The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Julia Hollingsworth, Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN

Updated 7:23 PM ET, Mon March 22, 2021
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7:00 p.m. ET, March 22, 2021

British government will ban travel outside the United Kingdom

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

The British government has drafted legislation that will forbid travel outside of the United Kingdom, with rule breakers facing a penalty of nearly $7,000. 

The travel ban is part of a set of restrictions the UK government published on Monday, as it sets its roadmap for leaving the current lockdown.

The restrictions come into force March 29.

The law says:

"No person may, without a reasonable excuse—
(a) leave England to travel to a destination outside the United Kingdom, or
(b) travel to, or be present at, an embarkation point for the purpose of travelling from there to a destination outside the United Kingdom."

The document goes on to indicate those who attempt to travel “without a reasonable excuse” will be issued a fixed penalty notice worth $6,932.40.

These restrictions do not apply to travel within the common area, which includes the rest of the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland.

Exceptions to the ban apply when it is “reasonably necessary” for a person to work, study, provide charitable services, fulfill a legal obligation, sell or rent property and for some child care, medical or family reasons. 

6:40 p.m. ET, March 22, 2021

AstraZeneca plans quick Covid vaccine delivery if it wins FDA go-ahead 

From CNN’s Ben Tinker and Maggie Fox

Drug giant AstraZeneca hopes to be able to deliver 50 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine within a month if it gains US Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization, a top official told CNN Monday. 

“We plan to submit to the FDA in the first half of April, assuming the FDA is very supportive of our submission. After an approval from the FDA, we will instantly release 30 million doses in that first phase, and then in the same month another 20 million,” Ruud Dobber, president of AstraZeneca's biopharmaceuticals business unit, told CNN in a statement.

AstraZeneca released Phase 3 trial results Monday that showed the vaccine it developed with Britain’s Oxford University was 79% effective against symptomatic disease and 100% effective against severe disease and hospitalization. The results are based on trials involving 32,449 volunteers in the US, Peru and Chile.

The vaccine has been in use in the UK since last year.

4:45 p.m. ET, March 22, 2021

Ontario declares it's in a third wave of the pandemic

From CNN's Paula Newton

People are seen on a beach near Toronto on March 21.
People are seen on a beach near Toronto on March 21. Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Ontario, Canada’s largest province, declared it was at the beginning of a third wave of the pandemic Monday, pointing to increasing case counts, hospitalizations and variants of concern. 

“We’re in the third wave. The numbers are slowly going up, they’re not going as fast as predicted by the modelers,” said Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s top doctor. “We’re now starting to see impacts on our hospital rates, our ICU admissions are up again, our hospital admissions are up again.”

The news was sobering in a province where the majority of residents have been in some state of lockdown since late last year. 

Canadian public health officials also warned that the vaccine rollout would not occur quickly enough to halt what could be a potentially devastating third wave of the pandemic in some areas of the country, further stressing hospital capacity.  

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said in a statement on Monday that Covid-19 activity "has leveled off at a high level since mid-February and average daily case counts are now on the rise" throughout the country.

“While vaccine programs accelerate, it will be important to maintain a high degree of caution. Any easing of public health measures must be done slowly with enhanced testing, screening, and genomic analysis to detect variants of concern,” she said. 

4:27 p.m. ET, March 22, 2021

Ohio vaccine availability can open to everyone 16 and older for providers needing to fill appointments

From CNN’s Jennifer Henderson

Ohio vaccine providers having trouble filling appointments can now open them up to anyone 16 and older, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday.

Earlier this month, DeWine announced vaccine availability would open to everyone 16 and older on March 29. 

DeWine also announced changes to health orders regarding visitations in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities will now be required to allow visitation for their residents, DeWine said.

Vaccinated residents will now be allowed, when wearing a mask, to have physical touch with their visitors, residents can also have visitation in their private rooms and visitations must be allowed to be a minimum of 30 minutes long, he added. 

The list of compassionate care visit examples has also increased, DeWine said. Vaccinated staff will be required to have regular Covid-19 testing once a week, and unvaccinated staff must be tested two times a week, he added. If an outbreak occurs at one of these facilities, visitations will be limited, DeWine said.  

Just two weeks ago, the total cases of Covid-19 variants was 32, now there are 173 variant cases, Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Chief Medical Officer of the Ohio Department of Health said.  

Note: These numbers were released by the state's public health agency, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.

3:50 p.m. ET, March 22, 2021

None of the known variants have reached the threshold of "variant of high consequence," CDC says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

None of the coronavirus variants that are known to be circulating in the United States are classified as "variants of high consequence" or currently near that level, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"At this time, none of the known SARS-CoV-2 variants rise to the level of high consequence, and none are close to that threshold," CDC spokesperson Jade Fulce told CNN in an email on Monday. SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus that causes Covid-19.

The CDC classifies coronavirus variants by three levels: variant of interest, variant of concern, or variant of high consequence. The B.1.1.7, B.1.351, P.1, B.1.427 and B.1.429 variants circulating in the United States are currently classified as variants of concern.

