9 December

Global: Global coronavirus infections pass 68.3 million. Meanwhile, the global coronavirus death toll has passed 1,559,000 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

US: Covid-19 infections have passed 15 million. Record cases in at least three states – Arizona, Alabama and Ohio – pushed the cumulative case load to over 15 million, according to a Reuters tally of state and county data. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 286,338 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Texas logged more than 15,000 new Covid cases in a 24-hour period. The second-largest US state reported 15,103 new infections, just a week after posting a record 15,182.

Rudy Giuliani is expected to leave hospital on Wednesday. US president Donald Trump’s lawyer said he is feeling better after contracting Covid-19.

Americans are expected to continue with their travel plans for the Christmas holiday with more than a million air passengers anticipated for the balance of December and into January for the holiday, David Pekoske, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, said Tuesday. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious-disease expert, said that the Christmas holiday season could pose greater risks than Thanksgiving when it comes to spreading the coronavirus, and urged Americans to double down on measures such as wearing masks, avoiding crowds and social distancing.

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South Korea: South Korea reported 686 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday as it battles a third wave of infection that is threatening to overwhelm its medical system. The daily tally was the second-highest since the start of the pandemic, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

UK: People in the United Kingdom may still be wearing face masks in a year’s time despite the country’s national vaccination programme getting under way, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, told the Telegraph.

Cases were low in schools that reopened in England after the first nationwide lockdown, suggesting there was little risk of spreading the disease, according to a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal. The research covered nurseries and schools that reopened after implementing measures such as smaller classes and the formation of social bubbles. The virus was most often spread among staff, while student-to-student transmission was rare.

Vaccine news

Global: Nine out of 10 people in 70 low-income countries are unlikely to be vaccinated against Covid-19 next year because the majority of the most promising vaccines coming on-stream have been bought up by the west, campaigners have said.

Kenya: Kenya may choose the Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine as it can be kept using standard refrigeration rather than complex cold storage, the Daily Nation newspaper reported, citing the health department’s chief administrative secretary.

Iran: Iran’s attempts to procure vaccines to curb the worst outbreak of coronavirus in the Middle East are being hampered by US sanctions, officials in Tehran said, as it is unable to utilize a payment system intended to ensure fair global access to the shots.

US: The US government’s plan to vaccinate most Americans by next summer rests heavily on two Covid-19 shots that US regulators won’t get a chance to rule on until early in 2021. AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson & Johnson together would provide 150 million to 200 million shots in the first quarter, said Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific officer of Operation Warp Speed. This could immunize 110 million to 150 million people, if the doses are evenly split between J&J’s single-dose vaccine and Astra’s two-dose regimen.

The vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech meets the requirements for an emergency-use authorization set out by the US Food and Drug Administration, according to a 92-page staff report analyzing the companies’ clinical development program. The report offers a first look at the US review of the vaccine ahead of a public meeting Thursday of outside advisers to the agency. The FDA could clear the shot shortly after the meeting, with as many as 6.4 million doses immediately available to kick off a vast immunization effort designed to end a pandemic that has killed more than 283,000 Americans.

Pfizer Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine prevents symptomatic cases of the virus, but it’s not clear if the shot keeps the disease from being transmitted, US Food and Drug Administration staff found in a report issued Tuesday. The conclusion highlights a major unknown about vaccine candidates that persists ahead of an ambitious US rollout of millions of shots: How effective they’ll be in stemming the spread of coronavirus at a population level.

CVS Health Corp. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. are aggressively recruiting pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and nurses to administer vaccines in long-term care facilities, just days before the drugstore giants are expected to play a key role in a large immunization effort. Representatives from the two companies are making in-person and virtual pitches to independent pharmacists, according to National Community Pharmacists Association Chief Executive Officer Douglas Hoey. The outreach has surprised the group’s members because it suggests the chains don’t have enough people to run the massive effort, he said.

Lockdown updates

Thailand: Thailand will deploy drones and increase military patrols along its border with Myanmar following a small cluster of cases linked to people crossing undetected into the country. At least 19 cases of the coronavirus have been linked to people passing over the border without undergoing mandatory quarantine.

France: France is mulling “many options” related to the planned loosening of lockdown measures as the number of Covid-19 cases remains high, Health Minister Olivier Veran said in an interview on LCI TV. Options include introducing a new curfew or sticking to the current lockdown for some additional days to observe developments, Veran said. The government will discuss the Covid-19 situation Wednesday, and an announcement is due before end of the week, he said.

Mongolia: Prime Minister Khurelsukh Ukhnaa announced plans to ease lockdown restrictions in the capital Ulaanbaatar from 14 December, Bloomberg TV Mongolia reported. Businesses including restaurants, cafes and shopping malls will be allowed to reopen from 6 a.m. local time Monday. The lockdown was previously scheduled to be lifted this Friday. Ulaanbaatar has been subject to strict measures, including a ban on public gatherings and restricted movement in and out of the city since 11 November.

Canada: The province of Alberta announced strict new limits in an attempt to control a surge in cases, banning all social gatherings for at least four weeks from Sunday and requiring masks in all indoor areas. Casinos, gyms, salons and entertainment facilities will close, while bars and restaurants are limited to takeout and delivery orders. Retail stores, malls and religious houses will be limited to 15% of capacity, and people must work from home unless they’re physically required at their workplace.

Hong Kong: officials have discussed limiting air passenger arrivals if there is a shortfall of hotels willing to serve as quarantine centers, the South China Morning Post reported, citing a government pandemic adviser. The cap would only be considered in “extreme conditions.”

The Netherlands: Have extended a partial lockdown for the holiday season, with Prime Minister Mark Rutte warning that stricter measures may be announced before Christmas if numbers don’t come down. “It is really not going well,” Rutte said at a press conference in The Hague on Tuesday.

Switzerland: The federal government plans to work with cantons, or states, to unify restrictions to fight the pandemic. The proposed new measures, including reducing opening hours for shops and restaurants, would take effect from 12 December and last until 20 January. Measures could be tightened further on 18 December, when restaurants and shops might shut altogether, if case loads don’t come down. The country of about 8.5 million on Tuesday reported 4,262 new infections, up 12% from a week ago. The canton of Zurich will close casinos, sex clubs and saunas from 10 December in an effort to curb infections.

UK: Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned London is facing a rise in infections as he urged the public to stick to the pandemic rules. The government is due to review the restrictions on 16 December and could impose tighter curbs on regions where cases are rising.