This article titled “Coronavirus live news: Tokyo reports record daily cases as Mexico deaths pass 100,000” was written by Damien Gayle (now), with Calla Wahlquist and Lisa Cox (earlier), for theguardian.com on Saturday 21st November 2020 15.42 UTC
Hundreds of mink farmers and breeders have paraded their tractors through Copenhagen in protest against a decision by Denmark’s government to cull the nation’s entire mink herd to halt the spread of a mutant strain of coronavirus.
More than 500 tractors, many decked out with the Danish flag, drove past the government’s offices and parliament to the port, reports AFP, the French state-backed news agency. Another 400 staged a similar protest in the country’s second city, Aarhus.
Mette Frederiksen’s government has acknowledged that its decision to cull more than 15 million minks had no legal basis for those not contaminated by the Covid-19 variant, infuriating breeders.
Denmark, a country of around 5.8 million people, has been the world’s leading exporter of mink fur for several decades. It sells pelts for around 670 million euros ($792 million) annually, and is the second-biggest producer worldwide, behind China.
The mutated version of the new coronavirus detected in Danish minks that raised concerns about the effectiveness of a future vaccine has likely been eradicated, the health ministry said Thursday.
“It is not fair what has happened to the breeders,” said Daniel, 19, a mink farm worker.
“The entire sector will now have to shut down,” he added.
A further 316 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 38,112, NHS England said on Saturday.
Patients were aged between 28 and 102. All except five, aged between 64 and 96, had known underlying health conditions.
The deaths were between 3 June and 20 November.
Twenty-two other deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.
Over in Greece officials are warning that lockdown restrictions are likely to continue beyond 30 November when the measures were initially meant to end, writes Helena Smith, the Guardian’s Athens correspondent.
Although transmissions have gradually begun “to stabilise,” infectious disease experts say the decline in infection rates has been slower than expected.
Speaking to Thema 104.6 FM radio today, leading epidemiologist Alkiviadis Vatopoulos who sits on the scientific committee that advises prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ centre right government, said: “The curve appears to be flattening, cases don’t seem to be increasing but this has happened very late in the lockdown to be honest. We were expecting it to occur earlier … the feeling is people haven’t taken [it] as seriously as they did [during the first lockdown] in March.”
It was vital that Greeks remained on guard, he added, insisting that infection rates could “get out of control at any moment” again.
Greece has seen a surge in confirmed transmissions especially in and around Thessaloniki, the country’s northern metropolis where hospitals are at breaking point.
On Friday the National Organisation for Public Health announced a record 72 patients had died from Covid-19 raising the total number of fatalities to 1,419.
A further 2,581 people had been diagnosed with the virus bringing the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 87,812.
With the case load not being reduced adequately, government ministers are now saying next week will be critical in determining when, and if, curbs are lifted. Measures include a 9PM to 5 AM curfew, with citizens having to inform authorities of their movements via text before they venture outdoors. Exercise in groups of no more than three is allowed as is dog walking.
“The response to the measures hasn’t produced enough yet in terms of lessening of cases so it’s best to re-evaluate the data again when the time comes,” said minister of state Giorgos Gerapetritis adding the coming days would be critical.
Another minister contacted by the Guardian, echoing Gerapetritis, said the intention remained to open the country’s retail market ahead of Christmas “because commercially and economically December is such an important month” but emphasised that everything would depend on epidemiological data.
The US president, Donald Trump, said on Saturday that his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, is doing “very well” in quarantine after being infected with coronavirus, the Associated Press reports.
“My son Donald is doing very well. Thank you!” Trump tweeted, following Friday’s disclosure that the 42-year-old Trump scion had become one of the nearly 12 million Americans infected by the virus.
Donald Trump Jr. learned of his positive test result earlier this week, has had no symptoms and was following all medically recommended guidelines for treating the illness, said a spokesperson, who was granted anonymity to discuss private medical information.
Police have imposed a dispersal zone in Liverpool, north west England, until midnight, as they attempt to clear the street of anti lockdown protesters.
According to the Liverpool Echo, about 200 protesters were marching through the streets of the city on Saturday afternoon, chanting “freedom” as they were shepherded by police.
Several arrests have been made, the Echo reports.
In a statement on the Merseyside police website, chief supt Ngaire Waine said warned that anyone taking part in an unlawful gathering of more than two people could face arrest and prosecution or a fine.
Such gatherings in Liverpool in recent weeks have involved several hundred people showing a lack of social distancing with many not wearing face coverings, and last weekend we brought in a Section 34 dispersal zone to disperse an unlawful gathering that formed at the Bombed Out Church.
We arrested a number of people on suspicion of breaching the dispersal zone after they had returned to the area, and investigations are ongoing. If people continue to gather unlawfully, we will not hesitate to take the same course of action.
Several thousand worshippers and clergy have paid their respects to the head of the Serbian Orthodox church, Patriarch Irinej, in a Belgrade church after he died aged 90 after contracting coronavirus.
Irinej, who was born Miroslav Gavrilović, tested positive for Covid-19 on 4 November and died on Friday, prompting the Serbian government to declare three days of national mourning in the predominantly Orthodox Christian country.
Some maintained tradition by kissing the glass-covered casket containing the patriarch’s body, which was dressed in a gold-embroidered robe and an ornate crown.
Most, however, solemnly walked past it wearing protective masks as they paid their respects to Irinej, who was enthroned as the church’s 45th patriarch and spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Serbs a decade ago, Reuters reported.
