Russia’s COVID deaths top 50,000

Russian authorities say 585 people died from coronavirus in the last 24 hours, taking the country’s death toll to 50,347.

Grave diggers wearing protective suits carry the coffin of a COVID-19 victim in the section of a cemetery reserved for coronavirus victims in Kolpino, outside St.Petersburg, Russia [Dmitri Lovetsky/AP Photo]

India surged past 10 million coronavirus cases on Saturday, the second-highest in the world although new infection rates have fallen sharply in recent weeks.

The country reported more than 25,000 in the last 24 hours.

It has also reported 9.6 million recoveries and 145,136 deaths.

Earlier, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the country has enough capacity to produce COVID-19 vaccines for its needs and also export it to other countries that need its help.

In Hong Kong, a manhunt is under way after a COVID-19 positive patient left one of the largest hospitals in the city.

Meanwhile, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera was slapped with a $3,500 fine on Friday after posing for a selfie on the beach with a bystander without wearing a mask as required during the coronavirus pandemic, health authorities said.

Here are all the latest updates:

Swiss drugs regulator authorises Pfizer/Biontech vaccine

Swiss drugs regulator Swissmedic has authorised the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and partner BioNTech, the agency said.

“According to the data assessed by the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products, the level of protection afforded seven days after the second injection of the vaccine is over 90 percent. This represents the world’s first authorisation in the ordinary procedure,” Swissmedic said on its website.

Thailand reports jump in local infections linked to shrimp market

Thailand has nine new local coronavirus infections, the biggest one-day rise in local transmissions in more than seven months, health officials said.

The nine cases are connected to a shrimp market in Samut Sakhon province, near Bangkok, where four infections were reported on Friday, officials told a briefing.

The cases started with a 67-year-old woman, who sells shrimp in the market, who was confirmed to have the infection before three of her family also tested positive.

“If the number of cases won’t come down tomorrow or the day after and become a cluster with unfound origins, we will choose measures from light to strong to handle it,” Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for Thailand’s COVID-19 taskforce, told the conference, said.

Russia’s COVID deaths surpass 50,000

Russian authorities said that 585 people had died from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, taking the country’s official death toll to 50,347.

Authorities also reported 28,209 new coronavirus cases in the last day, including 6,459 in Moscow, bringing the national tally to 2,819,429.

Sydney imposes lockdown on beach suburbs as COVID cluster grows

A quarter million people in Sydney’s northern beach suburbs were ordered into a strict lockdown until Christmas Eve to help contain a coronavirus cluster with authorities fearing it may spread across Australia’s most populous city.

New South Wales (NSW) state government is to announce on Sunday whether further restrictions will be imposed on the rest of Sydney, home to around five million people.

“I want to make that clear, to say to greater Sydney, please, please, do not go out tonight or the next few days unless you really have to,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said at a news conference.

People play rugby at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia [File: Loren Elliott/Reuters]

DR Congo to impose curfew against second wave of coronavirus

The Democratic Republic of Congo will impose a curfew and other strict measures, including the mandatory wearing of masks in public spaces, to help quell a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, its virus response team said.

From Friday a curfew will be imposed from 21:00 to 05:00, while marches and meetings of more than 10 people will be banned, the Multisectoral Committee for the Response against COVID-19 said in a statement.

School holidays will begin early, while higher education and university courses will be indefinitely suspended. Sports competitions will continue without fans and dead bodies must be taken to their burial place without any other ceremony.

Italy, Austria, tighten restrictions

Italy, one of the countries worst hit by COVID-19, will be placed under new restrictions over the Christmas and New Year periods, closing shops, bars and restaurants, banning travel between regions and limiting trips outside.

Meanwhile, Austria will enter its third coronavirus lockdown between December 26 and January 24, but those who take part in a planned series of mass tests between January 15 and 17 will be allowed more freedom.

People queue for Christmas gifts as Italians struggle to cope in a tough economic climate amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Milan, Italy [Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters]

Severe COVID variant detected in South Africa: minister

A severe variant of the coronavirus has been detected in South Africa which could explain the rapid spread of a second wave that affects younger people, the health minister said.

Known as the 501.V2 Variant, it was identified by South African researchers and details have been sent to the World Health Organization, Zwelini Mkhize said in a statement.

A team led by the Kwazulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP), has sequenced hundreds of virus samples since the pandemic began, and “noticed that a particular variant has increasingly dominated the findings of the samples collected in the past two months,” he added.

South African doctors have remarked that more patients are younger, and do not always have other conditions that amplify the virus’ effect, but are nonetheless suffering from more severe forms of COVID-19.

Germany reports 31,300 more COVIDcases; 703 deaths

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 31,300 to 1,471,238, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday.

The reported death toll rose by 702 to 25,640, the tally showed.

Slovak PM has coronavirus

The government’s press department told AFP that Matovic had tested positive on Thursday and had since cancelled all his events [File: Radovan Stoklasa/Reuters]

Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic has announced that he had tested positive for Covid-19, a week after he attended an EU summit in Brussels.

The summit is believed to be where French President Emmanuel Macron caught the virus, leading a host of European leaders and top French officials to go into self-isolation.

The government’s press department told AFP that Matovic had tested positive on Thursday and had since cancelled all his events.

Deputy Prime Minister Veronika Remisova and Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad later announced that they were also infected.

Parts of Sydney locked down amid new cases

Parts of Sydney were heading into a fresh lockdown on Saturday as officials in Australia’s most populous city said they hoped the restrictions would be enough to control a growing outbreak in time for Christmas.

As a cluster of cases on the city’s northern beaches grew to 38, residents were ordered to stay at home from late Saturday until midnight on Wednesday, other than for essential reasons.

From 5pm (06:00 GMT) on Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people in several suburbs will be forced indoors and beaches, pubs and hotels will be closed.

Although the restrictions – which will be enforced by police – only apply to the northern beaches, Berejiklian pleaded with Sydney’s more than five million residents to stay home as much as possible in the coming days.

Chilean president handed $3,500 fine

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera was slapped with a $3,500 fine on Friday after posing for a selfie on the beach with a bystander without wearing a mask as required during the coronavirus pandemic, health authorities said.

Chile has strict rules on mask wearing in all public places and violations are punishable with sanctions that include fines and even jail terms.

Pinera has apologised then turned himself in shortly after the selfie surfaced on social media in early December.

South Korea reports 1,053 new coronavirus cases

South Korea reported 1,053 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The daily numbers were above 1,000 for the fourth straight day for the first time since the start of the pandemic, the KDCA data showed.

Hong Kong manhunt under way for escaped COVID patient

Hong Kong authorities are searching for a COVID-19 positive patient who escaped one of the city’s largest hospitals while undergoing treatment, according to health officials on Saturday.

The 63-year old man, identified as patient 7379, was admitted to the isolation ward of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on December 14 after it was confirmed he had COVID-19.

However, the man escaped the hospital ward via a stairwell on Friday and could not be recaptured. A statement from the hospital said the patient escaped wearing a jacket over hospital clothes.

Hong Kong has recorded 7,970 COVID-19 cases, according to a government website.

Two patients, aged 84 and 85, died in the past two days, a hospital authority statement issued on Friday said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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