Coronavirus live news: Russia records worst day for new infections; India passes 9m cases

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Coronavirus live news: Russia records worst day for new infections; India passes 9m cases” was written by Kevin Rawlinson (now); Martin Farrer and Helen Sullivan (earlier), for theguardian.com on Friday 20th November 2020 12.09 UTC

Summary

Here’s a summary of the most recent developments:

  • The drugmaker Pfizer applied to US health regulators for emergency use authorisation (EUA) of its vaccine. It came just days after the firm and its German partner BioNTech SE reported final trial results that showed the vaccine was 95% effective with no major safety concerns.
  • Russia recorded its greatest daily caseload increase since the pandemic began. Moscow said it had confirmed 24,318 new infections, bringing the cumulative national tally to 2,039,926.
  • India has recorded more than 9 million coronavirus cases. The country added , 45,882 new infections in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said on Friday, and now has 9,004,365 cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker site, and 132,162 deaths.
  • Dr Anthony Fauci, the US diseases expert, is back. After months of sparring with Donald Trump, the scientist spoke at a White House briefing again as the outbreak continues to spread rapidly. It is the only country with more cases than India, with the national total now on 11.72 million with 250,000 dead. California has imposed a curfew on most of its 40 million residents.
  • Mexico passed the 100,000 mark in Covid-19 deaths Thursday, becoming only the fourth country — behind the United States, Brazil and India — to do so.
  • The EU will pay more than $10bn to secure 425m doses of vaccines being developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and CureVac, Reuters reports. The bloc has agreed to pay €15.50 euros ($18.34) per dose for the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, and slightly less for the Curevac treatment.
  • Almost a million people in China have taken an emergency Covid-19 vaccine that is still in its testing phase, the company Sinopharm has said.
  • Remdesivir should not be used in hospitals to treat Covid-19, the WHO has warned. Donald Trump tried to push the treatment and took it himself when he contracted Covid-19. But the WHO says there is no evidence it works.
  • South Australia’s six-day lockdown is being cut short three days early at midnight on Saturday after it emerged that a man infected with Covid-19 had lied to contact trace investigators.

Vaccine manufacturer seeks authorisation in US

Pfizer has applied to US health regulators for emergency use authorisation (EUA) of its vaccine; a major step toward providing protection for pandemic-weary Americans.

The application to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) comes just days after Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE reported final trial results that showed the vaccine was 95% effective in preventing Covid-19 with no major safety concerns.

Updated

Germany has managed to stabilise the number of infections but has not yet reversed the trend, a government spokesman has said.

The number of infections still needs to fall significantly, he added ahead of another meeting of Chancellor Angela Merkel with state premiers over the issue on Wednesday. The government’s goal is to reduce infections to 50 cases per 100,000 people over seven days while the incidence now is around 140 cases, he said.

With the latest daily increase in case the worst such figure seen in the country since the outbreak began, pressure is rising on Germany’s 16 federal states to implement stricter restrictions.

The Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases recorded 23,648 confirmed new cases and 260 new deaths, which now stand at 13,630, an increase of more than a third in four weeks.

The mass-selling Bild newspaper has reported that Merkel wants any new measures to remain in place until January instead of the weekly approach favoured by state leaders. Bild quoted Merkel as telling members of her conservatives that she wanted “proposals to be made, not only for two weeks but rather with a perspective until January”.

Poland has found 18 cases among mink farm workers as it continues tests among the animals, but does not believe the workers were infected by the animals, sanitary and veterinary authorities said.

Poland, which is a major producer of mink fur, started testing among its farmed minks and checks among the workers earlier this month after a mutated virus was detected in farmed minks in Denmark, leading to a nationwide cull there.

While the authorities have not yet received results of the animal tests, it said Covid-19 cases were confirmed among people connected with the farms.

The Chief Sanitary Inspectorate said there were 18 cases of infections among farm workers that were unrelated to each other. “Currently, there is no basis to conclude that minks were the source of infection for these 18 cases,” it told Reuters.

The inspectorate said it had analysed all infections among farm workers and their families since the beginning of the pandemic. Veterinary authorities said earlier this month they had ordered tests in 18 farms in four administrative regions of the country. Industry groups objected strongly to the tests, worrying they could lead to a nationwide cull.

Poland is one of the world’s top producers of mink fur, with 354 farms, containing around 6 million minks.

Coronavirus infections rose by 4,946 in a day, data from Swiss health authorities shows.

The total number of confirmed cases in Switzerland and neighbouring principality Liechtenstein increased to 290,601 and the death toll rose by 111 to 3,575, while 252 new hospitalisations added to the strain on the health care system.

A substantial part of the Spanish population will be vaccinated in the first half of 2021, the country’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez has claimed.

He said the government will unveil a vaccination plan next Tuesday but did not give any details. The government has created a special committee to establish who would be vaccinated first when a vaccine is available.