Tens of thousands of people in Pakistan defied a government ban on large gatherings on Saturday to attend the funeral of a hardline cleric in Lahore, according to Reuters.
Khadim Hussain Rizvi, 54, died of a heart attack on Thursday, just days after leading a violent protest march to the capital, Islamabad, against the publication in France of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.
With coronavirus infections rising, the government this month declared the country was experiencing a “second wave” of contagion and banned large events and meetings.
Official data released on Saturday showed 2,843 people had tested positive for the virus and 42 had died in the last 24 hours – both figures the highest for a single day since July.
Despite the coronavirus curbs, tens of thousands turned out to mourn Rizvi, and organisers of the funeral said the government had not told them to limit the gathering.
Government officials did not respond to a request for comment about the funeral, which wreaked havoc in Lahore as mobile phone services were shut down and major roads blocked for security reasons.
A local official, who asked not to be named, said he estimated that close to 200,000 people had attended the event. The gathering was so large that Rizvi’s coffin could not be carried through the crowd to the site set up for the ceremony, and had to be positioned on a nearby bridge for the prayers, said Reuters.
Rizvi, known for his fiery sermons, headed the Tehreek-e Labbaik Pakistan party, which has pressured the government on a number of issues in recent years by denouncing alleged blasphemy and staging protests.
Earlier this month, the cleric led a march of thousands of protesters to Islamabad that blocked a main entry road for hours and saw demonstrators clash with police. (Writing and additional reporting by Gibran Peshimam. Editing by Helen Popper)
A mass coronavirus testing pilot scheme has been launched today in Wales.
Lisa Mytton, the deputy leader of Merthyr Tydfil county borough council, said she believed the mass testing pilot was the best way to try to reduce the area’s high levels of coronavirus transmissions.
She told the PA news agency:
I just wonder what other way there would be to do it apart from this way?
I really am hopeful that it will get everybody out there so we can find and see those people who are asymptomatic, walking around unknowingly with coronavirus, so they can then self-isolate and we can reduce our transmission rate.
This will help in the end; people being able to see relatives, to get back to some sort of normality.
Obviously we didn’t want as many people having coronavirus in Merthyr Tydfil as the numbers have shown; that’s saddened us.
But I’m pleased we’ve been chosen to undertake this pilot because if it helps reduce the transmission rate in Merthyr Tydfil then that’s a good thing, definitely.
Tougher restrictions have come into force in Iran, including closing non-essential businesses and restrictions on travel, in an effort to curb a third wave of coronavirus infections – as state media reported widespread flouting of the rules.
“Tehran streets are crowded despite the restrictions,” state TV said on Saturday morning, according to Reuters. It said some non-essential businesses were open, but later showed mostly empty streets and shuttered shops.
The semi-official ISNA news agency posted photos of crammed metro trains with the hashtag “coronavirus kills”. Other media sites posted photos of packed buses.
The deputy health minister, Alireza Raisi, said the 10% of people who ignore the health regulations could spread the virus to 80% of the population, adding that family gatherings were the main cause of infections.
President Hassan Rouhani said in televised remarks on Saturday the two-week restrictions could be extended if the desired results were not achieved.
Iran’s health ministry reported 431 Covid-19 deaths over the past 24 hours, taking the overall toll to 44,327. The ministry spokeswoman, Sima Sadat Lari, said total cases rose by 12,931 to 841,308.
The tally of coronavirus cases in the eastern European sub-region passed 5m on Saturday, according to a tally kept by Reuters.
The region, which comprises Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine, has the highest count of reported cases in Europe.
They collectively reported over 82,000 cases in a single day on an average in the last week, while adding over 1,500 deaths daily on average.
Russia, Poland, and Ukraine are among the top 20 countries with the most cases in the world.
Europe has so far reported more than 15 million coronavirus cases, making it the region with the highest number of cases. It has recorded more than 346,000 deaths, the second-highest in the world by region after Latin America, according to a Reuters tally.
Poland’s prime minister has asked people in the country not to travel over Christmas, and announced that while shops would reopen most coronavirus restrictions would be extended.
“Please do not plan any trips,” Mateusz Morawiecki said at a press conference, adding that the government was looking at ways of imposing movement restrictions, according to the AFP news agency.
Morawiecki said theatres, bars and restaurants would remain closed until after Christmas, and schools would continue to be on distance learning.
“The situation is still very serious,” he said, voicing concern about Poland’s high death rate but pointing out that the number of new cases had stabilised.
The health ministry on Saturday reported 574 deaths over 24 hours, bringing the total toll to 13,288. The number of new daily infections in Poland was 24,213.
The number of coronavirus-related deaths in Poland over the past week has been the third highest in the EU after Italy and France, according to an AFP tally.
A planned travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore was scrapped a day before its launch on Saturday after the southern Chinese city announced a sudden spike in coronavirus cases, according to AFP.
The two financial hubs have both suffered mild outbreaks. But with small populations and a heavy dependence on links to the outside world they have been hard hit as the global economy collapsed.
Desperate to help their key tourism and aviation sectors, they came up with the plan allowing limited, quarantine-free travel between the cities as long as visitors test negative for Covid-19.
The travel corridor was set to kick off on Sunday morning. But on Saturday, Hong Kong announced the scheme would have to be delayed for two weeks following a sudden rise in coronavirus infections.
“In the light of recent surge of local cases we have decided, together with the Singapore government, to defer the air travel bubble’s launch by two weeks,” the commerce secretary, Edward Yau, told reporters.
