What you need to know about coronavirus on Friday, January 25

CNN – January 25, 2021

(CNN)On the surface, Wuhan bustles like a city that has never known a paralyzing 76-day lockdown.

At dawn, market vendors busily unload fresh fruits and vegetables. Office workers fill popular eateries during their lunch breaks. As dusk falls, elderly couples descend on the city’s parks, practicing dance moves by the Yangtze River. Red lanterns have been erected around the city in anticipation of the Lunar New Year celebrations.

A year has passed since the central Chinese city of 11 million people was placed under the world’s first coronavirus lockdown on January 23. At least 3,869 Wuhan residents died from the virus, which has since claimed more than two million lives around the globe.

The world was stunned when flights, trains and buses leaving Wuhan were canceled, highways were blocked and people were ordered to stay in their homes, relying on officials and volunteers for daily necessities. Initially, it was difficult for patients, families and even some healthcare workers to reach hospitals.

But the Chinese government has since heralded those drastic steps as crucial to curbing the initial outbreak, and similar measures have now been enforced in countries around the world — with some cities, and even whole countries, outside China undergoing multiple lockdowns.

In that context, Wuhan can be seen as a success story in taming the virus. It has not reported a local coronavirus infection for months. But the severe measures also came at a huge personal cost to residents, and despite the apparent return to normal life, deep emotional scars still haunt the city, David Culver and Nectar Gan write.

Elderly couples dance along the Yangtze River that cuts through the heart of Wuhan.


Q: Are medical masks better than cloth masks?

A: Confronting new, more transmissible variants of the coronavirus and a winter spike in infections, a number of European countries — including France, Germany and Austria — are beginning to make medical-grade face masks compulsory in the hope that they can slow the spread of the disease.

Unlike fabric and surgical masks, which protect other people from larger respiratory droplets emitted when the wearer breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes — in other words, outflowing air — medical-grade masks (for example FFP1, FFP2, KN95, and N95 masks) protect the wearer by filtering both outflowing and inflowing air. They can also provide some level of protection against smaller droplets, or aerosols. When fitted correctly, FFP2 masks can filter at least 94% of particles, while N95 masks can filter at least 95% of particles.

And while the tight weave of surgical masks offer a high level of outflowing protection — which is why they’re used by medical professionals around patients — cloth masks are more hit or miss. Their efficacy depends on the number of layers of fabric and the type of fabric used — most don’t have any sort of safety rating.

Source: World Health Organization, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Graphic: Keri Enriquez, Eliza Mackintosh and Henrik Pettersson CNN


The megarich have already recovered from the pandemic. It may take the poor a decade to do so

Nine months. That’s how long it took the world’s top 1,000 billionaires to recoup their fortunes after the coronavirus pandemic hit.

It could take the world’s poorest more than a decade to recover, according to Oxfam International’s annual inequality report. The report, released on Sunday ahead of the World Economic Forum’s virtual meeting of political and financial leaders, typically held in Davos, Switzerland, lays out the virus’ disparate impact around the globe. The pandemic could increase economic inequality in almost every country at once, the first time this has happened, Oxfam found.

“We stand to witness the greatest rise in inequality since records began. The deep divide between the rich and poor is proving as deadly as the virus,” said Gabriela Bucher, Oxfam’s executive director. “Rigged economies are funneling wealth to a rich elite who are riding out the pandemic in luxury, while those on the front line of the pandemic — shop assistants, health care workers, and market vendors — are struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table.”

CDC reviewing new data that suggests coronavirus variant identified in UK could be more deadly

Scientists at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are speaking with British health officials to learn more about data that suggests a new coronavirus variant could be more deadly. A report released Friday states there is “a realistic possibility” that the Covid-19 variant first detected in the United Kingdom has a higher death rate than other variants. While the data is not conclusive, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “there is some evidence that the new variant … may be associated with a higher degree of mortality.” Other strains have also been identified in South Africa and Brazil.

CDC modeling shows this new strain could become the predominant variant in the United States by March. Only 195 cases of the new variant have been spotted in the US so far, according to the CDC, but public health officials believe many more cases are going undetected. Cases have been found in 22 states, the CDC says, with California and Florida detecting a particularly high number.

Reacting to the new data in an interview with CBS on Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it should be assumed that the coronavirus variant first identified in the UK, B.1.1.7, does have the power to cause more damage, including deaths. But he also noted that both the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines “seem to continue to be protective against the mutant strain. It is a very minor diminution, but the cushion that you have of efficacy is so large that it’s not going to negatively impact.”

What ‘vaccine passports’ mean for your summer vacation

The words “vaccine passport” have a reassuring ring to them, perhaps conjuring up the image of a sleek, embossed document with watermarked pages and official stamps of approval. Flourished at border controls, such a passport could open travel doors that, for so many of us, have been closed by Covid-19.

Some destinations — including the Seychelles, Cyprus and Romania — have already lifted quarantine requirements to visitors able to prove they’re vaccinated. Others, such as Iceland and Hungary, have opened up to people who’ve recovered from Covid-19.

This raises the prospect that proof of inoculation or immunity could be the golden ticket to rebooting travel and seems to be good news for people eager to book summer vacations after months of lockdown, particularly as vaccine rollouts gather pace.

But the concept of immunity passports remains deeply contentious, and anyone banking on them for a 2021 summer vacation could be disappointed. While there’s a strong argument that globally recognized inoculation documentation could help reconnect the planet, fears remain over what protection they actually afford, how they might be abused and what all of that means for those still awaiting jabs.