Germany to impose stricter COVID lockdown during holiday season

Chancellor Merkel says schools and most shops to close from Wednesday to battle rise in coronavirus cases.

'There is an urgent need to take action,' Chancellor Merkel said, following a meeting with leaders of the country's 16 federal states [Reuters]

Germany will close most shops from Wednesday until January 10 as it tightens coronavirus restrictions and tries to rein in the spread of the disease.

In the US, shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are ready to set in motion the biggest vaccination effort in American history.

South Korea has reported 1,030 new coronavirus infections, its largest single-day jump and the second daily record in a row.

Globally, COVID-19 deaths have surpassed 1.6 million with more than 71 million infections.

Here are all the latest updates:

Italy passes UK to have worst COVID-19 death toll in Europe

Italy on Sunday eclipsed Britain to become the nation with the worst official coronavirus death toll in Europe.

Italy, where the continent’s pandemic began, registered 484 COVID-19 deaths in one day, one of its lowest one-day death counts in about a month.

Still, those latest deaths pushed Italy’s official toll up to 64,520, while Britain’s stood at 64,267, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Both numbers understate the true toll of the pandemic. Counting criteria differ in the two countries, and many coronavirus deaths, especially early in the pandemic, are believed to have gone undetected, including those of elderly people in nursing homes who were not tested for COVID-19.

French COVID infections, hospital deaths edge lower

France has reported 11,533 new coronavirus infections, compared with 13,947 a day earlier, and said 150 people had died in hospital over the past 24 hours as a result of COVID-19.

US CDC reports 296,818 deaths from coronavirus

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 15,932,116 cases of the new coronavirus, an increase of 213,305 from its previous count, and said that the number of deaths had risen by 2,283 to 296,818.

First Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses to arrive in Canada on Sunday

The first doses of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Canada later on Sunday, with more of the initial batch of 30,000 coming on Monday, the official in charge of Canada’s vaccine rollout told the CBC.

Canada is expected to approve the Moderna Inc vaccine “reasonably soon” and the country will be ready to accept shipments of it by the end of the week, Major-General Dany Fortin told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

UK reports 18,447 new COVID-19 cases, 144 deaths

Britain has reported 18,447 cases of coronavirus and 144 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, marking a decline on Saturday’s tallies, according to government data.

Italy’s daily COVID-19 death toll falls to 484

Italy has reported 484 coronavirus-related deaths, down from 649 the day before, while the daily tally of new infections also fell to 17,938 from 19,903.

There were 152,697 swabs carried out in the past 24 hours, well below a previous 196,439, the health ministry said.

US FDA chief defends process for approving COVID-19 vaccine

US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn defended the FDA’s process for approving Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and denied claims by President Donald Trump that the vaccine could have been available a week sooner.

“We do not feel that this could have been out a week earlier,” Hahn said on ABC’s “This Week,” noting that the FDA went through its process appropriately and that he felt “very confident” in the decisions the agency made.

US expects to have immunized 100 million against COVID-19 by end of Q1 2021

The United States expects to have immunized 100 million people with the coronavirus vaccine by the end of the first quarter of 2021, the chief US adviser for efforts on COVID-19 vaccines has said.

“We would have immunized 100 million people by the first quarter of 2021,” US Operation Warp Speed chief adviser Dr. Moncef Slaoui said in an interview with Fox News.

He said the US hopes to have about 40 million doses of vaccine distributed by the end of December, and another 50 million to 80 million distributed in January, and the same number in February. The vaccine requires two shots per person.

Israel shortens mandatory quarantine

Israel has further shortened its mandatory quarantine period from 12 to 10 days, a health ministry statement has said.

The ministry had already shortened the period for which anyone who has been in contact with a coronavirus patient must self-isolate from 14 to 12 days on November 1. The new regulation will take effect on Tuesday at 0600 GMT.

Israelis who have had contact with people who tested positive will themselves have to take a coronavirus test on the first day of their 10-day quarantine, as well as on the ninth day, and both tests must be negative in order for them to leave isolation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier on Sunday said Israel would likely start inoculating its first citizens – health workers as well the premier himself – within days, sooner than the earlier announced start date of December 27.

New COVID-19 cases jump by nearly 10,000 in the Netherlands

Coronavirus cases in the Netherlands rose by nearly 10,000 over the past 24 hours, data released by national health authoriites showed, marking their biggest jump since the end of October.

The increase continues a rising trend seen over the previous week, as the effects of a partial lockdown which has been in effect since October 13 seem to have waned.

The Dutch government has convened an emergency meeting for Sunday to discuss extra measures to limit the spread of the disease. It is expected to make an announcement of possible further measures on Tuesday.

Swiss hospitals implore health minister to tighten restrictions

The directors of five of Switzerland’s largest hospitals have written to the health minister asking for urgent measures to reduce coronavirus infections, SonntagsZeitung newspaper reported.

In a letter to Minister Alain Berset, the directors of the university hospitals of Zurich, Bern, Basel, Lausanne and Geneva said the pandemic was forcing them to postpone operations for patients with other life-threatening conditions while intensive care beds were becoming scarce. More than 4,000 operations have been postponed at the five hospitals since October.

Switzerland has been hard hit by the epidemic, recent infections rising to about 5,000 new cases every day. Roughly 1.3 percent of the population has been infected in the last 28 days.


Non-essential shops, schools to close in Germany: Merkel

“There is an urgent need to take action,” Chancellor Angela Merkel has said following a meeting with leaders of the country’s 16 federal states.

Under the agreement reached by the leaders, Germany will close most stores from Wednesday until at least January 10, cutting short the busy Christmas shopping season. Only essential shops such as supermarkets and pharmacies, as well as banks, are to remain open.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 20,200 to 1,320,716, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Sunday. The reported death toll rose by 321 to 21,787.

Lagos governor Sanwo-Olu tests positive for coronavirus

The governor of Lagos Babajide Sanwo-Olu has tested positive for COVID-19 after he was exposed to a confirmed case.

Akin Abayomi, Lagos state commissioner for health, said the governor “was doing well on treatment and rest,” adding that his team was “confident that he will recover quickly and clear the virus.”

Nigeria, with a population of around 200 million people, has had 72,757 confirmed cases.

OPINION: How have philosophers responded to the pandemic?

In her message to mark World Philosophy Day 2020, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay underlined the exceptional nature of this year’s celebration.

“This day … gives us the opportunity to celebrate much more than an academic discipline or a human science, but a certain way of being in the world made all the more necessary by the context in which we live today,” she said

Azoulay was referring to the coronavirus pandemic, the global nature of which compelled everyone to contribute to efforts to end it. Immunologists, doctors, and nurses became indispensable in the quest to treat patients and develop vaccines, others contributed simply by wearing masks and helping vulnerable neighbours during lockdowns.

But how have philosophers contributed? Can “the love for wisdom” make a difference in a pandemic?

Read more here.

Bahrain approves registration for Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine

Bahrain’s National Health Regulatory Authority said it had approved the registration of a coronavirus vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm).

The statement did not specify a vaccine among the two being developed by Sinopharm but cited data from phase-three clinical trials that showed an 86-percent efficacy rate and said Bahrain had participated in those trials.

The data cited was the same as that announced earlier this month by the United Arab Emirates from an interim analysis of late-stage clinical trials for an inactivated vaccine developed by Beijing Institute of Biological Product, a unit of Sinopharms’ China National Biotec Group (CNBG).

Pakistan raises vaccine budget to $250m

Pakistan has increased the funds allocated to purchasing COVID-19 vaccines amid a surge in the coronavirus.

Dr Nausheen Hamid, parliamentary secretary for National Health Services, says the budget for the vaccines had been enhanced to $250m. Earlier, the government had set aside $150m.

Pakistan recorded 3,369 new cases of the virus and 72 new deaths on Sunday.

China reports 24 new COVID-19 cases

China has reported 24 new coronavirus cases in the mainland, up from 13 cases a day earlier, while authorities were monitoring possible contacts in the domestic tourism hotspot of Hainan.

There were five local cases and 19 imported infections on Saturday, according to the National Health Commission. New asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 14 from 17 a day earlier.

As of Sunday, mainland China had 86,725 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said. The COVID-19 death toll remained at 4,634.

There were five local cases and 19 imported infections on Saturday in China [Tingshu Wang/Reuters]


More Brazilians sceptical of COVID-19 vaccine: Poll

Scepticism towards a COVID-19 vaccine has increased in Brazil during the past months, a new poll showed, as the country continues to grapple with high infection and death rates linked to the virus.

The Datafolha polling institute’s survey found that 22 percent of Brazilians said they would be unwilling to take a COVID-19 vaccine, up from 9 percent in August.

The survey also found that 73 percent of respondents planned to take a shot and 5 percent said they did not know if they would. Those figures were at 89 percent and 3 percent in August, respectively.

Read more here.

Trucks with first COVID vaccine in US ready to roll

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will reach hospitals and other sites across the US by Monday morning, a top official said, ready to be administered to millions of the most vulnerable Americans.

Tractor-trailers loaded with suitcase-sized containers of the vaccine will leave Pfizer Inc’s manufacturing facility in Michigan on Sunday. The dry-ice cooled packages can hold as many as 4,875 doses, and the first leg of their journey will be from Kalamazoo to aeroplanes positioned nearby.

Workers will load the vaccine – which must be kept at sub-Arctic temperatures – onto the aircraft that will shuttle them to United Parcel Service or FedEx air cargo hubs in Louisville, Kentucky, and Memphis, Tennessee, respectively.

“We have spent months strategising with Operation Warp Speed officials and our healthcare customers on efficient vaccine logistics, and the time has arrived to put the plan into action,” Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Healthcare, said on Saturday.

South Korea reports 1,030 coronavirus cases

South Korea has reported 1,030 new coronavirus infections, the second daily record in a row as a country that had initial success controlling COVID-19 now battles a harsh third wave.

Of the new cases, 1,002 were locally transmitted. It brings the total to 42,766 infections with 580 deaths, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-Kyun on Saturday said further tightening social distancing restriction to the nation’s highest level would be inevitable if the spread continues, which would be practically a lockdown for the first time in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.


Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies