January 11 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Rhea Mogul, Adam Renton, Jack Guy and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 1:53 AM ET, Wed January 12, 2022
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8:49 a.m. ET, January 11, 2022

US Covid-19 hospitalizations reach record high, HHS data shows

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

Registered nurse Akiko Gordon, left, and Repertory Therapist Janssen Redondo, right, are working inside the ICU with a covid-19 positive patient at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital (MLKCH) on Friday, December 31, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA.
Registered nurse Akiko Gordon, left, and Repertory Therapist Janssen Redondo, right, are working inside the ICU with a covid-19 positive patient at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital (MLKCH) on Friday, December 31, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

Covid-19 hospitalizations in the United States have reached a new record high, surpassing the previous peak from January 2021, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

There are 145,982 people currently hospitalized with Covid-19 – about twice as many than two weeks ago. There are nearly 24,000 intensive care unit beds in use for Covid-19 patients.

Hospitalizations reached a previous peak about a year ago, with more than 142,000 people hospitalized with Covid-19 on Jan. 14, 2021. During the Delta surge over the summer, Covid-19 hospitalizations peaked at about 104,000 on Sept. 1, 2021.

There have been only 23 days since the beginning of the pandemic that there have been more than 125,000 people hospitalized with Covid-19 at one time, HHS data shows.

Pediatric hospitalizations have already far surpassed previous peaks – with nearly 5,000 children currently hospitalized with confirmed or suspected Covid-19. That’s nearly double the previous peak from September during the Delta surge.

There have been about 3.9 million total hospital admissions for Covid-19 since August 2020, and there were about 18,600 new admissions each day during the first week of January 2022, according to federal data.

According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of hospitalization is eight times higher for unvaccinated people than it is for fully vaccinated people. This varies week to week, but in the last week of November, CDC data shows that hospitalization rates were about 17 times higher for unvaccinated people than for fully vaccinated people.

Right now, Covid-19 hospitalization rates are highest in Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Ohio – each with more than 60 current Covid-19 hospitalizations for every 100,000 people.

The HHS data on Covid-19 hospitalizations includes both those patients who are hospitalized because of Covid-19 complications and those who may have been admitted for something else but test positive for Covid-19. This has been true throughout the pandemic, though the share of patients who fall into each category may have changed over time.

8:37 a.m. ET, January 11, 2022

British opposition criticizes UK prime minister after news of lockdown party 

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner in the House of Commons, Westminster, on Tuesday January 11, 2022 asking an urgent question over the lockdown-busting Downing Street drinks party allegedly attended by Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie. Police are in contact with the Cabinet Office over claims that Martin Reynolds, a senior aide to the Prime Minister, organised a "bring your own booze" party in the garden behind No 10 during England's first lockdown in May 2020.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner in the House of Commons, Westminster, on Tuesday January 11, 2022 asking an urgent question over the lockdown-busting Downing Street drinks party allegedly attended by Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie. Police are in contact with the Cabinet Office over claims that Martin Reynolds, a senior aide to the Prime Minister, organised a "bring your own booze" party in the garden behind No 10 during England's first lockdown in May 2020. PA/Reuters

In urgent questions in the House of Commons, the deputy leader for the opposition, Angela Rayner, criticized British Prime Minister Boris Johnson after news of a BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) party during lockdown in May 2020 emerged.

She said it was “incredibly disappointing” Johnson was not present for the urgent questions.

Rayner said “the public has already drawn their own conclusions. He (Boris Johnson) can run but he can’t hide.”

“It won’t wash Mr Speaker, to blame this (party) on a few junior civil servants, the prime minister sets the tone,” she said.

Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National Party, echoed the criticism, saying Johnson and his staff had “partied behind the walls of his private gardens” while citizens watched loved ones dying.

“This is a prime minister who has lost his moral authority,” Blackford said.           

An investigation into alleged gatherings during lockdown on May 15 and May 20, 2020, led by Sue Gray, second permanent secretary in the cabinet office, is underway, Michael Ellis, UK Paymaster General, has confirmed.

8:15 a.m. ET, January 11, 2022

Covid-19 is "still a way off" of being endemic, WHO official says 

From CNN’s Allegra Godwin in London 

Covid-19 cannot yet be referred to as an endemic disease, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official has said.

Dr. Catherine Smallwood, Covid-19 incident manager at the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, told a virtual WHO Europe news conference Tuesday that Covid-19 is “still a way off” endemicity. 

Smallwood explained endemicity assumes there is “stable circulation of the virus at predictable levels, and potentially known and predictable waves of epidemic transmission.” 

“But what we're seeing at the moment coming into 2022 is nowhere near that, we still have a huge amount of uncertainty, we still have a virus that's evolving quite quickly and posing quite new challenges. So we're certainly not at the point of being able to call it endemic,” she went on. 

“It may become endemic in due course, but pinning that down to 2022 is a little bit difficult at this stage,” Smallwood said, adding “all of this of course depends on how we respond to it and widespread vaccination uptake on an equitable basis will be very, very key in moving towards such a scenario.” 

8:07 a.m. ET, January 11, 2022

Schools should be "last places to close and the first to reopen," says WHO chief

From CNN’s Allegra Goodwin in London 

A student takes a Covid-19 test on the first day of term in Halifax, northern England on January 4, 2022.
A student takes a Covid-19 test on the first day of term in Halifax, northern England on January 4, 2022. (Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)

Dr. Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional director for Europe, has emphasized the need to do everything to keep children in schools throughout further waves of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Looking ahead, the numbers of infected people are going to be so high in many countries that schools may be unable to keep all classes open all the time, due to a lack of staff,” Kluge said at a virtual news conference Tuesday. 

However, he stressed that: “Keeping schools open has important benefits for children’s mental, social and educational well-being. Schools should be the last places to close and the first to reopen.

“This winter, it is advisable to make arrangements for online learning alongside physical presence, so children can continue with their education when they are unable to attend school in person,” Kluge told the conference. 

He reiterated that the WHO’s recommendations for educational settings -- ventilation, hand hygiene and the use of appropriate face masks -- remained essential.

Kluge also added that “countries may wish to consider reviewing the protocols on testing, isolation and quarantine of classroom contacts to minimize disruption to learning, mitigating these risks as far as possible with good ventilation and mask usage.”

7:00 a.m. ET, January 11, 2022

WHO Europe chief urges countries to mandate “high-quality masks”

From CNN’s Allegra Goodwin in London

Dr. Hans Kluge at the ExpoForum Convention and Exhibition Centre in St. Petersburg, Russia in June 2021.
Dr. Hans Kluge at the ExpoForum Convention and Exhibition Centre in St. Petersburg, Russia in June 2021. (Vladimir Astapkovich/Sputnik/AP)

Countries not yet affected by a surge of the Omicron coronavirus variant should adopt mask mandates, according to Dr. Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe.

“For countries not yet hit by the Omicron surge, there is a closing window of opportunity to act now and plan for contingencies,” Kluge warned at a virtual news conference Tuesday. 

“Omicron moves faster and wider than any such Covid new variant that we have previously seen. We therefore urge these countries to mandate the use of high-quality masks in closed and indoor settings and ensure that vulnerable individuals have access to them,” he said. 

As of January 10, 26 countries in the region reported that more than 1% of their population is catching Covid-19 each week, Kluge said.

He added that he is “deeply concerned that as the variant moves East [across Europe], we have yet to see its full impact in countries where levels of vaccination uptake are lower, and where we will see more severe disease in the unvaccinate.” 

Kluge used the example of Denmark, where he said Omicron cases had “exploded” in recent weeks, and the Covid-19 hospitalization rate for unvaccinated patients was six-fold higher than for those who were fully vaccinated in the week over Christmas.

6:44 a.m. ET, January 11, 2022

96 of top 100 female tennis players fully vaccinated, says Women's Tennis Association

From CNN’s Aleks Klosok in London

From left to right, tennis players Anett Kontaveit, Garbiñe Muguruza, Maria Sakkari, Aryna Sabalenka, Barbora Krejcikova, Karolina Pliskova, Iga Swiatek and Paula Badosa pose with the Billie Jean King trophy ahead of the 2021 Akron WTA Finals in Zapopan, Mexico.
From left to right, tennis players Anett Kontaveit, Garbiñe Muguruza, Maria Sakkari, Aryna Sabalenka, Barbora Krejcikova, Karolina Pliskova, Iga Swiatek and Paula Badosa pose with the Billie Jean King trophy ahead of the 2021 Akron WTA Finals in Zapopan, Mexico. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

A spokesperson for the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has told CNN that 96% of the WTA’s top 100 players are now fully vaccinated.

