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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4:37 a.m. ET, January 11, 2022

4,000 students sent to quarantine in locked down Chinese city

From CNN's Yong Xiong

Residents in the sealed off area of Hua county lined up in the rain for the second round of nucleic acid detection, Anyang, China on 10 January 2022
Residents in the sealed off area of Hua county lined up in the rain for the second round of nucleic acid detection, Anyang, China on 10 January 2022 (Sipa Asia/Shutterstock)

More than 4,000 students in central China were sent to quarantine facilities on Sunday after a cluster of Covid-19 cases was found at their school, according to local authorities.

Officials in Anyang city, Henan province said a total of 4,040 children from Tangyin Yucai School, from elementary to high school students, were transferred to three centralized quarantine facilities.

Videos from Chinese state media and social media showed the students wearing full hazmat suits while boarding buses.

Anyang officials said Tuesday they had imposed a strict lockdown on all 5.5 million of the city's residents after confirming a total of 84 cases in a local Covid cluster.

Residents are banned from leaving their homes unless to undergo mass testing for Covid-19 and all factories and non-essential businesses have been shut.

The Anyang outbreak is believed to be linked to a college student who traveled to the city from Tianjin on December 28 while infected with the Omicron variant, according to the local health commission.

4:18 a.m. ET, January 11, 2022

India administers nearly 1 million Covid-19 vaccine shots on first day of booster rollout

From CNN's Swati Gupta in New Delhi

A nurse administers a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine to a health worker at Nair Hospital in Mumbai, India on Monday.
A nurse administers a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine to a health worker at Nair Hospital in Mumbai, India on Monday. (Anshuman Poyrekar/Hindustan Times/Getty Images)

India administered nearly 1 million Covid-19 vaccine booster doses to its eligible population on Monday, as the country continues to witness a sharp rise in cases driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Authorities are taking steps to prevent a potentially devastating third wave of infections by expanding their inoculation drive and increasing medical resources.

At least 984,676 people were given a third Covid-19 vaccine dose on Monday — the first day of India's booster rollout, according to the country's Health Ministry. A limited group of people are eligible for booster shots, including frontline and health care workers and individuals above age 60 with pre-existing medical conditions.

More than 26 million children ages 15-18 have received a first Covid-19 vaccine shot since India began inoculating the age group on January 3, the ministry added.

“India began administering Precaution Doses. Kudos to those who have got vaccinated today. I would request all those who are eligible to get vaccinated. As we all know, vaccination remains among the most effective means to fight COVID-19,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted Monday.

Omicron spread: Since the start of this year, India has been recording a surge in new daily cases, particularly in capital city Delhi and financial capital Mumbai, despite varying levels of restrictions imposed in different states.

Over the past few days, Delhi and Mumbai have registered an average of 20,000 cases each day. At the start of December, new cases in the cities hovered in the dozens.

India reported 168,063 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing its total to 35.8 million since the start of the pandemic. Just over 46% of India's 1.3 billion people are fully vaccinated, according to Johns' Hopkins University.

4:25 a.m. ET, January 11, 2022

About 20 million people in China are now under lockdown

From CNN's Beijing Bureau and Eric Cheung

Healthworkers give residents a second round of nucleic acid testing on January 10, Hua County, Anyang City, Henan Province.
Healthworkers give residents a second round of nucleic acid testing on January 10, Hua County, Anyang City, Henan Province. (Wang Zirui/Costfoto/Future Publishing/Getty Images)

A third Chinese city has been placed under strict lockdown as the country tries to contain localized outbreaks of Covid-19, local authorities said Tuesday.

That raises the total number of people now confined to their homes in China to approximately 20 million, with the Beijing Winter Olympics just over three weeks away.

All 5.5 million residents of Anyang city in central Henan province are not allowed to leave their homes, while shops, restaurants and factories remain shut, the Anyang municipal government said.

More than 4,000 students and staff from an Anyang school have been placed in government-run quarantine centers after nine people tested positive for the virus, local authorities added.

The city has reported a total of 84 Covid-19 cases since it detected two local Omicron infections on January 8.

On Tuesday, China reported 110 new local symptomatic Covid-19 cases, the National Health Commission (NHC) said in a statement. China counts asymptomatic cases separately.

Strict lockdowns: Anyang is the third Chinese city after Xi'an in the northwest Shaanxi province and Yuzhou, also in Henan, to implement a full Covid lockdown.

Restrictions were placed on Xi'an's 13 million residents on December 23. In the days and weeks since, complaints about food shortages and reports of patients being denied medical care have shocked the nation.

On January 2, Yuzhou, home to 1.2 million people, was placed under lockdown after it reported three asymptomatic cases.

Yuzhou recorded 74 symptomatic local cases on Monday, the largest current outbreak in the country, according to the NHC. 

Meanwhile, 29 residential communities in Tianjin city are under lockdown after Omicron was detected in at least two residents Saturday — China's first reported community spread of the highly transmittable variant.

Tianjin reported 21 infections on Monday — 11 symptomatic and 10 asymptomatic — bringing the total of its current outbreak to 53.

The city of 14 million is located just 130 kilometers (80 miles) southeast of Beijing, where the Winter Olympics are due to begin February 4.

Zero-Covid strategy: China is one of the only places in the world still aiming to eliminate Covid-19 within its borders.

But the frustrations of locked down residents underscore the growing challenge facing its zero-Covid policy, which relies on a playbook of mass testing, extensive quarantines and snap lockdowns to stamp out any resurgence of the virus.

3:13 a.m. ET, January 11, 2022

Hong Kong suspends in-person classes for younger children amid Covid-19 outbreak

From CNN's Eric Cheung in Hong Kong

Children are escorted from school in Hong Kong on January 11, as the city announced the suspension of all kindergarten and primary schools until after the Lunar New Year in early February following an Omicron variant coronavirus outbreak.
Children are escorted from school in Hong Kong on January 11, as the city announced the suspension of all kindergarten and primary schools until after the Lunar New Year in early February following an Omicron variant coronavirus outbreak. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

Hong Kong will suspend in-person learning in kindergartens and primary schools, the city's leader said on Tuesday, as a local Omicron outbreak tests the government's strict zero-Covid policy.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in-person learning can only resume after the Lunar New Year holiday, which begins February 1, adding children ages 5-11 will also become eligible to receive the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine.

Officials in quarantine: Several Hong Kong officials were sent to mandatory quarantine last week after being identified as close contacts of a confirmed Covid-19 case linked to a local official's birthday party.

Lam on Tuesday called it a "most unfortunate event," adding an investigation is underway to determine whether any anti-epidemic rules were broken by the restaurant that hosted the event.

Omicron outbreak: Since the turn of the year, Hong Kong has identified a number of Omicron cases in a cluster linked to Cathay Pacific aircrew, which ended a nearly three-month streak of no locally transmitted Covid infections. 

The government has launched an investigation into Cathay's compliance with quarantine rules and may take legal action if necessary, Lam said.

Zero-Covid: Along with mainland China, Hong Kong is one of the few places in the world still pursuing a zero-Covid policy. That means most non-residents are banned from entering, while almost all overseas arrivals must undergo 21 days of quarantine — even if they are fully vaccinated.

Local restrictions have also been implemented, with indoor dining banned and entertainment venues such as cinemas, museums and bars and clubs temporarily shutting their doors.

4:58 a.m. ET, January 11, 2022

Australia surpasses 1 million Covid-19 cases 

From CNN's Lizzy Yee

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, January 10, 2022.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, January 10, 2022. (Lukas Coch/AAP Image/Reuters)

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Tuesday the country must "keep moving forward" after it surpassed 1 million total reported Covid-19 cases amid a surge in new infections driven by the Omicron variant. 

New South Wales, the country's most populous state, accounts for nearly half a million cases since the pandemic began, according to a CNN tally. On Monday, it reported 18 Covid-related deaths, according to NSW Health — the highest single day total for the state.

As of Monday night, the number of active cases in the country stands at nearly 588,000, of which 445,000 came under investigation in the previous seven days, according to data issued by the Department of Health, States & Territories. 

Despite the emergence of Omicron, Morrison has dismissed the possibility of a lockdown.

"Omicron is a gear change and we have to push through. That’s what Omicron is about. We're dealing with serious volumes of cases but we are not seeing the same impact proportionally from previous variants," he said in a news conference. "You have two choices here. You can push through or you can lock down. We're for pushing through. That's how you get through this."

On Tuesday, New South Wales reported 25,870 new cases and Victoria added 37,994 new infections, according to state health authorities. 

1:23 a.m. ET, January 11, 2022

White House: First free rapid tests will arrive for distribution "early next week"

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

Employees of the Miami-Dade Public Library System distribute Covid-19 home rapid test kits in Miami on January 8.
Employees of the Miami-Dade Public Library System distribute Covid-19 home rapid test kits in Miami on January 8. (Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)

The first Covid-19 tests that will be sent to Americans for free will start arriving for distribution “early next week,” the White House said Monday. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during an afternoon briefing that the administration is “working closely with manufacturing distributors to understand what they can ship and by when.” She said officials were still “working through the timelines of distribution.”  

“There are several components of this,” Psaki continued. “We want to ensure that there's not only that physical test, but the ability to distribute them, which is what we're working through right now.” 

She said contracts with testing manufacturers were expected to be “structured in a way to require that significant amounts are delivered on an aggressive timeline, the first of which should be arriving early next week. We expect to have all contracts awarded over the next two weeks, and then Americans will begin being able to order these tests online later this month.” 

“We also expect to have details on the website as well as a hotline later this week. So these are all components that we're working through and working to expedite as quickly as possible,” she said. 

More background: On Friday, the Biden administration signed its first contract with a test manufacturer as part of President Joe Biden's efforts to distribute half a billion free rapid tests throughout the country, according to White House officials. As CNN’s Kaitlan Collins reported, officials have offered few details since Biden announced the endeavor to send free test kits amid a nationwide shortage and surge in new cases.