Ukraine hopes to receive 8 million doses of a vaccine in the first half of next year, its health minister has said, as the country reports 14,575 new infections in the last 24 hours; passing the previous worst toll of 13,357, which was recorded only the day before.

The tally climbed to 598,085 cases, with 10,598 deaths, Maksym Stepanov said.

The daily infection tally began rising in September and has been consistently high ever since, spurring the government to impose a national lockdown at weekends.

The lockdown means closing or restricting most businesses except essential services such as grocery shops, pharmacies, hospitals and transport.

Stepanov told Reuters on Wednesday that Ukraine faced a “very severe” period but will not tighten lockdown restrictions because measures taken last week should stabilise the situation.

Ukraine participates in the global Covax facility, which has been set up to provide vaccines to poorer countries. Stepanov said Ukraine hoped to receive enough vaccine for up to 20% of its population.

This is 8 million doses. By 7 December, we must sign all technical documents and expect that in the first half of 2021 we will already start receiving the vaccine.

He said the first tranche could total 1.2 million doses and it would be used primarily for groups most at risk. He gave no further details.

Stepanov said Ukraine had also held talks with all possible vaccine manufacturers and suppliers and already issued budget funds for the purchases.

The developers of Russia’s second vaccine have said mass production will begin in 2021.

A recent surge in cases has taken Russia past the 2 million threshold, behind only the United States, India, Brazil and France in total infections. Authorities have resisted imposing lockdowns across the country as they did earlier this year, however, preferring targeted, regional measures.

Russia said its first vaccine, named Sputnik V, was 92% effective, according to interim trial results. Around 500,000 doses are due to be produced in November. Moscow approved it after only limited safety testing and without the support of the World Health Organization.

Post-registration trials for the second vaccine, EpiVacCorona, being developed by Siberia’s Vector institute, are underway. The institute said 15,000 doses of the vaccine have been issued and, by the end of the year, 50,000 doses would be released.

Vector’s vaccine centre said all volunteers injected with EpiVacCorona had developed antibodies, the Interfax news agency reported without specifying the number of people involved.

The vaccine’s effectiveness can only be assessed when preliminary or final results of the post-registration trials are released, Vector said.

Hong Kong has reported a spike in daily cases to 26 two days before an arrangement with Singapore to allow a limited number of passengers to fly both ways without having to go through quarantine kicks in.

Hong Kong has been spared the dramatic escalations seen in other major cities, but the rise was big by its standards, with daily cases having mostly been in the single-digits or low double digits in recent weeks.

Of the 26 confirmed cases, 21 were local transmissions, prompting the health secretary Sophia Chan to say the Chinese-ruled city “probably entered” a fourth wave of infections.

Hong Kong health authorities said another 40 people were likely to be infected, pending final confirmation.

It comes as a travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore is due to begin on Sunday, Reuters reports.

Under the arrangement, people would be allowed to travel between the two cities without observing quarantine but must take a test before departure and upon arrival. There would be no restrictions on the purpose of travel.

Travellers would also have to take designated flights, with only Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines having been selected to operate these flights for now. If the situation deteriorated in either city the travel bubble would be suspended, the two governments have said.

Hong Kong has recorded around 5,500 cases and 108 deaths since the pandemic began.

Public meetings of more than 20 people will be banned in the Helsinki region, Finnish authorities have said.

While Finland’s 14-day average of 58 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants remains Europe’s lowest, public health authorities said the rate was nearly twice as high in the capital region and, therefore, the new restrictions are needed.

The French high-end department store chain Galeries Lafayette, which expects the pandemic to halve its revenue this year, fears foreign tourist flows may not be back to pre-crisis levels before 2024. Its chief executive Nicolas Houze has told BFM Business radio:

This year, our revenue will be cut in half. 2020 will be difficult, 2021 also. We should return to break-even in 2022.

Retailers – particularly those who depend heavily on tourists – have been hit hard by government-enforced lockdowns and restrictions on international travel.

Moreover, some Russian hospitals are experiencing serious drugs shortages and cannot restock because of panic buying, high demand and problems with a new labelling system, officials, distributors and doctors have said.

Russia, which has reported the world’s fifth-highest number of cases, is struggling to cope with a second wave and the healthcare system outside Moscow is close to breaking point, Reuters reports.

Doctors in more than a dozen regions face big shortages of antibiotics, antiviral drugs and other medicines used to treat Covid-9, three local officials and three drugs vendors have told the news agency. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the co-owner of a large pharmaceuticals distributor said:

Head doctors call me every few minutes and beg for medicine. They have nothing to treat patients. And I have nothing for them to deliver.

The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last week he was aware there were problems.

We know that there is a shortage in certain regions, this is unacceptable. The government is making very vigorous efforts to prevent this.

The health ministry did not reply to Reuters’ request for comment.

