January 6 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Melissa Mahtani, Meg Wagner, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 1:59 a.m. ET, January 11, 2022
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1:03 p.m. ET, January 6, 2022

Italy surpasses 200,000 Covid-19 cases in a single day for the first time

From Livia Borghese in Rome

Cars line up at a rapid swab testing drive-through site in Rome on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021.
Cars line up at a rapid swab testing drive-through site in Rome on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. (Andrew Medichini/AP)

Italy has recorded more than 200,000 new daily Covid-19 cases for the first time since the start of the pandemic, according to official data.  

The country's health ministry reported at least 219,441 new daily Covid-19 cases on Thursday. There were 198 Covid-19 related deaths reported, bringing the overall deaths to at least 138,474.

The Italian government made Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for anyone over 50 years old on Wednesday.

Unvaccinated workers who are 50 years old or older risk being fined between 600 and 1,500 euros under Italy's new coronavirus decree, a government source told CNN Thursday. 

1:03 p.m. ET, January 6, 2022

Former Biden health advisers say the US needs to change its Covid-19 strategy to face a "new normal"

From CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht, Naomi Thomas and Virginia Langmaid

People wait in line to get tested for COVID-19 in Times Square, New York, on Dec. 20, 2021.
People wait in line to get tested for COVID-19 in Times Square, New York, on Dec. 20, 2021. (Seth Wenig/AP)

Former health advisers to President Biden say the US strategy on the Covid-19 pandemic needs to be updated to face a “new normal” of living with the virus, rather than aiming to eliminate it.

In three pieces published in the medical journal JAMA on Thursday, six former Biden advisers proposed a new plan and detailed strategies for testing, mitigation, vaccines and treatments.

“Without a strategic plan for the ‘new normal’ with endemic COVID-19, more people in the US will unnecessarily experience morbidity and mortality, health inequities will widen, and trillions will be lost from the US economy,” wrote Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, Michael Osterholm and Dr. Celine Gounder, who had been appointed to Biden’s transition Covid-19 advisory board in 2020.

They push for modernized data infrastructure to provide real-time information, a bolstered public health workforce, more and empowered school nurses and moves to rebuild trust in public health institutions. Substantial resources will be needed to “build and sustain an effective public health infrastructure,” they write.

In the article on testing, surveillance and mitigation strategies, Emanuel, David Michaels and Rick Bright called the initial response to the virus “seriously flawed." The authors called for low-cost and accessible testing with immediate advice when someone receives a positive results; improved air and wastewater surveillance and genomic sequencing; and government involvement in mitigation, including paid sick leave for all US workers and a voucher program for accessing N95 and KN95 masks.

In another piece, Dr. Luciana Borio, Bright and Emanuel call for vaccine mandates, variant-specific vaccines and accelerated efforts to develop a universal coronavirus vaccines, as well as rapid development of effective oral antivirals. “Integral to achieving and sustaining this ‘new normal’ are both faster development and more efficient deployment of vaccines and therapeutics,” they write.

Some of the advisers have spoken up in the past about the Biden administration’s Covid-19 response, including in February, when four advisers and other experts urged mandates around N95 masks in a memo to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

12:32 p.m. ET, January 6, 2022

Cameroon launches massive Covid-19 operation ahead of Africa Cup of Nations 

From CNN's Stephanie Busari

A worker sits at his desk while waiting for people to be vaccinated against Covid-19 at a vaccination center at the National Museum in Yaounde, Cameroon, on November 29, 2021.
A worker sits at his desk while waiting for people to be vaccinated against Covid-19 at a vaccination center at the National Museum in Yaounde, Cameroon, on November 29, 2021. (Daniel Beloumou Olomo/AFP/Getty Images)

Cameroonian authorities have launched a massive testing and vaccination operation against Covid-19 ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) soccer finals starting Sunday.

Hundreds of vaccination points have been opened in all six cities hosting the competition, in line with requirements by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

CAF will require supporters to show proof of vaccination in addition to a negative Covid-19 test before they can enter stadiums.

“Supporters may only enter stadiums to attend the Africa Cup of Nations matches in Cameroon if they are fully vaccinated and are able to show a negative PCR test result that is no older than 72 hours or a negative antigen test result no older than 24 hours,” CAF said in a release.

Cameroon’s Health Minister Manaouda Malachie reiterated CAF’s position Wednesday, urging locals to get vaccinated and be tested for the virus ahead of the competition.

Cameroon is struggling to contain a burgeoning Covid-19 crisis with vaccine hesitancy still rampant among residents. Only 4.6% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated against the virus, according to the last published figures.

