The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and the Omicron variant

By Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 6:36 p.m. ET, February 4, 2022
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7:47 a.m. ET, February 4, 2022

Beijing identifies 21 new Olympics-related Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Gawon Bae

The Beijing Olympic Committee has reported 21 new Covid-19 cases among Games-related personnel as of Thursday, it said in a statement Friday ahead of the Opening Ceremony. 

Since the “closed-loop” system officially began on Jan. 23, a total of 308 Olympic-related Covid-19 cases have now been identified, 111 of which involve athletes or team officials.

Of the 21 new cases, 14 were detected among new airport arrivals and seven from those already inside the “closed-loop” system, which separates Olympic athletes, stakeholders, and staff from the public. 

Nine of the 21 cases involved athletes or team officials, two of which were already inside the “closed loop.”

A total of 670,186 Covid-19 tests have been administered inside the “closed-loop” system since Jan. 23, and 11,963 people have arrived in Beijing, the statement added.

Meanwhile, Beijing reported only one case of Covid-19 on Thursday, which was found in a medical worker, authorities announced Thursday evening. 

It brings the total number of cases reported in Beijing since Jan. 15 to 116, according to a CNN tally.

The person, who was not identified by authorities, had worked recently at the Beijing Ditan Hospital's emergency quarantine section. The person is currently in isolation and the hospital has suspended outpatient services since Thursday morning, authorities said. 

Hundreds of Covid-19 tests for people working in the hospital and environmental samples have been negative, according to the statement. 

CNN's Beijing Bureau contributed to this post

7:43 a.m. ET, February 4, 2022

Austria signs Covid-19 vaccine mandate into law, becoming the first European country to do so

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt and Tara John

Austria became the first country in Europe to introduce a national Covid-19 vaccine mandate for adults on Friday after President Alexander Van der Bellen signed it into law.

Austria's sweeping measures will see those without a vaccine certificate or an exemption potentially slapped with initial fines of 600 euros (or about $680). Checks to see if the mandate is being adhered to begin March 15.

Pregnant people and those who cannot be vaccinated without endangering their health are exempt from the law, according to the Austrian Health Ministry's website.

The exemption also applies to people who recently caught Covid-19, and lasts 180 days from the date they received their first positive PCR Covid-19 test.

The new law will last until Jan. 31, 2024, and could see unvaccinated people face a maximum fine of 3,600 euros ($4,000) up to four times a year if they are not on a vaccine register by their assigned vaccination date.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is pushing for a vaccine mandate as part of the country's Covid-19 containment strategy, and a key vote on a potential vaccine mandate is expected at the end of March.

Read more here:

7:28 a.m. ET, February 4, 2022

“Today is not the day” to lift Covid-19 restrictions, one expert says

From CNN’s Anokhi Saklecha

Some areas of the United States may be ready to lift Covid-19 restrictions in the next month or so, Dr. Megan Ranney, professor of emergency medicine and associate dean of public health at Brown University, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday.

"When is it going to be time to start to roll back some of these mandates? I expect that it's going to be within a month or so,” she said.

However, she emphasized that “today is not the day" to start rolling back safety measures. "We are still in the midst of a surge. We still have hospitalization rates that rival those of last winter, and we still have well over 2,000 Americans dying every day.” 

She said the rollbacks will depend on a combination of hospitalization rates, intensive care unit occupancies and, most of all, vaccination rates. 

“I can’t say it enough: If you're vaccinated and boosted, if other people in your community are vaccinated and boosted, we're going to be able to unmask safely indoors much more quickly.” 

7:30 a.m. ET, February 4, 2022

South Korea extends social distancing measures by two more weeks amid Omicron surge 

From CNN’s Yoonjung Seo

South Korea is extending its social distancing measures by two weeks amid a surge of the Omicron variant, the country’s Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said in a briefing on Friday.

The current measures limiting private gatherings to six people and closing restaurants and cafes at 9 p.m. local time will remain for two more weeks from Feb. 7.

“After much deliberation, the government has decided to extend the current social distancing measures….We decided that the priority was to slow down the speed of this Omicron coronavirus variant, which is approaching its apex. Speed and efficiency are the ways to overcome this crisis,” Kim said. 

The country has seen a steady rise in cases, reporting record high numbers since the Omicron coronavirus variant became the dominant strain. 

The country reported a record 27,442 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University data, with 24 deaths.