The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, has used a video update from his self-isolation at Number 10 to urge people who are self-isolating to keep themselves socially distanced from those they live with.
Johnson has been self-isolating for six days after a meeting with Tory MP Lee Anderson, who later tested positive for coronavirus. Johnson said he wanted to “reach out” to other people forced to self-isolate.
NHS Test and Trace, which is getting ever better, has achieved what so many of my political foes have wanted to achieve for many years, put me under house arrest.
I know how frustrating it can be, so I just wanted to say to everybody else who is in my shoes, don’t forget that, of course, the isolation doesn’t necessarily apply to the people you share your home with – your partner can still go out shopping or whatever.
Your housemates can still go out to exercise but you have got to make sure that you continue to observe social distancing from them. Your kids can obviously continue to go to school but you’ve got to make sure you observe social distancing from them and follow the basics: hands, face, space.
And bear in mind what you are doing is incredibly important because that is how we are going to break the chain of transmission, stop the disease, get the R down – as I believe we are doing at the moment – and get in under control.
Thank you very much everybody for what you are doing, and if you do find it a strain and you do feel under mental pressure because of what’s going on, then get onto the web and look at Every Mind Matters.
The number deaths in the Czech Republic linked to coronavirus doubled in November and passed the 7,000 mark, health ministry data showed on Saturday, according to Reuters.
Recorded fatalities reached 7,021 as of Saturday, compared with the 3,523 recorded by the end of October, according to the figures. According to the Worldometers website, the country has a rate of 655 coronavirus-related deaths per million inhabitants, and 45,495 infections per million.
The country has experienced a fall in the number of new cases and patients sent to hospital in recent weeks, allowing the government to ease some curbs.
The health ministry reported 5,809 new cases for Friday, less than half the peak numbers at the turn of October and November. The number of hospital admissions dropped to 6,307 compared with a peak of 8,283 recorded on 6 November.
Temperatures have dropped in recent days in Turin, northern Italy, but that hasn’t prevented Anita Iacovelli from persevering in her protest against the closure of her school, writes Angela Giuffrida, the Guardian’s Rome correspondent.
Every day since 6 November, when schools across the city and the wider Piedmont region were closed because of escalating coronavirus infections, the 12-year-old, wearing a hat, gloves and face mask, has sat outside Italo Calvino school and continued with her lessons remotely on a tablet computer. Behind her is a handwritten poster that reads: “Learning at school is our right.”
It began as a lone protest but Anita was soon joined by her friend Lisa Rogliatti and other classmates, before the initiative gathered momentum across Italy.
It is not the most ideal way to study, but the children simply want to go back to class, having spent months cooped up indoors in front of computers during the first wave of the pandemic.
“At the very beginning, when they announced that schools were closing, we were happy as we had weeks of tests coming up and so we thought we would skip them,” Anita told the Guardian. “But then it became extremely heavy and we got very tired.”
A €10bn (£8.9bn) support package has been approved in Italy to support businesses hit by the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Reuters.
Under the measures approved late on Friday, Rome will immediately offer €1.95bn in grants to coronavirus-hit businesses and food aid for poor people. The government is also preparing an additional €8bn to beef up aid schemes already in place.
Italy’s economy is expected to contract by at least 9% this year because of lockdown measures aimed at reining in the epidemic. The new measures are not expected to push this year’s budget deficit above the current goal of 10.8% of gross domestic product, the treasury said, as there was already spending leeway built into the target.
The government is planning to spend an additional €15-€20bn early next year to help the economy, which will push up the deficit in 2021, sources have said.
On Friday, the health ministry reported 37,242 new coronavirus infections and 699 deaths, as the country struggles to curb a resurgence of cases and fatalities which are stretching its health service to breaking point.
In the UK, a former chief government scientific advisor has expressed optimism at the prospect of an imminent vaccine for Covid-19, as he downplayed fears of side effects from the rapidly produced jabs.
Prof Sir Mark Walport said he had complete confidence in the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to determine the safety of any vaccine. Unlike traditional vaccines, which contain deactivated or attenuated viruses, two frontrunners are based on novel biotechnology that tricks recipients’ own bodies into producing the spike proteins that surround the Sars-CoV-2 virus.
Walport told Times Radio that the MHRA and other global regulatory agencies would take the job of approving any vaccine very seriously, despite pressure and demand for the new vaccines to be made available as soon as possible.
They are very clear what their job is, they are independent of the government, they will look at the data in a rigorous fashion. The safety of the vaccine is very important, they will take it very seriously because we want a vaccine that works but we want one that is safe.
There’s no reason to expect long-term side effects emerging. If there are going to be side effects there are the immediate ones.
The Hungarian-born biochemist who helped pioneer the research behind the mRNA technology used in the two Covid-19 vaccines showing positive results believes it was always a no-brainer, writes Julia Kollewe.
“I never doubted it would work,” Katalin Karikó told the Guardian. “I had seen the data from animal studies, and I was expecting it. I always wished that I would live long enough to see something that I’ve worked on be approved.”
This month has been the pinnacle of Karikó’s lifelong work researching mRNA, or messenger ribonucleic acid.
The 65-year-old, who left Hungary in 1985 to pursue an academic career in the US with her husband, toddler and just £900 hidden in a teddy bear, has now been suggested as a possible Nobel prize winner.
A third wave of coronavirus infections in South Korea could be the country’s largest yet, a senior public health official has said.
“We are at a critical juncture: if we fail to block the current spread, we could be facing a large nationwide infection that surpasses” the first two waves, said Lim Sook-young, a senior Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency official. The country was hit by jumps in cases in late February-early March and August.
