January 28 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Zahid Mahmood and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, January 29, 2021
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2:31 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

WHO team investigating Covid-19 origins leaves quarantine hotel in Wuhan

From CNN's James Griffiths in Hong Kong

Members of the World Health Organization team investigating the origins of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic leave The Jade Hotel on a bus after completing their quarantine in Wuhan, China on January 28.
Members of the World Health Organization team investigating the origins of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic leave The Jade Hotel on a bus after completing their quarantine in Wuhan, China on January 28. Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

A team of World Health Organization scientists investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic left their hotel in Wuhan Thursday after completing a two-week quarantine in the central Chinese city.

The 13 team members could be seen on a live television feed walking out of the hotel wearing face masks and boarding a bus, onto which their luggage had been loaded earlier by workers in hazmat suits. The team was waved on its way by hotel staff and Chinese officials.

They will now begin a highly awaited investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019. Speaking to CNN Wednesday, Dutch virologist and team member Marion Koopmans said the “eyes of the world are focused on this, the opinions of the world are focused on this.”

“We are aware of it, there is no way around that. That’s why we really try to keep focused, we are scientists, we are not politicians, we are trying to really look at this from the scientific perspective,” she said.

Part of that involves abandoning all preconceived notions about how the virus evolved and spread, to look at what the evidence says, and go from there, Koopmans said. The team has spent the past two weeks in video calls with each other and Chinese scientists, “discussing what we know, what we don’t know.”

Demand for answers will be great, especially after the investigation itself was delayed several times, but Koopmans cautioned patience.

“I think we really have to manage expectations, if you look at some of the earlier quests for the origins of outbreaks, they have taken years to complete,” she said. “The early and relatively easy studies have been done, have already been published.”

2:14 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Thailand arrests 89 foreigners for violating Covid-19 rules

From CNN's Kocha Olarn in Bangkok

Thai police arrested 89 foreigners on suspicion of breaching coronavirus restrictions after raiding a party at a bar on a popular resort island in southern Thailand, police told CNN on Thursday. 

Police said 22 Thais were also detained in the raid Tuesday night at 360 Bar on Koh Phangan.

Attendants and organizers of the party are facing charges of violating an emergency decree which was put in place last March to combat the coronavirus. Most of them have been released on bail, and only 28 are still being detained, said Police Col. Panya Nirattimanon, chief of Koh Phangan provincial police station.

Among the foreigners arrested were 20 French, 10 Americans and six Britons. All of the arrested were swabbed by local health authorities and found negative for Covid-19, Nirattimanon said. 

“They are stranded tourists who can't leave Thailand due to Covid,” Nirattimanon said. “They may think it is OK to gather in large groups and I think they may want to relax and have some fun.”

The maximum penalty for violating the emergency decrease is two years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 40,000 baht ($1,330). The organizers are facing an additional charge of serving alcohol as this area in Thailand is banned from serving alcohol inside restaurants under the emergency law.

2:01 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Colombia suspends flights with Brazil over new strain of Covid-19

From CNN’s Stefano Pozzebon in Bogota, Colombia

Colombia will suspend passenger flights to and from Brazil starting on Friday, Colombia’s Health Minister Fernando Ruiz announced Wednesday. 

“We are going to keep this measure in place for a preliminary period of 30 days,” Ruiz said, adding the suspension was an effort to contain the spread of a new strain of Covid-19 first spotted in Brazil. 

While Colombia has reported more cases in January than in any other month since the start of the pandemic, it has not officially reported any cases caused by new variants of the virus.

1:40 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

FedEx will delay relocating Hong Kong crews to San Francisco until quarantine rule officially announced

From CNN’s Ivan Watson in Hong Kong

A FedEx airliner is seen at Hong Kong International Airport on February 26, 2019.
A FedEx airliner is seen at Hong Kong International Airport on February 26, 2019. Alexander Shcherbak/TASS/Getty Images

FedEx will delay temporarily relocating Hong Kong-based crew members to the San Francisco Bay Area until an implementation date of a 14-day hotel quarantine requirement for local crews is officially announced by the Hong Kong government, according to a memo dated Thursday seen by CNN.

Crew members and their families who would like to transition to the United States prior to the implementation date will be able to do so, the company added in its latest memo. 

According to another memo seen earlier by CNN, FedEx believes the extended quarantine requirement for Hong Kong-based pilots is “likely with no exceptions."

If the rules come into effect, Hong Kong-based crew members and their families could be relocated as soon as February 1, with the company covering out-of-pocket expenses and providing lodging. 