A doctor from the Bashkiria region in south-central Russia told the news agency a hospital in her town was short of antibiotics because of the large influx of patients. She declined to be identified.

Russian doctors use a specific programme with specific drugs to treat Covid-19 patients. It includes the antibiotics Levofloxacin or Azithromycinum, and local antiviral drugs such as umifenovir, documents seen by Reuters show. Those antibiotics and antiviral drugs are now running short, regional officials say.

Russia suffers worst day for new cases

Russia has recorded it worst daily caseload increase, with 24,318 new infections on Friday. That includes 6,902 in the capital Moscow and brings the national tally to 2,039,926.

Authorities also reported 461 deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the official death toll to 35,311.

Gilead’s drug remdesivir is not recommended for patients hospitalised with Covid-19, regardless of how ill they are, as there is no evidence it improves survival or reduces the need for ventilation, a World Health Organization panel has said.

The advice is another setback for the firm, which grabbed worldwide attention as a potentially effective treatment in the summer after early trials showed some promise.

At the end of October, Gilead cut its 2020 revenue forecast, citing lower-than-expected demand and difficulty in predicting sales of remdesivir, which is also known as Veklury.

The antiviral is one of only two medicines currently authorised to treat Covid-19 patients across the world, but a large WHO-led trial known as the Solidarity Trial showed last month that it had little or no effect on 28-day mortality or length of hospital stays for patients.

Gilead has questioned the Solidarity Trial’s results.

Veklury is recognised as a standard of care for the treatment of hospitalised patients with Covid-19 in guidelines from numerous credible national organisations.

We are disappointed the WHO guidelines appear to ignore this evidence at a time when cases are dramatically increasing around the world and doctors are relying on Veklury as the first and only approved antiviral treatment for patients with Covid-19.

The WHO’s Guideline Development Group (GDG) panel said its recommendation was based on an evidence review that included data from four international randomised trials involving more than 7,000 patients hospitalised with Covid-19.

After reviewing the evidence, the panel said it concluded that remdesivir, which has to be given intravenously and is therefore costly and complex to administer, has no meaningful effect on death rates or other important outcomes for patients.

Updated

There are signs that the UK’s caseload curve is starting to flatten as a result of the lockdown, its health secretary Matt Hancock has said, paving the way for a Christmas period with less stringent restrictions. He has told Sky News:

There are encouraging signs that the number of cases is starting to flatten, and that the lockdown that we brought in, earlier this month, is working.

It of course won’t be like a normal Christmas, there will have to be rules in place, but we hope that they’ll allow for a bit more of that normal Christmas that people really look forward to.

Greek authorities are taking over two private health clinics and their staff in northern Greece as the region’s public hospitals are under severe pressure from a surge in cases over the past few weeks, the country’s Health Ministry has said.

According to the Associated Press, the ministry said it requested that beds in private hospitals be made available to the public health system, but that a “mutually acceptable solution was not possible”.

As of Friday, therefore, the ministry is forcibly appropriating the two clinics and their staff in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest urban centre which is at the centre of spiralling cases.

A nationwide lockdown has been imposed until the end of the month, with shops, schools, bars, restaurants and all entertainment venues shut and a 9pm to 5am curfew in place.

Those who wish to leave home can do so only for specific reasons and must notify authorities by telephone text message or carry a self-written permit. There is no limit, however, on how long people can leave their homes for, or how many times per day.

There is evidence that the firebreak in Wales has helped lower the rate of transmission, the country’s first minister Mark Drakeford has said.

It comes as Northern Ireland announces its own firebreak-style lockdown, due to start next week. The Labour politician told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

[Cases] have fallen every day for the last 10 days, so right across Wales we’ve seen the incidence rate going down, we’ve seen the positivity rate going down.

He cited Merthyr Tydfil, one of the worst affected areas before the firebreak, where cases had fallen from 760 per 100,000 to below 260.

Our assessment is that the firebreak has done what we hoped it would do.

Drakeford said there were the “first signs” of the number of people needing hospital beds reducing and bed numbers “stabilising”. He added that he has discussed a possible UK-wide approach to Christmas restrictions with the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and the other first ministers of the devolved administrations. A further meeting is planned for next week.

We agreed some broad parameters on Wednesday and remitted officials of all four administrations to work now on the detail, so I remain hopeful that it will be possible to reach a four-nation approach to Christmas.

I certainly think that is the right thing to do – if it is achievable – and certainly Wales will be at the table next week looking to find an agreement.

Drakeford said an agreement on permitting travel across the UK during the Christmas season was “top of the list of things to agree”, even if a wider agreement was not possible.

I really do hope we can have a common approach to travel. It is very important for people in Wales, so many families here will have families in England and elsewhere and will be hoping to have visits from family members who live outside Wales. On travel, I am more hopeful than I was even on other aspects of our discussion.