A variant of high consequence "is included in the new classification system so that health officials can be prepared to respond appropriately in the event that a SARS-CoV-2 variant crosses that threshold," Fulce said.

To be classified as a "variant of high consequence," a variant of concern would need to show evidence that it causes more severe disease and hospitalizations, vaccine effectiveness may be reduced against it, or it has significantly reduced susceptibility to therapeutics, among other factors, according to the CDC.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned in a White House briefing on Monday that the variants are still concerning – and she urged people to keep following Covid-19 mitigation measures.

"The continued relaxation of prevention measures while cases are still high and while concerning variants are spreading rapidly throughout the United States is a serious threat to the progress we have made as a nation," Walensky said.

"Increasingly, states are seeing a growing proportion of their Covid-19 cases attributed to variants," Walensky said. "I am worried that if we don't take the right actions now, we will have another avoidable surge."

4:02 p.m. ET, March 22, 2021

Turkey records highest number of Covid-19 cases so far this year

From CNN's Gul Tuysuz

A health worker holds a coronavirus test in Ankara, Turkey, on December 29.
A health worker holds a coronavirus test in Ankara, Turkey, on December 29. Ali Balikci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Turkey reported 22,216 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours – the highest daily case number in 2021, according to Turkish health ministry data released on Monday.

The ministry reported 117 new deaths bringing the total number fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic to 30,178.

The country is facing a spike in new infections following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, including partial reopening of schools and indoor dining since early March.

Over all 1,644 people are in critical condition, according to the health ministry. Hospital bed occupancy is at 53.8% and adult intensive care unit occupancy is at 65%, the ministry said.

Turkey's highest single-day increase in new cases since the beginning of the pandemic was in December 2020 when it recorded more than 33,000 new infections in a single day.

3:14 p.m. ET, March 22, 2021

Global Covid-19 cases increase for fifth consecutive week, WHO official says 

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Maria van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead for coronavirus response, said Monday that global cases of Covid-19 have risen for the fifth consecutive week, and that WHO is seeing worrying trends in Europe, as well as number of areas.

“Four of our five WHO regions are seeing an increase in transmission,” she said at a news briefing. “This is the fifth week in a row globally that we have seen an increase in transmission. In the last week, cases have increased by 8%.” 

There was a 12% increase in Europe, van Kerkhove said, adding that it is driven by several countries across the region and by the B.1.1.7 variant, which is starting to circulate in many countries in the eastern part of Europe. 

The Southeast Asia region has seen a 49% increase in cases, largely driven by increases in India and a number of other countries. 

The eastern Mediterranean region has seen an increase of 8%. 

The Western Pacific region has seen an increase of 29%, largely driven by an increase in cases in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. 

“The Americas and Africa have seen a slight decline in the last seven days,” she said. “But, overall, we’re seeing increasing trends and these are worrying trends.” 

Van Kerkhove said that in Europe and across a number of countries there is a combination of factors associated with transmission increases, including pressure for the countries to open up and difficulties with individuals and communities complying with proven control measures.

2:43 p.m. ET, March 22, 2021

Venezuela will receive two Cuban vaccine candidates in April

From CNN’s Karol Suarez and Patrick Oppmann

Vials of the Abdala vaccine candidate are seen during a press conference in Havana, Cuba, on March 19.
Vials of the Abdala vaccine candidate are seen during a press conference in Havana, Cuba, on March 19. Katell Abiven/AFP via Getty Images

Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced two of Cuba’s vaccine candidates would arrive in Venezuela in the first week of April.

“We will participate in phase three of their clinical trials heading to this vaccine's mass production," he said during a news conference on Sunday.

Maduro said 30,000 doses of Soberana 02 and 30,000 doses of Abdala will come into the country. Both vaccine candidates are in phase 3 clinical trials.

“I thank President Diaz Canel, the Cuban Public Health System, Army General Raúl Castro, and thank you for incorporating Venezuela in these trials; we're together creating the answers and solutions of our Caribbean Latin America," Maduro said.

On March 4, Sacha Llorenti the executive director of ALBA-TCP (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Peoples' Trade Treaty), a regional bloc of left leaning Caribbean and Latin American countries, announced the creation of a vaccine bank for its member countries. Cuba and Venezuela are both members of ALBA and the delivery of the vaccines will take place through the organization according to Cuban state media.

The vaccine bank is for member states to use if they are in need and vaccines developed in Cuba will have priority to be part of the bank.

2:38 p.m. ET, March 22, 2021

UK administers 30 million Covid-19 vaccine shots

From CNN’s Sarah Dean

A clinical pharmacist prepares to administer the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on March 12 in London.
A clinical pharmacist prepares to administer the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on March 12 in London. Chris Jackson/Getty Images

More than 30 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have now been administered in the UK, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Monday. 

This total figure includes first (27,997,976) and second doses (2,281,384). The government publishes these figures on its online dashboard daily. 

Hancock tweeted that the “vaccine rollout is showing the best of Britain”.

See the tweet: