coronavirus six days earlier. 

He was being treated in the intensive care unit for Covid-19-related complications, according to a government statement. 

Colombian President Ivan Duque put Luis Fernando Navarro, a military commander, in charge of the country's defense ministry a few days ago.

Colombia has reported 2,027,746 coronavirus cases to date, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

7:03 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Chinese woman receives one-year suspended sentence after flying from US with Covid symptoms

From CNN's Beijing bureau

A Chinese woman received a one-year suspended sentence for flying from the US to China in March last year while showing Covid-19 symptoms.

The woman, identified as Li Jie in court documents, is a resident of Massachusetts, and her family had been living and working in the US, according to Beijing's Shunyi District court. In early March 2020, the woman showed signs of fever, fatigue, and other Covid-19 symptoms and got tested for the virus on March 11.
Before the test result came out, the woman returned to China from Boston with her family.

"In order to board the plane, Li Jie took febrifuge to lower her body temperature before boarding, and passed the body temperature checks," the district court verdict said. "After boarding, when the flight required passengers to declare fever and other uncomfortable symptoms, Li Jie did not declare and did not truthfully answer the crew's inquiries about physical condition, contact history, and accompanying personnel."

Before the plane landed, the woman admitted her real condition to the flight crew. 

She and her family landed in Beijing on March 13 and she was immediately sent to the hospital for treatment, where she was diagnosed with Covid-19. She and 63 of her close contacts were quarantined, the court added.

Beijing police later launched a criminal investigation and Shunyi District Court ordered a one-year suspended sentence Tuesday for "the crime of obstructing the prevention and control of infectious diseases."

6:42 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

New quarantine rules for UK arrivals expected

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy in London and Sharon Braithwaite in Pisa, Italy

People pass through the international arrivals area at Heathrow Airport in London, on January 26.
People pass through the international arrivals area at Heathrow Airport in London, on January 26. Matt Dunham/AP

The UK is set to make an announcement later Tuesday regarding the use of hotel quarantine, according to vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi.

Travel to and from the UK has been largely limited since the country suspended its travel corridors on January 18. British media reports the UK government might impose a hotel quarantine on travelers coming from certain countries with known new variants.

Zahawi called hotel quarantine measures "the right thing to do" as the UK "vaccinates more of our population." He warned that the country needs "to be very careful" about imports of the Brazilian and South African variant.

Zahawi also addressed UK vacationers, saying it was "far too early" to "even speculate about the summer," adding that "there's still 37,000 people in hospital with Covid at the moment."

Some background: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday the idea of using hotels for UK arrivals for 10 days was “definitely” being “looked at.”

Speaking from a vaccination center in London, Johnson said: “We want to make sure that we protect our population, protect this country against reinfection from abroad. That idea of looking at hotels is certainly one thing we're actively now working on.” 

“We have to realize there is at least the theoretical risk of a new variant that is a vaccine-busting variant coming in, we've got to be able to keep that under control,” he added.

Quarantine hotels have been used as a pandemic control measure in several countries, including Australia.

The UK reported 22,195 new Covid-19 infections and 592 new deaths within 28 days of a positive test on Monday.

The total number of people in the UK who have died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test stands at 98,531, the highest death toll in Europe.

According to government data, 6,573,570 people have received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, whilst 470,478 people have received the second dose.

6:23 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

West Virginia has vaccinated people at nearly double the national US rate

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

More than 9% of people in the US state of West Virginia have received at least their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to data published Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationally, that number stands at less than 6%.

"We continue to lead the nation," Gov. Jim Justice said in a news conference Monday.

The governor's announcement comes amid continued struggles with vaccine rollouts across the US. States are still working to ramp up their administrations with the help of mass vaccination sites and volunteer vaccinators, while others say they're running out of supply and have appealed to the federal government for more doses.

West Virginia is second in the nation in terms of vaccines administered per capita and share of distributed doses that have been administered, according to CDC data, and has often led the nation in these metrics. The state has so far administered about 106% of the doses it has officially received, Justice said.

Read the full story here:

6:01 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Dutch police arrest more than 180 after third night of violent anti-curfew protests

From CNN’s Mick Krever in London

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire in Rotterdam on January 25, after a wave of riots in the Netherlands in response to a coronavirus curfew introduced over the weekend.
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire in Rotterdam on January 25, after a wave of riots in the Netherlands in response to a coronavirus curfew introduced over the weekend. Marco de Swart/ANP/AFP/Getty Images

Police in the Netherlands arrested 184 rioters nationwide on Monday night, according to the country's national broadcaster NOS.

Some of the fiercest clashes with police were in Rotterdam, where officers said 50 arrests were made. Police said in a statement Tuesday that a group of youths started gathering in south Rotterdam around 7:30 p.m. on Monday, and eventually totaled several hundred.

“Agents were bombarded with stones and fireworks, and the rioters were also destructive, looting various stores and committing arson,” according to police. Riot police deployed a water cannon, tear gas, and at one point an agent fired a “warning shot” after being “cornered by a number of rioters.”

It was the third night of confrontation with police in the Netherlands. A national, nightly curfew designed to reduce social contact came into effect in the country on Saturday. It runs from 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m.

Protesters clash with anti-riot police officers during a demonstration against coronavirus restrictions in Eindhoven on January 24.
Protesters clash with anti-riot police officers during a demonstration against coronavirus restrictions in Eindhoven on January 24. Rob Engelaar/ANP/AFP/Getty Images

Several cities -- included Eindhoven, Nijmegen, and Roosendaal -- had instituted emergency orders on Monday to prevent people from entering city centers. The rules meant that no one was allowed to be in central areas between 5 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. without a legitimate reason. Ahead of Monday's demonstrations, Eindhoven municipality had tweeted a warning to residents that the city center had been declared "a safety risk area" and that police were "prepared and strict."

National police said earlier Monday that at least 250 were arrested at sometimes violent anti-lockdown protests on Sunday. Police had also used water cannon, dogs and riot police on horseback to disperse the protesters at those incidents.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks to the press about the curfew at the Ministry of General Affairs in the Hague, the Netherlands, on January 25.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks to the press about the curfew at the Ministry of General Affairs in the Hague, the Netherlands, on January 25. Lex van Lieshout/ANP/AFP/Getty Images

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Monday condemned the violence of anti-lockdown demonstrators over the weekend, calling their behavior “unacceptable.”

"Any normal person can only see this with horror. What are these people thinking?” Rutte said, as quoted by the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

Rutte added that 99% of people in the country are sticking to the curfew.

5:25 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

German health minister calls for Europe's fair share of AstraZeneca vaccine

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz and James Frater in London

German Health Minister Jens Spahn speaks during a press conference on January 22, in Berlin, Germany.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn speaks during a press conference on January 22, in Berlin, Germany. Andreas Gora/Pool/Getty Images

German Health Minister Jens Spahn is throwing his support behind a possible export limit for vaccines manufactured within the European Union amid a growing row with AstraZeneca over a shortfall in supply to the bloc.

The EU was informed by AstraZeneca last week that vaccine deliveries to member states -- pending authorization -- would not arrive before the end of the first quarter of 2021, as originally forecast.

Spahn, speaking on German public broadcaster ZDF, said: “I can understand if during a complex production issue, there are production problems, but then everyone has to be affected fair and equal."

He continued that his position was not about putting the "EU first" but about making sure that Europe is getting its fair share.

"In my view [it] makes sense that we have an export limit, meaning that vaccines which leave the European Union, have a license so that we know what is being produced, what is leaving Europe, where it is leaving so that there is a fair distribution.”

Separately, European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides called for greater transparency regarding vaccine export from the European Union.

“We want clarity on transactions and full transparency concerning the export of vaccines from the EU," she tweeted late Monday. "In the future, all companies producing vaccines against covid-19 in the EU will have to provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries. Humanitarian deliveries are of course not affected by this."

Earlier on Monday, Kyriakides said the pharmaceutical giant’s delays were “not acceptable.” 

“The European Union has pre-financed the development of the vaccine and its production and wants to see the return,” she also said, adding that the bloc wants to know how many doses the company has produced, and who they’ve been sold to. 

The AstraZeneca vaccine -- which has already been approved for emergency use by a number of countries including the UK and Brazil -- has been under review by the European Medicines Agency since January 12. The bloc has already fast-tracked the reviews for the Pfizer/BioNTech shot as well as the Moderna vaccine and both have been authorized for use.

4:28 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Analysis: Xi Jinping touts coronavirus cooperation as China persists with vaccine disinformation push

Analysis from CNN's James Griffiths

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a special address to the World Economic Forum on January 25.
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a special address to the World Economic Forum on January 25. Chine Nouvelle/Sipa/Shutterstock

Addressing the world's economic elite in Davos on Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that "containing the coronavirus is the most pressing task for the international community."

In a speech to the World Economic Forum, Xi called for "closer solidarity and cooperation, more information sharing, and a stronger global response," as well as "international cooperation on Covid vaccines."

China has been praised for its "vaccine diplomacy," promising shots to developing countries and investing in vaccine candidates that do not require expensive cold storage to be effective. But as questions have been raised over the effectiveness of one of those vaccines, the country's state media has reacted aggressively, targeting not just critics but also other vaccines, in an apparent effort to tear down their reputation in the name of defending the Chinese shots.

Along with hyping reports of deaths allegedly related to vaccines -- a dangerous game that could undermine not only confidence in the Pfizer and Moderna candidates targeted by Chinese media, but all coronavirus shots -- China's propaganda organs have also pushed alternate theories about the origins of the pandemic itself, including a long-debunked claim that it began in a US army lab.

"If the United States truly respects facts, it should open the biological lab at Fort Detrick (and) give more transparency to issues like its 200-plus overseas bio-labs," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said last week, adding that the US should invite World Health Organization (WHO) investigators "to conduct origin-tracing" as they are in China.

The leading US military germ lab, Fort Detrick briefly became a trending topic on Chinese social media after Hua's comments, which were heavily promoted online by the Communist Youth League, among other Party and state-backed accounts. Previously, Chinese officials have suggested -- without evidence -- that even if the pandemic did originate in Wuhan, the coronavirus could have been brought to the city by US soldiers taking part in the Military World Games in October 2019.

Beijing has also pushed the idea that the virus could have entered the country on frozen food or other goods, despite most outside researchers disputing claims that it could be easily spread this way.

Read the full analysis: