February 7 coronavirus news

By Adam Renton, Brad Lendon, Amy Woodyatt, Melissa Mahtani and Michael Hayes, CNN

Updated 8:55 PM ET, Sun February 7, 2021
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9:17 a.m. ET, February 7, 2021

France starts distributing AstraZeneca vaccine amid warning UK variant could dominate by March

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad

A health worker is administered a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at Édouard Herriot hospital in Lyon, France, on February 6.
A health worker is administered a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at Édouard Herriot hospital in Lyon, France, on February 6. Olivier Chassignole/Pool/AP

France started distributing the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on Saturday as epidemiologist Arnaud Fontanet warned the coronavirus variant B.1.1.7 — first identified in the UK – could be dominant in the country by March.

In an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche published Sunday, Fontanet, who is also a member of the Scientific Council advising the French government on the pandemic, said: “Between 7-8 January, [the B.1.1.7 Variant] accounted for 3.3% of new contaminations; on January 27, it was 14% according to preliminary results from the second flash study.”

“This progression confirms it is 50 to 60% more transmissible than the 2020 virus. If we continue on this trajectory, with a R number of 1.5 for the English variant, we’ll reach 30-35% by mid-February and the number of hospital admissions will be around 2,000 a day. This variant will become dominant around March 1st,” he added.

The warning comes after an announcement by the French Ministry of Health on Saturday that the first shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine had been delivered to healthcare professionals. In a statement, the Ministry said the first doses will be given to healthcare staff under the age of 65.

The first shipment concerns 273,600 doses, the statement read. A second shipment of 304,800 doses will take place “next week.”

The statement also said the country had administered two million vaccines so far. According to the latest update from the country's health agency Santé Publique France, 1,843,763 people had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by Friday.

France has so far authorized the AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for use against Covid-19.

8:15 a.m. ET, February 7, 2021

No plans for a Covid-19 vaccine passport in the UK, minister says

From CNN’s Martin Goillandeau

Nadhim Zahawi, the UK's Covid-19 vaccine deployment minister, rejected the idea of introducing a vaccine passport.
Nadhim Zahawi, the UK's Covid-19 vaccine deployment minister, rejected the idea of introducing a vaccine passport. Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

The United Kingdom will not introduce Covid-19 vaccine passports, vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday.

However, he said people could seek proof of vaccination from their doctor if needed for travel to other countries.

“We have, as of yesterday given the first dose to 11.5 million people, and what they get is a card from the NHS with their name on it, and the day they've been vaccinated with the first dose and then the date for their second dose,” Zahawi told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge.

The vaccine deployment minister rejected the idea of introducing a vaccine passport: “One, we don't know the impact of the vaccines on transmission. Two, it would be discriminatory,” he said. “I think the right thing to do is to make sure that people come forward to be vaccinated, because they want to, rather than it being made in some way mandatory through a passport or others,” Zahawi added.

Here's some background: Some destinations – including the Seychelles, Cyprus and Romania – have already lifted quarantine requirements to visitors able to prove they're vaccinated. Others, such as Iceland and Hungary, have opened up to people who've recovered from Covid-19.

“If other countries, obviously, require some form of proof, then you can ask your GP because your GP will hold the record. And of course, that will then be able to be used as your proof that you've had the vaccine. But we are not planning to have a passport in the UK,” the vaccine minister said.

Zahawi acknowledged that a number of startups working on apps related to the area had received funding from public agencies UK Research and Innovation and Innovate UK, but that the government was “certainly not looking to introduce it as part of the vaccine deployment program.”

7:16 a.m. ET, February 7, 2021

New vaccine to tackle variant first identified in South Africa available "in the autumn," says Oxford lead researcher

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad

A member of the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service prepares a dose of an AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination center in Hampshire, southern England, on February 4.
A member of the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service prepares a dose of an AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination center in Hampshire, southern England, on February 4. Andrew Matthews/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

A new version of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to tackle the variant first identified in South Africa “will be available for the autumn,” professor of vaccinology at Oxford University Sarah Gilbert said on Sunday.

“It looks very much like [the new vaccine] will be available for the autumn. We’re already working on the first part of the manufacturing process in Oxford, that will be passed on to other members of the manufacturing supply chain as we go through the Spring, and it looks very much like that we can have a new version ready to use in the autumn,” Gilbert told the BBC.

Here's some background: On Saturday, a spokesperson for AstraZeneca told CNN that the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine currently being administered provides limited protection against mild disease in cases caused by the variant first identified in South Africa.

The Financial Times first reported Saturday that a study releasing Monday showed the vaccine does not appear to provide protection against mild and moderate disease caused by the virus variant. CNN has not obtained a copy of the study.

New vaccine not quite ready: Gilbert said the new version of the current Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine “was in the works” but “not quite ready to vaccinate people yet.”

“This year we expect to show that the new version of the vaccine will generate antibodies that recognize the new variant. And then it will be very much like working on flu vaccines, so people will be familiar with the idea that we have to have new components, new strains in the flu vaccine every year to keep up with the new strains that are circulating (…),” she added.
6:50 a.m. ET, February 7, 2021

Britain is under lockdown. But one year into the Covid crisis, many are unable to keep to the rules

From CNN's Zamira Rahim in London

Anna says she did not want to break the UK's Covid-19 lockdown rules. The 37-year-old has worked through the pandemic. Anna says she cleans an office building in London which is open but nearly empty, as most staff are working from home.

It's a job the Ecuadorean native has done for five years, after moving to the UK from Spain in 2013 while looking for work. CNN is not disclosing Anna's real name as she fears repercussions from her employer.

Anna's employer insisted that she continue to clean the building during the pandemic but cut her hours from five a day to four. She earns £10.75 ($14.77) per hour.

"I have been forced to go to work in a nonessential building," she told CNN. "There is no one at work, I'm alone."

Last month Anna caught Covid-19. She's unsure where she picked it up from but said it was likely "on the bus or on the Underground."

I had a lot of coughs, fever, fatigue... and dizziness," she said. "And I [am taking a long time to recover] because this disease is very painful [and] horrible."

But after staying home for a few days as she recovered from the disease, Anna decided to go into work, as she was only receiving partial pay.

UK government rules state that while recovering from Covid-19, patients should self-isolate for at least 10 full days.

"I only felt tired and [had] a headache," she said. "That is why I went to work -- I also couldn't afford to stay at home because I received very little salary.

I feel guilty that I went to work and infected more people, [but] I had no other option."

Breaches of self-isolation rules are rampant across the UK. Up to 20,000 people a day are failing to stay home when instructed to, according to Dido Harding, who is in charge of the country's coronavirus Test and Trace scheme.

For the British government, the lack of compliance is a significant worry.

Read the full story here:

5:49 a.m. ET, February 7, 2021

"There will be other Super Bowls." US officials warn against gatherings for Sunday's game to avoid Covid-19 spread

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

An aerial view of Raymond James Stadium is seen ahead of Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Florida, on January 31.
An aerial view of Raymond James Stadium is seen ahead of Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Florida, on January 31. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

While Covid-19 numbers are trending in the right direction across much of the US, officials nationwide warned against Super Bowl gatherings to avoid another surge of infections.

"While the instinct may be to celebrate together, we cannot get cocky," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Saturday. "We must continue doing the things we know are effective at taming the virus: wear a mask, adhere to social distancing, and avoid gatherings.

"We can beat this thing, but we must stay smart," he added.

No time to relax: The warnings came from all corners of the country ahead of the big game Sunday, with local and state leaders reminding Americans that despite the hopeful signs in declining numbers of new cases and hospitalizations, now is not the time to let their guards down.

That's because experts have made clear that the US is still not out of the woods. Thousands of Americans continue to lose their lives to the virus every single day. And the detection of several Covid-19 variants now poses new challenges.

"When people get together in private residences in close proximity, that is one of the single most effective ways to spread this disease," Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said last week.

We can't afford to have the disease spread now, with these mutations and these variants."

Read the full story here.

4:26 a.m. ET, February 7, 2021

Analysis: Biden turns to skills that powered his 2020 victory to sell Covid-19 relief

Analysis from CNN's Maeve Reston

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House in Washington, DC, on February 5.
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House in Washington, DC, on February 5. Stefani Reynolds/Pool/Getty Images

Nearly three weeks into office, US President Joe Biden is trying to do what he knows how to do best -- connect with average Americans, letting them know he understands their suffering and offering words of comfort. But instead of doing so quietly on the campaign trail, he's now using those skills to win a different kind of campaign -- to sell his massive Covid-19 relief package to the American people.

In the first installment of a series of weekly addresses to the American people, released by the White House Saturday, Biden's team filmed him calling Michele, a woman from Roseville, California, who lost her job because of the pandemic. He promised that his economic plan is intended to help restore the loss of dignity and purpose that she and so many others have felt over the past year.

Biden hasn't made headway with his initial efforts to win bipartisan support for his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package, so he is taking his case directly to the voters -- connecting with Americans one at a time as he uses their stories to drive his policy agenda.

The clips of the conversation -- which the White House framed as a modern-day version of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt's fireside chats -- were brief, tightly edited and organized around Biden's longstanding campaign theme that many Americans derive their dignity and self-worth from their jobs.

On the campaign trail last year and as Barack Obama's running mate, Biden sought an emotional connection with voters by telling the story countless times of what he learned from his own father's struggle to find steady work. He has often reflected on the isolation and self-doubt that can come from losing a job. As often, he has highlighted the lesson his father taught him -- that success can also be measured by one's resilience, getting back up after being knocked down.

Read the full analysis:

2:20 a.m. ET, February 7, 2021

Philadelphia health commissioner says it was a "mistake" to engage with embattled group in vaccine operations

From CNN's Laura Ly

Philadelphia health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley provides an update in Philadelphia on March 6.
Philadelphia health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley provides an update in Philadelphia on March 6. Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto/Getty Images

More than a week after Philadelphia cut ties with a Covid-19 testing and vaccine provider, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley testified that it was a "mistake" to allow Philly Fighting Covid (PFC) to operate vaccine clinics.

"While this organization did successfully vaccinate some 6,900 people, in retrospect it was a mistake for the Department of Public Health to ask the organization to operate these clinics. As the person in charge of the Department of Public Health, I bear the ultimate responsibility for that mistake," Farley said Friday in prepared remarks at a city council meeting.

The city severed its ties with PFC amid reports the non-profit shifted to a for-profit entity. There were also concerns over PFC's patient data collection and protection practices.

PFC CEO Andrei Doroshin said shortly after the break with Philadelphia that he never hid the group's intentions to transition to a for-profit business.

"Vaccinating large groups of people takes resources, manpower, and ultimately financial help...We have always intended on scaling up the number of clinics to eventually vaccinate more people (we have been working for months on plans to scale-up vaccinations and have shared them with the city) and money is needed to do that," he said in a statement.

Read the full story:

1:28 a.m. ET, February 7, 2021

US reports more than 102,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Alta Spells in Atlanta

The United States reported 102,420 new Covid-19 infections and 2,618 additional virus-related fatalities on Saturday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

That raises the national tally to at least 26,916,192 coronavirus cases and 462,173 deaths.

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

Vaccines: At least 59,304,600 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 39,037,964 shots administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

See CNN's live tracker here.

1:18 a.m. ET, February 7, 2021

Disney World cancels Super Bowl Parade due to the pandemic

From CNN's Melissa Alonso and Alaa Elassar

Super Bowl LIII winning quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots celebrates with Mickey Mouse in the Super Bowl victory parade in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on February 4, 2019.
Super Bowl LIII winning quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots celebrates with Mickey Mouse in the Super Bowl victory parade in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on February 4, 2019. Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service/Getty Images

As fans prepare to watch Super Bowl LV on Sunday, Disney has some bad news: There will be no Super Bowl victory parade down the Magic Kingdom's Main Street U.S.A. this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the cancellation of the parade, the traditional "I'm going to Disney World" commercial is scheduled to air following the big game, according to post on the Disney Parks Blog on Friday.

"Disney Parks hopes to be able to bring back our other Super Bowl traditions next year, including letting football and Disney fans see and cheer on their favorite player in the park," according to the blog post.

The tradition began in 1987 when New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms appeared in a commercial and said the now-famous phrase -- which he voiced as "I'm going to go to Disney World" -- after winning Super Bowl XXI.

The advertisements show clips of players and fans cheering and running around while the song "When You Wish Upon a Star" plays over the scenes. At the end, a narrator asks a player on the winning team, "What are you going to do next?" The player responds with "I'm going to Disney World!"

Read more: