Covid-19 pandemic has infected more than 68 million people and claimed at least 1.5 million lives around the world. Here are updates for December 8

Brazil coronavirus death toll tops 177000 – latest updates
90 year old Margaret Keenan, the first patient in the UK to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, administered by nurse May Parsons at University Hospital, Coventry, England, Tuesday Dec. 8, 2020. (AP)

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

British grandma is first in Britain to get vaccinated

Margaret Keenan, a 90-year-old grandmother is the first person in Britain to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine outside of a trial following its rapid clinical approval.

An early riser, Keenan received the jab at her local hospital in Coventry, central England, on Tuesday morning at 0631 GMT, a week before she turns 91.

Britain began rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech on Tuesday, the first Western country to start vaccinating its general population in what was hailed as a decisive watershed in defeating the coronavirus.

WHO says immune barrier from vaccines “still far off”

A World Health Organization official has said that only public health measures, not vaccines, can prevent a new surge of cases as the first vaccines are administered in Britain.

“Vaccines are a great tool, they will be very helpful, but the effect of the vaccine in providing some kind of immune barrier is still far off,” said Dr. Margaret Harris in response to a question at a Geneva briefing about whether the vaccines would come in time to prevent a third wave of cases in Europe.

“The things that must be done to prevent an increase, an uptick, a surge or whatever you want to call it are the public health measures,” she added.

Japan sends military nurses to Hokkaido

Japan’s Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi has ordered the country’s Self Defence Forces to send nurses to a city in northern Hokkaido prefecture that was hit hard by the pandemic, media said.

Kishi ordered the dispatch of two teams of five Self Defence Force nurses to hospitals in the city of Asahikawa, public broadcaster NHK said.

Four lions at Spanish zoo test positive

Four lions at Barcelona Zoo have tested positive for the virus, veterinary authorities said, in only the second known case in which large felines have contracted it.

Three females named Zala, Nima and Run Run and Kiumbe, a male, were tested after keepers noticed they showed slight symptoms.

Two staff at the zoo also tested positive, the authorities said, after the outbreak was first detected last month.

Poland has bought over 60M vaccine doses

Poland has bought over 60 million doses of vaccines from six producers, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.

“We are secured – and now is the time for a great challenge, which is the implementation of the National Covid-19 Vaccination Programme,” he wrote in a Facebook post

Japan’s domestic travel campaign linked to increased symptoms

Researchers in Japan have found a higher incidence of virus symptoms among people who have participated in a domestic travel campaign promoted by the government, suggesting that it is contributing to a spread.

The findings will make dismal reading for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has defended the travel campaign, saying it was needed to stop many small businesses in the hospitality sector from going bust due to the lack of customers as a result of the virus scare.

High fever was reported by 4.8 percent of users of the Go To Travel campaign compared with 3.7 percent for non-users, according to a preprint of a study that examined data from an internet survey of more than 25,000 adults.

Russia reports 26,097 new cases, 562 deaths

Russia has confirmed 26,097 new cases in the last 24 hours, including 5,232 in Moscow, pushing the national tally to 2,515,009.

Authorities said 562 people had died overnight, taking the official death toll to 44,159.

Indonesia’s Bio Farma says Sinovac vaccine up to 97 percent efficacy

Indonesia’s state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma has said that interim data on trials it was conducting on vaccines produced by the Chinese company Sinovac showed up to 97 percent efficacy.

“Our clinical trial team found, within one month, that the interim data shows up to 97 percent for its efficacy,” said Iwan Setiawan, a spokesman for Bio Farma.

Bio Farma did not provide data on how many participants got infected during the trial that involves 1,600 people.

Australia’s western state removes quarantine requirements

Australia’s western state has began to allow travellers from Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) to enter without having to quarantine for the first time in eight months, in the latest sign the country is returning to some kind of normalcy.

Passengers on a Qantas flight arrived in Perth, the capital of Western Australia, from Sydney to emotional scenes of families reuniting after months of separation.

The move comes as Australia’s two most populous states have seen little to no new cases in recent weeks, and underscores Australia’s success in containing the Covid-19 pandemic which has killed over 1.5 million people worldwide.

Sao Paulo to launch vaccination campaign in January

Sao Paulo governor has said the state, Latin America’s virus epicentre, will launch a vaccination campaign in January, though a political battle with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro could derail those plans.

Governor Joao Doria said large-scale immunisation using the Chinese-developed vaccine CoronaVac would begin with healthcare workers, the elderly and other vulnerable groups on January 25.

“The target public for this initial phase was chosen based on the incidence of coronavirus fatalities in the state,” Doria told a news conference.

German minister says country may need tougher curbs before Christmas 

Germany has said it might tighten restrictions to curb the spread of the virus according to Health Minister Jens Spahn.

A partial lockdown and social distancing rules in place since the start of November have slowed, but not stopped the disease spreading.

Chancellor told party colleagues on Monday that existing lockdown measures in place would not be sufficient to get the European Union’s most populous country through the winter, participants at the meeting said.

“A short and comprehensive approach to really make a difference is probably more successful,” Spahn told public broadcaster Phoenix, according to comments distributed late on Monday.

US passes up chance to lock in more Pfizer vaccine doses

President Donald Trump’s administration has come under scrutiny for failing to lock in a chance to buy millions of additional vaccine doses of one of the leading contenders, Pfizer.

That decision could delay the delivery of a second batch of doses until manufacturer Pfizer fulfills other international contracts.

The revelation, confirmed Monday by people familiar with the matter, came on the eve of Trump’s plans to host a White House summit aimed at celebrating the expected approval of the first vaccine later this week.

UK rolls out vaccine to public as world watches

UK health authorities have begun rolling out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed vaccine, starting a global immunisation programme that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval.

The first shot came on Tuesday morning at one of a network of hospital hubs around the country, where the initial phase of the UK programme will be rolled out on what has been dubbed “V-Day.”

Public health officials are asking the public to be patient because only those who are most at risk from the virus will be vaccinated in the early stages. 

Medical staff will contact patients to arrange appointments, and most will have to wait until next year before there is enough vaccine to expand the program.

“I think there’s every chance that we will look back on … (Tuesday) as marking a decisive turning point in the battle against coronavirus,” said Simon Stevens, the CEO of England’s National Health Service.

South Korea to buy vaccines for 44 million people

South Korea says it has signed deals with four companies as part of a programme that will provide vaccines for 44 million people.

Additional doses for 10 million people will be procured through the World Health Organization’s global vaccine project, known as COVAX. 

Germany’s confirmed cases rise by 14,054

The number of confirmed cases in Germany has increased by 14,054 to 1,197,709, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 423 to 19,342, the tally showed. 

India reports lowest daily rise in cases since July 

India’s Health Ministry has reported 26,567 new infections, the lowest daily increase since July 10, according to a Reuters tally.

Daily cases have been falling in India since hitting a peak in September. 

The country has 9.7 million cases, second-highest caseload in the world after the United States.

Deaths rose by 385, the health ministry said, with the total now at 140,958

Japan’s AnGes begins phase 2/3 clinical trial of DNA-based vaccine

Japanese biotech company AnGes Inc has initiated a phase 2/3 clinical trial of its DNA-based vaccine candidate.

The study is taking place at eight facilities in eastern and western Japan involving 500 test subjects, the company said in a statement.

Hong Kong to ban dining in restaurants after 6pm local

Hong Kong has said it will ban dining in restaurants after 1000 GMT to curb a rise in cases in the densely packed financial hub.

Leader Carrie Lam, speaking at her weekly press briefing, said the government would also study additional relief measures for those affected by the latest restrictions.

On Monday, Hong Kong recorded 78 new cases, taking its total to 6,976. 

Israel to get initial Pfizer vaccine shipment on Thursday

Israel has said it will receive a first shipment of Pfizer Inc vaccines on Thursday and will administer them to the elderly and other high-risk populations.

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech last month agreed to provide Israel with 8 million doses of the vaccine, which Britain on Tuesday became the first country to administer.

Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen confirmed media reports that a first batch would be flown to Tel Aviv from Chicago on Thursday.

Sputnik vaccine aims to bolster Russia’s geopolitical influence

President Vladimir Putin’s announcement in August that Russia had registered the world’s first vaccine, Sputnik V, had been met with raised eyebrows.

Scientists at home and abroad raised concerns that the jab had yet to complete mass trials and that crucial data about the vaccine had not been made public.

The developers have since claimed that the jab has an efficacy of above 95 percent according to preliminary data from phase 3 trials, but the full data has yet to be disclosed as the trials are ongoing.

But analysts said the jab was about geopolitics as well as public health, designed to reaffirm the underlying message of Putin’s two-decade rule: Russia is back.

China orders mass virus testing in Chengdu

Chinese authorities have ordered mass testing and locked down some locations in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu following the detection of two new virus cases there.

Chengdu health officials identified the cases as a 69-year-old woman, who’s condition is listed as serious, and her 71-year-old husband who has yet to show symptoms.

Five locations in Chengdu’s Ludu district have been sealed off, including a hospital, a school and a wholesale market and more than 21,000 people tested as of Monday evening, the government said.

Pfizer to deliver first vaccine doses to Canada in December

Prime Minister has announced that Pfizer and BioNTech will deliver the first doses of their vaccine to Canada this month with inoculations to start as early as next week.

Another vaccine candidate developed by Moderna could also be shipped “as soon as December,” the American company said.

At a news conference, Trudeau said a deal was signed with Pfizer and BioNTech “to begin early delivery of doses of their vaccine candidate.”

Indonesia expects halal certificate for experimental vaccine

Indonesia officials have said the country’s highest Muslim clerical body is expected to issue a halal certification for the experimental vaccine developed by China-based Sinovac Biotech.

The certification would be a significant step in immunisation efforts in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, should the vaccine be approved for use.

“A study by the Indonesian Ulema Council Halal Product Guarantee Agency and Institute for the Assessment of Food, Drugs and Cosmetics has been completed and has been submitted to the council for the making of a fatwa and halal certification,” Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy said at a news conference.

Brazil death toll rises

Brazil has reported 20,371 additional cases of Covid-19 during the past 24 hours, and 376 deaths from Covid-19, its Health Ministry said.

The South American country has now registered 6,623,911 cases since the pandemic began, while its official death toll has risen to 177,317, according to ministry data. Brazil has the world’s third worst outbreak after the United States and India.

President Jair Bolsonaro also said  that the government will offer vaccines to all Brazilians free of charge, once health regulator Anvisa gives it scientific and legal approval.

In a post on his Twitter account, Bolsonaro also said the economy ministry has assured him that there will be no shortage of resources to administer a vaccine to everyone who wants one.

New cases in China

China has reported 12 new Covid-19 cases, down from 15 cases a day earlier, the national health authority said.

At least ten of the new cases were reportedly imported infections originating from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to five from six cases a day earlier.

The death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

Forgotten Syrians need winter help, says author Gaiman

The world can’t forget the plight of Syrian refugees this winter despite the global upheaval caused by Covid-19, fantasy author Neil Gaiman has said as he helped launch the UN refugee programme’s cold weather appeal.

The award-winning writer said the pandemic had exposed weaknesses in governments’ ability to respond to crises, and should serve as a reminder that refugees are ordinary people dealing with upheaval.

“It’s very easy to forget the refugee crisis, it’s very easy to forget that there are nearly 80 million people forcibly displaced right now in the world,” said Gaiman, Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. “And we can’t forget them. It’s getting really cold out there; it’s even colder if you’re living in a tent.”

UNHCR has warned that winter 2020 – for some their ninth away from home – is likely to be the harshest yet for the more than six million Syrian refugees that fled their country during the near-decade long civil war.

Annual challenges such as snow and freezing temperatures will be harder to manage as Covid-19 has drastically affected relief campaigns.

South Korea’s medical system overloaded

South Korea has reported 594 new coronavirus cases, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said, another triple-digit daily increase that authorities say threatens to overload the medical system.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called for expanded coronavirus testing and more thorough tracing as the country struggles to control its latest and largest wave of infections.

Mexico registers 6,399 new cases, 357 more deaths

Mexico’s Health Ministry has reported 6,399 new cases of coronavirus infection and an additional 357 fatalities, bringing the country’s totals to 1,182,249 cases and 110,074 deaths.

The government says the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Florida agents raid home of ousted data curator

Florida authorities investigating an alleged hack into the state’s emergency response system raided the home of a woman fired earlier this year from her job as Covid-19 data curator.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement said that Rebekah Jones, who was fired for unauthorised public comments about the data in May, has been under investigation since early November when someone illegally accessed the state’s emergency alert health system.

Jones was fired from her post in May after she raised questions about Florida’s Covid-19 data. She had been reprimanded several times and was ultimately fired for violating Health Department policy by making public remarks about the information, state records show.

Since her firing, she has lit up social media with posts criticising Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and his state agencies. For months, she has tried to promote herself as a victim who was fired for telling the truth, although there is no evidence that supports her claims.

Early in the pandemic, Jones wrote blog posts and reached out to media outlets and researchers sowing doubt about the credibility of the data now that she is no longer in that role.

She said Health Department managers urged her to manipulate information to paint a rosier picture and that she pushed back. The data was crucial as the governor was trying to make highly controversial decisions on whether to reopen Florida’s economy

State health officials strenuously deny any issue with the information’s accuracy. The office of Gov Ron DeSantis declined comment.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

Read original article here.