Lim spoke after the KDCA reported reported 386 new daily coronavirus cases as of midnight on Friday, bringing total infections to 30,403, with 503 deaths. New cases topped 300 for the fourth day in a row, after Tuesday had the highest amount since August.
The standard for imposing tougher social distancing measures was expected to be reached soon, Lim said. The daily national tally was expected to reach 400 new cases next week and more than 600 in early December if the current rate of one patient infecting 1.5 people was not curbed, she added.
Because of recent infections spreading among college and private after-school tuition academies, she especially urged young people to refrain from meeting and to get tested early.
Russia reports record new cases and deaths
Russia reported a daily record of 24,822 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, including 7,168 in the capital Moscow, bringing the national tally to 2,064,748, Reuters said.
Authorities also reported 467 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, also a record, taking the official death toll to 35,778.
It is too early to think about easing coronavirus restrictions in England, despite community transmission rates slowing, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, the representative body for hospitals in England, has said.
Saffron Cordery told BBC Breakfast that a drop in infection rates in some part of the country hasn’t yet translated into a drop in hospital admissions. She said:
There is a lag in the spread reducing in the community and it actually reducing in terms of hospital admissions, because when someone contracts coronavirus it would probably be 10 days to two weeks before they become a hospital admission.
Cordery said the reproduction number – the R value – of coronavirus was reducing most sharply in the areas that had the strictest lockdown measures before the English national lockdown was imposed, but that increases had been seen in the south and south-west.
I think it would be really tempting to say: ‘OK, this lockdown is working, let’s lift all restrictions on 2 December and go back to where we were,’ but I think that could put us in danger in terms both in controlling the spread of the virus and what it means for the NHS.
Hullo. This is Damien Gayle in the hot seat in London for the live blog today, bringing you the latest coronavirus-related news and updates from the UK and around the world.
If you have any comments, tips or suggestions for coverage, or you simply want to reach out from lockdown and say hi, then drop me a line, either via email to email@example.com, or via Twitter DM to @damiengayle.
So, to recap:
- The UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said the NHS could start vaccinating people against Covid-19 next month.
- Japan has reported a record 539 new coronavirus cases, the third day with more than 500 cases. The Japanese prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, has suspended a domestic travel campaign in areas with high case numbers.
- Ukraine has also recorded a new daily record, with 14,580 new cases in 24 hours.
- The Covid-19 death toll in Mexico has passed 100,000.
- In Australia, residents of South Australia will be allowed out of their homes from midnight, and Victoria is expected to ease rules mandating the use of face masks from Sunday.
- And the Victorian premier is “very confident” the Australian Open tennis tournament will go ahead early next year.
With that I’ll pass over to Damien Gayle in London. Be well, and to my South Australian friends – try not to party too hard at midnight.
Japan has announced that it will suspend a domestic travel campaign in areas where coronavirus cases are especially high.
The prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, announced the change on Saturday afternoon.
Ukraine reports a record 14,580 new cases
Ukraine registered a record 14,580 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, the health minister, Maksym Stepanov, said on Saturday, surpassing the previous day’s record of 14,575.
The total tally climbed to 612,665 cases, with 10,813 deaths, Reuters reported.
The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, is set to receive an Emmy award for his coronavirus briefings.
The International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, one of the organisations that awards Emmys, said Cuomo’s award, the Founder’s award, is “in recognition of his leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic and his masterful use of television to inform and calm people around the world”.
Prior recipients of the award include Oprah Winfrey and the former US vice-president Al Gore.
Cuomo said on Friday that the recognition is “flattering” and that “it’s flattering for the people of [New York]”. He joked that reporters at the press conference “helped hone my presentation skills and acting skills”.
In the early months of the pandemic, when New York City was the centre of the global pandemic, Cuomo’s popularity skyrocketed as people from around the country tuned into his blunt-talking daily televised press briefings. His approval ratings rose to 77% – a record in his nearly 10 years as governor – and he even developed a global following, especially by comparison to the chaotic briefings given by Donald Trump.
Read more here:
In case you missed it, the death toll from Covid-19 in Mexico has passed 100,000, with 719 deaths recorded overnight.
Mexico has now recorded 1,025,969 cases of Covid-19, with 6,426 new cases reported by the health ministry on Friday.
Health officials have said that the real number is likely to be significantly higher than the official tally.
The head of a medical research institute that is conducting the first clinical trial in Australia on whether hydroxychloroquine can prevent Covid-19 has been named Melburnian of the year.
The director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Prof Doug Hilton, was named by the Melbourne lord mayor, Sally Capp, on Saturday:
Prof Hilton leads WEHI, where researchers are using their expertise in infectious diseases and immunology to work on urgent research and treatments for Covid-19. This includes research into how immunity to Covid-19 develops, and antibody therapies that could block the virus from entering cells.
Prof Hilton is a passionate advocate for health and medical research, diversity and inclusion, and gender equality in science.
It’s a great privilege as WEHI director to be able to bring together the brightest minds from around the world who are collaborating and innovating to help people live healthier for longer. Melbourne is an internationally recognised and vibrant hub of biomedical research, and it’s wonderful that the City of Melbourne recognises and supports our amazing researchers.
Tokyo confirms record daily coronavirus increase
Tokyo confirmed a record 539 new Covid cases on Saturday, beating its previous high of 534 cases, according to the Tokyo metropolitan government.
Saturday marks the third day that the daily number of cases has topped 500, according to the public broadcaster NHK, Reuters said.
A British genomics expert says the UK is the best placed country in the world to identify the reinfection of Covid-19, PA has reported.
Dr Andrew Page, head of informatics at the Quadram Institute in Norwich, a partner in the Covid-19 Genomics UK consortium, told PA that reinfections were likely at some point in the future, although it was unclear when immunity waned for Sars-Cov-2.
We know from other coronaviruses that immunity wanes, but it is a question of how long. At the moment, we don’t really know – only time will tell. It may be a year, it may be five years.
He said the UK was well placed to identify reinfections because it has conducted genomic sequencing on so many different samples of the virus. The UK consortium has generated more than 100,000 genomes of the coronavirus responsible for the pandemic, making up more than 45% of the global total.
In the UK, we have now sequenced so many of the samples, and they link back to NHS numbers, so we will know when someone is infected twice.
There are about 200 different strains of the virus circulating in the UK, Page told PA. Those strains can be traced back to particular locations.
When someone comes back from, say, a holiday, with fair confidence, we can tell where it has come from, is it new, and whether it has been seen in the UK.
We can do these investigations and it does help inform the people who are doing the contact tracing simply by linking things together, so they can make better decisions.
Where things stand in Australia
A quick summary of where things are at at the end of the day in Australia:
- South Australia’s 1.6 million residents will be allowed out of their homes at midnight, but are required to wear masks for the next eight days and comply with new restrictions. SA was put into a six-day hard lockdown on Wednesday, under the toughest rules ever seen in Australia, but it was shortened to three days after authorities learned one of the 26 positive cases in the Parafield cluster had lied in a contact tracing interview.
- The person who allegedly lied to contact tracers is a 36-year-old man from Spain on a temporary graduate student visa, which expires next month. A team of 20 detectives is investigating the alleged deception.
- SA recorded just one new case on Saturday, connected to the Parafield cluster.
- Victoria recorded no new cases for the 22nd day in a row and now has just one active case. Virus fragments were detected in wastewater testing in the Altona area.
- Victoria will lift its border restrictions against South Australia from midnight, with a new permit system to apply.
- New South Wales recorded no new locally acquired cases for the 14th day in a row, but 10 in hotel quarantine. That’s one full infection cycle – it has to record 28 days with no new cases for Queensland and WA to reopen their borders. Victoria is just six days away from that target.
- WA recorded one new case in hotel quarantine. Queensland recorded two new cases, also in people who are in hotel quarantine.
- The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, says he is “very confident” the Australian Open tennis tournament will go ahead in early 2021.
The UK’s deputy chief medical officer, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, takes Zoom etiquette very seriously.
Van-Tam was in isolation on Friday evening, after a close contact tested positive to the virus, so appeared at a coronavirus briefing via video conference. And, as one does to avoid confusion when talking over communications technology, he ended every contribution by saying “over”.
He may have started a trend.
Back to Australia quickly, where the state of Victoria, which was in the grips of an out-of-control second wave just over three months ago, now only has one active case.
Authorities did have concern over a test taken from a woman in her 80s, which showed a positive result. The Victorian health department’s expert review panel has now determined it is a false positive. The department said:
The case had no identified links to a known Covid-19 case and was not showing symptoms.
Close contacts of the potential case also tested negative yesterday.
The Expert Review Panel agreed the results are consistent with the original result being a false positive. Public health actions in relation to this case have been stood down.
Virus fragments were picked up in wastewater testing in the Altona sewage catchment, in Melbourne’s western suburbs. Affected suburbs are Altona, Altona Meadows, Laverton, Point Cook and Sanctuary Lakes. It follows the detection of virus fragments at Portland, about four hours’ drive west of Melbourne, and Benalla, about 2.5 hours north. Pop-up testing sites have been set up in Point Cook, Benalla and Portland, details here.
We mentioned earlier that the UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, is confident that the NHS can begin a national program to immunise people against Covid-19 next month, if the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is approved.
That’s the vaccine that needs to be stored at -75C. So what are the practical challenges of distributing it to a nation of 66 million?
Denis Campbell and Lisa O’Carroll explain:
If Pfizer’s vaccine is approved it will ship it from its production plant in Puurs in Belgium in freezer boxes containing 195 vials of the vaccine, each of which holds five doses. Dry ice in the double membrane boxes will keep the vaccine at the required -75C temperature.
Once it has reached Britain, it will be taken by truck to a network of 50 medicine storage warehouses at undisclosed locations which already supply 92% of the country’s drugs and deliver medications daily to 16,500 hospitals, pharmacies and primary care health centres.
Martin Sawer, the executive director of the Healthcare Distribution Association, which represents the warehouse owners, said the vaccine will be kept in specially-designed extreme-low temperature freezers acquired by the NHS and lent to warehouses for the duration of the rollout. Once an order is received from vaccination centres, stocks will be moved to “massive fridges the size of small bungalows” to be defrosted over three hours and, once thawed, placed in refrigerated vans immediately for distribution.
The boxes can remain stored at their sub-Arctic temperature for up to six months. But once opened and thawing begins, the NHS will be in a race against time to ensure it is delivered and administered before it expires, to avoid wastage. The government has ordered 40m doses of Pfizer’s vaccine. But with 20m-22m people in 10 priority groups the first to be immunised, and each due to receive two injections three weeks apart, NHS England has told GPs and everyone else involved in giving the jabs that no more than 5% of vaccines must be wasted.