12:24 p.m. ET, January 6, 2022

There is "no particular risk" in proceeding with Winter Olympics, WHO leader says

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

Authority personnel wearing a protective suit watches as a media bus stands by for people arriving at the Beijing Capital International Airport on Wednesday, January 5.
Authority personnel wearing a protective suit watches as a media bus stands by for people arriving at the Beijing Capital International Airport on Wednesday, January 5. (The Yomiuri Shimbun/AP)

Given the prevention measures put into place by China for the upcoming Winter Olympics, the World Health Organization does not expect increased Covid-19 transmission associated with the games, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said Thursday. 

“As with the Summer Games, we've worked with the Chinese authorities through the International Olympic Committee in order to provide technical advice on the safe operation of the Winter Games,” Ryan said during a briefing. 

“They have released a series of different playbooks, we continue to review those playbooks with the IOC. I'm confident that given the information we have that the measures that are in place for the games are very strict and very strong and we don't at this point see any increased risk of disease transmission in that context.”

Ryan said the country has seen “pretty large” outbreaks of Covid-19 in recent weeks, but the government has been “taking a very strong approach to dealing with those outbreaks.” 

“Certainly at this stage, given the arrangements that have been put in place for the athletes and by the organizers, we don't perceive that there's any particular extra risk in hosting or running the games, but obviously we will keep all of the measures that are being put in place under constant review.”

The Winter Olympics are set to begin in Beijing on Feb. 4.

12:10 p.m. ET, January 6, 2022

Airlines cancel another 1,600 flights, citing worker coronavirus cases

From CNN's Pete Muntean

Unclaimed baggage starts to pile up outside the Southwest Airlines baggage claim at Denver International Airport on Monday, January 3.
Unclaimed baggage starts to pile up outside the Southwest Airlines baggage claim at Denver International Airport on Monday, January 3. (RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post/Getty Images)

Airlines continue to cancel and delay flights by the thousands as their operations struggle with workers calling out sick with coronavirus.

Carriers have canceled more than 1,620 flights by Thursday afternoon and delayed more than 1,350 nationwide, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.

On Wednesday, US airlines canceled a total 1,790 flights and delayed another 6,097 flights.

Southwest Airlines has canceled 562 flights, 18 percent of its total schedule, as of noon Thursday, more than any US carrier. 

United Airlines has canceled 227 flights, 11 percent of its Thursday schedule. United is now offering pilots who pick up extra trips up to three times their normal pay through the end of the month.

12:13 p.m. ET, January 6, 2022

Israel will remove all countries from its "red" no-fly list

From CNN's Elliott Gotkine and Michael Schwartz

Planes sit on the tarmac at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport in Lod, east of Tel Aviv, on December 21, 2021.
Planes sit on the tarmac at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport in Lod, east of Tel Aviv, on December 21, 2021. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel plans to remove all countries – including the US, UK and the United Arab Emirates – from its "red" no-fly list as domestic Covid-19 infections hit a new record. 

Starting at midnight local time, Israelis will be free to travel to these countries without special permission. Vaccinated or recovering returnees will only need to self-isolate until they receive a negative PCR test or 24 hours have passed. Unvaccinated returnees will need to take a PCR test when they arrive and then present a second negative result after a week of self-isolation. Starting on Sunday, non-Israelis will again be allowed to enter the country as long as they're vaccinated. 

"The government takes the economic consideration into account in every action. In order to reduce the infection rate, there needs to be very tough steps which there is no certainty that the government and the public are able to take," Israel's Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash told Israel radio Kan 11.

On Wednesday, the country had a record 16,115 new Covid-19 cases. On Monday, Israel began its rollout of a fourth vaccine dose, or second booster, to all medical workers and people over 60.

11:57 a.m. ET, January 6, 2022

Global Covid-19 cases "increased sharply," WHO says in weekly update

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Cars line up at a COVID-19 testing site at the South Orange Youth Sports Complex on December 30, 2021, in Orlando.
Cars line up at a COVID-19 testing site at the South Orange Youth Sports Complex on December 30, 2021, in Orlando. (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Global Covid-19 cases “increased sharply by 71%,” from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2 compared with the week before, the World Health Organization said in its weekly epidemiological update published on Thursday.

This sharp increase follows gradual increases since October. 

Just under 9.5 million new cases were reported, WHO said, with increases in all regions. 

Here's what the data shows:

The Americas region was highest with a 100% increase. A 78% increase was reported in the Southeast Asia region, 65% in the European region, 40% in the Eastern Mediterranean, 38% in the Western Pacific and 7% in the African region.

The United States reported the highest number of new cases, followed by the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Italy. 

As of Jan. 2, there have been nearly 289 million cases reported globally. 

There was a 10% decrease in the number of new deaths compared with the week before, with over 41,000 deaths being reported. 

