February 10 coronavirus news

By James Griffiths, Adam Renton, Kara Fox, Christopher Johnson and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 6:34 a.m. ET, February 15, 2021
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6:14 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

US government says it is "supportive" of WHO's Wuhan findings but will rely on "our own intelligence community to evaluate the report"

From CNN's Angela Dewan

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price answers a question at a press briefing in Washington, DC, on February 9.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price answers a question at a press briefing in Washington, DC, on February 9. Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

A World Health Organization expert investigating the origins of Covid-19 in China has lashed out at the US government for expressing uncertainty around its initial findings, accusing President Joe Biden of posturing against Beijing and raising doubt over the credibility of US intelligence agencies.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said repeatedly that the US would welcome the WHO’s findings in a conclusive report but would ultimately rely on its intelligence agencies and information from allies to reach its own conclusions.

We look forward, again, to seeing the report, to seeing the underlying data, to using what we may have within our own reach based on our own intelligence and analysis to corroborate what the WHO has found and to reach our own conclusions," Price said.

In response to the remarks, WHO expert Peter Daszak said in a Twitter post: "Well now this. Joe Biden has to look tough on China. Please don’t rely too much on US intel: increasingly disengaged under Trump & frankly wrong on many aspects."

He added he was happy to help the White House in verifying information, “but don’t forget it’s 'TRUST' then 'VERIFY'!"

The back and forth signal a rocky start in the renewed relationship between Washington and the WHO just weeks after Biden retracted the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the international organization, which is leading the global response against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, China has seized on the WHO's findings, claiming coronavirus vindication.

Read more:

6:04 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

Europe is "not where we want to be" on vaccines, says EU chief

From CNN’s James Frater

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a debate on the united EU approach to Covid-19 vaccinations at the European Parliament in Brussels on February 10.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a debate on the united EU approach to Covid-19 vaccinations at the European Parliament in Brussels on February 10. Francisco Seco/AP

Europe was late to authorize vaccines and too optimistic on mass production, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday during a debate on the bloc's vaccine strategy.

“Today in the fight against the virus we're still not where we want to be. We were late to authorize. We were too optimistic when it came to massive production, and perhaps we were too confident that what we ordered would actually be delivered on time,” von der Leyen told the European Parliament.

She said the EU needs to examine why this is the case and learn lessons from the experience. However, she stood firm on the EU’s decision to order vaccines “in solidarity” collectively, saying “it was the right thing to do”.

“I cannot even imagine what would have happened if just a handful of big players, big member states had rushed to it, then everybody else would have been left empty handed,” von der Leyen said. “What would that have meant for our internal market and for the unity of Europe. In economic terms it would have been nonsense, and it would have been I think the end of our community.”

On the time frames for authorizing vaccines, von der Leyen said:

We've made a choice, to not make any shortcuts when it comes to safety or efficacy, and we fully defend that choice. There is no compromise possible when it's a matter of injecting a biologically active substance into an individual who is in good health.
"This is why we rely on the EMA, the European Medicines Agency’s procedure, and yes, that means that approval takes three to four additional weeks. That additional time is an essential investment to establish confidence, and to ensure security, and yes there are lessons to be learned from this, and we have already learned a great deal." 

Von der Leyen has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks over the EU’s spat with the United Kingdom over vaccines.

After Brussels got jittery that its vaccination program was lagging behind, thanks to a shortage of doses, the Commission proposed placing export controls on vaccine manufacturers, meaning the EU could monitor -- and potentially prevent -- vaccines leaving the bloc.

As part of this proposal, the Commission said that those controls could be applied to vaccines going from the Republic of Ireland (part of the EU) into Northern Ireland (part of the UK) -- by triggering article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol.

Critics immediately panned Brussels for even toying with the idea of placing restrictions on the Irish border, for fear it could lead to the return of sectarian, cross-border violence on the island of Ireland.

Von der Leyen said Wednesday “mistakes were made” in the process “but, in the end we got it right. And I can reassure you that my Commission will do its utmost to protect the peace of Northern Ireland, just as it has done throughout the entire Brexit process.”

Portugal’s Secretary of State for European Affairs, Ana Paula Zacarias, said at the parliamentary debate that “the truth is that companies may have overestimated their production capacities."

