February 8 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Kara Fox and Christopher Johnson, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, February 9, 2021
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6:46 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

Netherlands police issued nearly 7,000 curfew fines last week

From CNN’s Mick Krever

Police monitor demonstrators protesting against Covid-19 lockdown and curfew measures in Tilburg, Netherlands, on February 5.
Police monitor demonstrators protesting against Covid-19 lockdown and curfew measures in Tilburg, Netherlands, on February 5. Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Police in the Netherlands said Monday that they issued 6,959 fines last week for those breaking the rules of the country’s national 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. curfew. 

It's a drop from the 10,810 curfew fines that Dutch police issued the previous week.

Violating the national curfew, which was designed to reduce social interaction and thus the spread of coronavirus, comes at a cost of 95 euros (approximately US $114).

It's been in effect since January 23.

Last week, the Dutch government extended the nation’s lockdown until at least March 2, and said that it will also consider extending the curfew before it expires on February 10.

Police also say that they also issued 8,139 fines last week related to other coronavirus regulations, for example for not wearing a mask.

That is also down from the previous week, when 12,938 fines were issued.

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

Austria loosens coronavirus restrictions with haircuts now a possibility

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

A visitor observes a panda at the Schoenbrunn Zoo in Vienna, Austria, on February 8.
A visitor observes a panda at the Schoenbrunn Zoo in Vienna, Austria, on February 8. Ronald Zak/AP

Austria lifted its round the clock stay at home order on Monday, with the national curfew moved back to nighttime hours only.

The stay at home order now only applies from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. local time (from 2 p.m. ET), according to Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

Schools, shops and museums are allowed to open again, but under tight measures. A FFP2 or N95 mask has to be worn in all shops, and a 20 square meter distance (215 square feet) must be available to each customer. Hairdressers are also allowed to reopen.

But restaurants will remain closed in the Alpine republic. The government said that it will review whether to possibly open up restaurants up in March in the next weeks.

Contact sports, like soccer, remain off limits, however the slopes are open -- with restrictions.

FFP2/N95 masks must be worn when when using outdoor ski lifts, while gondolas or closed lifts only allowed to take half of their usual capacity.

Austria has registered 423,839 cases of the coronavirus so far, with 8,012 deaths.

1,317 new cases were reported on Sunday, according to data from the Ministry of Interior.

A previous headline incorrectly stated that ski resorts were reopened on Monday. The slopes had reopened prior to the announcement.

7:53 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

Italian regions across the country impose new “red zones” as UK, Brazilian and South African Covid-19 variants are detected

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in Pisa

New localized “red zones” have been imposed in areas across Italy after the new variants were identified in them.

Red zone restrictions -- which prohibit people from leaving their houses except for work or health reasons – went into effect on Monday in municipalities in the province of Perugia and six municipalities in the province of Terni, which are located in the central Italian region of Umbria.

They will be in place until February 21, the regional government of Umbria said on Saturday.

The UK and Brazilian Covid-19 variants were detected on a sample of 44 cases recently analyzed by the Italian Health Institute, the local government said on Saturday.

The Italian Health Institute’s report said it "induces to believe" that the presence of the variants contributed to a rise in positive cases in the provinces of Perugia and Terni.

On Sunday, the Tuscan town of Chiusi, located near the border of Umbria, also became a red zone after the South African and Brazilian variants were detected within the community, according to the town’s mayor. On Friday, Juri Bettollini said that the restrictions will last a week and that mass, voluntary testing will be carried out in the town from Monday.

The Northern autonomous province of Bolzano (South Tyrol) has also been placed under a red zone on Monday, a measure that will be in effect until February 28, according to the local government.

The Bolzano government said in a statement on Saturday that they had made the decision after the first case of the UK variant was detected in the province.

Red zone restrictions were also imposed on Saturday to three other municipalities in the region of Abruzzo.

Most Italian regions are currently in "yellow zones," the lightest of a three-tier system of restrictions. 

The remaining regions of Umbria, as well as Sicily and Puglia, are currently in the "orange zone,” where people are prohibited from leaving their town and their region -- except for work or health reasons -- and bars and restaurants are only offering delivery and take-away services.

6:07 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

There's no evidence that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is ineffective in preventing severe illness or death, UK Junior Health Minister says

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is administered at a mass vaccination center in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, on January 11.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is administered at a mass vaccination center in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, on January 11. Scott Heppell/AP

Over 140 people in the UK are infected with the South African variant, but it's not the most dominant strain in the country, the UK Junior Health Minister said on Monday.

Speaking on the BBC Breakfast program, Edward Argar, the UK Minister of State at the Department of Health, said that 147 people have been infected with the variant first identified in South Africa, known as B.1351.

Argar told Sky News that the dominant coronavirus strains in the UK are not the South African variant and that the measure that South Africa is taking in pausing their rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine --- after a study showed that it offered reduced protection from the South African variant -- was a temporary measure.

Argar said there was no evidence the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was not effective in preventing severe illness or death.

The study, released by South Africa's University of Witwatersrand on Sunday, showed that two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine provide limited protection against mild or moderate cases of the South African variant.

6:10 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

"Still some hope" AstraZeneca vaccine will perform against South African variant, researcher says

From CNN’S Eleanor Pickston in London 

Valentina Petrova/AP
Valentina Petrova/AP

There is “still some hope” that the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine could perform in people infected with the variant first identified in South Africa who are at risk of severe disease, Shabir Madhi, professor of vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand said on Monday.

Early data from South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand released on Sunday suggested that two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine provide only “minimal protection” against mild and moderate Covid-19 from the B.1.351 variant.

“What the study results really tell us is that in a relatively young age demographic with very low prevalence of morbidities such as hypertension and diabetes, the (Oxford/AstraZeneca) vaccine does not protect against mild to moderate infection,” Madhi, who led the trial, told the BBC.

Madhi added that “extrapolating” from results seen with the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine -- which is also a viral vector vaccine --  there was “still some hope” that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could perform “as well” in different age groups at risk of severe disease.

“Now these two vaccines use a similar sort of technology," Madhi explained.

"They use them very, very similar in terms of the immunogenicity so I think extrapolating from that, there's still some hope that the AstraZeneca vaccine might well perform as well as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in a different age group demographic that are at risk of severe disease,” he said.

Results from trials in South Africa showed Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine reduced severe disease by 89%, Madhi said.

He also said that researchers should know with more certainty “pretty soon.” 

On Sunday, South African health officials said they were pausing the country's rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine after the study showed it offered reduced protection from the Covid-19 variant first identified there.

5:11 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

Ukraine prepares to roll out Covid-19 vaccinations

From CNN's Sarah Dean, Sharon Braithwaite and Christopher Johnson

Ukraine will begin the first phase of its Covid-19 vaccination program this month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday on his official Twitter account.

Doctors, members of the military and National Guard will be among the first in line for shots, Zelensky said. "The program covers at least half of the population of Ukraine during 2021 and early 2022," he added.

Last week, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that Ukraine will be receiving an initial shipment of 117,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine under the COVAX program.

Speaking in a Cabinet meeting on February 3, Shmyhal said that from February to early March, "much larger deliveries are expected."

Ukraine has reported nearly 1.3 million Covid-19 cases and almost 25,000 deaths from the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

3:59 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

Despite dip in Covid-19 cases, expert says US is in the "eye of the hurricane" as variants spread

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

Dr. Peter Hotez, founding dean of the Baylor College of Medicine National School of Tropical Medicine, speaks during a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on March 5, 2020.
Dr. Peter Hotez, founding dean of the Baylor College of Medicine National School of Tropical Medicine, speaks during a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on March 5, 2020. Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg/Getty Images

While a recent dip in Covid-19 infections may seem encouraging, experts warn now is not the time for Americans to let their guard down.

That's largely because of new variants circulating in the US, putting the country once again in the "eye of the hurricane," according to one expert.

"I've been on Zoom calls for the last two weeks about how we're going to manage this," Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN Sunday. "The big wall is about to hit us again and these are the new variants."

Nearly 700 cases of Covid-19 variants first spotted in the UK, South Africa and Brazil have been reported in the US so far, according to data updated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The vast majority of those cases are the B.1.1.7 strain, which was first detected in the UK and has now been spotted in at least 33 states. Experts say the highly contagious variant will likely soon become dominant in the US, and a new study found significant community transmission may already be occurring.

"This could be really, very dire for our country as we head into the spring," Hotez said of the variants. "Now, we're in a race. We're in a race to see how quickly we can vaccinate the American people."

Vaccination drive: More than 31 million Americans have so far received at least their first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, according to CDC data, as officials work to ramp up vaccinations across the country. More than 9 million people have so far received both doses of a vaccine, according to the data.

And a third vaccine could be on its way to the US market soon: Johnson & Johnson asked the Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization of its vaccine last week.

Read the full story:

3:16 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

Seoul announces plan to test pets for Covid-19

From CNN's Gawon Bae in Seoul, South Korea

The South Korean capital of Seoul will start testing pet dogs and cats for Covid-19 if their owners test positive and the animals themselves are symptomatic, according to the city’s top health official Park Yoo-mi.

Park said the city’s animal sample collection team will visit the home of quarantined Covid-19 patient to test the pets.

The testing is being done out of an abundance of caution -- Covid-19 pet-to-human infection has not been reported since the pandemic began. Any dogs or cats testing positive will be required to quarantine for 14 days.

South Korea reported its first case of an animal Covid-19 infection after a household cat tested positive for the virus on January 21, according to the country's Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA.)

3:11 a.m. ET, February 8, 2021

Crowds gather in Melbourne on first day of Australian Open

Play has begun at the Australian Open in Melbourne, tennis' first grand slam of the year -- and fans are there to take in the action.

The start of the event was delayed three weeks due to Covid-19, but spectators came out in force today for the first day of the tournament -- many relishing the fact that they are some of the few people on the planet able to attend live sports during the pandemic.

A view of Court 3 is seen during day one of the 2021 Australian Open, on February 8.
A view of Court 3 is seen during day one of the 2021 Australian Open, on February 8. Mackenzie Sweetnam/Getty Images

Authorities are allowing fans to attend because regional authorities have been able to bring the local coronavirus epidemic under control thanks to strict public health measures.

Australia's government quickly closed its borders in March at the start of the pandemic, banning non-residents from entering the country, and put in place mandatory hotel quarantine of 14 days for incoming travelers.

Socially distanced spectators watch a match on Court 3.
Socially distanced spectators watch a match on Court 3. Mackenzie Sweetnam/Getty Images

When Melbourne, where the Open is being held, had a coronavirus outbreak in mid-2020, Victoria's government put the entire state into mandatory lockdown for almost four months, one of the longest measures of its kind in the world.

Things are a bit more lax now. At Melbourne Park, it's only mandatory to wear a mask indoors at the event, but many milling around outside were also seen with face coverings.

Attendees are seen practicing social distancing.
Attendees are seen practicing social distancing. Mackenzie Sweetnam/Getty Images