April 26 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Kara Fox and Niamh Kennedy, CNN

Updated 2:51 AM ET, Tue April 27, 2021
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8:32 a.m. ET, April 26, 2021

Biden will announce new US guidance for wearing masks outdoors tomorrow, sources say

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins 

Al Drago/Pool/Getty Images
Al Drago/Pool/Getty Images

President Biden is expected to announce Tuesday that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidance for wearing masks outdoors, CNN has learned. 

Ahead of his first address to Congress Wednesday, the President will give remarks on the state of the pandemic Tuesday.

Three people familiar with the expected announcement said Biden will announce new CDC guidance on whether vaccinated people need to wear masks outdoors, though the final language of the expected announcement is still unclear. 

One of Biden’s top coronavirus advisers, Dr. Anthony Fauci, strongly hinted to CNN that the guidance would be updated this week, telling CNN’s Jim Acosta Sunday he didn’t want to get ahead of the CDC but they “will be coming out with updating their guidelines of what people who are vaccinated can do and even some who are not vaccinated.”

A November review in the Journal of Infectious Diseases found that the odds of viral transmission are 18.7 times greater indoors than out, and less than 10% of Covid-19 infections studied occurred outside. Despite that, several states still have outdoor mask mandates in place. 

7:51 a.m. ET, April 26, 2021

India recalls retired military medical personnel to help battle Covid-19 surge

From Esha Mitra in New Delhi

All medical personnel from the armed forces who have retired in the last two years are being recalled to work in Covid-19 facilities in India, according to a press release from the Prime Minister’s office on Monday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the measures being taken by the armed forces to aid the ongoing fight against Covid-19, the statement added.

The news comes as the country reported 352,991 new cases and 2,812 virus-related deaths on Monday, marking the world's highest daily caseload for the fifth straight day.

All medical staff deployed at various army and navy headquarters will also be re-deployed to hospitals, and oxygen cylinders available with armed forces will be released for medical use, the Prime Minister was briefed by the Chief of Defense staff.

The Indian Air Force is also helping transport oxygen tanks as a way to help reduce transport time between states, Modi said Friday.

“The CDS (Chief of the Defence Staff) also said that they are creating medical facilities in large numbers and, where possible, military medical infrastructure will be made available to civilians,” the prime minister's office statement also said on Monday.

7:42 a.m. ET, April 26, 2021

Is Europe opening up summer travel for vaccinated US citizens?

From CNN’s James Frater and Pierre Bairin

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that fully vaccinated Americans would be able to travel to the European Union this summer in a Sunday interview with the New York Times.

However, the final decision on whether to allow travel to an EU member state will come from each country individually, as decisions about borders are made by the member state, and not the European Commission, according to EU guidelines,. 

For example, Greece -- who earlier this month lifted quarantine requirements for vaccinated travelers and those testing negative for Covid-19 from key tourism markets, including Europe, the UK and the United States -- is able to waive its rules because it is within Greece's powers to do so. 

But other European countries, like Belgium for example, have decided to introduce additional criteria at its external borders for all travelers. 

As it stands, if you are outside the EU and want to make a non-essential journey to an EU country that has opened, there are a few more hurdles to cross: 

  • You will need to apply for a vaccine certificate from the country you are travelling to before you travel.
  • The vaccine certificate you were given by your home country will need to be recognised by the EU country you are travelling to.
  • You will need to take a coronavirus test in-line with the rules set by the country you are travelling to.

Some countries may waive all, or some of these rules, or set stricter criteria.

Plus, while a Digital Green Certificate, or vaccine passport, has been recommended by the European Commission, they have not yet been adopted – and countries will be able to opt out. 

The proposed Digital Green Certificate would allow those with the required armfuls of approved anti-Covid pharmaceuticals or antibodies from having had the virus, to travel freely. Negative tests could also be used to qualify.

The certificates were initially recommended by the commission only for EU citizens travelling within the EU, with a plan to launch them in June. However, EU spokesperson Adalbert Jahnz told CNN that discussions with the US are underway to open the certificates up to US citizens with proof of vaccination to automatically be eligible for one.

The on-going talks are focused around how US citizens would be able to apply for the certificate.  

The question is if people will apply for an individual application with the country they intend to visit, or if they receive a EU wide pass after the EU country recognizes a non-EU country's vaccine documentation.

“In both cases, the rules for acceptance of proof of vaccination would be the same as for EU nationals: vaccines that have received EU-wide marketing authorization have to be accepted, but Member States can decide to accept other vaccines in addition,” according to the EC's proposal.

7:37 a.m. ET, April 26, 2021

The US needs to send unused AstraZeneca vaccines to India, congressman says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi speaks with CNN on Monday, April 26.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi speaks with CNN on Monday, April 26. CNN

As India faces a devastating second wave of Covid-19 cases, the United States released a statement pledging aid and much-needed medical supplies. However, Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi says it's a good first step but "not enough," adding that the Biden administration needs to send its unused stockpile of AstraZeneca to India.

"We have tens of millions of doses of unused AstraZeneca vaccines sitting in warehouses. We're not going to be using them. And we need to get those out the door to countries like India and other places," he told CNN.

"It makes no sense whatsoever for these things to be sitting on shelves unused here in the United States. Get them out the door right now so that they can save lives."

Krishnamoorthi added that it's not just the right thing to do -- but it would also in US "self-interests."

"The covid fires are raging ... and we need to put out the fires where they are or it will come back to burn us here and start another wave of Covid in the United States," he said Monday.
Of the several mutations of Covid-19 in existence, “it only takes one of them to overpower the vaccines that we have here in the United States," Krishnamoorthi said, underlining the risk of not helping India in its current Covid-19 crisis.

Some background: India's second wave of Covid-19 is killing thousands each day, with more than a million new cases recorded in just three days. On Monday, the country reported 352,991 new cases and 2,812 virus-related deaths, marking the world's highest daily caseload for the fifth straight day.

Watch the interview:

6:34 a.m. ET, April 26, 2021

Restrictions ease in parts of the UK as vaccine rollout gathers speed

From Amy Cassidy in Glasgow and Niamh Kennedy in Dublin

A bar worker prepares customers' drinks at a re-opened Wetherspoons pub in Glasgow on April 26, following the relaxing of some Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland.
A bar worker prepares customers' drinks at a re-opened Wetherspoons pub in Glasgow on April 26, following the relaxing of some Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland. Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

Coronavirus restrictions have been further eased in Scotland and Wales on Monday as the vaccine rollout continues across the UK.

Friends and families will now be able to gather in larger groups across both countries. 

In Scotland:

  • People can now enjoy a meal or drink outdoors as the hospitality sector partially resumes. 
  • Up to six people from two households can meet in a cafe or a restaurant, where alcohol consumption is permitted outdoors only. 
  • Non-essential shops, gyms, libraries and visitor attractions reopened their doors.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon thanked the public for their patience over the last few months, writing on Twitter: “Best wishes to businesses opening up today. Recent months have been tough, but your sacrifices have helped save lives - thank you."

In Wales:

  • Outdoor dining and drinking has resumed as the hospitality sector partially reopens.
  • Wedding receptions and funerals may now be held outdoors for up to 30 people. 
  • Organised outdoor activities, such as sports, may take place -- up to 30 people. 
  • Outdoor visitor attractions also reopened.
  • Since Saturday, up to six people from six separate households have been allowed to meet outdoors. 

The move follows England’s much anticipated reopening of outdoor hospitality, non essential retail and personal care and indoor leisure facilities on April 12. 

Northern Ireland -- part of the UK -- reopened hairdressers and barbers last week, and will reopen non essential retail and outdoor hospitality on April 30.

More than 60% of adults in Scotland have now received their first vaccine dose as of last week, and more than 50% of adults in Wales as of Sunday.

7:25 a.m. ET, April 26, 2021

India's government asks Twitter to remove posts critical of its handling of the pandemic

From CNN's Manveena Suri in New Delhi

The Indian government has asked Twitter to remove several tweets that have criticized its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, according to a statement released on Sunday.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said it had taken the action, “in view of the misuse of social media platforms by certain users to spread fake or misleading information and create panic about the Covid-19 situation in India by using unrelated, old and out of the context images or visuals, communally sensitive posts and misinformation about Covid-19 protocols.”

The government statement said it asked Twitter to remove around 100 posts or URLs, following recommendations from the Ministry of Home Affairs, saying: 

“It is pertinent to mention that at a time, when the entire country is putting up a brave and honest effort to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, certain people are misusing social media to create panic in society.”

“The Government welcomes criticisms, genuine requests for help, as well as suggestions in the collective fight against Covid-19, but it is necessary to take action against those users who are misusing social media during this grave humanitarian crisis for unethical purposes,” the statement said.

The move comes as India's prime minister faces mounting anger as Covid-19 cases and deaths continue to rise, creating a massive public health crisis across the nation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi only addressed the nation on the situation for the first time last week, having held political rallies and largely downplayed the second wave's urgency in the weeks before.

India reported 352,991 new cases and 2,812 virus-related deaths Monday, marking the world's highest daily caseload for the fifth straight day. 

A Twitter spokesperson told CNN on Monday in a statement that it has withheld some of those tweets, following a legal request by the Indian government.

"When we receive a valid legal request, we review it under both Twitter rules and local law," the spokesperson said, adding:

"If the content violates Twitter's rules, the content will be removed from the service. If it is determined to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction, but not in violation of the Twitter rules, we may withhold access to the content in India only.” 

“In all cases, we notify the account holder directly so they’re aware that we’ve received a legal order pertaining to the account," the Twitter statement added.

The requests to withhold content are published on the Lumen database, a Harvard University project.

5:09 a.m. ET, April 26, 2021

Malaysia to rollout AstraZeneca vaccines to people 60 and older

From Eric Cheung in Hong Kong

Malaysia will roll out AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines to people aged 60 and above, according to state media Bernama News Agency.

Health Minister Adham Baba announced the plan on Monday after saying that the vaccine is "safe."

His comments came after Malaysia received 268,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday.

A number of European countries including Spain, Germany and Ireland have limited the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people over 60 following reports of potentially fatal blood clots predominantly among younger people.

Last week, the European Medicines Agency said the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweighed the risks, and added they will continue to review the "very rare cases" of blood clots.

7:25 a.m. ET, April 26, 2021

As India breaks another global Covid-19 record, countries pledge assistance and aid

From CNN's Jessie Yeung

A relative of a person who died of COVID-19 reacts at a crematorium in Jammu, India, on April 25.
A relative of a person who died of COVID-19 reacts at a crematorium in Jammu, India, on April 25. Channi Anand/AP

As India fights a devastating second wave of Covid-19 that is killing thousands each day, international efforts to help tackle the crisis are hastening, with both Britain and the United States pledging aid and much-needed medical supplies.

The second wave, which began in March, has escalated rapidly, with India recording more than a million new cases in just three days. For the past two weeks, medical facilities have been running out of oxygen and ICU beds, with patients left to die at home and outside hospitals waiting for care.

On Monday, India reported 352,991 new cases and 2,812 virus-related deaths, marking the world's highest daily caseload for the fifth straight day.

The situation is particularly dire in the capital New Delhi, which is under lockdown until May 3. The city is facing severe oxygen shortages. Delhi does not produce its own oxygen and relies on resources supplied by the central government, according to Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Several Delhi hospitals tweeted SOS messages over the weekend appealing for oxygen supplies. On Saturday, at least 20 critically ill patients died after oxygen supply was delayed at one Delhi hospital.

In a tweet Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his administration will set up 551 oxygen generation plants "in every district to ensure adequate oxygen availability."

The central government has come under fierce criticism within the country for its handling of the outbreak, which has seen overwhelmed hospitals and residents post pleas on social media for more supplies from state and federal officials. Many have turned to the black market in a desperate attempt to save their loved ones.

Modi only addressed the nation on the situation for the first time last week, having held political rallies and largely downplayed the second wave's urgency in the weeks before.

Read the full story:

2:54 a.m. ET, April 26, 2021

Hong Kong and Singapore travel bubble set to open on May 26

From Eric Cheung in Hong Kong

Travelers are seen in the departure hall of Changi International Airport in Singapore, on March 15.
Travelers are seen in the departure hall of Changi International Airport in Singapore, on March 15. Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong and Singapore are set to begin an air travel bubble on May 26, Hong Kong authorities said in a news release on Monday. 

The scheme will allow visitors to travel between the two cities on dedicated flights without the need for quarantine. 

The plan was first proposed last year but was postponed in November following a rise in Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong. 

“The re-launch of the Air Travel Bubble not only meets the aspirations of the people and business communities on cross-border travel, but also signifies that gradual resumption of cross-border travel is achievable through mutual collaborations among different places,” said Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development. 

To be eligible for the scheme, visitors must not have travel history outside of Hong Kong or Singapore in the past 14 days, and are required to download the destination city's official contact tracing app. Hongkongers wishing to travel to Singapore must also take two doses of Covid-19 vaccines, or submit medical proof they are not suitable to take the vaccines.

The travel bubble will automatically be suspended if the number of untraceable local Covid-19 cases in either city reaches more than five in a seven-day period. A more stringent threshold will also be implemented to ensure the scheme can only resume when the number of untraceable cases in either city remains low. 

"Both sides will need to stay very vigilant in the next one month, so that we can launch the first flights smoothly. It is a significant Air Travel Bubble between two aviation and financial services hubs in Asia," said Ong Ye Kung, Singapore’s Minister for Transport. 

Singapore and Hong Kong are not the only two governments to have had trouble implementing an air travel bubble. Australia and New Zealand finally began their two-way quarantine-free travel bubble on April 19 after multiple attempts were hit by minor coronavirus outbreaks.