An employee at FedEx, who asked not to be identified due to a lack of authorization to speak to the media, estimated the move affects around 180 Hong Kong-based FedEx pilots.

“While we don’t know what the rule will state, when it will precisely take effect, or how long it will last, we do not want unknowns to prevent us from taking action based on what we understand may likely occur,” the company said in the memo.

The company said the new requirement would deprive Hong Kong-based crew members of the ability to go home and see their families if their next trip was within 14 days. “We do not believe it is appropriate to subject HKG crew members to these extended periods of isolation,” the company said in the memo.

FedEx said in another memo seen by CNN that it expects an announcement will likely be issued this week and the quarantine requirement could go into effect on or shortly before February 12. 

This post has been updated with details of the latest FedEx memo seen by CNN.

1:30 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

US reports more than 152,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Joe Sutton in Atlanta

The United States reported 152,478 new coronavirus infections and 3,943 virus-related deaths on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

JHU's tally now shows a total of 25,598,061 cases nationwide, including 429,195 fatalities.

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

Vaccines: At least 47,230,950 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 24,652,634 shots administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Track US cases here.

12:53 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Washington restricts Covid-19 mass vaccination sites to people who live or work in state

From CNN’s Andy Rose

The Washington Department of Health says only people who live or work in the state will be allowed to use one of their mass vaccination sites.

In a written statement, the department says the policy exists “given the limited supply of vaccine that is available at this time and our state’s commitment to equitable and fair access to vaccine.”

The state runs mass vaccination sites in four communities: Ridgefield, Spokane, Kennewick, and Wenatchee.

The Department of Health says people will not be turned away due to their immigration status but must have a document which proves they either live or work in Washington when they come for a vaccination. The document will be checked by workers but will not be kept on file in order to maintain privacy.

The policy does not affect vaccine doses distributed at other locations in the state.

12:30 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

WHO team prepare to leave Wuhan quarantine and start investigating origin of Covid-19

From CNN's Sandi Sidhu in Hong Kong

A team of international World Health Organization (WHO) investigators will finish hotel quarantine on Thursday, according to Chinese state media outlet CGTN.

CGTN reports that the expert panel will conduct scientific research with local experts, after completing their 14-day quarantine in a Wuhan hotel. 

"The two sides will soon conduct joint fieldwork," the state media report said. 

Dr. Peter Daszak, a British scientist based in New York, tweeted on Thursday that he is "Moving into next phase of work now w/ @WHO mission team & China counterparts."

Professor Marion Koopman from the Netherlands told CNN on Wednesday that the international panel had conducted Zoom meetings during quarantine with Chinese scientists who have been studying the origin of the virus since the outbreak. 

The 13-member WHO expert panel arrived in China on January 14, with another two experts delayed from entering after testing positive for coronavirus antibodies.

CNN has reached out to WHO for an update. 

12:14 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Pulling off Tokyo 2020 will be a logistical nightmare ... and the clock is ticking

From CNN's Selina Wang and Joshua Berlinger

UFC had "fight island." The NBA had "the bubble."

Tokyo 2020 may need a miracle.

After the Covid-19 pandemic forced organizers to delay the Summer Olympics last year, the Games are now are set to begin in less than six months on July 23, and major questions remain as to how Japan plans to pull off what could prove to be the most complex sporting event ever held -- one involving more than 11,000 athletes from more than 200 countries who must be kept safe from a virus that has infected 100 million people and killed more than 2 million.

On Wednesday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach vowed that the event would go ahead.

"Our task is to organize Olympic Games and not to cancel Olympic Games," he said, adding that the IOC is working "day and night" to host a safe event.

It may just be doable. The UFC and the NBA proved last year that it's possible to safely hold a major sporting event during the pandemic, as long as those involved are willing to make some sacrifices and get creative. UFC moved all its fights to an island in Abu Dhabi, while the NBA finished its 2019-2020 season at a campus in Disneyland with stringent rules to keep the virus out. Both proved successful, but those two events pale in comparison to the Summer Olympics in terms of sheer size and complexity.

Read the full story:

12:07 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Watch the entire CNN coronavirus town hall

From CNN's Caroline Baxendale

CNN's Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosted a global town hall to discuss the coronavirus pandemic with Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and Chair of the Covid-19 health equity task force Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith.

The discussion ranged from vaccine rollout and supply issues to the effort to vaccinate those in communities of color and included a warning from the CDC director against all forms of non-essential travel.

Watch the full event here: