Japan asks US to impose restrictions on American military bases over Covid-19 concerns

1 week ago 10
7 min ago

France's vaccine pass bill passes first stage of legislation

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman in Paris

France's Prime Minister Jean Castex (C) speaks during a session at the French National Assembly in Paris, on January 5, 2022. - The session, previously discussed on January 3, will focus on the bill reinforcing the tools for managing the health crisis amid the Covid-19 pandemic. France's Prime Minister Jean Castex (C) speaks during a session at the French National Assembly in Paris, on January 5, 2022. - The session, previously discussed on January 3, will focus on the bill reinforcing the tools for managing the health crisis amid the Covid-19 pandemic. (Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images)

France’s National Assembly voted to approve a vaccine pass bill early Thursday morning. 

The bill passed its first reading with 214 votes for, 93 against and 27 abstentions. 

This is the first major step in getting French parliament approval. The bill is set to be reviewed by a Senate commission Monday before its first public debate in the upper house the following day. If the Senate makes any changes, it will need to go back to a mixed committee of both houses for approval before being signed off by an executive council.  

The proposed legislation would replace France's health pass with a vaccine pass, meaning proof of vaccination is necessary for access to a range of everyday activities, from entering restaurants and bars to use of inter-regional public transport. Proof of a negative test or recent recovery from Covid would no be longer accepted.

These developments come just days after French President Emmanuel Macron waded into intensifying political debate over vaccines and restrictions in the country.

In an interview with Le Parisien newspaper on Tuesday, Macron said he "really wants to piss off" unvaccinated people with the strict new rules for those who have refused the shot.

16 min ago

India reports another sharp spike in cases driven by Omicron

From CNN's Esha Mitra in New Delhi 

Member of Health NTI Aayog Dr. Vinod Kumar Paul (c), Director-General at the Indian Council of Medical Research Dr. Balram Bhargava (R) and Joint Secretary of Health Ministry Dr. Luv Agarwal during a press briefing on the COVID-19 situation and vaccination update, at National Media Centre on January 5, 2022 in New Delhi, India. India is seeing an exponential rise in Covid-19 cases, which is believed to be driven by Omicron, the Centre said on Wednesday as the country recorded 58,097 fresh Covid cases. Member of Health NTI Aayog Dr. Vinod Kumar Paul (c), Director-General at the Indian Council of Medical Research Dr. Balram Bhargava (R) and Joint Secretary of Health Ministry Dr. Luv Agarwal during a press briefing on the COVID-19 situation and vaccination update, at National Media Centre on January 5, 2022 in New Delhi, India. India is seeing an exponential rise in Covid-19 cases, which is believed to be driven by Omicron, the Centre said on Wednesday as the country recorded 58,097 fresh Covid cases. (Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times/Getty Images)

India reported 90,928 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday — the highest since June 7, and a 56.5% increase on the 58,097 infections it reported Wednesday. 

This is the second consecutive day that cases have risen by more than 55%, according to a CNN tally of figures from the Indian Ministry of Health.

Of these new cases, more than 25,000 were reported in Delhi and Mumbai.

V. K. Paul, head of India’s Covid task force, said at a news conference Wednesday that “the acceleration of cases is steeper than ever," and the spike was driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant — particularly in larger cities and the western part of the country.

India is now seeing an even higher infection rate than it had during the peak of its devastating second wave last year, he added.

The positivity rate of tests is also rising, at 5% on Wednesday — compared to just 1.15% on December 30.

Since the pandemic began, India has reported 35.1 million cases and more than 482,000 deaths, according to the Health Ministry. Of those cases, at least 2,630 are of the Omicron variant.

22 min ago

Xi'an lockdown brings heartbreak and dysfunction as political pressure to contain outbreak grows

From CNN's Jessie Yeung, Nectar Gan, Yong Xiong and the Beijing Bureau

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, volunteers wearing protective suits package meals for delivery to people under lockdown in Xi'an in northwestern China's Shaanxi Province, Tuesday, January. 4, 2022. Hospital officials in the northern Chinese city of Xi'an have been punished after a pregnant woman miscarried after being refused entry, reportedly for not having current COVID-19 test results. In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, volunteers wearing protective suits package meals for delivery to people under lockdown in Xi'an in northwestern China's Shaanxi Province, Tuesday, January. 4, 2022. Hospital officials in the northern Chinese city of Xi'an have been punished after a pregnant woman miscarried after being refused entry, reportedly for not having current COVID-19 test results. (Zhang Bowen/Xinhua/AP)

As the locked down Chinese city of Xi'an claimed victory this week in its fight to contain the community spread of Covid-19, harrowing tales of loss and despair have emerged on social media — highlighting the immense human cost of China's zero-Covid policy.

The city of 13 million has been under strict lockdown since December 23, as it grapples with the country's worst coronavirus outbreak since Wuhan, the original epicenter of the pandemic. But local authorities have faced a public outcry over perceived incompetence, and disproportionately harsh measures that critics say harm the lives of those they are supposed to protect.

Over the past two weeks, Chinese social media has been flooded with posts from residents who say they have not received food, basic supplies, even medical care.

One heavily pregnant woman was allegedly turned away from a hospital on New Year's Day because she didn't have a valid Covid-19 test, according to a post from a user who said she was the woman's niece. A video posted on January 3 shows the woman sitting outside with a pool of blood around her feet. She was finally admitted two hours later — but suffered a miscarriage, said the post, shared widely on Chinese micro-blogging platform Weibo before it was deleted.

A staff member from Xi'an Gaoxin Hospital, where the woman sought care, told CNN they were investigating the incident, and that the hospital had initially turned away the woman in accordance with the government's Covid-19 regulations, but declined to comment further.

Another user appealed for help online on Sunday after a local hospital refused to admit her father, who had just had a heart attack, because they lived in a "medium-risk area" of the city.

She later updated the post on Xiaohongshu, China's Instagram-like platform, saying her father was allowed an emergency operation when his situation worsened significantly after several hours. "The delay was too long and rescue failed. I don't have a father anymore," she wrote.

The poignant accounts have sparked an outpouring of sympathy and anger online, with many questioning sacrifice in the name of epidemic control.

Read more:

Xi'an lockdown brings heartbreak as pressure to contain outbreak grows

24 min ago

Japan asks US to impose restrictions on American military bases over Covid-19 concerns 

From CNN's Emiko Jozuka in Tokyo

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi meets the press in Tokyo on Jan. 6, 2022, after asking U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in phone talks to impose curfews on U.S. bases in Japan due to a recent surge of coronavirus infections among American military personnel. Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi meets the press in Tokyo on Jan. 6, 2022, after asking U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in phone talks to impose curfews on U.S. bases in Japan due to a recent surge of coronavirus infections among American military personnel. (Kyodo News/Getty Images)

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi has asked US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to impose restrictions on American military bases in Japan due to a rise in Covid-19 infections among US military personnel.

In a phone call Thursday, Hayashi urged Blinken to introduce stricter coronavirus measures to "alleviate local anxiety among the Japanese public," the Japanese government said in a statement.

Earlier this week, the governor of Okinawa blasted the US military for failing to contain the spread of coronavirus in Japan’s southernmost prefecture. 

According to Okinawan government data, on Wednesday there were more than 800 US military personnel in isolation after recently testing positive in the prefecture.

Rising cases: On Wednesday, Okinawa reported 623 new infections, a significant jump from the previous day's 225. That brings the total number of active cases in the prefecture's local population to more than 1,200.

Meanwhile, new Covid-19 cases nationwide topped 2,000 for the first time in three months on Wednesday — the most since September 26, according to a tally by Japanese public broadcaster NHK. 

Considering restrictions: Okinawa's prefectural government said it will consider implementing a quasi-state of emergency to contain the virus, which requires bars and restaurants to shut early. The government will make a final decision at a task-force meeting Thursday. 

On Tuesday, Okinawa raised its alert level to 2 on its five-stage scale across the prefecture, requesting people avoid crowded areas and limit private gatherings to four people for no longer than two hours, a prefectural official told CNN.

According to the Japanese government, Blinken asserted that both the health and safety of the US Forces in Japan and the local population are very important to the US. He pledged to do as much as possible to curb the spread of infections.

27 min ago

Hong Kong allows more than 3,000 passengers and staff to leave cruise ship after Covid testing

From Teele Rebane in Hong Kong

The cruise ship "Spectrum of the Seas" is seen docked at a terminal in Hong Kong on January 5, 2022, after it was ordered to return to the city for coronavirus testing after nine people were found to be close contacts with a recent Omicron variant outbreak. The cruise ship "Spectrum of the Seas" is seen docked at a terminal in Hong Kong on January 5, 2022, after it was ordered to return to the city for coronavirus testing after nine people were found to be close contacts with a recent Omicron variant outbreak. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

More than 3,000 cruise ship passengers and staff were allowed to disembark in Hong Kong after being tested for Covid-19, a representative for the vessel's owners, Royal Caribbean, told CNN.

“Spectrum of the Seas” was ordered to return to port on Wednesday after nine passengers were identified as close contacts of a preliminarily positive case. The nine were isolated, while all 2,500 cruise passengers and 1,200 crew members were held on board for compulsory testing.

The nine close contacts, who have tested negative so far, were sent to compulsory government quarantine.

Royal Caribbean’s “cruise to nowhere” trips, which sail around the South China Sea before returning to Hong Kong, have been popular in the city — which enforces some of the strictest border control measures in the world. 

In a Facebook post, Royal Caribbean said all precautions had been taken, including requiring all eligible passengers and crew to be fully vaccinated, to file a health declaration and to test negative within 48 hours of boarding. Children ineligible for the vaccine also had to show a negative test and fill out a health declaration, it added.

Hong Kong reported its first local Omicron last week after going nearly three months without any local infection.

In an effort to break any local chains of Omicron transmission, the city will ban flights from eight countries on Friday and enact new social distancing restrictions, including closing gyms and bars.

Read more about Hong Kong's zero-Covid policy:

In 'zero-Covid' Hong Kong, this is what happens when you test positive

29 min ago

Singapore says booster shots will soon be needed to keep fully vaccinated status 

From CNN's Hannah Ritchie

A health worker fills a syringe with a diluent for with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Senja-Cashew Community Centre Vaccination Centre, operated by Thomson Medical, in Singapore, on Monday, March 8, 2021. A health worker fills a syringe with a diluent for with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Senja-Cashew Community Centre Vaccination Centre, operated by Thomson Medical, in Singapore, on Monday, March 8, 2021. (Wei Leng Tay/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Singapore will require a booster shot for adults to maintain their fully vaccinated status from February 14, the country’s Ministry of Health said Wednesday, citing the global surge of the Omicron variant.

Those vaccinated with two doses of a Covid-19 mRNA vaccine, or three doses of a Chinese inactivated vaccine, will see their vaccine status expire nine months after their last dose if they do not get a booster shot.

“If you have not taken your booster, your full vaccination status will lapse. This will amongst other things, affect your access to vaccination-differentiated venues such as malls, restaurants, libraries,” the ministry said in a statement. 

The new policy will apply to all vaccine-eligible persons age 18 and over. 

Singapore’s 5.5 million residents are required to provide proof of full vaccination in order to enter shops, restaurants, and public venues across the city-state. About 88% of the total population have now received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, while 42% have received booster shots. 

Omicron concerns: The Health Ministry said though the Delta wave had subsided, an Omicron wave is "imminent."

"While community cases are not high currently, and Omicron accounts for close to 20 percent of local cases, it is a matter of time before it starts to multiply quickly. We must be prepared for that," it said. 

On Wednesday, Singapore reported 805 new Covid-19 cases.

6 hr 40 min ago

CDC recommends Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine boosters for children as young as 12

From CNN's Katherine Dillinger

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its recommendations for the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine booster on Wednesday to include children as young as 12, at least five months after they finish the primary vaccine series.

On Monday, the FDA expanded the emergency use authorization for Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine boosters to children ages 12 to 15. The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted 13-1 earlier Wednesday in favor of recommending the expanded use of Covid-19 boosters for children in this age group.

The CDC had ​authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for use as a booster in ages 16 and 17 in December.

"It is critical that we protect our children and teens from COVID-19 infection and the complications of severe disease," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a news release.
"Today, I endorsed ACIP's vote to expand eligibility and strengthen our recommendations for booster doses. We now recommend that all adolescents aged 12-17 years should receive a booster shot 5 months after their primary series. This booster dose will provide optimized protection against COVID-19 and the Omicron variant. I encourage all parents to keep their children up to date with CDC's COVID-19 vaccine recommendations."

Read more:

CDC vaccine advisers vote to recommend Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 boosters for youths as young as 12

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