March 31 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Christopher Johnson and Angela Dewan, CNN

Updated 2:29 AM ET, Thu April 1, 2021
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7:47 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

China accuses US of "political manipulation" and lashes out at countries that criticized WHO report

From CNN's Beijing Bureau

China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying holds a press conference in Beijing in December 2020.
China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying holds a press conference in Beijing in December 2020. Stephen Shaver/UPI/Shutterstock

China's foreign ministry on Wednesday said it was “immoral” and “unpopular” to politicize the issue of virus origin tracing after 14 countries, including the United States, raised concerns in a joint statement on the World Health Organization report released Tuesday, following its Wuhan investigation.

“We have repeatedly emphasized that origin tracing is a scientific issue, and it should be carried out cooperatively by global scientists and cannot be politicized, which is also the consensus of most countries,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying in a regular briefing Wednesday.

Hua said the joint statement questioning the report is concrete evidence that countries like the US “disrespect science” and “engage in political manipulation.”

“The politicization of origin tracing is extremely immoral and unpopular, which only hinders global cooperation and [the] global fight against the virus,” said Hua, adding the efforts run counter to the wills of the international community and will never succeed.

Governments from countries including the United States, Australia and Canada, jointly expressed concerns about the WHO report released Tuesday on COVID-19 origin tracing in China and called for independent and fully transparent evaluations with access to all relevant data in the future.

6:45 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

Chinese scientist calls for wider investigation into the Covid-19 origin

From CNN's Beijing Bureau

Chinese scientist and World Health Organization team leader Liang Wannian speaks at a press conference in Beijing on March 31.
Chinese scientist and World Health Organization team leader Liang Wannian speaks at a press conference in Beijing on March 31. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Chinese scientist and World Health Organization team leader Liang Wannian said Wednesday that WHO should do more Covid-19 studies that cover a wider range of regions and perspectives.

“There is a consensus among scientists that the place where it was reported early is not necessarily the place where the virus first appeared,” Liang Wannian said at a news conference in Beijing Wednesday.

"Based on this, the perspective of tracing the origin of the virus must be broader.”

This comes after the WHO report into the origins of the virus, compiled by a team of international experts and their Chinese counterparts, was finally released on Tuesday after several delays.

It provides a detailed examination of the data collected by Chinese scientists and authorities from the early days of the pandemic but offers little new insight or concrete findings on where and how the virus spread to humans.

Following the release, the United States and 13 other governments, including the United Kingdom, Australia and South Korea, released a joint statement expressing concerns over the study's limited access to "complete, original data and samples."

6:17 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

Scientists say it's possible to reach herd immunity and lose it. Here are the obstacles to keeping it

From CNN's Holly Yan

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on March 18.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on March 18. Susan Walsh/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Herd immunity to Covid-19 could come and go, scientists say. Or we might never reach it at all. Here are some of the obstacles to achieving and maintaining it.

Young People

Very few people younger than 16 will get a Covid-19 vaccine soon. Dr. Anthony Fauci -- director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases -- has said younger Americans will likely have to wait until early 2022 for vaccines.

And that's a major obstacle to herd immunity. Young people may not get very sick from Covid-19 in high numbers, but they can still get infected and transmit the virus.

Anti-vaxxers

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor, 20% of people surveyed in the US said they definitely would not get vaccinated or would only get vaccinated if their job or school required it.

If not enough people are willing to get vaccinated, herd immunity isn't achievable. And if that happens, the virus will have ample opportunity to spread.

Variants

If the virus keeps spreading, replicating itself in new people, it has more opportunities to mutate. And if there are significant mutations, new and more dangerous variants could emerge.

This could also mean that drug companies have to keep updating their vaccines to be effective against new variants, and it's not guaranteed that every vaccine will be successful against new variants.

Immunity could wear off

Dwindling immunity -- either from previous infection or from vaccination -- could be another reason the US could slip in and out of herd immunity. Scientists don't know yet how long immunity from vaccines might last. So people may need to get booster shots in the future, or annual shots that can work against new variants. That's how the yearly flu shot works.

5:45 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

UK minister says AstraZeneca's shot is "safe" as Germany limits its use as a precautionary measure

 From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

The UK is "100% confident" in the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine and the shot is "safe," UK Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said Wednesday, after Germany  suspended its use in people under the age of 60.

Germany announced Tuesday evening it would limit AstraZeneca shots to people over 60s following reports of “rare but very severe thromboembolic side effects” in 31 people following their first dose. People under 60 can voluntarily receive vaccine in consultation with doctors, considering individual risk.

When asked if the UK government thinks it should look at the vaccine again, Jenrick said: "No we don't."

"We're 100% confident in the efficacy of the vaccine, that's borne out by study after study by our own independent world class, regulators, and by recent research for example by Public Health England, that have shown that thousands of people's lives have been saved, since the start of this year alone, thanks to our vaccine programme," he told British broadcaster Sky News Wednesday.

The minister added that "people should continue to go forward, get the vaccine," adding that he certainly will, when his time comes.