Irinej, who has died aged 90, was a conservative who wielded major political influence. He had been diagnosed with the virus on 4 November and had been in a military hospital in the capital Belgrade since then.

He tested positive three days after attending the funeral of Metropolitan Amfilohije, the most senior cleric of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, who also died from Covid-19.

I was honored to know you. People like you never depart,” Vucic wrote on his Instagram account under a black and white photo of Irinej.

The Patriarch’s condition aggravated early on Thursday when he was intubated, his medical team said.

Irinej became the 45th Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church in 2010. The church has around 12 million followers, mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia, and dioceses in the United States, Australia and Western Europe.

Irinej adamantly opposed the independence of Kosovo, Serbia’s former predominantly Albanian southern province, considered a medieval cradle of Serbian Orthodox Christianity and where some of church’s most important monasteries are based.

He said Serbia should join the European Union “if the EU respects Serbian identity, culture and religion”.

The election of the new Patriarch among bishops will take place in the coming months.

Coronavirus has so far infected more than 104,000 people and killed 1,110 in Serbia; a country of 7.2 million.

Summary

Thanks joining me in the blogosphere. I’m handing over to my colleague Kevin Rawlinson now but if you’re just joining us or just getting up to speed with the news, here are the main developments of the past few hours:

  • India has recorded more than 9 million coronavirus cases. The country added , 45,882 new infections in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said on Friday, and now has 9,004,365 cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker site, and 132,162 deaths.
  • Dr Anthony Fauci, the US diseases expert, is back. After months of sparring with Donald Trump, the scientist spoke at a White House briefing again as the outbreak continues to spread rapidly. It is the only country with more cases than India, with the national total now on 11.72 million with 250,000 dead. California has imposed a curfew on most of its 40 million residents.
  • Mexico passed the 100,000 mark in Covid-19 deaths Thursday, becoming only the fourth country — behind the United States, Brazil and India — to do so.
  • The EU will pay more than $10bn to secure 425m doses of vaccines being developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and CureVac, Reuters reports. The bloc has agreed to pay €15.50 euros ($18.34) per dose for the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, and slightly less for the Curevac treatment.
  • Almost a million people in China have taken an emergency Covid-19 vaccine that is still in its testing phase, the company Sinopharm has said.
  • Remdesivir should not be used in hospitals to treat Covid-19, the WHO has warned. Donald Trump tried to push the treatment and took it himself when he contracted Covid-19. But the WHO says there is no evidence it works.
  • South Australia’s six-day lockdown is being cut short three days early at midnight on Saturday after it emerged that a man infected with Covid-19 had lied to contact trace investigators.

Irinej, the patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox church, has died of Covid-19, the country’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, has announced, according to Reuters. He was 90 and had contracted Covid earlier this month.

Serbian patriarch Irinej.
Serbian patriarch Irinej.
Photograph: Darko Vojinović/AP

Ukraine registered a record 14,575 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, health minister Maksym Stepanov said on Friday. It breaks the previous daily record of 13,357.

The country now has 598,085 cases, with 10,598 deaths, he added.

Updated

Almost a million people in China have taken an emergency Covid-19 vaccine that is still in its testing phase, the company Sinopharm has said.

Chinese authorities released the vaccine, developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), to select groups of people in July including Chinese government officials, students, and workers travelling overseas, before the vaccines had been proven to work.

Helen Davidson has the full story here:

One benefit of the slightly farcical early ending of the South Australia lockdown is that the first cricket Test between Australia and India scheduled for 17 December in Adelaide is looking more likely to go ahead.

The first test of the Australian summer was under threat after the state went into a six-day lockdown this week. But it is now set to be lifted three days early, giving a huge boost for cricket fans.

Here’s the full story:

Updated

EU to pay $10bn for vaccines – report

The European Union has agreed to pay more than $10bn to secure hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine being developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and CureVac, an EU official involved in the talks told Reuters.

The bloc has agreed to pay €15.50 euros ($18.34) per dose for the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, according to the official.

FILE PHOTO: Syringes are seen in front of displayed Biontech and Pfizer logos in this illustration taken November 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

That would mean an overall price of up to €3.1bn ($3.7 billion) for 200 million doses, rising to €4.65bn euros if another optional 100 million doses are purchased under the deal, the official said.

The EU has separately agreed to pay €10 ($11.84) per dose for an initial supply of 225 million doses of the vaccine candidate from CureVac, a discount from the €12 the company set as the price for the shot, the official said.

Updated

The six-day lockdown imposed on South Australia will end three days early at midnight on Saturday after it emerged that a man infected with Covid-19 had lied to contact trace investigators.

To the fury of the state premier, Steven Marshall, and probably most South Australians, the man told investigators he had been a customer at Woodville pizza bar where a Covid-positive security guard from a quarantine hotel worked.

The Woodville Pizza Bar in Adelaide, South Australia.
The Woodville Pizza Bar in Adelaide, South Australia.

Photograph: Kelly Barnes/Getty Images

The investigators thought the man’s case meant many other customers could have picked up the disease in an outbreak that was one of Australia’s most serious for weeks. But it turned out the man worked at the pizza bar and therefore was deemed a close contact of the security guard, lessening the risk to the wider community.

“To say I am fuming about the actions of this individual is an absolute understatement,” Marshall said.

“The selfish actions of this individual have put our whole state in a very difficult situation. His actions have affected businesses, individuals, family groups and is completely and utterly unacceptable.”

You can read more about the whole farrago here:

Germany added another 23,648 confirmed cases on Thursday, taking its total to 879,564, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Friday.

The reported death toll rose by 260 to 13,630, the tally showed.

As India passes the grim 9 million-case milestone, concerns about the coronavirus are particularly acute in the capital, New Delhi, Agence France-Presse reports.

The city is facing the dual scourge of winter pollution and Covid-19 and has seen infections soar past half a million with a record rise in daily cases.

On Thursday, the city’s government quadrupled fines for not wearing a mask from 500 rupees ($US6.74) to 2,000 in an effort to get a grip on the outbreak.

A health worker takes a break in Delhi.
A health worker takes a break in Delhi.
Photograph: Manish Swarup/AP

Hospital beds are also running short. A government mobile app showed on Thursday that more than 90% of intensive care beds with ventilators were occupied in the city.

Delhi’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, responded by announcing the addition of 1,400 intensive care beds.

The western city of Ahmedabad, home to six million people, has also seen an uptick in cases and the authorities have imposed an indefinite nighttime curfew.

Asian stock markets have struggled again overnight after US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin called for an end to coronavirus pandemic relief for struggling businesses.

He has written to the US Federal Reserve saying that the $450bn allocated to treasury for assistance should be handed back to Congress to reallocate.

That sent the Nikkei down 0.5% in Tokyo, although they’re flat in Sydney and Seoul and up 0.45% in Hong Kong. Chinese mainland shares are also up slightly.

The S&P500 on Wall Street will open 0.5% lower later as a result but the FTSE100 is on course for a 0.2% rise at the opening.

India passes 9 million cases

India has recorded more than 9 million coronavirus cases, with 45,882 new infections confirmed in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said on Friday.

The country now has 9,004,365 cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker site, and 132,162 deaths.

India is only the second country to cross 9 million coronavirus infections, after the United States, but cases have slowed down in the country after hitting a peak in September.

Government officials and experts have warned that the country could still see a spike after the festival of Diwali was celebrated this month.

Updated

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan for today. Thanks for following a long – and stay tuned for more updates from the inimitable Martin Farrer.

As a parting gift, I offer you this beautiful fashion editorial produced by my colleagues in Australia:

Leaders from Japan and New Zealand on Friday warned countries against the temptation of retreating into trade protectionism, saying that keeping markets open is the way to restore a global economy battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking by video link from Tokyo to a meeting of Asia-Pacific CEOs, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said a “free and open Indo-Pacific will be the cornerstone for the prosperity of this region.”

Japan and 14 other Asian neighbours on Sunday signed the world’s largest free trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Suga, who took office in September, said Japan will next push for a wider free trade pact among the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

“Amidst a risk of inward-looking temptations in the face of the slump of the global economy, making rules for a free and fair global economy is critically important,” he said. “While continuing to promote WTO reform, Japan will aspire for the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.”

The event came ahead of a meeting late Friday of APEC leaders hosted by Malaysia that will be conducted via video conference due to the pandemic. Malaysian officials said US President Donald Trump, who is busy challenging the outcome of the recent presidential election, will participate.

Trump last participated in the APEC forum in 2017 and last weekend skipped the East Asia Summits, also held online. Trump, or his representative, was initially due to speak to the CEOs Friday morning but that was canceled, with no reasons given.

Churches in the Philippine capital Manila have been told not to hold any Christmas carol activities this season as part of measures to limit the transmission of Covid-19.

The Philippines, a catholic majority country, has one of the longest Christmas periods in the world, with celebrations beginning at the start of September and, for some, lasting as late as Valentine’s Day.

It’s the country’s most important holiday, but this year’s festivities will be different: as well as a ban on carols in church, there are also limits on church attendance, a curfew and a ban on mass gatherings. Celebrations have also been dampened by the economic crisis, which has left millions without work.

Church officials said carols had been banned because experts believe the virus is more likely to be transmitted if people are signing, according to reports by the Philippine News Agency.

Customers walking away with newly-purchased lanterns for the festive season in San Fernando town in Pampanga province, Philippines.
Customers walking away with newly-purchased lanterns for the festive season in San Fernando town in Pampanga province, Philippines.
Photograph: Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images

In Thailand, mask-wearing and hand-washing routines introduced to prevent the spread of Covid-19 have also led to far fewer cases of other respiratory diseases in Thailand this year, according to medical experts.

A report by KhaosodEnglish found that cases of influenza so far this year are 70% lower than across the whole of 2019. Reported cases are their lowest in five years.

“Even during this cold season – viruses love it – we are finding fewer patients than last year,” Rungrueng Kitphati, spokesman of the Ministry of Public Health, told the news outlet.

According to the Department of Disease Control, between 1 January and 10 November, there were 116,052 reported cases of influenza, including three deaths nationwide. This compares with 390,773 cases of influenza, and 27 deaths, recorded between 1 Jan 2019 and 7 Jan 2020.

Hand foot and mouth disease cases have also fallen.

Despite reporting the first known coronavirus case outside China, Thailand has managed to avoid a major outbreak, thanks to a strict lockdown, border closures and mask wearing. The country has recorded 3,888 cases and 60 deaths.

Here is the video of Dr Fauci speaking earlier at the coronavirus task force press briefing – his first appearance at the White House podium in months:

 

Updated

Lithuanian defence minister, senior Pentagon official test positive for Covid-19

Lithuanian Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis has tested positive for Covid-19 and Anthony Tata, one of several senior US defence officials who met him at the Pentagon last week, also tested positive on Thursday, the Pentagon said.

The Lithuanian embassy told the Pentagon of Karoblis’s positive test on Thursday, it added. Tata, who performs the duties of undersecretary of defence for policy, had met Karoblis on 13 November.

All the senior US defence officials who met Karoblis on 13 November and Monday, including Acting Defence Secretary Chris Miller, were tested for Covid-19, the Pentagon said in its statement.

Here is more on Rachel Maddow’s return to air:

Maddow made an emotional return Thursday to her MSNBC show, saying her partner’s bout with Covid-19 was so serious they thought it might kill her.

Maddow has been off the air for roughly two weeks since disclosing she had been in close contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. Maddow didn’t disclose who it was at the time, but said Thursday evening it was her partner, Susan Mikula.

“At one point, we really thought it was a possibility it might kill her and that’s why I’ve been away,” Maddow said.

“She is the centre of my life,” she added.

Maddow said her partner is recovering and will be OK, but that it didn’t seem that way at the outset of her illness. Maddow said she’s tested negative so far for the virus.
She is the host of MSNBC’s most-watched show and did the broadcast from inside her home, encountering some technical difficulties before laying out their coronavirus experience.

“Don’t get this thing. Do whatever you can to keep from getting it,” Maddow said. “For Thanksgiving next week, you really are just going to have it at home without people coming over.”

Maddow said her quarantine would end soon, but she’d be “broadcasting like this until it’s safe for me to be around my coworkers.”

A lesson on “acceptable risk” (and love) from MSNBC Host Rachel Maddow:

For a break from coronavirus, here is how a giant, inflatable duck became the symbol of Thailand’s protests:

Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious diseases expert, has promised that “the cavalry is on the way” in the form of a coronavirus vaccine but urged one last great national effort to stop the spread.

Fauci was speaking at the White House coronavirus taskforce’s first press briefing since July. He was joined by Vice-president Mike Pence and response coordinator Deborah Birx, but there was no sign of Donald Trump or his controversial adviser Scott Atlas.

The taskforce broke its long silence as the virus surges to new highs, infecting more than 158,000 Americans – and killing in excess of 1,100 – every day. The total death toll now stands at a quarter of a million. Trump, little seen in public and refusing to accept election defeat, has been accused of all but giving up on the fight:

A little more on the “lie” that sent an entire Australian state in lockdown. South Australian police commissioner Grant Stevens is clarifying this now. He says the state would NOT have gone into lockdown if this person were truthful.

The lie was -the person claimed that they had purchased a pizza from the pizza shop, where in fact they were working there and had been working there for several shifts

That clearly changes the circumstances and had this person been truthful to the contact tracing teams, we would not have gone into a six-day lockdown.

The second consequence of that lie is this person has numerous associates, persons of interest that we are now trying to identify and locate that we would not have had to do so had they been truthful from the beginning. There is an absolute need for us to move quickly over the next 24-36 hours to identify and locate these people so we know we have eliminated the risk of this particular strain spreading further into the community.

The state of South Australia will come out of its snap six-day coronavirus lockdown earlier than expected, with most activities permitted to restart from midnight on Saturday, state Premier Steven Marshall said on Friday.

Coronavirus infections have slowed dramatically in recent weeks in Australia, with South Australia one of the few places still recording community transmission of the disease.

Marshall said the state will ease restrictions, including immediately allowing people to leave their homes to exercise, after it was realised that contact tracers were misled by a person working in the epicentre of the recent outbreak.

Mexico becomes fourth country to pass 100,000 deaths

Mexico passed the 100,000 mark in Covid-19 deaths Thursday, becoming only the fourth country — behind the United States, Brazil and India — to do so.

José Luis Alomía Zegarra, Mexico’s director of epidemiology, announced that Mexico had 100,104 confirmed COVID-19 deaths.

But the living will bear the scars too: along with their lost friends and loved ones, many surviving coronavirus victims in Mexico say the psychosis caused by the pandemic is one of the most lasting effects.

Mexico resembles a divided country, where some people are so unconcerned they won’t wear masks, while others are so scared they descend into abject terror at the first sign of shortness of breath.

Mainland China reported 17 new Covid-19 cases on Nov. 19, up from 12 a day earlier, the country’s health authority said on Friday.

The National Health Commission said all new cases were imported infections originating from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed infections, also rose to 14 from 10 a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 infections to date in Mainland China stands at 86,398 cases, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

Oklahoma’s Republican Governor Kevin Stitt said Thursday he planned to attend a college football game over the weekend and spend Thanksgiving with his parents and family, even as cases in the state continued to surge this week and the nation’s top public health agency pleaded with Americans not to travel for the holidays, AP reports.

During a press conference with state health officials, Stitt said he planned to attend the University of Oklahoma-Oklahoma State University football game in Norman on Saturday and spend time with his family, including his parents, over the Thanksgiving holiday.

“I think Oklahomans should be with their loved ones over Thanksgiving,” Stitt said.
Stitt’s plans contradict guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday that encouraged Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving and not to spend the holiday with people from outside their household.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt speaks during a news conference in Oklahoma City, Monday, 16 November, 2020.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt speaks during a news conference in Oklahoma City, Monday, 16 November, 2020.
Photograph: Sue Ogrocki/AP

Stitt also didn’t wear a mask during Thursday’s press conference inside a crowded conference room at the state Capitol, despite issuing an executive order this week requiring state employees to wear masks inside state buildings.

Meanwhile, mayors in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the state’s two largest cities, urged Oklahomans to consider taking even more precautions over the next 10 days to minimise the number of people they come into contact with as the number of cases and hospitalisations have surged in recent weeks.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said that while his Thanksgiving celebration typically involves dozens of family members, this year’s will be just with his wife and two children.
“We’re doing that because we want to keep our family safe,” Bynum said. “I think it’s important that elected officials set that example.”

WHO warns against taking remdesivir

Remdesivir, one of the drugs Donald Trump took when he developed Covid-19, should not be used in hospitals because there is no evidence it works, the World Health Organization has advised.

The US president was an enthusiastic proponent of the drug, to the point where he boasted in July that he had bought up the world’s entire stock for Americans. The WHO’s guidelines committee, however, has said Covid patients may be better off without it.

The WHO issued what it calls a “living guideline”, which can be updated as evidence comes in, largely as a result of a Solidarity trial it led in several countries. Solidarity allocated patients randomly to several drugs including remdesivir and found that those who took it were no more likely to survive severe Covid than those who did not.

There are other issues with remdesivir. Made by the US company Gilead, is extremely expensive and has to be given intravenously. The guideline, published in the British Medical Journal, concluded that “most patients would not prefer intravenous treatment with remdesivir given the low certainty evidence. Any beneficial effects of remdesivir, if they do exist, are likely to be small and the possibility of important harm remains”:

The NHS is preparing to open dozens of mass vaccination centres across England to vaccinate people against Covid-19.

There will be at least 42 centres, based in places such as conference centres, and the NHS is planning to hire tens of thousands of staff to run them, the Health Service Journal reported.

The fresh details of how people will get the vaccine come as NHS England prepares to publish its “deployment plan” for how it will store, distribute and administer the vaccine:

California enacts coronavirus curfew for majority of state’s 40m residents

California will impose a temporary overnight curfew affecting nearly the entire population beginning this weekend, as the state battles to get a surge in coronavirus cases under control.

The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, announced the limited stay-at-home order on Thursday, saying that all non-essential work and gathering must stop from 10pm to 5am. The order will apply to the 41 counties currently in the most restrictive tier of reopening rules, which accounts for nearly the entire state population of 40 million people:

CDC advises against Thanksgiving travel

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised Americans not to travel for next week’s Thanksgiving holiday, due to the nationwide surge in new coronavirus cases.

“CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving period,” Dr Henry Walke, the CDC’s coronavirus incident manager, said during a briefing today.

“For Americans who decide to travel, CDC recommends doing so as safely as possible by following the same recommendations for everyday living,” Walke added.

Walke particularly expressed fear about the possibility of Americans unknowingly spreading coronavirus to family members, saying, “One of our concerns is that as people over the holiday season get together, they may actually be bringing infections with them to that small gathering and not even know it.”

In a set of updated guidelines, the CDC recommended celebrating Thanksgiving virtually or only with members of one’s own household.

The guidance says, “In-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households, including college students returning home, pose varying levels of risk.”

The news comes a day after the US coronavirus death toll surpassed 250,000, which is far higher than any other country in the world:

China has given 1m people Sinopharm vaccine

Chinese President Xi Jinping is calling for closer international cooperation on making a vaccine for the coronavirus available, as his government announces that the vaccine developed by state-owned pharmaceutical company SinoPharm has been administered to 1m people.

Xi spoke Thursday in an address delivered via video at an event at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Xi said: “To beat the virus and promote the global recovery, the international community must close ranks and jointly respond to the crisis and meet the tests.”
He said cooperation would include closer coordination on policies for development and distribution of a vaccine.

Chinese companies Sinovac and Sinopharm are in the late stages of testing vaccines, putting them among nearly a dozen companies at or near that level of development. That has introduced both commercial and political competition among countries and companies to be the first to offer a solution to the pandemic.

“To justify its authorisation of an unproven vaccine, Beijing said the products’ use had been restricted to high-risk individuals, though that included not only obvious groups like frontline health professionals, but also school, supermarket and public transport workers.”

The South China Morning Post reports that SinoPharm’s CEO has said there have been “no adverse effects” in any of those who have received the treatment. The paper reports:

Besides the recipients of the Sinopharm jabs, authorities in Zhejiang said they had made a Covid-19 vaccine developed by the privately owned pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotec available to high-risk groups in the east China province under the emergency use scheme.

Exactly how many citizens have received the jabs is unknown, but local and foreign media reports showed images of people lining up outside disease control and prevention centres to receive them.

To justify its authorisation of an unproven vaccine, Beijing said the products’ use had been restricted to high-risk individuals, though that included not only obvious groups like frontline health professionals, but also school, supermarket and public transport workers.

Summary

Hello and welcome to our rolling coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you the latest from around the world. I am on Twitter here if you need me.

The South China Morning Post reports that China has administered an experimental vaccine developed by state-owned company Sinopharm to 1 million people under the government’s emergency-use scheme. We’ll have more on this shortly.

Meanwhile authorities at the US Centres for Disease Control have told Americans not to travel next week for Thanksgiving celebrations, and not to spend the holiday with people who aren’t in their household.

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • Northern Ireland faces two weeks of tougher lockdown restrictions from the end of next week, as non-essential retail will also close. Health minister Robin Swann had warned colleagues that a delayed lockdown risked seeing the country’s health services overwhelmed
  • Spain has announced 16,233 new cases and 252 more deaths from the virus. It takes Spain’s death toll to 42,291 since the start of the pandemic.
  • France’s health minister, Olivier Veran, has admitted that the mental health of the French was deteriorating during the second lockdown. The admission came as the French death toll from coronavirus increased by 429 to 47,127 people.
  • Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, warned Italians they would have to shun “hugs and kisses” at Christmas. The health ministry recorded 653 further coronavirus fatalities, taking Italy’s death toll from the virus to 47,870.
  • The US government will extend a ban on non-essential travel at land borders with Canada and Mexico until 21 December. The rules were first introduced in March to stop the virus’ spread, and will be in place for another 20 days. They were due to expire on Saturday.
  • A new mutated strain of coronavirus from mink farms in Denmark is “most likely” extinct, the health ministry said, following a cull of the animals. But the authorities in Sweden are investigating number of cases of Covid-19 among people who work in its mink industry.
  • The latest post Brexit trade talks between the UK and EU have been paused at a crucial stage after one of the EU team tested positive for Covid. The health of Brexit negotiators is the top priority, Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost, said after his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier announced the suspension of the talks.
  • Ireland’s department of health has recommended a cull of mink to stop the risk of the mink mutation spreading to Ireland. Ireland also announced that its R rate has increase from 0.6 to 0.7 to 0.9.
  • Hungary’s plans to import and possibly use Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine raise safety concerns and could damage trust in potential shots, the European Commission has warned. Meanwhile, trials of the Sputnik V vaccine have resumed after a temporary suspension in Russia.
  • Iran’s death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak has risen to 43,418, with 476 deaths in the past 24 hours. Ahmed al-Mandhari, director of WHO’s eastern Mediterranean region, expressed concern that countries in the Middle East are lowering their guard after tough lockdowns imposed earlier this year.
  • Poland reported a new daily high of 637 coronavirus-related deaths. There were 23,975 new cases reported on Thursday, the health ministry said.
  • Japan is on “maximum alert” after logging a record number of daily coronavirus infections, its prime minister has said. The comments came as Tokyo raised its alert level to the top of its four-tier system, with local media saying the capital would report a record number of infections for a second day running.
  • Russia has surpassed 2m coronavirus cases after reporting a record 23,610 infections and 463 deaths related to Covid-19.
  • The total number of coronavirus infections on the continent of Africa also surpassed 2m.

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