Full vaccination equated to two doses where appropriate, added the spokesperson. The figure was previously 85%.

The issue of vaccinations in professional tennis has shot to prominence amid controversy surrounding men's world number one Novak Djokovic.

The Serb had his Australian visa canceled last week after authorities determined he did not qualify for a medical exemption from the rule that all arrivals to Australia must be vaccinated against Covid-19.

6:08 a.m. ET, January 11, 2022

Omicron to infect more than 50% of Europe region’s population in 6-8 weeks, says WHO chief

From CNN’s Allegra Goodwin in London

World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Europe Dr. Hans Kluge at a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, in July 2020.
World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Europe Dr. Hans Kluge at a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, in July 2020. (Aytug Can Sencar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The Omicron coronavirus variant is forecast to infect more than half of the European region’s population in the next six to eight weeks, according to Dr. Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Europe.

“We have entered 2022 with the countries of Europe and Central Asia still under intense pressure from Covid-19,” Kluge told a virtual news conference on Tuesday.

“Today, the Omicron variant represents a new west to east tidal wave sweeping across the region on top of the Delta surge that all countries were managing until late 2021,” he added. 

“At this rate the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts that more than 50% of the population in the region will be infected with Omicron in the next 6 to 8 weeks,” Kluge said. 

5:57 a.m. ET, January 11, 2022

Australian Border Force investigating whether Djokovic lied on entry form

From CNN’s Angus Watson in Sydney, Australia 

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic stands at an Australian Border Force booth at the airport in Melbourne on January 5, 2022.
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic stands at an Australian Border Force booth at the airport in Melbourne on January 5, 2022. (Reuters)

The Australian Border Force (ABF) is investigating whether Novak Djokovic submitted a false travel declaration ahead of arrival in Australia, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN.

Djokovic declared he had not traveled and would not do so in the 14 days leading to his arrival in Australia on Wednesday January 5, according to a travel declaration submitted as evidence to the court determining whether he would be allowed to remain in Australia.  

Various pictures taken during that two-week period appear to show Djokovic in both Spain and Serbia.

While court documents show that Tennis Australia filled out the travel declaration on Djokovic’s behalf, the information used was provided by Djokovic, an ABF officer at Melbourne airport on January 5 determined.  

The penalty for submitting a false travel declaration carries a maximum penalty of 12 months prison, according to the Australian Department of Home Affairs website. 

Djokovic’s media team has not responded to CNN’s requests for comment. 

The ABF investigation comes as Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke considers whether to exert his personal power to cancel Djokovic’s reinstated visa. 

4:56 a.m. ET, January 11, 2022

UK minister refuses to comment on leaked invitation to staff party during lockdown

From CNN's Nina Avramova

Edward Argar in Westminster, London, on November 1, 2021
Edward Argar in Westminster, London, on November 1, 2021 (Amer Ghazzal/Shutterstock)

A UK minister has said he doesn't "think it would be appropriate" for him to comment on a leaked email from one of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's top officials inviting Downing Street staff to “socially distanced drinks” in May 2020 -- when the rest of the country was in lockdown.

Johnson has faced controversy and anger over a string of allegations about government staff parties while strict Covid-19 restrictions were in place in the United Kingdom. 

Edward Argar, minister of state for health, refused to comment on the latest reports of this invitation, which was sent to more than 100 employees.

“I don't know what did or didn't happen. All I've seen are the reports -- the email that was reported yesterday -- and various sources quoted by various media and journalistic outlets,” Argar told British broadcaster Sky News.

“That's why it's right that this is looked into independently by Sue Gray, and therefore it'd be wrong for me to comment while she's doing that and, equally, while we’ve heard, I think overnight, that the Metropolitan Police have said they're in communication with the Cabinet Office," he said.

"So, given those circumstances, I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment on what she may or may not conclude, but let her get on with her job,” Argar added.