You can read their full story here:
It’s beginning to look a lot like a Covid-safe Christmas. This video-conferencing Santa is in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Brazil has recorded almost six million coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University, with 35,918 new cases on Thursday.
Thanks to Lisa Cox for taking you through the day.
Let’s go to Germany now, where the confirmed number of coronavirus cases has increased by 22,964 to 902,528, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Saturday.
The reported death toll rose by 254 to 13,884, the tally showed.
I’m handing over to my colleague Calla Wahlquist, who will take you through to the early evening.
Some of the key things so far today:
- The total number of Covid-19 cases globally has reached 57.5 million.
- The number of deaths in Mexico has surpassed 100,000.
- South Australia recorded one new case – a close contact of another case – as the state prepares to lift its hard lockdown at midnight. There have been no new cases in New South Wales and Victoria.
- China is beginning three days of universal screening in Tianjin.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has welcomed a joint statement from Asia Pacific leaders calling for free and predictable trade for economic recovery out of the coronavirus pandemic.
Leaders of the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group, including US President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping, agreed they would not resort to protectionist policies.
The joint communique, after a virtual summit hosted on Friday by Malaysia, was made in the midst of ongoing trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
“It was a very positive meeting,” Mr Morrison told Australian reporters via video link from The Lodge on Saturday.
“People are very focused on vaccines and affordable early access of safe vaccines – not just in developed countries but in developing countries – and on the recovery, that trade will play such an important role in going forward.”
The prime minister said he felt an undertaking from APEC nations to keep trade doors open had been “refreshed” during the meeting that ran until about 2.30am Canberra time.
“Part of that is making sure we all individually seek to engage with each other to deal with any issues as they arise – which is a point I made last night,” Mr Morrison said.
In the communique, the leaders said they recognised “the importance of a free, open, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent and predictable trade and investment environment” to drive growth during the crisis.
Here is a look at the latest data globally from Johns Hopkins University. Global cases stand at 57.5m.
These are the countries with the highest total number of cases:
1. United States: 11,908,396
2. India: 9,004,365
3. Brazil: 6,020,164
4. France: 2,160,343
5. Russia: 2,023,025
Globally, these are the countries that have recorded the highest death toll from the virus:
1. United States: 254,383
2. Brazil: 168,613
3. India: 132,162
4. Mexico: 100,823
5. United Kingdom: 54,381
While lockdowns in South Australia will ease tonight, aged care facilities will still be on high alert, the ABC has reported.
Patricia Sparrow, the chief executive of Aged and Community Services Australia, says the sector has learned from what had happened in Victoria.
“The contact tracing in South Australia has been good, which is important because it allows providers to manage it better,” she says.
“There has been a South Australian aged care response centre set up. We didn’t have that in Victoria initially, it took a while to come on. So things that we did in Victoria as the situation unfolded, people have learned that lesson and that’s been stood up much more quickly.”
Sparrow says a group of aged care provider peak bodies and consumer peak bodies had updated visitor codes for residential aged care in South Australia.
Health authorities in Western Australia say the state has recorded one new case of Covid-19, bringing the state’s total to 797.
The confirmed case is a woman in her 30s who returned to Perth from overseas. She is in hotel quarantine.
WA Health is monitoring 16 active cases and 772 confirmed cases have recovered from the virus in WA.
Still in the UK, major trials will begin this weekend of an antibody cocktail that scientists hope will protect people against Covid-19 and could be swiftly used in care homes or on cruise ships in the event of an outbreak.
A UK volunteer will be given the first dose of a drug that is expected to give vulnerable people immediate protection.
The jab into the muscle of the arm takes effect straight away and could last for six months to a year. If it works as well as scientists predict, it could be used to protect those who cannot be given vaccines because of their state of health.
Read more here:
In the UK, the NHS could start immunising people against Covid-19 next month, if the medicines regulator approves a vaccine in time, Matt Hancock has said.
The health secretary held out the prospect of the unprecedented vaccination programme starting before Christmas, if the vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech has been given the green light.
You can read the full story here:
In the Philippines, the president, Rodrigo Duterte, has approved ending a ban on deploying the nation’s healthcare workers, clearing the way for thousands of nurses to take up jobs overseas.
“The president already approved the lifting of the temporary suspension of deployment of nurses and other medical workers,” the labour secretary, Silvestre Bello, told Reuters on Saturday.
But to ensure the Philippines, which has the second-highest number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in south-east Asia, will have enough medical professionals to fight the pandemic, only 5,000 healthcare workers will be allowed to leave every year, Bello said.
Covid vaccines and global economic recovery will be high on the agenda of this weekend’s G20 summit, which is being held virtually because of the pandemic, Reuters reports:
Leaders of the 20 biggest world economies (G20) will debate this weekend how to deal with the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic that has caused a global recession and how to manage the recovery once the coronavirus is under control.
High on the agenda are purchases and global distribution of vaccines, drugs and tests for low income countries that cannot afford such expenses themselves. The European Union will urge the G20 on Saturday to invest $4.5bn to help.
“The main theme will be to step up global cooperation to address the pandemic,” said a senior G20 official taking part in the preparations for the two-day summit, chaired by Saudi Arabia and held virtually because of the pandemic.
To prepare for the future, the EU will propose a treaty on pandemics.
In case you missed it earlier today, Andrew Giuliani, a White House aide and the son of Rudy Giuliani, confirmed he has tested positive for coronavirus. Reuters reports:
Andrew Giuliani, a White House aide and son of Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, said on Friday he had tested positive for Covid-19.
“I am experiencing mild symptoms, and am following all appropriate protocols, including being in quarantine and conducting contact tracing,” he said on Twitter.
Andrew attended his father’s press conference on Thursday at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, according to multiple reports.
Jenna Ellis, another Trump lawyer who spoke at the press conference, said on Twitter on Friday that she and the elder Giuliani “have both tested negative for Covid-19”.
South Korea has reported 386 new Covid cases. Authorities are warning tougher measures will be needed if the country’s third wave of the virus is not quickly contained, Reuters reports:
South Korea’s third wave of Covid-19 continued on Saturday after medical groups called for stricter social-distancing curbs and the government warned of tougher measures if infections are not quickly contained.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 386 new daily coronavirus cases as of Friday midnight, bringing total infections to 30,403, with 503 deaths.
New cases topped 300 for the fourth day in a row, after Tuesday saw the highest since August.
Without effective measures such as stricter distancing, the daily tally could reach 1,000 in the next two weeks, the Korean Society of Infectious Diseases and eight other medical societies warned.
“This winter is expected to be the biggest challenge in the Covid-19 response,” the groups said in a statement on Friday, calling on the public to take steps voluntarily.
“There has been good news on successful development of Covid-19 vaccines, but this winter we have to stop it without a vaccine.”
Although South Korea tightened prevention guidelines on Thursday and the prime minister, Chung Sye-kyun, called on Friday for all social gatherings to be cancelled, bars, nightclubs, religious services and sports events are still allowed with attendance restrictions.
A final note from Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison on the return of international flights to Victoria. He told premier Daniel Andrews:
I also particularly thank you for the work that has been done to get the international arrivals happening again – over 1,000 people coming in a week – that will greatly assist us in getting Australians home.
And we will look at that again after about four weeks and see how we go from there, but appreciate that getting back on well … that is tremendous and the more Australians we can get home before Christmas, the better. So thank you very much and have a good weekend, mate.
Terrific, thanks very much, PM.
Victorian premier ‘very confident’ Australian Open will go ahead in early 2021
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, says he is “very confident” the Australian Open tennis tournament will go ahead in early 2021.
Key to this going ahead is the return of international flights to Melbourne, which will happen from 7 December with the resumption of the hotel quarantine system.
This is not a simple thing, to have many hundreds or indeed potentially well more than 1,000 athletes and others who support them, media, being here for a very important event. It has to be done safely, it has to be done right.
I am very confident we will have an Australian Open in the early part of next year. The exact timing of it, the exact arrangements we put in place, they are not settled yet and as soon as they are I will be more than happy to share it with you.
But I would not read too much into some of the reports. A lot of people are doing a lot of talking about these things and while they are talking, we’re getting on with the work so that we can have one of our most significant major events, not just for the state but indeed for the whole nation, happen as close to normal, as normal as anything can be, Covid-normal, as possible.
Back in Australia, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, and the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, are giving a joint press conference via Zoom about the $4bn Melbourne to Geelong faster rail project. They are on video link because Morrison is undergoing quarantine at the lodge after returning from Japan this week.
The two leaders have been engaged in a power struggle in the past few months, which came to a head during Melbourne’s second wave of coronavirus. The federal government blamed the outbreak on the failures of Victoria’s hotel quarantine system and the Victorian government blamed the heavy death toll on failures in the commonwealth-run aged care system. Both of these things are true.
In recent weeks, Victoria has been facing federal pressure to begin accepting international flights again to ease the pressure on other states.
Morrison made sure to mention it in the joint press conference, saying that international travellers would have an expectation of a rail connection to the airport, which is part of an airport rail project connected to the Geelong rail project.
Let’s not forget the international travels, and they will be back soon we hope.
They will be back.
They have an expectation of world-class cities that such infrastructure will be in place and that is exciting that will now be realised for Melbourne.
In case you missed this news earlier, Donald Trump Jr has tested positive for Covid-19. That takes the number of Trumps to have tested positive to the virus to four.
The outgoing president, Donald Trump, the first lady, and their son Barron tested positive to the virus last month and have since recovered. Trump Jr’s girlfriend also tested positive back in July.
It comes as the United States recorded 2,015 deaths from Covid-19 on Thursday, the highest single day death toll since May. The US also set a new daily record for the number of new infections recorded in one day, with 187,000 cases on Thursday.
A quarter of a million people have now died of Covid-19 in the US.
Victoria down to one active Covid case
In Australia, the state of Victoria currently has one active coronavirus case. However, residents and visitors to Altona, in Melbourne’s south-west, have been urged to get tested if they have even mild symptoms after traces of the virus were found in waste water, AAP reports:
Victoria has one active Covid-19 case but authorities are concerned about traces of the virus unexpectedly found at a Melbourne waste water facility.
The state has gone 22 days with no new cases.
One patient was cleared in the past 24 hours, leaving just one active case, that of an immunosuppressed person who the health minister, Martin Foley, said on Saturday was making a “slow and steady” recovery.
A weak-positive case that was under review, that of an elderly woman, has been ruled negative.
Authorities meanwhile have issued a plea for residents and visitors to Altona in Melbourne’s south-west from last Monday to Wednesday to get tested if they have even mild symptoms.
Virus traces have been detected in a wastewater sample collected from the Altona sewage catchment on Wednesday.
The result is unexpected because it has been about eight weeks since someone in the area tested positive.
Suburbs in the catchment include Altona, Altona Meadows, Laverton, Point Cook and Sanctuary Lakes.
“It could mean there is somebody in the community that we have missed,” Foley said.
China to begin three days of universal screening in Tianjin
China has reported 16 new coronavirus cases, as the city of Tianjin, near Beijing, launches a three-day universal screening programme covering nearly 3 million residents, Reuters reports:
Mainland China reported 16 new Covid-19 cases on 20 November, down from 17 the previous day, with seven cases of local transmission and nine cases originating overseas, the country’s health authority said on Saturday.
The National Health Commission said in its daily bulletin that five of the local transmissions took place in Tianjin and two in Shanghai.
Tianjin, which neighbours the capital Beijing, will launch a three-day universal screening programme covering nearly 3 million of its residents on Saturday.
Local officials said on Friday that one community in Tianjin had been placed in lockdown and around 1,900 people have been quarantined, according to the China Daily newspaper.
Mainland China also reported another 18 cases of asymptomatic cases on 20 November, up from 14 on the previous day.
It has so far reported an accumulated total of 86,414 Covid-19 cases, with the official death toll at 4,634.
Mexico records more than 6,000 new Covid cases
In Mexico, the Covid-19 death toll has passed 100,000, with more than 1 million cases.
Mexico’s health ministry on Friday reported 6,426 new confirmed coronavirus infections in the country and 719 deaths, bringing the official totals to 1,025,969 cases and 100,823 dead, Reuters reports.
Health officials have said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher than the official tally.
In case you missed it earlier:
In Australia, New South Wales has reached two weeks – one complete infection cycle – without a single locally transmitted coronavirus case, AAP reports.
Ten cases of the virus were diagnosed in hotel quarantine in the 24 hours to 8pm on Friday, from more than 16,000 tests.
While Victoria on Saturday announced it had just one active virus case remaining, NSW Health is still treating 70 cases.
“While there have been no new locally acquired cases in NSW for the past 14 days, we continue to encourage people to get tested, even if they display only the mildest of symptoms such as a runny nose, scratchy throat, cough or fever,” NSW Health’s Dr Jan Fizzell said on Saturday.
NSW has reached the milestone as South Australian brings its outbreak under control and as the due date for a decision on Queensland’s border with NSW approaches.
Queensland health authorities have said Sydney must go 28 days – two whole infection cycles – without any locally transmitted virus cases for restrictions to lift.
The coronavirus pandemic and Victoria’s 112-day lockdown has decimated the Australian state’s coffers, with treasurer Tim Pallas expected to outline a $23.3bn deficit and more than $150bn in net debt in Tuesday’s budget.
But it is not all bad news, with the budget also expected to include tax cuts and incentives to lure global companies to the state, as well as already-announced boosts for mental health and social housing.
Details obtained by AAP show the Andrews government will undertake record borrowing which will grow net debt to $86bn in 2020/21, before reaching $154bn by 2023/24.
The state was already borrowing billions for major infrastructure projects before the pandemic hit.
Interest rates are at record lows, so increased borrowing is among the best ways to revive the economy and support Victorians, Mr Pallas says.
“This is a budget that puts the Victorian people first, with the support they need to recover and rebuild,” he said in a statement on Saturday.
“We’re following the blueprint of jurisdictions around Australia and the world, who are using their own budgets to protect household and business budgets.”
With economic output plummeting and unemployment skyrocketing as a result of the pandemic, much of the money borrowed will be spent on job-boosting infrastructure projects and social and business supports.
The government’s infrastructure spend is forecast to average $19.6bn each year over the forward estimates – which the treasurer says is four times the 10-year average prior to 2014.
Welcome to our ongoing live coronavirus coverage. Here is what you need to know about events around the world so far today:
- The number of coronavirus cases in Brazil has surpassed 6 million, becoming the third country in the world to pass that milestone after the United States and India. Brazil recorded 38,397 additional confirmed cases in the past 24 hours and 552 deaths from Covid-19, the health ministry said. The official death toll has risen to 168,613, according to ministry data.
- Donald Trump Jr tested positive for Covid-19 this week. A spokesman says he is quarantining but has had no symptoms.
- The city of Toronto has returned to lockdown amid a surge of coronavirus cases in Canada.
- France has recorded a further 1,138 deaths over the past 24 hours from the virus, taking the total to 48,265. France has also reported 22,882 cases in the past 24 hours, compared with 21,150 on Thursday.
- Iran will impose tougher restrictions nationwide as the Middle East country hardest hit by the coronavirus battles a third wave of infections. The toughest measures, under which non-essential businesses and services are to close, will be imposed in the capital Tehran and about 160 other high risk “red” cities and towns, state media said.
- In South Australia, police continue to investigate a Covid-19 case linked to a pizza bar in Adelaide after a worker lied to contact tracers about his job at there. South Australia recorded one new Covid-19 case on Saturday, a close contact of another case. The state’s lockdown lifts at midnight, Australian time.
- The Australian state of Victoria has recorded its 22nd day of no new coronavirus cases but authorities are asking anyone in the Altona catchment to get tested if they have symptoms after coronavirus was detected in sewage. NSW recorded no new locally acquired Covid-19 cases. Two new cases were reported in Queensland today, both in hotel quarantine.
- Portugal’s parliament approved a 15-day extension of a state of emergency from next week to allow continuation of coronavirus measures as the government considers fresh steps.
- Drugmaker Pfizer Inc is hoping to rapidly roll out its experimental Covid-19 vaccine around Latin America soon after it gets emergency authorisation in the US, a senior executive said, which could be as early as next month.
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