February 1 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton and Kara Fox, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021
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11:32 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Dr. Fauci: To stop the spread, we need to vaccinate people "as quickly and expeditiously as possible"

White House/CNN
White House/CNN

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the President, stressed to people across the US, "when the vaccine becomes available to you, please get vaccinated."

Speaking during a White House Covid briefing on Monday, Fauci said that the best way to fight the new variants that are spreading is to get people vaccinated "as quickly and expeditiously as possible throughout the country." 

He continued: "And the reason for that is that there is a fact that permeates virology and that is that viruses cannot mutate if they don't replicate. And if you stop the replication by vaccinating widely and not giving the virus an open playing field to continue to respond to the pressures that you put on it, you will not get mutations."

He added that he believes vaccinating the population as quickly as possible is "going to prevent the emergence of variants here in our country."

11:15 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Italy loosens coronavirus restrictions, with many regions moving into "yellow zones"

From CNN’s Livia Borghese

Visitors take pictures as singers and musicians perform at Rome's landmark Colosseum as it reopens amid an easing of coronavirus restrictions on February 1.
Visitors take pictures as singers and musicians perform at Rome's landmark Colosseum as it reopens amid an easing of coronavirus restrictions on February 1. Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images

Most Italian regions loosened their Covid-19 restriction measures on Monday. The move comes as many of the country’s European neighbors, such as France, are tightening their measures.

All but five of Italy’s 20 regions are now in the “yellow zone,” the lightest of a three-tier system of restrictions – ranked from yellow to red – aimed at stopping the spread of the virus, following the latest order from the Health Ministry published Friday. 

In the “yellow zones” people are allowed to be served at tables in restaurant and bars until 6 p.m. local time. Museums can open during weekdays and high school students can go back to school with a mix of in person and online learning.

On Sunday, Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza stressed that Italy “still needs the utmost caution” and that becoming a “yellow zone does not mean a narrow escape.” Nevertheless, crowds were reported shopping in many city streets on Sunday. 

The leader of the opposition far-right League party, Matteo Salvini, justified the crowds. “People can't take it anymore… they start getting angry,” he said in an interview with a local TV station on Monday morning. “Don't blame the citizens if they take a walk,” Salvini added. 

On Sunday, Italy reported 11,252 new Covid-19 cases and another 237 coronavirus-related deaths, according to Health Ministry data. 

12:25 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

UK deploys "surge" Covid-19 testing amid spread of South African variant

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

Additional surge testing and sequencing is being deployed in a number of locations in England where the South African Covid-19 variant has been found. It's in order to "monitor and suppress" its spread, the UK Department of Health and Social Care said Monday.

The move is a response to what appears to be community spread of the variant

A statement released by the department explained 11 out of the 105 cases of the variant detected in the UK since Dec. 22 "cannot be traced back to international travel. All cases are now self-isolating and robust contact tracing has taken place to trace their contacts and ask them to self-isolate." 

"There is currently no evidence to suggest this variant is more serious than others, or that the regulated vaccine would not protect against it," the statement adds.

The areas affected by the additional testing are some parts of London, the West Midlands, and the South East, North West and East of England.

"Every person over 16 living in these locations is strongly encouraged to take a Covid test this week, whether they are showing symptoms or not. Mobile Testing Units (MTUs) will be deployed offering PCR testing to people without symptoms who have to leave their home for work or essential reasons, with local authorities encouraging people to get tested in the area by providing additional home test kits."

“It is vital that we do all we can to stop transmission of this variant and I strongly urge everyone in these areas to get tested, whether you have symptoms or not. The best way to stop the spread of the virus – including new variants – is to stay at home and follow the restrictions in place. Until more people are vaccinated this is the only way we will control the spread of the virus," UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

10:42 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Israel delivers 2,000 Covid-19 vaccines to Palestinian Authority

From CNN's Sam Kiley and Abeer Salman

Israel’s Ministry of Defense says it has coordinated the passage of 2,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to the Palestinian Authority for use by medics. 

The Ministry says the doses were from Israel’s stock of vaccines and that transfer took place Monday morning.

It is part of a planned transfer of 5,000 vaccines agreed at the end of last week.

Palestinian Authority government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem confirmed receipt of the doses and told CNN the remaining 3,000 were expected in the coming days.

The news comes several weeks after the World Health Organization said it had informal discussions with the Israeli Health ministry over a possible transfer amid criticism that Israel was not including Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in its record-breaking vaccination program.

Israel has strongly rejected claims that international law means it is responsible for vaccinating Palestinians in the occupied territories, pointing instead to the Oslo Accords, signed with the Palestinians in the 1990s, which assign responsibility for health care provision to the Palestinian Authority.

10:08 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Moderna says no data on how much protection a single Covid-19 vaccine dose provides

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

A pharmaceutical technician fills a syringe with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Magdeburg, Germany, on January 22.
A pharmaceutical technician fills a syringe with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Magdeburg, Germany, on January 22. Ronny Hartmann/AFP/Getty Images

Moderna President Dr. Stephen Hoge said the company is focused on the vaccine dosing data it has – and that data says two doses is what works. 

He made the comments a day after Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told NBC’s Meet The Press that as many people as possible over the age of 65 should be given the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Osterholm said this to respond to a possible surge in the next six to 14 weeks caused by the coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom. Such a strategy could delay second shots of the vaccine.

When asked for his thoughts on this strategy, Hoge told Good Morning America:

“At this point, as a scientist and physician, I focus really on what the data says, and the data we have from our clinical trials shows that two doses is excellent, very good at protecting against Covid-19, and ultimately that’s the only regimen that we’ve really studied.” 

Hoge said it’s possible that one dose would provide some benefit, “but we really just don’t have any data to prove that at this point.” 

“As Moderna, we try to stick to the data and the science, what we have,” he continued, adding that public health officials have complicated choices to make about how to protect as many people as possible when there are limited vaccine supplies.

“Our responsibility as a company is to stick to the data and make as many doses as we can available,” Hoge said.  

9:59 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Major tourist hotspot in Vienna turned into Covid-19 testing center

From CNN's Nina Avramova

Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria, on April 3, 2020.
Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria, on April 3, 2020. David Visnjic/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Starting Thursday, people can get a Covid-19 rapid antigen test in one of Vienna’s major tourist spots: Schönbrunn Palace, the former imperial summer residence. 

There will be two new testing locations at the Unesco world heritage site, according to the office of Peter Hacker, the Vienna city councillor for social affairs, health and sport. 

One site – a walk-in test center – will be situated in the orangery of the palace, which is one of the two largest Baroque orangeries in the world, according to the palace’s website. The other, a drive-in test location, will be in the bus parking area of the palace.

Both test locations will be open Monday to Sunday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. local time, and registering online beforehand is required, Hacker’s office said. For those who receive a positive antigen test, there is the option of taking a gargle PCR test immediately afterwards, according to the statement.  

Millions visit Schönbrunn Palace each year, according to the palace’s website. Currently, the attractions is closed due to Austria’s Covid-19 measures.

Schönbrunn Palace is the former summer residence of the Habsburg rulers. The palace park – which houses statues, monuments and fountains – is one of the most popular recreation areas in Vienna, according to the palace’s website.

9:06 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Fewer than 10 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses would be available in coming weeks, health official says

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

A pharmacy technician prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine for a clinical trial on December 15, 2020, in Aurora, Colorado.
A pharmacy technician prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine for a clinical trial on December 15, 2020, in Aurora, Colorado. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson would have fewer than 10 million vaccine doses available if the US Food and Drug Administration authorizes it for emergency use in the coming weeks, a federal health official tells CNN.

The official said the number of doses available would be in the single-digit millions, but that number would ramp up to 20 or 30 million doses by April.

Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot Covid-19 vaccine was shown to be 66% effective in preventing moderate and severe disease in a global phase 3 trial, but 85% effective against severe disease, the company announced Friday. The vaccine was 72% effective against moderate and severe disease in the US. 

CNN has reached out to Johnson & Johnson for comment.

8:24 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

UK pupils could earn about $55,000 less over their lifetime due to the lost schooling during the pandemic, research shows

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite 

A lock hangs on a primary school gate on January 4 in London, England.
A lock hangs on a primary school gate on January 4 in London, England. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Students in the United Kingdom could earn about US$ 55,000 less over their lifetime due to the lost schooling during the pandemic, according to new research from the UK Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

Speaking on the BBC's Radio 4 Today program on Monday, IFS Research Fellow Luke Sibieta said:

Children across the UK will have lost about half a year of in person normal schooling by February half term. And if they're not able to catch up properly -- and most of the evidence suggests that children skills aren't where we would expect them to be given their age -- they're going to end up leaving school with lower skills, being less productive and earn less."
"The literature that does exist on the returns of schooling would suggest that they'll maybe earn about 4% less over the course of their lifetime. When summed over 40, 50 years that can make $40,000 (about US$55,000) per child."

The IFS report also found that:

  • Early evidence already suggests this loss of schooling is contributing to lower educational progress and skills, particularly for disadvantaged pupils.
  • Existing evidence on returns to schooling would imply a long-run loss in earnings of £350 billion (approximately US $480 billion).
  • If the efforts by schools, teachers, children, parents and charities were able to mitigate 75% of this effect, the total loss would still be £90 billion (US $123 billion).
  • A large amount of these negative effects are likely to be borne by children from lower-income families, resulting in a likely rise in inequality in the long-run.
  • A massive injection of resources is likely to be required to help pupils properly catch up, but that so far, governments across the UK have allocated about £1.5 billion (US $2.06 billion) towards that effort, a figure that is highly unlikely to be sufficient to help pupils catch-up or prevent inequalities from widening.

 

8:27 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

China arrests more than 80 people in 'fake vaccine' ring crackdown

From CNN's Beijing Bureau

China has said it is cracking down on a crime ring making "fake vaccines" for Covid-19 that has been running since September, state media report.

Police departments in Jiangsu, Beijing and Shandong have arrested more than 80 people involved in producing more than 3,000 fake Covid-19 vaccine doses, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Xinhua said China's Ministry of Public Security is investigating crimes related to manufacturing and selling of counterfeit vaccines "and the illegal practice of medicine and fraud under the guise of the vaccines."

Police found that since September 2020, those involved "have been making huge profits by fulfilling saline solution into injectors to process and make fake coronavirus vaccines and selling them at a higher price," the agency said.

China has been vaccinating its population with shots from two companies, Sinovac and Sinopharm, and both have also been rolled out in other countries, including Turkey.

Both companies initially said their vaccines were more than 78% effective, but late-stage trials of the Sinovac candidate in Brazil reported an efficacy rate of 50.38%.

Sinovac has stood by its vaccine, even as some countries have placed it under review and paused rollouts, but scientists have called on the company to release more data.

Sinopharm, the state-owned company whose vaccine was the first to be approved in China, said its product was 79.34% effective in trials.