January 27 coronavirus news

By Zahid Mahmood, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton and Hannah Strange, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021
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8:28 a.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Here's how to safely reopen schools, according to a vaccine expert

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

A closed public school is pictured in New Orleans, Louisiana, on January 5.
A closed public school is pictured in New Orleans, Louisiana, on January 5. Lan Wei/Xinhua/Getty Images

Dr. Paul Offit says he doesn’t think the US needs "to wait for vaccination” to get public schools back open.

“I think we have to be able to provide a mechanism whereby we can get those kids back into a public school setting where it can be done safely. It may require more money for those schools, but I definitely think we need to do it,” Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said on CNN’s “New Day.” 

Experts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that with the right mitigation measures, there is a path to low-risk, in-person learning. In a paper published Tuesday, researchers noted that the kind of spread seen in crowded offices and long-term care facilities has not been reported in schools.

Offit, a member of the FDA Vaccine Advisory Committee, outlined strategies that school can implement.

“You try to have smaller classroom sizes, so-called pods. It's the teachers who move from one class to the other, not the students, so that you don't have these crowded hallways. You try to separate the desks as much as possible, you don't eat in a cafeteria … so you're not all sitting together with your masks off. There are a number of strategies that can be done,” he said. 

Offit added that he doesn’t think the Covid-19 variants play a role in reopening schools. 

9:03 a.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Beijing tightens Covid-19 restrictions for arrivals to city ahead of Chinese Lunar New Year

From CNN's Beijing bureau

Motorists travel along street decorated for the Chinese New Year in Beijing, China, on January 26.
Motorists travel along street decorated for the Chinese New Year in Beijing, China, on January 26. Yan Cong/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Beijing's municipal government has announced new measures for anyone entering the Chinese capital, aimed at curbing the spread of the virus during the Chinese Lunar New Year, otherwise known as the Spring Festival.

On Wednesday, spokesperson Xu Heijan said that from Thursday until March 15, anyone coming to Beijing from "low-risk areas in China" must show negative Covid-19 test results within seven days of arriving. The festival is celebrated in mid February.

On arrival, visitors must undergo 14 days of "health monitoring" and get tested on the seventh and fourteenth days of their stay. 

"Those who don’t plan on staying for more than 14 days in Beijing need to fulfill the health monitoring and nucleic test requirements based on the actual number of days they are in Beijing," Xu added.

During the "health monitoring" period, people can work and travel but cannot participate in group activities or gatherings. 

The new restrictions will be implemented "in order to minimize the risk of the spread of the virus caused by massive migration of people around the Spring Festival and to ensure that the citizens enjoy a happy and peaceful holiday," Xu said.

Some background: According to data from John Hopkins University, the total number of coronavirus cases in China currently stands at 99,605 since the start of the pandemic, with 4,811 deaths.

9:03 a.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Two hospitals in German state of Bavaria self-quarantine after tests indicate UK variant

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz and Claudia Otto

Medical staff walk towards the main entrance of a hospital in Bayreuth, Germany, on January 26.
Medical staff walk towards the main entrance of a hospital in Bayreuth, Germany, on January 26. Nicolas Armer/dpa/picture alliance/Getty Images

Two hospitals in the German state of Bavaria have started self-quarantining on Wednesday after preliminary tests showed 11 people connected to the facilities were potentially carrying the UK coronavirus variant B1.1.7.

The two hospitals -- the Klinikum Bayreuth and Krankenhaus Hohe Warte -- located in the town of Bayreuth, east of Frankfurt, have stopped admitting new patients except those in a very serious condition.

Frank Schmälzle, head of press and public relations at the Klinikum Bayreuth, told CNN that a total of 3,300 staff from both hospitals are only allowed to commute between the facilities and their homes during the quarantine period.

Schmälzle said a total of 560 patients were being treated across both hospitals.

Professor Juergen Duner, chief medical officer at the laboratory Becker & Kollegen, meanwhile told CNN that there was a rise in the new coronavirus mutations B1.1.7 and B1.351 in the area of Munich, the Bavarian state capital.

“In less than three weeks, the proportion of variants in infections has risen sharply from 0.2 percent to 7 percent," Duner said.
"That in itself is a clear sign that the new variants are currently spreading very quickly.”

Some background: 

The move to self-quarantine the two hospitals comes just days after the Vivantes Humboldt-Klinikum hospital in Berlin was placed under quarantine following an outbreak among both patients and staff of the coronavirus variant first detected in the UK. 

On Tuesday, 24 cases of the UK variant were detected at the hospital -- in 13 patients and 11 members of staff, the hospital confirmed.

In a different Berlin hospital, the Klinikum Spandau, two additional cases have been identified in patients. 

7:23 a.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Rich countries jumping the queue for vaccines could leave "much of the world" behind, WHO chief warns

From CNN's Tim Lister

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is pictured at a press conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in July 2020.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is pictured at a press conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in July 2020. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has accused wealthy countries of trying to jump the queue in the distribution of vaccines -- and described equitable distribution around the world as both a moral imperative and essential for ending the pandemic. 

Tedros told a session of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe on Wednesday that "the promise of equitable access is at serious risk." 

"A me-first approach leaves the world's poorest and most vulnerable at risk," he said, and was also self-defeating. "Many countries have bought more vaccine than they need."
"We now face the real danger that even as vaccines bring hope to those in wealthy countries, much of the world could be left behind," Tedros added. 

He said some companies and countries were making bilateral deals in an attempt to jump to the front of the queue. This was driving up prices and meant they were "going round" the COVAX mechanism, a WHO program which purchases vaccines in bulk for distribution to poorer countries.

75% of the doses distributed had been deployed in just ten countries, Tedros said, and it was not right that younger, healthy adults in rich countries could get the vaccine before health workers and older people in poorer countries. 

The emergence of new variants of Covid-19 has made the speedy and equitable roll-out of vaccines even more important, he added.

Some background: Tedros said WHO's COVAX program had secured contracts for two billion doses from five producers this year and has options for a further one billion doses into next year. The first deliveries of doses bought through the program should be made next month, he said.

However, Tedros continued, the WHO still needed funds to complete the purchases contracted for this year. COVAX needs access to those doses soon, not the "leftovers in many months from now," he said.

Read more on rich countries snapping up Covid vaccines supply here

6:49 a.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Germans mark a grim year since coronavirus first struck

From Stephanie Halasz and Claudia Otto

Workers return to a medical practice after taking Covid-19 samples in Berlin, Germany, on March 27, 2020.
Workers return to a medical practice after taking Covid-19 samples in Berlin, Germany, on March 27, 2020. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

One year ago today, the first person was diagnosed with coronavirus in Germany at a Bavarian company, as German Health Minister Jens Spahn warned the country was at the "beginning of a coronavirus epidemic."

Spahn provided assurance that Germany was well equipped to tackle the virus with large amounts of hospital space and warned against unnecessary panic saying "not every cough is a case of coronavirus."

Germans were warned by Chancellor Angela Merkel that the country would enter into its first national lockdown on March 22 while cases and deaths were still low. She added that Germany should expect restrictions like they have "never seen them before."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the nation via a video statement about the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic on March 18, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the nation via a video statement about the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic on March 18, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Handout/Steffen Kugler/German Government Press Office/Getty Images

As people were urged to stay at home, the data showed cases and mortality rates slowing down, leading Merkel to say in May, the first phase of the pandemic was behind them.

We're at a point where we can say we've achieved the goal of slowing the spread and keeping the health care system from being overwhelmed," Merkel said.

But as Germany started to open up and travel restrictions were lifted, a second wave of coronavirus quickly grew, leading Merkel to warn that another -- lighter -- lockdown was to come. Experiencing lockdown fatigue, social distancing became less of a priority and the country battled higher infections and death rates.

People are seen in Cologne's city center during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on October 31, 2020.
People are seen in Cologne's city center during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on October 31, 2020. Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

On Wednesday, Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Soeder marked the grim anniversary, telling CNN’s German affiliate they could now identify and isolate the patients effectively. He warned though that the virus was still spreading “at great speed.”

Some background:

  • Germany's health agency said there'd been 13,202 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of infections to 2,161,279.
  • According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), 982 people died of the disease in the same period, bringing the country's death toll to 53,972.
  • Since the start of Germany's vaccine rollout, 1,638,425 first doses have been administered and 283,264 people have received a second dose, according to RKI.

5:38 a.m. ET, January 27, 2021

French drugmaker to produce 125 million BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine doses for the EU

From CNN's Chris Liakos

The logo of French drug maker Sanofi is pictured at the company's headquarters in Paris on November 30, 2020.
The logo of French drug maker Sanofi is pictured at the company's headquarters in Paris on November 30, 2020. Thibault Camus/AP

French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi has entered an agreement with BioNTech to help produce more than 125 million doses of the German biotech company's coronavirus vaccine for the European Union, according to a statement released on Wednesday.

The statement said production of the shots would begin later this year in the summer period at the Sanofi plant in Frankfurt.

"We are very conscious that the earlier vaccine doses are available, the more lives can potentially be saved," Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson said in the statement.
"Although vaccination campaigns have started around the world, the ability to get shots into arms is being limited by lower than expected supplies and delayed approval timelines owing to production shortages.
"We have made the decision to support BioNTech and Pfizer in manufacturing their COVID-19 vaccine in order to help address global needs, given that we have the technology and facilities to do so. As always, our top priority is to focus our efforts and capabilities on fighting this global pandemic. First and foremost, we will do this by continuing to develop our own COVID-19 vaccines candidates, in parallel with this industrial cooperation."

Sanofi scientists are also developing two vaccine candidates to help prevent and control Covid-19. One, with Britain's GlaxoSmithKline, has been delayed until later this year after it showed an insufficient immune response in the elderly, but according to Sanofi phase two trials with an improved formulation are set to start in February.

Another vaccine the company are working on is with the U.S. firm Translate Bio which uses mRNA technology, similar to Pfizer/BioNTech. Phase one trials are expected to start this quarter.

Some background:

  • The European Union has been widely criticized for the slow rollout of its vaccination program.
  • The bloc is calling out vaccine makers AstraZeneca and Pfizer over supply problems and delays that could hinder its recovery from the pandemic.
  • EU officials have threatened to introduce export controls on doses as anger mounts.

Read more about criticism of the vaccine delays here

5:05 a.m. ET, January 27, 2021

January has been the deadliest month for Covid-19 deaths in the US

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

January has already become the worst month for US Covid-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

As of Tuesday, there have been more than 79,000 coronavirus fatalities this month, topping the previous record set in December by more than a thousand, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The grim milestone underpins the growing demand from state officials for more vaccines so that Americans can be inoculated more quickly.       

President Joe Biden has pushed for 100 million vaccination shots in the first 100 days of his presidency, but with a long road ahead for vaccinations, he also called for 100 days of mask-wearing.

"The brutal truth is it's going to take months before we can get the majority of Americans vaccinated. Months. In the next few months, masks, not vaccines, are the best defense against Covid-19," Biden said while announcing the federal government would buy and distribute more vaccine doses from Moderna and Pfizer.

With those additional doses, Biden said there would be enough to fully vaccinate 300 million Americans -- nearly the entire US population -- by the end of summer or early fall.

Read the full story:

4:45 a.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Nearly 300 Covid-19 cases in South Korea linked to unauthorized religious school

From CNN's Gawon Bae in Seoul

At least 297 Covid-19 cases as of Tuesday have been linked to an unauthorized religious school run by a missionary group in South Korea's Daejeon city.

Senior Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho said during a briefing that the cases have been reported out of six ​facilities connected to the school.

Authorities are ​inspecting 32 out of 40 operating facilities run by the missionary group, Tae-ho added, and have issued guidelines to help local governments deal with unaccredited religion-based educational facilities.

New cases: South Korea recorded 559 daily new Covid-19 on Tuesday, 516 of which are locally transmitted cases, according to a press release by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) on Wednesday.

The country's tally now stands at 76,429, including 1,378 deaths.

4:38 a.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Bill and Melinda Gates: pandemic has unleashed a future of "immunity inequality"

From CNN Health's Andrea Diaz

It’s not too soon to start thinking about how the world should respond to the next pandemic, even as the current one rages on, according to Bill and Melinda Gates.

In the couple's annual letter released Wednesday, they say that the coronavirus pandemic’s disproportionate impact on people of color and women has a domino effect on communities. 

"Bill and I are deeply concerned, though, that in addition to shining a light on so many old injustices, the pandemic will unleash a new one: immunity inequality, a future where the wealthiest people have access to a COVID‐19 vaccine, while the rest of the world doesn’t," Melinda writes.

The Gates Foundation has invested $1.75 billion in the fight against coronavirus, and most of that funding has gone toward producing and procuring medical supplies, including backing researchers who develop new treatments, and working with partners to ensure safe transport of these drugs and vaccines to poorer parts of the world. 

"From the beginning of the pandemic, we have urged wealthy nations to remember that COVID‐19 anywhere is a threat everywhere. Until vaccines reach everyone, new clusters of disease will keep popping up. Those clusters will grow and spread. Schools and offices will shut down again. The cycle of inequality will continue. Everything depends on whether the world comes together to ensure that the lifesaving science developed in 2020 saves as many lives as possible in 2021."

The Gates say their foundation has partnered with historically Black colleges and universities to expand diagnostic testing capacity on their campuses, to help meet the demand for local community testing as inequalities grow, as well as helping partners understand the virus' impact on pregnant women and babies, so they continue to receive essential health services. 

"The unfortunate reality is that COVID‐19 might not be the last pandemic ...To prevent the hardship of this last year from happening again, pandemic preparedness must be taken as seriously as we take the threat of war," Bill writes.