April 12 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Zamira Rahim and Samantha Tapfumaneyi, CNN

Updated 2:50 AM ET, Tue April 13, 2021
3 Posts
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2:53 a.m. ET, April 12, 2021

Chinese Covid-19 vaccine efficacy is "not high," top health official admits

From CNN's Nectar Gan in Hong Kong

Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks at the National Vaccines and Health conference in Chengdu on Saturday, April 10.
Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks at the National Vaccines and Health conference in Chengdu on Saturday, April 10. Chinatopix/AP

The efficacy of Chinese Covid-19 vaccines is "not high" and authorities are weighing options to bolster protection, China's top disease control official has said.

"The protection rates of existing vaccines are not high," Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told a conference in the southwestern city of Chengdu on Saturday.

He listed two options to solve the problem: one is to increase the number of doses, or adjust the dosage or interval between shots; the other is to mix vaccines developed from different technologies.

Gao's remarks are a rare public admission from the country's top health official that the efficacy of China's coronavirus vaccines is not ideal -- and improvements are needed to boost protection.

Danger to credibility: China has positioned itself as a leader in vaccine development and distribution, promoting and supplying its vaccines to countries all over the globe. But the relatively low efficacy rate of its vaccines could hamper credibility and dent Beijing's so-called vaccine diplomacy.

The two pharmaceutical firms that supply the majority of Chinese Covid-19 vaccines to the world have not published comprehensive clinical trial data in medical journals. But interim results announced by the companies show their efficacy falls far behind the new type of vaccines developed in the West that use mRNA to trigger an immune response.

Comments walked back: As Gao's comments gained traction on social media and made international headlines, Chinese censors quickly scrubbed discussions online, and state media swiftly put out an interview with Gao to walk back his comments.

Global Times, a state-run nationalist tabloid, quoted Gao as saying reports about his admission were "a complete misunderstanding."

"The protection rates of all vaccines in the world are sometimes high, and sometimes low. How to improve their efficacy is a question that needs to be considered by scientists around the world," Gao was quoted as saying.

Read the full story here.

3:25 a.m. ET, April 12, 2021

India deploys AI to conduct Covid safety surveillance at massive Hindu festival

From CNN's Esha Mitra in New Delhi

Hindu devotees gather on the banks of Ganges River during the Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar on April 11.
Hindu devotees gather on the banks of Ganges River during the Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar on April 11. Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images

Millions of people have been traveling across India in April for the Kumbh Mela, a major Hindu festival and the largest pilgrimage on Earth, held this year in the city of Haridwar.

But it's raising Covid concerns, as the country plunges deeper into a worrying second wave.

"Social distancing is proving very difficult, if we try to enforce it then it can lead to a stampede," Inspector General of Police Sanjay Gunjyal told local news early Monday. Police are "continually appealing" to people to wear masks and follow precautions, he added.

At least 650,000 people had already taken a dip in the Ganges River early this morning, Gunjyal added. And many more are expected throughout the day, as Monday is considered a particularly auspicious day to dip into the sacred waters.

AI surveillance: In their efforts to enforce measures, officers are using artificial intelligence cameras for surveillance in several river banks in the city.

"The camera has sensors which alert us when the number of cars in parking areas or foot traffic crosses a certain threshold and we can communicate with people on ground to start diverting crowds," said Mukesh Thakur, a senior police official.
"The cameras also detect if people are not wearing masks and the officers on ground immediately issue tickets to those people."

However, it wasn't possible to issue tickets to everyone on Monday because of the huge crowds, he added.

Some 15,000 security personnel are also involved in crowd control and administration.

On Sunday, at least 1.1 million people were at the various banks of the river. More than 2,200 cases have been reported in Haridwar since the festival began on April 1, according to data released by the Uttarakhand state health department. 

Read more about the festival:

2:44 a.m. ET, April 12, 2021

Los Angeles opens vaccinations to those 16 and older ahead of state's planned eligibility expansion

From CNN's Alta Spells

Syringes are prepared for doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at St. Patrick's Catholic Church on April 9 in Los Angeles, California.
Syringes are prepared for doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at St. Patrick's Catholic Church on April 9 in Los Angeles, California. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Los Angeles residents ages 16 and above are now eligible to sign up for a Covid-19 vaccination at one of 19 vaccination sites currently being run by the city, the Los Angeles mayor's office told CNN. 

Appointments can be made using the city's vaccine registration website, which was updated Saturday afternoon to reflect the expanded eligibility, however vaccinations for the week will not begin until Tuesday when the the city's vaccination locations reopen.

The mayor's office said it worked with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and used targeted text message alerts to encourage communities that have been hit the hardest by Covid-19 to make appointments on the updated website.

“We are excited to open vaccination appointments for Angelenos 16 and older. Vaccinations at city-run sites will begin on Tuesday, with support from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, to encourage access for the most vulnerable communities with the highest need. All three vaccines will be available to those 18 years and older, with the Pfizer vaccine authorized for those ages 16-17. We continue to receive a limited supply of vaccines, and when we receive greater supply in the weeks ahead, the City will be ready to administer even more vaccines quickly and safely,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement provided to CNN. 

Some context: Everyone in California who is 16 and older will become eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations beginning Thursday, April 15, according to an announcement from California Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this month.