She said the Commission’s export authorization mechanism for Covid-19 vaccines “will allow us to understand where the vaccines produced in EU are being distributed. In both cases transparency is paramount to increase citizens trust in this process.”

3:55 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

About 1 in 10 Americans have gotten at least their first Covid-19 shot. But supply challenges remain

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

About one in 10 Americans -- nearly 32.9 million people --- have so far received at least a first dose of the two-part Covid-19 vaccines, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows, and about 9.8 million people have been fully vaccinated.

And while US and state leaders are optimistic vaccinations will ramp up further in the coming months, several challenges remain, including supply shortages and equitable access -- which come as public health experts say the US is in a race against time as Covid-19 variants keep spreading across the country.

"We're in a situation, and we will be for a little while, of undersupply," said Andy Slavitt, the senior White House adviser for Covid-19 Response.

In Delaware, officials announced Tuesday the state was no longer expecting to open another phase of vaccine eligibility on March 1 as was planned due to an "extremely limited supply" of vaccines. In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said the state will receive more doses from the federal government and added, "it's not enough, but it's great."

"I wish we had 200,000 doses a week right now. We could allocate all of them," Beshear said.

But there is good news on the vaccine front: The Biden administration said Tuesday it was boosting weekly vaccine supply going to states, tribes and territories to 11 million doses, adding it was continuing to work with manufacturers to increase vaccine supply.

Several thousand retail pharmacies will also begin administering vaccines this week as part of a federal program, with both CVS and Walgreens saying vaccinations will kick off Friday in the participating stores.

Read the full story:

3:42 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

It's not clear if British tourists will be able to travel this year, UK minister says

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

Self check-in machines are seen inside an empty Gatwick Airport on February 6 in London, England.
Self check-in machines are seen inside an empty Gatwick Airport on February 6 in London, England. Hollie Adams/Getty Images

It's not clear if British tourists will be able to travel this year, as it depends on how the novel coronavirus and its variants respond to vaccines, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Wednesday.

Speaking to British broadcaster Sky News, Shapps said: "I'm afraid I can't give you a definitive will there or will there not be the opportunity to take holidays this next year either at home or abroad."

Shapps said that fewer than 1,000 people per day were currently entering the United Kingdom from countries on the UK's "red list" and he anticipated those numbers to remain small after stricter new hotel quarantine measures come into force on February 15.

Visitors from more than 30 countries, including South Africa, Brazil and Portugal, are currently banned from traveling to the UK. Only British and Irish citizens and those with UK residency are permitted entry from red list countries.

Between 16,000 to 20,000 people currently arrive in the UK each day, including transport workers carrying goods, Shapps said.

"Travel is 95% down on where it was this time last year," he added.
"The number of people travelling overall is very low and then beyond that we're only talking about another subsection of people who are traveling here from those red list countries where there are no direct flights in any case."
2:28 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

South Korea grants conditional approval for AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN’s Gawon Bae in Seoul

South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety has given conditional approval for the use of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 Vaccine.

The vaccine, manufactured locally by SK Bioscience, is the first to be approved in the country, health minister Kim Ganglip said on Wednesday.

The vaccine will be given as a series of two doses, four to 12 weeks apart, to people over the age of 18. However, Kim said physicians should weigh potential benefits considering patients’ conditions when administering the vaccine to those over the age of 65.

Pregnant and breast-feeding women can only receive the vaccine if the possible benefit is bigger than the possible risk, Kim added.

Korean authorities said earlier this week that rollout of the vaccine will begin with nursing hospital workers and patients on February 26.

1:41 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

US reports more than 92,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Joe Sutton in Atlanta

The United States reported 92,666 new cases of Covid-19 and 3,031 additional virus-related deaths on Tuesday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

That raises the national total to at least 27,189,761 infections and 468,103 fatalities since the pandemic began.

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

Vaccines: At least 62,898,775 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 43,206,190 shots administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CNN is tracking US cases.

1:20 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

WHO expert from Wuhan mission warns against relying "too much on US intel" around Covid-19

From CNN's Chandler Thornton in Hong Kong

Peter Daszak (r) and other members of the World Health Organization team investigating the origins of the Covid-19 coronavirus, arrive at the Wuhan Institute of Virology on February 3.
Peter Daszak (r) and other members of the World Health Organization team investigating the origins of the Covid-19 coronavirus, arrive at the Wuhan Institute of Virology on February 3. Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

A World Health Organization expert who was on the team of scientists investigating the origins of Covid-19 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan said people shouldn't "rely too much on US intel" around the coronavirus.

In a tweet Wednesday responding to an article about the United States wanting to "independently" verify WHO findings out of Wuhan, expert Peter Daszak said "don't forget, it's 'TRUST' then 'VERIFY'!"

Daszak added that US President Joe Biden "has to look tough on China" but urged him against relying on the US intelligence services, which he said were "increasingly disengaged under Trump (and) frankly wrong on many aspects."

"Happy to help the (White House with) their quest to verify," Daszak said.

No fast answers: On Tuesday, after the WHO team wrapped up their investigations in Wuhan, Daszak told CNN that while scientists will eventually "get a really clear picture" of how Covid-19 originated, it may take weeks, months or even a "couple of years." 

He added that a "patient zero" still has yet to be identified and may never be, as many cases were asymptomatic.

12:59 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

Analysis: China seizes on lack of WHO breakthrough in Wuhan to claim coronavirus vindication

Analysis from CNN's James Griffiths

World Health Organization experts attend a news conference with Chinese health officials in Wuhan on February 9, 2021.
World Health Organization experts attend a news conference with Chinese health officials in Wuhan on February 9, 2021. Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

Reading Chinese state media coverage, you could be forgiven for thinking the World Health Organization's investigation into the origins of Covid-19 had ruled out Wuhan as the potential source of the pandemic.

Ahead of their four-week visit to the central Chinese city, which wrapped up this week, the WHO team had warned their research might not turn up anything particularly groundbreaking. They cited the length of time since infections first started spreading in Wuhan, and the degree to which the city has been disinfected and sterilized since, as residents endured a lengthy lockdown and subsequently returned to relative normality.

And so therefore -- while somewhat disappointing -- it was no shock that the team did not reveal any major surprises in presenting their findings Tuesday. The most definitive the investigators could be was in dismissing suggestions that the virus escaped from a Chinese lab dedicated to studying such infections. On most other issues, the WHO experts prevaricated or admitted there was no clear evidence.

"Did we change dramatically the picture we had beforehand? I don't think so," said Peter Ben Embarek, one of the WHO investigators, at a news conference. "Did we add details? Absolutely."

State media's take: Chinese state media used comments from the fiercely apolitical scientists to vindicate various propaganda priorities, chief of which is the suggestion that the virus could have come from outside China.

China Daily, a state-run newspaper targeting international readers, ran the headline "WHO team: Probe of virus' origin should not be 'geographically bound'," while Global Times, a nationalist tabloid, took it a step further, saying WHO was ready to "scrutinize Southeast Asia" as a potential origin of the virus.

Read the full analysis:

12:01 a.m. ET, February 10, 2021

UK coronavirus variant has been reported in 86 countries, WHO says

From CNN Health's Andrea Diaz

The coronavirus variant B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom on September 20, has now been reported in 86 countries, the World Health Organization says.

In its weekly epidemiological update, WHO says the variant B.1.1.7 has shown an increase in transmissibility, and some evidence of increase in disease severity based on preliminary findings. As of February 7, an additional six countries have reported cases of this variant. 

In the UK, for example, Covid-19 test samples of this strain increased from 63% in the week of December 14 to 90% in the week of January 18, WHO noted.

Other variants: Additionally, WHO has also been monitoring two additional coronavirus strains that are actively spreading: B.1.351, initially seen in South Africa, and the P.1 strain that was first identified in Brazil.

As of February 7, the B.1.351 strain has been reported in 44 countries , while the P.1 strain has been reported in 15 nations, WHO says. 

Some context: Scientists are not surprised to see the coronavirus changing and evolving but they fear that a variant could mutate to the point that it causes more severe disease, bypasses the ability of tests to detect it or evades the protection provided by vaccination. 

South Africa this week paused its rollout of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine after a study showed it offers less protection against the B.1.351 variant.