Only one region, the African region, reported an increase of 22% in the number of new deaths. Decreases of 18% in the Americas, 10% in the Western Pacific region, 9% in the Southeast Asia region, 7% in the Eastern Mediterranean region and 6% in the European region were reported. 

Just over 5.4 million deaths have been reported across the world as of Jan. 2. 

11:39 a.m. ET, January 6, 2022

Djokovic's family speaks out after Australia refuses tennis champ entry over Covid-19 rules

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy 

The family of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic attend a rally in front of Serbia's National Assembly on Thursday, January 6, in Belgrade, Serbia.
The family of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic attend a rally in front of Serbia's National Assembly on Thursday, January 6, in Belgrade, Serbia. (Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

The family of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic claim the Australian authorities took away all his belongings after revoking his visa to enter the country on Wednesday. 

The tennis player's brother Drodje Djokovic told journalists during a news conference in Belgrade Thursday that the athlete "hasn't broken a single rule or law of the federal government of Australia." 

Djokovic's brother claimed that other tennis players had the "same document" as him, yet "he's the only one detained at the border and denied entry."

He went on to describe the Australian authority's treatment of his brother as a "serious diplomatic breach," recounting how communication was abruptly severed between the player and his family.  

"In the first 45 minutes I think, he was communicating to the family and team, and that abruptly stopped. He had no contact whatsoever as his phone had been taken away from him for three and a half hours," according to Drodje Djokovic.

Djokovic's phone was eventually returned and he was taken into another isolation room, he added. 

After his visa was revoked, the tennis player was taken through Melbourne Airport's metal detectors and all his belongings and suitcases were taken away from, according to his brother. 

"His wallet and change of clothes were taken away from him. He was taken to the migrant hotel, to a dirty room and was told that all his belongings will be given back to him on his departure to Europe," he said.

The latest update Djokovic's family received stated that if Djokovic returns to Europe immediately, he will be banned from entering Australia for three years. "The court's response to Novak's complaint was that the Australian authorities mustn't deport Novak before Monday," his brother added. 

The family believe the tennis player wishes to stay in Australia and "seek justice" after "being treated like a criminal," his brother continued.

His lawyers continue to work on the case to "set him free as he deserves to be," his brother underlined.

Some background: Djokovic's visa to enter Australia was canceled following an outcry over his controversial "medical exemption" from the country's coronavirus vaccination rules.

Djokovic, the men's tennis world no.1, hasn't publicly revealed his vaccination status — but in a news conference on Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he "didn't have a valid medical exemption" to the vaccination requirement for all arrivals.

"Entry with a visa requires double vaccination or a medical exemption," Morrison said. "I am advised that such an exemption was not in place, and as a result, he is subject to the same rules as everyone else."

"There are many visas granted, if you have a visa and you're double vaccinated, you're very welcome to come here," he added. "But if you're not double vaccinated and you're not an Australian resident or citizen, well, you can't come."

11:27 a.m. ET, January 6, 2022

Austria imposes tougher Covid-19 measures to curb the spread of Omicron 

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer presents the new COVID19- regulations at a press conference after a meeting of the federal government in Vienna, Austria, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022. The new regulations will come into force on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer presents the new COVID19- regulations at a press conference after a meeting of the federal government in Vienna, Austria, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022. The new regulations will come into force on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. (Lisa Leutner/AP)

Austria will impose tougher Covid-19 restrictions on its citizens and businesses in order to curb the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer announced Thursday.

''Omicron represents a very new challenge for us all here in Austria,” Nehammer said following a meeting between the Austrian government and its main advisory body on the pandemic, the COVID-Crisis-Coordination (GECKO). "We need to do everything we can possibly do together to prevent another lockdown.”

Austrian Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein outlined the stricter rules that will be enforced starting Saturday. They include:

  • A compulsory wearing of European standard FFP2 (filtering face piece) masks outdoors if a distance of more than two meters is not possible.
  • Whenever possible, people should work from home.
  • Proof of vaccination or recovery to enter trade businesses, restaurants and cafes – supermarkets excluded – will apply upon entering these facilities. If businesses are not adhering to those control measures, they will be closed down.
  • Austria will also shorten quarantine times to five days, require people to wear masks outdoors when in crowds and limit the validity of vaccine certificates to six months.  

Some background: Omicron became the dominant variant in Austria on Monday, which has led to a sharp increase in infection rates. On Thursday, Austria reported 8,263 new Covid-19 cases – nearly three times above the daily average number of infections last week – according to data from the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES).

The Austrian chancellor said that he expects infections rates to rise sharply in the next few days and weeks, with 17,000 new cases per day by next week and over 20,000 new daily cases forecast for the week after next.