15 December

Global: Global coronavirus infections have passed 73 million. Meanwhile, the global coronavirus death toll has passed 1,624,000 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

The World Health Organization is aware of a genetic variant of the virus identified in about 1,000 individuals in the UK, Executive Director Michael Ryan said during a press briefing on Monday. “This virus evolves and changes over time, and we’ve seen different variants emerge,” Ryan said. “The question is whether there is significance in public health terms,” since mutations of the virus are “quite common.” The WHO is working with an international laboratory network to see if the variant is becoming more prevalent internationally, he adds.

US: US Covid-19 infections have passed 16.5 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 300,723 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

France: France has reported 3,063 new Covid-19 infections over the past 24 hours, sharply down from Sunday’s 11,533, but the number of people admitted to hospital with the disease went up for the third consecutive day.

Poland: Poland faces a real threat of a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, health minister Adam Niedzielski said on Monday, adding he would recommend that current restrictions continue until at least 17 January.

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UK: The UK reported 20,263 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday, taking the total figure over the past seven days to 131,708, up 21.6% compared with the previous seven-day number, official data showed.

India: India added 22,065 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the federal Health Ministry reported Tuesday, the lowest number since early July. With more than 9.9 million cases, the country remains the world’s second-most affected nation after the US As many as 143,709 people have died from the virus in the country, the third-highest in the world.

Vaccine news

US: An intensive care unit nurse who became the first person in the US to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Monday called it a sign that “healing is coming”. Sandra Lindsay, who has treated some of the sickest Covid-19 patients for months, was given the vaccine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in the New York City borough of Queens, an early centre of the country’s Covid-19 outbreak.

Moderna was informed by the European Medicines Agency that pre-submission talks of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate were unlawfully accessed in a cyberattack on the regulator, Reuters reported, citing the company. EMA said earlier this month it was targeted in a cyberattack. Moderna said its submission to the EMA didn’t include any data identifying individual study participants and there is no information currently that any participants have been identified.

Canada: Canada began vaccinating its citizens against Covid-19 today, following the UK and New York state. Five frontline workers in Ontario were among the first Canadians to receive the vaccine at one of Toronto’s hospitals.

UK: It would take almost a year to vaccinate the entire UK population against Covid-19, even with no interruptions in vaccine supply, leading scientists have said.

Lockdown updates

Turkey: President, Recep Tayip Erdoğan, has said Turkey will impose a five-day full lockdown beginning on 31 December, as official data showed new daily coronavirus deaths hit a record 229. Erdoğan, speaking after a cabinet meeting, said the stay at home order would begin at 9pm on New Year’s Eve and run to 4 January.

US: New York is moving toward a second full shutdown if Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations continue at their current pace, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “If we do not change the trajectory, we could very well be headed to shut down” all non-essential businesses, Cuomo said Monday at a virus briefing.

UK: Millions of Londoners will be ordered to comply with England’s toughest coronavirus rules from Wednesday, as U.K. authorities warned a “new variant” of the disease may be driving a rapid rise in cases. Government scientists at the Porton Down military research facility are analyzing the new variant, which Health Secretary Matt Hancock said may be linked to the recent fast spread of infections in the capital. The switch to tier 3 rules from tier 2 in London and parts of southeast England will see pubs, bars and restaurants closed, except for serving takeaway meals. Theaters and museums will also shut to the public.

Czech Republic: The Czech Republic reintroduced measures to combat a surge in coronavirus cases, reversing a decision two weeks ago to relax restrictions as neighbour Germany imposed a hard holiday lockdown. The government shut hotels and restaurants, prolonged Christmas school holidays and imposed an 11 pm to 5 am curfew, according to Health Minister Jan Blatny. Shops and services will remain open. The cabinet approved an additional 10 billion-koruna ($460 million) aid package to cover rent and wages of the affected businesses for three months.

Singapore: Singapore will start a new travel lane for “business, official and high economic value travelers” that will allow people to come to the city-state without quarantine for short-term stays and reside in a dedicated “bubble” facility near the airport.

Philippines: The Philippines will test a return to in-person classes next month in areas with low Covid-19 risk, even as it warned of a possible post-holiday surge in infections. President Rodrigo Duterte and his cabinet approved the Department of Education’s recommendation to hold a dry run of face-to-face classes in some schools through January, spokesman Harry Roque said Monday night. Health measures will be observed, and students won’t be required to go to schools unless permitted by their parents.

Economy updates

Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s government plans to submit a funding proposal to the Legislative Council before Christmas for a new round of virus relief measures to support industries affected by social distancing restrictions, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a briefing. She offered no further details.

China: China’s recovery gathered pace in November, supported by strong demand from home and abroad, putting the economy further ahead of its peers as the only major one likely to expand this year.