"It is a safe vaccine and the UK vaccine rollout is saving people's lives, right across the country every day," he said.

Read more here:

5:45 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

US and Germany are the biggest investors in Covid-19 vaccine research and development

From CNNs Fred Pleitgen in Belgrade, Serbia and Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

The United States and Germany are by far the biggest investors in coronavirus vaccine development, according to key research findings by the Centre for Global Health at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

Research findings show that the two countries have provided a combined R&D investment of $3.7 billion in developing coronavirus vaccines -- the United States invested nearly $2.2 billion and Germany $1.5 billion. They are followed by a wide margin by the United Kingdom, which comes in at $500 million.

5:46 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

China accused of withholding data from WHO coronavirus origins investigation in Wuhan

From CNN's Nectar Gan

Investigative team members from the World Health Organization visit Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, China, on January 31.
Investigative team members from the World Health Organization visit Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, China, on January 31. Getty Images

It was supposed to offer insight into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. But since its release on Tuesday, the long-awaited World Health Organization investigation has drawn criticism from governments around the world over accusations it is incomplete and lacks transparency.

In a joint statement, the United States and 13 other governments, including the United Kingdom, Australia and South Korea, expressed concerns over the study's limited access to "complete, original data and samples."

The European Union issued its own statement, expressing the same concerns in slightly softer language. The criticism follows an admission from WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, that investigators faced problems during their four-week mission to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in December 2019.

In a news briefing Tuesday, Tedros appeared to contradict the study's central findings by suggesting the theory that the virus escaped from a Wuhan laboratory should be followed up -- even though the report noted such a possibility was "extremely unlikely" and did not recommend further research on the hypothesis.

Read the full story:

5:46 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

Chinese city on border with Myanmar goes into lockdown

From CNN’s Beijing bureau

Before the lockdown, trucks are seen coming and going at a border post in Ruili, China, on March 27.
Before the lockdown, trucks are seen coming and going at a border post in Ruili, China, on March 27. Kyodo News/Sipa USA

A city in southwestern China near the country's border with Myanmar is going into lockdown after nine Covid-19 cases were reported Tuesday.

Six of the nine cases found in Ruili city were symptomatic and three were asymptomatic, according to a statement from provincial health officials. Four of them are Burmese nationals.

Authorities said they will crack down on illegal border crossings from neighboring Myanmar, where the ruling military junta overthrew the country's democratically elected leaders last month, in order to prevent the virus from spreading further within China.

Ruili officials stopped all inbound and outbound travel at 10 p.m. Tuesday and began a citywide Covid-19 testing campaign at 8 a.m. Wednesday, according to a statement from the information department of Yunnan province.

Chinese officials blamed smugglers from Myanmar for a previous surge of Covid-19 cases in Ruili in September.

2:53 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

India's Covid-19 surge has gone from "bad to worse," health official says

From CNN's Esha Mitra in New Delhi

Family members along with graveyard workers perform the burial of a woman who died of Covid-19 in New Delhi, on March 30.
Family members along with graveyard workers perform the burial of a woman who died of Covid-19 in New Delhi, on March 30. Mayank Makhija/NurPhoto/Getty Images

India recorded 354 Covid-19 related fatalities on Wednesday, the highest death toll reported in a single day since December 17, as officials warned the country must be on guard against surging cases.

V K Paul, a health official of a government-led think tank, said the situation appeared to be going from "bad to worse."

"Clearly we have to be very, very, vigilant," he said.

Between March 24 and March 29, India set consecutive new records for the number of Covid-19 cases identified in a day in 2021, according to a CNN tally of figures from the Indian Ministry of Health. 

Nearly 80% of the new cases over the previous 24 hours were reported from the six states of Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat, according to figures released by the ministry on Tuesday.

India has distributed more than 63 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines since it began vaccinating priority groups on January 16. Starting Thursday, anyone older than 45 can get vaccinated.

India has recorded more than 12.1 million cases of coronavirus and at least 162,468 people have died, according to the Ministry of Health.

5:46 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

White House says Americans deserve "better information" as allies criticize WHO coronavirus report

From CNN's Nicole Gaouette and Jennifer Hansler

President Joe Biden believes Americans "deserve better information" about the origin of Covid-19 and further steps from the global community, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday after the release of a World Health Organization report that said the pandemic is very likely to have started with transmission from one animal to another, and then to humans.

"I think he believes the American people, the global community, the medical experts, the doctors -- all of the people who have been working to save lives, the families who have lost loved ones -- all deserve greater transparency," Psaki told reporters at a White House briefing.

She spoke shortly after the US and 12 other countries released a joint statement raising questions about the WHO report and calling for independent and fully transparent evaluations, and the European Union called for better access for researchers and further investigation.

Authorities in 219 countries and territories have reported more than 128 million Covid-19 cases and 2.8 million deaths since China reported its first cases to WHO in December 2019. More than 30 million Americans have fallen ill and more than 550,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

"They deserve better information," Psaki said of Americans. "They deserve steps that are taken by the global community to provide that." She went on to criticize China for its lack of transparency and called on Beijing to provide data and answers to the global community.

Read the full story: