EU to start COVID vaccinations from December 27: Live news

EU countries rolling out a coordinated vaccination programme to ensure fair access.

The European Commission has sealed contracts with seven suppliers of potential vaccines [File: Dado Ruvic/Reuters]
The European Commission has sealed contracts with seven suppliers of potential vaccines [File: Dado Ruvic/Reuters]

EU countries will begin inoculating people against COVID from December 27, the head of the EU commission has said, assuming the EU regulator approves a vaccine.

In South Africa, more than 10,000 daily cases were registered as infections surged, the health minister said. Worst-hit is the Western Cape region, including the tourist destinations of Cape Town and South Africa’s wine country.

Earlier, the US set a double record, registering more than 3,700 deaths and more than 250,000 new cases in just 24 hours.

Globally, COVID-19 deaths have surpassed 1.6 million with more than 7.4 million infections.

Here are all the latest updates:

Northern Ireland to enter six-week lockdown

Northern Ireland will enter a six-week lockdown starting December 26, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neil announced.

The new restrictions include the shutting of all non-essential shops as well the closure of pubs, bars and restaurants apart from takeaway services, she told journalists.

“It will be disappointing to many, but I think a lot of people would also have expected it. It’s very clear that we needed an urgent intervention. I think this is the right decision by the executive,” she said.

French president’s wife tests negative for COVID-19 -office

The French president’s wife Brigitte Macron has tested negative for coronavirus, her office told Reuters.

Emmanuel Macron, 42, has tested positive for COVID-19, prompting a track and trace effort across Europe following meetings between the French leader and EU heads of government in recent days.

Pfizer has not yet applied for emergency use of vaccine in Brazil

Pfizer has not yet applied for emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine in Brazil, health regulator Anvisa said, adding that the company has not yet provided enough data for the vaccine to be used locally.

Anvisa added in its statement that no vaccine producer has yet applied for a definitive registration or for emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine in Brazil.

Brazil health minister eyes up to 24 mln vaccines by January

Brazil expects to receive some 24 million COVID-19 vaccines by January, Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said.

Pazuello said the expected vaccines in January could be made up of 500,000 Pfizer doses, 9 million doses from China’s Sinovac and 15 million doses from AstraZeneca.

US senator says COVID-19 deal likely to stretch into weekend

US politicians will likely finalise a COVID-19 aid deal and government spending bill on Saturday, forcing them to pass a short-term stopgap funding measure to avoid a government shutdown at midnight on Friday, Republican US Senator Rob Portman said.

“I think we’ll get it done this weekend, and we should,” he told CNBC in an interview.

Coronavirus cases in Netherlands jump by record of almost 13,000

Coronavirus cases in the Netherlands jumped by nearly 13,000 in 24 hours, hitting a new record for the second day in a row, data released by Dutch health authorities showed.

The steep increase in infections comes just days after a tough, five-week lockdown was imposed in the Netherlands, where more than 10,000 people have died of COVID-19 during the pandemic.

UK extends job retention scheme until the end of April

British finance minister Rishi Sunak has extended the government’s coronavirus job subsidy scheme by a month until the end of April.

Sunak also said he was extending government-guaranteed business loan schemes until the end of March.

Portugal’s Costa in isolation after meeting Macron

Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa has cancelled official trips and is in self-quarantine, his office says.

Costa met French President Emmanuel Macron, who tested positive for COVID, less than 24 hours ago.

His office said Costa showed no symptoms and was awaiting the result of a coronavirus test he got earlier on Thursday.

Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa showed no symptoms and is awaiting test results [Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters]


Sweden’s king says ‘we have failed’ over COVID-19, as deaths mount

Sweden’s king says his country failed in its handling of COVID-19, in a sharp criticism of a pandemic policy partly blamed for a high death toll among the elderly.

Carl XVI Gustaf, whose son and daughter-in-law tested positive last month, used an annual royal Christmas TV special to highlight the growing impact of the virus, a rare intervention from a monarch whose duties are largely ceremonial.

Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf used an annual royal Christmas TV special to highlight the growing impact of the virus [Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

BioNTech says 140,000 vaccinated in the UK so far

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine has been administered to 140,000 people in the UK, and the feedback on side effects and tolerability has been reassuring, BioNTech’s chief medical officer said on Thursday.

The UK was the first to approve the shot for emergency use on December 3, followed by Canada and the US.


Spain’s Sanchez quarantines after France’s Macron tests positive for COVID-19

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will quarantine until December 24 after French President Emmanuel Macron tested positive for COVID, his office has said.

Sanchez and Macron met on Monday in Paris.

French President Macron welcomes Spanish Prime Minister Sanchez at the Elysee Palace [Christian Hartmann/Reuters]

COVID vaccinations to start across EU from December 27, Germany says

All EU member states plan to start vaccinations against COVID from December 27, German Health Minister Jens Spahn says.

“In Germany, we will start, if the approval comes as planned, on December 27. The other countries in the EU want to be able to start … from December 27,” he said ahead of an online meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and executives from vaccine maker BioNTech.

As a member of the EU, Germany is obliged, by and large, to wait for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to approve the vaccine.

EU to order more Pfizer vaccine after declining earlier offer

The EU will take up its option to buy up to 100 million more doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine after turning down an opportunity in July for a much bigger deal, according to EU officials and an internal document.

The plan comes after some of the vaccine candidates ordered by the EU faced unexpected delays in clinical trials, forcing the bloc and other wealthy nations to rely for now on shots from fewer manufacturers than initially planned.

Vietnam starts human trial of coronavirus vaccine

A Vietnamese pharmaceutical company has begun testing a coronavirus vaccine on volunteers in Hanoi, as developing countries jostle with richer nations to access affordable inoculations.

Nanogen’s Nanocovax is one of four vaccines under development in Vietnam, and a company representative said it is expected to cost about $5 a dose.

Three volunteers received the jab and will be monitored for 72 hours at the Vietnam Military Medical University.

France’s Macron tests positive for COVID

French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for COVID, France’s presidential palace said.

“The President of the Republic has been diagnosed positive for COVID-19 today,” his office said in a statement. “This diagnosis was made following a PCR test performed at the onset of the first symptoms.”

The presidency said he would isolate for the next seven days.

Read more here.

President Emmanuel Macron tests positive for COVID-19 [File: Thomas Coex/AFP]


WHO says Beijing welcomes COVID-19 investigators’ trip to China

Beijing will welcome an international team of COVID-19 investigators due to travel to China in January, said the World Health Organization (WHO), which is leading the mission.

China has strongly opposed calls for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, saying such calls are anti-China, but has been open to a WHO-led investigation.

However, it was unclear whether the WHO investigators will travel to the city of Wuhan where the virus was first detected, with discussions on the itinerary ongoing.

Pence to get vaccine on Friday, Biden next week

US Vice President Mike Pence will be vaccinated for COVID-19 on Friday in a public event, the White House has said, and President-elect Joe Biden is expected to receive the shot as soon as next week, a Biden transition official said.


Saudi Arabia begins COVID-19 vaccinations

Saudi Arabia kicked off coronavirus vaccinations, its health ministry says, one day after it received two shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Footage on al-Ekhbariya TV showed a man and a woman at a medical centre in the capital Riyadh getting vaccinated. Shortly after, Minister of Health Tawfiq al-Rabiah received the vaccine.

Read more here.

Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah gets a COVID-19 vaccine in Riyadh [Ahmed Yosri/Reuters]

Czech Republic’s coronavirus death toll passes 10,000

The Czech Republic’s total death toll from the coronavirus has surpassed 10,000, the health ministry reported.

The country of 10.7 million, among the hardest hit in Europe during the second wave of the pandemic, registered 8,235 new COVID infections on Wednesday, its largest daily tally since November 11. In total, 602,404 infections have been reported since March.

A health care worker stands outside the hospital where a voluntary rapid antigen testing campaign for the coronavirus disease  takes place, in Prague [David W Cerny/Reuters]

Palestinians left waiting as Israel is set to deploy vaccine

Israel will begin rolling out a significant coronavirus vaccination campaign next week after the prime minister reached out personally to the head of a major drug company. Millions of Palestinians living under Israeli control will have to wait much longer.

Worldwide, rich nations are snatching up scarce supplies of new vaccines as poor countries are relying on a WHO programme that has yet to get off the ground.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu attends the arrival of a first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine [File: Abir Sultan/Reuters]

WHO: Vaccination in Asia-Pacific expected mid or late 2021

The WHO has said that countries in the Asia-Pacific region are not guaranteed to have early access to COVID vaccines and urged them to adopt a long-term approach to the pandemic.

“The development of safe and effective vaccines is one thing. Producing them in adequate quantities and reaching everyone who needs them is another,” WHO Regional Director Dr Takeshi Kasai told reporters in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

WHO representatives also urged that high-risk groups be prioritised for vaccination [Erin Clark/Reuters]


Pakistan registers second-deadliest day of coronavirus pandemic

Pakistan has registered its second-deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic with at least 105 deaths, Pakistan’s Dawn daily newspaper reported.

The death toll since the beginning of the outbreak in February has reached 9,080.


Sweden struggles with second wave

Despite a sharper tone from authorities and new restrictions, Sweden, which has famously relied on non-coercive measures, is struggling to contain a severe second wave of COVID-19 it thought it could avoid.

The capital Stockholm is once again at the epicentre of the epidemic and this week called on members of the public with medical training to help offset some of the burdens on its healthcare system.


Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 26,923

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 26,923 to 1,406,161. The reported death toll rose by 698 to 24,125.

Chilean health regulator approves Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

The Chilean health regulator has approved for emergency use the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine, paving the way for the first doses to be administered as early as December 25 to citizens over the age of 16.

The Institute of Public Health received the Pfizer request for approval on November 27, and a panel of experts was convened to analyse the vaccine data supplied by the US drug manufacturer.


India records 24,037 new coronavirus cases

India reported 24,037 new coronavirus infections, taking its tally to 9.96 million, data from the health ministry has shown.

This is the fourth straight day that daily cases have stayed below 30,000, keeping with the country’s trend of declining daily cases since hitting a peak of 97,000 single-day infections in September.

India has recorded the second-highest number of infections in the world after the US.

US sets new daily records of 3,700 COVID deaths, 250,000 cases

The US has set a double record, registering more than 3,700 deaths and more than 250,000 new COVID cases in just 24 hours.

The newest figures push the total number of fatalities in the US to more than 307,291.

Read more here.

People in protective masks walk as snow begins to fall in Times Square during the COVID pandemic [Jeenah Moon/Reuters]


Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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