As of Monday morning (NZ time), 1.66 million people had died as a result of COVID-19 with nearly 72 million confirmed infections.
Here’s the latest on the pandemic from around the world.
- Germany will close most stores from Wednesday until at least January 10, cutting short the busy Christmas shopping season, as it tightens coronavirus restrictions and tries to rein in the spread of the disease, the country’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday (local time)
- Italy reported 484 coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday after surpassing the UK the previous day as the European country with the worst toll of fatalities
- Moscow will not impose a curfew or curb alcohol sales during the New Year holiday, despite a rise in coronavirus cases, the Mayor of the Russian capital was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency on Sunday
- The directors of five of Switzerland’s largest hospitals have written to the health minister asking for urgent measures to reduce coronavirus infections, the SonntagsZeitung newspaper reported
- Lithuania told citizens to stay at home for three weeks from Wednesday as it seeks to rein in a raging coronavirus spread that has seen the country jump from 18th to third worst-hit in the EU in just six weeks.
- The US hit a record 16 million COVID-19 cases on Saturday afternoon (local time), with deaths closing in on 300,000, even as millions of doses of a new vaccine were expected to start rolling out across the nation on Sunday
- First doses of 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.
- South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in warned on Sunday (local time) that COVID-19 restrictions may be raised to the highest level after the second day of record increases in cases as the country battles a harsh third wave of infection.
Africa and the Middle East
- Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune made his first appearance on Sunday (local time) after being flown to a hospital in Germany 47 days ago when he tested positive for coronavirus, saying he is recovering and will be back home soon
- Bahrain said on Sunday it had approved a COVID-19 vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and launched online registration for the vaccine for citizens and residents.
The first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine left on trucks and planes in the US early on Sunday, kicking off a historic effort to stop a surging pandemic that is claiming more than 2400 lives a day in the United States.
Mask-wearing workers at a Pfizer Inc factory in Michigan began packing the first shipments of the vaccine developed with German partner BioNTech SE in dry ice shortly after 6:30am (local time).
Trucks carrying pallets of the boxed, refrigerated vaccine began rolling away from the Kalamazoo facility at 8:29am, escorted by body armour-clad security officers in a pickup truck and an SUV. The shots then were loaded onto FedEx and United Parcel Service planes that will whisk the precious cargo across the country.
US hospitals are preparing for the first shots to go into arms on Monday, but it will take months before most citizens can get a COVID-19 vaccine. Healthcare workers and elderly residents of long-term care homes are first in line to receive the inoculations of a two-dose regimen given about three weeks apart.
More than 100 million people, or about 30 percent of the US population, could be immunized by the end of March, US Operation Warp Speed chief adviser Moncef Slaoui said in an interview with Fox News Sunday.
That would still leave the country far short of herd immunity that would halt virus transmission, so masks and social distancing will be needed for months to control the rampaging outbreak.
Health officials will also have to overcome widespread hesitancy about the new vaccines, with many US citizens concerned the record speed at which they were developed may have compromised safety. Only 61 percent of US respondents said they are open to getting inoculated, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed.
“It is however critical that most of the American people decide and accept to take the vaccine,” Dr Slaoui said. “We are very concerned about the hesitancy that we see.”