April 28 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Jessie Yeung, Brett McKeehan, Kara Fox, Melissa Mahtani and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:08 AM ET, Thu April 29, 2021
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4:11 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

COVAX scheme is "destined to fail," says the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town 

From CNN’s Emmet Lyons and Henry Hullah

A shipment of Covid-19 vaccines through the COVAX global vaccination program is seen at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana, on February 24.
A shipment of Covid-19 vaccines through the COVAX global vaccination program is seen at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana, on February 24. Nipah Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

The COVAX scheme is “destined to fail,” according to the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa.

In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday, Archbishop Thabo Makgabo was heavily critical of the program aimed at helping developing countries get vaccine access and said it was unambitious in its goals and hindered by rich countries hoarding doses. 

“If one looks at the COVAX system and its intention, it’s supposed to help the global south and the poorest of the poor countries to vaccinate only 3% – it is destined to fail,” he said.

COVAX is an entity run by a coalition that includes the Vaccine Alliance known as Gavi and the World Health Organization, and is funded by donations from governments, multilateral institutions and foundations. Its mission is to buy coronavirus vaccines in bulk and send them to poorer nations that can't compete with wealthy countries in securing contracts with the major drug companies. 

WHO officials have said they expect COVAX will help just 3.3% of the populations of low-income countries be vaccinated by the end of June. Gavi itself forecasts vaccines distributed through COVAX will reach 27% of the populations of lower-income countries this year.

“I've seen people die without saying goodbye to their families. If one looks at the scourge in India… one is anxious that should we have that magnitude in the [African] continent, the continent will be wiped off the face of this Earth whilst others are hoarding. This is not a moral issue only but it is an issue of greed and an issue that the world should really speak up and stand up against such behavior in the face of death,” the Archbishop said. 

Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, who was also on the program, told Amanpour there have been export bans and there has not been sharing of doses “which has been a real challenge”.

“COVAX has been able to procure over two billion doses which will be available by the end of 2021. That should cover 30% of the population but they are not here today,” Berkley said.

“At the same time, wealthy countries bought more than a billion and a half doses beyond the amount they need to cover their citizens because they didn't know which vaccines would work. So what we're asking is right now at this critical time, they share those doses so we can make sure that, at least, the healthcare workers and the highest risk groups get served everywhere in the world because we're only safe if everybody is safe and that's the reality of this pandemic.” 

On Tuesday, the Archbishop was one of 145 religious leaders who signed a letter calling on countries and pharmaceutical companies to provide enough vaccines to immunize the entire global population.

He told Amanpour that he hopes that message reaches G7 leaders and called on those leaders, and Canada in particular, to end vaccine nationalism: “We are only safe if everyone is safe… I was pained that Canada also used the COVAX …to buy so many vaccines.

“G7 leaders, please examine your conscience... think about life rather than profits,” he added.

 Berkley responded to the Archbishop’s comments on Canada, saying: “The way COVAX was set up was to try to avoid these bilateral deals and have global solidarity and equitable access. We invited all countries to join… we have a large number of doses as I've mentioned for the second half of the year but obviously we have to oblige the people who have put money on the table to buy doses and we keep our promises.”

3:25 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Economy will fully recover when pandemic is over, Fed chair says 

From CNN’s David Goldman

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. Source: Federal Reserve

Think the economy has recovered from the pandemic? Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has some news for you: It's not going to be back for quite some time — not until the pandemic is over.

"The economy can't fully recover until people are confident it's safe to resume activities involving crowds of people," Powell said at a press conference Wednesday.

"There may be people around the edge of the labor force that won't come back in unless they feel comfortable in going back to their old jobs. There will be parts of the economy that just won't be able to fully reengage until the pandemic is decisively behind us," he added.

Some context: US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said on Tuesday that there the new CDC guidance that says fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks during outdoor activities is just a start – there is hope that people will be able to take off their masks indoors someday, too.

“What we're going to see as more and more people get vaccinated, is that we're going to be able to open up, including indoors, down the line,” Murthy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Some states are also loosening restrictions on businesses and offices and increasing capacity.

2:53 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Fed leaves rates near zero as US states start to roll back Covid-19 restrictions

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

The Federal Reserve said Wednesday the US economy is growing stronger, but it left interest rates unchanged near zero.

Interest rates will stay the range of zero to a quarter of a percent until the Fed's goal of maximum employment and inflation of about 2% over the longer term.

To ensure the economy stays on track, the central bank will continue with its monthly asset purchases, consisting of at least $80 billion in Treasury securities and $40 billion mortgage-backed securities. 

Even though investors are growing nervous that the reopening of the economy could lead to a sudden spike in inflation that could force the Fed to raise rates sooner, the central bank has been steady in its view that rate increases wouldn't happen anytime soon.

The Fed said it is "prepared to adjust the stance of monetary policy as appropriate if risks emerge."

2:17 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

New Orleans will keep mask restrictions in place despite lifting of statewide mandate

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch

People walk past a sign along Decatur Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans on July 14.
People walk past a sign along Decatur Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans on July 14. Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The city of New Orleans will not be making changes to their Covid-19 restrictions, including the mask mandate, a spokesperson for Mayor LaToya Cantrell tells CNN.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards lifted the state mask mandate, but left it up to local governments to keep the restriction.

tweet by NOLA Ready, the city’s emergency preparedness account also said, “the current #COVID guidelines in #NOLA will remain in effect for the time being" while city health leaders review changes at the state and federal level.

The spokesperson said the city will hold a news conference on Thursday to discuss their Covid-19 mitigation efforts. 

1:42 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Larger Moderna Covid-19 vaccine vials expected to reach health departments in late May

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

Vaccine maker Moderna is expected to start shipping larger vials of its Covid-19 vaccine in the coming weeks, Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, told CNN on Wednesday. The vials will go from holding 10 to up to 15 doses of vaccine.

"Those larger vials will be in the hands of states by the third week of May," Freeman said. 

On April 1, Moderna announced that the FDA had authorized two vial presentations for its Covid-19 vaccine: a maximum of 15 doses in a new vial presentation and a maximum of 11 doses in the current format. Moderna told CNN in an email on Wednesday that the initial availability date of the vials has not yet been disclosed.

But there is some concern that it might be difficult to use larger vials for certain hard-to-reach populations, Freeman said, which could put some doses at risk of being wasted. 

"That doesn't really help state and local health departments who see the larger dose vials as not being as conducive or flexible for some of the work they have to do with populations that are remaining to be served," Freeman said.

Moderna's shift to larger vials is an effort to "increase the number of doses that it gets out there by increasing the size of the vial," Freeman said. "That was the best way they determined that they could increase doses."

Health officials were told about this update during a call with the White House on Tuesday. 

2:12 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

UK to send India life-saving mobile "oxygen factories" that supply scores at time

From CNN’s Amy Cassidy and Sarah Dean

Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks during a virtual press conference inside the new Downing Street Briefing Room in London on April 28.
Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks during a virtual press conference inside the new Downing Street Briefing Room in London on April 28. Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The UK will send three mobile "oxygen factories" that produce enough oxygen per minute to support 50 people at a time, as it battles a devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the British government announced on Wednesday.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said the three oxygen generation units – each the size of a shipping container — would be sent from surplus stock from Northern Ireland and would produce 500 liters of oxygen per minute each, which is enough for 50 people to use at a time.

“At the moment, the Indian government are asking for support with oxygen production. That’s why the UK [is sending this] in addition to the equipment we have already allocated,” Minister of State for Middle East and North Africa, James Cleverly said in a pooled interview on Wednesday.

The decision follows the UK’s recent action to support India with 495 oxygen concentrators and 200 ventilators sent from surplus stock, the first batch of which arrived in India on Tuesday, the FCO statement said.

“International collaboration is more essential than ever, and this additional UK support package will help meet India’s current needs, particularly for more oxygen,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaking at a Downing street press conference on Wednesday said the scenes in India “pains each one of us” because the “bonds between the countries are so strong.”

“Everyone across this whole United Kingdom stands side by side with the people of India In these troubled times. In this battle against coronavirus we are all on the same side,” Hancock said.

“This fight is a global fight. When other nations face their hour of need just as we faced our hour of need here at home, we will be there.”

Hancock also responded to a reporter question on whether excess vaccine doses would be sent to India, saying they had no excess to send, adding that the Serum Institute of India (SII) were able to produce sufficient vaccine supply.

The SII “are making and producing more doses of vaccine than any other single organization. And obviously that means that they can provide vaccine to people in India at cost,” Hancock said.

“We're leaning in, both on what we can provide and the material goods we can provide now like ventilators that we thankfully don't need any more here,” he added.

“India can produce its own vaccine, based on British technology, that is… the biggest contribution that we can make which effectively comes from British science,” Hancock said.

1:28 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Brazil's president calls Covid-19 parliamentary commission an "off-season carnival"

From journalist Rodrigo Pedroso in Sao Paulo.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro delivers a statement to members of the media at Planalto palace in Brasilia on March 31.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro delivers a statement to members of the media at Planalto palace in Brasilia on March 31. Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images

Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro criticized the Covid-19 Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) installed on Tuesday by the Brazilian Senate to investigate the country's handling of the pandemic and questioned whether it will convene governors and mayors or just hold what he mocked as an "off-season carnival".

“Will the commission call (governors and mayors to testify) or they will want to do a Carnival out of season? They're going to fail, ” Bolsonaro said to supporters on Wednesday.

Bolsonaro claimed he provided resources for governors and mayors to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“Many stole money, embezzled. Now a commission comes to investigate my conduct? Whether (I) was in favor of chloroquine or not," he asked.

Brazil’s Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said on Wednesday he is not worried about the inquiry.

"I will go if they ask me to. And I will openly discuss what I have been doing at the health ministry," he said in a press conference. 

The Brazilian Senate commission is aimed at investigating actions and possible omissions of the federal government during the pandemic in Brazil.

12:42 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

UK purchases additional 60 million Pfizer/BioNtech doses for booster program

From CNN's Sarah Dean in London

People wait to receive a dose of the BioNTech/Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic set up in Derby, England, on March 31.
People wait to receive a dose of the BioNTech/Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic set up in Derby, England, on March 31. Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

The UK government has purchased another 60 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to support its booster program for the fall, the Department of Health announced on Wednesday.

“Our vaccination program is bringing back our freedom, but the biggest risk to that progress is the risk posed by a new variant,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a statement.

“We're working on our plans for booster shots, which are the best way to keep us safe and free while we get this disease under control across the whole world.

“These further 60 million doses will be used, alongside others, as part of our booster program from later this year, so we can protect the progress that we’ve all made," Hancock said.

Over a quarter of the UK’s population — 13,581,076 people — have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, and more than 33 million people have received a first dose, according to figures from the Department of Health. 

In total, the UK has secured access to 517 million doses of eight Covid-19 vaccine candidates, however not all of these have yet been approved by the country’s medicines regulator (MHRA). Rolling reviews are underway by the MHRA to assess the Janssen and Novavax vaccines and clinical trials are ongoing for the Valneva, GSK and Sanofi and CureVac vaccines.

The details are as follows:  

  • Pfizer/BioNTech for 100 million doses, including the additional 60 million doses
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca for 100 million doses
  • Moderna for 17 million doses
  • Janssen for 30 million doses
  • Novavax for 60 million doses
  • Valneva for 100 million doses
  • GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur for 60 million doses
  • CureVac for 50 million doses 
12:26 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Italy and Germany to send medical aid to India

From CNN's Livia Borghese and Inke Kappeler

Germany will send 120 respirators to India on Saturday, Germany’s Defense Ministry tweeted on Wednesday, as India grapples with oxygen supply shortages amid a massive surge in Covid-19 cases.

Germany is also planning on supplying an oxygen production facility to India, the tweet said.

It comes after India’s defense ministry said Friday it will import 23 mobile oxygen generation plants and containers from Germany. 

Meanwhile, Italy's Civil Protection agency will send an oxygen-production system to India that can be used to supply both a traditional or a field hospital and a team of specialized personnel to ensure the correct use of the machinery.

“I wish to express my profound closeness to the Indian people for the suffering caused by the new wave of the pandemic. Italy will not fail to support it in this difficult time,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi in a statement on Wednesday.