4 January

Global: Global coronavirus infections pass 85 million. Meanwhile, the global coronavirus death toll has passed 1,844,000 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

 US: Covid-19 infections have passed 20.6 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 351,590 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Incidence of the new, more infectious strain of the coronavirus will rise sharply in the US over the next few months, said former Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb. “There are some estimates that the new variant probably represents about 1% of all infections in this country. By March, it’s going to be the majority of infections. It’s going to grow quickly,” Gottlieb said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” The new variant has been found in at least three states after emerging in the UK.

New York City’s rolling seven-day average of positive tests topped 9% for the third consecutive day, a level that compares with less than 2% in November. New hospitalizations increased to 213 and new cases rose to 3,885, based on a seven-day average, Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted.

UK: Coronavirus deaths in the UK have passed 75,000 with 54,990 new cases reported on Sunday as well as 454 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test. Total cases have passed 2.6 million.

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Ireland: Ireland has reported a further 4,962 cases of Covid-19, taking the total number of cases past 100,000. Sunday’s figure breaks the previous day’s record of 3,394 cases – itself almost double the highest number of cases previously recorded in 24 hours.

France: France has recorded 12,489 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, up from the 3,466 reported a day earlier, according to the country’s health ministry.

Italy: Italy reported 347 Covid-19 deaths on Sunday, down from 364 a day earlier, and 14,245 new cases versus 11,831 the previous day as the government struggled to tame the outbreak. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte met with leaders of his ruling coalition’s parties to discuss new measures to combat the pandemic after winter holiday travel and business restrictions expire on 6 January.

South Korea: South Korea reported 1,020 new coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours, rising above 1,000 again after infection levels eased over the previous two days. Over the weekend, South Korea extended its current social-distancing rules by two weeks as authorities continue to restrict private gatherings before nationwide vaccination is expected next month.

Vaccine news

Brazil: Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa has approved the import of 2 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, although the jab is not yet approved for use in the country.

US: Officials from Operation Warp Speed, the US government’s vaccine drive, are asking Moderna Inc. and the US Food and Drug Administration to cut in half the dose of the company’s Covid-19 vaccination for people ages 18 to 55 after finding that it induces the same immune response, Chief Scientific Adviser Moncef Slaoui. That would double the amount of vaccine available for the age group, while providing the same level of protection, he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

The US government’s top infectious-disease doctor said the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines is picking up speed and could be fully on track within a week or so. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that in the past 72 hours, about 1.5 million vaccine doses have been administered, or about 500,000 per day, a substantial pickup in pace.

Lockdown updates

UK: The Labour Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has urged Boris Johnson to bring in new national Covid restrictions in England within the next 24 hours, rather than hint that he will do so soon.

A number of local councils in England have asked the government to allow primary schools to remain shut ahead of the first day of term tomorrow, including Southampton city council and Cumbria county council, both of which have said they support schools in prioritising education for children of key workers and vulnerable children in light of staffing shortages.

Kuwait: Kuwait’s civil aviation authority has suspended direct commercial flights to and from the UK, according to a tweet published today.

Japan: Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he’s considering issuing another state of emergency for the Tokyo area in light of the “extremely severe” infection situation. Suga said Japan is working to start vaccinations in late February.

Australia: Authorities are concerned about a growing cluster of cases linked to a liquor store and supermarket in western Sydney, and are urging people with even the mildest of symptoms to come forward and get tested. Two new local cases were detected overnight in the suburb of Berala, where potentially thousands of people who visited the stores in the past two weeks have been urged to isolate until they test negative. Mask-wearing across Sydney, a city of 5 million people, is now mandatory in most indoor venues, as authorities try to contain other clusters across the city.

Denmark: Denmark extended its ban on travelers arriving from the UK and also advised Danes against visiting the country on business trips due to fears over the new mutation of the coronavirus. The ban on travelers from the UK., which covers all non-Danish citizens or citizens without a Danish residence, will last until 17 January, the ministry of justice in Copenhagen said in a statement on Sunday.

Norway: Norway is tightening restrictions amid evidence that infections are rising after the Christmas and New Year holidays. Prime Minister Erna Solberg said it will be forbidden to serve alcohol in restaurants and bars, while private gatherings outside the home will be limited to five people. The measures, which also advise limiting social visits and postponing sporting and cultural events, will be in place for an initial 14 days.